Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Tonight's Movies: The Golden Horde (1951) and Outside the Law (1920) at Cinecon

After a great opening night at Cinecon 54, I took a couple days off from the festival before returning on Sunday and Monday.

In total I saw a dozen films at Cinecon, plus three two-reeler shorts, all of them new to me except for one film. It was a diverse group of movies which included silents, comedies, dramas, adventure, and even a 1935 Spanish-language screwball comedy released by Fox.

I loved the random nature of the selections -- which became even more random when it turned out that the cans for the final film of the festival had been mislabeled. Alas, I was tired out and had headed home since I'd previously seen ON THE AVENUE (1937) -- only to later learn I'd missed a marvelous chance to see THE PIED PIPER (1942), which was unexpectedly found hiding in the ON THE AVENUE cans! Ah, well. I'll focus on all the fun things I saw rather than the one I missed!

My look at the first three films I saw at the festival on opening night is here, and I'll provide quick overviews of the additional films I saw in a series of posts, beginning with Sunday morning's THE GOLDEN HORDE (1951) and OUTSIDE THE LAW (1920).

THE GOLDEN HORDE is a colorful Universal Pictures adventure film set in the days of Genghis Khan. David Farrar (BLACK NARCISSUS) and Richard Egan play knights who come to the aid of Princess Shalimar of Samarkand (Ann Blyth) when Khan threatens her kingdom, sending his son Juchi (Henry Brandon) to conquer it.

Princess Shalimar plots to save Samarkand by pitting another enemy against Juchi, while the greatly outnumbered knights plan a battle.

In all honesty this one is kind of lame as Universal period adventures go -- it rather pales compared to titles like THE DESERT HAWK (1950) or FLAME OF ARABY (1951). Its chief deficiency is Farrar's bland (and at times boorish) leading man.

That said, I still liked it. These types of Technicolor Universal adventures are right up there with Universal Westerns for me, the equivalent of movie candy. They're simply a lot of fun to watch, even the lesser titles. Blyth is enjoyable playing a courageous ruler, and she and Peggie Castle, as her chief handmaiden, look marvelous in Technicolor!

George Sherman directed this 77-minute film, which was filmed by Russell Metty. Though IMDb says it was shot in Death Valley, parts of it look like Vasquez Rocks, further to the south.

The supporting cast included George Macready, Howard Petrie, and Marvin Miller.

I really wish Universal would put this out on DVD, as they have done with some similar titles. Take my money, please! In the meantime, those who move quickly might get a chance to see it on YouTube before it inevitably disappears.

For more on this movie, check out the post by Ann Blyth's biographer, Jacqueline Lynch, at Another Old Movie Blog.

OUTSIDE THE LAW (1920) was one of a couple reconstructed silent films seen at the festival. Thought lost for decades, a nitrate print of this Universal Pictures film was found in a barn in Minnesota, of all places! Tod Browning directed and William Fildew was the cinematographer, with Lon Chaney in a pair of supporting roles, one a good guy and one a villain.

Molly Madden (Priscilla Dean) goes bad when her father (Ralph Lewis) is framed for a crime and goes to prison. She agrees to participate in a jewel robbery, but "Dapper Bill" (Dean's real-life husband, Wheeler Oakman) eventually tells her of a plan to frame her and the two of them abscond with the jewels, leaving the rest of the robbery gang high and dry.

Molly and Bill hide out in an apartment and gradually start to reform thanks to the innocence of a little boy who lives next door, and they decide to return the jewels and go straight so they can live a happy life together and raise a family. But returning the jewels might be more difficult than they hope...

This was an interesting film, though probably my least favorite of the four silent films I saw at the festival. Dean's Molly isn't very likeable for much of the film, being a surly miss who is a rather unique leading lady; that said, Dean is quite effective playing the transition when the little boy finally cracks open Molly's heart. All in all, a worthwhile 75-minute tale, well told, and seeing a silent film with live music is always a plus! Jon Mirsalis provided the music.

Like THE GOLDEN HORDE, OUTSIDE THE LAW can presently be found on YouTube.

2021 Update: OUTSIDE THE LAW is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Kino Lorber.

After a lunch break and the amusing short THE INFERNAL TRIANGLE (1935), I saw the only film of the festival I'd seen before: INFERNAL MACHINE (1933), which I first saw at last year's Festival of Preservation at UCLA. I felt pretty much the same about this Chester Morris-Genevieve Tobin film as I did then; it's not particularly good, but it's short and it goes down pretty easily thanks to the 65-minute running time, the lead actors, and the visual appeal of the Art Deco ship.

Next up: Comments on another restored silent, SEVEN SINNERS (1925); the Spanish-language comedy INSURE YOUR WIFE! (1935); and GOLDIE (1931) starring Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow.

Previously: Cinecon Classic Film Festival Opens in Hollywood August 30th. (This post contains links to all Cinecon 54 coverage.)


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