Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Film Discoveries of 2017 - Laura G ""

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Film Discoveries of 2017 - Laura G

If you weren't already aware, Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans:http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.com.
She can be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/LaurasMiscMovie
-----------
CAPTAIN BLOOD (David and Albert E. Smith, 1924) - I'm honored to contribute a list of Favorite Discoveries for the fifth straight year! And as I have in all but one year previously, my list begins with a silent movie. Ironically I'd had little interest in this film, screened at the Cinecon Festival, but I was pushed toward seeing it simply because of where it fit in the schedule. When it began I was dubious about 44-year-old J. Warren Kerrigan's appearance in the title role, as he didn't strike me as very dashing. To my surprise I was completely riveted by the film and his performance, with a couple moments giving me pure goosebumps. This was an 89-minute Library of Congress restoration; the film was originally 110 minutes but the continuity seemed perfect. Live digital musical accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis made this one of my most memorable screenings of the year.

Not on DVD.

HELL'S HEROES (William Wyler, 1929) - This early sound version of THREE GODFATHERS was special to me for an unusual reason: The opening and closing sequences were filmed at Bodie, a Sierra Nevada ghost town I've visited many times. A good portion of Bodie burned down three years after the film was made. Seeing Bodie as it was 90 years ago, as a living, breathing town, felt something like time traveling! I was amazed when the hearse I've only seen in the museum came roaring up the street, pulled by two black horses; and I've stood in the doorway of the church on many occasions. As for the movie itself, I don't think William Wyler could make a bad film. It was excellent, a tough, gritty rendering of the story in just 68 perfectly paced minutes. Charles Bickford, Raymond Hatton, and Fred Kohler are the outlaws who find themselves responsible for a baby's survival in the unforgiving desert.

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

MAMBA (Albert S. Rogell, 1930) - I saw many interesting films at UCLA's biennial Festival of Preservation, among them MAMBA, one of the earliest two-color feature films. Lost for many years, a nitrate print of MAMBA turned up in Australia; miraculously, though some of the Vitaphone discs were missing, the discs were in UCLA's collection and could be synced up with the print! The story is pure old-fashioned melodrama, and quite entertaining, as an impoverished German countess (Eleanor Boardman) marries the wealthy but incredibly nasty owner of a plantation in East Africa. A German officer (Ralph Forbes) falls in love with the countess and tries to protect her from her husband's brutality. Then war breaks out... This was a diverting film with moving romantic moments, exciting action sequences, and an impressive opening tracking shot.

Not on DVD.

ROAR OF THE DRAGON (Wesley Ruggles, 1933) - If you're intrigued by the thought of Edward Everett Horton as an action hero, this is your movie! This film takes place in a hotel in war-torn China; it has the classic plot of a disparate group of people, headed by Richard Dix, banding together to fight off a common enemy. This fast-paced film is most definitely a pre-Code, in terms of both subject matter and violence. Classic cinema fans haven't seen everything until they've seen Horton mowing down the bad guys with a machine gun.

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY (Mervyn LeRoy, 1949) - Clark Gable plays the owner of a high-class gambling establishment in this film which is pure pleasure for fans of both Gable and MGM. Check out the supporting cast: Alexis Smith, Barry Sullivan, Mary Astor, Audrey Totter, and Wendell Corey, and that's just for starters! Gable's character has just been told he needs to retire in order to ease up on his weak heart, and we follow him over a day and a half as he interacts with family, friends, and colleagues while deciding what to do with the rest of his life. Beautifully filmed in black and white by Hal Rosson.

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

THE ACCUSED (William Dieterle, 1949) - Wendell Corey was in two 1949 films on this list! In THE ACCUSED, seen at Hollywood's Noir City Film Festival, Corey plays a compassionate cop trying to untangle a young man's murder. He's suspicious of Loretta Young, playing a professor who had fought off the dead man with a pipe when he attacked her but is afraid to tell the police the truth. Matters are further complicated when she falls in love with the late man's uncle (Robert Cummings), who develops suspicions of his own about his beloved. Sure, the whole thing would have been so much easier if she just went to the police in the first place, but within the confines of the story it's very well scripted and acted by three enjoyable pros.

