Wednesday, December 30, 2009

58. The Public Enemy (1931)

Running Time: 83 minutes
Directed By: William A. Wellman
Written By: Harvey F. Thew, from story by John Bright & Kubec Glasmon
Main Cast: James Cagney, Edward Woods, Jean Harlow, Robert Emmett O'Connor, Leslie Fenton, Joan Blondell, Donald Cook

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'CAGNEY'

I remember when I was younger, watching the film "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and loving James Cagney's portrayl as George M. Cohan, even at that young age. I won't harp about "YDD" because it's a movie that we'll soon be covered on my journey, but I was very excited to see "The Public Enemy" and get another glance at Cagney captivating me on the big sceen...and that's just what he did!

Cagney plays Tom Powers, who starts out at a young age in 1909 robbing department stores with his buddy Matt Doyle and selling the hot goods to Putty Nose, a famous gangster and getting next to nothing in return. Tom is a troubled young kid who doesn't get along with a whole lot of people outside of Matt, especially his brother and recieves lashes from his father with a belt on a seemingly regular basis.

Soon Tom grows up and is still acquainted with Putty Nose and with his friend Matt. When Putty puts the boys onto a scheme to snatch some furs from the local fur warehouse, he promises them that they'll be safe and that if trouble brews, he'll take care of them. Well trouble does brew, and when the boys go looking for Putty he's nowhere to be found. Putty Nose leaves the boys high and dry and Tom, still a young man, is left with the bloodshed of a cop on his hands. Following that mess, they fall in with another famous gangster, Paddy Ryan, owner of a local pub, he's an old gentleman with manners, but who still knows how to get what he wants. Paddy turns the boys into an overnight success as they begin bootlegging beer during prohibition times.

Throughout his bootlegging success Tom still has problems at home as his brother and mother urge him to get out of the crime business and go straight. Tom and his brother fight constantly when put together in the same room and their mother, a sweet old woman who wants nothing but peace in the household, plays the mediator between them. Tom also plays his hand at love, meeting and falling for Kitty. When he grows sick of Kitty, he smashes a grapefruit in her face and sends her packing, only to meet up with the vivacious Gwen.

"The Public Enemy" is just what I was looking for in a 30's gangster flick. "Little Caesar" was good, but this gangster movie knocked it out of the park and after a little bit of research you find out that it set the tone for gangster films from that point on and it's not hard to see why. James Cagney is fantastic and could easily become a favorite actor of mine, as he takes charge of the screen whenever he's on it and you know instantly who the star is. The ending of "The Public Enemy" is very simple, yet very effective and I honestly wouldn't have changed a thing about it. While it wasn't the ending that I was expecting, it was still a great one and one that definitely worked for me. The rest of the acting was also great, as I kind of had a fondness for the character of Paddy Ryan played very well by Robert Emmett O'Connor. "The Public Enemy" is a fantastic film that definitely deserved inclusion in this book and I would easily recommend it to anyone looking to check out some older flicks.

RATING: 10/10 Gotta' go the full monty for this one, it was nothing less of fantastic and I can't wait to buy it and watch it again someday when my journey is through.

NEXT UP: M...Which I've actually seen before and loved it, so I can't wait to take another gander at it and give a fresh opinion. Review will probably come later tonight or early tomorrow.

December 30, 2009 5:14pm

Monday, December 28, 2009

57. City Lights (1931)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: Charles Chaplin
Written By: Charles Chaplin
Main Cast: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Harry Myers

CHARLIE CHAPLIN STICKS TO HIS SILENT GUNS

With the emergence of talking pictures, it is said that Charlie Chaplin agonized over the production of "City Lights", a film that could've have been his first talking film, but one that ultimately stayed in line with other Chaplin works and remained silent and still fantastic!

Charlie returns to the big screen as the Little Tramp, and doesn't waste too much time running into a beautiful, blind flower-seller on the street corner. The Tramp is captivated by her beauty and stunned when he realizes that she's blind. He buys a flower and moves on, not quite sure if he'll ever see her again.

A little later in the film The Tramp runs into a man on the verge of suicide because his wife has just left him. While he is intoxicated, the man tries to tether himself to a boulder and hurl himself into the river, only to be stopped by The Tramp. With a new zest for life, thanks to the little fellow, he declares the Tramp his new best friend and immediately takes him out for a night on the town, where the Tramp soon finds out he's a millionaire. The next morning when the man awakes, and the Tramp comes calling at his door, the millionaire cannot remember the previous night and therefore cannot remember the Tramp. This is a running plot point throughout the picture, as everytime the man is drunk he knows and loves the Tramp, but as soon as he sobers up, the kind little fellow is a stranger to him.

After numerous further meetings with the blind girl, the Tramp learns that she is very poor and on the cusp of being kicked from her home by her landlord. The Tramp tells her not to worry and promises to return with the funds to save her home. The Tramp takes on a few jobs, including that of a boxer, which provided me with my favorite moment of the entire film, as Chaplin participates in a very well choreographed and hilarious boxing match, with a much bigger and much stronger fellow. As always I certainly won't spoil the ending, but this flick is certainly worth a rent to check out the fantastic open ending and all the rest for that matter.

Along with the boxing sequence, this film provides countless other hilarious and memorable moments: Charlie getting a piece of streamer caught up in his plate of spaghetti and not realizing it as he slurps up his noodles, Charlie swallowing a whistle right as an important party goer is about to give a speech and Charlie final encounter with the blind girl, which provides us, not with a funny moment, but a very romantic and heartwarming one. I liked this movie more than I liked "The Gold Rush" and while I would call them both great films, I still felt myself missing Buster Keaton, as I watched "City Lights". Although, Charlie Chaplin was his own man and did his own things, which were much different than Keaton.

RATING: 8/10 First instinct of a rating was to go with an '8', and as always that's what I went with.

NEXT UP: The Public Enemy...James Cagney enters the stage!! Not expecting anymore films from Netflix until Wednesday, so I'll see 'ya then.

December 27, 2009 10:49pm

Sunday, December 27, 2009

56. Frankenstein (1931)

Running Time: 70 minutes
Directed By: James Whale
Written By: John L. Balderston, Francis Edward Faragoh, Garrett Fort, from play by Peggy Webling and novel by Mary Shelley
Main Cast: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Edward Van Sloan, John Boles, Dwight Frye

MONSTER MASH: PART TWO OF TWO

I hope anyone out there who is a reader of my blog had a very Merry Christmas. I sure did and while the traditions and fun of my family has passed, I return to the book and my journey through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". Just finished watching "Frankenstein" about an hour ago and liked it much more this time around, than the previous time I watched this film, about two years ago.

Henry Frankenstein (Clive) is an eager young scientist who breaks away from his mentor and teacher to pursue his own experiments, most importantly trying to bring what was once dead, back to life. Actually, in this particular case, Henry tries bringing something that has never lived to life. After Henry and his assistant Fritz go around collecting freshly buried corpses and hung criminals, they sew together various parts, from various cadavers and build a human being. All that they lack is a brain and when Fritz goes to the local university to fetch one, he accidentally returns to Henry's castle with an abnormal brain and thus the tale of Frankenstein is set into motion. As you can probably guess, Henry's experiment is a success, as he uses a lightning storm to bring his makeshift human being to life and the Monster is born (played with creepiness by Karloff).

Henry keeps the Monster locked up in a closet and when his fiance, his mentor and his best friend come looking for him, the eventually talk him into returning home. The professor, Dr. Waldman reassures Henry that he'll take care of the Monster. Henry leaves the castle with his fiance and friend and returns to his home so that he can marry. The professor however underestimates the Monster and ends up allowing it to escape. Now with the Monster on the lam, the possibilities for the climax of this picture are endless and everything you can imagine probably happens to Harry and his Monster as this picture reaches it's grand conclusion.

There are so many memorable shots and scenes in this film: the Monster connecting with a little girl and with good intentions, accidentally drowning her, the moment when we first see Karloff as the Monster, with his back to the camera he turns around to reveal his hideous figure, the gorgeous shot as the Monster and his creator square off atop a hill in the films final moments and the final moment of the film, with the Monster trapped inside a windmill, as it is set ablaze by an posse that has been formed to find him and, if need be, kill him. This movie proves to me that you always need to give a movie at least two chances, because if you watch a film for the first time and don't like it, well then, maybe you weren't in the mood for it or maybe you had other things on your mind. I remember watching "Frankenstein" back in January of 2008 and hating it, however, this time I thought it was very watchable and very good. Despite its age, it still holds up as a great horror flick and something that would be lots of fun to take in around Halloween time (along with Dracula - 1931).

RATING: 6.5/10 Not a perfect rating, but certainly better than I remembered it and still a very good film.

