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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Watch List For 12/26/12

THE NARROW CORNER (1932) --- A Warner precode that really stays with you. Maybe it's the cast, good character folk all, or a Somerset Maugham story underlying. Either way, The Narrow Corner covers much ground (and sea) to haul fugitive from murder Doug Fairbanks Jr. into island port and date with destiny. Alfred E. Green directs after rushed but rewarding fashion. WB's continual push upon then-talent surely jangled nerves and put many at verge of breakdown. The Narrow Corner doesn't play like a two-weeks scheduled shoot, but I'd guess that's what it was (at $272K neg cost). Precode audiences were used to taking content in the gut. Tactless at the least Dr. Dudley Digges identifies cancer to a stricken patient as "the best rat poison there is." Such tart dialogue is here by dollops. It must have come second (no, first) nature among writers to think clever. Imagine what lunching with them would have been like. Maugham was adapted lots for the screen, and The Narrow Corner has to be one of the better go's at his stuff.

DANGEROUS MISSION (1954) --- We don't know till way in that Vic Mature is a D.A.'s assistant headed for Glacier Park to rescue murder witness Piper Laurie, who's fled there with mob cannon Vincent Price in pursuit. An RKO meller in color and originally 3D that's a photo-finish on His Kind Of Woman, Second Chance, and others that bore track of Howard Hughes sensibility (honestly, did any other studio head lay such personal stamp on output?). Nice glory of nature stuff captured at the park, pasted to process and match-up on stages back home. Vincent Price was a favorite of Hughes' after comic contribution to His Kind Of Woman. I'd venture he made more money off RKO than any-else work. Mature's a maestro at melodrama for never taking same seriously. Here he clamors up a power pole during a nighttime avalanche to tie down high tension wires as if putting out the cat. Was Vic our first he-man ironist? Piper Laurie might have thought so. She'd later write of rapturous nights the two spent during shoot of Dangerous Mission. Please Warner Archive, make sure and release this in 1.85 when the time comes. I cropped TCM's broadcast to that ratio for result that was dead on.

HEY, POP! (1932) --- Roscoe Arbuckle seems not to have aged a day from his 1921-22 ordeal and outcast status to comeback in this and five other Vitaphone shorts a public was more than ready to embrace. His future was looming bright when Fatty died, most in by-then agreement that he'd got a raw deal. Would there have been character work in features ahead? Undoubtedly yes, Arbuckle's capability for such being proved so far back as The Round-Up in 1920. Now there was addition of his voice, pleasant as fans could hope for, and a kindliness to suggest he'd long forgiven ones who'd tried at destroying him. Hey, Pop! introduces Roscoe behind credits, an index finger to mouth suggesting he'd gathered no guile during lost years. It was as though he'd never been away. Old routines are welcomed back: Fatty cleaning a window that isn't there, kitchen skills to still amaze ... real care is applied to effect the comeback. How much Arbuckle-input figured in? He must have been key to revival of so much that was tried-and-true. The Vita crew goes outdoors to capture Brooklyn backgrounds, a benefit for shooting in the East. Hey, Pop! is essentially Roscoe doing The Kid, a commission he'd surely have got round to a decade sooner had fate spared him. Fatty with youngsters seems a natural. They were his most loyal fans, after all.

DIVE BOMBER (1941) --- Errol Flynn practices naval medicine and develops means by which aircraft can climb higher w/o pilot blackout. Sounds like a two-reel documentary, but Warners actually got 132 Technicolor'ed minutes out of this topic, which really was a pressing concern in lead-up to war. More than a mere preparedness tract, Dive Bomber says outright that we need to arm up and be ready. Flynn's pursuit was sufficiently glamorous to surely inspire many a civilian MD toward enlistment. There hadn't been so much mainstream Hollywood footage spent in a research lab since Paul Muni's Pasteur. Remarkably enough, it stays interesting, at least for me. The cigarette ritual was likewise never so observed as here: engraved cases, lighters, picking tobacco off tips of tongues to steal scenes --- it's all here. Smoking really did ease performing ... gave actors something to do with their hands. Is it a wonder so many got hooked and later died of the habit?

