A great study of fear in the trenches. A young green officer knows nothing about it, the elder ones keep it in check. The captain drinks, a second lieutenant in the same boat has neuralgia.
Whale drops everything for this, the casualty of incapacitating fear. It is exactly as described in many another film, not cowardice unless it masters a man. Whale shows it plain, in Anthony Bushell’s performance as the lieutenant. Colin Clive drinks to stay sober as the captain, and dreads most that he should be seen a coward, a bitter, competent officer.
Tom Milne in Time Out Film Guide lamented “the playing fields of Eton” he could “almost hear” on stage, whereas in the film there is only the trenches and no man’s land and ruins contrasted with English gardens at home, a vivid comparison from Henry V.
Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times also felt drawn to bring up the play, but found the film satisfactorily pleasing in every respect save one, the performance of Charles K. Gerrard as Pvt. Mason of the kitchen staff drew his wrath as not “being in earnest about his lines,” an inexplicable blunder.
Wartime makes strange bedfellows, and that is the meaning of it, Rattigan and Ross take this as the basis of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and find it satisfactory.
The ‘ore and the Canuck private well-connected in England, she’s a Yank lately in the chorus of The Bing Boys with George Robey, should have signed for Chu Chin Chow which hasn’t folded after a year. The bleedin’ Boche has zeppelins over London dropping bombs, they meet in an air raid.
Dropped veg is a recurrent theme, twice anyway it occurs.
Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times also found it satisfactory, with quibbles and qualms “of small importance.”
Halliwell has the plot all wrong and calls it “one for the ladies,” he cites Variety, “not helped by an uninspiring sad ending.”
Henry Frankenstein’s monomania takes the form of an urge “to destroy and re-create”. He has studied “the violet ray”, the ultraviolet, and has found (the terms suggest Rimbaud’s “Vowels”) “the great ray that first brought life into the world”. He pieces together the dead to make his monster, a long roar of thunder appears on the soundtrack, the remarkable geometry of his laboratory table ascends into the heavens and receives the lightning.
This first part has received ample praise from Borges (“The Golem”) and Herzog (Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle), an interlacing montage unites it to the second, in which the monster makes what Beckett subsequently called “an act of floral presence on the water” (cp. Neill’s The Woman in Green), the Baron’s son survives his creature to marry and continue the line.
Whale’s editing is sharp, short and to the point when he desires to introduce particularly sensitive material, the look on a face, or else he takes his time indulging a taste for fact pitifully regarded, the dead girl in her father’s arms.
Two windmills figure in the action, one “ruined” contains the laboratory, the other briefly bears Frankenstein on a vane and is burnt by the townspeople, destroying the monster inside it.
The Old Dark House
Critical incomprehension passed half a century until Ingmar Bergman filmed Fanny and Alexander and gave J.B. Priestley his due. In the interim, we have Variety and the New York Times expounding oddly on Gloria Stuart’s evening gown.
The Kiss Before the Mirror
Her vanity table, she is bewrayed, he is betrayed.
A murder trial, yet another mirror.
A sheer poem, resolved in the last line.
Mordaunt Hall (New York Times), “an intelligently conceived story”.
Leonard Maltin, “strange romantic melodrama”.
Dave Kehr (Chicago Reader) reports it as one of the director’s “more literary projects.”
Halliwell’s Film Guide, “stilted”, citing Variety, “passable entertainment.”
The Invisible Man
You recognize the man of genius at once from several accounts of Beethoven, Baudelaire and Schopenhauer, to name three.
It might as well be Hitchcock in England, though he got good press at times. “I have achieved what no man has ever achieved before,” that makes him invisible.
Whale and Sherriff make this entirely an account of the genius as monster, he comes to a bad end as they all do on American Masters.
That’s what makes the whole thing so absurdly wonderful, it’s like Ken Russell without music (Mahler) or sculpture (Savage Messiah), only the mystery reflected in Nicholas Ray’s Bigger Than Life.
One More River
Sir Gerald puts the riding whip to the wife in fair Ceylon, she sails back to England, done with him.
He catches her out, sues for divorce and wins, unhappily. Shed of him, it remains for her to be free of his pernicious influence as well.
R.C. Sherriff out of Galsworthy, “the Nobel Prize winner’s last and greatest achievement.”
The spangled style evinced by Whale is a rarity deployed by Hitchcock, for example, ever so briefly in Rich and Strange, very rapid cutting raised to an account of itself in rhythm and motion, most evocative.
