Peter Ibbetson (1935)

PETER IBBETSON (1935)
Article #1023 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-2-2004
Posting Date: 5-31-2004
Directed by Henry Hathaway
Featuring Gary Cooper, Ann Harding, John Halliday

Two childhood sweethearts are separated as youths, and then meet again many years later to discover they are still very much in love.

The fantastic aspect of this movie doesn’t manifest itself until the second half of the movie, and to tell you the events that lead up to it would be giving away huge chunks of the plot, so all I will say at this point is that the two main characters are able to share the same dreams by which they can be together through a forced separation. In short, this is romantic fantasy. It’s fairly good, with decent performances from all concerned, unexpected plot twists, and some interesting secondary characters. An earlier version of the Du Maurier story appeared in 1921, but I have been unable to find that one.

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The Pearl of Death (1944)

THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944)
Article #1022 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 1-1-2004
Posting Date: 5-30-2004
Directed by Roy William Neill
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey

When Sherlock Holmes inadvertently becomes responsible for the theft of a rare pearl, he matches wits with a man named Conover to recover the pearl.

This is another enjoyable entry in the Universal Sherlock Holmes series, and it may be one of the most horror-oriented of the series. A good deal of this has to do with the presence of Rondo Hatton as the back-breaking character known as the Creeper, who was so popular that two other movies (HOUSE OF HORRORS and THE BRUTE MAN) were made around the character. Here he is given no dialogue and remains in the shadows for most of the movie; in fact, the final confrontation marks one of the rare times I’ve ever seen Holmes to look really scared. In all respects, this is a solid entry in the series, with both Bruce and Hoey providing a fair amount of comic relief.

On a side note, some of these Sherlock Holmes movies were made during the war, so it’s not surprising when the wartime propaganda creeps in. However, in both this entry and THE SCARLET CLAW, I couldn’t help but admire the tasteful and dignified way that this was handled, with final speeches by Holmes that were both subtle and stirring, while avoiding overt preachiness. Though I am not fond of propaganda, I can admire how effective it can be when done well.

My Brother Talks to Horses (1947)

MY BROTHER TALKS TO HORSES (1947)
Article #1021 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-31-2003
Posting Date: 5-29-2004
Directed by Fred Zinnemann
Featuring Jackie ‘Butch’ Jenkins, Peter Lawford, Beverly Tyler

A bank teller deals with his eccentric family, in particular with his younger brother who is able to understand the language of horses.

It’s hard to make plot summaries of movies that are essentially dramas, as this one is; this is true even if the drama revolves around a fantastic premise. In fact, the movie’s fantastic premise seems just one element in the story, which is equal parts “You Can’t Take It With You” (the eccentric family with Spring Byington), the boy-and-his-dog story (substitute horse, though dogs play into it as well), and a subplot in which the boy’s ability (which allows him to figure out who will win at the horse races) garners the attention of some men interested in making a killing at the race track. Unfortunately, these three story elements never really mesh into a satisfying whole. It’s the boy’s relationship with the horses that make for the most effective moments, particularly during a traumatic horse race which is the best sequence of the movie. The basic message of the story is pretty simplistic (whatever happens is for the best no matter how bad it may seem at the time), and the kid (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Mortimer Snerd with his buck teeth and freckles) looks almost like a parody of what a cute little boy is supposed to look like; nonetheless, he was a very good actor and what success this movie has is in good part attributable to his performance, as well as to that of the animals and the character actors that populate the cast.

The Savage Girl (1932)

THE SAVAGE GIRL (1932)
Article #1020 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-30-2003
Posting Date: 5-28-2004
Directed by Harry L. Fraser
Featuring Rochelle Hudson, Walter Byron, Adolph Miller

A safari discovers a wild white woman living in the jungle.

All right, a quick description of the characters.

First, we have the hero who leads the expedition. He will protect any white goddess found in the jungle from the machinations of those who wish to take advantage of her.

We have the villain, who has plans to take advantage of the white goddess, and is good friends with the local headhunters; if anyone stands in his way, he can ask them for favors.

We have the white goddess, whose main act of savagery seems to be hugging the kittens of a jaguar. Despite having lived by herself in the wild for years, her main defense against those who attack her is to scream and try to run.

We have the comic relief drunken millionaire who goes to Africa to gather a menagerie and see if elephants are really afraid of mice. I’ll leave it to you to find out the result of that experiment.