NEXT UP: City Lights...More Chaplin, for which I am excited. Review should be up tomorrow.

December 27, 2009 12:00am


Thursday, December 24, 2009

55. Dracula (1931)

Running Time: 74 minutes
Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Garrett Fort, from play by John L. Balderston and Hamilton Deane
Main Cast: Bela Lugosi, Dwight Frye, Edward Van Sloan, Helen Chandler, David Manners

Sidenote: You may have noticed that I haven't made a post in nearly a week, and you may also remember that in my last post I mentioned that I'd be taking a few days off to watch a few movies that I recieved as early Christmas presents. That I did, as I watched Whatever Works and Scenes from A Marriage. Whatever Works is the newest Woody Allen movie to be released to DVD and while I am a Woody Allen nut, it is one of the first things I bought when I got some Christmas cash from my parents. It was actually, a bit to my surprise, wonderful. The reason I say "to my surprise" is because I haven't really cared much for the recent Woody Allen films, that are Scoop, Cassandra's Dream and Vicky Cristina Barcelona. This was a total throwback for Allen as he returned to his native New York and returned to the type of comedy that made me fall in love with his films in the first place. Larry David is great as the neurotic Woody Allen character. Scenes from A Marriage is an Ingmar Bergman film that I saw earlier this summer and it quickly became a personal favorite, so I felt the need to quickly add it to my DVD collection and watch it again to make sure those same old feeling were still there. They were!! This film is fantastic, as the characters are fleshed out and the dialogue is perfect, as it totally grabs you and pulls you right into these characters lives. This is a movie that I was shocked to realize is not included in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. Anyway, two great films and now I'm back to the book and now we must move on to the business at hand...

MONSTER MASH: PART ONE OF TWO

Directed by Tod Browning, Dracula was one that I had mixed feelings about going into. I had an urge to see it, as I loved Browning's previous "1001" entry, "The Unknown", but I really wasn't all that excited, because I figured I'd basically just be seeing the origin of all the parodies, remakes and cliches that I've seen over the years.

While everyone knows the story of Dracula, I'm still going to recount the plot here, because that's my standard format and it's my blog, so I guess I can go ahead and conduct business as usual.

The film starts out with a rickety old carriage taking several people into the hills of Transylvania, including Renfield, a British solicitor. Once arriving at the destination, just before sundown, Renfield requests to be taken farther into the hills to an area known as Borgo Pass, where he must meet with a "man" by the name of Count Dracula. While the driver is hesitant and scared due to some old superstitions and rumors, Renfield is also persistent, and eventually gets his way. He soon arrives at Borgo Pass and to Count Dracula's castle. His business there: to finalize the deal of some property that Dracula has purchased in London, by the name of Carfax Abbey, which is located next to an insane asylum. This is of course where we get our first peek at Lugosi as Dracula and I must say the man certainly looks the part of a creepy, blood sucker, complete with black cape and slicked back, black hair. When Renfield cuts his finger while eating a meal that Dracula prepared for him, the Count nearly leaps on him right then and there, but restrains himself until the papers are finalized. Once the paperwork is finalized, Dracula puts a spell on Renfield, causing him to faint and thus the feast for Count Dracula begins and his new assistant is born, as Renfield will now succumb to all of his masters needs.

Soon after this, Renfield is captured in London and placed into the insane asylum that sits near Carfax Abbey, Drac's new home. Dwight Frye is fantastic as the cackling, lurching Renfield. Dracula begins to prey on the proprietor's of the insane asylum, Dr. Seward, his daughter Mina, her fiance John and Professor Van Helsing. Van Helsing is a great character that allows you to really root for the good guys in the film. While Dracula is slick and almost cool, Van Helsing is there to balance out the good vs. evil formula and give the good side a real hero.

Almost all the roles in the film are fantastic: Van Helsing, Renfield and of course Count Dracula, played superbly by Bela Lugosi. There's even some comic relief in the hospital attendant Martin. While I did have a few small complaints about the film, the big one being the very anti-climatic ending, that is all wrapped up within four minutes, for the majority this is a great film and something that would be awesome to watch when Halloween time rolls around. While, I never really cared much for vampire and/or Dracula stories (see the "Nosferatu" review, earlier in the blog) this one, for some reason, grabbed me and really hooked me into the characters, setting, and performances. Lugosi's Dracula is creepy and his surroundings are even more so, as his crypt is constantly surrounded by rats, spiders or even...armadillos?!

RATING: 7/10 Took off a few points for the ending and a few other dull spots, but all in all Browning is quickly becoming a favorite director of mine and I can't wait for his next addition to my journey.

NEXT UP: Frankenstein...Monster Mash: Part Two of Two. This review probably won't make it up here until Saturday. With it being Christmas Eve, the family plans are starting to take place in full effect.

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2009 5:51pm

Sunday, December 20, 2009

54. TABU (1931)

Running Time: 81 minutes
Directed By: F.W. Murnau
Written By: Robert J. Flaherty, F.W. Murnau
Main Cast: Reri, Matahi, Hitu, Jean, Jules, Ah Kong, Anne Chevalier

MURNAU'S FINAL FILM AND I CAN'T SAY I'M TOO UPSET ABOUT IT

While "Sunrise" was a fantastic film and one that I enjoyed immensely, the rest of Murnau's work that I've had to view by watching the movies in this book were average at best, and "Tabu" was downright awful.

The film starts out with a bunch of South Sea islanders on the isle of Bora Bora having a good time, hunting, fishing and basically living their lives, as they would on any other normal day. One day, one of the islanders meets and falls in love with Reri. His name is Matahi and soon after he meets Reri, some terrible news comes to the small island...terrible for the two lovers that is. The Tribal Elders arrive from the surrounding islands and inform the Bora Borans that their "maid to the Gods" has passed away and a new "chosen one" must be quickly found as her replacement. Reri is chosen and the ground rules are laid down: if any man so much as casts a lustful eye at her, they are to be punished by death. Bad news for Matahi.

On the day she is set to leave for her new island home, Matahi rescues her and together the flee the island and arrive at a French colony where Matahi is quickly recognized as a fantastic diver. He is also quickly appointed as the colony's top pearl diver and finally the love birds are happy together, without the watchful eye of the Island Elders. But soon, Hitu (the leader of the Island Elders) finds them, and offers Reri a chance to come back with him, while allowing Matahi to keep his life. She has only three days to say her farewells, and if in this time, she does not give herself up, Matahi will be killed and Reri will be taken back to the islands and become the "maid to the Gods".

I had a really hard time getting into this one, as we trekked back to silent cinema. Not that I have a problem with silent films, I just wasn't expecting to go back there all of a sudden. The opening and approximately the first twenty minutes was all island shots, with the islanders dancing around and playing and really doing a whole lot of nothing, except wasting valuable film space that could've been used on something more constructive. The middle and end picked up a little bit, as the love story began to get a bit emotional and I was starting to feel it, but it was too little, too late and I have to give this one the big thumbs down.

RATING: 1/10 Sorry Murnau, but I had to go with the lowest rating possible. I have a hard time believing that this movie was included in this book for its quality, and an easier time believing it was included as an homage to Muranu's final work.

NEXT UP: Dracula...Bela Lugosi in his most famous role, and Tod Browning directs...I'm excited! I'm probably gonna' spend the rest of tonight and all day tomorrow watching some movies that I got as early Christmas presents, but I'll be right back on the horse Monday, so stay tuned!

December 19, 2009 11:15pm

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

53. Le Million/The Million (1931)

Running Time: 81 minutes
Directed By: Rene Clair
Written By: Rene Clair, from play by Georges Berr and Marcel Guillemaud
Main Cast: Rene Lefevre, Jean-Louis Allibert, Annabella, Paul Ollivier

RENE CLAIR TOTALLY REDEEMS HIMSELF WITH 'LE MILLION'

Eventhough I didn't much care for "A Nous la Liberte", I still had high hopes for the second Rene Clair flick on my list, "Le Million" and man, was I right to have those high hopes. I've said it before and I'm gonna say it again: It's movies like this that make me so glad that I decided to do this project, because if I hadn't done this project I would've never seen "Le Million".

Michel is a struggling artist who is engaged to Beatrice and who owes money all over town to various creditors. His best friend is Propser and one day Prosper informs him of the news in the daily paper: That the million dollar lottery has been won and Michel is the big winner. Michel is very much happy about this news, as he recieves right at the end of being chased down by the grocer, the butcher and the dairy maid, among others and all of whom he owes money to. Michel quickly realizes that he kept his lottery ticket in his jacket pocket, which he gave to Beatrice to mend.

