Saturday, September 18, 2021

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...There's a brand-new trailer for Steven Spielberg's upcoming version of WEST SIDE STORY (2021).

...A new book is coming next month from film historian Joseph McBride: BILLY WILDER: DANCING ON THE EDGE will be published by Columbia University Press. McBride is the author of many fine film books, including HOW DID LUBITSCH DO IT? and JOHN FORD; the latter was cowritten with Michael Wilmington and is one of the earliest books in my film reference library.

...Speaking of books, there are currently serious supply chain issues to keep in mind for this fall, especially when it comes to Christmas shopping. Preorder upcoming books of interest to increase the chances of receiving them, as books may be unable to go back to press in time to fill Christmas orders.

...Coming soon to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics: GOLDEN EARRINGS (1947) starring Marlene Dietrich and Ray Milland, directed by Mitchell Leisen.

...Clint Eastwood might be the oldest American to direct and star in a major movie, the new CRY MACHO (2021). Kenneth Turan talked to Eastwood for the Los Angeles Times, and Justin Chang reviewed the film for the same paper.

...The Los Angeles Times also recently published an article on the development of the Academy Museum in Los Angeles, which opens September 30th. I'm scheduled to take a member tour on September 27th.

...Here's Annette Bochenek on Ann Blyth's blueberry muffins at her site Hometowns to Hollywood.

...New from The Film Detective: A LIFE AT STAKE (1955) on Blu-ray and DVD. Angela Lansbury and Keith Andes star. CineSavant Glenn Erickson reviews the release at Trailers From Hell.

...Glenn has also reviewed Indicator's Columbia Noir #4 set, being released in the UK this month. I linked to more details on this set in my September 4th link roundup.

...I enjoyed reading Colin's review of THE ACCUSED (1949) at his blog Riding the High Country. I enjoyed seeing it a few years ago at the Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood. I'm looking forward to reviewing the upcoming Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.  Loretta Young, Robert Cummings, and Wendell Corey star, directed by William Dieterle.

...SiriusXM is looking to grow its customer base beyond people who listen to satellite radio in the car. My husband, as a matter of fact, listens to their old time radio station at home several nights a week.

...Raquel Stecher was recently at the Toronto International Film Festival, where she reviewed the new documentary JULIA (2021), about Julia Child. I'm hoping to catch this one! She reviewed a number of other films including a new documentary on musician Oscar Peterson.

...Notable Passings: Actor Don Collier, who played ranch foreman Sam Butler on TV's THE HIGH CHAPARRAL (1967-71), has died at the age of 92. He was also in SEVEN WAYS FROM SUNDOWN (1960) with Audie Murphy, a trio of '60s John Wayne Westerns, and numerous TV shows...Ruth Olay, who was once secretary to director Preston Sturges and became a jazz singer, has passed away at 97.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my September 11th roundup.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Farewell to Jane Powell

Yesterday's news of the passing of MGM musical star Jane Powell at the age of 92 hit especially hard.

MGM musicals played a significant role in my falling in love with classic movies, and Jane has always been a special favorite, including starring in my favorite film, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS (1954).


I've seen the vast majority of Jane's movies, including all of her MGM musicals, most many times over. It says a lot about how I feel about Jane and her films that shortly after California locked down last March, one of the first "comfort movies" I pulled off the shelf to revisit was A DATE WITH JUDY (1948).


With Jane's passing, which follows the death of Marge Champion less than a year ago, there sadly aren't many MGM musical stars left. Still with us are Ann Blyth, Margaret O'Brien, and Leslie Caron. Janis Paige, who appeared in MGM's SILK STOCKINGS (1957), turned 99 on the day of Jane's passing, and Mitzi Gaynor, who had a brief visit at the studio for LES GIRLS (1957), turned 90 earlier this month.


I paid tribute to Jane on her birthday last year, sharing photos, stories of seeing her in person, and links to all of her films which have been reviewed here. (I need to review some films I've never written about here, including LUXURY LINER and HOLIDAY IN MEXICO.) Please visit it for more thoughts on Jane Powell.

