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I pirati della Malesia

Dissaspointing Reeves!
If you're looking for Steve Reeves to unveil that magnificent torso of his in this movie, then skip it. He's clad from head to toe throughout a decent adventure film that could have starred any number of action stars. Reeves trademark: his phenomenal body remains hidden throughout. Even in the scenes where other men are barechested, Reeves coyly keeps his shirt on. This is akin to movie producers putting Marilyn Monroe in potato sacks to prove her dramatic talents. I loved the earlier Reeves movies, especially his masterpiece, "Giant of Marathon" because it was like studying a marvel of nature: a phenomenal physique with charisma to spare. Perhaps Reeves thought it a good idea to downplay his body to show the world that he could act. In any case, this isn't a typical Reeves movie. In fact, it seems that the more movies he made over the years, the more he tried to hide his torso by cloaking it in capes and tunics and cloaks. So enjoy "Hercules," "Hercules Unbound" and "Giant of Marathon" while you can because his body-beautiful movies began wounding down soon after.

Maciste contro i mostri

A Hot Reg lewis Makes this worthwhile!
Forget the papier mache monsters and the terrible costumes of the cast. Feast your eyes on Mae West's favorite muscle hunk--Reg Lewis--in his only foray into the explosion of muscle men movies made in Italy during the early 60s. Lewis had a glorious, muscled body that was full and sensuous. Beautifully portioned, there was nothing lean or overly chiseled on this Adonis. With his hair bleached blonde, this enhanced his sexy personae and his mouth was both cynical and humorous. I loved the brief, hip-baring loincloth he wore since nearly all the musclemen from that area kept their loin clothes securely wrapped around their waists. Lewis exuded a raw masculinity, especially when he's with his heroine, who wastes no time climbing into those brawney arms for a deep kiss. No wonder Mae West was nuts about him. My only complaint is there's not enough of Lewis since so much of the film is devoted between the battles of two warring tribes, neither of whom boasts any hot looking hunks. In fact, I think they were chosen for their flat chested looks so that Lewis would appear heroic in comparison and that he does in spades. Perhaps Lewis was dismayed by the very low budget of this movie and the rubber hydra they devised for his mighty battle underwater. We can only wish Italian producers had found something worthy to showcase his sexy torso like they did with Steve Reeves in "Giant of Marathon" in which he appears nearly naked in most of this vastly entertaining swords and sandals epic.

La vendetta di Ercole

Fabulous Mark the MIghty!
Mark Forest, aka Lou Degni from the Bronx, made his movie debut in this colorful swords and sandals saga and became an overnight sensation. No one had ever seen muscles that big--or beautiful--with a body and a sensually beautiful face to go along with it. No, not even Steve Reeves could match Forest in this department. His torso is incredible. With the biggest pectorals and lats in the business and a justly famed ridged stomach. Although born in the Bronx, he became the most sought after physique model of the 50s and later won Mr. America and Mr. Universe. Everyone agreed it wasn't just his stupendous physique that made him a sensation. He had a smile and charisma to burn. This is captured in this film and he went on to make a string of highly successful muscle men features, the best of them, "Kindar the Invulnerable" and "Hercules versus the Mongols" and "Hercules versus the Barbarians." Forest left Italy at the peak of his career to return to America to study opera and performed all over Europe. Today, he still teaches voice and sings and works--surprise--as a personal trainer to a handful of lucky stars in Los Angeles.. Reeves may have been the king of Italy's muscle movies during the 60s but his prince was Mark Forest--perhaps the biggest and most fabulous of them all.

