The Last Movie You Watched? ver.2.0

Actually many of the early sound films were only partly shot with sound, many feature still a lot of silent scenes. Even classics like Hitchcock’s Blackmail or Lang’s M .

And the staginess has also a lot to do with much bigger and heavier cameras and the difficulties of recording the sound with rather primitive techniques.
There is also mostly a lack of music and a stronger concentration on dialogues which adds to the theatre atmosphere.

The first 2 Marx Brothers films are indeed not that filmic, but thanks to the dialogues much more funny than any of their later MGM films. 8/10 and why a duck?
And much better than the stiff Dracula. 5/10

The Big Trail is more interesting for the directing, with some still spectacular scenes, but overall for me also not too interesting from a modern point of view. 6/10

Phil, what do you think about this early western?

Just finished up Yazuso Masumura’s The Black Test Car. A very decent Corporate Thriller with gray area characters, some you understand why they have to play dirty, some are downright in the wrong, and others you feel aren’t too objective. It’s a slow burner, but it’s well worth the payoff when you fins out what was really going on. **** out of *****.


I actually enjoyed it quite a bit was one that stood out as being very different from the other films I watched from 1930.
For a start it was shot largely on location it seemed and on a grand scale though still with a lot of matte painting in places. In that way, along with all the inter-title cards, it reminded me of a big budget silent film and I couldn’t help wondering how they got around the sound restrictions they would have had and which you mention above. That said, I thought Wayne’s acting style was decidedly modern for the time and he was very effective in his role. I’m really not sure what the studio didn’t like about him. Something for sure as he was making cheap programme fillers for the rest of the decade until he got another big break in Stagecoach.
The direction was also impressive I thought and the whole thing kept me engaged throughout. Also nice to see real Native Americans used and not demonised despite the narrative very much being one of celebrating the pioneer spirit of the migrants.
It is, of course, dated in many ways; the pantomime villain of the character Red Flack sticks out as someone you might expect in a Charlie Chaplin comedy but that’s a minor gripe. I enjoyed it.
On the subject of Red Flack; he was played by Tyrone Power Snr and was apparently a celebrated stage actor of his time. You wouldn’t pick him as suave good looking TP’s Dad in this.

Even better, they shot every scene several times. At first every scene was shot by 2 cameras which stood side by side, one 35 mm camera for the then usual 1,37:1 aspect ratio, and one 70 mm camera for a then new widescreen image of about 2:1. Side by side means also that the images of both version are slightly different.
And then they shot 4 different language versions, all with different leads (the idea of dubbing came later). And for that every scene in which the leads could be identified was shot 4 different times for every language.
I have the German version which runs only 75 min. My 35 mm version runs 108 min and the 70 mm version runs 122 min. And as far as I remember the editing is in parts different, and you can probably find in every version some unique material.

This all made the film so expensive, and for the 70 mm versions there were in the end close to zero theatres which had the necessary equipment for projecting these, that the film, despite having some success, made a big, big loss (the Waterworld syndrome :wink: ).
And for Wayne it became a personal disaster, so that he lost 10 years in cheap serial pictures.

Hmm, thinking about what I remember, 7/10 seems more appropriate …

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Interesting stuff.

Some more 1931 films for me over the last few days:

Public Enemy (Wellman / 1931)
Platinum Blonde (Capra / 1931)
Monkey Business (McLeod / 1931)
Frankenstein (Whale / 1931)

Enjoyed all these and apart from Frankenstein can see a real shift in dialogue and acting styles in the lead actors.

What struck me on reflection as well was that 5 actors from these 4 films died tragically young. Jean Harlow was in both Platinum Blonde and Public Enemy and died of kidney failure six years later at age 26. Her co-star in Platinum blonde was Robert Williams. I was surprised at how good he was and wondered how I hadn’t heard of him before. Turns out he died of a burst appendix 4 days after the film was released. He was 37.
Colin Clive, the original Dr Frankenstein died of chronic alcoholism six years later also aged 37 and Dwight Frye who played the hunchback Fritz in Frankenstein (as well as Renfield in Dracula) died of a heart attack aged 44 in 1943. And finally, Thelma Todd, the gangster’s moll in Monkey Business died aged just 29 in 1935.



Yesterday I watched The Black Report, Masumura’s companion piece to Black Test Car. I actually enjoyed The Black Report a lot more, a very engrossing and engaging Courtroom Thriller. ****1/2 out of *****

Today I watched Jess Franco’s Noir film Death Whistles the Blues (La Muerte Silba un Blues). A little generic with he basic plotline of a criminal being tricked into revealing his guilt, but very well executed with an excellent twist near the end. **** of out *****



Classic Horror…



Watched the Raid and The Raid 2. Both really good.

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  1. Kassila: Kaasua, komisario Palmu 10/10
  2. Chaplin: Modern Times 9/10
  3. Hark: Once Upon a Time in the China III 5/10
  4. Kotcheff: Wake in Fright 10/10
  5. Rodriguez: Desperado 8/10
  6. Zulawski: Third Part of the Night 7/10
  7. Campion: Power of the Dog 7/10
  8. Audiard: The Sisters Brothers 7/10
  9. Borowczyk: Blanche 7/10
  10. Altman: The Long Goodbye 10/10
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