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Bottles (1936)
Filmmaker(s): Hugh Harman

A dark and stormy night in a drugstore. The druggist mixes a potion and falls asleep. The skull-and-crossbones on the bottle comes to life and drips the potion on the druggist.

A Mind Ajar It seems that one major theology of animation concerns the animating (meaning coming to life) of normally inanimate objects. It is one strain worth tracing, because with today’s film technologies, animals can easily be seen to talk and even wear clothes and such....

Published April 2, 2024
| Categorised as IMDB Comments, Twos |
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The Mystery Man (1935)
Stark Drama! A Shadow Creeping Through the Night!
Filmmaker(s): Ray McCarey

Hard-boiled newspaper reporter Larry Doyle (Robert Armstrong) goes a bit too far in celebrating a work bonus and wakes up on a train bound for St. Louis with only a buck on his person. To remedy the problem, Doyle pawns the revolver he's carrying. When the gun is subsequently used in a murder, Doyle's problems only multiply. In the meantime, he's also fallen in love with a comely stranger (Maxine Doyle) he convinced to impersonate his wife.

Prehistoric Fishing Cinematic archeology is what this is all about. The film has lost all its appeal as the hooks have gone out of style. But we can see major chunks that have evolved to what we have now. The basic setup is the fold of a...

Published February 9, 2024
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The House of Fear (1939)
Filmmaker(s): Joe May

A detective goes undercover as a producer to investigate an actor's murder, which occurred during the performance of a play...

Triple Staged I watch these old mysteries not because I expect to find a good one. They rarely are, but often you can see a free art experimenting with different cinematic tricks while no one yet had a settled cinematic vocabulary. And here is a good...

Published February 5, 2024
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Blondie Johnson (1933)
LOVE made her beautiful... WANT made her daring... MEN made her ruthless!
Filmmaker(s): Ray Enright

A Depression-downtrodden waif uses her brains instead of her body to rise from tyro con artist to crime boss.

Suckers While most of the movies in this period tried to find some new way of telling the detective story, many worked on the gangster side as well. Today, we don’t quite appreciate the cleverness in the variety. I think in part because the things that...

Published January 20, 2024
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Blond Venus (1932)
What could she do but flee from love? She loved two men at once!
Filmmaker(s): Josef von Sternberg

In an effort to get enough money to afford expensive treatment for her gravely ill American husband, a retired German entertainer returns to the cabaret, gaining fame as Blonde Venus and unknowingly catching the eye of a wealthy politician.

Furry There are better von Sternberg Dietrich projects. The only charm of this one is the America situation. I never got the charm of Dietrich, and if you didn’t, you’ll find this empty. It has three stage performances by our blond Venus. The first of these is...

Published January 20, 2024
| Categorised as IMDB Comments, Twos |
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The Iron Man (1931)
A Pig Iron Jaw and a Mule Kick Got Him the Paper Crown.
Filmmaker(s): Tod Browning

Prizefighter Mason loses his opening fight so wife Rose leaves him for Hollywood. Without her around Mason trains and starts winning. Rose comes back and wants Mason to dump his manager Regan and replace him with her secret lover Lewis.

No Cinderella When you enter into a film, you are accepting a world. You are accepting whatever God and physics and mythology that the filmmaker has created. Within that world, wheels turn and things happen. All too often we think the movie is about those happenings. We...

Published January 19, 2024
| Categorised as IMDB Comments, Twos |
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The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1932)
They found a love they dared not touch!
Filmmaker(s): Frank Capra

An American missionary is gradually seduced by a courtly warlord holding her in Shanghai.

Frank I can get value out of pretty much any film, but some are harder work than others because they place impediments. Capra and Spielberg are the leading placers of the leading impediments: representing the world in a way that is ideal, attractive, but presented in...

Published January 17, 2024
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Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party (1933)
Filmmaker(s): Dave Fleischer

Betty Boop hosts a Hallowe'en party with a few uninvited guests.

Underaware I really like some of these Betty Boop cartoons. Many of the early ones deal with the overlap of evil, sex and hallucinogens, often mixed with jazz and Black men. This is one of the tamer ones in terms of the evil tone: she’s in...

Published July 27, 2023
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Beginner’s Luck (1935)
Filmmaker(s): Gus Meins

Spanky's mother pushes him to join a local theater amateur night.

Inverted Show This is my favourite Our Gang short. It has everything that I recall fondly: rowdy fellowship and kids conspiring against adults resulting in innocent mischief. Although the series had already been around a dozen years, for me the master cast was the Spanky, Buckwheat,...

Published June 30, 2023
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Before Midnight (1933)
Lurking FINGERS of DEATH reached out of the dim and ghostly past!
Filmmaker(s): Lambert Hillyer

A detective tries to figure out who killed a man who predicted his own death.

The Written Mystery The early thirties was a time of great experimentation with the detective narrative, leading eventually to noir. This is one of those experiments, and a rather fine one. It has a framing device where an old cop is telling a young one about the...

Published June 30, 2023
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