Il Leone di Tebe

Mark the Magnificent!
Mark Forest was probably the most magnificent of all the Hercules heroes, even more so than the God-like Steve Reeves. In his farewell movie, "Lion of Thebes," Forest has never looked more incredible, with his phenomenal torso on full display and his beautifully expressive face--sensuous lips, slanted eyes, chiseled features--all photographed to maximum advantage. Starting out as a physique model, Lou Degni from the Bronx, Forest went on to win Mr. America and it was only fitting that he was brought in on the coattails of the beautiful Reeves to make his share of muscle movies. No one had pecs as enormous as Forest or a ridged stomach that was justly famous. HIs whole torso was a work of wonder and thankfully, we have him on film during his peak to show the world just how phenomenal a speciman of manhood he was. Probably his best movie, "Kindar the Invincible" is included in the 50-movie package, "Warriors", that has ALL the musclemen who portrayed Hercules, Atlas, Samson and so on. But it was Mark Forest and his extraordinary torso and charisma that makes your mouth drop when he appears nearly naked except for a brief loincloth in most of his film work. He conveys a smoldering sensuality lacking in Reeves and you envy the number of actresses who had love scenes with him and were able to squeeze those powerful shoulders and arms. If Hollywood had any brains at that time, Forest would have been a Number One leading man. Male beauty, such as that enjoyed by Reeves and Forest, comes along only once in a century and in these vastly enjoyable "sword and sandal" entertainments, we can enjoy them forever. And wish we had movie heroes today who come anywhere close to Forest and Reeves.

La battaglia di Maratona

Ravishing Valentine to Steve Reeves
This is the ultimate tribute to Steve Reeve's phenomenal male beauty, captured in all its glory at the peak of his powers in l959. "Giant of Marathon" is given an exhilarating beginning with the powerful music score of Roberto Nicolosi, whose symphonic theme, underscores a nearly naked Reeves in brief scenes that showcase his power in the beginning of this vastly entertaining swords and sandals saga. When he swims towards the camera and comes up for air, the music swells and we see a rare glimpse of Reeves laughing. In another snippet, he's shown wrestling with another athlete and both are clad in very brief white loin clothes. It's sexual connotations is definitely there but Reeves looks so god-like you can't imagine him doing anything so earthy as coupling with another handsome jock. Throughout the running time, Reeves magnificent torso and charisma are given the star treatment, especially in the final portion where he and his warriors swim underwater to sabotage the enemy. In their flimsy briefs, this proves to be a beefcake bonanza, featuring not only Reeves but numerous handsome Italian extras. Mario Bava and Jacques Tourneur directed this classic adventure tale with Bava also responsible for the outstanding photography. From this film, he was launched into his legendary series of horror classics, creating such classics as "Kill, Baby, Kill," "Black Sabbath" and others. Reeves is beardless in this adventure and it adds to his boyish charm. At the beginning, he is crowned with a wreath of olive leaves and wearing only his loin cloth, his incredible torso is displayed in all its glory. If you're a Steve Reeves fan--which I definitely am--you might also explore the series of muscle man moveis made by Reeves American cohort, Lou Degni, re-named Mark Forest from the Bronx and a Mr. America winner. His physique is also stunning with a handsome face and acting ability to go with it. "Giant of Marathon" should be restored to its full technicolor glory. Even more than "Hercules Unchained," this is the Steve Reeves movie that fully exploits his extraordinary beauty.

The Brides of Dracula

Forever Fabulous!
This lush, hypnotic horror extravaganza from Hammer Studios improves steadily with age. The magnificent color design, the sets and the all-out performances of the superb cast makes this a classic right along with "Bride of Frankenstein." Each scene is filmed like a work of art, with purple and azure lighting in the backgrounds, marvelous set pieces and a knockout finale. One cannot say enough about the extraordinary cast. Two Shakespearian pros, Martita Hunt (the wizened Baroness Meinster) and her crazed maid, Freda Jackson (Greta)knock everyone else off the screen. Both also performed in the classic, "Great Expectations" and Martita had a stellar career in films. David Peele is stunning as the vampire. Beautiful, evil, arrogant, it's like watching Dorian Gray (which he performed on radio)at his peak. Yvonne Molnaur as the beautiful heroine is perfect. The vampire girls are all superb. I would put this superb classic at the top of any great horror films. You watch it today and see how modern horror films have degenerated. "Brides" was made by masters at their peak. Now, if we can only get this on DVD, maybe as a double feature with "Horror of Dracula." Bravo Martita, Freda and David Peele! If you never did anything else, you did yourself proud with this glimmering jewel of evil,incest and sex.

