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Friday, March 14, 2014

Sweeney Todd the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1936) - George King

Sweeney Todd from 1936 is a really fantastic little film. My only experience with Sweeney Todd is Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl and Tim Burton's Sweeney Todd with Johnny Depp. I didn't really care for the Tim Burton version though. This movie is about a barber in England who kills his clients by launching them into his dungeon-like basement. I guess they break their necks or something like that. It is hinted that his victims end up in pies that are baked by his neighboring business partner, but never explicitly displayed. The two seem to be getting away with it until jealousy rears its ugly head and the relationship starts to strain. The movie doesn't do a really good job of establishing a connection between the pie maker lady and ol' Todd, however, you get the point.

The thing that I liked most about this movie would be the way that Tod Slaughter (what a name right?) portrays a really imposing figure as the titular character; he is like the Leatherface of jolly old England. You don't get to see what he does to his victims but throughout the film you get the idea that he slit's his victims throats. He is always talking about how beautiful his straight razor looks against the victim's neck, its really creepy. Other great performances come from little Johnny Singer and Stella Rho both of whom play their parts to a T.

If you are looking for a musical or fun dance-ish version of Sweeney Todd you are going to have to look elsewhere. This is a straight forward horror movie with no frills and the intro and outro are amazing. The movie has little hangups but in short it ranks right up there with Bride of Frankenstein as being one of the greatest horror movies of the 1930's.

Director: George King
Country: United Kingdom

Did ya know...
This film is low budget. You can tell in a number of scenes but they are all of great quality. Except for the "stone" floor in Sweeney's basement is made of wood.

To Sarah. I love you. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Rogues Tavern (1936) - Robert F. Hill

The Rogues Tavern follows the same tried and true path that its predecessors had taken. Another Old Dark House type movie that pits suspicion against wits. This one has a small twists and turns but ultimately ends up just like all of the rest. You get some pretty unenthusiastic shots of German Shepherds running up and down stairs and jumping in through a window. Other than that the movie is pretty boring. 

A group of people are stuck in an old hotel while a murderous dog roams the halls looking for it's next victim. This would be a cool premise if the movie wasn't so damn boring. What is with these movies? Why are they so dry and boring? The writing is horrible and the content is forgettable. I don't know why you would want to watch this but... whatever. Check out The Rogues Tavern for a taste of the Old Dark House-style. This movie is ripe with it. 

I don't want to keep regurgitating the usual gripe. I am just tired of the equation. It's the same thing every time. Group of people. Check. A creepy night, perhaps a storm. Check. An old dark building. Check. Uggh... I can't wait to get some variety in here. Give me the giant monsters and slasher killers! Hurry! 

I'm full of romance, must be this tavern, the fireplace. I feel so poetic, I could make love to a snowman.

  • When Mrs. Jamison (Clara Kimball Young) has her speech at the end of the film, a photograph of the younger Clara Kimball Young is visible behind her.
  • Australia has a uncut 70 minute version.
  • The tagline Weird Happenings In a Sinister Roadside Inn! 

Friday, March 07, 2014

The Walking Dead (1936) - Michael Curtiz

Boris Karloff stars in this dramatic piece about a man that gets framed and put to death. However, his heart is revived by a Mad Scientist of sorts and he comes back to avenge his erroneous death! In a way... 

Boris Karloff gives a pretty decent performance that's very close to his Frankenstein one. What can I say. The guy is a decent actor but he lacks range. I think his most stand out performances thus far, aside from Frankenstein, have been in The Black Cat and The Black Room. Marguerite Churchill wasn't bad. Her character got pushed into the background quite frequently. Ricardo Cortez was a great villain though. He was pretty sinister. 

Karloff starts picking off his enemies one by one. However, he doesn't actually place a hand on any of them. It's pretty interesting and kind of reminded me of Final Destination. That was about the most interesting thing that the movie had going for it. The climax and general lead-up to the meat of the movie couldn't hold water. It felt too much like Frankenstein at times.  

The movie had some really great shots. Hal Mohr had some fun with the camera and let a little German Expressionism leak through. The death row scene is haunting. The infamous piano scene is terrifying. It had a lot to do with the music as well. Great soundtrack, great shots, boring performances.

The Lord thy God is a jealous God!

  • The Walking Dead premiered on February 29, 1936.
  • Karloff didn't like his initial character. He voiced his concerns to director Michael Curtiz who brought in three more writers to add more dialogue to Karloff's character. 
  • The "glass heart" machine used to revive Karloff's dead character was said to be "nearly a perfect replica" of an actual perfusion pump--a device designed to keep organs alive outside an organism's body--which had been built by Charles Lindbergh, when the legendary pilot and engineer was working with a Nobel-winning scientist at New York's Rockefeller Institute research labs in the mid-1930s.