There's only one problem, Beatrice gave the jacket to a man named Grandpa Tulip, who was running from the police, so that he'd have a disguise and thus wouldn't be caught. She gave it to Tulip out of spite, after Michel was running around trying to charm a floozy by the name of Wanda. When Michel is informed that the jacket is gone and in the clutches of Grandpa Tulip, he quickly springs into action, prodding Beatrice for Tulip's address. Yet another problem presents itself, as in the meantime, Grandpa Tulip has pawned off the jacket to opera singer Sopranelli, for him to use in his production of "The Bohemians".

The race is on, as Michel promises to split the million with Prosper if he's able to obtain the lottery ticket. The whole film is a madcap ride through the day as Michel races to retrieve the lottery ticket, pay off his creditors, all while trying to make amends with Beatrice for his woman chasing ways. This movie had everything; comedy, drama, romance, music, as throughout the entire film little musical numbers pop up and they fit right in with all of the zaniness of this film. This is the movie I've been looking for since my return to this project, something that really threw me right into the thick of things and gave me what I really wanted out of a movie. I can't say enough good things about "Le Million" but I'll sum it all up with this: It's out there on Criterion DVD and if you haven't seen it, treat yourself to something that is sure to put a smile on your face and give you a really great hour and a half.

RATING: 10/10 Finally I've found that "Perfect 10" and hopefully the hits just keep on comin'.

NEXT UP: Tabu...F.W. Muranu's last film and the review should be up tomorrow. Peace out!

December 16, 2009 5:14pm

52. A Nous la Liberte/Freedom for Us (1931)

Running Time: 87 minutes
Directed By: Rene Clair
Written By: Rene Clair
Main Cast: Raymond Cordy, Henri Marchand, Rolla France

'FREEDOM FOR US' GAVE ME NO FREEDOM FROM OVERRATED FILMS

Rene Clair bursts onto the scene with a film that I thought I'd really like, but was left feeling very unfulfilled.

Louis and Emile are two conmen who conspire to escape from priosn. When they finally make their getaway, Louis is able to get out, but Emile is left behind and eventually re-imprisoned. While on the outside, Louis starts selling record players on the streets and in a brief montage of the film, eventually builds himself an empire, where he is the president of a company that manufactures record players. Louis is now very rich and has many men that work for him, while Emile is still held captive in the prison.

Eventually Emile's ticket comes up and when he tries to hang himself from his prison window, the window breaks out and he's doesn't waste any time escaping. After swooning over a girl he happens upon, Emile makes his way to Louis' factory (without the knowledge that it's owned by Louis) and lands himself a job on the assembly line. He quickly realizes that not only does the girl, for which he has fallen in love with, work there, but Louis is the head cheese.

The one thing that really irked me the most about this film was the lack of subtitles in most areas of the film. The subtitles are there for the important dialogue, but otherwise they are missing and it really took me out of the movie. The quality of this film was also really bad, as the picture was VERY grainy and really bothered me at times. The gags in the movie were great, as we get a lot of one mishap leading to another and so on and so forth. Also, a lot of accidentally eluding danger and gags that normally I would enjoy, but the characters and the plot of this film just really didn't attach themselves at all to me and I just could not get into this film whatsoever. I had really high hopes for this one and it didn't take long for those high hopes to be dashed and within the last twenty minutes of the film, I was really ready to just check out, but I stuck in there and trudged my way to the finale.

RATING: 2/10 I gave it a few points for the gags that I referred to, but thats all I could muster for this one.

NEXT UP: Le Million...Still searching for that "Perfect 10" since my return and hopefully this second of my Rene Clair double feature can deliver.

December 15, 2009 10:12pm

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

51. All Quiet On the Western Front (1930)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Lewis Milestone
Written By: Erich Maria Remarque, Maxwell Anderson
Main Cast: Lew Ayres, Louis Wolheim, John Wray, Arnold Lucy, Ben Alexander

ONE OF THE BEST AND MOST REALISTIC WAR MOVIES I'VE EVEN SEEN

This is actually the third time that I've seen this epic World War I film and after going in knowing what to expect, I think I was even more appreciative of this film and what it was trying to get across, much more than I was the previous two times.

"All Quiet On the Western Front" is set in Germany and begins at the dawn of World War I. Our film starts us out inside of a classroom where a schoolmaster gives a rousing and boisterous speech to his innocent young students. As they begin to dream of their lives and what the honor of being a soldier could bring to their lives, they soon rise up in excitement and willingness to go to war and march off to enlist in the Army. We then flash forward a small piece and all of the school chums are again reunited in the military and going through basic training with Sergeant Himmelstoss barking out the orders. Rigorous training and their hatred for Himmelstoss are all these boys know, before they are told they will be "going up front" to fight the good fight.

The young soldiers are then marched into the combat zone and assigned to a unit of older soldiers who quickly inform them that food is scarce. Here we meet a couple of great characters and two of my personal favorites from the film: Tjaden, the usually goofy, but very loveable character and Stanislaus Katczinsky or the Kat for short, a man with a gruff exterior, but with a soft heart and a knack for making the new recruits fit right in and learn their craft.

Soon after the war scenes are in full swing and we're in the trenches with the new recruits and their fellow older soldiers, as guns and explosions can be heard outside, the old pros play cards and fight off rats, while the young guys try their best to keep sane in an insane world. A lot of them lose their cool and the expressions on their faces and the screams that echo from their throats are so realistic that it gives you, the viewer, a real piece of what war life is really like. As the original schoolroom chums are quickly weeded out, the attention of the film quickly goes to Paul, one of the original recruits from the beginning of the film and after death, the mad house and injury take out the rest of the boys, Paul is the only man left for the film to focus in on. Lew Ayres does a terrific job as Paul, and what it's really like to be a new face in a world of explosions, gunfire, trenches and starvation.

Like I said above, I've seen this film three times and I really don't remember enjoying it as much as I did this third time. While I'm not the biggest war film fanatic in the world, this is one of the best war films I've ever seen, as I believe it gives a great account of what life in the war is really like. I myself have never been in a war, or in the military, but after seeing Lewis Milestone's "All Quiet On the Western Front" I feel I can really understand what it is these men go through and what hell it is to be put into the heart of a battle. The men in this film give outstanding depiction, as they scream and wail and cry, just wanting to live long enough to see their homes again. Katczinsky is one of my favorite characters in the film and as he calms the boys down, it's almost as if he's calming you down as well, as the mere presence of his character on the screen and you know the men are in good hands.

RATING: 7.5/10 Which is actually a great rating for me to give to a war film. I had to deduct a few points, as there are a few down times in the picture, but nothing really even worth mentioning. All in all this is a MUST see film.

NEXT UP: A Nous la Liberte...a.k.a. Freedom for Us...It's available for instant viewing on Netflix, so the review shouldn't take too long to get here.

December 15, 2009 12:28am

Sunday, December 13, 2009

50. Little Caesar (1930)

Running Time: 79 minutes
Directed By: Mervyn LeRoy
Written By: Francis Edward Faragoh, Robert N. Lee, from the novel by W.R. Burnett
Main Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Glenda Farrell, William Collier Jr., Sidney Blackmer

"MOTHER OF MERCY, IS THIS THE END OF RICO?"

Edward G. Robinson plays the title character of Caesar Enrico Bandello, aka Little Caesar, aka Rico and puts on an absolutely outstanding performance, in a film that turns out to be a one man show.

Rico and his partner Joe Massara (Fairbanks) realize that they're small potatoes, working as gangsters in the sticks, robbing two bit gas stations and never making as much loot as they'd like to. When Rico sees a newspaper article about big time mobster Pete Montana, he immediately sees stars and convinces Joe to follow him east, to the city of Chicago, where they can finally make their fortune.

Upon arriving in Chicago, Rico doesn't waste any time getting in good with another big time mobster, Sam Vettori, while Joe follows his aspirations of being a dancer and entertainer. Joe scores a nice spot as a dancer at The Bronze Peacock, where he meets and falls in love with Olga (Farrell), his dancing partner and soon to be lover. When Rico and his new crew get the idea to stick up the Bronze Peacock, they bring Joe in on the scheme and though he's reluctant, helps the gang pull off the heist. During the job, the newly appointed Crime Commissioner McClure gets shot, by none other than Rico and that's where the tide starts to turn.

Soon Rico weasles his way to the top of his own crew, powering out Vettori and taking over the gang. Before too long, Rico finds himself at the top of the crime world, even getting bigger than Pete Montana, the man who made him realize the fame and fortune for the big time, in the first place.

Along with war movies, gangster flicks aren't anywhere near the top on my list of favorite genres, however, I do find it easier to find good mob films and I'd have to brand "Little Caesar" as about an average one. There's no question that Robinson turns in an absolutely stellar performance as Little Caesar Bandello, talking as if his cheeks are stuffed with gauze and his nose is plugged with tissue paper. It's also quite interesting to see Caesar's rise to fame in the crime underworld, only to see him topple back down the ladder of illegal success. Fairbanks also hands in a passable performance as Joe, but it's not hard to identify who the real star of this film is.