With Howard Keel in SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS:


Here's Jane with Debbie Reynolds celebrating their joint April 1st birthdays on the set of another all-time favorite Jane Powell musical, TWO WEEKS WITH LOVE (1950):


Today Turner Classic Movies posted its TCM Remembers video in Jane's honor. Jane was a special friend of the network, present at New York ceremonies the day the network went on the air, and I'm confident they'll be celebrating her career in due course.

Obituaries may be read at The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Deadline, and the Associated Press, via the Los Angeles Times.


It's very difficult to see a beloved favorite pass from the scene, yet I'm also so very grateful for the many hours of joy Jane Powell has given to my life -- a legacy which will continue forever.



Related: Previous obituary tributes to SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS cast members: Betty Carr (November 14, 2008), Matt Mattox (February 22, 2013), Virginia Gibson (May 28, 2013), Marc Platt (April 1, 2014), Norma Doggett (May 15, 2020), Tommy Rall (October 8, 2020), and Jacques D'Amboise (May 3, 2021).


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Desire (1936) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

For pure movie joy, classic film fans need look no further than DESIRE (1936), a Paramount Pictures film recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I first saw DESIRE in 2018 but I was more than ready to revisit it just three years later; indeed, I think I enjoyed it even more the second time around. It's a wonderful example of the "Paris (and Spain!) by Paramount" magic machine firing on all cylinders.

Marlene Dietrich is at her most glamorous as Madeleine, a jewel thief who as the movie opens pulls off an elaborately planned theft of a valuable pearl necklace.

As Madeleine flees Paris and heads to Spain she chances to meet Tom (Gary Cooper), an American engineer on vacation. Madeleine and Tom are thrown together when she hides the necklace in the unsuspecting Tom's coat pocket.

Naturally, true love finds its way and Madeleine and Tom fall head over heels for one another, but there's the issue of the necklace and Madeleine's very unpleasant confederate Carlos (John Halliday) to deal with before a happily ever after is possible.

DESIRE was produced by Ernst Lubitsch, and the film's beauty and "lighter than air" tone certainly feel like a Lubitsch film. The movie was actually directed by Frank Borzage, who had his own special touch with films like HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT (1937).

Lubitsch and Borzage's work was complemented by the beautiful black and white photography of Charles Lang, not to mention Dietrich's gorgeous gowns designed by the great Travis Banton.

In short, every aspect of this film works, including the redemption and resolution of Madeleine's criminal history; the scene where Tom takes on Carlos near movie's end is deliciously brilliant. The movie is 95 minutes of sheer bliss. And to think I once avoided films starring Dietrich -- I would have missed this gem.

The supporting cast includes Alan Mowbray, Zeffie Tilbury, Akim Tamiroff, Ernest Cossart, and William Frawley.

The print, from a new 2K master, is lovely. It's not a hundred percent perfect, with an occasional line or speck, but all in all it's a great pleasure to watch. The soundtrack is crisp and easy to understand.

The extras consist of two commentary tracks, the first by Samm Deighan and the second by David Del Valle and Nathaniel Bell. The disc also includes a trailer and a big gallery of 15 trailers for other films starring Dietrich or Cooper which are available from Kino Lorber.

Recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Emperor Waltz (1948) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

THE EMPEROR WALTZ (1948), starring Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine, was released on Blu-ray last month by Kino Lorber.

Musical meets romantic comedy in this film directed by Billy Wilder, based on a screenplay he cowrote with Charles Brackett.

I first saw this film at the Vagabond Theater in the late '70s. The main impression which stuck with me over the years since then was the beautiful Technicolor; that aspect, as photographed by George Barnes, continues to be one of the film's best attributes. The sumptuous color makes watching the film a pleasure, despite the rather weak story.

The movie is frankly a fairly oddball entertainment, with much of the plot focused on the mating of a poodle who rejects an arranged "marriage" with a purebred mate in favor of having puppies with a cute little mutt.  

The dogs' story is an allegory for the relationship between their owners, Countess Johanna (Fontaine) and traveling salesman Virgil (Crosby). American Virgil has traveled to pre-WWI Austria hoping that Emperor Franz Josef (Richard Haydn) will endorse the gramophone he's selling. Although Virgil and Johanna initially clash, they're soon in love, but the emperor, who believes such a union is doomed to fail due to class differences, stands in their way.

