Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Aurora ""

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Aurora

Aurora is a classic film fan, blogger at ONCE UPON A SCREEN (aurorasginjoint.com) who enjoys referring to herself in the third person.  By day she works in higher ed. administration, teaches mass media and manages the Warner Archive Community on Kumbuya.  By night she watches movies.
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MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935)
Directed by Tod Browning, MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is one of the few horror films produced by MGM after the fiasco that was Browning’s FREAKS in 1932.  FREAKS had not only bombed at the box office, but MGM chief Louis B. Mayer saw it as an embarrassment of a movie.  As a result, MGM producers chopped up MARK OF THE VAMPIRE in fear some of its content might embarrass the studio as well, leaving the remaining version with gaping holes in the narrative.  Surprisingly it remains delightfully entertaining movie.  

A remake of Tod Browning’s own 1927 silent, London After Midnight, Mark features lavish sets, gorgeous lighting, fun special effects and a great cast, which includes Lionel Barrymore, Lionel Atwill, Jean Hersholt, Donald Meek and Bela Lugosi as the vampire.

FRANKENSTEIN (1910)
The first known version of Frankenstein, written and directed by J. Searle Dawley, FRANKENSTEIN 1910 was made by Edison Studios as a 13-minute film.  I was quite impressed with how effectively the Frankenstein story is told in this short a time.  

THE MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY (1912)
Written and directed by D.W. Griffith, THE MUSKETEERS OF PIG ALLEY is credited with being one of the first gangster films ever made – the first to feature organized crime.  The film depicts life in the tenements of New York City, a life riddled with crime and shady characters.

An impressive film for its time, MUSKETEERS is both grand and oppressive, has impressive visuals and a fine cast, which includes Elmer Booth and Lillian Gish.

A FREE SOUL (1931)
A pre-code gem directed by Clarence Brown, A FREE SOUL stars Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard, Lionel Barrymore and Clark Gable.   The film was chosen as one of the top ten best in 1931 in audience polls, which means they enjoyed the snappy dialogue, innuendos typical of the era and fine performances across the board.

THE COHENS AND KELLYS IN AFRICA (1930)
Vin Moore’s, THE COHENS AND KELLYS IN AFRICA is so bad it makes me smile just thinking about it.  The movie is filled with ridiculous gags, absurd chases and is replete with racial stereotypes and several jokes that made me wince.   I was not familiar with any of the films in the Cohens and Kellys series popular in the 1930s and I’m not sure I’d ever want to watch another after this one.  While I certainly don’t mind campy fun, this was well beyond that and made me very glad I grew up watching Abbott and Costello on television – a far superior comedy duo.

THE AFFAIR OF SUSAN (1935)
I was lucky to be able to watch THE AFFAIR OF SUSAN in a theater in 2013 for what was its first public screening in 78 years.  The movie stars ZaSu Pitts who’s always a treat to watch and more so when the movie itself is enjoyable as this one is.  The movie features a series of misadventures, two lonely people, lots of heart and a surprise ending.  You can’t beat that.

FROM HELL TO HEAVEN (1933)
From great laughs to murder, Erle C. Kenton’s, FROM HELL TO HEAVEN has a lot to offer as entertainment.  Featuring an impressive ensemble cast lead by Carole Lombard, the movie tells parallel/intertwining stories of many guests staying at a resort hotel called the Lorey Springs (I’m not too sure of the spelling) where “people come and go and nothing ever happens.” Except that couldn’t be further from the truth.  A lot happens at the Lorey, including murder.

FROM HEAVEN TO HELL was a surprise finding, a hugely enjoyable film with an engaging plot and memorable visuals.  

MR. LEMON OF ORANGE (1931)
John Blystone’s MR. LEMON OF ORANGE stars El Brendel in a dual role – a simple-minded Swedish store clerk, Oscar Lemon, and a gangster named Silent McGee – and he’s a hoot!  Oscar Lemon who is the spitting image of the gangster is mistaken for him and gets caught up in all sorts of dangerous, if hilarious, situations.  Plenty of enjoyable sight gags abound in this entry.

THE BEDROOM WINDOW (1924)
William de Mille’s, THE BEDROOM WINDOW is a highly entertaining murder-mystery, which has nothing to do with lewd happenings in a bedroom – a thought that crossed my mind when I saw the film’s title.  The movie actually centers on the murder of a wealthy man and the solving of the crime by famous detective novel author, Rufus Rome, whose real name is Matilda Jones, sister-in-law of the deceased.  

BEDROOM WINDOW features a fine cast, including Malcolm McGregor, but the standout here is Ethel Wales who as Matilda, does a great job in solving the crime with a resolution that brought my favorite television detective to mind, the great Columbo.  Not to mention Matilda also has a great sense of humor.

THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941)
Raoul Walsh’, THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE is a charmer!  -  Warm and inviting movie that caught me by surprise – with its affection.  Among the many things to celebrate is the film’s cast – James Cagney takes reposefrom the tough guy role he is best remembered for and plays a hot-tempered, but likeable – even loveable, Biff.  But then, Cagney could do anything.  Olivia de Havilland plays “fresh thinker,” Amy Lind who becomes Mrs. Grimes – a lovely, supportive wife and a great performance by Ms. De Havilland.  And, lent to Warner Bros. by Columbia Pictures to appear in the film is a pre-GILDA Rita Hayworth who plays Virginia Brush, aka, The Strawberry Blonde.  Hayworth is perfect as the perpetually flirtatious, snooty Virginia.  Who’s also an eye-full, of course. 

Because I like to spread joy, I must demand that you go see THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE immediately if you’ve yet to do so!  That’s the kind of hairpin I am!

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