Svengali ~ 1931 -BW

QUICKIE: Look deep into my eyes..... now sing baby, SING! .....Uh, owie.

PLOT: Sinister music maestro Svengali (John Barrymore) can control the actions of women through hypnotism and his telepathic powers. When a pupil he has seduced announces she has left her husband for him, he uses his powers to cause her to commit suicide and then he promptly forgets her. He meets a beautiful model, Trilby (Marian Marsh), and becomes infatuated with her, but she, in turn, falls for a young artist called Billee (Bramwell Fletcher) who also loves her. One day Svengali hypnotizes Trilby to cure her headache, but also examines her upper palate and decides it is an ideal cavity for great singing. He hypnotizes her to fake her suicide, and marry him. Svengali uses his powers to make her sing wonderfully and Madame Svengali becomes a sensation throughout Europe. The constant hypnotism takes a toll on Svengali's health, yet he hides it well. At a performance Billee discovers the ruse and begins to follow the pair, upsetting Svengali enough to have him cancel performances too frequently, so they no longer can perform in Europe. They go to Egypt, but Billee relentlessly follows.

SUMMARY: This is a phenomenal movie. Great acting, great story, cool cinematography. Really worth the watch, and don't watch the 1983 remake with yucky Jodie Foster. Gag. She can't hold a candle to everything Marian Marsh brings to the character. Beauty, charm, grace, innocence and vulnerability. I can't believe Jodie could be hypnotized, and I can never "forget" the star, or she's always Clarice to me. John Barrymore is THE man. He's an amazingly good actor, and amusing to boot. That beard is so funny looking I can't take my eyes off it. He has the presence of a real star, yet we get lost in the character because he is such a GOOD actor. Unlike Jodie Foster. Have I mentioned I don't like her? And look at how HUGE the hallways are in those Paris studios. And the costumes! A definite classic. Watch it, you'll love it.

Family Collection: Disc 55 - side B

Watch for free here:

Read the novel for free here:

Becky Sharp ~ 1935 -colour

QUICKIE: It's "Gone With The Wind" in shorthand.

PLOT: Set against the background of the Battle of Waterloo, Becky Sharp (Miriam Hopkins) is the story of Vanity Fair by Thackeray. Becky and Amelia (Francis Dee) are girls at school together, but Becky is from a "show biz" family, or in other words, very low class. Becky manages to insinuate herself in Amelia's family and gets to know all their friends. In the movie we get to see the class distinctions in England at the time, and get a sense of what it was like for the English military at the time of the Napoleonic wars. We also get a clear look at how "orphans" are viewed and treated. Her mistreatment forms her character into a sardonic gold digging social climber. After using various men to raise her status within society, Becky's standing is dealt a serious blow and she is forced to work as a singing girl in a beer hall. Undaunted by her decline, Becky vows to once again gain her status within society and eventually resumes her climb.

SUMMARY: Miriam Hopkins was nominated for an Oscar for her role, but lost to Bette Davis for her film Dangerous. (IMDB) This film was nominated for two other categories at the Venice Film Festival and won Best Colour Film. This was the first feature-length three-color film, the very first film in "Technicolor". It is a remake of Vanity Fair, yet a different film in many respects. So, there is alot of talk about this film and how it compares to the novel, the Broadway play, it's various remakes, and all the hub-bub over the colour. While all of that is interesting, none of it mattered to me before I watched the film. I had just finished watching Myrna Loy as Becky Sharp in the 1932 Vanity Fair, so I was familiar with the story and eager to see this film.

This Becky Sharp is an amazing character. Where so much is implied and quieted down with the Myrna Loy version, Miriam Hopkins is brash, loud and daring. She openly insults people and royality call her "fascinating" for it. She rides higher and higher, with it all culminating one night at a Royal banquet. The battle of Waterloo breaks out and in that moment her world crashes as well.