RATING: 5/10 We'll cut it right down the middle as far as ratings go, and leave it at that.

NEXT UP: All Quiet On the Western Front...From war on the streets to war in the trenches.

December 13, 2009 12:34am

Thursday, December 10, 2009

49. Zemlya/Earth (1930)

Running Time: 71 minutes
Directed By: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Written By: Aleksandr Dovzhenko
Main Cast: Stephan Shkurat, Semyon Svashenko, Yuliya Solntseva, Yelena Maksimova

EARTH...NOT JUST A PLANET, BUT A SOVIET PROPAGANDA FILM!

I must say that it is quite nice to be back on the 'ol Blogger, clicking away at the keys and giving my opinions on yet another one of Mr. Schneider's "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die". Eventhough "Earth" didn't do a whole lot for me, but it's so good to be back on this project.

In the same vein as Eisenstein's work, that I've previously viewed "Earth" seems to me something more suited for the people in which it portrays, in this case Soviet farmers. The cinematography, however, is quite excellent, as we're treated to immaculate views of swaying wheat fields, ripening fruits and sunflowers growing in throughout the fields. Unfortunately the appearance of glistening crops wasn't enough, for me to enjoy this film enough to label it as a "Must See".

The arrival of one of the newest, fanciest tools to the local village, the tractor, is welcomed with open arms, as the townspeople begin to envision how much better and easier their lives are going to be with this impressive new machine that puts the oxen and plow to shame. However, things aren't so rosey, as the film turns the focus to other issues, such as death, violence and sex, as it relates to the farming community.

There's really not a whole lot that I can say about "Earth" as it just left me bored, and really wanting to move on to something else. As I mentioned above the photography is excellent, but that's just not enough to sway my opinion of this film into a positive direction. There are a few key scenes that were also quite interesting to me, such as the opening bit, when a dying man assures his friend, that if he's able he'll surely report back to him about the afterlife. A touching scene, but again not enough for me to give this film a thumbs up or even in the middle for that matter.

RATING: 1.5/10 We'll chalk up the short review to writer's rust and hopefully our next movie can enthrall me enough to get a higher rating.

NEXT UP: Little Caesar...A 1930's gangster flick, for which I have high hopes for. We shall see!

December 10, 2009 5:13pm

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I'M BAAAAAAACK!!

Finally the time has come to return to my journey through the history of cinema and tackle the text known as, "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die". About a month ago, when my interests began to sway away from movies, I decided to take a small break away from my project and focus on some other things. I felt this was the best idea, as I didn't want my opinions of the films in question or the reviews to suffer, due to my lack of enthusiasm for the journey. After recently watching a few innocent and silly Jim Carrey flicks, my passion for movies has returned and I'm ready, once again, to tackle this project head on. I guess I have Jim to thank for getting me back on the horse. We'll pick up right where we left off and continue on our journey. I had a good run the last time, making it all the way through and finishing the 1920's, before barely getting started on the 1930's and then taking my hiatus.

The next film that yearns to be viewed by my eyes is titled "Earth" and it is scheduled to arrive from Netflix tomorrow, so keep your eyes peeled for that reviewed. Until then, my dear readers (if there are any) hang in there just a bit more, and I'll soon return to writing reviews, for you and yours to read.

December 9, 2009 8:44am

Monday, November 2, 2009

Brief Hiatus

So I figured I'd better slap up a post and let everyone know that I'll be taking a short hiatus from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" project. The reason being is that my interests have swayed away from movies for the time being, and in all fairness to the films in this book I'm gonna take a little bit of time off from the project. I want to make sure that as I watch these films they have my full, undivided attention and I can rate them as such. I'm really not sure how long I'll be gone, I may get bored in a week and decide to pop in "Earth", which is my next movie. I just wanted to make sure that I recorded this instance, so that when I look back on this years down the road, I'll know where I've been. Don't worry loyal readers, I am by no means done with this project and I still have every intention in the world of finishing the book. I certainly didn't watch The Birth of A Nation, The Man with the Movie Camera, those two oddball Bunuel films and all that overrated Eisenstein crap for nothing. I will be back and I hope you're waiting when I get here.

November 2, 2009 12:07am

Friday, October 30, 2009

48. L'Age D'Or /The Age of Gold (1930)

Running Time: 62 minutes
Directed By: Luis Bunuel
Written By: Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali
Main Cast: Gaston Modot, Lya Lys, Max Ernst, Caridad de Laberdesque

IT WON'T TAKE LONG TO SUM UP ANOTHER BUNUEL ODDBALL FLICK

Much like its predecessor, An Andalusian Dog, Luis Bunuel once again brings us another movie that makes us scratch our heads and say "What the fuck??!!" The Age of Gold certainly makes us do both of those things, but not in that good way that makes you wanna run right over to the computer and demand answers to your questions. Its that bad way, that makes you not really care and just be glad that the craziness has ended.

My review of The Age of Gold, will be kept short and sweet, because I really am not sure how to put this movie down into words. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy David Lynch's Eraserhead, then this flick is probably for you. Once again, I don't mind odd, I just like to have some idea of what's playing out in front of me, and if there's an amazing amount of symbolism, then I at least want it to make sense and not just be babble spread all over the screen for the viewer to look at and have to furrow their brow and be completely puzzled.

There were certain parts that I didn't mind, the sexual misadventures of the man and woman, were quite interesting, as the man and woman kissed and gnawed at each other's fingers and gazed at the feet of a statue, while the woman even resorted to sucking the toe of the statue. Quite odd, yet quite interesting and gloriously grotesque. I'll give it a few notches for the few scenes that didn't make me want to rip my hair out, but that's all I can give it, as most of this film was a complete waste of time. Sorry Mr. Bunuel, me and your films just don't seem to be seeing eye to eye.

RATING: 2.5/10 That's absolutely as high as I can go, and that's being generous.

NEXT UP: Earth...Should be ready either late tonight or tomorrow. Stay tuned kiddies.

October 29, 2009 11:16pm

Monday, October 26, 2009

47. Der Blaue Engel/The Blue Angel (1930)

Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Josef von Sternberg
Written By: Carl Zuckmayer, from the novel "Professor Unrat" by Heinrich Mann
Main Cast: Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Gerron

...HELLO THIRTIES

The thirties bust onto the scene with a vengeance, providing me with an exceptional German film starring the wonderful performances of Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich.

Jannings plays Professor Emmanuel Rath, a teacher at the local college who is respected by everyone but his students, who write notes about him behind his back and secretly call him "Professor Garbage". When Rath finds out how his pupils are spending their evenings, down at the Blue Angel nightclub, under the spell of the cabaret's headliner Lola Lola, he follows them there one night, in an attempt to catch them in the act and make sure they are properly punished. Upon arriving at the Blue Angel, Rath is almost automatically swept up and quickly finds himself in the dressing room of Lola Lola, as she undresses in front of him, leaving him quite taken aback.

Rath falls short of catching his students at the Blue Angel, but returns to the cabaret the next night in an attempt to once again meet with the gorgeous, sassy singer and apologize for his crude, abrupt behavior of the previous night. The meeting goes well and once again Rath is swept up in the fast paced world of the cabaret and quickly finds himself filled with champagne and waking up the next morning in the bed of Lola Lola. She treats him well, something he isn't used to, and sends him off to work with a kiss, breakfast and many terms of endearment.

Upon arriving at school, he finds his students immediately ridiculing him for falling in love with Lola and after causing a ruckus and drawing other professors into the room, the students are dismissed and so is Professor Rath. He returns to the cabaret, only to find Lola Lola and her crew packing up and moving out of town. Professor Rath wastes no time asking Lola to marry him and getting an acceptance from her.
What would seem like a happy ending, is not, as the marriage is the first stop on a train to complete downfall for the good professor. After losing all their money, Rath is reduced to taking on the role of a clown in the traveling cabaret act and is almost frightened to learn that the act will be returning to the professor's hometown and the Blue Angel nightclub. What will Rath's former colleagues think when they see the once respected professor, traipsing around onstage dressed as a clown.

Jannings and Dietrich are both sublime in their roles and Jannings deserves even more praise. Much like his role in The Last Laugh, Jannings' character in this film is reduced to absolutely nothing and von Sternberg does an excellent job mastering and plotting that downfall. You really start to feel sorry for the good professor after a while and want to reach out when he's down and lift him back up. You also get a sense that the professor is just a lonely guy, as one of the first scenes in the film shows Rath awakening from a night's slumber only to find that his pet canary has died. With absolutely no remorse, his maid takes the dead bird and throws it into the fire, and Rath is left with a befuddled look on his face. Poor guy!! This film was great, as I truly enjoyed it and hope that its a sign of things to come in the 1930's.

