#33 The Invisible Man

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Una O’Connor

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 11min

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A man (Rains) is walking through a snow storm. He has 1/2 mile left to go to civilization. Cut to the Lion’s Head pub, a local pub for local people – there’s nothing for our man there! Nevertheless, the stranger enters and demands a room and privacy. Inn keeper Jenny Hall (O’Connor) is so done with his shit even before he is installed in his new rooms.

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“A ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ never hurt anyone, mister! Coming in here with your demands and your bandages and your snow and you didn’t even shut the front door. Men!”

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Meanwhile, the stranger’s girlfriend Flora (Stuart) is worried about him being missing and confides in his colleague Dr Kemp (Harrigan), who promptly hits on her. Classy.

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“Out of sight, out of mind, eh? Eh?”

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The stranger, who we learn is scientist Jack Griffin, has managed to turn himself invisible and is working on a cure whilst also spiralling into madness brought on by one of the drugs in the invisibility cocktail. When the Halls finally move to evict their disruptive tenant, he throws a fit and shows off just how much of a bastard he is, assaulting the landlady and going on a bit of a spree.

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I mean, look at that adorable face! Who would possibly hurt her?

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After wreaking havoc on the small village, Griffin goes to see Kemp to enlist his help in creating an antidote and taking over the world. Not necessarily in that order. From that moment on things take a turn for the worse, and murder and mayhem ensue.

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“We’ll begin with a reign of terror” – actual line from the movie

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Despite being a horror film, this is as funny as it is scary. There’s some very entertaining slapstick (how could there not be, with a naked, invisible man with no boundries running around?), and some amazing secondary characters. Griffin himself is a megalomaniac, but it seems he has become that way after turning invisible, possibly because he is no longer confronted with himself in the mirror, or because he can now get away with pretty much anything. Or because of the “monocane” he’s injected himself with. No matter the reason, he’s kind of hilarious when he’s not running around killing people.

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“If I don’t even have a head, how can I be responsible for my actions?”

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This film has amazing performances, great humour and very impressive special effects and we recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

What we learned: Don’t meddle with things man is not supposed to know. Don’t do drugs of which you don’t know the full effects. Una O’Connor is amazing.

Next time: Dames (1934)

#32 Sons of the Desert

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: William A. Seiter

Starring: Stanley Laurel, Oliver Hardy

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 8min

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We have to be honest here, and say that this is not our favourite from the list. The opening scene is wonderful though. The “Sons of the Desert,” a second-rate freemason society, are having a meeting discussing their upcoming annual convention. Enter Laurel and Hardy (or Moss and Roy if you will), climbing over other attendees in order to get to the vacant chairs. This is by far the funniest scene in the film.

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“I cannot believe they let us in. Makes me question whether membership is really worth it, considering the riff-raff they let join…”

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At the meeting, all members have to take an oath to attend the convention in Chicago the next week, and our two “heroes” have to figure out a way to go, given that they are both under the thumbs of their wives. Laurel, being an honest simpleton, gets permission from his wife just by asking, but Hardy tries too hard to be “the king of his own castle” and his wife forbids him to go. Thus, they must scheme and plot.

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“Only Honolulu can cure the man flu!”

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They manage to go under the pretense of traveling to Hawaii for Hardy’s health, but the ship they were supposed to come back on sinks and the wives (believing they might now be widows) go to the movies. Because that’s what you do when your spouse might be dead. There, a newsreel shows their supposedly drowned husbands at the Sons of the Desert convention and they realise they have been tricked.

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Thank God Hardy’s wife isn’t violent and unstable! Then she might have overreacted.

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There are some very funny scenes in this, some silly slapstick, a farcical plot, and a good musical number with a girl who looks like Olivia Colman and Mae Whitman had a love child (which is a good thing!) but on the whole we were slightly underwhelmed. Or possibly just whelmed. It’s OK for a hungover Sunday afternoon though.

