Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Top 10 Best Movies of the 1930s

Top 10 Movies of the Decade INTRODUCTION

  Welcome!  This is the beginning of my top 10 list for movies, decade-for-decade, starting with the 1930s.  There's been a lot of Debbie-Downer posts lately and so this should lighten the mood a bit.  A lot of guys I know clamshell-themselves-up and only watch movies from 2003 to present, or certainly nothing earlier than before they were born.  Now, I work with a lot of guys under 30 at my current space-mercenary assignment so I'm subjected to childish closed-mindedness to an amazing level, but I think I got through to a few of the more "free thinking" society folks and they took a plunge recently to my delight.  I love it that people can open their minds from the egocentric world they unbelong.  There's more to cinematography than House at the End of the Street (2012).

  My list is not all-encompassing, and it's open to speculation and debate.  I'm sure I'll leave out quite a few, either by accident or opinion, but this is more of a list of consideration, not a list of pure fact, and they're listed in no particular order.  These are invariably almost all American films.  I don't ignore that there are great foreign films out there, such as Akira Kurosawa.  This is a focus on HOLLYWOOD.

  Now, there's a lot of movies that are B-graded that are ironically great, and a lot of great animation films as well, but I'm going to bypass those until the very end, as they deserve their own segment, truly.  You can't put Evil Dead 2 or Heavy Metal along with other amazing films because they're so estranged from standard film.  I'm also avoiding adult films that have made millions and have huge cult-status and ground-breaking popularity such as Behind the Green Door or Pirates! because, well, for one, this is a family blog (sort of) and well, again, the genre is not appropriate for this list. 

  We start with the 1930s.  I could have started with the 1910s or 1920s but these films are often silent and hard to come-by for the average viewer.  The intent is to inspire you, the sharp-witted reader to consider and watch them on your own.  I recommend Netflix or a really hip, cool, video store.  I've been to a few that only have good movies, such as one on 8th Street in Colorado Springs, CO.  They only had good movies that spanned from the 1920s onward; often things you wouldn't know about but were definitely always 4 out of 5 stars or better.

  It's hard for me to avoid the earlier greats, these pioneers of film pre-1930.  Silent films were a big deal, and often shown to accompaniment of a live piano player who played-along while watching the film for effect, or even an actual, full, live band (amazingly for each showing of the film) since audio in film didn't exist yet.  Such examples I sadly have to ignore but are really worth a watch are, Metropolis (1927), The Iron Mask (1929), Nanook of the North (1922), Nosferatu (1922), anything by Buster Keaton or Charlie Chapman, who are brilliant by the way, The Jazz Singer, It, (both 1927), anything by the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy, Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) [the best version by the way], and even the original Phantom of the Opera (1925) [not that faggoty 1986, Andy Webber crap].  I could go on for days.  The exploration of pre-1930s films dizzies the mind for there's some HUGE accomplishments back then, and the list goes into the thousands.  IMDB can be your friend here, and I recommend a look at this link: http://www.imdb.com/list/VqFi-u3kW0w/  If you're a true film-buff, historically it's very intense and worth a watch.  I suspect you already are if you're reading this very blog!  There's some great treasures to be found in this rare age.  So with nod to the greatness of those, allow me to be your sommelier!  We begin with..

Top 10 Best Movies of the 1930s

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

   I love movies of this time, often with spanning scenes and sub-portions of Entrance and Intermissions where the viewer "enters" the theater to music, and takes a break to again, amazing music to stretch, get a smoke, and make a restroom break.  It's almost a shame to leave the film because of the great music played during this time.  Strangely, Star Trek: The Motion Picture had the audacity to actually have an Entrance and, well, I found that a bit pretentious.  Still, this movie has it all, the true cinema experience, even with an Overture section!

