Category Archives: 1933

Supernatural (1933, Victor Halperin)

Supernatural is a strange little film. I say little just because it's just over an hour; it has a great pace, however, and always feels full. Maybe because it introduces two subplots before getting to top-billed Carole Lombard. Then Lombard sort of encounters one of the subplots and the other one merges with her own story for the picture.

There's fantastic acting throughout–Lombard doesn't really get to shine until the second act, when she's possessed by an evil spirit. But H.B. Warner's great as her psychiatrist, who also has his own subplot going. It all relates to Vivienne Osborne's death row murderer. Her ex-boyfriend, a sham spiritualist (Alan Dinehart), targets Lombard, who's grieving from her own loss.

Harvey F. Thew and Brian Marlow's script wastes no time. The exposition is always to the point and perfectly integrated. Randolph Scott's returning from a trip so he'll naturally get exposition from other characters to fill him in. Scott's good as Lombard's love interest. Very likable. Oh, and William Farnum is hilarious as Lombard's attorney. Supernatural is serious and dangerous–Dinehart's a bad guy–and Farnum's around to let off the pressure.

Director Halperin does a good job too. He can't figure out how to visualize the spirits, which is a problem, but the excellent miniature effects make up for it. Maybe it's because the film goes through how Dinehart sets up his fake spirits, which draws attention to how the film's going to do the real ones.

Supernatural is quiet, short and quite good.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Victor Halperin; screenplay by Harvey F. Thew and Brian Marlow, based on a story by Garnett Weston; director of photography, Arthur Martinelli; produced by Edward Halperin and Victor Halperin; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Carole Lombard (Roma Courtney), Alan Dinehart (Paul Bavian), Vivienne Osborne (Ruth Rogen), Randolph Scott (Grant Wilson), H.B. Warner (Dr. Carl Houston), Beryl Mercer (Madame Gourjan) and William Farnum (Hammond).


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The Invisible Man (1933, James Whale)

The Invisible Man is a filmmaking marvel. First off, R.C. Sherriff’s screenplay sets things up speedily and without much exposition. The film introduces Claude Rains’s character through everyone else’s point of view–first the strangers he meets, then his familiars–all while Rains is front and center in the film. Even though he is, after all, invisible.

Rains is another marvel. The script is excellent, Whale does a peerless job directing (more on his contributions in a bit), but Rains makes the whole thing possible. With him, Invisible isn’t some horror picture or a sci-fi one, it’s a very simple, very tragic story of a man going mad. It doesn’t need the special effects, it just needs Rains. Everything else is a bonus. It’s an outstanding performance.

The whole cast is great–Gloria Stuart has to sell the idea Rains was once a lovable guy, so goes Henry Travers for instance. William Harrigan gets to be a sleaze bag but a decent enough minded one.

Now for Whale. Many of the special effects in The Invisible Man are unbelievable. Even the ones where they obviously used some kind of matte decades are sort of unbelievable, but the practical effects–where the bandages must have been suspended by wire–those are astonishing. And Whale knows, early on, to wow the audience. But he never lets up with it; it’s one wow after another.

The Invisible Man gets better on every viewing. The work from Whale, Rains and Sherriff is singular.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by James Whale; screenplay by R.C. Sherriff, based on the novel by H.G. Wells; director of photography, Arthur Edeson; edited by Ted J. Kent; music by Heinz Roemheld; produced by Carl Laemmle Jr.; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Claude Rains (The Invisible Man), Gloria Stuart (Flora Cranley), William Harrigan (Dr. Arthur Kemp), Henry Travers (Dr. Cranley), Una O’Connor (Jenny Hall), Forrester Harvey (Herbert Hall), Holmes Herbert (Chief of Police), E.E. Clive (Const. Jaffers), Dudley Digges (Chief Detective), Harry Stubbs (Inspector Bird), Donald Stuart (Inspector Lane) and Merle Tottenham (Millie).


