The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933)

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"The Testament of Dr. Mabuse" (1933)

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933). 124 minutes. Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Otto Wernicke (as Inspector Lohmann), Karl Meixner (as Hofmeister), Oscar Beregi, Sr. (as Professor Baum), Gustav Diessl (as Thomas Kent), and Rudolf Klein-Rogge (as Dr. Mabuse).

The Testament of Dr. Mabuse is the last film that Fritz Lang made before leaving Nazi Germany.  It begins by introducing the disgraced police detective Hofmeister, who in order to redeem himself in the eyes of his superior, Inspector Lohmann, has doggedly and independently investigated a criminal syndicate. Before he can reveal the name of the head of the syndicate to Lohmann, something happens to Hofmeister to make him go mad, and he is subsequently placed in an asylum. In the same asylum, we find the criminal mastermind Dr. Mabuse, who is insane and rapidly writing strange instructions (his “testament”) on how to carry out illegal activity. Dr. Mabuse is supervised by the psychiatrist Professor Baum, who considers the crime boss … Read the rest

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939). 129 minutes. Directed by Frank Capra. Starring James Stewart (as Jefferson Smith), Jean Arthur (as Clarissa Saunders), Claude Rains (as Senator Joseph Harrison Paine), Edward Arnold (as Jim Taylor), Guy Kibbee (as Governor Hubert Hopper), Thomas Mitchell (as “Diz” Moore), Eugene Pallette (as Chick McGann), Harry Carey (as President of the Senate), and Beulah Bondi (as Ma Smith).

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is considered one of the great movies of Hollywood’s Golden Age. As a celebration of the role of goodness in American politics, the movie optimistically maintains that average, decent people can make meaningful contributions to democratic government, yet it also provides an unflinching depiction of the unprincipled nature of Washington culture.  At the same time, while it tells the morally tinged story of one man’s struggle to triumph virtuously over his political adversaries, it represents the American democratic process with a decent amount of precision and accuracy, despite the fact that … Read the rest

I Married a Witch (1942)

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I Married a Witch (1942). 77 minutes. Directed by René Clair.  Starring Fredric March (as Wallace Wooley), Veronica Lake (as Jennifer), Cecil Kellaway (as Daniel), Susan Hayward (as Estelle Masterson), and Robert Warwick (as J. B. Masterson).

As a supernatural comedy that also has a political subplot, I Married a Witch is both a good Halloween movie and a good election-year movie.  Possibly it is familiar to you as one of the inspirations for the television series Bewitched.  The movie tells the story of the witches Daniel and Jennifer, a father and daughter pair who were found guilty of sorcery and burned in seventeenth-century New England at the instigation of Puritan Jonathan Wooley.  Just before her execution, Jennifer curses the Wooley men, condemning them all to unsatisfying love lives until the end of time.  Daniel and Jennifer’s ashes are buried under an old tree, where their spirits remain until 1942, at which point, thanks to some stray lightning, their … Read the rest