  Gone with the Wind is a love story set to the backdrop of the Civil War, often mirroring the destruction and re-evolution of the South along with the main character, Scarlet, played by Vivien Leigh.  It's a good flick and worth a watch.  A lot of people thought Scarlet was a bitch, but you have to remember she was a pampered and hyper-adored 16-year-old girl with a very wealthy father in the South.  All she knew was adoration and praise at the beginning.  By the end of it, she finds strength in herself and grows up.  If you ever met a 16-year-old spoiled rich girl, wide-eyed and happy she's goddess of her realm for no darn reason it makes sense. 

  The movie is sprawling and HUGE.  Giant, long-shots of battlement scenes and amazing backdrops.

  It's important to note is historical significance.  It did amazingly well for its time, and profanity was first uttered in this film, the scary word, "damn".

 At its time, very edgy, and banned in a few places because of it.  It played for over 2 years non-stop, sometimes longer in places, and 1/3rd of America's population watched it at least once, and and three times the going ticket price.  Great costumes, music, and good acting.

2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

  I could talk a lot about this film, that it did rather poorly at the beginning, that there's symbolic references of the characters, that there's deleted scenes, that there's Pink Floyd references with it, as well as urban legends.  I need not.  It's all cult-status now, and currently, everyone knows about all the secrets for the most part, as well as the story. 
  Judy Garland did a fine job, and some of her songs became stuff of legend after-the-fact due to TV-movie releases for the holidays.  The play of sepia-tone to color was a big deal in 1939 as well. 

  There's an emotionally charged reprise of "Over the Rainbow" a lot of people don't know about that was too heavy for listeners and removed.  It occurs right after the Witch imprisons her and tells her she's going to kill her and her friends which was a deleted scene.  Her version is, again, the end of the age-of-innocence, a lot like the slower evolution of Scarlet in Gone with the Wind.

   It's a good example of what America will soon face in the 1940s.  An end of innocence for America as well.  I found the moral of the story a bit lacking, that you shouldn't explore the world or it'll eat you, only to be happy where you're at and, as Dorothy says, "Never leave her backyard again."  Frightening sentiment, and I dare one to be bold, as I disagree.  Still, amazing work here, and in itself, very bold and interesting.  There's earlier versions of the story, "The Wizard of Oz" I've watched but none are as gripping.

  To me, it's a cold realization that her flights of fancy and whimsy lead to the death of everyone she cared about because of her irresponsibility.  The Witch also concludes that she'll find her mother and kill her too, that she'll find a pathway to get to Kansas to murder her.  Dorothy tries the door, bangs on it in desperation as the Witch just locked it.  At the end, the director is moved and says, "..that was awesome."  I don't know where Judy got the emotional source from, but when someone can truly pull emotion from some hidden, darker place in their soul, it's amazing. Omitted, I leave it here for you to consider.  I dare you not to bust-out into tears.