Tell Your Children

Low-Budget but Good Work!
Thelma White is the actress who really makes this anti-drug flick memorable. She portrays "Mae", who runs a drug den out of her late 30s apartment. Most of her scenes are shallow and brief but at the end she redeems herself in a memorable confession scene. The camera moves up close to catch her emotions and she really delivers when she says she didn't mean to hurt anybody to the DA. I don't know what happened to Thelma White before or after but she and the rest of the cast try valiantly to make this low-budget exploitation film work. "Reefer Madness" has become a joke movie--one everyone is expected to howl at and parody. That's unfortunate but understandable. I love to watch these roadshow exploitation movies from the 30s and early 40s and wonder about the fate of the cast and the crew, wonder about where they got their wardrobes and how were they hired? Was their a "Want Ad" in the Hollywood Reporter or did the film makers use their own friends, neighbors?

The Regeneration

Knock-out Masterpiece!
I became obsessed with this movie two years ago after checking it out of our great NYC library. I rave about it to my friends. To think that this full-length feature was made in l915 is astounding. Maybe it's because of its amazing star, Rockliffe Fellowes, who looks so much like Marlon Brando you'll be double-takes. That he never became a legendary star is a real tragedy but when you think of it, almost none of the film actors from that era survived into the 20s except for Mary Pickford and a few comedians. Rockcliffe is so natural, as is his co-star, the beautiful Anna Q. Nillsen, you have to remind yourself that they were acting. This movie should be studied in film courses to show today's younger movie buffs what dynamic work was being done back int he "dinosaur" age of films. And maybe, like myself, they'll never forget the fantastic Rockliffe Fellowes. This guy "coulda been a contendah!"

King of the Carnival

The Pits!
"King of the Carnival" is the nadir of the once fabulous Republic Studio serial machine that turned out true masterpieces of action during the late 30s and early 40s. Made in l950, this ultra cheapie is a disgrace. I'm sure that the brilliant Republic serial directors like William Witney and John English were mortified to discover their studio had unleashed this incredibly bad, tawdry product onto movie screens. This story has something to do with a circus and criminals. I couldn't figure it out. One of the circus dressing rooms is set up against the corner of a sound stage with draperies to hide the wall. The draperies constantly ripple from a draft. In some of the underwater sequences, the performers pretend to be in the water by moving in s-l-o-w motion. Yet, they don't get wet. One plus: the tape box that this came in has to be one of the most beautifully created containers I've ever seen. Someone did a brilliant job designing this little work of art. Brilliant and vibrant yellows, greens and reds and blues jump off the box. I would give the tape box an A+. The serial gets an O--as in off the radar screen for lousy entertainment. Watch it out of curiosity. And then watch one of Republic's greatest serials: the l942 masterpiece, "G-Men vs. The Black Dragon" with one of the most dynamic female performances in serials: the fabulous Constance Worth. Just watch her use the machine guns, revolvers to help out her boss, rugged Rod Cameron.

King of the Texas Rangers

Super Fun!
This is one of the greatest of Hollywood's serials and made by the Tiffany of serial studios: the great Republic Studio. Made in l941, this is a classic serial to watch if you've never seen one. 'Slingin' Sammy Baugh, a real-life football hero back in the early 40s is the hero. Fascinating B-actress, Pauline Moore, is his plucky companion. Together they tear through this movie, dodging exploding oil wells, car wrecks, blazing fires, floods. Wonderful production values, super music and editing. The kiddies should have the thrill of their lives with this knockout entertainment