The romances of humans and dogs are quite a long-drawn-out affair, with relatively little story to occupy the film's 106 minutes. The movie needed both a tighter running time and more music to really work as a lighthearted musical.

I previously owned the film on DVD and thought I'd probably watched it with my children at some point, but it was so unfamiliar I'm thinking perhaps I hadn't watched it since my first viewing in my teens. The longer it went on, the more puzzled I was by the storyline. Some of it is downright demented, such as a scene where a veterinarian (Sig Ruman) subjects one of the dogs to psychoanalysis. The attempt at comedy in that sequence is so broad that it misfires badly.

The overall movie is mildly entertaining thanks to the lead actors, but there's really not much to it. I suppose Wilder was trying for a lighter-than-air bauble in the style of Ernst Lubitsch, who had died a few months before the film was released, but it doesn't quite get there. It's simply a pleasant diversion, albeit beautiful to look at -- I loved Fontaine's Edith Head wardrobe -- and occasionally graced by Crosby's voice. I say occasionally as, as hinted above, the movie sadly does not make nearly as much use of his vocal talent as it could have.

Crosby and Fontaine are both fine in the lead roles, though like the film itself, there's nothing especially noteworthy about their performances.  

Haydn is unrecognizable under heavy makeup as the emperor. The supporting cast also includes Roland Culver and Lucile Watson.

All this said, I'm quite interested to listen to the commentary track by Joseph McBride. Given that McBride wrote both HOW DID LUBITSCH DO IT? and the upcoming BILLY WILDER: DANCING ON THE EDGE, there surely couldn't be a film historian more suited to the task, and I look forward to learning much more about the film thanks to his commentary in the near future.

Additional disc extras are a featurette in which Wilder discusses the film, plus a gallery of trailers for 10 additional films available from Kino Lorber.

The color fades slightly in a scene late in the film, but given how good most of the disc looks, I assume there was an unavoidable issue. For the most part this film is delightful to look at, with a strong soundtrack showing off Crosby's voice to the fullest.

Though the movie doesn't entirely work, it's agreeable company, what I think of as a pleasant film to have on the TV on a Sunday afternoon.  Fans of the filmmakers will appreciate the chance to see the movie looking its best, and the inclusion of the McBride commentary is a definite plus for those considering whether to add this film to their Blu-ray collection.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...I often lead off with news from Kino Lorber, and how could I not when the news is so good?! Kino Lorber is said to have several more film noir sets in the works, starting off with The Dark Side of Cinema V. Titles in this set are the not-on-DVD Universal Pictures films BECAUSE OF YOU (1952) with Loretta Young and Jeff Chandler; OUTSIDE THE LAW (1956) with Ray Danton; and THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957) with Tony Curtis. I enjoyed THE MIDNIGHT STORY at the 2019 Noir City Film Festival and reviewed it here; I own it on a Region 2 DVD and am so glad it's coming to the U.S. on Blu-ray. The set will be released December 14th.

...This week Kino Lorber also released the cover art for its previously announced release of JET PILOT (1957), starring John Wayne and Janet Leigh, directed by Josef von Sternberg. The Blu-ray will contain both a 1.37 print and the 1.85.1 widescreen version of the film. It will be released November 30th. Nick Pinkerton will do the commentary track.

...Coming from Kit Parker films next January: A 2-disc Blu-ray of A WALK IN THE SUN (1945) with extras including a commentary track by Alan K. Rode and a 2014 interview with the late Norman Lloyd, who appears in the film. Dana Andrews and Richard Conte top an excellent cast, directed by Lewis Milestone.  Thanks to Dawn of the Discs for the news.

...I've been wanting to own DVDs of Irene Dunne in OVER 21 (1945) and George Montgomery in INDIAN UPRISING (1952) but have put off purchasing them due to high single-disc prices. It was thus wonderful news to discover these films are each part of upcoming multi-disc DVD sets from Critics' Choice which are less than half the cost of the single-title discs! OVER 21 will be released in a set with THEODORA GOES WILD (1936); INDIAN UPRISING will be part of a set with BATTLE OF ROGUE RIVER (1954) and MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954).

