Friday, January 31, 2020
Two Lost Worlds (1951)
Strapping young American sailor Kirk Hamilton is bravely leading the charge of his father's shipping company, and defends it from the onslaught of pirates. In he's badly wounded, and has to recuperate in Queensland while his ship goes off without him. While there he gets to know the pretty Elaine, and her family. Things are going well, but the townsfolk are worried Kirk's precense could incesnse the pirates to attack once more. This fear is eventually proven right/correct when the cruel brigands of The Phantom invade, kidnapping Elaine and others. A party is sent after them, and while the rescue is successful, they're sent careening towards a mysterious island, where unknown horrors await...
Two Lost Worlds is a very strange and rather unique movie. It starts out as a 19th century pirate adventure, then a romance, then an [adventure] in the style of The Lost World! This sounds like an eclectic mishmash of genres, and it is, but it kinda works, and it makes this unlike anything else from the period!
One of the biggest pluses to Two Lost Worlds is how it changes things up every 20 or so minutes. I'm sure the movie would've been fine had it only focused on one for the whole movie, but instead we get the high seas battles in the first third, the romantic love triangle with calm country life for the second, then a desert/tropical island filled with dinosaurs for the third! There's never a dull moment in such a varied picture. The only downside is that each of these sections perhaps could've done with a bit more fleshing out, but as it is, it's certainly not bad.
The name of this picture is of course Two Lost Worlds, Not just one, but two! How's that for getting your mony's worth! Where/What could this second lost world be, you ask? Why, Australia of course! *stifles laughter* What's even more amusing is that no-one in this film even attempts an Aussie accent! They speak of Yankees, yet they sound like they just stepped out of California! However, that astonishingly say Brisbane correctly!...Of course, they mispronounce Queensland, but who cares!
Getting into further detail about the sections, the first is mostly good despite its short length. Kirk is presented as the best specimen of American men imaginable, and there's nothing he can't do. Other countries can do naught by take his fine example!]
After this, the movie calms down a bit and enjoys some casual romance and comic relief. The love triangle is portrayed decently, but it's a little too obvious what's gonna happen. There is a token effort to make the other man an alright bloke, even if he is overly jealous, quick to punch his rivals, and destined to lose the girl simply by not being the main character. Though at times his attitude comes across as 'How dare she hang out with other men? Doesn't she know she's going to be my betrothed?!'.
This is eventually broken up when the pirates invade once more. They kidnap Elaine and another girl, Nancy, who I didn't know but she seemed important, since along with Elaine she's one of the only two hostages!...Of course, she dies almost immediately once the group's on the island, and like it's nothing, too! It happens so quickly it barely even registers, then she's quickly forgotten. It felt pretty mean all things considered, the way it happens, and the way no-one cares.
The section on the island is pretty light on story, and heavy on exploration as the ever dwindling cast try to find food and shelter. Not a whole lot happens, but it's not like this is the whole movie, so I was never bored. The film concludes how you'd expect, with a miraculous rescue, but too late for the =, who graciously dies to allow the main duo to get together (as we knew would happen).
Overall, it's a bit of a depressing end for the island! There was already enough at stake I felt, plus enough characters before the shipwreck had already died, so it's pointless when more drop like flies. Also, what rescue team thinks it's a good idea to check out an island where a volcanic eruption is happening/volcano is erupting? Yeah it makes for a great signal, but not only is it a massive warning to go nowhere near there, but also a pretty good indicator that if the survivors are on the island, they are so dead!
One of the strangest things about Two Lost Worlds is the overlong and overdramatic narration, which tells us everything we'd ever want to know about life in America or Australia, about Kirk Hamilton (who it insists on naming in full each and every time), and its own views on the way of the universe.
"Hereto as in America, a new civilisation was being built on a primitive frontier. Here where wild kangaroos hopped among the fields, the land was forced to yield to the farmer and the rancher. The land meant security, and the bright hope of the future."
"But the plans of Elaine Jeffries did not reckon with the plans fate had drawn for the young American. Nor did Elaine reckon with her own heart. She did not reckon with the springtime. And Springtime in Queensland is just the same as Springtime anywhere in the world. There is the same bright sunshine and the fresh green on the hills. The quickening pulse in the earth is the same. The fragrant caress of the wind is the same. The stirring life is the same in the trees, in the flowers, in the birds of the airs, and a man and a woman are the same."
