Warner Archive recently celebrated its sixth anniversary and what better way to salute classic film fans' favourite online shop than to sit back, relax, pop some corn and watch some awesome (somewhat forgotten) movies! Leave it to the folks over at WA to introduce me to old movies I'd previously never even heard of. Seriously, it's all lollipops and tulips watching the more popular fare TCM offers on a regular basis like CASABLANCA (1942), THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), and GRAND HOTEL (1932) but there is something to be said about watching movies that have practically disappeared and aren't as widely known or shown on national television.
I was lucky enough to be sent a few DVDs to get stuck into and here's what I thought about the first few:
ACE OF ACES (1933)* // Admittedly not the greatest WWI movie ever made, but it effectively illustrates just how much war and conflict can change a person. The special effects were decent and the aerial fighting sequences were pretty damn good! This was one of the first classic war films I've watched that focused on both the men and women who fought in the mud and sleet of Europe during the 1910s. You won't come out of ACES OF ACES loving every character you see on the screen, but it's a worthwhile investment in both time and money. Overall, a great little movie that whizzes by in the blink of an eye and well worth seeing if you're at all a history buff like I am!
AFTER OFFICE HOURS (1935)* // Ahhh here we go: Mr. Clark Gable himself in all his early-1930s glory (I swear, I can hear everyone swooning from here). Gable had a habit of showing up in newspaper offices and this time he's the big boss man in a big, checked suit. Strutting around like he owns the place, hair lacquered to within an inch of its life, moustache clipped and ears on the look-out for any gossipy bits of news he can print in his rag (those ears are like satellites, aren't they?). The lovely thing about this movie - apart from Constance Bennett, of course - is its short and succinct running time of 71 minutes. It's like a classic film version of wham-bam-thank-you-maam. A quickie of sorts, if you like. Plus, whenever I hear the melodious sing-song voice belonging to Billie Burke, I'm pretty much floating on cloud nine for a week! If you've got a tiny bit more than an hour to spare, spend it watching this early film gem. Oh, and there's a murder that takes place at about the half-way point. Hah! Bet you didn't see that coming!
WHOOPEE! (1930)* // Dude, I totally did not expect this to be an "All Technicolor" production! Considering its age and budget, I thought this was gonna be choppy, ill-focused, and prehistorically cut. How dead wrong I was, because this film started off with a bang; stampeding horses, scantily clad women, clumsy, oafish cowboys and a dance extravaganza staged by the incomparable Busby Berkeley. Phew! The hammy, stagey acting left a lot to be desired but Eddie Cantor's back-and-forth witticisms were surprisingly quite chuckle-worthy (I'm almost ashamed to admit that, folks). The film certainly didn't need to be 101 minutes long but nevertheless it served as an enjoyable look back at early Hollywood and how movies were staged and made back then. Word of warning: if you're sensitive to racial content in film you might want to stay away from this one because there are instances of black face and a "red man" inspired musical number (brilliantly staged by Berkeley might I add).
That's about all I had time for this past weekend, but stay tuned a little later on for Part II of this post featuring ANOTHER DAWN (1937), THE LUSTY MEN (1952), and THE BIG HOUSE (1930). All new-to-me movies and each one of them vying to be the next disc that's unceremoniously shoved into my laptop (right after I eject Friends Season One).
If you'd like to purchase any of these titles, visit the Warner Archive shop here!