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Man of Aran (1934) - British documentary from Gaumont and Gainsborough Pictures, and directed by Robert Flaherty. The Aran Islands lie off the west coast of Ireland. They are nothing but craggy rock jutting out of the ocean, with no trees or soil. A handful of people live there, eking out a meager existence via fishing the treacherous waters and planting small food crops in piles of seaweed. They also hunt for basking sharks, a source of multiple items such as lamp oil, skins, and foodstuff.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It has stupendous location cinematography, but the endless shots of massive waves battering the rocky shore get old after about 30 minutes in, and there's still 45 minutes left. The basking shark hunt also goes on for about twice the length that it needed to. This is virtually a silent film, as all audio was added later, mainly the sounds of crashing waves and a smattering of mumbled words from the people depicted. The photography is enough to marginally recommend this, but there isn't a lot more to the proceedings other than wondering why these people choose to live this way (some vague declaration of freedom is given as an answer).  (7/10)

Source: TCM. Also available on FilmStruck.

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2 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Man of Aran (1934) - British documentary from Gaumont and Gainsborough Pictures, and directed by Robert Flaherty. The Aran Islands lie off the west coast of Ireland. They are nothing but craggy rock jutting out of the ocean, with no trees or soil. A handful of people live there, eking out a meager existence via fishing the treacherous waters and planting small food crops in piles of seaweed. They also hunt for basking sharks, a source of multiple items such as lamp oil, skins, and foodstuff.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It has stupendous location cinematography, but the endless shots of massive waves battering the rocky shore get old after about 30 minutes in, and there's still 45 minutes left. The basking shark hunt also goes on for about twice the length that it needed to. This is virtually a silent film, as all audio was added later, mainly the sounds of crashing waves and a smattering of mumbled words from the people depicted. The photography is enough to marginally recommend this, but there isn't a lot more to the proceedings other than wondering why these people choose to live this way (some vague declaration of freedom is given as an answer).  (7/10)

Source: TCM. Also available on FilmStruck.

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Man of Aran does carry a feeling of being something of a travelogue, extended by the addition of a human interest element - I think the intention was to illustrate the windswept loneliness of the environment, with the unrelenting struggle for survival for those living there (who were likely born into that life, rather than having chosen it) - the environment's impact on them being greater than theirs on it (unlike life in cities, or even the rural mainland).

If you did want to get away from it all, the West coast of Ireland was definitely the place to head...

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9 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

So, what's the deal with Ceiling Zero? I thought TCM pretty much had the rights to all the pre-1949 Warner Bros. films, which it is. Somewhat in disbelief, I checked out MovieCollectorOH's database, and sure enough, it's never aired on TCM. Do you know the backstory behind its unavailability?

It's a North American rights issue, I believe, for both television broadcast and DVD release. Even the Warners Archives aren't offering it, to the best of my knowledge.

I went to Amazon and Ceiling Zero is only available on DVD as a Region 2 PAL release.

But why the issue? I couldn't tell you. It was an adaption of a play and, as a guess, it might be tied up with the estate of the author, Frank Spig Wead, who also wrote the fim's screenplay (remember John Wayne playing Wead in Wings of Eagles?). But that's just a guess on my part.

A later 1951 Cagney film released through Warners, Come Fill the Cup, is a challenge to find, as well. And that's a shame since this is a solid, sensitive study of alcoholism, with fine work by Cagney (effectively underplaying except for one big scene), James Gleason and Gig Young, the latter receiving a supporting actor Oscar nod for his work.

 

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A Mother Should Be Loved (1934) - Silent Japanese drama from Shochiku and director Yasujiro Ozu. Following the sudden death of her husband, Chieko (Mitsuko Yoshikawa) struggles to raise their two young sons. Years later, Sadao (Den Obinata), the elder son, applies to college and learns via his birth certificate that he's not Chieko's biological son; his father had been previously married to Sadao's mother who died while the boy was an infant. This revelation leads Sadao on a dark path of self-destruction that hurts both his younger brother Kosaku (Koji Mitsui) and Chieko. Also featuring Shinyo Nara, Kyoko Mitsukawa, Chishu Ryu, and Choko Iida.

