The Ghoul

The Ghoul.
Gaumont British Pictures 1933.

Before watching the movie:

It never really seemed consistent to me what kind of supernatural entity a ghoul is. I kind of settled on a subtype of ghost that’s more corporeal than a spectre. I looked up the definition and it wasn’t very helpful. “A monstrous humanoid associated with graveyards and consuming human flesh” is broad enough to include zombies, only this is from pre-Islamic Arabia instead of from Haitian Vodou.

In this movie, Boris Karloff comes back from the dead to get revenge on those who wronged him, but I don’t think he eats flesh, just strangles or snaps necks or something. I expect a lot of overwrought tension that comes off as corny today.

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Columbia Pictures 1939.

Before watching the movie:

So, the underdog political fable. The everyday guy who comes to Congress and fixes corruption with dogged determination and fillibustering. What’s sad is that it seemed plausible then, but not anymore, and the fillibuster it hinges on is now a tool of the kind of problems this movie wants to fix.

That’s the reputation, anyway. The changed political landscape is why I’m not sure I’ll get out of this movie what was intended. Continue reading

Young Mr. Lincoln

Young Mr. Lincoln. Twentieth Century Fox 1939.
Young Mr. Lincoln. Twentieth Century Fox 1939.

Before watching the movie:

Okay, here’s one I’m completely unfamiliar with. It just came up in algorithmic suggestions, and I’m not really sure what to make of it. It occurs to me that in 1939, there were probably still people alive who had seen the Civil War, perhaps even usefully remember it.

I would not be surprised if this is a mostly fictional story suggested by Lincoln’s career as a lawyer. It looks on the surface more like a piece to venerate him than to explore a historical event worth exploring, but it’s going to be interesting to see how the late 30s remember one of our most notable presidents.

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A Study in Scarlet (1933)

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A Study in Scarlet. K.B.S. Productions 1933.

Before watching the movie:

A Study in Scarlet is, as the first Holmes story, important, but is also very unlike most other stories, in that half the book completely departs from Watson’s narrative and instead lays down motive. From another point of view, Holmes’s investigation sets up a half-novel romance on the American frontier. I’m interested in seeing how adaptations handle this oddity, though in most cases they handle it by ignoring the second part. On the one hand, it doesn’t have Holmes in it, which is the draw, but on the other, it’s the more cinematic part of the story. I have a sneaking suspicion this movie will dip into it more than most.

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A Night at the Opera

A Night at the Opera. Metro Goldwyn Meyer 1935.
A Night at the Opera. Metro Goldwyn Meyer 1935.

Before watching the movie:

I was a little confused by the box description of the Marx Brothers skewering the “schemes” of a pompous opera singer when an arts patron is already going to pay him the exorbitant amounts just because he’s such a big star and great singer. It makes a lot more sense to think about it more like a feature-length Bugs Bunny cartoon, with the Marx Brothers skewering the powerful to empower the lowly.

This is widely regarded as the best Marx Brothers movie, but I don’t remember it being on the same list of great comedies that brought Duck Soup to my attention. A spot of research shows that it’s on there, I just didn’t remember it.

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Dracula

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Dracula. Universal Pictures 1931.
Dracula. Universal Pictures 1931.

Before watching the movie:

The Ur-vampire story. Everything classical vampires are comes from this movie. While the movie is based on a book, the movie has more range and probably took some liberties.

I’m not sure I’ve ever directly experienced Dracula played straight, not in parody or playing off the legend as “another monster/baddie”.  By pop culture osmosis, I think I have a basic understanding of the plot, but there could be something new to me here.

This movie made Bela Lugosi and Dracula inseparable. I’ll definitely be looking out for how much of that is from the performance and how much from the popularity of the whole film.

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Nothing Sacred

Nothing Sacred. Selznick International Pictures 1937.
Nothing Sacred. Selznick International Pictures 1937.

Before watching the movie:

It seems like I’ve run into “dealing with unusual problems from an erroneous medical report” before, but I can’t recall where. Some sitcom episodes may be coming to mind, but I think I’ve seen movies based on the idea too.

I must have seen Carole Lombard in movies before, but apparently not in movies reviewed here as she doesn’t seem to have a preexisting tag. The same for Fredric March, though I have even less of an idea what to expect from him.

Anyway, the pair are tied together by a medical mistake. She was expected to be dying, and he was apparently somewhat responsible for the media coverage, and then she turns out to be healthy, and they have to… fix that. Somehow. By verbally sparring, apparently.

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Gulliver’s Travels

Gulliver's Travels. Fleischer Studios 1939.
Gulliver’s Travels. Fleischer Studios 1939.

Before watching the movie:

This is a story that gets remade every so often, probably because the state of film technology marches on and someone decides they can do better than the last one. Certainly, the recent version with Jack Black established the look very realistically. However, hardly anyone has adapted the entire book, and the title is almost universally considered to refer to only the Lilliput section, which this appears to do. Brobdingnang sometimes gets included since it’s just the reverse of the scale effect, but to my knowledge no version, or at least no enduring version, has attempted, for example, the island of the horse people. Not even the Harryhousen-powered The Three Worlds of Gulliver tried.

This is a staging by another great name in animation and effects, Fleischer Studios. I feel animation is underrepresented on this site, and I’m glad to bring in a historically significant animated feature now. I’ve never really cared much for the Fleischer style, so much as I’ve seen it, but Fleischer didn’t really endure long enough to develop as well as Disney and Warner Bros. did. But it should serve to tell the story adequately.

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Duck Soup

Duck Soup. Paramount Pictures 1933.

Before watching the movie:

This was a consideration for May’s classics theme, and probably would have been a better fit than one of them. I was actually planning to include it before I realized that May might have had five Thursdays (the day I write on), but only four Fridays (the day I publish).

Anyway, here’s the Marx brothers doing political satire. On what? I don’t recall, but I think it’s about contemporary US foreign policy.

I had fun keeping up a theme for a month. I’m thinking about doing another themed month soon, but it won’t be July.

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The Flying Deuces

May is Non-Alliterative Silver Screen Classic Movie Month!

The Flying Deuces. Boris Morros Productions 1939.

Before watching the movie:

This is the only film I hadn’t heard of when planning this series, but I wanted a Laurel and Hardy. Well, I wanted a Buster Keaton and a Harold Lloyd, but suitable Keaton and Lloyd films weren’t available to me. Anyway, I wanted something fun to follow last week. I’ll close the month on a serious film.

So, Laurel and Hardy in the Foreign Legion. Comedy ensues, of course. Having so little go go on, I have a hard time conveying how much I’m looking forward to it. I expect a lot of schemes to getout of the Foreign Legion.

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