You can imagine what those walls of text are like when narrated in a =newsreel voice! He delivers them well at least, if nothing else, and they were always amusing. The only places where the narration feels unwelcome is when it talks over scenes, or explains things we can already/plainly see He also has a weird habit of always referring to characters by their full names
There are some funny moments with younger sister Janice, such as her determination to make the amusingly named sheep Magic 'smell like a lady', and her crush on Kirk-"I don't care if he does limp, I think he's grand." Elaine: "Janice!"-"I don't care, I'm going to marry Mr. Hamilton."-"You're what?"-"Why not? After all, I'm almost 10 years old!".
The acting here is all good. Everyone does their jobs well, with James Arness being a good lead, and no-one doing that bad of a job. Some scenes aren't performed as well though, such as when a romantic encounter between the leads is ruined by a jealous punch, and Elaine hurries in too quickly and breaks up the fight, before Kirk had a chance to 'act like a child' as she says.
The villainous pirates do the best they can with their limited screentime. There's zero effort to make the pirates look like traditional though. I guess this makes sense, since those kind of buccaneers weren't out this far, but it'd at least be interesting, and distinguish them from everyone else.
Two Lost Worlds may look quite good, but it's a low budget movie through and through. It utiltises its budget very well, and you'd never think this was a B-movie. Where the cost-cutting measures are most apparent is in the large amount of stock footage used. This could have been a very big problem, it's mostly integrated very well! The first sea battle is a little obvious with how James Arness is clearly reacting and giving instructions to things in a different movie, but the second is pretty seamless. Most importantly, the encounter with the dinosaurs actually looks like it was made for this. What is a problem, however, is that because this scene is from a different film, that makes it impossible for Two Lost Wolds's cast to interact with it, meaning they're never in any danger (or even any real inconvenience) from the dinosaurs. Said dinosaurs, by the way, are lizard with bits stuck onto them, and hilarious roaring sounds dubbed over them. For this amusing visual we can thank/blame One Million Years B.C.
Discounting all the stolen footage, Two Lost Worlds honestly looks really good! From the pirate attack on land, the waterfall at the enc of the chase, the volcano off in the distance, no 'expense' has been spared. Even the opening credits are very stylish and creative, with their leatherbound book format. I wish more movie credits were like that!
Two Lost Worlds isn't perfect, but regardless of whether or not it succeeds in what it sets out to do, the fact that it tried is good enough for me, and the effort put into the film makes it stand out among other films of the era. For that it's worth watching, as well as for the cheesier and cheaper elements. No matter what you're looking for, this should be a fun time...
The Neanderthal Man (1953)
The Neanderthal Man is a mad scientist run amok film set in the forested California wilderness,
does a good job of showing him be =, while simultaneously making it totally understandable why In some movies, you cringe when the closeminded scientists immediately dismiss the revolutionary scientist before he can offer evidence, but here it makes total sense! = has done nothing but waffle on inanely about brain sizes of early apes, and insulted the hosts. doesn't make his point clear
amusing is how he's the most radical-minded man in the town, yet the moment people mention he tries shutting them down faster than a =, asking how they can be so stupid to believe in such nonsense! I'm surprised he was able to = with a straight face, when he's genetically engineering sabretooth tigers/prehistoric beasts in his lab I get why he's doing it, but what must his neighbours think of the local crackpot =?
fiance although I feel the film doesn't do enough with her. She wants him to open up to her, and is genuinely interested in his work, wanting to know and promising she won't ever laugh at him...Then he tells her and she laughs at him. A bit disappointing, right? It would've been better I feel if she'd stuck by him and shown that one person still has faith in him. After all, what mad scientists ever have loved ones who know all about their = studies? After this = just disappears from the movie for a while, and only returns ===.
If I had to pick a criticism with The Neanderthal Man, it's how little the titular monster does once he's =. He kills a few people, but besides that there's nothing deeper. No =, just him running around the forest looking for new victims
While the characters here are intelligent for the most part, there are scenes of severe idiocy. The first is when = and the magistrate find and successfully kill the sabretooth tiger, and knowing they won't be believed without more witnesses, they go to get them...leaving the evidence behind! Surprise surprise, it's gone when they come back, and they're thought of as crazy. Who c/would've known!
