1931-1940

William Wyler – The Letter (1940)

Synopsis:
William Wyler’s dark and poisonous melodrama, based on the W. Somerset Maugham novel, features Bette Davis in one of her nastiest roles. The story begins in the shimmering moonlight on a tropical Malayan rubber plantation. Shots ring out and a wounded man, Geoffrey Hammond (David Newell) staggers from a bungalow as Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis) coldly follows him, pumping the remaining bullets into his body. She later tells her husband Robert (Herbert Marshall) that she shot Geoffrey, a mutual friend, because he was drunk and tried to take advantage of her. Robert, who owns the plantation, believes her story and hires high-powered lawyer Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) to defend her. Read More »

Walter Tennyson – The Body Vanished (1939)

Despite a short run time this is a breezy, effective British mystery. A Scotland Yard Inspector (Anthony Hulme) is on holidays with his friend, a newspaper reporter. The two come into a small village for rest and refreshments before continuing their holiday. Their peace is disturbed when a villager runs into the local pub declaring the owner of a nearby mansion has been murdered. Read More »

Edmund Goulding – The Old Maid (1939)

Quote:
The movie is about two cousins, Charlotte (Bette Davis) and Delia (Miriam Hopkins), who are in love with the same man (George Brent). Originally he was to marry Delia but looses her to a rich rival. He then turns to Charlotte. He is killed in the fighting before he and Charlotte can marry. Charlotte becomes an unwed mother, an impossible situation for a young woman in the mid-nineteenth century. Charlotte hides the baby among a group of civil war orphans she cares for. She later accepts recently-widowed Delia’s big house, where she installs herself and her daughter, who is told that she’s an orphan. Read More »

Jean Yarbrough – The Devil Bat (1940)

Dr. Carruthers feels bitter at being betrayed by his employers, Heath and Morton, when they became rich as a result of a product he devised. He gains revenge by electrically enlarging bats and sending them out to kill his employers’ family members by instilling in the bats a hatred for a particular perfume he has discovered, which he gets his victims to apply before going outdoors. Johnny Layton, a reporter, finally figures out Carruthers is the killer and, after putting the perfume on himself, douses it on Carruthers in the hopes it will get him to give himself away. One of the two is attacked as the giant bat makes one of its screaming, swooping power dives. Read More »

Edward Buzzell – At the Circus (1939)

Synopsis:
Jeff Wilson, the owner of a small circus, owes his partner Carter $10000. Before Jeff can pay, Carter lets his accomplices steal the money, so he can take over the circus. Antonio Pirelli and Punchy, who work at the circus, together with lawyer Loophole try to find the thief and get the money back Read More »

Harry d’Abbadie d’Arrast – Topaze (1933)

Synopsis:
An honest and naive schoolteacher gets a lesson in how the world works outside the classroom, when a rich Baron and his mistress use the teacher’s name and outstanding reputation in a crooked business scheme. Read More »

Lew Landers – The Raven (1935)

Synopsis:
A wealthy judge coaxes the brilliant but eccentric neurological surgeon Dr. Vollin (Lugosi), who also has an obsessive penchant for Edgar Allen Poe, out of retirement to save the life of his daughter, a dancer crippled and brain damaged in an auto wreck. Vollin restores her completely, but also envisions her as his “Lenore,” and cooks up a scheme to kidnap the woman and torture and kill her fiance’ and father in his Poe-inspired dungeon. To do his dirty work, Vollin recruits a wanted criminal (Karloff), and turns him into a hideous monster to guarantee his subservience. Read More »