...Alan Ladd fans will want another set from Critics' Choice which contains HELL BELOW ZERO (1954), THE BLACK KNIGHT (1954), and 13 WEST STREET (1962). There's also an Audie Murphy two-film set coming with THE QUICK GUN (1964) and ARIZONA RAIDERS (1965) and an Edmond O'Brien three-film set with 711 OCEAN DRIVE (1950), BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN (1950), and TWO OF A KIND (1951). All five of the Critics' Choice sets mentioned in this post will be released on October 5th.

...I was unfamiliar with Monogram's Teen Agers movie series and enjoyed Jessica's review of the first film in the series, JUNIOR PROM (1946), at her blog Comet Over Hollywood. JUNIOR PROM stars include Freddie Stewart and June Preisser, who had previously appeared in a few films at MGM.

...WANDAVISION (2021) received creative Emmys this weekend for Production Design and Costumes, making the show the first Emmy-winning Marvel series. The show received a total of 23 nominations.  (Update: The day after I wrote this the show also received an Emmy for the catchy song "Agatha All Along."  These days the Emmys are given at multiple ceremonies.)

...Disney had previously announced that the next D23 Expo in Anaheim, originally slated for this year, would be held on September 9th, 10th, and 11th, 2022. On September 9th Disney confirmed those dates by announcing that tickets will go on sale next January 20th, 2022. I covered the last D23 Expo in 2019.

...Last year I mentioned a new book, THE BEGINNING OR THE END by Greg Mitchell, on the 1947 film of the same name. Peter Bryant has briefly reviewed the book at his blog Let Yourself Go...to Old Hollywood.

...After the box office success of the "theaters only" SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS (2021), Disney has announced that the remaining films on its 2021 slate will also release only theatrically, without concurrent streaming options. This applies to Marvel's THE ETERNALS (2021) and the remake of WEST SIDE STORY (2021), along with a few other titles.

...Upcoming books from TCM and Running Press: THE ESSENTIAL DIRECTORS by Sloan De Forest will be out this November, and Scott McGee's DANGER ON THE SILVER SCREEN: 50 FILMS CELEBRATING AMERICA'S GREATEST STUNTS will be published in April 2022.

...My friends Alan K. Rode and Andy Wolverton discuss Michael Curtiz and THE PROUD REBEL (1958) in this video, which I'm looking forward to watching soon. Alan, of course, wrote the definitive biography of Curtiz. The movie stars Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland.

...Andy also just wrote a piece on QUANTEZ (1957) with Fred MacMurray and Dorothy Malone, which I reviewed this spring when it was released on Blu-ray.

...In my mailbox last week: A two-film Mary Pickford set containing THROUGH THE BACK DOOR (1921) and CINDERELLA (1914), released by Image Entertainment and The Milestone Collection in 2005.

...Also just arrived: Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, a recently released collection of shorts from Ben Model's Undercrank Productions.

...Last week I shared the good news that the Warner Archive Collection has a third Blu-ray collection of Tex Avery Screwball Classics coming in October. Jerry Beck previews details at Cartoon Research. he concludes with this note: "Will there be a volume 4? All I can say is...George [Feltenstein] is back, and we are already compiling and restoring some things you'll want to own -- and they won't be available from any other source."

...Notable Passings: Actor Michael Constantine, an Emmy winner for TV's ROOM 222 (1969-74) who was also beloved for his role in MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (2002), has passed away at the age of 94. At one point many years ago he was said to live in my area; from time to time friends saw him patronizing local businesses...Italian actor Nino Castelnuevo, seen here with Catherine Deneuve in the classic THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (1964), has died at 84...France's Jean-Paul Belmondo has passed away at 88. France honored him with a moving public tribute which may be seen on YouTube.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my September 4th roundup.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Quick Preview of TCM in October

Time for a preview of the October schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

The schedule isn't complete yet, with a number of spots yet to be filled in and other question marks, but thanks to Turner Classic Movies, the Movie Collector Ohio site, and other sources I have enough information to provide a preview at this juncture. Please keep in mind that the schedule is currently incomplete and subject to change.

The October Star of the Month will be Lucille Ball. Over 40 of Ball's films will be shown on Thursday evenings in October, running overnight and through Friday mornings.