Flight scenes dazzle, what with fluffy clouds as backdrop. Shooting units must have waited hours ... days ... for such ideal weather. Fred MacMurray visits from Paramount to co-star with Flynn, a first for Errol being paired with a male name of near-equal stature. Surgery is made to look a cleanest procedure known to man, then docs light up seconds out of the OR. Flynn plays it all (well) at lower key. He'd been credible before as a medico. Dive Bomber sounds like combat, but no shots are fired, except into arms of flyers being inoculated (a vital learning experience for patronage then --- who knew but what a family member might have a same experience following recruitment?). Dive Bomber was valued instruction then, fascinating history for us now. Saw on Warner DVD, but eager for it to eventually stream in HD.

SATURDAY'S HERO (1951) --- High school grid ace John Derek gulps reality of the sport when he's drafted into a football-as-big-biz college. Hero's as gritty as Hollywood dared be in days when organized sport had longest tentacles. The game as not a game must have kept many a young athlete home after graduation, as Derek does not finish with the big win and attendant laurels here, admirable for a story that might easily have gone fluff-route. Sport pics by the 50's were less rah-rah than reality, and that makes most at least watchable. John Derek was all over Columbia maps at this time, a western here, crime-thrilling there, but somehow the company lacked finesse to develop his career as Universal would on behalf of similars Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson, others. The usual fine Columbia quality from TCM broadcast.

THE DOGNAPPER (1934) --- Sometimes Disney artists pulled an action spectacle for Mickey, staging busy and lavish combat for the Mouse and Peg-Leg Pete's eternal struggle. Mickey strikes me as having gone a similar trajectory with live-action counterpart James Cagney. Rough and randy at a beginning, softened by degrees when greater stardom and civic responsibility made better citizenship necessary. As Jim would go over to sides of law in the following year's G-Men, so too would Mickey as investigator after Minnie's purloined pooch, his assist an embryonic Donald Duck not yet given to level of lost temper he'd seize for a trademark. Action here is immense and all the more impressive for being drawn. For such density per frame, I can only imagine labor that went into each, and to think Disney artists were virtual galley rowers in those underpaying Depression days as Walt struggled to keep Hyperion afloat. I don't wonder at Mickey and the Silly Symphony's dominance at cartoons. Theirs were breath takers and probably what most recalled best from a night out to movies. No surprise that Disney's got featured so heavily in theatre ads of the day.

MURDER ON APPROVAL (1956) --- Tired, but game, gumshoe Tom Conway is UK-bound to investigate counterfeited stamp rarities. Crazed, if not murderous, collectors are always a fun topic, plus there's Conway in final days of starring, poignant in itself, as he's the suave, if battered, Falcon of old, a lure for the ladies, and blessing to Brit stuntmen who double him. Murder By Approval is indeed what Maltin Reviews called "Humdrum," but snail-pacing and a faded name are frequent handmaidens at Cinema Greenbriar. A title-promised murder doesn't occur till we're half finished, and by then, tedium is locked. Tom was the nicer brother who never got breaks George did. Was Sanders a bigger talent, or just luckier? You'll court exhaustion trying to keep up with what stamps went where, better option to surrender and enjoy the slow cab that is Murder By Approval. Second in a proposed group for Conway, this was aimed to spawn a vid series as well, but the latter never took. RKO brought Murder By Approval aboard their own sinking ship for a 1956 stateside release, though I found nary a trade ad heralding it.


Blogger Reg Hartt said...

I was fortunate enough to acquire a 3D copy of DANGEROUS MISSION. Found the film way better than I had read it was. Great use of 3D, too.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Really enjoy your watch lists. I saw DANGEROUS MISSION a few months ago and found it grand fun -- sometimes it was downright silly but that was part of the charm. Your description of Mature and the wires post-avalanche made me laugh! Looking forward to catching up with some of the other films you've described.

Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

9:54 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

So many of these "Watch List" titles are likely candidates for various On-Demand release ... but wouldn't it be great if Warners could somehow give us "Dangerous Mission" in 3-D and 1.85 ... though I realize chances of this are remote.

7:01 AM  
Blogger Robolly said...

About 20 years ago, I read a book called FRAME UP! about Fatty Arbuckle; Up until then, I'd not really known much about Arbuckle, but when I would see something, it would always leave the impression that he'd been guilty; the book clears up a lot of stuff.

10:13 AM  

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