THE OFFICE SCANDAL (1931)--- Charlie McCarthy
blackmails Edgar Bergen into giving him an office job, a conceit I bought as it
always seemed the dummy had the ventriloquist over a barrel, onscreen and off. Also
noticed this time that Edgar avoids looking at Charlie when the latter speaks.
Would such direct engagement psych EB out? Itmust have been difficult for Bergen to give over his personality and comedy to this inanimate thing, which was all Charlie was,
even though it seems more appropriate that Edgar rather than the dummy be put
back in a closet or storage box at the end of their working day. There's a Dead
Of Night vibe betweenthe two I always find compelling, as if Bergen might someday rebel against McCarthy,
with the question being which will destroy the other. Was the fact Charlie
had his own bedroom in the Bergen
household mere publicity, or a real-life necessity that Edgar had to
accommodate? Did Candice fear Dad's creation walking into her room under its
own steam? Well, I'm drifting off topic here --- The Office Scandal was,
according to authority, the team's second Vitaphone subject (of twelve), and is
available among Warner Archives' Volume Two of Vita-treats. To say I recommend them
would be understating. All are fabulous.
THE CARIBBEAN MYSTERY (1945)--- Actor James
Dunn had been a meaningful name at the old Fox Film Corp during the early 30's,
diminished later by a drink habit that took him to B's, minor support by the
40's, and inroads of age. Making most of another down-billed part, this time in
prestigious A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, won JD an Academy "Best
Supporting" nod and briefly put him back front-running in a vehicle not
unlike ones of hale and hearty peak. The Caribbean Mystery was a Fox property
done twice already, their own Maltese Falcon as it were, always good for a
remake (even Mr. Moto had a crack at the yarn). Indoor swamp-set, with backlot
sweetening, The Caribbean Mystery goes through paces (reasonably fleet ones at 64
minutes) and gives transplanted Brooklyn detective Dunn room to breathe. This
was also Sheila Ryan's last under 20th pact, a fact cruelly apparent for the
abrupt and perfunctory exit given her character here. The "mystery"
isn't too mysterious, but Fox trappings are lush, and adherents of their
Chan/Moto groups will find much toenjoy. Perhaps a Dunn detecting series was
momentarily considered, but The Caribbean Mystery took a loss ($18K), thus the
one-shot. Fox's On-Demand DVD is a stunner --- one of their best jobs so far.
LADIES LOVE BRUTES (1930)--- At-peak George
Bancroft was predictably about two things: winning at work and losing at love.
He was like Lon Chaney to that extent, a last reel death or sacrifice trumping
hopes he'll get the girl. Paramount
frankly ran Bancroft's roughneckpersona into pavements he trod, the actor's
modern caveman never even slightly varied. Finally, they'd let himdrift when
GB wanted more dough --- how could he realize the well had been drained?
(finding out led to mostly support parts from there on). Ladies Love Brutes was at
least a muscular title, but patronage must have known precisely what
they'd get for it and Bancroft's name on marquees. He's a "skyscraper
king" questing for ritz-class acceptance and the icy hand of socialite
Mary Astor, a biggest mistake imagining he'll get above modest raisings.
Moviesdisdained upward mobility. Good
seldom came of it. Much of this, I'd guess, was persuading watchers to be
satisfied with their lot, whatever that amounted to. Bancroft forgets his, and
disaster results. Was this part of how Depression industry helped avert social
revolution threatening a down-and-out nation?
THE SCARLET BLADE (1964)--- Hammer pits
ruthless Roundheads against forces of Prince Charles I in costumed departure
from horrors the Brit firm was better known for. Faces here are Hammer ones we
know, so a genre switch goes down easier, and what matter if Michael Ripper
plays here a gypsy rebel rather than his customary bar man or grave despoiler?
Oliver Reed comes on like Olivier in first flowering and steals the picwholesale. In fact, US
altered the title to The Crimson Blade, for greater promise of blood perhaps?
Action isn't generous, veering loyalties and in/outing from secret passages
being much of what we get, but it's paced quick, intelligently writ, and well
played by all. These Hammer sword-and-sash flix should have gotten a better
break in the colonies, but guess we were too busy looking to a next
Frankenstein or Mummy installment from them (I know I was). This was a Region 2
DVD from the UK
of excellent quality.
MICKEY'S MAN FRIDAY (1935)--- How did story
guys and gagsters come up with a next Mickey Mouse? Maybe they'd been to see
Doug Fairbanks in Mr. Robinson Crusoe, for this cartoon is a near photo-finish
of that. Mickey had channeled Doug before, in swashbuckling mode. The Mouse
could adapt himself to action personas of live action colleagues, that
chameleon quality keeping his act fresh through a first decade and unparalleled
popularity. Disney scribes were copied as well, Mickey in costume scaring the
natives being redone by Clark Gable at a pivotal moment of 1938's Too Hot To
Handle. The Crusoe theme was easy pickings for Disney in any event, being
pre-sold in terms of audience familiarity and providing more than enough to
flesh out eight animated minutes. Disney could also put real spectacle into
cartoons, mass action with drawn extras by a score being proof that his
artists applied greater effort as matter of routine. Mickey's Man Friday came
late in the Mouse's black-and-white day, his starring shorts having reached a
zenith of expertise by a time color was initiated.