The surviving prints of this film are missing both the first and last reels, so written descriptions of those scenes are added to help make the story more cohesive, which helps since the script is all over the place. It mixes two of director Ozu's favorite subjects: college-age young men making life decisions, and self-sacrificing mothers. The performances are good, especially from Obinata as the tormented son, and Chieko as the stoically suffering mother. Ozu uses a few nice camera shots, such as one low-angle shot of two people walking along a sidewalk, with the camera moving in the opposite direction, pulling away from the characters.  (7/10)

Source: FilmStruck.

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The Mystery of Mr. X (1934) - Enjoyable romantic murder mystery from MGM and director Edgar Selwyn. Robert Montgomery stars as London-based Nick Revel, a gentleman thief whose latest heist has landed him an outrageously valuable diamond. However, a serial killer that only targets cops and who goes by the name of Mr. X strikes once again on the same night of the heist, leading Scotland Yard detectives Frensham (Henry Stephenson) and Connor (Lewis Stone) to connect the two crimes. Nick sets out to catch the real Mr. X and cool down the police heat enough to sell the diamond, but his plans get complicated when he meets Frensham's daughter Jane (Elizabeth Allan). Also featuring Ralph Forbes, Forrester Harvey, Ivan F. Simpson, Leonard Mudie, Alec B. Francis, and C. Montague Shaw.

I liked Montgomery in this role. He's started to age a bit and his characterization has more depth than usual. It seems odd to have a protagonist whose only initial goal is to make things safe enough to sell his stolen loot. Allan is also good as the emotionally conflicted Jane, worried about her father's health, and betrothed to one man while falling for another. It was also unusual seeing a serial killer who doesn't turn out to be someone with an ulterior motive - this guy just likes killing cops.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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'Neath the Arizona Skies (1934) - Another of those quickie John Wayne westerns, from Monogram/Lone Star and director Harry Fraser. In the barely-there plot, Wayne plays Chris Morrell, the caretaker of young half-breed Native girl Nina (Shirley Jean Rickert). Nina is owed nearly $50,000 from oil leases on her family's land, and since the girl's mother is deceased, Chris has to track down the girl's father and get his signature on some paperwork, or else prove that the man is dead, for the girl to get her money. Naturally, some bad guys led by Sam Black (Yakima Canutt) overhear the situation and decide to try and kidnap the girl and get the money themselves. For the remainder of the movie's 52 minute running time, Chris and Nina try to outwit the baddies, with help from nice lady Clara (Sheila Terry) and old coot Matt (George "Gabby" Hayes). Also featuring Jack Rockwell, Harry Fraser, Jay Wilsey, Philip Kieffer, and Earl Dwire.

This is largely indistinguishable from most of the other Lone Star westerns Wayne was in at the time: cardboard sets, bare-minimum scripting, poorly staged fist fights, and a foregone conclusion. Hayes was appearing in many of these westerns at the time, but for some reason he received no on-screen credit for this one. Wayne is slowly learning his craft, and seems just a tiny bit more natural than in previous outings.   (5/10)

Source: YouTube.

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The Ninth Guest (1934) - Gruesome horror thriller from Columbia Pictures and director Roy William Neill. 8 people receive invitations to a swanky party in their honor, but when they arrive they learn that they are trapped inside their posh surroundings. A disembodied voice announces that they have been joined by the ninth guest: death! Soon the attendees are dying one by one, and the increasingly frantic survivors try to figure out how to escape, who the culprit is, and why they are targets. Starring Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright, Edward Ellis, Edwin Maxwell, Vince Barnett, Helen Flint, Samuel S. Hinds, Nella Walker, and Sidney Bracey.

This was like the great-grandfather of the Saw films, with a group of "guilty" people trapped and killed by various booby traps or their own bad choices, orchestrated by a foreboding voice. The performances are all good, and the tension is built up well. The culprit isn't immediately apparent, and the dark finale was appropriately grim. This won't be for everyone, but I liked it.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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9 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

The Ninth Guest (1934) - Gruesome horror thriller from Columbia Pictures and director Roy William Neill. 8 people receive invitations to a swanky party in their honor, but when they arrive they learn that they are trapped inside their posh surroundings. A disembodied voice announces that they have been joined by the ninth guest: death! Soon the attendees are dying one by one, and the increasingly frantic survivors try to figure out how to escape, who the culprit is, and why they are targets. Starring Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright, Edward Ellis, Edwin Maxwell, Vince Barnett, Helen Flint, Samuel S. Hinds, Nella Walker, and Sidney Bracey.

