Willi Forst – Maskerade AKA Masquerade in Vienna (1934)

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Review:
“Maskerade” is the second film directed by Willi Forst. While the ‘Vienna film’ had been popular since the early 1930s not least due to Forst’s work as an actor and singer, it was “Maskerade” that brought the genre to a probably never surpassed high point.

The plot, set in Vienna around 1900, seems to be feather-weight at first sight. When a nude drawing of a society lady, made by the artist Heideneck (Adolf Wohlbrück), gets into the newspaper by accident, a near scandal is caused. Heideneck saves his neck by randomly giving the name of an unknown girl as the drawing’s model. However, a romance soon develops between the artist and the girl (Paula Wessely), which causes the jealousy of Heideneck’s former girlfriend Anita (Olga Tschechowa)… Continue reading

James Whale – Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

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Sequel to 1931’s Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars Boris Karloff as The Monster, Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of his mate and Mary Shelley, Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Ernest Thesiger as Doctor Septimus Pretorius.

The film follows on immediately from the events of the earlier film, and is rooted in a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein (1818). In the film, a chastened Henry Frankenstein abandons his plans to create life, only to be tempted and finally coerced by the Monster, encouraged by Henry’s old mentor Dr. Pretorius, into constructing a mate for him. Continue reading

Frank Capra – The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933)

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The American missionary Megan Davis arrives in Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War to marry the missionary Dr. Robert Strife. However, Robert postpones their wedding to rescue some orphans in an orphanage in Chapei section that is burning in the middle of a battlefield. While returning to Shanghai with the children, they are separated in the crowd, Megan is hit in the head and knocked out, but is saved by General Yen and brought by train to his palace. As the days go by, the General’s mistress Mah-Li becomes close to Megan and when she is accused of betrayal for giving classified information to the enemies, Megan asks for her life. The cruel General Yen falls in love for the naive and pure Megan and accepts her request to spare the life of Mah-Li against the will of his financial advisor Jones. Meanwhile Megan feels attracted by the powerful and gentle General Yen, but resists to his flirtation. When Mah-Li betrays General Yen and destroys his empire, Megan realizes that to be able … Continue reading

King Vidor – Our Daily Bread [+Extras] (1934)

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synopsis – AMG:
Unable to secure Hollywood-studio backing for his Depression-era agrarian drama Our Daily Bread, director King Vidor financed the picture himself, with the eleventh-hour assistance of Charles Chaplin. Intended as a sequel to Vidor’s silent classic The Crowd (1928) the film casts Tom Keene and Karen Morley as John and Mary, the roles originated in the earlier film by James Murray and Eleanor Boardman. Unable to make ends meet in the Big City, John and Mary assume control of an abandoned farm, even though they know nothing about tilling the soil. Generous to a fault, the couple opens their property to other disenfranchised Depression victims, and before long they’ve formed a utopian communal cooperative, with everyone pitching together for the common good. Beyond such traditional obstacles as inadequate funding, failed crops and drought, John is deflected from his purpose by sluttish blonde vamp Sally (Barbara Pepper), but he pulls himself together in time to supervise construction of a huge irrigation ditch — a project which consumes the film’s final two reels, and which turns out to be one of the finest and most thrilling sequences that Vidor (or anyone) ever put on film. Continue reading

Frank Capra – You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

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From “filmschoolrejects”

You Can’t Take It with You is a classic case of good old-fashioned American optimism, a celebration of family and small-town values courtesy of Frank Capra, who made a distinguished career out of such things. By the time of its release in 1938 films like It Happened One Night and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town had already made Capra a household name, a premiere chronicler of the Depression era national mood and a primary spokesman for cinema’s ability to serve as a tonic, spreading good cheer among audiences that had experienced too little of it.

That history looms over every frame of what is one of the original quirky family dramedies, a direct ancestor of the entire genre of independent filmmaking devoted to such ventures today. It instills even the more banal, dated moments with particular resonance. One can sense in Capra’s joyful indulgence of the sheer chaotic nature of the life of the Sycamore family a fervent quest to entertain by outdoing even the most outlandish antics displayed in the film’s contemporaries, which remain some of the most memorable screwball comedies ever made. Continue reading

John G. Blystone – Change of Heart (1934)

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Quote:
Four courageous college graduates become heroes when they successfully complete a 15-hour coast-to-coast plane flight. Alas, things don’t go so well for the foursome when they return to earth to seek out employment. Chris Thring (Charles Farrell) has a particularly rough time of it, but his sweetheart Catherine Furness (Janet Gaynor) remains faithful through thick and thin. Trouble brews in the form of Chris and Catherine’s mutual friends Mack McGowan (James Dunn) and Madge Rountree (Ginger Rogers): Catherine thinks Chris is in love with Madge, while Mack falls in love with Chris? and on and on it goes. Shirley Temple shows up in the early scenes as a plane passenger, while that grand old trouper Gustav von Seyfertitz sheds his usual villainous image as the film’s avuncular last-minute problem-solver. Change of Heart is based on a novel by Kathleen Norris. Continue reading

Tod Browning – The Devil-Doll (1936)

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Plot: Banker Paul Lavond makes an escape from Devil’s Island where he was sentenced for seventeen years after being framed by his three partners. His fellow escapee Marcel takes him to meet his wife Malita and, as Lavond watches, Marcel demonstrates a process whereby he can shrink animals and people to the size of dolls and animate them by will-power. But then Marcel has a heart-attack and dies. Malita persuades Lavond to continue his work and Lavond sees the opportunity to have revenge on those that framed him. Disguising himself as an old woman, Madame Mandelip, he and Malita set up a doll shop in Paris where Lavond then sends the shrunken people out to kill his enemies. Continue reading