The Brides of Dracula

Forever Fabulous!
This lush, hypnotic horror extravaganza from Hammer Studios improves steadily with age. The magnificent color design, the sets and the all-out performances of the superb cast makes this a classic right along with "Bride of Frankenstein." Each scene is filmed like a work of art, with purple and azure lighting in the backgrounds, marvelous set pieces and a knockout finale. One cannot say enough about the extraordinary cast. Two Shakespearian pros, Martita Hunt (the wizened Baroness Meinster) and her crazed maid, Freda Jackson (Greta)knock everyone else off the screen. Both also performed in the classic, "Great Expectations" and Martita had a stellar career in films. David Peele is stunning as the vampire. Beautiful, evil, arrogant, it's like watching Dorian Gray (which he performed on radio)at his peak. Yvonne Molnaur as the beautiful heroine is perfect. The vampire girls are all superb. I would put this superb classic at the top of any great horror films. You watch it today and see how modern horror films have degenerated. "Brides" was made by masters at their peak. Now, if we can only get this on DVD, maybe as a double feature with "Horror of Dracula." Bravo Martita, Freda and David Peele! If you never did anything else, you did yourself proud with this glimmering jewel of evil,incest and sex.

Moon Over Miami

Bouncy, Joyous Delight!
MGM is always the studio that film historians gush about for turning out great musicals. Unfairly snubbed is 20th Century Fox that used the richest, most brilliant color composition in the rainbow for its unforgettable string of Technicolor sundae delights starring Bette Grable. "Moon Over Miami" begins with the bouncy, adorable Texas Tommy Hamburger Drive-in sequence where Grable and Carole Landis show off their figures and talents. Quickly, the action shifts to a long gone Miami of l940 where people actually dressed up in stunning gowns and frocks by Travis Banton. Grable is unusually great looking in her gray ensemble trimmed in fur and she and Landis and Charlotte Greenwood prance around to "Oh, Me, Oh Mi-Ami!" Other fantastic numbers follow, showcasing Grable at her verviest--like her tap dance routine to "You Started Something," then onto "I've Got You All to Myself" and maybe the best, "Conga to a Nursery Rhyme." Banton's costumes, shimmering photography by Leroy Shamroy, electrifying charisma of Grable and the very hunky Don Ameche (who surprises with an outstanding singing vocie), all help make "Moon Over Miami" a sheer delight. Also, dig the decor of the fancy hotel suites, night clubs, the mansions.


Absolute Joy!
Leave it to the greatest movie studio of them all, MGM, to deliver to the world in l937 this unsurpassed musical joy. While all the other movies were celebrating swing and tap dance and the Big Band sound, "Maytime" comes along and when it was released, it took the world by storm. Why? Because it shows how a powerful studio massed together all of its brilliant talent onto this film. Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy would never surpass their performances here. Adrian's incredible costumes for McDonald are stunning. The lush photography, set designs and decor of late l9th century Paris are mind-boggling. And of course, the unforgettable music. You listen again and again to the magnfiicent scoring and vocal arrangements and never forget them. The ultimate sequence is the fabulous "Czaritza" that comes towards the end. McDonald and Eddy are backed up by a fantastic Russian choir. The pre-production on this one movie is amazing. Years in the planning, it was originally begun in l936 as a Technicolor spectacular. But after Irving Thalberg died, Louis B. Mayer chopped the budget in half and demanded "Maytime" be shot in black and white. Whatever the outcome, this movie can enchant even anti-music lovers. Now, let's hope it appears on DVD real soon.

The Black Cat

Demonic Masterpiece!
"The Black Cat" has to be one of the great horror masterpieces of all time. Repeated viewings bring out new vistas of curiosities and subtexts. Made on a modest budget in l934 by German genius, Edgar Ulmer, he brought to this project a colorful, brilliant outlook that was steeped from years of working in Germany's UFA studios. He managed to imbue this eerie, surreal project with an ambiance that's brooding, haunting and profound. The gleaming black and silver art deco sets, the extra embellishments (note the presence of white lillies in many of the scenes)the Oriental statuary that decorates Karloff's study (and used in many key horror sequences over the years, especially in "Dracula's Daughter")and equally important the brilliant musical score, composed of German and Russian greats, helps create a profound sense of loss and doom. You can almost sense the bizarre quality of being in a huge mansion built on the graves of thousands of German soldiers. The Devil's Mass is another unforgettable sequence, where white lillies and inverted crosses and worshippers cloaked in black capes and the women in blonde, gleaming coiffures of the early 30s and rich lighting and photography bring you closer to this sinister scene. Karloff and Lugosi's walk down to the dungeon to see the floating corpses of Karloff's past loves is equally iconic. This is a movie that grows greater with every passing year and will long outlive the wretched "Scream" and "Blair Witch" atrocities.