Well played, Miss Garland
3.  Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
  Again with the Clark Gable, this version of the classic is a bit more fun than the 1916 Australian version or the 1933 version starring Errol Flynn.  Yeah, it's in black-and-white but receives better resolution than color films at the time.  The 1962 version starring Marlon Brando is a bit more famous, but it's a classic tale of a ship captain with too harsh rules making men mutiny on the ship the HMS Bounty near Tahiti. 
  Not particularly historically accurate, it's still a great telling of the fateful month in 1789 of the sailors that preferred the idyllic life on Tahiti to Britain's harsh rule, suggesting that back-to-basics is better than England and Society's path is not the best one despite technological advancements.  A good watch.  You know what?  I haven't seen it yet!  Not this version anyway, but I'm gonna.
4.  The Adventures of Robin Hood (1939)
  Errol Flynn personified the swashbuckler of his day.  He was one of the original action-heroes for the kids those days, and Robin Hood was being played-out over cowboys-and-Indians once this film came out, as well as a huge sale of bows, arrows, and pointy hats, as well as the fencing foil. 
  It doubled its money which was very good for its time.  The sword fighting is legit, and the arrow twaining-the-first in the bullseye-scene is the only legitimate one ever accomplished to this date.  No trickery here, the arrow is actually SPLIT legitimately!  (sorry Brave (2012)).  It captures the good-versus-evil nicely.  This film inspired a thousand spoof-films such as Men in Tights by Mel Brooks as well as the costuming.  Wildly popular, America embraced it whole-hartedly.  Parody aside, it's a very good film.  Only good films generally get parodied.  Everyone loves the underdog.  This version thankfully does not complete the entire tale of Robin Hood who's ending is grim, just the badass, cool parts that everyone likes. 
 Errol's horse was so admired and so skilled, he later became the famous, Trigger of Roy Roger fame, though Roy changed the name from "Golden Cloud" as he bought the horse for an astounding fee.  So you get Errol Flynn, Trigger, awesome sword battles and legit bow-and-arrowing.  It's good all around, AND it's in color which was a new 3-color technique at the time.  Very good, and no CGI!
5.  Dracula (1931)
  Bela Lugosi's masterpiece in acting.  Dracula personified the horror genre as one of Universal Studio's best "monster" themed films.  This is the penultimate vampire flick that spawned hundreds of others (aside from the more cult-y Nosferatu).  Unlike a few previous horror films such as Cat and the Canary (1927), this film did not let the viewer off-the-hood with a downplay of false-supernaturalism or comic relief.  No, sir.  This was the real-deal.  Audience members fainted in shock during the release.  America was not ready for this level of horror. 
  This movie inspired a lot more horror films by Universal Studios due to its success and was a bit of a sigh-of-relief due to the out-on-a-limb attempt at such a genre.  There's a lot of non-dialogue during this film to add suspense.  Some of the special-effects, such as the shapeshifted bat-form are a bit low-budget but bat-wranglers were hard to come by, so some suspension-of-disbelief is required for that.  Still, it's an American classic and it's good to see horror origins. 
  Without this film, the horror genre might not exist even to this day.  There are some deleted scenes that were too edgy that are lost, particularly an epilogue that is supposedly very, very grim.
6.  Frankenstein (1931) & Bride of Frankenstein (1935) 
  I put both of these movies together because they're both very relevant to each other and are about equal in quality and scope in the same way the Star Wars trilogy is similar.  Sure, I could have put Dracula's sequel, Daughter of Dracula in there as well, but these two are probably the closest than any other movie of that time.
  Boris Karloff's performance as Frankenstein's Monster is brilliant (yeah, I know Frankenstein was the scientist).  It's the quintessential Frakenstein movie.  All others pale in comparison.  Parodies ensue, but this is the real-deal.  Edward van Sloan gives a friendly "warning" before the movie starts so as the audience members wouldn't faint so badly, but it also gives a level of intensity when you're "warned" about a film.  Nicely done.  During the opening credits, Boris Karlof's name is not listed, only as a "?" being the "monster" as a nod to the fact that Frankenstein's creation had no name (and arguably no soul).   Interestingly, everyone knows about this film.  It had a deeper impact than Dracula (1931) did to the audience, and when interviewed at-random, members laughed nervously and were shuddering.  The movie had no soundtrack save the end-credits, which gave more suspense and was very unusual for its time.
  Bride did incredibly well as a sequel, making over $2M and was wildly popular.  It had a lot of hidden Christian imagry in it as well.  One should watch both back-to-back for effect.
7.  The Mummy (1932)