Available on DVD in the Universal Vault Collection.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF (Felix E. Feist, 1950) - Another Noir City discovery, this fun film has Lee J. Cobb as a police detective who helps his lady love (Jane Wyatt) cover up the shooting of her husband. The only problem is the cop's new colleague on the police force -- his own brother (John Dall), who gradually builds a case against him. Fun and fast-paced, with interesting location shooting. The movie has a fantastic finale filmed at San Francisco's Fort Point, which I was able to visit just a few weeks later!

Not on DVD.

SPLIT SECOND (Dick Powell, 1953) - This "nuclear noir," seen at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, was the first official directing credit for actor Dick Powell. (Powell had previously done uncredited directing on another film.) A pair of convicts (Stephen McNally and Paul Kelly) escape from prison, but one of them's been shot; they take a small group of people hostage, including a doctor (Richard Egan). This is the second Alexis Smith film on this list, and she's quite memorable as the doctor's wife, who will do anything...anything!...to survive. Jan Sterling and Keith Andes are a nice young couple who have just met when they're caught up in a very bad experience. There's a humdinger of a finale...you see, the crooks and their hostages are holed up in a ghost town which is about to be obliterated by the test of a nuclear bomb!

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (Vincente Minnelli, 1962) - I'd been unsure about this film as the plot sounded so offbeat; it's about a developmentally challenged young woman (Yvette Mimieux) falling in love with an Italian man (George Hamilton), to the consternation of her mother (Olivia de Havilland). To my surprise and delight, it ended up being one of my favorite movies of the entire year. The film has lovely Italian locations; it's charming, moving, and thought-provoking, with the young actors especially appealing. Hamilton was coached on his Italian accent by Rossano Brazzi, who plays his father. I'll be watching this one again.

Available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

CHARLEY VARRICK (Don Siegel, 1973) - The '70s is my least favorite movie decade, and I especially don't care for many '70s action films, so CHARLEY VARRICK was a great surprise, thanks again to the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. Walter Matthau plays a small-time bank robber who ends up in big trouble when he robs a little New Mexico bank which turns out to have way too much money in the vault. When Charley realizes the Mafia has been laundering money through the bank, he knows he's got much bigger problems than the local police. The film has a terrific cast and lots of interesting moments, including the actors ad libbing when the hood of a car unexpectedly pops open during a getaway sequence. The fun continued when a few weeks later I watched the Mark Wahlberg-Denzel Washington film 2 GUNS (2013) and part of it seemed very familiar; I suddenly realized I was watching a partial reboot of CHARLEY VARRICK!

Available on DVD.
Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com)

More great discoveries from this year which there's not room to discuss here: THE ARIZONIAN (1935), THE ACCUSING FINGER (1936), LET FREEDOM RING (1939), TALL, DARK AND HANDSOME (1941), WICKED WOMAN (1953), THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE (1958), and some newer titles deserving of mention and attention, THE GOURMET DETECTIVE (TV Movie, 2015), WIND RIVER (2017), YOUR NAME. (2016), and IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD (2016).

12 comments:

Jerry Entract said...

A very varied and interesting selection of discoveries, Laura!

I have not seen about half of those films so your recommendation is especially helpful. Having so enjoyed the 1936 filming of the Three Godfathers story it would be terrific to see the earlier version. Charles Bickford and Raymond Hatton are actors I enjoy a lot.

As for "THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF", that film would go down as one of my own Discoveries of 2017 easily. A humdinger!

Laura said...

Thanks for your comment, Jerry! Wasn't THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF fun? Really looking forward to a nice Blu-ray/DVD print coming out in a few months. Definitely want to watch it again -- including for another look at the San Francisco locations I was able to visit last summer!