RATING: 8.5/10 I took it down a notch or so, for the singing scenes as the German songs really didn't do a whole lot for me and I could've done without them. No biggie though.

NEXT UP: The Age of Gold...Luis Bunuel directs...Oh man, more weirdness!!

October 26, 2009 1:26am

Saturday, October 24, 2009

From 20's to 30's

I mounted my steed and looked ahead at the dirt road that lay before me. I have spent several months getting to know the early days of cinema, traveling through the early 1900s, the teens and the twenties. My horse began to gallop slowly down the road, kicking up a small sprig of dust with each step. Without realizing my head turned back and I took one last look at the characters that I've met thus far on my journey: Dr. Caligari, Battling Burrows, Nanook, Count Orlok, Buster Keaton and his many personas, Sisif the engineer, Ahmed the thief of Bagdad, McTeague, The Lone Prospector, Alonzo the Armless, Jakie Rabinowitz the jazz singer, Harold Hickory, Det. Frank Webber and Lulu. They all waved at me as they saw my head turn toward them and I threw up my hand and gave them a passionate wave back. I'd spent a considerable amount of time getting to know those characters and some I'll remember more fondly than others, but they were all certainly worth remembering.

I decided it was time to face forward, so I turned back and that's what I did. I looked up ahead at the thirties, which approached me. I saw a new cast of characters and films that I'll certainly look forward to spending time with: Dracula, Frankenstein, City Lights, M, I Am a Fugitive from A Chain Gang, Scarface, Freaks, Duck Soup, King Kong, It Happened One Night, The Thin Man, Mutiny On the Bounty, Modern Times, Dodsworth, Grand Illusion, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Stagecoach, The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and The Rules of the Game, just to name a few. I look forward to getting to know those movies from the thirties that I have yet to experience, and reliving the ones that I already have.

Your courageous journeyman,
Andrew

October 24, 2009 5:07am

46. Die Buchse der Pandora/Pandora's Box (1929)

Running Time: 133 minutes
Directed By: Georg Wilhelm Pabst
Written By: Joseph Fleisler, Georg Wilhelm Pabst, from the plays "Erdgeist" and Die Buchse der Pandora by Frank Wedekind
Main Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Francis Lederer, Carl Goetz, Krafft-Raschig, Alice Roberts

GOODBYE TWENTIES...

We'll end the twenties and begin the thirties with a German double feature, the first of which, Pandora's Box, is quite good and all the credit goes to the marvelous cast for executing this film.

Luoise Brooks plays Lulu, a beautiful, sexy seductress who can make any man fall to their knees with lust. However, Lulu has her eyes on Dr. Schon, a man who is already engaged and when the film starts looks to break off his affair with Lulu. At first, Lulu doesn't seem to care, knowing that she can have any man she wants anyhow, but when she overhears Dr. Schon tell his son that you just don't marry a woman like Lulu, then she must have what it appears as if she cannot. So, Lulu and Dr. Schon are married, but on their wedding night, Dr. Schon happens upon Lulu alone in a room with Schigoloch (who is either her father or her pimp, it is never defined) and a nightclub strongman Rodrigo, in a compromising situation, Dr. Schon's suspicions become reality and he realizes that he'll never fully be happy with Lulu, as there'll always be other men and he'll always be jealous. Dr. Schon removes a gun from his dresser and at first, attempts to murder the two men, but when the house is emptied later in the night, takes the gun and demands that Lulu kill herself, so that he can become a rational man again, without her. When a struggle takes place, Dr. Schon is shot and killed and Lulu is put on trial for his murder. She is sentenced to five years in prison, but when a commotion breaks out in the courtroom, Lulu gets away with Schon's son, Alwa, who has always had eyes for her.

Alwa and Lulu hop a train to Paris and make their home on a gambling boat, where Alwa seems to be addicted to the game of cards and Lulu is left to fend for herself. With Rodrigo and Schigoloch along for the ride, it seems that everyone is out to get Lulu and her world is crumbling beneath her feet. Has karma nipped Lulu in the bud and will her life continue to spiral downward after the tragic events of her wedding night?

The thing that makes this film is the performance of Louise Brooks as Lulu. Without her there'd be no film. Well maybe there'd be a film, but certainly not as good a film, as the one that G.W. Pabst put out, with Louise Brooks as his star. She totally captivates you, the viewer and you become another man in 1920's Germany, who cannot help but be a little bit smitten by her good looks and erotic behavior. Everything about her is pitch perfect, from the way she carries herself, to her costumes, to her gestures and actions. Louise Brooks nails this part and it's a shame this is the last film with her in the book, because I would've really liked to seen more of her. The rest of the cast plays off of her perfectly, adjusting their talent to interject with hers beautifully. However, there are a few dull spots in the film, which brought it down a few notches for me. Some of the scenes, such as the one on the train, as Alwa and Lulu are escaping and the really long scene on the gambling boat, could've been a hair shorter. But, I'll go back to the positives and say if there's any reason to see this film, then it's for the performance of Louise Brooks!

RATING: 6/10 Great performances with an average story, equal out to an above average rating and the twenties are finished, my friends!

NEXT UP: The Blue Angel...Look out thirties, here I come!

October 24, 2009 4:52am

45. Chelovek S Kinoapparatom/The Man with the Movie Camera (1929)

Running Time: 69 minutes
Directed By: Dziga Vertov
Written By: Dziga Vertov

A FILM WITH NO INTERTITLES, A FILM WITH NO SCENARIO, A FILM WITH NO CAST

First and foremost let me say that I am all for experimenting when it comes to filmmaking, but The Man with the Movie Camera was an experiment that I did not connect with and ultimately did not enjoy.

The idea is pretty cool. Dziga Vertov took his camera out and shot Russia through the progression of one day. During that one day we see all kinds of exciting things happening in front of us; from babies being born, to people dying, to factories producing large amounts of goods, to couples marrying, divorcing, separating, to men and women swimming, sunbathing, pole vaulting, jumping hurdles and throwing discs and all kinds of other things that you can imagine. The shots seem pretty random and watching this film at first is a bit overwhelming, as you're thrown all these random, off the wall shots and supposed to take them in and make a film out of them in your head. For me it just didn't work.

Not everyone will love every movie, and not every new concept will appeal to every viewer, and that's okay, that's what makes us filmgoers a lively crowd. We can get into heated debates and while one may side with Vertov and love his experimental film, others may condemn him as a hack and hate it. I wont side with anybody, but rather just keep it simple and say that me and this film didn't get along and maybe another day and another view will yield a different rating, but today the verdict is in on The Man with the Movie Camera, and it's not a good one.

RATING: 2/10 I gave it a couple of points, just for the idea, as I felt the idea was great, it just didn't connect with me.

NEXT UP: Pandora's Box...as we say farewell to the 1920's

October 24, 2009 12:52am

Friday, October 23, 2009

44. Blackmail (1929)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: Alfred Hitchcock
Written By: Alfred Hitchcock, from play by Charles Bennett
Main Cast: Anny Ondra, John Longden, Donald Calthrop, Cyril Ritchard

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A MAN NAMED 'ALFRED'

Blackmail marks the shortest journey a movie had to take to reach my hands, as all I had to do to get a hold of it, was walk down the hall to the room where I keep my DVD's and there it lay as part of an Alfred Hitchcock Collection that I picked up in the Wal-Mart $5 bin. That particular collection has set on my shelf for the longest time, probably a matter of years, unwatched, as I really just bought it because of the cheap price. A few months ago, I decided to give the collection a shot and watched Blackmail, this was of course, before I decided to do the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" project and had a blast viewing Hitchcock's first talkie. So I already knew I was in for a great time when I popped in Blackmail for a second time and kicked back.

Frank Webber is one of the detective's at the booming Scotland Yard and his main squeeze is Alice White. One day as Frank is getting off work late, Alice, as always, is waiting for him and none to happy that she was forced to wait on Frank. As they go to dinner, they quarrel, due mainly to Frank's tardiness and Alice separates from Frank for the night, deciding instead to be courted home by the creepy artist Mr. Crewe.

Back at Crewe's flat, he and Alice seem to be having an okay time at first, as Crewe helps Alice paint a picture and then persuades her to try on a dress that he keeps onhand for his female models. Alice gives in and tries the dress on and when Crewe goes in for a forceful kiss, Alice decides that the night has gotten late, and it is time for her to leave. Before she can get back into her dress, Crewe snatches it from her and throws it across the room, forcing her to come from behind a screen and Crewe jumps all over her, attempting to rape her. Alice, struggling with Crewe, reaches out for anything that might help her and finds a kitchen knife and stabs and kills Mr. Crewe.