October's Noir Alley films are especially interesting, as they're films not seen that often on TCM, plus a TCM premiere. The first four titles listed on the Noir Alley website are THE GLASS WALL (1953), BRIGHTON ROCK (1948), THE DARK PAST (1949), and THE BEAST MUST DIE (LA BESTIA DEBE MORIR) (1952).

THE BEAST MUST DIE, which is the TCM premiere, was the opening night film at the truncated 2020 Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood. It will be released by Flicker Alley in a Blu-ray/DVD combination set this November.

There's currently conflicting information regarding the Halloween weekend Noir Alley film; the Noir Alley website lists STRANGE FASCINATION (1952) but the main TCM website says it will be CAT PEOPLE (1942).

The TCM Spotlight theme in October will be "New Waves Around the World," including Italian Neo-Realism and the French New Wave.

I'm looking forward to an evening of classics from 20th Century-Fox in conjunction with Scott Eyman's new book on the studio.

As usual, there's plenty of horror on the October schedule, including a weekend of horror films on October 30th and 31st. Also featured in October: Country singers, '50s films by Vincente Minnelli and Nicholas Ray, and Fleischer animation.

Additional October themes include robots, "murder on the menu," insurance mysteries, pirates, and circus movies.

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in October include June Allyson, Val Lewton, Clint Eastwood, Miriam Hopkins, and Jack Carson.

I'll have a more complete look at TCM's October schedule posted here around the end of September.


Monday, September 06, 2021

Tonight's Movie: The Duke of West Point (1938) - A ClassicFlix Silver Series DVD Review

I've long wanted to see THE DUKE OF WEST POINT (1938), and I've caught up with it at last thanks to its release earlier this summer by ClassicFlix.

THE DUKE OF WEST POINT is #13 in the ClassicFlix Silver Series, which focuses on making available lesser-known films in affordable DVD versions. I've reviewed a number of other Silver Series releases, most recently THE CRYSTAL BALL (1943), starring Ray Milland and Paulette Goddard.

In THE DUKE OF WEST POINT Louis Hayward plays Steven Early, who was raised in England by his American father who works in the diplomatic service.

Steve travels to the U.S. to attend West Point, following family tradition. Steve's initially a bit of an outsider, with his British accent and a bit of obliviousness to the way things are done -- there's no porter to carry his extensive luggage to his room?!

However, Steve works to fit in and becomes close friends with his roommates, Jack (Richard Carlson) and Sonny (Tom Brown). Jack is a serious, dedicated student whose late father was killed in action in World War I, while Sonny is a good-natured, rather innocent athlete.

Steve blows off the West Point Honor Code to sneak out after curfew and meet lovely Ann (Joan Fontaine), but otherwise he's serious about being in the military. He's also a loyal friend, sneaking out a second time in order to send Jack's mother money when he learns Jack will have to leave West Point due to financial hardship.

On the latter occasion Steve is caught off the campus without authorization. Steve won't explain, as he doesn't want Jack to refuse the money and give up his dream of West Point; over the next year Steve pays a heavy price for his good deed.

Longtime blog reader Barry Lane has championed this film, which is a top favorite of his. I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent cast in a moving tale which is part military academy drama and part sports film, with a touch of romance on the side. All of the story threads come together for a bigger theme, about a man developing character.

Hayward has to walk a careful line with his performance, initially coming across on the arrogant side, yet managing to also remain likeable. After he does the wrong thing once, meeting Ann, his friends are prepared to believe he did it the second time, having no idea that underneath the devil-may-care attitude is a generous heart.

Steve's prepared to "take his medicine" when the other plebes ignore him, but after many months of hard work, no one but his roommates will speak to him, and he considers resigning. Hayward's pain at this juncture, isolated from the camaraderie of military service, is palpable.

The movie runs 108 minutes (the 96-minute time listed at IMDb is incorrect), and in truth I would have liked to see Steve's problems condensed into a shorter time frame, as it's tough stuff and goes on for a sizeable chunk of the film's running time. That said, the ultimate payoff is worthwhile, especially as at that point the movie has also morphed into an inspirational sports film.

