Tag Archives: Film

Scarface

Scarface (1932 film)

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by Howard HawksRichard Rosson
Produced by Howard Hughes
Written by
Scarface by Armitage Trail
Screenplay by Ben Hecht
Starring Paul Muni
George Raft
Ann Dvorak
Karen Morley
Boris Karloff
Cinematography Lee Garmes &  L.W. O’Connell
Editing by Edward Curtiss
Distributed by United Artists
Release date April 9, 1932
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language English & Italian

Firstly this is the original Scarface – AKA Scarface Shame of a Nation, not the 1983 version featuring Al Pacino. This is the 1932 version featuring Paul Muni and George Raft and directed by Howard Hawks. It is probably one of the most celebrated gangster films of the 1930s, with Paul Muni giving a great, charismatic performance as the ambitious villain Tony Camonte. His performance is perhaps the equal of James Cagney’s in Public Enemy or Edward G Robinson in Little Caesar, although he seems to be rather forgotten today. One criticism of the picture I have is that I do think that Boris Karloff was horribly miscast as the rival gangster Gaffney. It is very hard to believe that someone with a proper English gentleman’s voice (and what a voice) would be a hard-nosed gangster from Chicago.

This was a very controversial film in its time, with the censors demanding lots of cuts and even am alternative ending because it was felt that this movie glorified the life of gangsters. Fortunately the film was being financed by the richest man on Earth at that time, Howard Hughes, and he was able to make these changes to the picture, although when the censors still would not pass the movie he just released the original version in states that had very relaxed censorship regulations.

There were also several accidents on set with Gaylord Lloyd, brother of silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd, losing an eye after being shot by live ammunition!!!


Africa Screams

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Edward Nassour
Written by Earl Baldwin, Martin Ragaway & Leonard Stern
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Music by Walter Schumann
Distributed by United Artists
Release date May 4, 1949
(New York City, New York) May 27, 1949
Running time 80 mins.
Language English

This was one of five independent films that Abbott & Costello made throughout their career. It doesn’t have the budget of their studio films and in fact has the feel of a TV production about it. The sets are rickety and the plot at times is quite un-PC, but the film is enjoyable and a lot funnier than Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy which I previously reviewed, but nowhere near as good as Hold That Ghost or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They do share the spotlight with some very talented co-stars. Big game hunters Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck were big stars in the 40s and have cameos here, as does Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and Joe Besser (who would also briefly become a Stooge) with his big sissy persona. They provide a few chuckles. Former World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer and former Heavyweight contender Buddy Baer appear in the film as thugs, with Max making a joke about Buddy’s defeat by Joe Louis‘ knocking him out.

This is just prior to the slide in quality that A&Cs films would suffer throughout the 50s but they were a little hit and miss at this point. Africa Screams is good in comparison to what was about to come. I should also mention that Abbott is quite abusive to Costello in this film and this is perhaps the most un-likable that I have seen Bud.

Africa Screams is in the public domain and there are many poor copies of it about. The best version is available on Amazon for $7.98.


Freaks

Directed by Tod Browning
Produced by Tod Browning
Written by Tod Robbins
Starring Wallace Ford
Leila Hyams
Olga Baclanova
Henry Victor
Harry Earles
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad
Editing by Basil Wrangell
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date February 20, 1932
Running time Original cut 90 min.
Released cut 64 min.
Country United States
Language English

“We accept her! We accept her! One of us! One of us! Gooble gobble, gooble gobble!”

Freaks is an interesting film that perhaps doesn’t deserve its notoriety. It’s not particularly scary or very well acted. The movie was banned in Britain (and Australia too I guess) for thirty years but it’s not that bad. There is a twist in the film in that the true monsters of the picture are not the Freaks themselves, but the supposedly normally looking aerialist and strongman who try to exploit one of the Freaks for their own profit. Perhaps the film works better as a satirical piece than as a horror film. It’s worth a look but I don’t think it deserves to be held as the 15th sacriest film of all-time. It is a film of its time though.


Poppy

Directed byA. Edward Sutherland
Writing credits Waldemar Young and Virginia Van Upp (screenplay)
Based on a play by Dorothy Donnelly

Cast (in credits order)

W.C. Fields … Prof. Eustace McGargle
Rochelle Hudson … Poppy
Richard Cromwell … Billy Farnsworth
Catherine Doucet … Countess Maggi Tubbs DePuizzi
Lynne Overman … Attorney Whiffen
Granville Bates … Mayor Farnsworth
Maude Eburne … Sarah Tucker
Bill Wolfe … Egmont
Adrian Morris … Constable Bowman
Rosalind Keith … Frances Parker
Ralph Remley … Carnival Manager

Poppy seems a bit different to the other W. C. Fields films that I have seen. It seems to be a typical 1930s comedy featuring Fields rather than a film that was built around him. It’s a lot more melodramatic than other Fields films, although it does feature enough of his weird and wonderful comedy to be worthy of a look.