If you like Bickford and Hatton I think you will really like HELL'S HEROES. Plus as I recall you have visited Bodie yourself? Highly recommend the film (and Bodie!).

Hope you and anyone else who may check out this list will enjoy some of the other titles!

Best wishes,
Laura

livius1 said...

That's an interesting list, Laura, with plenty that's new to me. Charley Varrick is marvelous and I like Split Second too. You've also reminded me that I need to get round to watching The Accused.
Colin

Brittaney said...

Light in the Piazza was also one of my favorite film discoveries of 2017. I had the same reservations you did about the film, but simply fell in love with the story and the setting. I found it a beautiful depiction of a mother's love.

Jerry Entract said...

You have a good memory, Laura! When I was 10 I found under our Christmas tree the Western Film Annual for 1958 and it contained a story with photo about the history of Bodie. Little could I have imagined that I would go there 40 years later with my wife and three kids. I found it to be a great fun adventure.

Michael J. Ryan, Ph.D. said...

Edward Everett Horton as an action hero? I'm sold! Thanks for this great list, Laura!

Laura said...

Colin, thank you so much for checking out my list! Glad to know you're also a fan of CHARLEY VARRICK and SPLIT SECOND. I'd love to know what you think of THE ACCUSED when you get to it.

Brittaney, how interesting that you felt the same reticence toward LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA and then also ended up loving it as I did! It was such a special movie. I hope you adding your endorsement will help encourage those unfamiliar with the movie to try it.

Jerry, I absolutely love that story. What fun you all made it to that tiny, amazing ghost town in the High Sierras all those years later! I can guarantee you that having been there, HELL'S HEROES will kind of blow your mind, seeing it "alive."

Michael, ROAR OF THE DRAGON is a lot of fun, I hope you will enjoy it as I did. Delighted you enjoyed the list!

Best wishes,
Laura

john knight said...

A doozy of a list Laura...such variety.
I've only seen ROAR OF THE DRAGON,SPLIT SECOND and CHARLEY VARRICK.
Never knew Gable made a film with Alexis Smith and as you say what a supporting cast!
I've certainly some catching up to do here but then that's always the case there
are just so many fine movies out there awaiting discovery.

Laura said...

That is so true, John! Can't see 'em all but that's a great thing, always more great movies ahead to look forward to. :)

The ANY NUMBER CAN PLAY cast also has Frank Morgan, Lewis Stone, Leon Ames, Edgar Buchanan...so many great actors in one movie!! Hope you can catch that and some of the others at some point! THE MAN WHO CHEATED HIMSELF will be out from Flicker Alley later in the year so you'll have an opportunity to see that one eventually!

Best wishes,
Laura

Michael said...

So years ago William K Everson showed Wild Money, in which Edward Everett Horton fires a few (comedic) shots at some gangsters. And I asked him after the show, did Horton star in any other two-fisted he-man pictures? He laughed and said no... plainly forgetting Roar of the Dragon!

Walter Severs said...

Laura, I think you have real good taste in Classic Movies. I've seen five of your ten picks and I couldn't agree more. I would like to see Edward Everett Horton as an action hero. The photo you used of Horton and Gwili Andre to head off your list is priceless.

Laura said...

Michael, what a fun story! I envy you having had the chance to meet Mr. Everson -- his PICTORIAL HISTORY OF THE WESTERN FILM and Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies book on Claudette Colbert were some of the earliest titles in my film book library.

Thank you, Walter, I appreciate you adding your endorsement to the list and hope more film fans will check out some of the titles! I have to thank Brian for being the one to choose that wonderful photo at the top of my list -- he always does a wonderful job digging up illustrations for these posts! Hope you get to see ROAR OF THE DRAGON soon -- it's a good deal from Warner Archive as it's part of a 2-film set with William Boyd in MEN OF AMERICA. Fun movie -- especially for me as I was able to visit that film's Iverson Ranch shooting locations!

Best wishes,
Laura