Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 1936.
1. Modern Times, directed by Charles Chaplin (10/10)
I have long considered this Chaplin’s greatest accomplishment, however I haven’t seen in it a decade, so I cannot say for sure. I feel like I should buy all his features and re-watch them so I can tell you definitively which is greatest.
2. Mayerling, directed by Anatole Litvak (6/10)
This is certainly nice to look at and you can tell people put a lot of effort into it. It’s a little overwrought, with the score and the acting combining to make it too melodramatic. I can’t help but think that it’s entirely possible Rudolph was actually a maniac and murdered (and possibly kidnapped) his “lover” against her will. However, such an interpretation is hardly romantic.
3. Dodsworth, directed by William Wyler (6/10)
It’s well made and there’s nothing particularly wrong with any of it, given the context. There are one or two good lines, too. But on the whole it is pretty damn boring. You know where it’s going to go from the cruise onward, and watching how it gets there is more tiring than interesting. However, I can’t fault it for being made when it was, and so, production-value-wise, it is an above average movie.
4. Satan Met a Lady, directed by William Dieterle (5/10)
This film actually makes the most famous version of The Maltese Falcon as the third, but this film is different enough that most people would probably see it as different (despite the similarities in plot).
What sets this apart from the two versions of the story which are actually named after the novel is that this one is played for laughs. That might be something really special and unique in ’30s Hollywood cinema if The Thin Man didn’t already exist. And unfortunately that’s how this film comes off: as a poor man’s Thin Man, recycling material that had been made into a feature only five years earlier.
And when the definitive version of 1941 is taken into consideration, the film looks even weaker.
5. Juggernaut, directed by Henry Edwards (4/10)
Juggernaut could have been an ok film. Really. The acting wasn’t terrible and Karloff was good (well, he pretty much makes everything better…that guy’s got the most expressive face…) but there was no character development to speak of! (This appears to be a chronic problem amongst 61min quasi-features.) Why is Dr. Sartorius really willing to do what he does? Do we buy that his life’s work is so very important (when we don’t know why he’s doing it) that he would sell his soul to Lady Clifford? No, we don’t.
6. Camille, directed by George Cukor (4/10)
I failed to write down my thoughts about this at the time, but I know I was bored. I don’t like movies like this; I find them sexist and I find them a little insulting. I know they couldn’t help themselves, but still. I wish I could remember specifics for you.
7. Reefer Madness aka Tell Your Children, directed by Louis J. Gasnier (2/10)
The film is indeed about madness but it’s just not very good. It definitely is absurd how everyone attributes anything to the reefer (“Yes, I remember reading about it in the newspaper. Under the influence of the drug, he killed his entire family with an axe.”) but it’s just not that well made. Lots of characters appear out of nowhere with little explanation, and this whole seedy, older, gangsterish-looking men picking up younger men and women (who supposedly are in high school but look like they’re in their 20s) to go smoke joints in this chick’s apartment is just ludicrous. Not to mention the hit and run, and the murders…I know, that’s why it’s considered a “classic” but I think it’s more interesting as proof of how moronic people can be when they are scared, rather than funny. But that’s just my opinion.
“Grand Slam Opera,” directed by Charlie Lamont (5/10)
Odd Buster Keaton talkie with not a ton of dialogue. Still funny because it’s Buster Keaton.