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Monday, September 24, 2018

An Hour Of Universal Night Life


Night World (1932) Needs To Come Back Into The Light

Sweeping start with a three minute Symphony Of The City as scored by Alfred Newman to quick pace of Gotham, then we're in for less than an hour stay at a cabaret where fates are decided among Universal's notion of an all-star cast. Night World preceded Grand Hotel, so jumped guns on that celebrated ensemble, only with action and dance compressed to just over half the length of Metro's special. Night World swung for the fence and played singly, or at least at top of bills. It went unseen for decades after 1932 until a print showed up from Europe in the early 70's and got revival play. Television didn't bite until the old AMC ran Night World and lit up collector VCR's, their old tapes satisfying need for the title ever since. Thirty years of dubs and re-dubs do work their havoc, but where or how else to see Night World? Fact of it being zippy precode with meaningful names at a start of long careers should commend Night World to at least a streaming berth, but Universal won't be bothered, so onward we subsist on plain-wrap discs ten or so generations from what AMC broadcast a generation ago.




Chorine-in-chief, and object of love rivalry between Lew Ayres and George Raft, is Mae Clarke in lively depart from stoic victim she'd been in Frankenstein. Speaking to that comparison is Night World's primary asset Boris Karloff as tough egg who runs the hot-spot where dramas happen. Uni clearly didn't want him for monsters only, at least early on, Karloff proposed here as character asset if not the lead. He's genial and menacing by turns,  "Hello, big shot!" a greeting to all and sundry. Catching his faithless wife in embrace of Russell Hopton, BK advances toward the camera like the man-made monster he'd recently immortalized. There were worse ideas than having Karloff play gangsters --- he'd do so repeatedly both before and after Frankenstein. I wonder what sort of career he might have had if not for the creepers. Kick comes of seeing Karloff interact with Mae Clarke so soon after threat he posed to her as F's creation. What joy fans would have got from Night World if only late shows had run it, or home video (legitimately) offered it. Columbia/Sony at least dealt us right by packaging their own Karloff: Criminal Kind DVD set, which included Behind The Mask, The Guilty Generation, and The Criminal Code.




Trade ads went customary hyperbole one better: "An appalling torrent of conflicting human emotions," with a capper of "God! What a mess it made of life." Copywriters must have been overtired or under influence. Or maybe they guessed how seldom Universal had something so bracing to sell. First-billed Lew Ayres enters the narrative at tail end of what's said to be a three day drunk, consequence of his mother having killed his unfaithful father. It's made clear that this club does not serve alcoholic beverage, and we see no action at a bar, or drinks dispensed. Was Universal observing Prohibition protocol at eve of the law's abolishment? And yet Karloff is threatened by "suppliers" aggrieved when he tries switching to another source, but what exactly have they been supplying? Crime is punished, and then some. Five bodies litter the floor for a finish, including some of principal characters. Night World might be a downer but for frisky dialogue throughout, and there are numbers staged by Busby Berkeley, a couple of films away from 42nd Street. Night World had benefit also of small part George Raft achieving prominence between production and release, his name a plus for theatres getting the film toward the end of distribution routes. For such a brief programmer (58 minutes), Night World needed all that live acts or a second feature could supply, such as here at the RKO Mainstreet, where a comedy, newsreel, and a full dose of vaudeville accompany the feature.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dave K said...

I dare any old movie geek to watch the first 5 minutes of this one and not stay until the end! Karloff as Happy MacDonald (cheerily!): "All right, big shot. Turn on the heat!" Just-watchable posts of NIGHT WORLD are always popping up on Youtube. Here's one:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0TkUSAM-MI

12:04 PM  
Blogger Barry Rivadue said...

Universal/Criterion should have added this as a bonus to their KING OF JAZZ Bluray, since, as it's generally known by us fans, the chorus girls in NIGHT WORLD borrow the same costumes from KING OF JAZZ's "Happy Feet" number.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Nick Patterson said...

I believe I saw this a few years ago on youtube. Not sure if you can still catch it...

12:00 AM  

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