Category Archives: 1930s

The Hatchet Man

The Hatchet Man ~ This 1932 Warner Bros. classic, from the heart of the pre-code gangster era, has an all star cast – Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young in the leads, along with J. Carroll Naish and a pre-Ming the Merciless Charles Middleton. In fact, it may have been his performance here in Asian make-up that won him the villainous role in the “Flash Gordon” serials.

Even with the terrific cast, a script based on the popular play The Honorable Mr. Wong, and the brilliant direction of William Wellman, there is much to shame this film by today’s standards. Besides the non-code depictions of narcotics and adultery, the politically incorrect use if the word Oriental, and violence typical of this era, there’s the fact that this is the equivalent of an Asian minstrel show – the majority of the actors are whites portraying Asians.

Nevertheless, the direction and performance of the cast are exemplary. Loretta Young shines through her make-up, and we see both the hard side and the little seen soft side of Robinson. Edward G. plays the ‘hatchet man,’ the fist of justice among the tongs in Chinatown, San Francisco. While some of it is misperception, much is a tale of the old ways giving way to the new world.

When the tongs go to war, it’s not like a John Woo or Ringo Lam flick, but it does match up to the gangster films of its day, and you do get to see some fancy hatchet work. If you can get past the make-up and the stereotypes, this one’s worth watching.

Vogues of 1938

Vogues of 1938 ~ Regular readers of this blog know I love “Dark Shadows” – the TV series, not last summer’s Johnny Depp vehicle. Well, when I saw this movie listed, starring Joan Bennett, DS’ Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, the Collins family matriarch. I know she had a serious film career before DS, over seventy movies, but I’d never seen any, that I know of, so I had to check this out.

Walter Wanger’s Vogues of 1938 is a lavish color musical that also stars Warren Baxter as the male lead opposite Bennett. She’s a socialite who becomes a model after a failed marriage. The sets and costumes are terrific for the time, and the print is crisp and bright.

The movie is clever and snappy, like most from the decade. The story is weak, but plays second to the terrific musical numbers and the visuals so it’s okay. The worst part is …Joan Bennett! She’s stiff, fake, and unappealing. Literally everything works on this flick except her. I’m glad she found her home finally in soap operas. Worth seeing, but be forewarned.

The Lady Vanishes 1938

The Lady Vanishes ~ I had not seen this Alfred Hitchcock classic before seeing it several Mondays ago at the Rave Cinema Classics locally. I’m glad I saw it, and am kicking myself for not seeing it years ago. The Lady Vanishes is everything one expects and loves in a Hitchcock flick, and it reminded me a lot of one of my faves, Shadow of a Doubt. There is intrigue, humor, fascinating characters, and plots twists galore. Most of all, it’s fun. I loved it.

A couple investigate a missing old lady on a train across pre-war Europe, where the apathy and selfishness of others keep the mystery intact. This is not the stereotypical Hitchcock flick, although his touch is golden and obvious throughout. And speaking of interesting characters, this film is the first appearance of Charters and Caldicott, who have appeared in various British films over the years. Fun, suspenseful and highly recommended.

Ace Kilroy Returns!

Ace Kilroy by Rob Kelly and Dan O’Connor returns today with a new strip daily.

What is Ace Kilroy?

“THE YEAR IS 1937. Another World War is brewing in Europe, and the United States Government, headed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is doing all it can to prepare. However, recent intelligence from that part of the world has uncovered an even more disturbing, almost unbelievable, set of facts: that the world’s worst supernatural monsters, thought only to be the stuff of nightmares, are real! Even worse, that Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich has unleashed a multi-pronged effort to turn those monsters to the side of the axis powers!

“President Roosevelt, backed by a small band of his most trusted advisers, has decided to commission decorated World War One veteran and soldier of fortune Ace Kilroy to go undercover in Transylvania and see if the threat is real–and if it is, to stop it…at all costs.

“ACE KILROY harkens back to the classic American newspaper comic strips of the mid-20th Century like Dick Tracy, Steve Canyon, and Buz Sawyer. We feature a new black and white daily installment every day, with an extra-large “color supplement” on Sundays!”

Check it out now, right here!

The Black Cat

The Black Cat ~ This 1934 film, ignoring the many others that use the same title (there have to be at least eight that I can think of, right off the top of my head), is the first onscreen meeting between Universal horror stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, the first of eight Universal horrors to feature them both.

In a futuristic mansion built on the site of a World War I fortress, the two rivals engage in a battle of wits, chess (yes, chess), and torture, both physical and psychological. Caught in the middle are a newlywed couple, dropped into the conflict with circumstances almost hilariously similar to Brad and Janet’s in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And much like that film, horror and hilarity ensues, but without the musical numbers. Apparently, Boris tortured Bela on this site during the war, and Bela is back for vengeance. The houseguests, among others, are pawns in this game of cat and mouse.