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Disgraced (1933, Erle C. Kenton)

Like most lame melodramas, Disgraced‘s plot only works because characters all of a sudden act completely differently than the story has previously established them. Disgraced concerns a department store model (Helen Twelvetrees) who starts hanging around a regular customer’s fiancé. Romance ensues.

She’s got to hide the affair from her father, who would rather she marry an insurance agent of questionable professional morality.

Twelvetrees is good when she’s the protagonist, but she loses that role in the narrative during the third act and things get problematic. As the film gets more absurd, her performance suffers.

As her loafing, rich kid beau, Bruce Cabot does a fine job. Disgraced doesn’t give its actors much to do so it’d be hard for one to be bad. Sadly, as Cabot’s unfaithful fiancée, Adrienne Ames is bad. So’s William Harrigan as Twelvetrees’s father. But at least Harrigan is earnest.

Ken Murray plays the insurance agent and he’s okay. Like I said, there’s not much for anyone to do. Disgraced runs just over an hour; there isn’t room for subplots.

Kenton does a surprisingly good job of directing. Not because he’s generally incompetent, but because he finds little moments in the picture where he can really showcase the technical. He’s got a rather nice crane shot for one of the street scenes and he manages to keep it visually interesting.

Besides some decent acting (for a while), Disgraced‘s only singular feature is the fantastic opening cast introductions. They’re little scenes for each actor. It’s ingenious.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Erle C. Kenton; screenplay by Alice D.G. Miller and Francis Martin, based on a story by Miller; director of photography, Karl Struss; music by John Leipold; produced by Bayard Veiller; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Helen Twelvetrees (Gay Holloway), Bruce Cabot (Kirk Undwood, Jr.), Adrienne Ames (Julia Thorndyke), William Harrigan (Pat Holloway), Ken Murray (Jim McGuire), Charles Middleton (District Attorney) and Willard Mack (Defense Attorney).


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She Done Him Wrong (1933, Lowell Sherman)

With her cane and big goofy hat, it’s hard not to think of Lon Chaney in Phantom of the Opera when Mae West breaks out into her first song in She Done Him Wrong.

While West wrote the film’s source, a play, it seems like the film would play better as a silent. Her acting “style” doesn’t lend well to dialogue and the shock value of her lines would work just as well on title cards.

The film drags—it’s barely sixty-five minutes and Sherman has to pad it with four or five musical numbers. He does manage to give the impression he opened it up though. The film takes place in a night club; the one trip outside stays in memory long enough open the picture.

Somehow Sherman and director of photography Charles Lang can come up with nice camera movements to track West and her swaggering strut, but Sherman and editor Alexander Hall can’t do one nice cut. The film’s editing is atrocious. Every time the shot changes, whether between scene or between angle, it’s hideously jarring.

Some of the supporting performances are good. Dewey Robinson is great as West’s flunky and Owen Moore (in a theatrical turn, which I’m not using as a pejorative term) is excellent as her ex-boyfriend. Noah Beery’s okay, nothing more, and Rafaela Ottiano is weak. David Landau has some moments.

Cary Grant, however, has no good ones.

The film and West (it’s her vanity piece, after all) are a chore.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Lowell Sherman; screenplay by Harvey F. Thew and John Bright, based on a play by Mae West; director of photography, Charles Lang; edited by Alexander Hall; music by John Leipold; produced by William LeBaron; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Mae West (Lady Lou), Cary Grant (Captain Cummings), Owen Moore (Chick Clark), Gilbert Roland (Serge Stanieff), Noah Beery (Gus Jordan), David Landau (Dan Flynn), Rafaela Ottiano (Russian Rita), Dewey Robinson (Spider Kane), Rochelle Hudson (Sally), Tammany Young (Chuck Connors), Fuzzy Knight (Rag Time Kelly), Grace La Rue (Frances), Robert Homans (Doheney) and Louise Beavers (Pearl).


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