Scotland Yard is of course called in and Frank is on the case. Upon arriving at the scene of the crime, Frank finds one of Alice's gloves right away and recognizes the victim as the man who he saw escorting Alice home the night before. In an attempt to get his girlfriend freed from the hands of justice, Frank stashes the glove in his coat and takes off in search of Alice to get the gory details. When he arrives at the shop that Alice and her parents own, Frank quickly confronts Alice in a phone booth and tells her that he got her glove and demands some answers. Before he can get them, however, a man (later given the name Tracy) overhears the couple speaking. You see, Tracy just happened to be looking for Mr. Crewe on the night of the murders and was leering around his apartment, so he was able to get into the flat before the police and retrieve Alice's other glove. When Tracy sees Frank flash the second glove, Tracy puts two and two together and decides to make a few dollars by blackmailing Frank and Alice.

When I first saw Blackmail a couple of months ago, I couldn't believe it had taken me that long to see it. I've seen tons of Hitchcock movies, some good, some bad and after seeing Blackmail I realized that this was one of his best and most underrated films. When you talk about early Hitchcock movies, two titles always come up: The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps and its a shame that Blackmail isn't included in that group. The character of Alice is quite a ditz and an unlikeable, annoying character and Frank is your run of the mill detective, with a fine job by John Longden. But it is the heels of this picture that really stand out as you can't help but love to hate the performance of Donald Calthrop as the weasel Tracy and Cyril Ritchard as the creepy Mr. Crewe. I'll go out on a limb and call Blackmail one of the finest Hitchcock films I've ever seen and one that could certainly go down on my personal fav's list.

**HITCHCOCK SIGHTING** Early in the film, during a scene on a bus, Hitchcock can be spotted wearing a hat and reading a newspaper. A little boy in the nearby seat stands up, pulls Hitchcock's hat down over his head and then scampers off, only to return seconds later peering at Hitch.

RATING: 9.5/10 I dropped it a half a notch for the sever overacting of Anny Ondra, but really its just a formality, as it is something that can easily be overlooked to find a fantastic film.

NEXT UP: The Man with the Movie Camera...Not sure who that man with the movie camera is, but I'll find out tomorrow. Check back for the review kiddies.

October 23, 2009 4:11am

Thursday, October 22, 2009

43. Potomok Chingis-Khana/Storm Over Asia (1928)

Running Time: 125 minutes
Directed By: Vsevolod Pudovkin
Written By: Osip Brik, I. Novokshenov
Main Cast: Valery Inkijinoff, I. Dedintsev, Aleksandr Christyakov, Viktor Tsoppi, F. Ivanov

LONG LIVE GENGHIS KHAN

With Storm Over Asia finished, I'm left with only three movies until I reach the 1930's and I must say Storm Over Asia was not an enjoyable film for me at all.
Valery Inkijinoff plays the unamed hero, a mongol who is sent by his father into western Europe to sell a rare silver fox fur. Before leaving his father instructs him to not accept anything less than 500 silvers for the fox pelt. Upon arriving in Europe, the mongol is swindled out of the fur by a crooked trader and ends up getting into a fight with the white man, drawing blood on one of them. He is ushered off into the mountains where he must hide, as the white man is dead set on getting vengeance for his spilled blood.

Once in the mountains, the mongol falls in with a group of partisans and helps them fight against the occupying British army. He is eventually captured by the British and ordered to be shot and killed. He's taken high up into the mountains where he is shot, but soon after the British realize, through a document that the mongol carried on his person, that he is a direct descendant of Genghis Khan, the ancient warrior. The British soldiers are ordered by their commanding officers to go and find him and they do, finding him still clinging to life after being shot several times.

Storm Over Asia started out as a fair movie. A young mongolian herdsmen who takes a journey to the local bazaars to sell a silver fox pelt...simple enough. But then they throw in a lot of mumbo jumbo about Genghis Khan, soviet partisans, British armies, lama's...etc. and my proverbial umbilical cord to this movie was severed. This film also had some fairly good cinematography, but not enough to make up for the boring plot that nearly put me to sleep faster than an overdose of NyQuill. These Russian propoganda films are really getting on my nerves, with first Eisenstein, and now Pudovkin, I've had my fair share and am ready to move on and quit hearing about rebellions and revolutions.

RATING: 1.5/10 Not the worst film I've seen thus far out of the book, but damn close. Recommendation to avoid.

NEXT UP: Blackmail...The first of eighteen...yes 18!!...Hitchcock films in the book

October 22, 2009 8:52pm

42. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)

Running Time: 69 minutes
Directed By: Buster Keaton, Charles Reisner
Written By: Carl Harbaugh
Main Cast: Buster Keaton, Tom McGuire, Ernest Torrence, Tom Lewis, Marion Byron

MY FOND AND FINAL FAREWELL TO THE KING OF COMEDY...BUSTER KEATON

It is with great sadness that I watch my final Buster Keaton film in the book, Steamboat Bill Jr. While this film may have been my favorite so far, I'll definitely miss Buster Keaton's work for a while and while I do enjoy taking this journey through cinema so much, one of the things I'll look forward to, when its over is going back and watching the Keaton that I have yet to see.

One day, while wrapping up a hard days work on his river boat, Stonewall Jackson, Steamboat Bill Sr. receives a telegram telling him that his son, Steamboat Bill Jr., is coming to town and wishes to see his father. Bill Sr. hasn't seen his son in quite sometime and is ready to welcome his son with open arms into the heart of Mississippi.

When junior arrives in town, Bill Sr. is quite surprised to learn that his son is lacking many of the manly qualities that he himself possesses. Wearing a beret and sporting a pencil thin moustache, Bill Jr. is happy to see his Dad and tags along when Bill Sr. takes him to get a shave and some new attire. In one scene, the Bills go hat shopping, as Sr. looks to replace Jr. beret with something more southern and one of the funniest scenes of the movie.

Steamboat Bill Sr.'s rival is Mr. King, who also owns a river boat, along with half of the town and looks to put Bill Sr. out of commission. When Steamboat Bill Jr. falls head over heels in love with Mr. King's daughter, Bill Sr. forbids it, claiming that he'll find Junior his wife and "she won't be the daughter of a man like King".

Steamboat Bill Sr.'s river boat is declared condemned and when he tries to fight it he ends up in the town slammer. Steamboat Bill Jr., already shunned by his father for sneaking off in the night to visit King's daughter, tries to reconcile with his Dad and head's to the jail with a loaf of bread loaded with some breakout tools, in probably my favorite scene of the film. They eventually get loose from the clutches of the Sheriff, but not before a cyclone strolls into town, providing one of the most suspenseful and spectacular Keaton scenes of all his movies I've seen.

After five Keaton films (Our Hospitality, Sherlock Jr., Seven Chances, The General and Steamboat Bill Jr.) this may be my personal favorite of the five. I also enjoyed the hell out of Seven Chances, but really I enjoyed the hell out of them all and had a fantastic time getting to know Keaton, his comedy, his willingness to do anything to entertain, his knack for suspense and his zest to perform in front of the camera. Buster Keaton has not only made it easier for me to take the journey that I'm currently on, but has also provided me with some personal favorite movies that I'll cherish even after my mission ends. I will certainly miss these Keaton films, as its always been something to look forward to and I always knew I was gonna love it, if Buster was in it. I'm sure I'll come across some more favorites as I trot along on my journey. Favorite actors, directors, etc., but I'll never forget my old pal Buster and the loads of laughs and entertainment he provided me, as I made my way through the history of cinema. Thanks Buster.

RATING: 10/10 A nice send off for Keaton, Steamboat Bill Jr. knocked one outta the park...I loved it!

NEXT UP: Storm Over Asia...Should be watched and reviewed later today...But first...some sleep for your courageous journeyman.

October 22, 2009 4:45am

41. La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc/The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)

Running Time: 82 minutes
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Written By: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Joseph Delteil
Main Cast: Maria Falconetti, Eugene Silvain, Andre Berley, Maurice Schutz

THE TRIAL AND EXECUTION OF SAINT JOAN OF ARC

My introduction to Carl Theodor Dreyer came tonight as I watched The Passion of Joan of Arc and thought it was just about an average film.

The Passion of Joan of Arc tells the story of the trial of our film's heroine, as she was put on trial for claiming to have heard revelations from God and seen visions of Saint Michael. The film depicts the judges that persecute Joan, as the evil doers, as they poke and prod at Joan with question upon question and claim that the visions she sees are not of hevenly descent, but rather that of Satan.