  The last of my "horror" themed films of this decade, The Mummy's, Boris Karloff was on the top of his game in the 1930s with his penetrating gaze of expressive eyes and empty, grim face.  It took an unheard-of 8 hours to apply the makeup and another 2 to remove it.  Originally titled, Imhotep based on the Egyptian mummy, the film did incredibly well as mummies were wildly popular around this time.  Insanely popular.  Like, iTunes popular, perhaps more-so.  The opening music is cleverly the same as Dracula (1931).  It's a story of Imhotep who was mummified alive, and, as a mummy is discovered by archeologists.  Imhotep sees a woman who reminds him of his princess and attempts to mummify her so he can give her immortality as well to live forever.  She does not care for this, however, to be mummified alive.  Mummies have incredible strength in mythos and are undead.  Makes for a good, striking film and has several sequels.  I decided not to include The Invisible Man or Dr. Jeckly and Mr. Hyde, but I give those honorable mention.
8. All's Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
  Another film I haven't seen but should.  Hitler banned it during WWII in Germany for it's anti-war, and anti-German theme.  A young soldier is disillusioned from war during World War I.  It's interesting because it follows the enemy's point-of-view during the Great War, particularly of an enlisted one, which is far more interesting and action-y than an officer's dull existence of personnel management.  This movie sounds like it'd be similar to Das Boot (1981). 
I'm excited to watch it.  It's pretty grim, though, focusing on intraflection on chemical-warfare and unfair combat and cruelty.  A lot of kids are eager to join the Service these days, but few realize how intense it really is, and the dark side of Mankind often shows; something Call of Duty can't relay.
9. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)
  James Cagney and Humphry Bogart (gets no top-billing as his early work he's still not that famous plays as a crooked lawyer to justify James' theme) star in a gangster movie that was quite poignant for its time.  Two kids rob a railroad car as kids grow up on separate paths, one becoming a gangster and one a priest.  This is replayed well in a later western, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly by the way.  Both try to convince an orphanage of kids which path to take.  James plays the gangster and gets the kids to believe that the government is corrupt and that the mob is more "good" where Pat O'Brien as the priest explains the opposite. 
  Quite a gripping tale of two brothers and their view on good and evil.  It brings up the question of what is evil anyway?  The poster of James holding a gun to the priest is particularly amazing and drew quite a crowd, and has been rated as the US Film Institutes's current Top 10 Gangster Films of All Time.  Seen it, and yeah, it's good, even by today's standards.
10.  The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939)
  It's difficult to pick a final film.  There's so many genre, so many great films out there of this decade.  I'm sure I missed dozens, from Heidi to Animal Crackers, Tarzan, et al. from Alfred Hitchcock and Laurel and Hardy.  Still, there are amazing films in this decade.  It'd take years to watch them all.  It's nice to know this decade has so much to offer, and I strongly recommend checking out IMDB to watch them in order of popularity.
  I end my list with Arty Doyle's adaptation of Hound of the Baskervilles.  It's a Sherlock Holmes adventure story from a book of the same name written in 1901 to 1902 as a newspaper serial story. 
  Arguably, Basil Rathbone is the absolute quintessential Sherlock Holmes of Sherlock Holmes.  I belive I'm an expert in this fact that I've seen a LOT of Sherlock adaptations.  WAY too many, in fact, to probably ever get a date (luckily, I married a sci-fi girl so I'm good).  Not so pulp-fiction as Downey Jr. of late, or other "BBC America" twist-angled versions, the interaction of him and Nigel Bruce as Watson is amazing.  Never before have I seen such personality in film between both characters.  Nigel makes sure the acting is not stiff and the flow is incredibly good.  So good, in fact, FOURTEEN films are made using this pair.  It's a witty horror film.  Arguably, Doyle's best work in the Holme's series, the story builds suspense to a crescendo as Sherlock's most difficult case ever.  This film is actually better than the 1959 adaptation staring Star Wars' "Grand Moff Tarkin" as Holmes aka Peter Cushing.  You won't get bored with it, as a lot of folks roll their eyes to "Sherlock Holmes".  I do, in fact.  I find it droll and boring as all heck, normally.  Basil and Nigel make it worth the watch of all fourteen movies which span into the 1940s, my next segment!
  Thanks for reading.  Again, I'm sure I missed a few.  Feel free to comment anonymously or otherwise for honorable mention.  Blondie was not mentioned because that gets a place in the '40s.  ;)  Gotta love Penny Singleton!  But.. what will I pick for the 40s?  You'll have to wait and see! 
Happy viewing, cinemaphiles!


No comments:

Post a Comment