This was like the great-grandfather of the Saw films, with a group of "guilty" people trapped and killed by various booby traps or their own bad choices, orchestrated by a foreboding voice. The performances are all good, and the tension is built up well. The culprit isn't immediately apparent, and the dark finale was appropriately grim. This won't be for everyone, but I liked it.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

 

Or perhaps closely "related" to And Then There Were None (1945) and/or ITS "offspring"/remake, Ten Little Indians (1965), eh Lawrence?!

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34 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

The Ninth Guest (1934) - Gruesome horror thriller from Columbia Pictures and director Roy William Neill. 8 people receive invitations to a swanky party in their honor, but when they arrive they learn that they are trapped inside their posh surroundings. A disembodied voice announces that they have been joined by the ninth guest: death! Soon the attendees are dying one by one, and the increasingly frantic survivors try to figure out how to escape, who the culprit is, and why they are targets. Starring Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright, Edward Ellis, Edwin Maxwell, Vince Barnett, Helen Flint, Samuel S. Hinds, Nella Walker, and Sidney Bracey.

This was like the great-grandfather of the Saw films, with a group of "guilty" people trapped and killed by various booby traps or their own bad choices, orchestrated by a foreboding voice. The performances are all good, and the tension is built up well. The culprit isn't immediately apparent, and the dark finale was appropriately grim. This won't be for everyone, but I liked it.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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Per chance, I picked the "Ninth Guest" out of the YouTube menu and watched it last week.

Agatha Christie movies and made for TV films are a hobby of mine;   I collect them on DVD.

Maybe I'm just a little jaded, but my advice for this one is: Don't bother, unless you got a little bit of sadistic interest in fire and electrocution and average acting for the 30's.

But I have to admit that I was also not that impressed with the 1945 "And Then There Were None".

But some of those actors in that film are absolute Legends and it's worth watching to see them working all together.

You must see : Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson, C Aubrey Smith, Mischa Auer, Roland Young, Walter Huston, Richard Haydn and Louis Hayward. I bought the DVD just to see the actors, but the production was  lackluster and dull.

Also, I have to admit that the Agatha Christie BBC, ITV/PBS Productions have probably ruined me for anything else. LOL

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56 minutes ago, Dargo said:

Or perhaps closely "related" to And Then There Were None (1945) and/or ITS "offspring"/remake, Ten Little Indians (1965), eh Lawrence?!

So did Christie, whose book was first published in '39, get her idea from The Ninth Guest? Probably not, as I'm sure there are earlier uses of the same basic set-up.

37 minutes ago, Princess of Tap said:

Per chance, I picked the "Ninth Guest" out of the YouTube menu and watched it last week.

Maybe I'm just a little jaded, but my advice for this one is: Don't bother, unless you got a little bit of sadistic interest in fire and electrocution and average acting for the 30's.

Meh, I enjoyed it. 

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57 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

So did Christie, whose book was first published in '39, get her idea from The Ninth Guest? Probably not, as I'm sure there are earlier uses of the same basic set-up. 

Yeah, the plot IS fairly evergreen, I suppose.

In fact Lawrence, just this past Saturday morning I watched an old Maverick rerun on MeTV, and its plot was a variation on this theme, with Garner being scammed by a con man and buying what he thought was the deed to a riverboat, but it turns out when he goes to claim it, the conman had reproduced the deed a number of other times and had sold it to five others.

The six of them then depart on the old decrepit riverboat down the Mississippi River from St. Louis to Memphis and where there is a big financier who once owned it and now wants to buy it back.

And yep, one by one, some of those owners get knocked off during the voyage, and suspicion of each other of them begins to run rampant.

And yep, I'm sure the teleplay's writer "borrowed" his idea from some earlier source material.