There's also the stupidest woman alive, who after witnessing her date's death, rushes over to check his boy *before the monster that killed him is out of range*! IF she was that comfy being in range of the monster, why didn't she help him when it was beating him to death! He almost turned the tides, and could've won if you nabbed a rock and walloped the beast one, then you'd have a laugh over some drinks about the thrilling adventure you had
The final] moment of idiocy comes when =, and he decides the best way to prove his theory is to = on the cat! Sure, it's a relatively painless and temporary procedure, but it's still not nice turning/to turn a cat into a sabretooth tiger! And then the dumbest thing is, *they don't watch it*! They just bugger off to the next room for an hour, and are shocked to find broken out the window. On that note ,did the doctor just not/has still not invested in a better cage and a more secure window?
The Neanderthal Man is a pretty serious film, with not much in the way of comedy, but there is one scene that had me laughing, and I'm sure the movie was in on the joke. When = is making her heartfelt declaration of = to her fiancee, she musses up his hair, and this dignified scientist spends the rest of the scene with a gigantic cowlick!
The effects here are equally funny. While we only see it for brief flashes, the sabretooth tiger muppet is truly hilarious, as is the poor substitution of a regular tiger. The animal works very well in the scenes, but the problem is that it looks nothing like the = its playing, and there's not even an attempt to give it fake tusks. I suppose no-one wanted the job of putting them on!
More importantly, the effects for the titular monster are better realised. Still cheesy and =,
The Neanderthal Man is
His First Flame (1927)
Harry Langdon was an interesting comedian. He started out in the silent era, and wasn't as famous as contemporaries like Chaplin or Keaton, but was still fairly popular, and it didn't hurt that his films were reputedly some of the more offbeat offerings to emerge/come from the 1920s. Things eventually started going south for his career as it was however, and he fell out of popularity. His career continued despite these setbacks, with comedies such as Misbehaving Husbands, where he would play lovable goofballs. Not as famous as he'd once been, but certainly still making a living and doing what he wanted to do...
Harry is a bright faced college graduate looking forward to life with his fiancee Ethel. Unbeknownst to him though, she's a gold digger only out for his money. This is no surprise to Harry's misanthropic uncle Amos, who's been left cold towards women after many/several bad experiences, and is willing to disown] Harry if he ever gets mixed up with a girl. Unsure of what to do, Harry eventually gets an idea when he's forced into the fire brigade...
His First Flame is a short comedy feature that shows plenty of promise. Harry Langdon is a funny leading man on par with many of the other comic greats of the time, and his boyish looks (from a 43 year old!) make him a likeable meek presence.
Where the movie lost me a little was the middle. None of what happens is bad per se (though some of it did confuse the heck out of me), but I was expecting with such certainty that Harry would find out about his fiancee's true nature and start hating women as much as his uncle, but would then fall for the sweet Mary, and fireman hijinx would ensure. Instead he never even shares a scene with Ethel until God know's when, and nothing is really made of the fact that his fiancee was a gold digger. A lot of the film's middle scenes feel very random too. Overall, they interrupt the story we should be getting.
The film eventually gets back on track, though never really won be back 100%. I was so looking forward to seeing one thing, and never really getting it left me frustrated. We do get some good stuff though, with a thrilling enough conclusion (if a bit visually muddled), and a sweet ending
The cast here is small but distinct. No two look or act alike, ad it's funny seeing them interact, from the meek and idealistic Harry, to the embittered and misogynistic Amos, and the two sisters, one scheming and the other sympathetic. My only issue is how little some interact, such as Harry and his fiancee, or Mary. Harry's Friend Hector is technically superfluous, but that whole section was crazy enough to definitely justify his appearance.
While His First Flame is mostly a pretty innocent film, it's got some pretty wicked comedy here, with the terrifying Benedict household providing some darkly humourous laughs.
The acting here is all good. Langdon makes for a great lead. I was briefly under the impression this starred Stan Laurel as well, do to some people online mistaking Langdon for him. The two certainly do look similar! It's kinda trippy. He also looks like a pantomime clown due to his make-up, which you can say about a lot of silent actors.
