W.S. Van Dyke – Night Court (1932)

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Judge Moffett is as crooked as they come and the Board of Judicial Corruption is after him. So he hides out in the poor part of town. While there, she drops the bankbook that Moffett has listing his accounts and Mary returns it to him. But Moffett thinks Mary saw the book and he puts her away for six months on a trumped up charge. Mike is overcome with grief and when he comes to his senses, he talks to Mary who tells him about the book. This gets Mike beat up and put on a boat to South America, but he jumps ship and plots his revenge. Continue reading

William Dieterle – The Secret Bride (1934)

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Plot: Before Ruth Vincent, daughter of a state governor, and state attorney general Robert Sheldon can announce their marriage, the governor is accused of bribe-taking. To avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, they decide to keep their marriage secret. The political intrigue becomes more involved, and no one is quite what they seem. Soon Sheldon and Ruth must decide between saving the governor’s career and an innocent person’s life. Written by Rod Crawford Continue reading

Ferdinand Diehl – Die Sieben Raben AKA The Seven Ravens (1937)

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A peasant father sends his seven sons to fetch water for their sickly young sister but when he curses them for not returning soon enough, they turn into ravens and disappear. Many years later when the sister is grown up, she sets out in search of her brothers but that will be a long and dangerous journey.

This very gothic horror fantasy animation from the Third Reich is a masterpiece. It is based on one of the German fairytales by Grimm brothers and about 120 puppets were used during the production. Continue reading

Louis J. Gasnier – Reefer Madness (1936)

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Propaganda film that relates the story, as told by high school principal Dr. Carroll to parents at a PTA meeting, of the scourge of marijuana. The tale revolves around Mae and Jack, accomplices in the distribution of marijuana, who manage to entice the local high school kids to stop by Mae’s apartment to smoke reefer. The lives of all who are involved with this menace are inevitably shattered. One man becomes so addicted to the killer weed that the guilt over framing a teen for murder causes a judge to order him to be committed for life to a mental hospital! Dr. Carroll closes by advising us to not incur the same tragedy. Written by Rick Gregory {rag.apa@email.apa.org} Continue reading

Josef von Sternberg – Shanghai Express (1932)

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An intoxicating mix of adventure, romance, and pre-Code salaciousness, Shanghai Express marks the commercial peak of an iconic collaboration. Marlene Dietrich is at her wicked best as Shanghai Lily, a courtesan whose reputation brings a hint of scandal to a three-day train ride through war-torn China. On board, she is surrounded by a motley crew of foreigners and lowlifes, including a fellow fallen woman (Anna May Wong), an old flame (Clive Brook), and a rebel leader wanted by the authorities (Warner Oland). As tensions come to a boil, director Josef von Sternberg delivers one breathtaking image after another, enveloping his star in a decadent profusion of feathers, furs, and cigarette smoke. The result is a triumph of studio filmmaking and a testament to the mythic power of Hollywood glamour. Continue reading

Frank Capra – It Happened One Night (1934)

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It Happened One Night (1934) is one of the greatest romantic comedies in film history, and a film that has endured in popularity. It is considered one of the pioneering “screwball” romantic comedies of its time, setting the pattern for many years afterwards along with another contemporary film, The Thin Man (1934). Continue reading