Captive Wild Woman

Terrific fun Classic!
This is a terrific fun movie to watch, to see how great Universal Studio was back in the early 40s, when they could whip up this glittering little gem on a very low budget. For one thing, its technical crew and cast were all the very best. Evelyn Ankers shows her classic horror heroine side and her screams are among the best. Cult B-Actress, Fay Helm, plays one of her nurse roles and is fantastic, especially when she defies the mad scientist, John Carradine--also in top form--about the dangers of transfusing human blood into a gorilla. Sultry starlet, Acquanette, says not a word but is wonderful eye candy in her short, sexy skirts. Her transformation into a human gorilla is stunning. Lots of stock footage of animal tamer, Clyde Beatty, although it's supposed to be Milburn STone (later of "Gunsmoke" fame) in the lion cages. Wonderful photography and lighting. Vera West does outstanding job outfitting Ankers, especially in her fur hat and coat in the finale. Ankers supposedly hated making movies, especially the ones that Universal type-cast her in. Her talents were criminally wasted since she proved her talent in Sherlock Holmes "Pearl of Death" where she plays 3-4 roles and especailly "Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror" where she plays the heroic Kitty, the prostitute. Watch her go to town in "Weird Woman" where she plays one of her rare villains. Helm never had big roles but she always made the few minuts on screen really count. She was also "Jenny" in the "Wolf Man" and her greatest role as Margaret Ingston in the horror classic, "Night Monster" where she and another acting great, Doris LLoyd, steal the movie right out from under the hideous "Night Monster."

Doctor X

Great old champ!
Don't even try to compare this wonderful old WArner Brothers thriller from l934 with today's thrillers. It was made at a time long gone when atmosphere, sets, lighting and camerawork were king. I adore getting this movie out at least once a month along with "Mystery of the Wax Museum" and "Night Monster" (another reviewer has also cited "Night Monster" as the classic it is)turn out the lights and lose myself in the early Technicolor two-strip photographey which is beautifully pastel and atmospheric in its eerie greens, pinks, crimson and gold. The Anton Grot sets are unforgettable. The cast of Hollywood's greatest character actors throw themselves into their roles (I doubt they had any other choice. After all, the demonic Michael Curtiz was cracking the whip as director). Fay Wray is pretty and screams now and then. Most irritating of all is Lee Tracey as the relentlessly wise-cracking reporter. Glenda Farrell had the same role in "Mystery of the Wax Museum" also filmed in early color and she was fantastic. A great old thriller, set in a remote mansion by the sea. The monster is terrifying. Ironically, you never see any carnage, blood or torture. Hats off to those long-ago film masters who knew how to do things right.

Nice Girl?

Wonderful Girl!
No other studio in Hollywood during the 30s and 40s could so beautifully evoke the haunting beauty of small town America than Universal. In the l941 "Nice Girl," a magical Deanna Durbin is set against probably the most ravishing recreation of Somewhere, USA ever put on film. Deanna's house is memorable with its big, wide windows, open to the wind, the cozy den and bedroom. Most haunting of all is when Deanna sings "Old Folks at Home" at a July 4th celebration near a river. Gorgeous photography, shadows, lights, all-American faces are unforgettable as Deanna sings. Remember that this was made just as America began to fight in World War II. The ending is a masterpiece. Deanna sings "Thank you America" in a radiant, thrilling way. the video shows you immediately an alternate ending that was shown in England at that time, "There'll always be an England." Robert Stack is so gorgeous looking you wonder why he didn't become a major star. Wonderful supporting cast, more great music and this all combines to make "Nice Girl?" a much beloved addition to your library. If you don't like music, then study it for its all-American wholesomeness, sincerity and the styles and clothes of a long ago era. A masterpiece!