Natalie Kingston and Ruth Hiatt are fun as the two sisters, equally crazy in different ways, while Vernon Dent is amusingly grumpy as the uncle. Bud Jamison and Dot Farley range from polite and sweet, respectively, to absolutely terrifying at the drop of a hat,
This is directed quite well for a comedy! While some scenes were a bit confusing to look at, many more were neatly staged! A lot of the visual gags look great, and this never looks like a boring point-and-shoot affair.
There's some nice music here, with the organ score never providing a dull moment.
Overall, His First Flame was a bit of a slog for me at times, but and at 46 minutes long it's certainly not going to take a whole lot of time from your schedule
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Girl o' My Dreams (1934)
It's a typical year at the = college, with the students pushing through their classes for better or worse, eagerly = sports, or hanging out with their girlfriends-And sometimes all three! Larry's relationship with his sweetheart Gwen is a bit on the rocks though, after she expresses dissatisfaction with how little attention he's paying her. Feeling low, he visits his friend, a college reporter, and together the two conspire to rig the votes, so that popular shoe-in Joe loses to unassuming sportsman Don. Their plan ends up working a little too well though when Gwen ends up partnering up with Don to make Larry jealous, and from this comes a whole mess of relationship entanglement that can only happen in college...
Girl o' My Dreams is a thoroughly entertaining romantic-comedy with plenty to offer. University hijinx, sports stuff, music, and love stories! It tells a simple story with a few complex misunderstandings, which are thankfully always fun to watch. Romantic misunderstandings can so often be a bane, an absolutely infuriating part of a film you want over as soon as possible. Here they're never awkward, and always worth a chuckle.
The film paints a good portrait of college life. One where studies aren't too hard, classes are fun, everyone bursts into song on a regular basis, and sororities aren't nightmares! Even the parties aren't drunken vomit-fests that end with everyone getting unpleasantly laid.
From beginning to end the story is well paced, going from one section to the other pretty seamlessly, culminating in a [thilling] climax. As I said, there's something for everybody, and neither the romance or the sports takes over the film. There's a perfectly equal dose. This means it alienates neither audience. Fans of one thing don't get shortchanged, and neither do fans of the other.
The characters in Girl o' My Dreams are an interesting bunch. Larry and Bobby are entertaining and likeable leads, and you = them as you watch. Don meanwhile is just as fun, not just a hulking meathead, but being nice, as well as a bit meek when it comes to the whole dating rigmarole everyone's stuck in.
The two main girls, Gwen and Mary, are nice enough, though a bit basic. They fill the [bare] minimum required, but aren't the most compelling. Kitty meanwhile is simply adorable! At first I thought she was annoying, with her squeaky voice far too over the top to enjoy. I quickly got used to her though, and found her to be perfectly fine. Her squeakiness is at a good pitch, and she's never over or under used.
And lastly, the supporting characters. Friend of the leads Bobby is neat, if not particularly distinctive, but his romantic troubles give him plenty to do, as do his later accomplishments. Handsome but vain campus darling Joe is amusingly unlikeable at first, but ends up disappearing into the background after a certain point. Interestingly enough, Bobby may just be a supporting character, but he's the one who gets the final and most dramatic sporting moment in the end! It's quite inspiring seeing such a character make it to the big times as it were.
If I had to pick a complaint with Girl o' My Dreams, it's not that there are too many characters, because each serve a distinct purpose, be it big or small, but it's just sometimes a little hard telling them apart. You manage as the movie goes on, although it's pretty/a little tough at first.
The acting here is all good! Edward Nugent and Sterling Holloway give fun performances, as does Arthur Lake, Tom Dugan, and others. Noted genre actress and centenarian Mary Carlisle delivers a decent enough performance, as does Gigi Parrish. Jeanie Roberts is hilarious as Kitty, delivering just enough on the cuteness without being obnoxious. And the Crane sisters Betty Mae and Beverly are an amusing duo!
Perhaps the most interesting actor in the bunch is Creighton Chaney...Who's that, you ask? Why, it's the real name of horror great Lon Chaney Jr.! I'd never seen him credited under that name before, and it's a treat! Predating The Wolf Man by 7 years, this role is markedly different than anything else he'd become known for. He does well as a lovestruck jock, doing well with comedy, romance, and music. It's a shame he didn't get to do this more often in his career.