Fields of course performed in the broadway version of Poppy over a decade earlier. He also played the part of Professor Eustace McGargle in the 1925 silent film Sally of the Sawdust.

Poppy is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Never Give A Sucker An Even Break. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!

Directed by Mark Hartley
Produced by Craig Griffin & Michael Lynch
Written by Mark Hartley
Music by Stephen Cummings
Cinematography
Germain McMicking & Karl von Moller
Editing by Jamie Blanks, Sara Edwards & Mark Hartley
Distributed by Madman Entertainment
Release date 28 August 2008
Running time 103 minutes
Country Australia
United States
Language English

This is an interesting documentary that looks at some of the exploitation films made in Australia in the 70s & 80s. It’s really amazing how much crap our film industry made in what was supposed to have been its golden age. It seems that if an Aussie film wasn’t filled with gratuitous nudity it would be filled with gratuitous violence. One thing that is glaringly obvious is that very few of the films mentioned are any good, but it is still a watchable doco.


Never Give A Sucker An Even Break

Directed by Edward F. Cline
Starring W.C. Fields
Gloria Jean
Margaret Dumont
Franklin Pangborn
Leon Errol
Music by Charles Previn & Frank Skinner
Cinematography Charles Van Enger
Editing by Arthur Hilton
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date 10 October 1941
Running time 71 min.
Country U.S.
Language English

Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a quite surreal film in that W.C. Fields is playing himself trying to pitch a film. It has quite a few funny scenes but is a little uneven. The bits where he’s discussing his script with Franklin Pangborn are amusing but the movie that Fields had envision is quite weird (I guess that’s the point!).

I could compare this film to a Marx Bros. film as it mixes music with the comedy. In Never Give A Sucker An Even Break Fifteen year old Gloria Jean sings some light operatic songs, but unlike those types of songs in the Marx’s films, these musical interludes are not completely boring, which I guess is testament to the fact that Ms. Jean had some semblance of a personality, which can rarely be said for the singers in the Marx films. The songs here are just as mind-numblingly boring as those in Marx Bros. films, but in one scene in particular Ms. Jean actually pokes fun at this fact by showing how bored she is with the song. There is so much other funny stuff going on in the background that you don’t have to hit the fast forward button. Considering she was so young and seemed to be a talented actress and singer, I wonder why she did not appear in many more films.

Another comparison to the Marx Bros. is that Fields tries to woo Margaret Dumont in order to become wealthy. This is part of his script for his fictional film. Unlike Groucho though, Fields comes to his senses when he sees just what he’s gotten himself into. Another contrast here is that Ms. Dumont really isn’t playing the straight man to Fields here and that she is in on the joke. Perhaps Fields included this element to satirize the Marx Bros. films? He does mention Groucho by name in an early scene.

This is a funny yet weird film. The parts that are not Fields’ fantasy seem to work the best.
Never Give A Sucker An Even Break is a part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Collection Volume 2 with The Man On The Flying Trapeze, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way and Poppy. This DVD box set is available from Amazon for $43.99. You can purchase it by clicking here…


First Men In The Moon

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Nigel Kneale (screenplay)
H.G. Wells (story)
Starring Lionel Jeffries
Edward Judd
Martha Hyer
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Editing by Maurice Rootes
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date November 20, 1964
Running time 103 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

First Men In The Moon is a 1864 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel featuring the great stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen. It is an exciting film, even though at times Lionel Jeffries overacts.

This is typical 1950s/60s sci-fi stuff, with the ending sort of pinched from War Of The Worlds. Harryhausen’s monsters are perhaps not as threatening as in the Sinbad movies or Jason and the Argonauts, with the only real threat being the brief scene with a giant caterpillar-like moon cow. The other creatures created by Harryhausen are the insect like moon people called the Selenites.

The film is interesting and entertaining and a faithful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ work, but it is a change of pace from Ray Harryhausen’s usual film making magic.


At The Circus

Directed by Edward Buzzell
Produced by Mervyn LeRoy
Written by Irving Brecher
Starring Groucho Marx
Chico Marx
Harpo Marx
Music by Harold Arlen
Cinematography Leonard M. Smith
Editing by William H. Terhune
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date October 20, 1939 (1939-10-20)
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
Language English

This 1939 Marx Bros. film starts off very slowly with one of those intolerable songs performed by someone not named Groucho. In this case it is Kenny Baker and Florence Rice who perform the mind-numbingly opening number. I wonder whether 1930s and 40s audiences really enjoyed these occasions when the Marx’s were not on the screen as I don’t. The same applies to Chico’s piano performances and Harpo’s harp recitals, which in At The Circus is tacked onto the politically incorrect Swingali number. It’s a wonder that the songs aren’t very good as they are written by Harold Arlen who composed the more memorable music to another movie in 1939, The Wizard Of Oz. These are all fast-forwardable moments and it is not until the 12 minute mark of the film that Groucho finally arrives, but when he does it is worth it.

