1932 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1932.

1. Vampyr, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (10/10)

This is one of the best shot movies of all time, bar none. It features more shadow tricks than any film noir, and all sorts of insane (for its time) camera trickery. It is a very early talkie, and there is very little in the way of sound, but that only forces you to pay more attention to what is on screen. Yes, I admit, the plot sort of falls apart, no doubt because of the missing scenes. But if you are a fan of movie-making, or are interested in movie-making in anyway, this is an absolute must-see. Though it is a little later than them, this belongs with all the German silent classics which created artistic film-making.

2. Freaks, directed by Tod Browning (9/10)

This certainly feels like the first “indie” film, even though such things really didn’t exist until Cassavettes, at least. Though the amateur actors are sometimes not very good, the whole enterprise is so admirable for what it was doing (provoking prudes) and the story is affecting enough that you don’t care so much about the acting. Plus, it includes one of the more famous chants in film history.

3. I Am A Fugitive from a Chain Gang, directed by Mervyn LeRoy (9/10)

This is one of those films that Hollywood managed to get nearly-right, in spite of itself. Unfortunately, I didn’t record my thoughts at the time, but you’ll be surprised by how real (relatively speaking) this feels, given its origins in a Hollywood that didn’t do “real” in any shape or form.

3. Scarface, directed by Howard Hawks, Richard Rossen (9/10)

This is perhaps the classic Hollywood gangster film, for the most part superior to the Public Enemy and especially Little Caesar. It sets up most of the gangster genre conventions, features a shocking amount of location, or faux-location shooting, some neat camera tricks and characterizations that are iconic, if not altogether great. On the other hand, there is the totally out of place moralizing scene right in the middle, and little strange things like how Tony’s sister is clearly not Italian.

5. Das blaue Licht, directed by Leni Riefenstahl (8/10)

This is a relatively pretty looking early talkie with relatively little actual dialogue. It’s apparently notable for being one of the first talkies to be shot on location, and certainly the locations help create an appropriate mood.

Though the story of an outcast in a small town is one that a lot of us can relate to, the film has dated somewhat, particularly in the relative lack of dialogue for a talkie. Also, though the film is pretty, and contains some really unique shots – is it the first ever film to depict mountain climbing??? – it kind of pales in comparison to the Expressionist films that would soon become so unpopular in Germany (if they weren’t already).

I appreciate the mountain climbing, but I do feel like other German directors of the era got a lot more mood out of these types of stories, and that those films have held up better than this one.

6. The Mummy, directed by Karl Freund (7/10)

I guess I kind of figured I would be watching the serious version of Abbot & Costello, but that’s not the case. This is considerably different than I thought it would be. That’s mostly a blessing, I guess. It’s more interesting than ‘a man in bandages chasing people around’. Though it’s somewhat silly, I like how it doesn’t dumb down it’s Egyptian curse stuff; it kind of assumes we should know better.

7. Number Seventeen, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (5/10)

One of Hitch’s early talkies that I saw too long ago to properly assess.

8. Grand Hotel, directed by Edmund Golding (4/10)

Unfortunately I did not record my thoughts at the time, but I do remember being bored to death.

9. Red-Headed Woman, directed by James Conway (4/10)

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