Murder on the Campus (1933)

vt On the Stroke of Nine
US / 73 minutes / bw / Chesterfield Dir: Richard Thorpe Pr: George R. Batcheller Scr: Andrew Moses Story: The Campanile Murders (1933) by Whitman Chambers Cine: M.A. Andersen Cast: Shirley Grey, Charles Starrett, J. Farrell MacDonald, Ruth Hall, Dewey Robinson, Maurice Black, Edward Van Sloan, Tane Keckley (i.e., Jane Keckley), Richard Catlett, Harry Bowen, Al Bridge, Harrison Greene, Henry Hall, Frank LaRue.

Lillian Voyne (Grey) is working her way through college by singing at a nightclub, the Lido. One night she hitches a lift from crime reporter Bill Bartlett (Starrett) of the Times–Star, who’s sweet on her, to go meet Malcolm “Mal” Jannings, chime-ringer for the bells in the campanile on the local college campus. Around about the time she’s supposed to meet the man, a shot rings out; when Police Captain Ed Kyne (MacDonald) and Detective Sergeant Charlie Lorrimer (Robinson) explore the campanile, with Bill in tow, they find Jannings shot dead but no sign of the killer. Yet Bill can testify to the fact that no one has left the campanile. It seems like an impossible murder . . .

Charles Starrett as Bill and Shirley Grey as Lillian

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Hell Harbor (1930)

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An early role for the “Mexican Spitfire” in a tale of Caribbean derring-do!
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US / 83 minutes / bw / Inspiration, UA Dir & Pr: Henry King Scr: Fred DeGresac, Clark Silvernail, N. Brewster Morse Story: Out of the Night (1925) by Rida Johnson Young Cine: John Fulton, Robert M. Haas, Mack Stengler Cast: Lupe Velez, Jean Hersholt, John Holland, Gibson Gowland, Harry Allen, Al St. John, Paul Burns, George Bookasta, Ulysses Williams, Ruth Hall, Rondo Hatton, Sextetto Habanero.

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Velez’s second talkie—after Tiger Rose (1929) dir George Fitzmaurice—is a comedy- and music-laced melodrama that, despite suffering some problems of pacing, is really quite entertaining, primarily because of Velez’s effervescent presence.

Hell Harbor, a colony somewhere in the Caribbean, is largely populated by the descendants of pirates. One of these is Anita Morgan (Velez), daughter of Henry Morgan (Gowland), the several-times-great grandson of the famous pirate likewise called Henry Morgan. Anita’s dream is to escape from her often abusive father and the cesspit of Hell Harbor to live in Havana, Cuba, which she regards as a sort of heaven on earth:

Anita: “I want to see Havana now! Havana, with its music, its riding carriages . . . and wash all over every day!”

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Peg Leg (Harry Allen) strikes a bargain with Horngold for the pearls.

Her father is not just a brute but a murderer. In the movie’s opening scenes we see an English drifter called Peg Leg (Allen) sell a Continue reading

Gambling Sex (1932)

vt Laughing at Luck
US / 59 minutes / bw / Monarch Dir: Fred Newmeyer Pr: Burton King Scr: F. McGrew Willis Cine: Edward Kull Cast: Ruth Hall, Grant Withers, John St. Polis, Maston Williams, Jean Porter, Jimmy Eagles, Murdock MacQuarrie.

Gambling Sex - 0 opener

In Miami, rich John Tracy (St. Polis) is losing heavily at the casino as he follows the system devised by his “friend” Ralph Jordan (Williams); what he doesn’t know is that the system’s a complete con and Jordan is harvesting from the casino a cool 20% of Tracy’s losses.

Some years ago, during the Crash, Tracy’s acquaintance Bill Foster (Withers) lost everything. Bill insisted that Tracy take his string of racehorses in payment for a debt; Tracy insisted on giving Bill paid employment as the manager of the string. Bill and jockey Sandy Lane (Eagles) feel guilty that Tracy’s not getting much of a return on his investment: the only horse they have that’s any good is Lightning, and Lightning—“the fastest thing on earth”—seems well-nigh untameable.

Gambling Sex - 1 John's photo of Sheila

John Tracy’s treasured photo of his daughter Sheila (Ruth Hall).

Foolishly, Tracy thinks that he might be the one to tame the beast, and lets himself into Lightning’s stall. A few noisy moments later he’s being helped away to what will prove to be his deathbed. Bill sends for Tracy’s extraordinarily toothsome daughter Sheila (Hall), a student at snooty school Stewart Hall, where the teachers are really, really strict (“I’d advise you not to get that bathing suit wet. It might shrink”) and the girls are really, really unbridled (“I know a place where they weaken the ginger ale so it doesn’t make us dizzy!”). She arrives in time to witness her father give Continue reading