The first scene in which Groucho appears, where he tries to get onto the train but Chico won’t let him because “He don’t gotta the badge” is really funny, but the films most memorable moment comes when Groucho finally gets onto the train to sing the fantastic ‘Lydia The Tattooed Lady”, the only good song in the entire film. [rant] Back in 1939 this would have been hilarious as at that time the only women to have tattoos were in the circus, but I guess that it has lost much of its relevance today since most women under 40 these days have some ink on their body. It used to be a sign of rebellion for a person to get a tattoo but now it is a sign of conformity with what ones peers are doing and it is almost more rebellious for someone not to have a tattoo. I never really got the point of why people chose to get tattoos. I know that they will claim that it is art but from an aesthetic point of view it is pretty gross. I think that the human body is enough of a work of art without a person covering it in graffiti. Michelangelo never put ink over David. Botticelli did not give his Venus any tattoos. I really don’t get it. [/end rant]

Lyrics to “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady”

Music by Harold Arlen and Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg

Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
and a torso even more so.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Queen of Tattoo.
On her back is The Battle of Waterloo.
Beside it, The Wreck of the Hesperus too.
And proudly above waves the red, white, and blue.
You can learn a lot from Lydia!
La-la-la…la-la-la.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
When her robe is unfurled she will show you the world,
if you step up and tell her where.
For a dime you can see Kankakee or Paree,
or Washington crossing The Delaware.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
When her muscles start relaxin’,
up the hill comes Andrew Jackson.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Queen of them all.
For two bits she will do a mazurka in jazz,
with a view of Niagara that nobody has.
And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz.
You can learn a lot from Lydia!
La-la-la…la-la-la.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
Come along and see Buffalo Bill with his lasso.
Just a little classic by Mendel Picasso.
Here is Captain Spaulding exploring the Amazon.
Here’s Godiva, but with her pajamas on.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
Here is Grover Whelan unveilin’ The Trilon.
Over on the west coast we have Treasure Isle-on.
Here’s Nijinsky a-doin’ the rhumba.
Here’s her social security numba.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
La-la-la…la-la-la.
Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia.
Oh Lydia The Champ of them all.
She once swept an Admiral clear off his feet.
The ships on her hips made his heart skip a beat.
And now the old boy’s in command of the fleet,
for he went and married Lydia!
I said Lydia…
(He said Lydia…)
They said Lydia…
We said Lydia, la, la!

Lydia became one of Groucho’s signature songs.

Overall the film isn’t one of the Marx Bros. best but it is still quite fun and worth a look. Any film featuring Groucho Marx’s wit and Harpo Marx’s slapstick and even Chico Marx’s racial stereotype is always good watching. I used to be fascinated by the film when I was a kid, I actually set the video recorder to tape it late one night when it was on but unfortunately I missed the last five minutes of the film. Even back in the 80s you couldn’t rely on the TV stations to stick to their schedules. Grrr!!!


Sons Of The Desert

Directed by William A. Seiter
Produced by Hal Roach
Written by Frank Craven (story) & Byron Morgan
Starring Stan Laurel
Oliver Hardy
Charley Chase
Mae Busch
Music by William Axt
George M. Cohan
Marvin Hatley
Paul Marquardt
O’Donnell-Heath
Leroy Shield
Frank Terry
Cinematography Kenneth Peach
Editing by Bert Jordan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date December 29, 1933 (1933-12-29)
Running time 68 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Sons Of The Desert is the best known of Laurel & Hardy‘s comedy films of the 1930s. It ranks at number 96 on the American Film Institute’s list of 100 funniest films, which was compiled in 2000. This is the film where Stan and Ollie lie to their wives about Ollie needing to go to Honolulu so that he can recover from an illness (which he has faked),

Theatrical poster for the 1944 re-release of S...

Image via Wikipedia

but instead they head to Chicago for their Sons Of The Desert convention. Everything seems to go well until the ship that they were supposed to be on sinks.

There are a lot of funny scenes in the film but it is the personalities of Laurel & Hardy that makes this well worth watching. All of the mannerisms that we associate with the comedy duo are present in this film, from Ollie’s lying and telling the most preposterous story imaginable, to Stanley’s cry-baby routine when his wife finds him out. There is also quite a lot of funny slapstick along the way that makes this film very enjoyable.


Movies I Want To See

I am a sucker for horrible films, especially those from the 1950s. Here are a few that I want to see.

Teenage Frankenstein

This is from AIP and features Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane in the first season of the Adventures Of Superman.

MothraMothra is another of the Japanese giant monsters who on various occassions fought against and then teamed up with Godzilla.

Reform School Girl

Another AIP film.

The Hotrod Gang Meets The Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow

The ultimate 1950s drive-in film featuring teenagers, hot-rods and ghosts. From AIP.


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