Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933). 77 minutes. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Starring Lionel Atwill (as Ivan Igor), Fay Wray (as Charlotte Duncan), Glenda Farrell (as Florence Dempsey), Frank McHugh (as Jim), Allen Vincent (as Ralph Burton), Gavin Gordon (as George Winton), Arthur Edmund Carewe (as Professor Darcy), Edwin Maxwell (as Joe Worth), Matthew Betz (as Hugo), and Monica Bannister (as Joan Gale). Art direction by Anton Grot.
Mystery of the Wax Museum is a notable pre-Code horror film about a mad sculptor and his menagerie of ghoulish statues. While less well known today than its contemporaries Frankenstein (1931) and The Mummy (1932), nevertheless it was a commercial hit in its time and has since made a place for itself in history as one of the best of the two-strip Technicolor movies. This limited but spirited color scheme infuses the wax museum setting with beauty, vivacity, and even a certain amount of sex appeal. True, the kitsch and … Read the rest
Little Caesar (1931). 79 minutes. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Edward G. Robinson (as Caesar Enrico Bandello/“Little Caesar”), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (as Joe Massara), Glenda Farrell (as Olga Stassoff), William Collier, Jr. (as Tony Passa), Sidney Blackmer (as Big Boy), Ralph Ince (as Diamond Pete Montana), Thomas E. Jackson (as Sergeant Flaherty), Stanley Fields (as Sam Vettori), Maurice Black (as Little Arnie Lorch), and George E. Stone (as Otero).
Little Caesar is a gangster movie from the early days of sound—so early, in fact, that it still includes title cards to announce major transitions in a few scenes. It was made before the Production Code was in place, which means that it is more risqué and more violent than movies produced only a few years later when the Code was enforced. The film made Edward G. Robinson a star, and its influence is wide-ranging. The climactic scene in The Godfather (1972) where Michael Corleone’s men gun down an enemy on … Read the rest
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). 93 minutes. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Paul Muni (as James Allen), Glenda Farrell (as Marie), Helen Vinson (as Helen), Preston Foster (as Pete), and Allen Jenkins (as Barney Sykes). Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is notable for being an early Hollywood social commentary film. Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns, it tells the story of Burns (called James Allen in the movie), who after serving in World War One returns home to the United States with the dream of becoming a civil engineer but ends up doing hard time in a forced labor camp. The subject of forced labor had appeared in theaters previously in, among other things, a popular Disney short starring Mickey Mouse (“The Chain Gang,” 1930), and the 1932 movie based on Burns’s life was soon parodied in a short musical comedy (“20,000 Cheers … Read the rest
Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936). 101 minutes. Directed by Lloyd Bacon. Starring Dick Powell (as Rosmer Peck), Joan Blondell (as Norma Perry), Glenda Farrell (as Genevieve Larkin), Victor Moore (as J. J. Hobart), Lee Dixon (as Boop Oglethorpe), Osgood Perkins (as Morty Wethered), and Charles D. Brown (as Tom Hugo). Musical sequences directed by Busby Berkeley. Music and lyrics by Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Harold Arlen, and E. Y. Harburg.
Generally speaking, it is hard not to like a Gold Diggers movie. Even though this is the fifth iteration of the franchise, stars Dick Powell and Joan Blondell remain cute and perky throughout, and the music, in particular the songs by Harry Warren and Al Dubin, is first rate. Much like the other Gold Diggers movies, Gold Diggers of 1937 (released in 1936) makes a special appeal to Depression-weary cinema-goers by explicitly referring to the economic circumstances of the times and to the individual characters’ financial predicaments; but its … Read the rest