Brotherly Love (Country Dance, 1970)

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Brotherly Love has been saddled with the label “tragicomedy” for decades, though there is very little outright comedy here, just wry observations and O’Toole waving his arms about more than usual. Essentially, York and O’Toole both give fine performances while both seemingly failing to understand the humor in all of this. Though the screenplay was written by Kennaway, it feels like an inferior adaptation, and O’Toole’s role feels like a rehearsal for The Ruling Class (1972). Continue reading

Not So Dumb (1930)

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With an ex-con butler, silly parlour games and a house full of whackadoos, Not So Dumb is a direct ancestor to the screwball comedies that would become popular in the late 1930s. Dulcy’s jangly bracelets are reminiscent of Mame Dennis’ acting debut and plot points seen in Not So Dumb are used again and again in films like Arsenic and Old Lace, Holiday, The Philadelphia Story, and others. And for those of you who think Gone With the Wind was the first instance of a mainstream film using naughty, naughty swears, note that Mr. Forbes, the cranky businessman, declares, “I don’t care a damn about pictures!” And he doesn’t stop there. Continue reading

Book Review: I Am Not Ashamed, by Barbara Payton

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Eccentric or no, by the time the love triangle between Barbara, Franchot Tone and B-actor Tom Neal turned violent, Barbara was no longer famous, but rather infamous. Her decline continued and in a few short years she was being busted for bad checks and soliciting. Continue reading

The Woman in White (1948)

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Woman in White is a post-Code lurid Gothic horror, and as such pushes its own boundaries within the genre, mostly through the character of Count Fosco. It’s interesting to note that the film was made in 1946 and not released until 1948, when standards had lessened to a degree; I can’t imagine Frederick’s assertion that he personally has no problem with pre-marital sex being allowed in a film in 1946. But concessions were apparently made to appease the Production Code, and by the time the useless and unstable Frederick reveals himself to be a libertine, he’s been so sufficiently coded as evil and gay that his open-mindedness is easy to overlook. Continue reading

Completely Delightful Nonsense: Marion Davies in The Florodora Girl (1930)

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Not precisely a revival nor a biopic, the 1930 Marion Davies vehicle The Florodora Girl takes little more than a name and the vague idea of a Florodora Girl and transplants her into pre-Code Hollywood, and to strange, though not uninteresting, effect. So light at times that it looks as though it will blow away, reviewer Creighton Peet of The Outlook dubbed The Florodora Girl as “completely delightful nonsense.” Continue reading

High Def Chuck: Breaker! Breaker! (1977), Now Out on Blu-Ray

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J.D. Dawes (Chuck Norris) has just returned to his home in California after a long-term trucking job in Alaska. His little brother Billy (Michael Augenstein) idolizes him and wants to be a truck driver, too, so J.D. lets him deliver a load of frozen foods by himself — T.V. dinners, more specifically, a fact that hilariously comes into… Continue reading

Panic in Year Zero! (1962)

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Because 1962 was still in the grips of the 1950s, Panic in Year Zero touts the benefits of survival through rampant commercialism. Harry, who very sensibly takes about a thousand bucks in cash with him on fishing trips, soon realizes that there’s nothing in L.A. to go back to, and money is all they’ve got to help them survive. He systematically purchases guns, gas and food… or at least tries to, but is thwarted at every turn by raging selfishness, like when a hardware store owner doesn’t want to take his $200 check. Hey, Harry’s just trying to screw the guy over, as is his God-given right. What’s the problem? Continue reading

Station West (1948)

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While the link between Westerns and noir films is well documented, very few films have been as literal as Station West in borrowing tropes from one genre and superimposing them onto another. Continue reading

Spies (Spione, 1928)

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Fritz Lang’s Spies (Spione, 1928) is gorgeous, as all of Lang’s silents are, full of art deco designs and sharp-edged shadows and perfectly posed extras set amongst some truly stunning visual effects, impressive today, but so incredible at the time that they must have been nearly indistinguishable from magic. Continue reading

Pressure Point (1962)

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Stanley Kramer was one of the few producers who could make earnest social problem films really work; the melodrama in Pressure Point is a feature, not a bug. Continue reading