The music in this film is pretty decent. Not all of the songs landed for me, either rhythmically, or performance-wise, but I liked their inclusion nonetheless/anyway, and none actively annoyed me. The soundtrack is all fine too, making you feel like you're at a classical era college/sportstrack.
Overall, Girl o' My Dreams is a fun college flick well worth a watch! You can never go wrong with a good ol' Monogram picture...
Monday, January 27, 2020
Bachelor Bait (1934)
William Watts works at a Marriage License Bureau, and does his job well, convincing even the most hardened of fathers to give their eloping kids a chance. But thanks to the actions of a capricious coworker, he's fired, and has to strike out on his own. This ends up working out spectacularly, as William comes up with the idea to create Romance Inc., a matchmaking business. He's a natural, and the business is soon booming, but with new found popularity comes new enemies, who'll stop at nothing to see Romance Inc. stomped to ashes...
Bachelor Bait is quite a fun ride! The comedy all lands and the romance is sweet, and the story is overall an entertaining time, which successfully goes from one thing to another, to another, etc, without fail.
It's little awkward constantly seeing William be totally oblivious to Cynthia's feelings for him. The movie does excel however in its intentional awkwardness, namely the three party date scene, where everyone's struggling to keep the conversation going (we've all been there!).
The characters are a high point in Bachelor Bait. William Watts is a nice enough protagonist, meek, but resourceful. He's believably clever, and it's nice seeing his business ideas actually work, and very well too! Nancy is a lovely girl, helping William out at every turn, and never asking for anything in return/for herself.
There's a great range of unscrupulous friends here, from the absolutely loathsome guy at the beginning, to taxi driver turned Romance Inc. lawyer Bramwell van Dusan, and the devious gold-digger Allie Summers. Bramwell starts out as a random taxi driver with a quip or two, but graduates to a main character. He's a great addition with plenty of material to give, and he even provides some heart.
Allie meanwhile is amusingly mean, and has a great vocabulary, as well as razor sharp wit. Her dialogue is crazy too! Some of it is funny, and some of it is so complex it'll/will leave you scratching your head. My favourite was probably the most simple-"Gimme a cigarette, you mug!". It's fun watching her various machinations, but she's not all bad. She's never unbearable, and knows when to call it quits. She may put up quite a front, but when the chips are down, she really does have standards, and others well-being at heart.
If I had to pick any complaint with Bachelor Bait, it's that it feels 10 minutes too long. While it's good that this extra bit finally ties the villainous Big Barney Nolan back into the plot, it feels a little too late. The plot had already resolved, but it's drawn out further for all this. None of this stuff is bad though, so it's not that bitter of a pill, and by the end I didn't mind as much.
It's a shame we never see his coworkers at the marriage bureau again. It would've been nice to see his boss realising the truth, the asshole getting fired (or preferably something more violent), and seeing more of the girl in general, since she liked and believed in him. I actually wish the movie had gone full circle, in a way, given that two supporting characters decide to tie the knot, which would've been a perfect opportuity for seeing a certain someone issue the license. But then again, that might imply the matchmaking business died after all, so in a way I'm glad that doesn't happen.
Some examples of the great dialogue on display here are:
The film is aesthetically pleasing too, best exemplified in a hilarious comic vignette!
The acting in Bachelor Bait is very good! No two performances are alike, and each character is distinctive thanks not only to the writing, but also due to the players. Stuart Erwin as Rochelle Hudson is cute as a button as Cynthia. Richard 'Skeets' Gallagher and Pert Kelton are great as the film's comic relief, and deliver a lot to the film, beyond the call of duty! They'll make you laugh and maybe even tug at your heartstrings a little. Kelton is quite monotone a lot of the time, and at first I wasn't sure if she was just a wooden actress, or if this was a deliberate character move. Thankfully it's the latter, and she gets greater range as the movie goes on, and plays monotone well!
Berton Chrurchill and Clarence Wilson meanwhile are great villains. Churchill is mean as political grafter Big Barney Nolan, while Wilson has a devilish charm similar to John Astin.