The essence of the judicial determination beyond the jury’s verdict is an analysis conveyed by Mrs. Patrick Campbell as sublime Lady Mont, who has after-dinner pains and will to her doctor next day, “I don’t know whether it’s flatulence or the hand of God.”
Mordaunt Hall of the New York Times, “a grand picture”. Leonard Maltin, “dated drama”. Tom Milne (Time Out), “a polished, elegant gem”. Halliwell’s Film Guide, “old-fashioned, well-made”, citing Variety, “very British and ultra,” Peter John Dyer, “taste, elegance, narrative drive”, and Motion Picture Herald, “one of the finest courtroom episodes ever”, which was Hall’s opinion as well.
Bride of Frankenstein
A stormy night in Switzerland, Mary Shelley resumes the story.
Dr. Pretorius has the homunculi of seed-rearing, Henry adds the secret ray, behold a brain “artificially-developed” and a heart likewise. The resultant creature knows not her husband but clings to her maker.
Everything that can be said or known of show business, ancient or modern, is in it, fueled as it is by a myriad-minded technique as advanced as anything, a real work of genius on the footfalls and impedimenta.
A Star Is Born and Funny Girl have most of it in one way or another, but it isn’t interested in any particular aspect, having as it does the detachment of “Ol’ Man River”.
The Great Garrick
Accused of bad acting, the French abuse him by acting badly, which affords him an opportunity of instructing them in the art.
He mistakes a lady for one of their company, understood rightly she is La Belle France, he tenders his devotion.
Filmed at Warner Brothers, with a screenplay from a Lubitsch luminary, superbly analyzed by Whale and presented with an ideal cast.
Variety expressed its own professional opinion, “should be played as a farce”, admiring critics have not quite come to terms with it, but there is a great deal of sophisticated comedy and critics are spread very thin, so they say.
Sinners In Paradise
They crash in the sea and come ashore on the island refuge of an exile.
This has the miraculous quality of a dream or vice versa.
Mobsters, war profiteers, bosses, political windbags, disenchanted ladies, an airline steward, the general run of the mill.
Rustication amid the palm trees does them a powerful lot of good, except the profiteers, who fall by the wayside.
A storm at sea (last radio report from Coral Island) and an engine fire bring down the Trans Pacific Express clipper, the island host is a medical man responsible for a gangster’s death.
Tension in Europe comes over the radio, China is where the action is, Shanghai the scheduled destination.
The Man in the Iron Mask
“A king who’s half mad”, the plunder of the nation, torture.
Lang’s Metropolis serves as the pivot of Whale’s film, it is easily seen in the Bastille once the title character is established.
Mann’s El Cid has exactly the same view of a backward court, Eliot’s “The Hollow Men” of its courtiers.
The Four Musketeers are imprisoned for a time, the true king releases them.
Louis Hayward’s performance (“one of the finest dual characterizations of the screen,” says Variety) is crowned by a resemblance to Orson Welles in this part, Joan Bennett’s is quite beyond praise.
The cast includes Joseph Schildkraut, Walter Kingsford, Warren William, Alan Hale, Miles Mander, Albert Dekker, and Peter Cushing.
Fouquet is the source of a famous Franklin saying on unanimity in action. The Musketeers at work are progenitors of the Western (the ending remembers them as in Dwan’s The Iron Mask).
“It hasn’t the bizarre wit of the director’s most memorable pictures” (Time Out Film Guide).
The film is in three parts, corresponding to Richardson (Vincent Price), Forrester (George Sanders), and Brandon (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.). They are the man of two minds and then some, the philanderer of a mind all at once (“he went to his doom”), and the genuine article with an arrow in him.
Such an abstruse item on the subject of Inca treasure naturally escaped notice.
They Dare Not Love
The celebrated minuet from Don Giovanni is the subject of discussion after the Anschluß, Beethoven or Haydn? Two officials of the German Travel Agency ask themselves.
A great, masterful work in distinct stages, an orderly retreat, affairs of the moment, when in Rome, the call to duty, sticking to one’s course.
The country is stolen from around one, the ship is bought out from under one.
The prince is wanted by the Gestapo as a “rallying point”, adherence to him means sharing his fate.
The intricate building of this great good advice is a very clever labor that completely eluded the New York Times reviewer (T.M.P.), and of course Halliwell is in agreement, “not at all memorable.”