Jewel Robbery (1932)

Sex, Drugs and Crime William Powell is responsible for a huge element of our loves, the smoothness that has comic irony behind it. He invented it. There are a few of his movies that are essential viewing, but those are after the government thugs decided what movies should be like in “moral” terms. So you… Continue reading Jewel Robbery (1932)

Jezebel (1938)

Suffrage, Suffering I’m fickle, I admit, about context and films. Sometimes I watch them as they come to me today, and sometimes the other way around, as they (I imagine) appeared in their original context. This one is the rare project that prompts both. I’m seeing it 67 years after it was made. It was… Continue reading Jezebel (1938)

The Old Dark House (1932)

Extremes without Connection This is James Whale in his prime, for better or worse. The film was lost for generations before being reclaimed and restored, and for that reason is celebrated beyond its merits. What we have is a collection of stereotypical scenarios and characters. A stormy night. A collection of stranded travelers. A very… Continue reading The Old Dark House (1932)

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The March These things fascinate me: films that are about something but are presented in a way that contradicts that something. Often it is a film whose message is to strive for the extraordinary, but the film itself is strictly formulaic. Here we have something much more interesting and profound: we have the future of… Continue reading All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

illogical The invention of the logical detective in Sherlock Holmes was profoundly important, directly leading to the great invention of noir, the descendants of which dominate our viewing vocabulary. The notion that people were deeply logical and that a human mind was capable of mastering this logic was the great promise that swept over the… Continue reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)

A Free Soul (1931)

The Big Speech Some movies are theatrical in the sense that all their values and methods are derived from stage values. This is one. Some movies are in that sweet spot after talkies got going and before the code was enforced, so they have a vitality that is lacking for a few decades afterwards. This… Continue reading A Free Soul (1931)

20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932)

Graphic As I write this, “Shawshank Redemption” is IMDB’s number two top movie of all time. I find that absolutely fascinating. The prison movie isn’t quite a genre to itself because the story possibilities vary so. But there is a definite collection of cinematic devices that are used in nearly all of them, only “Silence… Continue reading 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932)