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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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Baby Daze (1939)
Filmmaker(s): Charles E. Roberts

Edgar starts out in a non-unfamiliar grumpy mood and tells some people off obnoxiously, then becomes overcome with joy and kindheartedness when he discovers that his wife is about to have a baby.

Slow Burn This is included as an extra on the “The Southerner” DVD and is much the better experience. Both films represent a lost attitude in film. This one is worth re-experiencing: the Slow Burn flummox that was invented by this guy, continued in many radio...

Published May 16, 2023
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Ask a Policeman (1939)
Filmmaker(s): Marcel Varnel

The mirthful adventures of Police-Sergeant Samuel Dudfoot and his two constables, Albert Brown and Jeremias Harbottle, who stage a fabricated crime-wave to save their jobs---and then find themselves involved in the real thing.

Ineptness The gang portrayed here is some sort of a triangulation among the Marxes, Stooges and Laurel and Hardy. We love theatrical movie ineptness, especially in policemen and politicians. Especially if the characters are Brits. And this is true it seems even if the audience is...

Published May 16, 2023
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Another Thin Man (1939)
Their Merriest Hit! Mr. and Mrs. Thin Man Have a B-A-B-Y!
Filmmaker(s): W.S. Van Dyke

Not even the joys of parenthood can stop married sleuths Nick and Nora Charles from investigating a murder on a Long Island estate.

Another Side of Thin With the third of the series, the producers decided to move a little more into the world of Hammett and nudge away from the cutesy cute banter. It is only a little in that direction, but noticeable with the fairly complex plot. Hammett...

Published April 4, 2023
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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939)
The struggle of super-minds in the crime of the century!
Filmmaker(s): Alfred L. Werker

Having once again avoided criminal conviction, Professor Moriarity develops a murderous plan to “finish off” his last major nemesis, Sherlock Holmes, by making him fail to prevent the perfect crime. Does it involve a family curse, the crown jewels of England, or something else…

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...

Published February 12, 2023
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Jamaica Inn (1939)
Charles Laughton's eyebrows have a lifestyle to maintain and don't care how many sailors die to maintain it.
Filmmaker(s): Alfred Hitchcock

In coastal Cornwall, England, during the early 19th Century, a young woman who's come there to visit her aunt, discovers that she's married an inkeeper who's a member of a gang of criminals who arrange shipwrecking and murder for profit.

Piracy Hitchcock eventually made some transcendent films. But that would be way later than this period, where he did his work as instructed and on time. His contribution to cinema was the invention of the camera whose awareness deviated from the narrative bound in the actors. In...

Published November 24, 2022
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Idiot’s Delight (1939)
The Biggest Thrill They Ever Gave You! Norma and Clark together in the romance of a "ham" song-and-dance man and a "red-headed liar from Omaha."
Filmmaker(s): Clarence Brown

A group of disparate travelers are thrown together in a posh Alpine hotel when the borders are closed at the start of WWII.

Marooned Movies from this era often fade into incomprehensibility when we take them away from the context in which they were made. These were after all intended as a disposable product, to live for only a few weeks. In this particular case, the movie follows a play...

Published May 17, 2022
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