The Watch List for 8/22/12
PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) --- A spot-on classic. Never gets stale. The Movies by Griffith and Mayer had a story in pictures of this (above) that made me dream through sixth grade of one day seeing it. Public Enemy was probably the gangster show people remembered longest, Scarface and Little Caesar runners-up. Was it the grapefruit? Hoodlums hopped up on Cagney and kin might have gone straight from Bijous to rob a filling station. Were censors right to say these pics were a bad influence? Always startled by how JC falls forward on his face at the end. Was that him or a dummy? Sure looks real. AMC recently ran PE in High Definition ... true HD, not a phony uptick like so-called TCM-HD. It looked great. Didn't mind the commercials and pop-ups so much --- this was Public Enemy in HD, after all. If proof is needed that Bill Wellman was a titan director, show this. Not a wasted frame. As economical a story-telling as there is in movies. How did Jim survive machine-gun bullets they fired into walls he stood behind? Nothing faked then. Oh, and AMC's was the ultra-precode version as opposed to 1954's reissue chop-up.
BODY AND SOUL (1947) --- Pro boxing is gang-dominated and stinks of corrupt $! Like, wow, I never knew that. Writer Polonsky wields narrative hammers as if no one did (many times) before. John Garfield is trailed by a "conscience" character (and writer stand-in) who dogs him like Jiminy Cricket, only minus the laughs. Guy finally gets his brains beat out, then walks in front of a cab. Wish it had been reels sooner.
CAROLINA BLUES (1944) --- Kay Kyser and the Gang head down-home to
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) --- Overwritten about by multitudes, so I'll add little, except --- it's purely great. Never such a sock as now in HD and SuperScope. I drove Kevin to and from
NO HOLDS BARRED (1952) --- Why did it take so long for me to realize what a comic genius Huntz Hall is? I'm chagrined for not watching these when Channel 8 ran them nearly every day. This is one of the best, so experts say. Huntz becomes a wrestle-champ. There's a ritzy party where he masquerades as an English butler and is an absolute panic. Did Huntz ad-lib this brilliant stuff? Give me him over Noel Coward any day. They do one exterior to startling effect, as BB comedies tend to stay indoors. I noticed members other than Gorcey and Hall hardly ever say anything. Were they muzzled by Leo/Huntz? Please TCM, keep showing these, or better yet, Warners, get out DVD box sets.
THE FAMOUS FERGUSON CASE (1932) --- Craven newshounds descend on a small berg when murder happens, Joan Blondell a chief "sob sister" who gets ethical and tears into rotten apple colleagues. Her big speech is a wow --- reminded me of Stanwyck/Davis blow-ups --- was Blondell inspired by these? Enough precode bon-mots to make me wish I'd brought a tape recorder. The rest of us spend lives wishing to be half so clever as these birds. I'd never seen
THE NAUGHTY FLIRT (1931) --- Alice White was a jazz baby that came along after audiences tired of jazz babies. Warners used, then discarded, her in early talkies. The Naughty Flirt is one, doesn't amount to much, but runs brief (56 minutes), a mercy. Scenes with White and supporting Myrna Loy make clear which will achieve lasting stardom. You wait for musical numbers that never come. Were they shot, then removed? Another where a simple misunderstanding eats up reels --- you wish someone would just speak up. Less pre-code than pre-good.
HUNS AND HYPHENS (1918) --- Larry Semon was a silent clown who fell in goo a lot. He came to movies from accomplished (print) cartooning and was another near-miss to slapstick greatness. LS should be remembered better, due to two-reeling that still pack wallops, that word not used inadvisedly, as Larry takes cringe-worthy punishment. Stunts look unreal for amazing stuff human bodies perform, but it's all Larry and superhuman company. Stan Laurel and Babe Hardy individually pulled time on the Semon squad. Huns and Hyphens was among Stan's first. He's in it little, but to good effect. Larry Semon went early (1928) to TB or pneumonia, take your reference pick. His was an oddball face and figure. One could have met Larry in church and pegged him for a silent comic. Huns and Hyphens might have been subtitled Flips and Falls, as both are there in abundance. Part of the excellent Kino Stan Laurel DVD set (Volume Two).