Sometimes I really enjoy watching movies about people living by their wits and using people. At least Becky is beautiful and vivacious. She enlivens many mens' lives and she should be getting something in return for that. Besides scorn, which she got anyway from the ladies. Many people seem to forget how times were so different in the past and the only way a woman had to get ahead in the world was to play the game and "marry up". No one enjoys poverty, so it was natural for a woman to go after as much as she could. Keep in mind that the men encouraged this behavior in women as well. For if it didn't work, women wouldn't have behaved that way. This movie also hints at the hostility between the classes and just how difficult it is to rise above one's station. But Becky gets it very clearly, which is probabally why she can work the system so well. Society is shallow and built on appearances. Behind closed doors it's a different world.

I loved this user review on IMDB:
"This is "Gone With the Wind" for people who don't care too much about quality. Miriam Hopkins is cast in the Scarlett role - selfish, social-climbing, with no compunctions about using people at whim. The difference is that Scarlett eventually learns her lesson and we have hope, at the end of the story, that she'll live according to the knowledge she's acquired. At the end of THIS story - we're positive that Becky's going to eventually end up in hell, and good riddance. Becky's a manipulative brat who rises to the top, comes crashing down and is eager to start the cycle again."

Family Collection: Disc 54 - side A

Creature Double (triple) Feature: Watch Vanity Fair before this film, then after both, you can watch Reese Witherspoon in the 2004 remake. That's alot of Becky Sharp!

Watch for free Here:

Martin Luther ~ 1953 -BW

QUICKIE: One monk changed the world. Or (singing) "I gotta be me, I just gotta be meeeeeee...."

PLOT: This biographical account of Martin Luther's actions that eventually created the Protestant and Lutheran religions was filmed in conjunction with the Lutheran Church. Niall MacGinnis portrays the monk who's nailing of his list of 95 theses to the church door created a stir so large that it shook the very foundations of the Catholic Church. This film shows the struggle between Luther and the organized church and how the Catholic Church was not fully explaining things he questioned, which led him to be labeled a heretic.

SUMMARY: Imagine my embarassment to find this film nominated for two Academy Awards. Oh well. No accounting for taste and all that. (Mine that is.) I found this film interesting, yet dry and dull overall. However, it's a biography of a monk, so it's not going to have car chases and murders a plenty like most of these classic films do. So, as a biography of a monk, I guess it's pretty entertaining as he does get called a heretic and must renounce his writings to save himself.

Through his phenomenal fortitude and immense courage he stands his ground and refuses to go against his conscience. He "stands by scripture" and preaches of a loving God. He trys to bring religion to the people instead of milking them for money (called "indulgences"). These themes are the main thrust of his movement. He has unbelievable character and is very inspiring in how he faces down the Catholic church in Rome as well as many royal folk. Ok, I guess I'm liking this movie more and more.

Family Collection: Disc 54 - side A

Unavailable on the net to watch for free as far as I can tell.

Mutiny ~ 1952 -colour

QUICKIE: Some girls are really bad and will drive you to do such bad things.

PLOT: Early in the War of 1812, Captain James Marshall (Mark Stevens) is commissioned to run the British blockade and fetch an unofficial war loan from France. As first mate, Marshall recruits Ben Waldridge (Patric Knowles), a cashiered former British Navy captain. Waldridge brings his former gun crew... including "Hook" (Gene Evans) who begin plotting mutiny as soon as they learn there'll be gold aboard. The gold duly arrives, and with it Waldridge's former sweetheart Leslie (Angela Lansbury), who's fond of a bit of gold herself.

SUMMARY: I think Angela Lansbury really makes a difference in this film. For one, because she's the only female and two because she drives the first mate on into the dark side once again. Without her this would have been one more boring "pirates against the captain, everybody after the gold" movie. It IS that story, but it is made much more interesting by the exchange between characters and Waldridge's rise, fall and rise of character. This has ALL your typical high seas, pirate adventure movie stuff: the big sailing ships, pirates, cannons, war, a big storm, getting drunk, sharks, royality disseminating ships, murder, treachery, mutiny, poker, floozies, on and on. It's all here.