Boris Karloff’s Hjalmar Poelzig is a subtly sinister Satan-worshipping priest in the style of Aleister Crowley, but with the fashion sense of the wicked queen from Snow White and the Huntsman. It truly is a contest of ‘what will he wear next?’ in this flick. His height, and his physical presence, are much scarier than his calm demeanor, and the effect, for me at least, makes him seem even more frightening here than in his Frankenstein roles.

Bela Lugosi makes a worthy opponent for Karloff here as Dr. Vitus Werdegast. Bela, more so than any other role I’ve seen him in, puts in a fabulous performance. In fact, he steals the film. I have always thought him to be an over-actor, relying on his accent to excuse him from any real work, but here he is really quite good. I was impressed.

Also starring in this Universal horror is the house and stage set itself. Art deco was very popular in the 1930s and it was made into a starring character as the backdrop here. As the drama unwinds, even in the slow parts, one cannot help but marvel at the very expensive (for then) sets, a relic of a lost time in architecture.

The film itself is supposedly based on the Edgar Allan Poe story of the same name, or at least it is, according to the credits. Director Edgar G. Ulmer later admitted in an interview they used the title to get publicity for the movie. It should be mentioned this flick was quite violent for the time, went through several cuts, and was even banned in certain European countries. While the most successful Universal film of that year, this has become a mostly forgotten film, but definitely worth a watch for horror fans and film fans alike.

The Three Stooges 2012

The Three Stooges ~ I love the Three Stooges. I grew up on the Three Stooges. Everybody loved the Stooges when I was a kid. We would all race home from school to see the shorts on local channel 29. We all loved them, and being a guy (it does seem to be a gender thing), I loved them a lot. And unfortunately I was also a casualty when parents groups shut them down in the early 1970s.

Like most kids, I was aware of the difference between fantasy and reality, and knew you didn’t try any of that stuff the Stooges do on TV. Unfortunately those nosy parents who always seem to have too much time on their hands first had the wonderful shorts of the Stooges edited down to almost nothing by taking out the perceived violence (and essentially the humor too), and then by removing them from the air completely. You bastards, you took my Stooges away.

Let’s face it, the 1970s was a very bad time for kids television. Parents had a lot of time apparently to ruin it for kids. They took our superheroes away, our Warner Bros. cartoons, our Little Rascals, and our Three Stooges. These were all too ‘violent.’ Heck, we knew the difference. And from then on, children’s television had to watered down, have a message at the end, be educational, and conflict had to be solved through thoughtful discussion rather than Batman punching the Joker, or Moe poking Larry. I’m still not sure about Larry, but trust me, the Joker needed a punch.

Fortunately the video age saved us all, or at least the Three Stooges from this terrible time. On video, we could see the shorts in their original form, uncut and unedited, and we could see what geniuses the Stooges truly were. Today, several cable networks show the shorts on a regular basis, and the Stooges are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance. And perhaps that is what has spawned this new movie, The Three Stooges.

When I first heard of the Farrelly brothers making a new Three Stooges movie I have to admit I cringed. These are the guys responsible for such masterpieces as Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something About Mary among others. Not that their work is bad, but even when it’s good, there is always some quantity of potty humor and slob comedy. Humor for ten year olds is what it is, and although I don’t want to think it – it’s the perfect team to return the Stooges to the big screen.

When I first saw the trailer, I was iffy, and as a Stooge fan, I was extremely wary. I am here today to say I have seen the film, and wow, I had no reason to worry, as a matter of fact, it was one of the funniest movies I have seen in a long time. I laughed until there were tears in my eyes. Yeah, baby, it’s that good.

The movie follows the boys from childhood into a Blues Brothers like plot of trying to raise money for their orphanage, and it’s done in three episodic segments stylized like the shorts of old. The new Stooges do wonderful jobs of imitation and homage. Many of the stunts, the effects, and even the gags are directly from the old shorts and done with respect and humor. The first two segments are flawless Stooges extended shorts. The third segment does move into French farce as well as slapstick, but that’s okay, I still dug it.

The nearly unrecognizable Sean Hayes as Larry, television veteran Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe (I’ll never be able to watch “24” with a straight face again, and Will Sasso from “Mad TV” as Curly are all stellar morons in the best sense possible. Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson and the cast of “Jersey Shore” are all terrific but for me, the movie is stolen by Larry David every time he appears on screen as Sister Mary-Mengele.

Yeah, I loved this, more than I should have, and more than I ever would have believed either. The only thing that brought it done was during the end credits when the Farrelly brothers appear on screen to show how stunts were done and to tell kids not to try this at home. It may have been done tongue in cheek, but it brought that original 1970s bad taste back into my mouth. Stupid parents groups. Leave the Stooges, any Stooges alone. Still, this newest edition of the Three Stooges is highly recommended, bring the kids, be prepared for a little potty humor, but mostly Stooges goodness.

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