(...and perhaps from the very film which you just reviewed, but most likely from the more well-known Agatha Christie story)

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Now and Forever (1934) - Surprisingly effective drama from Paramount Pictures and director Henry Hathaway. Gary Cooper stars as Jerry Day, a con man who roams the luxury spots of the world with his girlfriend Toni (Carole Lombard), staying one step ahead of the law and bill collectors. He learns that he has a 6-year old daughter named Penny (Shirley Temple) from a previous relationship. It seems the child's mother has died, but since she was wealthy, Jerry sees a potential payday, so he takes charge of the young girl. However, the child's infectious charm causes Jerry to reassess his lifestyle and change his ways, a decision that may be easier said than done. Also featuring Sir Guy Standing, Charlotte Granville, Gilbert Emery, Henry Kolker, Tetsu Komai, Akim Tamiroff, and Richard Loo.

I'm not normally a fan of Temple's films, which I find overly sentimental and sickly sweet. However, this outing, in which she's supporting, is much easier to take, even if there is more than a little saccharine. Cooper is good as the morally compromised man trying to change his ways. He's especially effective in the rather dark final act. Temple is Temple, while Lombard doesn't have a lot to do. Granville is enjoyable as a rich old widow who wants to adopt Temple. While the money may be nice, I'm not sure how many years old Charlotte has left in her to be raising a 6-year-old to maturity. I liked this more than expected, and would recommend it to those who have perhaps avoided it due to Temple's presence.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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20 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

It isn't that good, either. That's why I gave it a 5/10...right in the middle.

 

I've only seen it once. I dont remember it being awful, so that's probably about right. For some reason it rarely pops up on TCM, though I think it's a WB film........

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32 minutes ago, Hibi said:

 

I've only seen it once. I dont remember it being awful, so that's probably about right. For some reason it rarely pops up on TCM, though I think it's a WB film........

I recorded it off of TCM a few weeks ago, so they show it occasionally. I've only recently begun trying to watch all of the Stanwyck films that I haven't seen, so I wasn't paying attention in the past to how often it was shown.

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The Old Fashioned Way (1934) - Excellent comedy from Paramount Pictures and director William Beaudine. W.C. Fields stars as "The Great McGonigle", the head of a two-bit traveling theatrical troupe. As they arrive in a new town to perform their signature show, the temperance hit The Drunkard, McGonigle also has to deal with bill collectors, a young man eager to join the show (Joe Morrison) and who is also wooing McGonigle's daughter Betty (Judith Allen), local townswoman Cleopatra Pepperday (Jan Duggan) who wishes to join the show, and her troublemaking young child (Baby LeRoy). Also featuring Tammany Young, Nora Cecil, Oscar Apfel, and Jack Mulhall.

Comedy is the most subjective of genres, and if you don't care for Fields' style I doubt this would change your mind. But I enjoy him, and there are several funny sequences here. One highlight of the film is seeing Fields perform some of his juggling act that made him a name on the vaudeville stage years earlier. It's quite impressive. Recommended.  (8/10)

Source: Universal DVD, part of the W.C. Fields Comedy Favorites Collection.

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46 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

The Old Fashioned Way (1934) - Excellent comedy from Paramount Pictures and director William Beaudine. W.C. Fields stars as "The Great McGonigle", the head of a two-bit traveling theatrical troupe. As they arrive in a new town to perform their signature show, the temperance hit The Drunkard

The Drunkard actually was a big hit with the previous generation (back when it was touring pre-Prohibition propaganda against the social evils of the corner saloon), and as the credits tell us, two of the original touring lead actors are granted honorary cameos as members of the audience.

But you can guess how Evils-of-drink melodrama would be perfect fodder for Fields--Especially the running joke of Field's stagehand missing his cue for the handful of snow on "'Tain't a fit night out for man nor beast..."

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On demande une brute (1934) - aka Brute Wanted. French comedy short from writers Jacques Tati and Rene Clement and director Charles Barrios. Tati stars as an out-of-work actor with a nagging wife who suggests he answer an ad in the paper looking for those who can play "violent men". Tati goes to the audition and gets the part, only to learn that it's not in a play but rather in a wrestling match, where he will have to face the fearsome Krotov the Tatar. Also featuring Helene Pepee, Rhum, Raymond Turgy, and Jean Clairval.

This runs just over twenty minutes, but it still finds time to elicit some laughs. Tati plays his role with little dialogue, but his tall and lanky body language says enough. This was the 27-year-old Tati's first script and his second acting appearance.   (6/10)

Source: FilmStruck.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

The Old Fashioned Way (1934)

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The highlight of this film for me is when Cleopatra Pepperday (the outrageous Jan Duggan) sings an old fashioned chestnut, "Gathering Up The Shells By The Seashore" while prancing around the room. Fields watches in polite silence, because she's the richest woman in town and he wants the dough, but he looks like he'd love to find an exit door from the room.

