#28 Duck Soup

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: The Marx Brothers

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 8min

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There’s very little we can say about this comedy classic that hasn’t already been said. The Marx Brothers are back with more zany antics, political intrigue and comedy gold, and we loved it.

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“Zeppo, show some skin, or you won’t be in this one!”

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The country of Freedonia is in dire financial trouble and its main backer, Mrs. Teasdale, will only help if the government appoints Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) their new leader. The ambassador of neighbouring Sylvania is trying to take over Freedonia, and sends in spies Chicolini and Pinky (Chico and Harpo, respectively) to get information on Firefly.

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“Sir, we couldn’t find a lot of dirt on him on account of our incompetence, but his dancing is surely criminal. Can you work with that?”

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After a series of insults between Firefly and ambassador Trentino, the two countries declare war and Freedonia gears up with a musical number.

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You can’t have a good war unless it kicks off with a musical number

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The film is hilarious throughout, but worthy of special mention are a few scenes. Most notable is the mirror bit where Harpo, dressed as Groucho, has to mirror his movements after shattering the actual mirror. It’s wonderfully funny and very impressive. Other great scenes include the rallying of the troops during the battle, where stock footage is used to show fire engines and elephants, among others, coming to their aid, and the doghouse tattoo including a live, barking dog.

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“Damn! I’m even more handsome than I thought!”

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What we learned: Incorporate more musical numbers into our daily lives.

Next time: Footlight Parade (1933)

#27 42nd Street

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: Warner Baxter, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler, Bebe Daniels, George Brent

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 29min

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Second musical on the list, and we have a new favourite choreographer. Luckily for us, there are several Busby Berkeley films on the list so we have a lot to look forward to.

The plot isn’t the most inventive, but it works. We follow several people involved in the production of a stage musical as they battle financial problems, heart conditions, the problems faced by chorus girls (which are many), romantic complications and gangster thugs.

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All of which can be spotted in this picture if you look closely

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Inexperienced chorus girl Peggy (Keeler) is helped by two lovely and catty colleagues to get her first job in new musical Pretty Lady. However, the star’s dalliance with a former vaudeville co-star (Dot and Pat – Daniels and Brent, respectively) threatens the financial situation of the show as the main backer is basically Dot’s sugar-daddy.

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“We are totally in the same league – money has nothing to do with it!”

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The night before the opening, Dot breaks her ankle and Peggy has to step in as the leading lady. The last 30 minutes or so of the film are dedicated to Berkeley’s spectacular stagings of the numbers “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “I’m Young and Healthy” and “42nd Street,” all of which are completely incredible to watch.

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The budget was blown on dancers, choreography and film, so there was nothing left for costumes. Instead, they recycled the fur from old Santa Claus suits to cover up the crucial bits and called it a day.

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As for the plot of Pretty Lady, the musical-within-the-film, we have no idea. Suffice to say, it involves a Niagara Falls honeymoon, a girl juggling several guys, lots and lots of legs, and Gandhi. Your guess is as good as ours.

We loved this one. The outfits! The comebacks! The cattiness! The tremendous amount of legs! The three main chorus girls! The choreography! The camera work! We cannot use enough exclamation points to describe our love.

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We will attempt to embody the sass of Una Merkel and Ginger Rogers from here on out!

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What we learned: we are officially in love with Busby Berkeley. How can we not have known about this man before?

Next time: Duck Soup (1933)

#26 The Old Dark House

Watched: August 27 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Lilian Bond, Ernest Thesiger

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 12min

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Sometimes titles are just a perfect summary of the plot. A bickering couple in a car are caught in a storm and soon the road is undrivable. Luckily(?) for them and their hoot-and-a-half passenger (Douglas, who’s amazingly sarcastic and funny) they spot an old (dark) house and make their way there to take shelter from the storm. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

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Seems a perfectly charming and not at all sinister place to spend the night.

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Upon knocking on the door, they are greeted by The Karloff who mumbles something incoherent to which Douglas comments “Even Welsh ought not sound like that!” Karloff turns out to be the dumb servant to house owners Rebecca and Horace Femm (Thesiger, who looks strangely like Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera), an old creepy sister and brother duo who are less than thrilled about their unexpected visitors. It’s almost as if they’re hiding something in the house they do not want outsiders to see… Still, they reluctantly invite the guests to stay the night and offer them dinner.

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Not even a creepy manservant and a flimsy dress can relieve the tension

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Soon, another couple join them as they too are caught in the storm. This does very little to raise the spirit of Ms. Rebecca Femm (no one can have beds!) but romance blossoms and drinks are had.

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The hosts are thrilled about the whole affair!