Bachelor Bait is an exceedingly fun and cute rom-com,and I definitely recommend it! It's got something for everybody...
The Monster Maker (1944)
Doctor Igor Markoff is the best in the field of glandular treatment/disorders, and has devoted years searching for a cure to Acromegaly. One night out at the opera, he sees a young woman, Patricia Lawrence, who's the spitting image of his deceased wife. He immediately takes an unhealthy interest with her, sending her dozens of unwanted flowers, and romantic notes. Patricia soon becomes upset enough that her father, a famous pianist, goes to Markoff's to dissuade him. The encounter ends with Lawrence unknowingly infected with Acromegaly, and Markoff will only cure it if he allows him to marry Patricia...
The Monster Maker is quite a good flick! It tells an interesting story, and the elements all come together very well. The film is motivated more by stakes than a bodycount, and rather than show the doctor killing and experimenting on dozens of people, it focuses more on his schemes with this one man. This works, and it's never boring. Also, because of the different [styling] to the story, when it has a happy ending it feels earned, and not like a cheat.
The writing and character relationships here are quite good, the father in particular! He's likeable enough to begin with, but once he becomes deformed, he excels! He figures out the doctor's intentions immediately, and throws them back in his face in a great scene. Unwilling to throw his daughter's happiness away for a cure, he gladly intends to destroy the mad scientist, while alluding to Frankenstein being destroyed by the 'monster' he created.
Dr. Markoff is an effective villain, with an interesting backstory. He's a creep in just about every way it's possible to be one. If ever there was a mad scientist you wanted to see killed by his own creation, it's him!
I'm on the fence about whether lab assistant Maxine is an interesting character, or stupid. For some strange reason, she's in love with the rude and creepy doctor who shows no affection for her. There are at least three scenes in the movie where she's either upset at him or hysterical ,and he always just tells her to shut up and go back to work, every single time! Even when she threatens to go to the police! She's a very trusting woman to assume he won't kill her for that, but it turns out he's overly trusting too, as he never believes she'll go to the cops, and never does anything bad to her.
Lastly, Patricia and her boyfriend are likeable enough, though aren't as richly explored.
I also like how the movie shines a light on this lesser known disease, and in a non-judgemental way too. It never treats those suffering Acromegaly as freaks, or tries exploiting them for entertainment. It's probably ridiculous to think that films like this inspired an eventual cure for the disease, but it's a fun thought, and I like to think those doctors watched this film and took notes!
While The Monster Maker has a slower and more = approach to its subject matter, it does still have touches of the goofy, such as Dr. Markoff having his own pet gorilla, that he periodically releases for fun, and to teach his employee's lessons. These moments are appreciated, naturally.
The film is by no means perfect though. Aside from Maxine's almost inconsistent character, Patricia doesn't appear a great deal in the second half, and reacts little to events around her, particularly Markoff himself. This man has been stalking and harassing her, but little is made of this in the latter half of the movie. She just figures 'Oh well, he's a creep, but he knows what he's doing, so I'll just leave my father in his care. I'm sure things'll be fine.' Her boyfriend fares even worse. He's nice, and heroic in the end, but his total screentime wouldn't equal much.
Another issue is the title itself, which comes across as rather insensitive! There is no monster in this film, it's a guy suffering from a glandular disorder! If it was a murderer like Rondo Hatton it'd make sense, but the sufferer here is never anything but a victim.
Back to the positives, the make-up work here is good! It looks convincingly enough like real Acromegaly, and doesn't try making it look monstrous, or more grotesque than it needs to.
The acting here is quite good! J. Carroll Nash is your typical European/foreign mad scientist, and he's convincingly slimy and diabolical. Ralph Morgan is very good, acting perfectly under all the make-up he's given, and not letting it get in the way of his performance. For an actor to remain genuinely powerful and emotional when covered in rubber is a great thing!
Glenn Strange has a dual role, as both the mad scientist's servant, and also the ape. Tala Birell is good as the lab assistant Maxine. At first it seemed like her accent kept slipping from European to American, but it turns out she's a Romanian, so I guess the accent switch is just a natural product of living in two countries (assuming I wasn't imagining the whole thing). Wanda McKay and Terry Frost do ok in their roles, even if they don't have the most to do. And lastly, Ace the Wonder Dog has a good role here, looking very cute and heroic.
