Bette Davis Project #8: The Dark Horse (1932)

The Dark Horse (1932), a goofy political satire, aired on TCM last November during their series of films about political elections. In Dark Horse, the Progressive Party of an unnamed state finds themselves deadlocked between two choices when nominating their gubernatorial candidate. The delegates who support one candidate get the brilliant idea to nominate a dark horse to split the vote, so they randomly select someone from the roster. The delegates who support the other candidate decide voting for the dark horse will help their candidate win — I confess I didn’t understand a bit of why either of their plans were supposed to work — and the inevitable happens: the dark horse candidate gets the nomination. The dark horse candidate is Hicks (Guy Kibbee), a simple-minded goofball who doesn’t understand a thing about politics. Actually, the entire beginning of the film makes it clear that they have contempt for any “regular” people who are involved in the electoral process. Kibbee was portrayed as a hick, right down to giving him the name Hicks, and other delegates were shown in a short montage which specifically made fun of them being hicks and rubes as well. They were all stupid and all very intentionally meant to point out how bad our electoral system is when people like them can affect elections, them being farmers and such. After the fiasco of nominating Hicks, the powers that be still want to win the election but fear it is hopeless. That’s when Kay Russell … Continue reading

Camille (1921)

“Camille” is ridiculous, melodramatic, unbelievable, silly, amazing, wonderful, beautiful, and mesmerizing. This 1921 film is a thin version of the Dumas classic, mildly modified for a modern audience, used only as a means to showcase glamour, style, and expression. I first heard about “Camille” when shahn at sixmartinis mentioned it a couple of years ago. Recently, D for Doom of Cult Movie Reviews recommended it for its art deco sets, also mentioning the silent could be found on the DVD for the Garbo-Taylor version. It’s a very nice print, too, surprisingly good for the year. There is also a Grapevine Video version, and while I haven’t seen it, those of us who want to avoid the Garbo version would probably rather have their video. Ahem. While I have seen Nazimova in two of her 1940s supporting roles, “Camille” was the first silent Nazimova movie I’ve watched. It was an absolute revelation; I have never seen the camera love someone with such wholehearted abandon as it loved Alla Nazimova. Valentino is adored by the camera as well. He spends the full length of the film either staring straight ahead or flaring his nostrils and looking disgustingly gorgeous while doing so. Infamous Parisian courtesan Marguerite and naive, rich young man Armand fall in love. She is ill and unhappy in her opulent but decadent life. Armand takes her away. After a blissful spring together in the countryside, Armand’s father arrives to tell Marguerite that she cannot stay with his son, her past … Continue reading

Marie Prevost Project: The Racket (1928)

This post contains spoilers for “The Racket” (1928), so if you want to wait until you see the movie for yourself, don’t read any further! Marie Prevost and Bette Davis are the objects of my two current movie projects, but unfortunately I’ve learned a tough lesson while trying to watch all of their films: Some of their films are remarkably, embarrassingly, teeth-grindingly bad. It was a tough lesson to learn but a good one, I think, as it’s forced me to work harder to find the gems amongst the rubble. When I pop a DVD into the player, I hope there will at least be some tiny bit of interest to find in the film. Maybe a young pre-fame actor will have a small part in the movie or the sets will be 10 lbs of art deco awesome in a 5 lbs bag, it doesn’t really matter as long as it makes the movie worthwhile. Nowadays, it’s all I expect. It might sound bitter to have such low expectations of films before I even watch them, but I prefer to think it’s not so much cynical as realistic. It also means I appreciate the good films better when I stumble across them. “The Racket” (1928) is one of those good films. Well over a decade ago, when I was a newbie to silent films, I asked on alt.movies.silent if there were any silent film noirs or early precursors of the genre. No one had any concrete examples, although several … Continue reading

Recently Watched: The World Is Yours Edition

There are a lot of classic and must-see films I haven’t seen yet. Time and life has its limits, and that’s the excuse I’m going to stand by when I’m asked why it took me until 2010 to watch “Scarface” (1983). I am quite chagrined by this fact, don’t get me wrong. As I was watching this movie, I discovered “Scarface” was influenced by the “Godfather” films and Hitchcock — this is DePalma, after all — but I also realized that the reverse was true, that dozens of films have been influenced by “Scarface,” especially Quentin Tarantino’s films. In the same way you cannot completely get “Jackie Brown” without having seen “Coffy” or “Foxy Brown,” you can’t fully understand “Pulp Fiction” without having seen “Scarface.” Huh. Who knew. Is now a good time to mention I still haven’t seen the original 1932 version? I don’t know why, it was on TCM about 500 times in the last year and it has Boris Karloff. Again, the universe has seen fit to create limits to our time, and that’s my excuse. There is nothing I can say about “Scarface” that hasn’t already been said. I was prepared for a lot more gore. Not that there isn’t plenty already, but like “Bonnie and Clyde” before it, while it was excessive for the time it has been far surpassed since. I was relatively comfortable with the gore, which was nice as I’ve recently been grossed the hell out by a season 4 “X-Files” episode … Continue reading

Recently Watched: The Civilization of Maxwell Bright (2005)

Spoilers, adult concepts, and bad language abound. The Civilization of Maxwell Bright is a movie that tries hard to do the right thing, but it falls back on the old, lazy, entrenched bigotries so prevalent in Hollywood that, despite being an indie film, it might as well have been a $10M studio film for all the cultural “good” it does. Maxwell Bright (Patrick Warburton) is a fucking asshole. He’s an entitled, white, well-off, misogynist electronics salesman who we first see running naked out of his house, chasing his girlfriend who has just hit him on the head. It wasn’t a debilitating blow, obviously, because he’s capable of violently screaming at her about how she wants to spend a selfish 45 minutes having sex. Also, she doesn’t give him enough blow jobs like he deserves. The police arrive and both officers think he’s the aggressor, which Max blames on them being female and irrational. The girlfriend then jams a garden implement into his chest. A couple of weeks pass and Max is acting out and berating his employees. His lifelong friend and floor manager Arlis (Eric Roberts, one of my favorite actors) defends him. That night, Arlis and other friends join Max at his house for poker. They all slam women in extremely stereotypical, sexist ways, and then Max has an “epiphany”. I wish there was a better word for it, because he didn’t so much have an epiphany as come up with a stupid, paranoid theory that he thinks explains … Continue reading