We're shown the full trial, her imprisonment, torture and execution. At one point, when Joan is threatened with being burnt at the stake, she folds under pressure and signs a confession, being sentenced to life imprisonment. Later she recants her confession and is, of course, executed.

The performance from Falconetti was quite superb, as Dreyer executed the use of close-up shots to an art form. The expressions that are plastered on Joan's face throughout the picture are quite unforgettable, as tears stream over her face and she reacts to the judges threats and demeaning questions. Despite the terrific performance, I felt the film was lacking something for me. For one, I watched the Criterion version of the film, which allows you to view the film with or without musical accompaniment. If you choose to have music played over the film, its a score laid out in 1994 by a composer Richard Einhorn entitled "Voices of Light". I felt that this could only take away from the experience and opted to watch the film free of music. Maybe I should've made the other choice, as watching total silence really left this film a little emotionless, again, despite the great acting. Other than the music thing, there was just something not clicking between me and this film, and while I did find the subject matter interesting, I found the movie strolling right in the average neighborhood.

RATING: 5/10 We'll call it right down the middle and leave it at that. Maybe someday I'll rewatch the film with the music and see if that helps at all.

NEXT UP: Steamboat Bill Jr...My farewell to Buster Keaton

October 22, 2009 1:01am

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

40. Un Chien Andalou/An Andalusian Dog (1928)

Running Time: 16 minutes
Directed By: Luis Bunuel
Written By: Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali
Main Cast: Pierre Batcheff, Simone Mareuil, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali

WEIRD, WILD STUFF

"To describe the movie (An Andalusian Dog) is simply to list its shots, since there is no story line to link them"
-Roger Ebert

At a running time of only sixteen minutes, Un Chien Andalou or An Andalusian Dog, is probably one of the most bizarre movies I've ever witnessed.

Linked together by a series of weird and surreal shots, An Andalusian Dog, was apparently made based on dreams that both Luis Bunuel and Salvador Dali had, and made to intentionally make zero sense. Now, I've always been a fan of weird movies and films that really make you think and wanna research them to find out the answers that lie behind their seemingly impossible to follow plot, but An Andalusian Dog is intentionally confusing and apparently has no real plot.

The shots are totally bizarre though: a man slicing a woman's eye open with a razor blade, a transvestite riding a bicycle down the street and apparently falling over dead, ants crawling out through a hole in a man's hand, a man pulling a piano which is tied to two ropes and upon the piano lay rotting carcasses of dead horses, a woman's armpit and two people walking down a beach and shown later with sand covering them up to their chests, as they lay motionless. Sound weird enough for 'ya?

I guess I was a bit intrigued by this film, but can't say that I really enjoyed it all that much. I went ahead and watched it twice, since it was so short and since I was so perplexed by it. I had only seen one Bunuel film prior to this and that was "The Exterminating Angel" and that was another one that left me with a feeling of "HUH". One thing's for sure and that's is if you're a fan of David Lynch, then you'd probably love Bunuel and Bunuel seems even crazier and more of an oddball.

RATING: 4/10 That's just about as high as I can go, and I'm being generous. Can't say I really enjoyed it, but it was quite perplexing and I do commend the director for, at least, that much.

NEXT UP: The Passion of Joan of Arc...My introduction to Carl Theodor Dreyer

October 21, 2009 1:57pm

Monday, October 19, 2009

38. The Crowd (1928)

Running Time: 104 minutes
Directed By: King Vidor
Written By: King Vidor, John V.A. Weaver
Main Cast: James Murray, Eleanor Boardman, Bert Roach, Estelle Clark, Daniel G. Tomlinson

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE GOOD IN THAT TOWN IF YOU WANT TO BEAT THE CROWD"

The above words are the first uttered by our protagonist as he enters New York City, ready to captivate The Big Apple and take it by storm. King Vidor directs and I finally caught this one on TCM exactly four months to the day after I should've watched it originally.

Johnny Sims is our main man in "The Crowd". The film starts with his birth and his father immediately has high hopes for him, hoping that he may even be the President of the U.S. someday, since Johnny was born on July 4, 1900. We flash forward to 1912 and Johnny is twelve years old as he sits out on the front stoop with his pals and they chat about what they want to be when they grow up. An ambulance buzzes by them and stops in front of Johnny's home, paramedics rushing inside. Johnny's father has suddenly passed away and we see the horrified look on John's face as the camera pans down the stairwell and onto our protagonist. We flash forward, yet again, and Johnny is all grown up and arriving in New York City, ready to get a job and make it big, like his father predicted. He doesn't have any trouble landing a job in a large office building, as an accountant and one day, when work ends, one of his co-workers asks him if he'll double with two gal pals of his. He accepts and that is when he meets his future wife, Mary.

John and Mary get married and get their own apartment, a tiny one, but a new home nonetheless for the happy new couple. Mary's mother and brothers don't think too highly of John, but Mary loves and understands him and that's all that matters. Despite a big quarrel early on in their marriage, Mary and John bury the hatch, when Mary announces that she's pregnant. Nine months later their baby boy is born and everything is as happy as it once was. Five years after that, John has received an eight dollar raise and a baby girl has been welcomed into the family. Everything looks just fine for the Sims family, that is, until tragedy strikes. One day, after John gets a $500 check for submitting an ad slogan for Magic Cleaner, he brings home presents for the entire family. He sticks his head out the apartment window to find his children across the street, with the other kids. Waving a new scooter in front of their eyes they come barreling across the road. The boy makes it just fine, but the girl is struck by an automobile and she eventually dies. From their things go from bad to worse for the Sims family, which makes "The Crowd" a truly emotional and later, inspiring tragedy.

I remember having a good feeling about this movie back in October, when I originally was forced to skip over it. This was a really great film, plain and simple, as it really hit you where you wanted to be hit and made you feel all of the emotions that the characters in the film were going through. I've always had a place in my heart for tragic films, where the characters must face many different hardships and downfalls, before finally learning the grand lesson in the end of everything, and this is just that kind of movie. Everything meshes together well and King Vidor's dream of making an average movie about an average man is pulled off excellently. This film depicts everyday life and not just everyday life in 1928, but everything that is presented here, still holds true today, as people still face the same types of troubles that these characters were facing back in the silent era. This film holds up really well and is still highly enjoyable, even as we enter the first few months of 2010.

RATING: 8.5/10 Great film and I'm really glad I finally got the chance to watch it. It makes me wonder about all those other films I've been forced to skip and how good they have the potential of being.

NEXT UP: The Docks of New York...Can't find this one either.

October 18, 2009 9:02pm
Revised: February 19, 2010 3:06am

Sunday, October 18, 2009

37. The Kid Brother (1927)

Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: J.A. Howe, Ted Wilde
Written By: Thomas J. Crizer, Howard J. Green, John Grey, Lex Neal, Ted Wilde
Main Cast: Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston, Walter James, Leo Willis, Olin Francis

AND A THIRD COMIC GENIUS BREAKS ONTO THE SCENE

If you're having trouble finding The Kid Brother, it can be found on the Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection: Volume Two: Disc One. I had a bit of trouble myself at first, but ended up finding it on Netflix. Harold Lloyd was another comic genius and its evident from his depiction of Harold Hickory in The Kid Brother.

Harold Hickory is the youngest son of James Hickory, the sheriff of Hickoryville. Sheriff Hickory has two other sons, Olin and Leo, and the all three look down on young Harold for not being the man that they are. Harold is left to do the chores around the house, while his father and brothers are left to tend to the estate.
One day as Harold is parading around in his father's sheriff uniform, the traveling Medicine Man Show pulls up to the Hickory residence and thinking that Harold is the good sheriff, requests his signature on a permit to run his show in Hickoryville. Harold reluctantly signs the document and the Medicine Man Show is set to do business in Hickoryville. When James Hickory finds out of this, he immediately calls for the show to be shut down and sends Harold out to do it himself. While trying to request that the show be shut down, Harold inadvertently burns the Medicine Man cart to the ground. In the meantime, Harold has fallen for the woman who travels with the Medicine Show, providing one of the funniest gags in the movie, where the woman is walking down a hill, and Harold continues to climb a tree so that he can keep adding tidbits to his farewell.

Aside from all the hubbub surrounding the Medicine Man Show, the citizens of Hickoryville have been raising money for a new dam and have finally met the amount needed. They lock the money up in a small safe and place it in the care of Sheriff Hickory for safekeeping. When the Medicine Man owner sees this in the paper, he sees an opportunity to regain some of the money that he lost, due to the fire at his Medicine Man Show cart.

