Amleto Palermi – Cavalleria rusticana (1939)

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PLOT & Review:
(Contains some spoilers)

Quote:
This film was not based on the famous one-act opera of Pietro Mascagni but rather on the original story by the Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga. It’s the story of Santuzza, her love Turiddu, and his passion for the married Lola that leads to his death in a duel when Lola’s husband Alfio exacts satisfaction. Santuzza’s curse leveled at unfaithful Turiddu, “A te la mala Pasqua!” (“Hope you have a bad Easter!”) is a memorable moment… as it was in Mascagni’s opera.

All Sicilian passion and emotion, the film is shot against authentic Sicilian backgrounds. There are wonderful colorful sequences of villagers riding in decorated traditionally decorated carts. Those scenes are so vivid you almost don’t notice the absence of color in this black and white film. Mount Etna looms in the background, suggestive of the smoking volcanic passions of some of the characters we see living near it.

Isa Pola is a sweet Santuzza, Leonardo Cortese is a convincingly reckless Turiddu, Carlo Ninchi is properly dour as the quasi-cuckolded husband, and legendary diva Doris Duranti captures our attention as the Carmen-esquire Lola. The music employed in this version consists of Sicilian folk songs and other traditional music…often accompanied by Jew’s harp. Amleto Palermi directed with a great deal of skill, a feeling for actors and a true sense of locale. In a 1939 poll, Italian moviegoers voted this their favorite film of the 1930s decade.
(Gerald A. DeLuca @IMDb) Continue reading

John Grierson & Edgar Anstey – Granton Trawler (1934)

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Quote:
Granton Trawler follows the small fishing vessel, Isabella Greig, as it carries out its dragnet fishing along the Viking Bank off the Norwegian coast of the North Sea. Grierson used the film to teach budding directors how to analyze movement photographically and how to make use of sound for contrapuntal editing. The soundtrack is made up of crude rhythmic noises that represent the thumping of the ships engine and atmospheric sounds congenial to being present on board. There is no commentary. The sounds were all post-recorded, simulated in the studio. (One of the fisherman’s voices is Grierson’s). Although not credited, Alberto Cavalcanti is known to have created the soundtrack as one of his first creative duties after arriving at the Unit. Continue reading

Tod Browning – Freaks (1932) (HD)

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Review:
Originally released in 1932 to cash in on the horror boom of the 30s, “Freaks” has always been something of a hot potato.

Director Tod Browning, who’d scored a huge hit with the original “Dracula” in 1930, promised MGM the ultimate scary movie.

But the resulting picture surprised everyone: “I asked for something horrifying,” said the studio’s shocked head of production, “and I got it.”

After trouble with the censors and a brief cinema run during which audiences reacted with unparalleled disgust, the picture was dropped and vanished into obscurity until it was revived in the 60s.

It’s easy to see why reactions to the film have been so strong – it’s a catalogue of the abnormal, the bizarre, and the grotesque that’s still as unsettling today as it was 70 years ago. Continue reading

Harry Watt & Basil Wright – Night Mail (1936)

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SYNOPSIS

Made in 1936 NIGHTMAIL has become an icon of the British documentary movement. The budget was only £2,000 and the film was made as a promotional film for the Post Office services. The GPO film unit deserves a posthumous Oscar.

The quality of directing, lighting and camera work in this documentary beats that of many of today’s films and brings an almost Hitchcockian atmosphere and tension to the screen.
This is the story of the Travelling Post office from Euston station in London to Glasgow in Scotland, in the days when the railways were efficient, frequent and run by proud workers who wore waistcoats, ties and hats and spoke politely to one another like the team that they were. It is surprising how old the men all seem now, in these days of youth culture, gentle character-full faces bearing no guile, tired and lined but proud and honest. Continue reading

Josef von Sternberg – Blonde Venus (1932)

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Quote:
American chemist Ned Faraday marries a German entertainer and starts a family. However, he becomes poisoned with Radium and needs an expensive treatment in Germany to have any chance at being cured. Wife Helen returns to night club work to attempt to raise the money and becomes popular as the Blonde Venus. In an effort to get enough money sooner, she prostitutes herself to millionaire Nick Townsend. While Ned is away in Europe, she continues with Nick but when Ned returns cured, he discovers her infidelity. Now Ned despises Helen but she grabs son Johnny and lives on the run, just one step ahead of the Missing Persons Bureau. When they do finally catch her, she loses her son to Ned. Once again she returns to entertaining, this time in Paris, and her fame once again brings her and Townsend together. Helen and Nick return to America engaged, but she is irresistibly drawn back to her son and Ned. In which life does she truly belong? Continue reading

John Ford – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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The Grapes of Wrath tells the powerful story of the Joad family’s trek from the dust bowl of Oklahoma to the fertile but futile fields of California in the early 1930s. Driven by the live rhythms of the Joel Rafael Band, this heart-wrenching award- winning adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel finds its timeless heart in the generous spirit of the common man. Continue reading

Ivan Pyryev – Traktoristy AKA Tractor Drivers [1939 original version] (1939)

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From Mosfilm:
A musical comedy.
The mid 30s. Klim Yarko, a demobilized tank driver from the Far East returns to the Ukraine collective farm where Maryana Bazhan, his long-standing love, lives. But Maryana is a famous tractor-driver of the vicinity and her admirers are legion. In attempt to get rid of them she invents a story of her love to Nazar, a butch and bummer. Klim, a simple soul, finds himself in a complicated situation but finally due to his sincerity and industry he wins sympathies of the whole farm and the famous Maryana’s love. Continue reading