What we learned: where the trope of nagging wives and lying husbands came from (although it’s possible that’s an even older stereotype). Also, spousal abuse is apparently hilarious if it’s from a woman to a man.

Next time: The Invisible Man (1933)

#31 King Kong

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: Merian S. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack

Starring: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 40min

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King Kong needs no introduction, but we’ll try to summarise the plot anyway. In depression era New York, evil David Attenborough Carl Denham (Armstrong), is preparing for a journey to find a mythical beast. He has the ship and the crew ready to go, but for some reason he has trouble finding an actress willing to travel on an isolated ship with several strange men to an unknown destination. Girls used to be so picky.

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“I should have seen this coming. My mother always warned me that going on trips with strangers would result in kidnappings by prehistoric beasts”

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This being the depression, there is no shortage of unemployed actresses and one night on the streets of New York is enough to find a suitable girl with nothing to lose, Ann Darrow (Wray). Once at sea, Denham reveals their destination – an uncharted island known as “Skull Island” which is rumoured to be the home of a mythical creature known only as “Kong.”

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“That’s King Kong to you, thankyouverymuch!”

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When they arrive at the island the locals are in the middle of a ceremony wherein a girl is sacrificed to be the “bride of Kong.” However, when the local chief spots Ann among the men, he decides “the golden woman” is a more suitable offering. That night, tribe members sneak aboard the Venture and kidnap Ann, and by the time the crew realise what has happened, she is already tied up and the beast is being summoned.

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“Go me, it’s my birthday, they left a pressie for me for my birthday, gonna take my pressie with me for my birthday…”

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Denham, Ann’s love interest Jack Driscoll (Cabot), and several disposable crew members chase Kong and Ann into the jungle, and on the way they run into several other “monsters” such as Nessie, a couple of huge lizards and a freaking T-Rex.

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“No! She was MY birthday pressie! Get your own!”

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Eventually, Jack manages to save Ann with the help of an unwitting pterodactyl and they get back to the surviving crew members. However, Kong is quite smitten with Ann and not ready to let her go, so he follows them to the village where he eats (well, chews) a few villagers before Denham gas bombs him and transports him to New York. Because that seems like an excellent idea.

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What could possibly go wrong?

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Then, on opening night, a whole Young Frankenstein-thing happens with the flash photography of the reporters and Kong is on the loose. He finds Ann and climbs the Empire State Building with her for the climactic and iconic final scene of the film.

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This is what happens when you take extremely strong and dangerous animals and torture them. (OK, technically, this rarely happens, but we’re trying to prove a point!)

This film is another old favourite and we still love it. Sure, the effects might seem a little bit dated, but they are still impressive and it’s a lot of fun trying to figure out how each shot was done. (Yes, we’re aware that there are probably hundreds of articles and documentaries on exactly how each shot in King Kong was done, but it’s much more fun to try and analyze it yourself with limited knowledge of film making.) We heartily recommend it!

What we learned: it was Beauty killed the Beast. Also, buy a girl an apple and a cup of coffee and she’ll be in your film, no questions asked.

Next time: Sons of the Desert (1933)

#30 Gold Diggers of 1933

Watched: September 4 2016

Director:  Mervyn LeRoy & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 37min

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“We’re in the Money,” a big Broadway number, is in rehearsal when creditors come and repossess the props, costumes and pretty much everything but the girls themselves. This is the ironic opening of yet another fabulous Busby Berkeley musical.

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As well as another excuse to feature semi-naked ladies

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Yet again, the plot revolves around Broadway productions and in this one, the producer has everything he needs to put on a great show, except money. He visits the apartment of three showgirls (the titular “gold diggers”) to discuss the prospects with them and hears a composer playing the piano through an open window. The composer, Brad (Powell), is the sweetheart of one of the showgirls, Polly (Keeler), and he offers to put up $15 000 for the production on the condition that Polly gets a leading role. He himself is hired as a composer but refuses to be a stage performer.

