By Whose Hand? (1932)

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Killer on a train!
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US / 65 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Isadore Bernstein, Stephen Roe Story: Harry Adler Cine: Teddy Tetzlaff Cast: Ben Lyon, Barbara Weeks, Kenneth Thomson, Ethel Kenyon, William V. Mong, Dolores Rey (i.e., Dolores Ray), Nat Pendleton, Tom Dugan, Dwight Frye, William Halligan, Helene Millard, Lorin Baker, Oscar Smith, Tom McGuire, DeWitt Jennings, Buddy Roosevelt, Polly Walters.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the bottom half of the cinema bill was thronged with—was almost defined by, if you ignored the oaters—comedy-crime movies like this one. Some of them were pretty good and are fondly remembered. Others, like the godawful BOSTON BLACKIE series starring the godawful Chester Morris—through all of which your correspondent has glumly sat—were, well, you heard it here first: godawful.

By Whose Hand?, which has the probably illusory feel of being a pilot for an unmade series starring ace journalist Jimmy Hawley, Continue reading

Violent Years, The (1956)

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From the master pen of Ed Wood Jr, a taut exploitationer promoting hot babes and, um, Christian family values?
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US / 61 minutes / bw / Headliner, Dél Dir: Wm. M. Morgan Pr: Roy Reid Scr: Edward D. Wood Jr Cine: Wm. C. Thompson Cast: Jean Moorhead, Barbara Weeks, Arthur Millan, Theresa Hancock, Joanne Cangi, Gloria Farr, Glen Corbett (i.e., Glenn Corbett), Lee Constant, I. Stanford Jolley, Timothy Farell (i.e., Timothy Farrell), F. Chan McClure, Bruno Metsa, Harry Keaton.

Violent Years - 0 opener

We know this is going to be a somber movie centered on earnest social comment because, as four lovely young women take turns walking dismissively in front of a chalkboard that bears the words

Good Citizenship—
—Self Restraint—
—Politeness—
—Loyalty—

there’s a portentous voiceover spelling out just the kind of moral lesson we should draw from the piece:

“This is a story of violence, of violence born of the uncontrolled passions of adolescent youth and Continue reading

Woman Unafraid (1934)

US / 58 minutes / bw / Goldsmith Dir: William J. Cowan (i.e., William J. Cowen) Pr: Ken Goldsmith, George E. Kann Scr: Mary E. McCarthy Cine: Gilbert Warrenton Cast: Lucile Gleason, Skeets Gallagher, Lona Andre, Warren Hymer, Barbara Weeks, Laura Treadwell, Ruth Clifford, Eddie Phillips, Jason Robards Sr., Erin La Bissoniere, Franklin Parker, Baby Waring, Richard Elliott, Julie Kingdon, Joyce Coad, Florence Wix, George Guhl, Henry Hall, James T. Mack.

Woman Unafraid - 0 opener

It wasn’t all that often that 1930s crime dramas got the balance between drama and humor right—usually you wish they’d just skipped the cringeworthy humor and had a shorter movie—but sometimes they managed to integrate the two elements perfectly. Some of the lines here are laugh-out-loud funny; elsewhere there are moments of genuine, non-bathetic (well, only a bit bathetic) poignancy; and there’s a likeable, entirely admirable heroine to bind everything together.

Augusta Winthrop (Gleason) is a middle-aged cop with a big heart: she’s a universal aunt. A principal duty of hers is to attend the dancehouse run by Tom Brady (Elliott) to make sure none of the dancers are getting so frisky as to commit public indecency, and also of course to check that none of the taxi dancers are offering more than dances. There are flies in her ointment, not least that Mrs. Eleanor Worthington (Treadwell), the self-appointed President of the Girls’ Protective League, has a habit of calling by on the lookout for “outrages.” Ironically, another problem for Augusta is that Eleanor’s nephew, Anthony Desmond (Gallagher), arrives at the club most nights in a skunklike state—a condition in which his hands become . . . venturesome. As one of the taxi dancers remarks of his latest performance on the dancefloor, “That guy ought to be a chiropractor.”

Tonight Augusta has been Continue reading