Sunday 24 September 2023
84/2250. Elmer, the Great (1933)
The premise here is that baseball player Elmer (Joe E. Brown in an over-the-top performance of buffoonery that would embarrass Adam Sandler) is such a great batter with such intolerable eccentricates that the Chicago Cubs are forced to lie to him about his love interest in order to ride his bat to the World Series. Of course, the lies lead to crime, specifically a gambling syndicate, that potentially compromise the game. Because that's what lies do.
85/2251. Skippy (1931)
Never heard of the comic strip "Skippy"? I doubt this film will make you seek it out, although I'm lead to believe it was a big hit in its day. Li'l Jackie Cooper breathes life into one of the most famous comic strip characters of the early 20th century in a series of misadventures involving, among other things, dog murder. Seriously. Cooper was nominated for an Oscar for this because everyone is heartbroken to see a child crying over a dead dog. Shame on you, Hollywood!
86/2252. Three on a Match (1932)
While the popularity of the Skippy comic strip inspired a peanut butter brand to steal the name, Three on a Match was built on the popular superstition encouraged (created?) by a safety match tycoon to sell more matches. The story is a salacious tale of intertwining lives of three former classmates. Naturally, the third one to light on the match suffers a bad end, although that's owed more to her use of drugs than her thrifty use of matches. (Trivia note: this movie also supposedly includes Jack Webb's first screen appearance, but good luck spotting him in the crowd.)
87/2253. Private Detective 62 (1933)
Decades before Remington Steele, debonaire but destitute William Powell fast-talks his way into a becoming a partner in a private detective agency. Too bad for Bill that his new partner is no Stephanie Zimbalist and lacks any sort of scruples.
88/2254. The Castle of Sand (1974)
I interrupt today's list of pre-code Hollywood films with this Japanese police procedural with a very strong social justice message. (Lepers are people too!) The last act leans a little too heavily into sentimentality for my tastes, but the extended Dragnet-style investigation that precedes it earned my tolerance as the killer's motivations are finally revealed.
89/2255. Svengali (1931)
From the German Expressionism of the set designs to the Horrific gothic shadows of the lighting and costumes, it's pretty clear this production was heavily influenced (for the better) by the original Dracula. What's most surprising about this adaptation of the novel Trilby is how sympathetic it actually is to the hypnotic outsider Svengali, who really could (and perhaps should) be presented as something of a demonic sexual predator. I think the movie is much less kind to the prudish English fop Billee, who in his own way, isn't any better than the story's titular "villain," although I'm certainly willing to admit that my 21st-century perspective probably colors my interpretation of what "acceptable behavior" is. Worth a watch.
More to come.