Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coming to DVD: Universal Pre-Code Hollywood Collection

This is a good year for fans of Hollywood's Pre-Code era: just a couple of weeks after the March 24th release of Warners' Forbidden Hollywood, Vol. 3, Universal is releasing a Pre-Code Collection on April 7th.

DVD Times has the details. The set is comprised of six films: MERRILY WE GO TO HELL (Fredric March and Sylvia Sidney), HOT SATURDAY (Cary Grant, Randolph Scott, and Nancy Carroll), TORCH SINGER (Claudette Colbert), SEARCH FOR BEAUTY (Ida Lupino and Buster Crabbe), THE CHEAT (Tallulah Bankhead) and MURDER AT THE VANITIES.

The only extra is a featurette on the pre-Code era. While it would have been nice to have more extensive extras, this release is great news for those who love classic films.

Update: I've now posted a review of TORCH SINGER (1933).


Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

Laura, I remember hearing somewhere that the movie code actually improved films as producers/directors had to be more creative in showing things like attraction between a couple, for example, without showing the couple making out heavily for ten minutes. :) What do you think about this idea? And do you think movies today could use a code? :)

4:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Barb,

I do agree with that idea; I wrote in a post a long while back that "While some film historians mourn the imposition of the Code, I believe the Code was in most cases a very positive force in American cinema in the following decades." I was sure wishing we had a Code at some moments when I watched a batch of "new" movies over the last weekend! I don't think it even crosses filmmakers' minds these days that things like frequent cussing are incredibly non-creative. Don't the characters have anything more interesting to say?

That said, I've become quite a fan of the pre-Code movies which are a fascinating little slice of movie history. Anything said or shown is still generally very mild by today's terms -- but there are moments which are surprising simply because we're so used to seeing films from the Production Code era, especially as until recent years many pre-Code films have not been as accessible as Code era films.

One thing that did seem to change with the imposition of the Code was women's roles in movies; pre-Code films tended to focus heavily on strong female characters. Still, I think the positives of the Code, such as you cite, were worth the drawbacks. (This is not a popular point of view in some film fan circles...)

I also like the pre-Codes because they're often short and very different in tone from later movies -- some of them almost seem to be the movie equivalent of a good romance novel. And some of the realism in pre-Code movies -- such as married couples sharing a bed (seeing married couples in twin beds for decades was an aspect of the Code I tend to find regrettable) -- I find refreshing. All in all, I think it's great we have this small time frame of pre-Code movies to explore, but I'm glad for the most part that the Code went into effect in July 1934. Without it I don't believe we would have had the decades of quality movies which could be enjoyed by the entire family.

Well, that was long-winded, but I find it an interesting subject! :)
Thanks for your thoughts.

Best wishes,

5:18 PM  
Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

I agree the twin beds were a bit much! I also wonder why strong women can't also be decent, moral women.

There ought to be a happy medium between the Code, and lots of cussing, sexual innuendo (or just plain sex!) and teenage-boy-level humor.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I agree with your sentiments, Barb!

Best wishes,

3:29 PM  

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