Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

The very fine backstage melodrama What Price Hollywood? was released in 1932, and for all but the first five years of its life, it has been best known as being the unofficial-but-very-obvious basis for a different movie and its subsequent remakes. This is a goddamned shame, though it’s not terribly difficult to see what happened. […]

I could pretend I had this reason or that reason to bring 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum to your attention this day, such as the unique value that comparing it and its remake and its un-remake have in showcasing the changing preoccupations of the film cultures that produced them; or its particularly salty attitudes […]

Edgar Allan Poe’s seminal 1841 detective story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is a locked room mystery in which hobbyist detective C. August Dupin realises that an enraged orangutan jumped into an open window and, in a frenzy, slaughtered the women it found there. The first sound feature to adapt a Poe work, 1932’s […]

“If you want to send a message, use Western Union”, said somebody, famously – Samuel Goldwyn, Louis B. Mayer, and Frank Capra are the most common sources, so it’s probably none of them – but that’s advice that was already long-abandoned before it was ever spoken. The fact is, filmmakers, particularly Hollywood filmmakers well aware […]

The five films made by the four Marx brothers at Paramount between 1929 and 1933 are the stuff of legend, and the basis for what is likely the most famous career of any comic team in history (and this despite the first of those films, The Cocoanuts, sagging under the weight of an insipid romantic […]

The most expensive movie ever made as of 1930 was an independent production. That’s a weird thing on the face of it, except that in 1930, there was a fellow named Howard Hughes running loose in the world, and for all the wonderful advances made in the post-WWII world, we don’t have madcap billionaires to […]

The popular idea of what early sound cinema is like – as pinned down and immortalised by Singin’ in the Rain, which I suspect is where most of us picked up the notion – is broadly correct. Static wide shots that show the entire cast peculiarly clustered around a conspicuous vase, into which the inexplicably […]

1927 is perhaps the single most important year to date in the development of the film medium. It is the year when first the Hollywood continuity system and subsequently the cinema of the entire world was at a turning point between two paths, that of pure image, or that of image combined with sound. The […]

You know Tay Garnett? You probably haven’t heard of Tay Garnett. The fact of the matter is, Tay Garnett really isn’t a terribly important film director, though there are those among us who perk up at checking out what promises to be yet another ’30s or ’40s programmer, and unexpectedly find his name attached. I […]

With a thin week of wide releases and nothing in the art house looking worth the trip the best course of action seemed to be to arbitrarily pick a few DVDs that have been staring me in the face, unwatched, and make a theme of it. Thus do I declare the first day of ’30s […]

It has for some time been my custom to celebrate Easter by diving into a zombie movie or four; the problem is that there are precious few important zombie franchises and I’ve already reviewed most of them; also that once you get past the tip-top of the A-list of the subgenre, a disquieting and dispiriting […]

When Dracula became a huge hit for Universal in the winter of 1931, this much at least was clear: Universal would be spending a lot more time making horror movies. Not that they hadn’t dabbled in the genre before, of course – some of the most important American horror pictures of the 1920s came out […]