The Monster Maker is a pretty good horror flick, and is worth a watch...
The Crime of Doctor Crespi (1935)
Golden age director Erich von Stroheim was certainly quite a character! A fancy German aristocrat who led to America in search of a better life, and made a name for garish and epic melodramas, that He was quite a divisive figure, not only in the quality of his movies, but also in his very identity. Some people in Hollywood were convinced he was a fake, and didn't speak a word of German. Some felt he was merely a German commoner, and others not one at all. There were some Europeans who did think he was legit though, and he did sometimes sounds kinda like Peter Lorre, so perhaps there is truth in what they say.
As for the rumor of him being lower class in origin, if that is true, I certainly wouldn't denigrate him for it, as it shows that even a 'mere commoner' can rise to become a celebrated auteur and a Hollywood artist! Of course, he was still a prick for lying, and I think his movies are ridiculously self-indulgent and pretentious, but still! And of course, his greatest legacy is undoubtedly being the inspiration for the Gabbo episode of The Simpsons!...
Noted doctor Andre Crespi is running his wing of the hospital business as usual, taking whatever cases he sees fit, and rejecting many in equal measure. One day an old sweetheart comes back into his life, begging Crespi to operate on her husband. Dr. Steve Ross, an old friend, swept Estelle off her feet, and the two fell in love, which Crespi has never forgotten, unable/refusing to believe she didn't love him, and harbouring a deep hatred of Ross. Now that he's been given the perfect opportunity, Crespi plans on drugging Ross to appear dead, then bury him alive...
1935 picture The Crime of Doctor Crespi is an immediately alluring one, due to its promising title, and spooky premise. This promise is quickly squandered when the film begins. It starts off dull, and never picks up. It's a real slog to watch!
This joins the long line of films 'based'/supposedly based on Edgar Allan Poe's literary canon. This film purports to be a take on The Premature Burial, but takes nothing but the mere concept. Before watching the film I'd read summaries describing the lead character as a madman who buries his enemies alive, but that's being generous. He only does it to the one character. The title really is correct by not pluralising Crime. He only commits one in the whole movie!
The plot is very basic. It gets the job done, but is never successfully enthralling. One thing I will praise the story for is being a 1930s film that has a proper ending! Not abrupt at all, but a proper denouement.
There are a few silly moments here too, such as it being set in a hospital where apparently the staff are too lazy to notice a man being loudly strangled to death wile screaming MURDERER! Then there's how Dr. Crespi is found out by a colleague, and after strangling him, ties him up in a cupboard for a day...then lets him go free! He basically figures "Eh, you're probably gonna be alright now, so get lost".
The acting is tolerable at best. The nurses were pretty good, and cute. For such a dictatorial director, who'd scream his lungs out at actors for batting their eyelashes in the wrong order, Erich von Stroheim is hardly a good thespian himself. He's pretty rubbish here! He gets even worse in the climax, where he literally doesn't react to seeing Ross back from the dead, and even slurs some of his words like he was smashed on-set. Von Stroheim the director would hate von Stroheim the actor!
Dwight Frye fares better, though the film doesn't do him any favours. He's relegated to the background most of the time, and I forgot he was even here until halfway through. He does eventually rise in prominence...only to be immediately knocked out. It's a shame! We finally got to see the poor man act, and he's strangled! Forget von Stroheim, I wanna see Dwight Frye as Cr. Crespi! While I briefly thought he was killed, he does return, and plays a slight role in the climax, but nothing major.
Some movies work without much music. Others simply feel like they're missing something-Otherwise good, but incomplete. Crime of Doctor Crespi however is downright hurt for its lack of score! A dull movie is made all the more unbearable by the complete absence of music. A composer seems to have finally been hired 4 minutes before the end, it makes a world of difference. One scene becomes tense, and the ending becomes romantic.
The direction for the most part here is listless, with little done to bring life to the proceedings. There are a few interestingly staged shots here and there, which I've screenshotted for you to see. You can appreciate what little this movie gets right!
I don't recommend The Crime of Doctor Crespi at all. It's got very little of worth to it.
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