Daily Archives: May 6, 2019

Fats Waller (1976 review)

This appeared in the July 1976 issue of Monthly Film Bulletin (vol. 43, no. 510). 8/25 correction/ postscript: Ehsan Khoshbakht, who provided me with some more illustrations, informs me that (a) Sedric is playing tenor sax, not alto, (b) that a fourth Waller soundie that wasn’t included in the compilation I reviewed, “Your Feet’s Too Big ,” was actually the first one, and that (c) the photo at the bottom of this post, which I included just because I like it, actually comes from Stormy Weather. —J.R.

Fats Waller

U.S.A., 1941
Director:
Warren Murray

Dist—TCB. p.c—Official Films. m/songs–“Ain’t Misbehavin’”, “Honeysuckle Rose”, “The Joint is Jumpin’” by Thomas “Fats” Waller. performed by–Fats Waller (piano, vocals), John Hamilton (trumpet), Gene Sedric (alto sax), Al Casey (guitar), Cedric Wallace (bass), Wilmore “Slick” Jones (drums), Myra Johnson (vocals). No further credits available. 314 ft. 9 min. (16 mm.).

A collection of three “soundies” made in the early Forties — mini-films designed to be shown on tiny screens inside jukeboxes — this entertaining short displays Waller’s showmanship at its flashiest.… Read more »

The Tower Of The Seven Hunchbacks (with an emailed postscript)

From the Chicago Reader (October 26, 1987). — J.R.

Edgar Neville — an aristocratic Republican filmmaker and writer who was friends with everyone from Lorca and Chaplin to Ortega y Gasset and Lacan — is one of the great undiscovered auteurs of the Spanish cinema. This remarkable turn-of-the-century fantasy, which suggests an eerie encounter between the tales of Borges and the early melodramas of Feuillade and Lang, starts off as a supernatural mystery as the hero (Antonio Casal) is persuaded by a one-eyed ghost to solve the case of his murder. This leads him first to the ghost’s niece (Isabel de Pomes) and eventually to a hidden underground city beneath the old section of Madrid that contains an ancient synagogue and is presided over by hunchbacked counterfeiters. Based on a novel by Emilio Carrere, this hallucinatory fiction ends rather abruptly and never manages to account for all the mysteries it uncovers, but as pure, primal storytelling it is as creepy a spellbinder as one could wish for (1944). (JR)

On November 27, 2017 I received the following email, sent from Spain:

You refer to Edgar Neville in your online review of TOWER OF THE SEVEN HUNCHBACKS as a “Republican”. He was actually one of the other guys, if you know what I mean.… Read more »

Murder (1975 review)

I believe this is the last of my reviews of early Hitchcock films for the Monthly Film Bulletin that I’ve transcribed, after The Ring, Blackmail, and Number Seventeen; this one appeared in the July 1975 issue. –J.R.


Murder

Great Britain, 1930                                                     Director: Alfred Hitchcock

 

Hitchcock has described Murder as his “first and only whodunit”, accounting for his antipathy to the form with the complaint that it “contains no emotion”, and bringing to mind Edmund Wilson’s comparison of reading several with unpacking “large crates by swallowing the excelsior in order to find at the bottom a few bent and rusty nails”. Certainly the most evident lack in this 1930 movie — apart from the creakier aspects of the play which it adapts — is the sort of emotional continuity and momentum of controlled viewpoints which sustained Blackmail so brilliantly the previous year, and the more dubious cerebral rewards offered in their place are not quite enough to fuse its comparable experiments into a consistently workable style. After an effective, rather UFA-inspired opening (prompted, no doubt, both by Hitchcock’s work at the German studio in the mid-Twenties and by the fact that he concurrently shot a German version of Murder entitled Mary), which features a lengthy dolly past the windows of neighbors responding to a mysterious commotion, the film mainly tends towards a stagier conception of dialogue units which the various stylistic departures often inflect rather than unify, thus usually registering as isolated “touches”.… Read more »