Take these characters, add ten minutes of plot, ten minutes of comic relief and lots of stock footage of safaris, and you have an idea of how this movie goes.

Oh, and how does it end? I won’t say, but I will give you a couple of clues –

SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

Heroes by there very nature are not allowed to kill villains no matter how villainous they are; that’s how heroes are (in the movies, anyway).

Unrepentant villains can not be left alive at the end of a movie.

Wandering gorillas are not subject to the same moral code as heroes.

****END OF SPOILER*********

Summary. Given the choice between watching this movie and doing the laundry, keep these things in mind.

1) It takes about as long to do a load of laundry as it does to watch this movie.

2) Both tasks are equally entertaining.

3) After doing one of these things, you have a nice stack of clean clothes. After doing the other, you still need to do your laundry.

Make your choices accordingly.

The Dragon Murder Case (1934)

THE DRAGON MURDER CASE (1934)
Article #1019 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-29-2003
Posting Date: 5-27-2004
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
Featuring Warren William, Margaret Lindsay, Lyle Talbot

When a man dives into a swimming pool and never comes up, Philo Vance is called in on the case.

Warren William was one of the less interesting actors I’ve seen in the role, but he had to eradicate memories of William Powell and Basil Rathbone for starters. As it is, it’s some of the other characters that make this one interesting; it’s fun to see a young Lyle Talbot in the role of Dale Leland, Etienne Girardot is great as a fussy coroner, and Eugene Pallette steals the show as Sergeant Heath. This one also has a marked horror element, as the murder is believed (by certain people) to be the work of a mythical “dragon” that resides in the pool (hence the title), an explanation that comes a little closer to the truth than you might expect. It also doesn’t waste time, as it runs around sixty-eight minutes. This is a fun entry in the series.

The Bishop Murder Case (1930)

THE BISHOP MURDER CASE (1930)
Article #1018 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-28-2003
Posting Date: 5-26-2004
Directed by Nick Grinde
Featuring Basil Rathbone, Lella Hyams, Roland Young

Philo Vance is called onto a case where a man is discovered on a professor’s lawn with an arrow through his chest.

Several years before Rathbone became the most famous Sherlock Holmes of them all, he played Philo Vance in this early talkie, and it’s kind of interesting to watch on that level; he is referred to as Holmes at least once during the course of the movie, and even goes into a Holmesian what-you-did-last-night type of monologue that is just like the sort of thing Holmes would do in the stories. This movie is in itself quite interesting, with some well-staged murders (including one that involves a house of cards) and a clever story, but it suffers a little from being slow as molasses at times, and many of the lesser actors were still working in the overdone silent acting style that was quickly becoming out of date during the talkie era. It’s worth catching for Rathbone and Roland Young fans who like a good mystery.

Beautiful Dreamer (1952)

BEAUTIFUL DREAMER (1952)
(a.k.a. EL BELLO DURMIENTE)
Article #1017 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 12-27-2003
Posting Date: 5-25-2004
Directed by Gilberto Martinez Solares
Featuring German Valdes (Tin Tan), Lilia del Valle, Wolf Ruvinskis

A caveman is engaged in a struggle with a rival for the love of a cavewoman.

At this point I have seen several foreign movies in their native languages without subtitles, and usually my reaction is one of head-scratching inconclusiveness. There are those handful of movies, though, that still seem to come across despite the fact that you can’t understand what’s being said, and this is one of them. Part of it is that it’s a caveman movie, and the pleasures of those movies usually have little to do with clever dialogue; it’s to see dinosaurs (in this case, puppets) and men and women in skimpy costumes. The fact that this is also a slapstick comedy also helps, due to the fact that it relies on visual jokes rather than verbal ones. German Valdes is in his element here, and his energy makes this romp rather enjoyable. It gets a little more difficult to follow when the action moves to the modern times, with our hapless caveman trying to cope with a world in which his usual methods of communication (rubbing noses, patting people about the face with three-stooges-like gestures, and hitting people over the head with clubs, the latter being extremely common) are no longer acceptable, but even here some of the plot elements and themes come through (including one involving either reincarnation or ancestral memories). For anyone wishing to try their luck at watching an unsubtitled and undubbed foreigh movie, this is one that I’d recommend. Incidentally, Wolf Ruvinskis would go on to play Neutron.