The other lead actors are all pleasing, and there are brief but moving supporting performances by Jonathan Hale as Steve's father and Emma Dunn as Jack's mother. The supporting cast also includes Alan Curtis, Don "Red" Barry, Steve Pendleton, Charles D. Brown, and James Flavin.

THE DUKE OF WEST POINT was written by George Bruce and directed by Alfred E. Green. It was filmed by Robert H. Planck.

It might have been a relatively low-budget film, produced by Edward Small and released by United Artists, but there are some excellent creative touches here and there, such as ice coming straight toward the camera during the climactic hockey game. The film makes smooth use of West Point stock footage and background projections.

The ClassicFlix DVD print is quite good. There's a vertical streak present during some of the opening credits, but all in all it's very nice, with strong sound; it's certainly now the best way possible to see this film. I encourage readers to support this release not only as it's a good print of a quality, worthwhile movie, but doing so could help lead to additional interesting ClassicFlix releases in the future.

Thanks to ClassicFlix for providing a review copy of this DVD.

Tonight's Movie: Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN (1941) is the latest movie in the Thin Man franchise to be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive.

SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN is the fourth film in the series. The new Blu-ray release follows Warner Archive Blu-ray releases of the three previous films, THE THIN MAN (1934), AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936), and ANOTHER THIN MAN (1939).

In SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN, the bicoastal Nick (William Powell) and Nora (Myrna Loy) Charles are back in San Francisco.

In short order they're reunited with Lt. Abrams (Sam Levene, who was also in AFTER THE THIN MAN), when Nick happens to visit a racetrack just after a jockey is murdered.

Nick joins Lt. Abrams, newspaper reporter Dan (Barry Nelson), and Major Sculley (Henry O'Neill), who's investigating organized crime, trying to solve the mystery. There are more murders, and the ever-expanding cast of suspects includes Stella Adler, Will Wright, Loring Smith, Joseph Anthony, and Lou Lubin.

The screenplay of this 97-minute film was written by Irving Brecher and Harry Kurnitz, based on Kurnitz's story, and there are some delightful moments and snatches of dialogue. Seven years after the series began, Powell and Loy have lost none of their special magic...and speaking of magic, Nick is mysteriously able to hear Nora shaking cocktails far out of hearing range.

There are lots of fun faces in the cast, starting with Donna Reed as Dan's girlfriend; the role is purely decorative, but it's lovely seeing her in just her third movie.

Wonderful character bits are handled by marvelous actors such as Louise Beavers as the Charles's maid; Tito Vuolo as a waiter determined for everyone to order sea bass; Edgar Dearing as a motorcycle cop who is thrilled to meet Nick while giving him a speeding ticket; and Adeline De Walt Reynolds as a landlady who knows her crime slang.

Nick Jr. was played by Richard "Dickie" Hall, in his first film; this was his only appearance as Nick Jr., who would be played by Dean Stockwell in the final film in the series. Hall had 16 credits in features and shorts through 1945, bowing out of movies after HER HIGHNESS AND THE BELLBOY (1945). Born in 1934, Hall appears to still be with us if IMDb is accurate.

SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN was once again directed by W.S. Van Dyke, who directed the prior three films. Sadly, it was the last Thin Man film he made; Van Dyke would pass away in 1943, a year before the release of the next movie in the series.

The movie was filmed in black and white by William Daniels, who also filmed ANOTHER THIN MAN.

SHADOW OF THE THIN MAN is a typically great-looking Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray. Sound is also excellent. Extras consist of the trailer, the cartoon THE GOOSE GOES SOUTH (1941), and a short directed by Jules Dassin, THE TELL-TALE HEART (1941), starring Joseph Schildkraut.

There are now just two Thin Man films not yet out on Blu-ray, THE THIN MAN GOES HOME (1944) and SONG OF THE THIN MAN (1947). Hopefully those will be released in due course. I'll share any news on that front as I receive it!

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection Amazon Store or from any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Klondike Annie (1936) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The summer of Mae West continues, as I chronologically watch my way through her films thanks to Kino Lorber. I continue to find West's films a delightful first-time discovery.