Beyond the Forest

One of Hollywood's Greatest!
"Beyond the Forest" is finally getting the respect it's always deserved. A number of film historians are finally appraising this masterpiece as the work of art it is. Thanks to its phenomenal star, Bette Davis, this King Vidor production has had to struggle with a bad reputation since it was first seen back in l949. Davis was going through a breakdown: she hated her studio, her marriage was dead, and Jack Warner finally kicked her ass off the Warner lot. Forever after, Davis always slammed everything about "Beyond the Forest" and people who never even saw it, joked about it and tore it to pieces. Especially, the gay crowds. When I saw "Beyond the Forest" at the old Regency Theater here in Manhattan back in the 80s, no one could enjoy it, since the gaggle of screeching queens ruined it for everyone by camping it up. Davis' inner turmoil and fury is what makes Rosa Moline literally seethe with fury, bristling with electricity in her greatest role. No other major star would have taken the risks that Davis does. As to the many comments about her black wig, make-up, clevage. This is how small-town women tried to look during that era. The Maria Montez look. I remember this from my small Southern town. All women dyed their hair black, grew long tresses, etc. Max Steiner's musical score is among his greatest (next to another masterpiece that Bette always put down, the l942 "In This Our life.")Davis' role is among the greatest ever put on screen. She displays her genius here like never before. To those who like to be clever and cute and view this gem as "camp", get a life. Davis is at her most brilliant. She nearly matches her brilliant portrayal of a psychopathic Southern Belle, Stanley Timberlake, in the great "In This Our Life." Bravo to Bette! To new viewers, watch it alone without the wisecracks, giggles and smart inside jokes. Warner Brothers did itself and its great star proud.

The Mummy's Ghost

Haunting, Brooding masterpiece!
"The Mummy's Ghost" is haunting and unforgettable thanks to the appearance of probably the most ravishing starlet to ever grace the screen: Ramsey Ames. She portrays the doomed Princess Ananka/Amina Monsouri heroine with a brooding, tremulous quality and when she sinks into the quicksand at the end with the mummy, you're shocked by watching her age into a 1000 mummy's bride. John Carradine is in great form as the high priest of arkham. Robert Lowery is unusually surly as the boyfriend. Reginald LeBorg directed this l944 classic. He originally wanted Acquanetta as the heroine but this sultry starlet fell and injured her shoulder on the first day of shooting. Ames was criminally ill-used by Universal but looked great in a short bob for the Republic serial, "G-Men Never Forget" in l947. Before she died two years ago from throat cancer, she remembered that Lon Chaney, who played the mummy, created many problems but she wouldn't specify. Other reports have it that Chaney was usually drunk by 12 noon. Ames was terrified he would stumble with her on the long, steep boardwalk to the remote shed and also into the swamp.wonderful atmosphere, classic musical scoring (originally from "Son of Frankenstein). Vera West does brilliant job in designing Ames beautiful white silk gowns.

Night Monster

Chiller Diller Classic!
Forget the much vaunted Val Lewton "Cat People" as a classic horror film from the early 40s. "Night Monster" is a glittering gem of chilling beauty that supplies the juice and frission and performances that make "Cat People" look like "Ishtar." Veteran director Ford Beebe had only two weeks to whip his crew of Grade A technicians and Hollywood's greatest B actors into shape. Cult B-Actress, Fay Helm, is fantastic as the emotionally unstable Margaret Ingstom who claims she sees a hideous night monster creeping around her mansion at night. Irene Hervey is attractive and warm as the psychiatrist. Leif Ericson (former husband of tragic-prone actress Frances Farmer)is hilarious as the lecherous, over-sexed chaffeur. Bela Lugosi is here, too, but he mostly leers and raises his brows. There's plenty of mist, beautifully lit and photographed scenes of fire places and wavering shadows.The great character actress, Doris Lloyd, is wonderfully intense and lethal. She and Helm also starred together in "The Wolf Man." A great Hollywood mystery is whatever happened to Fay Helm? Not even film historians know. Although filmed on a low budget, "Night Monster" shows what can be done with great talent--before and after--the camera, in post-production and editing. H.J. Salter does the music which is mostly the much beloved excerpts from "Son of Frankenstein" in l939. This is a great movie to watch on a wintry night. Now, just to get it on DVD. Come on MCA/Universal Home Video--get with it. Put this one and "Captive Wild Woman" on the same disc and give us all a thrill!