Duggan is hilarious here but what I also appreciate about this scene is that, even though this is clearly a Fields vehicle, he sits back and lets her have the scene, knowing it will be a stronger film for it.

In first observing Pepperday's ludicrous head to toe frilly dress, Fields mutters as an aside, "She's all dressed up like a well kept grave." But when he then discovers her wealth she becomes, "The cow with the silver lining."

 

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Operator 13 (1934) - Silly Civil War-era musical/romance/spy movie from MGM and director Richard Boleslawski. Marion Davies stars as Gail Loveless, a stage performer who gets recruited by the Union army to act as an undercover spy. She's sent to infiltrate the army of General Stuart (Douglass Dumbrille), which she does in blackface, pretending to be a black maid. She and fellow spy Pauline (Katharine Alexander) barely escape, only for Gail to be sent back down south, this time as a white lady, where she inadvertently falls in love with Confederate officer Jack (Gary Cooper). Also featuring Jean Parker, Ted Healy, Sidney Toler, Russell Hardie, Henry Wadsworth, Fuzzy Knight, Robert McWade, Wade Boteler, Theresa Harris, Samuel S. Hinds, Sterling Holloway, Curly Howard, Edgar Kennedy, Hattie McDaniel, Clarence Muse, Wheeler Oakman, E. Alyn Warren, and the Mills Brothers.

This mash-up of genres and styles never comes together, and seems assembled from several script fragments laying around the MGM offices. Seeing as there are at least 10 different screenwriters believed to have worked on this, that assessment may not be far off. Davies gives it her best try, but the early sections of the film with her in blackface and acting in an exaggerated "mammy" caricature are cringeworthy at best. She's much better in the later sections, during which she gets to sing a song while Cooper pushes her on a swing. Cooper looks bored, embarrassed, or sleepy, depending on the scene. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography (George J. Folsey). This has a 7.8 out of 10 score on IMDb, so most viewers seem to like it a lot more than I did. All I can muster for it is a 5/10.

Source: TCM.

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52 minutes ago, LawrenceA said:

Operator 13 (1934) - Silly Civil War-era musical/romance/spy movie from MGM... 

....Cooper looks bored, embarrassed, or sleepy, depending on the scene.

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Say Lawrence! Ya think it's possible this movie left SUCH a bad taste in Coop's mouth that THIS might be the very reason he refused even consider taking the Rhett Butler part in that other Civil War flick of some repute?

(...well, Coop DID say that that one would bomb TOO, now didn't he?!)

;)

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The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) - Entertaining swashbuckling romantic comedy from United Artists and director Alexander Korda. Douglas Fairbanks, in his final role, stars as the legendary Spanish lover in his later years, when his legend has outgrow his reality. There is an epidemic of young men pretending to be Don Juan in order to woo lonely wives, and tales of Don Juan's past escapades have been published and are found on every street corner in Seville. But the real Don Juan has aches in his joints from too many years jumping off of balconies to escape jealous husbands, as well as lines on his face and gray in his hair. When one of the impostors is killed in a duel, Don Juan takes it as an opportunity to retire and move to the countryside under an assumed identity. But life as the world's greatest lover is hard to put away, and soon he begins to wish for his old glory. Also featuring Merle Oberon, Melville Cooper, Benita Hume, Gina Malo, Binnie Barnes, Joan Gardner, Barry MacKay, Claud Allister, Patricia Hilliard, Clifford Heatherley, Elsa Lanchester, Abraham Sofaer, and Athene Seyler.

This was a terrific send off for Fairbanks, as there are many parallels between his character and himself. His distinctly American voice may seem out of place, but I allowed for the discrepancy. He was still in tremendous shape, performing some climbing and jumping stunts, and a bit of swordplay. Oberon has rarely, if ever, been lovelier, and I got a kick out of Cooper as Don Juan's exasperated manservant. The costumes and sets are top notch, and director Korda keeps things moving along at a fine clip. A perfectly enjoyable romp, with some deeper things to say about the acceptance of aging, and the nature of reputation and legend.   (7/10)

Source: FilmStruck.

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