I liked this bit:
Hook: "Well, the anchor room ain't no place for a Lady."
Leslie: "With a million in gold at stake, I can forget I am a Lady."

Yes she can, and she does, whole heartedly.

Vanity Fair - 1932 -BW

QUICKIE: Some girls are just bad. Becky goes from rags to riches to rags again.

PLOT: This cinematic adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel stars Myrna Loy in her first starring role. Becky (Loy) and Amelia are girlfriends at school together, but Becky is lower class, being an orphan. Becky manages to insinuate herself into Amelia's family and gets to know all their friends. Becky is a woman who wishes to get ahead in life and will not let anything stand in her way. This screen version adds a modern twist to the tale with Sharp using older gentleman to increase her status in society, eventually having everything come crashing down upon her. She manages to ruin her own life, becoming sick, broke, and lonely, and also ruins the lives of many other "loved ones".

SUMMARY: The actual title on the DVD is "Indecent," and additionally subtitled "The Private Life of Becky Sharp." Myrna Loy plays Becky Sharp and seems gargantuanly tall , yet still stunning as she uses all her womanly wiles to get her what she wants in life. Spending her time playing to any rich man who fancies her, usually the old ugly ones. This MillCreek version has abysmal sound quality and the editing is atrocious. Yet, that may be part of it's "charm". I spent some time questioning what was really going on as her "indiscretions" are so implied as to not even be happening. The viewer must fill in the blanks, big time. The ending shows her decline into rags again, yet there's no empathy or emotions on our part for her as the whole movie was rather shallow, simple and dull. This movie was remade in 1935 as Becky Sharp staring Miriam Hopkins and then again in 2004 with Reese Witherspoon starring as Becky.

Family Collection: Disc 53 - Side B

Creature Double (triple) Feature: Watch Becky Sharp after this film, and then you can watch Reese Witherspoon in the 2004 remake. That's alot of Becky Sharp!

The Crooked Circle ~ 1932 -BW

QUICKIE: "Olive Oyl" is stuck in a Haunted House with murderers!

PLOT: The Sphinx Club is a group of amateur detectives who are the bitter rivals of The Crooked Circle, a collection of hooded villains. After The Sphinx Club aids the authorities in catching and imprisoning a member of The Crooked Circle, the evil gang swears revenge by targeting Colonel Walters, a well-known member of The Sphinx Club. Will the Sphinx Club be able to protect Colonel Walters or will The Crooked Circle succeed in their quest to kill him?

SUMMARY: If you've never experienced the thing that is Zasu Pitts, here is a Zasu zinger! In 1933 Mae Questel caricatured Pitt's voice for the character Olive Oyl for the Fleischer Studios animated cartoon version of the comic strip Popeye. Zasu (pronounced Zay-Sue) does her best "Olive Oyl" impersonation walking around whining and ringing her hands or attaching herself to the policeman's laynard. I kept waiting for her to say "ohhh myyyy", but instead it's "something always happens to somebody."

The first time I saw this film I loved Zasu and found her character really funny. I've since seen her in other films where she does this same whining, uptight, fragile-flower routine. So, upon watching this film again I started getting a little annoyed with the constant whining and near hysteria over a piece of dust. But, there are some funny comedy bits here, and it's also a mystery movie as well. It's an interesting mix of mystery and comedy that actually works. The mystery plot holds together well through the camp of Zasu Pitts and James Gleason who plays Arthur Crimmer the policeman. The haunted House is fun with many a secret passage and even a skeleton in the attic!

Horror Collection: Disc 45 - Side A

Royal Wedding ~ 1951 -colour

QUICKIE: Oh what a feeling, dancing on the ceiling!

PLOT: Tom Bowen (Fred Astaire) and Ellen Bowen (Jane Powell) are singing and dancing siblings whose agent Irving Klinger (Keenan Wynn) sends them to do their musical act in Great Britain. Keenan Wynn plays also Irving's British twin brother Edgar. Ellen falls in love with a man she meets during the ship trip. This man is called Lord John Brindale (Peter Lawford). Tom finds his sweetheart from Britain. That lucky gal is Anne Ashmond (Sarah Churchill) who is dancing in Tom's musical. The plot is simple: boy meets girl, they fall in love and must choose between their careers or love.