In This Our Life

Dynamic Masterpiece!
It kills me when some reviewers of this dynamic masterpiece mouth the same criticisms of Bette's detractors: that she overacts like heck and chews up the scenery. Bette is mainly responsible since she always attacked "In This Our life" and "Beyond the Forest" as "lousy movies." And people who've never even seen either one just go on parroting her opinion. Well, Bette was never the best judge of her work. "In this our Life" contains her most electrifying performance besides that of Rosa Moline in "Beyond the Forest." She brilliantly creates the portrait of a psychopathic Southern Belle. Her final scene with her lecherous uncle (Charles Coburn) is one of the most powerful scenes in movie history. I watched this on the big screen of the old Regency Theater here in Manhattan and the packed theater were simply galvanized by this sequence and everything else about In This Our life. What's especially memorable is the seedy, decaying house she and her sister (Olivia d'Havviland" live in. The introduction of the racist angle where Bette tries to blame her killing of a pedestrian on an innocent young black guy is still shocking. NO wonder it's gained such a strong following among modern black viewers. This is one of my all time favorite classics from Hollywood's golden age. Bette is the greatest and you'll never forget her here in one of her greatest performances. Just try to find any actress today who could do what she did in the final close-ups of her in the death car. Bravo Bette! And to director John Huston who let her do it her way.

One Night of Love

Dazzling, Unforgettable masterpiece!
Even though this shimmering musical from the long ago year of l934 might seem like an antique to some, One Night of Love has a magical quality to it. I watch it regularly, along with the l914 The Cheat and the 1941 nice Girl! with Deanna Durbin. These muscials are all amazingly fresh and exuberent. Grace Moore portrays American Mary who goes to Italy to become a great Opera Star. She falls under the management of arrogant, impossible but charismatic Tulio Carminetti. Great musical excerpts from Carmen, Madame Butterfly, help move this movie into the classics. Filmed at tiny Columbia Studios, this is a masterpiece. The intimate, beautifully decorated and photographed sets enhances the story. Grace Moore is adorable. Earthy, striking, talented. She reportedly played the prima donna during the filming, slamming doors, breaking windows, stalking off the sets when things did not go her way. Audiences back then actually stood and cheered and screamed "Bravo!" after the big operatic numbers. And what do we have today? "Big Mama's House" and "Tom Cats."

The Cheat

Great, Dazzling Masterpiece!
I watch this dazzling curio from l914 at least once a month and am never bored. My copy of "The Cheat" was purchased through Grapevine Video and is accompanied by an unforgettable piano score. The Kino edition has an unbearable orchestral score and ruins this Cecil B. DeMille masterpiece. I'm always fascinated by different things. Fannie Ward is electrifying as Edith Hardy, the vapid socialite who gambles away $10,000 of charity funds and seeks help from sensual Sessue Hayakawa, who asks that she becomes his mistress. When she reneges, he brands her with a white-hot iron. DeMille hired Ward after watching her at a party surrounded by a legion of male admirers. Already in her forties, she had kept her beauty legendary by primitive plastic surgery: injecting paraffin into her wrinkles. She proved to be a real life embodiment of bitchy Edith Hardy. She refused a fabulous collection of gowns that DeMille had made for her. She forced him to buy an even more expensive set of gowns made by her favorite French couturier. She created her own make-up. DeMille was horrified. But somehow it worked. This movie gives us a fascinating peek into the dying work of post-Victorian passions and fashions and looks. I mentioned this movie often in my book on old gay Hollywood, "The Kiss of King Kong," written under my pen name of Jason Fury. In his later years, Hayakawa said that he hated Fannie Ward passionately. His favorite scene in "The Cheat" is when he manhandles her and brands her with the iron. This movie moves at a feverish pace for its 58 minutes. Try to get the Grapevine Video version. A stunning classic to be cherished and watched again and again.

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