Diamond Trail

This is a 1933 pre-code film about the daring adventures of newspaper reporter “Speed” Morgan and his run-in with gangster boss “Flash” Barrett.

Here is the full synopsis from IMDB: Reporter “Speed’ Morgan helps gangster “Flash” Barrett escape an ambush by rival gangster Mullin’s henchmen, and then escape the pursuing police. Posing as a wanted gangster named “Frisco” Eddie, Morgan is made a member of the gang and goes West with them as Barrett is looking for rancher Bill Miller, who was his in-between man on stolen diamonds until Miller dropped a package, found out it contained diamonds and hid and kept them. Miller’s sister, Lois, is unaware of her brother’s connection to the eastern gangsters.

“Hiya Doll!”

This is very simple story telling, and also made very simply. It is all-round simple.

It is also quite genre bending. The film starts off as a 1933 modern day style film, with the moider of a rival gang member by “Flash” barret, which “Speed” Morgan witnesses. Sensing a scoop he helps “Flash” flee the scene of the crime in the hope that he can infiltrate the gang, which he does. We are then introduced to the main plot of the story which takes place in the Wild and Woolly West. The gang members actually drive into a Western town like the one in Gunsmoke or Rawhide in a gangster-style convertible jalopy. The town’s folk are all dressed in cowboy garb of course, and all ride horses instead of driving cars, although there is a car in the town that they can rent if they need it.

“Tell me where da ice is at, or I’ll plug ya. See?”

It is as though the film producers thought it would be a great idea to mix a gangster land story with a western. Perhaps 1930’s America was actually like that…no idea.

Something I really liked is that everyone was wearing a hat of some sorts… those were the days!

Kirk Douglas was 17 years old when this film was made.

Silly entertainment, but entertaining it was, and thought-provoking on many existential levels.

Date watched: February 24th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2019: 4

Sunset Murder Case

I felt like watching an old noir film last night, so I chose this 1938 crime story on YouTube.


Not sure what is going on with the film title in this poster

The story was muddled, but basically it was about a showgirl that had returned from Europe where she was the toast of the town. But her father, a police dude was moidered while investigating the murder of a woman on Sunset strip. She wanted to get revenge on the rat that did it, so with the help of her police beau and another cop, she cooked up a plan to find the killer by posing as a singer in a nightclub where she suspected the crims were hanging out. There was also a reporter involved, a blonde bimbo (played by the excellently named “Sugar Kane”), and several other characters which really made following it all quite confusing. There were no car chases, although there was a nutty crash where a guy pushed a car in the path of another slow-moving car which then promptly fell over onto it’s side, seriously injuring the dame inside…cars in those days were death-traps.

There were plenty of fedora hats.

The main actor was Sally Rand who back in the day was well-known as a dancer who specialised in a dance routine with a giant bubble-ball. She was also known for her “fan dance”.


Doin’ the Bubble

So of course the director or Sally herself just had to include her doing her thing in the film. But, for some reason the whole bubble dance routine was completely silent, so I skipped over most of it (it lasted a while). She sang a couple of tunes later on, which I also skipped over.

The story as I said was muddled and confusing, I gave up trying to figure out who was whom, and what the heck was happening, and just waited for it to finish. At only 59 minutes long I was glad I didn’t have to wait long.

The final scene wrapped up the climactic ending in less than a minute, I guess they ran out of money, or film.

The acting, directing, and cinematography was all very B-grade stuff, I can’t think of anything going for it.

Date watched: June 24th
Score: 2/10
Film count 2018: 37

Sabotage

This is a 1937 film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, and is a story of terrorism in London.

Alf had made quite a few films before this one, in fact his first was in 1920, but even so this didn’t really have the feel of a Hitchcock film. It seemed a bit sloppy at times, and some of the situations were a bit contrived. The acting was fine though, and the quality of the film was very good, especially when you consider that this was made 81 years ago.

What really made this film though was the ending, which was quite shocking, even by today’s standards. I won’t go into details, but I will say it involves a boy unwittingly carrying a ticking time-bomb on a bus. Even Alfie had reservations about the scene (Alf kept to the ending of the book that this was based on).

To my surprise this has a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the ending probably has a lot to do with that.

Worth a watch, but mostly for Hitchcock fans. Two years later he would go to America and make his first film there, Rebecca.

Date watched: December 22nd
Score: 7/10
Film count 2017: 143

Doctor Syn

Doctor Syn is the main character in a series of books about pirates, smugglers, Marsh Phantoms, and skulduggery. I am currently reading the third book in the series which is a rollicking good one too. Last night I decided to watch another Doctor Syn film having already seen the excellent Captain Clegg with Peter Cushing.