KLONDIKE ANNIE (1936) was West's sixth film, and like the others seen to date, I found it quite enjoyable. An added plus is that it's directed with typical verve by Raoul Walsh. I really enjoyed the movie's rough-and-tumble vibe, with a bracing dose of the Golden Rule mixed in.

West wrote the screenplay for KLONDIKE ANNIE, in which she plays Rose, aka the Frisco Doll. As the movie begins Rose is living in San Francisco, the "kept woman" of Chan Lo (Harold Huber). Chan Lo, who owns a saloon in which tuxedoed swells mix with workaday types, is obsessed with Rose.

Rose is essentially imprisoned by the jealous Chan Lo and determines to escape by ship. At this point the plot becomes a bit murky due to censorship edits; she does indeed escape, but what's not made clear, due to cut scenes, is that before she leaves she kills Chan Lo in self-defense.

Rose heads to Alaska on a cargo ship captained by Bull Brackett (Victor McLaglen). When he receives a poster indicating Rose is wanted for murder -- the viewer's first indication of this plot point -- he essentially blackmails her into having an affair. The film manages to be fairly bawdy despite being made in the Production Code era, as it's more than clear what's going on with Rose and Bull, including a crack she makes about "The pleasure was all yours."

An earnest missionary named Annie (Helen Jerome Eddy) boards the ship in Seattle, headed for an Alaskan settlement house, but she dies en route; before she passes on, her sweetness and dedication make an impression on Rose.

When Mountie Jack Forrest (Phillip Reed) boards the ship looking for Rose, she switches clothes and identities with the dead Annie; upon arriving in Alaska, Rose determines to pay that debt back to Annie by taking her place and helping Annie's fellow missionaries make a success of their endeavors. Rose is followed by Bull, who finds unorthodox ways to help her as he tries to convince her to make their relationship permanent.

Like West's BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934), the film's strange edits aren't helpful, and it's hard not to wish for what might have been if the film were intact. I'd also have liked to better understand how a woman as strong as Rose had ended up in such an unpleasant situation as the movie began. That said, I found it quite an enjoyable 80 minutes.

West is her usual lusty, wisecracking self, tempered with gratitude toward Annie and a sneaking suspicion that some of what Annie has said about the value in being "good" is correct. I especially liked the way Rose used her understanding of human foibles to connect with the miners and townspeople, "meeting them where they're at," so to speak. 

As usual, West writes herself some wonderful lines. One of my favorites: "When caught between two evils, I generally like to take the one I've never tried."

I do admit that once again I was left baffled by West's choice of leading man -- Victor McLaglen?! I was almost expecting, especially given the way he initially pressures Rose for intimacy, that McLaglen would end up being the villain, especially with the handsome young Mountie in the picture (shades of Cary Grant's undercover man in SHE DONE HIM WRONG). I give the movie points for going in unexpected directions, though one hopes Rose won't end up just as much a prisoner of the feisty Bull as she was of Chan Lo; in Bull's favor, he's as direct with her as Rose is with him, and he tries hard to accommodate her wishes.

It almost seems obligatory these days to mention that some aspects of the film may make modern-day viewers uncomfortable, whether it's Chan Lo being played by by Harold Huber, Rose as the Frisco Doll singing lyrics like "I'm an Occidental woman in an Oriental mood for love," or the like.

However, I think anyone likely to seek out this film as entertainment is smart enough to mentally acknowledge that things have certainly changed in nearly 90 years -- indeed, I found that aspect somewhat interesting from an historical perspective -- and move on to appreciate what the film has to offer. Indeed, if I had to agree with everything I see on screen in a film I'd find myself left with a very short list of movies to watch.

The movie was filmed by George T. Clemens. The supporting cast includes Lucile Gleason, Esther Howard, Harry Beresford, Conway Tearle, and Philip Ahn.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks and sounds quite good, with a crisp soundtrack which is easy to understand.

Blu-ray disc extras consist of half a dozen trailers for Mae West films and a commentary track by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson.

Previous reviews of Mae West films released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber: NIGHT AFTER NIGHT (1932), SHE DONE HIM WRONG (1933), I'M NO ANGEL (1933), BELLE OF THE NINETIES (1934), and GOIN' TO TOWN (1935).

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

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