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“This face would never do on stage!”

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Complications arise, and as Brad is forced to perform on opening night his real identity as a member of a prominent Boston family is revealed. As his older brother J. Lawrence Bradford (William) learns of his activities and his intentions to marry a showgirl, he interferes and threatens to cut him off from his inheritance if he does not leave her. However, when the brother goes to Polly’s apartment to buy her off, he meets fellow dancer Carol (Blondell) instead and mistakes her for Polly. After he thoroughly insults her and third flatmate Trixie (MacMahon), as well as their careers, they decide to take him and his lawyer for a ride.

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“Sisters before misters, bitches!”

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The two girls take the men out, tricking them into paying for all sorts of extravagant things along the way. Naturally, they do a Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Bradford falls for Carol despite her “low breeding” and unseemly profession.

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Them dancin’ legs will take you far, however cheap and vulgar your future husband finds you

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After the happy ending is resolved (with no less than three weddings, in proper Shakespearean fashion) the big musical numbers hit the stage. And my god, what numbers! “The Shadow Waltz” features glow-in-the-dark violins and some truly remarkable skirts and is amazing to watch.

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How convenient that all showgirls are also masterful violinists

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However, the true showstopper is the spectacular “Remember my Forgotten Man” which completely blew us away. If you have no interest in musicals and no intention of watching this film, then at least do yourself a favour and check out this number. You won’t be sorry.

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This picture does not even begin to do it justice

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Another new favourite which solidifies our newfound love of Busby Berkeley.

What we learned: always bring a can opener to a date.

Next time: King Kong (1933)

#29 Footlight Parade

Watched: September 3 2016

Director: Lloyd Bacon & Busby Berkeley (choreography)

Starring: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 43min

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We reiterate: we cannot put into words our newfound love of Busby Berkeley, and we cannot believe it took us this long to find out about him. Thank you, Mr Wright!

Chester Kent (Cagney) is a musical director who is quickly becoming obsolete with the rising popularity of talkies. In addition, his wife wants a divorce, but this doesn’t seem to faze him significantly.

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Who needs a wife when you can have all this?

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He changes his business venture into producing musical “prologues” for movies, dealing with creative exhaustion, corrupt business partners, rival spies and romantic complication along the way. When secretary Nan’s (Blondell) old frenemy Vivian decides to crash at her place, Kent is duped by her perceived worldliness into giving her a job and a marriage proposal, much to the chagrin of Nan who is deeply in love with her boss.

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Luckily, Nan is a saucy minx who knows how to divert his attention away from Vivian

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In order to save the business, Kent and his company need to wow cinema mogul Apolinaris with three spectacular shows to play in all his cinemas, but a rival company has infiltrated the chorus and all their ideas are being stolen. It’s pretty much Bring It On (2000) with better costumes and more sensational routines.

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There’s also a production of Cats before it was cool

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In addition to the main story, there’s a sub-plot romance between secretary-cum-leading lady Bea (Keeler) and juvenile lead Scotty (Powell) which is very sweet, but not that important to the overall plot.

In the end, we are treated to three fantastic Berkeley numbers: “Honeymoon Hotel,” with lots of innuendo; “By a Waterfall,” which features some amazing water scenes; and our personal favourite (mainly for the music) “Shanghai Lil,” in which Cagney himself stars.

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We are beginning to suspect that these films were all a flimsy, high-budget excuse to feature scantily clad ladies, though

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Despite some casual racism, “Shanghai Lil” amazing!

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Like 42nd Street, you can watch this for the story and performances (which we personally thought were slightly better in Footlight Parade), the banter and jokes, or just for the truly spectacular dance numbers. Either way, they should both definitely go on your to-do list. We’re off to watch Gold Diggers of 1933, and we can’t wait!

What we learned: As long as there are sidewalks, we have a job.

Next time: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933, surprisingly enough)

#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)