SUMMARY: This is a spectacular Fred Astaire film where he dances on the ceiling of his room, waltzes with a coat rack, and does elegant duet dances with the gals. The comedy is light, the plot is rather simple, the tunes unmemorable, the dancing is out of this world. If you like song and dance movies this Academy Award nominated movie should be in the top 10 list for best one ever, if only for the rotating room & coat rack dance scenes. PDMR blog rule: "movies end with everybody getting married" is royaly played out here. (teehee)

Family Collection: Disc 46 - Side A

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Manfish ~ 1956 -BW

QUICKIE: We gots a map, so let's search for sunken treasure maties!

Captain Brannigan (John Bromfield) and niave first mate Swede (Lon Chaney Jr.) run the Manfish, a boat in the Caribbean. During their turtle hunting expedition, the men locate a skeleton who holds a treasure map and gold ring. The Captain recognizes the ring as a twin to one the Professor (Victor Jory) wears, who just happens to have the other half of the treasure map. The Professor also has Alita (Tessa Prendergast), a greedy beautiful native girl that he mistreats and Captain Brannigan takes a liking to. The foursome go find the treasure and tensions, hatred and greed runs high and it all ends up in murder.

SUMMARY: Manfish is an adventure film, released by United Artists in 1956. Filmed in Jamaica, it was released in Great Britain as "Calypso". It was based on the stories "The Gold-Bug" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe. The film was released into the public domain after the breakup of United Artists in 1992.

This is a good, engrossing film from start to finish. Two very independent sailors get brought together by their greed of finding the hidden treasure. Each has half the map. The Professor has the brains to decipher the map while the Captain Brannigan has the boat to get the men there. Lon Chaney plays a very different, non-monster role as the sweet and stupid first mate and previous owner of the Manfish (the boat). There's lots of hatred floating around and it's just a matter of time until there's murder. The story is good, the scenery is gorgeous, and the ending of this film is really good. There are slower, more drawn out moments of reality towards the end which I thought we don't usually see that much of in most movies. Like his panic over hiding the body contrasted with the quiet moments of waiting with the bell clanging, just waiting hysterically.
Horror Collection: Disc 44 - Side A

Mr. Imperium ~ 1951 -BW

QUICKIE: It's like a musical Cinderella with a sad ending.

PLOT: This romantic tale centers on a playboy crown prince (Ezio Pinza) who meets up with a nightclub singer (Lana Turner) while they are both vacationing in Italy. Falling in love, the two embark upon a clandestine romance that they are eventually forced to end due to interference from both of their professions. 12 years later, the two meet up again and realize they still love each other, but now she has become a Hollywood star and he has become King of his country.

SUMMARY: Alternate Title of: You Belong to My Heart. Ezio Pinza is a bass opera singer and makes his film debut in this musical where he sings quite a few songs as well. IMDB states that "this movie turned out to be such a stinker that MGM waited to release it until after Pinza's second film, "Strictly Dishonorable"".

I wouldn't call it a stinker, but it isn't a heavily engrossing film either. It's a sweet musical story of love and how life can complicate things. The humour is light, the songs are nicely done. Lana Turner's song of "My Man and My Mule" is pretty funny. Other than that bit of humour, this is a classy film, meaning there's no down and dirty complicated anything... other than the relationship itself being complicated. The costumes and sets are really superb as well. This is such a simple film that I think it's fine for children to watch it. Although the ending is sad because life forces them to part ways again. Cedric Hardwicke showed everybody up with his sublime evil as the Prime Minister intent on keeping the Prince on track.

The ending is noticeably badly edited as it's said briefly that there's a bomb threat against the King if he returns to the throne, and this is why he chooses to go, to "spare" his son's life. So, I can only conclude that there was a scene edited out in reference to the bomb threat. Too bad that was edited out as it would have added much more emotional depth to the lovers parting again.