This film was made in 1937 and starred George Arliss (born Augustus George Andrews) who was a successful British actor in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s. It was based on the first book in the series and some of the filming was done in Dymchurch which is where the original story is based (Dymchurch has a celebration of the novels every two years).

The film itself was quite average, but because of the book I found it fun to see the story I know well in moving pictures and sound, even if it was 80 years old.

It would be great to see a modern blockbuster version of this film. The Clooney would be perfect as the dashing Doctor Syn/Captain Clegg, with Joe Pesci as the Sexton Mipps. It would certainly give the awful Pirates of the Caribbean series a good thrashing. One can but dream.

Date watched: September 28th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2017: 109

Stand-In

I watched this mostly because it has The Humph, although he was not the main character in this 1937 film.

Leslie Howard (read about him on Wikipedia, tragically killed during the war) starred as a math-whizz who is put in charge of finding out why a poverty row film studio is losing money. The Humph plays a producer who is trying to save the studio, but is being undermined by people who want it to go bust.

Joan Blondell, a name I have heard before, plays the love interest of Leslie’s character, and she is one of the highlights, along with Leslie and The Humph of course.

The script is quite funny at times, and is all in all an entertaining romp poking fun at Hollywood itself.

There was one funny scene where an angry mob of studio workers get their hands on a studio executive who was in on the conspiracy to bankrupt the studio. Several workers grab him and sending him flying over a concrete wall that must have been at least 4 m high, we didn’t actually see them throw him, but we saw a stuntman really fly!

stand-in

According to Wikipedia this film made a profit of just $9,274 (US$156,000 in today’s money), which is kind of surprising.

The Humph at this time was not a leading man, and had his first success in film only a year earlier in The Petrified Forest, also starring Leslie Howard, as well as Bette Davis. The Humph played a gangster, which at the time he was typecast as in a few films including Angels With Dirty Faces. And I just realised that he is not on the MBMS Page Of Fame, which is a travesty, so he is now.

Date watched: March 3rd
Score: 8/10
Film count 2017: 44

King Kong

I have been wanting to watch this for a while, and as it is on the AFI list of top 100 films (number 43 actually) I decided to finally watch it.

It is easy to see why this is on the top 100 list. The special effects in this were quite outstanding for the 1930’s, and the story was mostly thrilling and fun to watch. The read on Wikipedia about how they did the special effects is an interesting read, and was quite complicated.

Some of the acting was not all that good, and the portrayal of the natives on the island was a bit racist, although in those days it wouldn’t have been viewed as such.

I may have to watch Peter Jackson’s remake again (I can’t find a review for it on this site) to see how it compares.

Date watched: February 11th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2017: 34

king_kong_1933_french_poster

The Public Enemy

My obsession with James Cagney continues with this film, one that I was most looking forward to.

And it certainly did not disappoint. James’ acting in this was a little different to the other films I have seen him in, more restrained in comparison. He was quite menacing in some scenes, as he was in all his gangster roles. He could say a lot with just the expression on his face, very much like Jack Nicholson did decades later.

The story was a typical gangster story, and was based on an unreleased book written by two street thugs who had witnessed Al Capone’s gang wars in Chicago, so it must have been reasonably authentic. It was also pre-code, so it was quite violent for the times, and there was one scene involving what appeared to be a gay tailor that was cut out in the 1940’s, and only restored for the DVD release. That scene was quite funny, mostly because it seems so out of place for a 1930’s film.

There was one scene where Cagney and his partner learned that their gang boss had been killed by his own horse, kicked in the head, so off they went to the horse stable and assassinated it!

There was also the famous “grapefruit” scene where Cagney shoved a half grapefruit into his girlfriend’s face at the breakfast table. It was no big deal really, but the story behind the whole scene is interesting.

cagney-grapefruit

Another scene was the machine gunning of his partner. I was very impressed in this scene when we saw the corner of a building being ripped apart by the bullets, just a moment after Cagney ducked out of the way, I thought it looked very authentic for such an old film. Turns out though that they were actually shooting real bullets at the building. Cripes!

The cast in this was excellent, and some of the photography was very well done, it did not seem like a 1931 film at all. It was actually made on a low budget, but made seven times more than it’s budget at the box office. A theatre in Times Square ran the film 24 hours a day during it’s initial release.

The best thing to do is read the whole Wikipedia article about the film, it is good reading, but do so after watching this, which you must do.

Date watched: February 5th (on a dreary Sunday afternoon)
Score: 10/10
Film count 2017: 28

public-enemy