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This film was awesome! It’s one of the ones we’ve heard of several times but have never actually seen before. While we expected suspense and horror, we were not at all prepared for how hilarious this film truly is. The dialogue, the gags and the characters, not to mention the use of wonky mirrors and shadows to create the eerie atmosphere, all make this another new favourite to play at parties (which might explain why no one comes to our parties). We’ll definitely watch it again at some point.

What we learned: This is a local house for local people – there’s nothing for us here!

Next time: 42nd Street (1933)

#25 The Mummy

Watched: August 23 2016

Director: Karl Freund

Starring: Boris Karloff, Zita Johann, David Manners

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 10min

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One of our favourite horror classics, The Mummy is another great example of why Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi (sadly not appearing in this movie) were the go-to actors for horror films in the 1930s. In 1921 the mummy of Imhotep (Karloff) is discovered in Egypt along with the Scroll of Thoth; an incantation to raise the dead. Naturally, the junior expedition member decides it’s a good idea to follow these instructions and the mummy awakens.

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To paraphrase Giles: don’t speak ancient Egyptian in front of the mummy!

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Flash forward ten years and Imhotep, looking slightly more human, goes by the name of Ardath Bey and has a cunning plan. He directs a new expedition towards the grave of his long lost love Ankh-es-en-amon (long lost because she’s been dead for 3700 years) in order to be reunited with her. However, since her body has not been preserved in the same way as his, her soul must possess another’s body – that of half-Egyptian Helen Grosvenor (Johann).

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“Do you like my new hat? Don’t you find it…feztive?” “Yes, dear, this is exactly the kind of humour I have missed for 3700 years. Now, who designed this underboob extravaganza?”

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Enter our hero! No, not Brendan Fraser, David Manners. He has fallen in love with Helen and teams up with the very jumping-to-conclusiony Dr Muller (seriously – whose first idea is it that perhaps the native guy is a mummy come back to life? I mean, even when it’s a correct guess, it’s not what most people would first assume) to save her. In the end though, Helen is perfectly capable of saving herself (with some help from an ancient Egyptian deity, that is).

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“Ovaries before brovaries, sister!”

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Another must-watch (so far, most of them are) that anyone can enjoy. Even if horror isn’t your thing, there are some great performances in this one, most notably Karloff himself. The scene when the mummy awakens is worth the ticket price alone – it’s so gradual that it’s hard to tell if it’s really happening at all.

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We swear this is a gif. Just wait for it.

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There’s romance, beautiful costumes, a great flashback scene, ancient Egyptian deities and Boris Karloff fantastically lit. Enjoy!

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“Enjoy, or I’ll steal your soul”

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What we learned: We cannot fail to make a conquest if we faint in a man’s arm in the moonlight.

Next time: The Old Dark House (1932)

#24 Scarface

Watched: August 23 2016

Director: Howard Hawks

Starring: Paul Muni, Ann Dvorak, Karen Morley, Boris Karloff

Year: 1932

Runtime: 1h 30min

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“This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: “What are you going to do about it?”. The government is your government. What are YOU going to do about it?” So opens the most violent PSA of the ’30s, Scarface.

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“I’m gonna f**k some s**t up, is what I’m gonna do!”

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The man f’ing things up is Tony Camonte (Muni), ambitious strong-arm for the mafia and part-time overprotective brother. After being interrogated for the murder of his old boss, he teams up with new boss Johnny Lovo (Osgood Perkins) to run the Chicago underworld. Tony is simultaneously very smart and very stupid, and his ruthlessness, charm and excellent beer ordering system help him climb to the top, gradually taking over the territory as well as the boss’ girl.

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To be fair, she comes with the territory

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Gang war ensues and Tony spirals and grows gradually more insane, more ambitious and more ruthless. Despite everything though, he is very charismatic and strangely likeable at times, up until the point he completely ruins his sister’s life which effectively ends his operation.

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“How dare you fall for men similar to the only male influence in your life!”

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Despite the violence, there’s a lot of comedy in Scarface as well, especially in the form of Tony’s “seckertary” Angelo. There’s great use of shadows and we loved the “shooting the days away”-bit. We also liked the women in this; Poppy and Cesca were great, and Tony’s mother was no fool, unlike some of the other mafia mums we’ve seen.

Another one we’ll recommend if you like action, great clothes, cool characters and the absence of father figures (seriously – none of these gangster types in any of these movies have (good) fathers). The ending made us sad, though not so much for Tony as the ones around him. We’re now looking forward to rewatching the 1983 film of the same name!

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“I’m shooting in the rain, just shooting in the rain!”

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What we learned: Killers sure liked to whistle back in the day. Also, never get attached to the comic relief.

Next time: The Mummy (1932)