As of this posting, I can't find the movie online yet, but try a google search yourself. It's a sweet, simple movie for those times when you want something nice and not too deep.

Mr. Robinson Crusoe ~ 1932 -BW

QUICKIE: A man and his dog go play Gilligan's Island.

PLOT: While cruising the South Seas with friends aboard a sailing yacht, it is wagered that Steve (Douglas Fairbanks) can not survive on a desert isle without the accouterments of civilization. After accepting the wager, Steve and his dog swim ashore and begin to recreate their Park Avenue world by way of various Rube Goldberg type contraptions constructed from local materials. Meanwhile, on a nearby island, a young maiden (Maria Alba) flees her arranged wedding. She canoes to Steve's island for safety, whereupon she is dubbed "Saturday". Soon they are attacked by vengeful tribesmen from the neighboring island. Will Steve and Saturday survive?

SUMMARY: Douglas Fairbanks is crazy fun in this silly film. Playing castaway in a manner to put Gilligan and Tom Hanks to absolute shame, Steve bets he can re-create his Park Avenue lifestyle on the island using only his wits. True to his word, within 2 months time he has created every manner of contraption to recreate his life of ease. He captures animals and humans to create servants. He builds a radio and a raised hut that is quite impressive. It's a rather unrealistic story as in real life one would get hurt, and the weather would act up alot. Steve never faces a bad wind. He also gets a monkey to milk a goat and his dog to keep another goat walking on a treadmill. In real life it would take 2 months just to train the animals. But no matter, we watch to be amused by all the ingenious contraptions made from palm leaves and coconuts. Steve's love of life is infectious and bordering on mania, but it gets him through. There's a great climax where his friends return to get him while 2 tribes of headhunters come after Steve as well.

Mystery Collection: Disc 51 - Side - A

Watch for free here:


The Great Gabbo ~1929 -BW

QUICKIE: That's no dummy, that's my better half!

PLOT: Eric Von Stroheim plays The Great Gabbo, a ventriloquist whose slide into madness is complicated due to the transfer of his darker urges towards the personality of his dummy, Otto. Gabbo's lovely assistant Mary (Betty Compson) is in love with him, but she leaves him due to the abusive behavior that Gabbo exhibits towards her. Without Mary's calming influence, Gabbo is driven over the edge and takes out his anger upon Otto.

SUMMARY: As I was watching this film I kept thinking I had seen it before, and I kind of had when I saw The Great Flamarion . Both films feature Erich von Stroheim as an egomaniacal stage performer who loves his female assistant. The woman breaks up the act, leaves him, he goes mad, and they are later reunited only for her to reject him flat out. Each film presents the story in it's own unique and different way, although the story line is so similar.

In this film Erich's character Gabbo is much more of an ego maniac and more crazy evil as well. This film was more disturbing, perhaps because of the dummy? I half expected it to turn into a Chucky film where the dummy turns and talks to Mary. Maybe it's just that dummies, dolls, puppets and such freak me out, they're so unnatural, yet lifelike. The majority of the scenes with the dummy have Gabbo gorging himself on gourmet food and drink while Otto the dummy sings a silly song across the table. (He uses a hand air bulb & long cord to make Otto move his mouth.)

The dance sequences were very entertaining, if not just for the silly costumes and sets alone. After all, it's not every day we get to see a spider and fly portrayed in sequened gowns. I also liked how the couple carried on a conversation during their performance, like we were getting a secret side of the nightly performances. It's not really a musical type of film, this movie has more meat to it than most musicals do.

The story itself was good and it's an entertaining movie. I did keep feeling that something really bad was just about to happen, and yet it never did, so I felt a bit unsatisfied at the end. Even Gabbo's madness is portrayed in such a mild manner that I didn't quite get that he had totally flipped his lid. Perhaps that is a strong point of this film, and most classic films, is that they don't beat you over the head with their overly graphic, in your face bluntness.

Family Collection: Disc 42 - side A