While watching The Kid Brother, I just couldn't stop myself from thinking that I'd rather be watching a Buster Keaton movie, or that I'd even rather see Buster performing these gags instead of Harold. Harold Lloyd was excellent though, and as the movie went on I continued to realize his genius. The chase been Harold and the Medicine Man strongman, on the boat at the end of the film is absolutely awesome and I loved every single minute of it. I also loved the scene where Harold does the dishes, in his own, resourceful manner. While I do think that Buster Keaton is my personal favorite and in my opinion, the King of Silent Era Comedy, Lloyd hangs in there and doesn't fail to deliver the laughs.

RATING: 6.5/10 Again, this is my knee jerk reaction of a rating and I could definitely see the rating for this film climbing with repeated viewings or maybe just a little time to reflect on it.

NEXT UP: The Crowd...Cannot find this one, so we'll be skipping it and continuing onward.

October 18, 2009 8:53pm

Saturday, October 17, 2009

35. The Jazz Singer (1927)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Alan Crosland
Written By: Alfred A. Cohn, Jack Jarmuth
Main Cast: Al Jolson, May McAvoy, Warner Oland, Eugenie Bresserer, Otto Lederer

THE SILENCE IS BROKEN

The Jazz Singer marked a big step in the progression of cinema, as it was the first feature length sound movie. Not only is it notable for that reason, but also packs quite a story with it, and is still very enjoyable today.
Cantor Rabinowitz has only one son Jakie, who he expects will follow in his footsteps and become a canter as well. For those of you who aren't aware, a cantor is a someone trained in the vocal arts who leads the Jewish congregation in songful prayer. One day when a neighbor, Yudelson, spots Jakie singing ragtime songs down at the local saloon, he spares no time in getting over to the Cantor's home and spilling Jakie's secret. When Jakie arrives home he is given a proper whipping, which causes him to leave the house, never to return, much to his mother's dismay.
Years later Jakie, now known as Jack Robin (and played superbly by Al Jolson) turns up in the jazz nightclubs, singing his heart out to please the audiences. When Mary, an already famous nightclub singer spots him and hears his voice, she takes Jack under her wing and brings him with her to stardom. Meanwhile, back home in New York, Cantor Rabinowitz still claims that "he has no son" and his mother misses him terribly.

When an opportunity arises for Jakie to perform on the grand stage of Broadway, back in his home turf on New York, he jumps on board and takes the opportunity. Upon arriving back home, Jakie immediately goes to his parents home and his mother is ecstatic to see him. As he sings her one of his songs, his father walks in and finds him, banishing him from the house and sending him back to his showbiz home on Broadway. When the Cantor turns up ill, it is up to Jakie to make the choice between his career and pleasing his stubborn father and carrying out his family heritage. What will he choose?

When Jolson belts out his rendition of "Dirty Hands, Dirty Face", the first musical number in the picture, it's really a sight and sound to behold. After thirty two silent movies in a row, it was nice to finally hear someone speak. Although, I did enjoy the silent pictures and realized a new found respect for them, it was hard to keep the smile off my face when Jolson sang his tunes. Al Jolson played the part marvelously and you could tell he was as proud as punch to be in the picture, letting all of his emotions flow out, with every musical number he performed. While only the musical numbers and a very small bit of dialogue before and after some of them, is all that is in sound, this is definitely something that anyone claiming to be a movie buff needs to check out.

RATING: 7.5/10 Not only the first talkie, but a great film and one that I would recommend based on the story alone.

NEXT UP: Napoleon...The streak is broken, as I cannot find Napoleon.

October 17, 2009 8:58pm

34. Oktyabr/October (1927)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov
Written By: Sergei M. Eisenstein, Grigori Aleksandrov
Main Cast: Vladimir Popov, Vasili Nikandrov, Layaschenko Chibisov, Boris Livanov

OCTOBER IN OCTOBER

Before writing this review, a thought came into my head: How am I going to summarize the events of this movie? I'm not ashamed to admit, that while I did follow this film and have the burdening challenge of sitting through it, I really didn't fully understand what was going on. I mean, I got the basic concept of what Eisenstein was trying to say, and that was, that apparently in 1917 there was a revolution in Russia headed by Vladimir Ulyanov, or Lenin, as he is more commonly referred to, and they overtook the government and handed the power over to the Bolsheviks. However, there was a lot more going on in this film that I just found very hard to follow. I'm not by any means a history buff, let alone a Russian history buff and had no intention of tutoring myself in the history of Mother Russia. just for the intentions of understanding this film.
After three Sergei M. Eisenstein films and with all due respect to the man and his country and the people of that country, I'm really sick of hearing about how great Russia is. I mean, hey, I'm all for someone being proud of their country, but isn't one film enough to get that point across. "Stachka", :The Battleship Potemkin" and "October", all have elements of a rebellion in them and how the great people overcame adversities in order to make life better for themselves, it's just that its getting a little old.

I did not like October, not one single bit. I thought it was very hard to understand, had no characters that the audience could connect to, had no great camerawork, like Eisenstein's previous two films and resembled a really bad documentary, except it wasn't a documentary, just a really bad re-creation. Now, keep in mind, this is just my opinion and I'm sure for Russians who were around in the month of October back in 1917, this film is kick ass. But I wasn't around back then, and have never lived in Russia, therefore the Russian revolution of 1917 has zero interest for me. And that's all I have to say about Oktyabr.

RATING: 1/10 Sorry Mr. Eisenstein, I just am not a fan and this movie solidified that opinion.

NEXT UP: The Jazz Singer...Let's talk!

October 17, 2009 3:33am

Friday, October 16, 2009

33. The Unknown (1927)

Running Time: 60 minutes
Directed By: Tod Browning
Written By: Tod Browning, Waldemar Young
Main Cast: Lon Chaney, Joan Crawford, Norman Kerry, John George

"LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...IN THE CENTER RING...ALONZO THE ARMLESS!!"

Hopefully my great movie streak keeps up, because The Unknown makes the third movie in a row that was magnificent. I'm so glad that I was able to catch this one on Turner Classic Movies, as Netflix doesn't carry the DVD and the cheapest version of this film on Amazon is $25.

Lon Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless, a traveling circus performer who's gimmick is that he throws knives with his feet. Alonzo is assisted by the lovely Nanon (Crawford) for whom he has fallen in love with, but she doesn't know it yet, however they are best friends. One of Nanon's pet peeves is men who cannot keep their hands to themselves and one man who possesses this trait is Malabar the Mighty, a strongman performer who also travels with the same circus, and who is also in love with Nanon. One of the reasons Nanon is so close with Alonzo, is because he is armless and therefore cannot paw at her like most men do.

But back to Alonzo, who has a big secret that he's keeping from everyone, except his trusty sidekick Cojo. The secret...he has arms! With the help of Cojo, Alonzo keeps his arms strapped to his torso at all times, unless he's alone, and in no danger of being found out. He also doesn't want to be found out by the police, because he's a fugitive and the fact that he has two thumbs on his right hand would make him an easy suspect to catch. When the circus owner and Nanon's father, Antonio Zanzi discovers Alonzo's secret, Alonzo strangles him, and Nanon witnesses it, except she doesn't see the perpetrators face, only his two thumbed right hand.

After some thought, Alonzo comes to the realization that he'll never be able to have Nanon to himself, because if they were ever to marry, she would first of all, discover that he has arms, and second of all realize that he was the man that killed her father. He schemes up a plan to have his arms surgically removed, so that he may be with Nanon and live happily ever after, so he does it. After several weeks of recuperation, Alonzo returns to Nanon, but discovers that her initial dislike for Malabar the Mighty has turned to love and in Alonzo's absence they've gotten engaged. The scene where Alonzo is told of the engagement is priceless, as he breaks down into a temporary fit of hysteria, laughing and screaming.

While I didn't care too much for Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera, he was absolutely marvelous in this as Alonzo the Armless where some of his mannerisms and expressions speak volumes, in a day when movies were still silent. The Unknown was almost a short film, running at approximately sixty minutes and when the hour was up, I didn't want it to end. When you, the viewer, learn of Malabar and Nanon's engagement, while Alonzo is lying up in a hospital bed, recuperating from having his arms removed for Nanon's sake, you just know that when he gets back the shit is totally gonna hit the fan...and it totally does. Joan Crawford also hands in a mighty fine performance in The Unknown and at only twenty two at the time of this picture, she's not too shabby to look at either, gracing the screen with her ravishing beauty. As one last quick after thought, for anyone looking to get into the exciting world of silent cinema, I think The Unknown would be a great start in dragging a silent virgin into the genre.

RATING: 10/10 For those of you who are interested in taking in The Unknown, I do believe it's on YouTube as well, and at only sixty minutes, is well worth the watch.

NEXT UP: Oktyabr...which means October...and how ironic that I'll be watching it in the month of October!

October 16, 2009 4:34am

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #63: ALADDIN (1992)

Running Time: 90 minutes Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Bu...