Friday, November 30, 2018

Movie Review: Creed II

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: We all know the Rocky formula by now and this movie follows it very closely despite this though it manages to still be an excellent movie in its own right.

What makes this movie work so well is that it hits so many of the emotional marks it is striving for. Though I would not endure what the title character (Michael B. Jordon) goes through for anything in the world, I understand why he feels he needs to do it. That is because true to the form of the Rocky franchise, this movie is not a film simply about boxing. It is instead about loyalty, love, family, and the understanding of why we fight. Though Creed steps into the boxing ring alone, he is not alone in their. He has his fiancée (Tessa Thompson), Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) and his family in there with him. This is something we can easily relate to our own lives. We may not step into a literal boxing ring, but there are days when we go through real hardships. However it is all in how we look at these hardships and who we take into the ring with us. Our love ones are what make us strong and they are the reason we are fighters. This is why someone like me, who could not care less about boxing still enjoys this franchise a lot and why what made the first Rocky work still makes a great movie today. We care about the characters and see their struggles as our own. We root for them because we root for ourselves. When in this movie things seem bad, we are crushed and when things go well we feel victorious. After the movie was over I walked down a flight of stairs humming the classic Rocky theme to myself, because I once again felt inspired.

Still it is hard to look at this movie as anything new. We have seen this all before and we know what is going to happen in each scene. This takes away the suspense for certain scenes in the way we had them seeing Rocky for the first time. This can also make certain scenes seem to drag when they set out to put you in suspense. You know what is going to happen and want to see it happen. You don't want the inevitable to be delayed because the movie can't follow the formula and keep you in suspense and you know it is going to follow the formula. Still despite this there is so much that still works here and fans of the Rocky movies and the first Creed will find this movie to be an excellent film, I sure did.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Christmas at Old Town Music Hall Starts Tomorrow

Important news for old movies lovers in Southern California. Starting tomorrow the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California begins showing classic Christmas movies. Below are the dates.

November 30, December  1 & 2

Holiday Inn (1942)
Staring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire

Directed by Mark Sandrich

Friday, November 30: 8:15pm.
Saturday, December 1: 2:30 pm & 8:15 pm
Sunday, December 2: 2:30 pm

December 7, 8 & 9

The Bells of St. Mary (1945)

Staring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman

Director: Leo McCarey

Friday December 7: 8:15 pm
Saturday December 8: 2:30 pm and 8:15pm
Sunday December 9: 2:30pm

December 14, 15 & 16

Annual Christmas Festival
Will include Babes in Toyland (1933) with Laurel and Hardy as well as multiple Christmas themed short subjects.

Friday December 14: 8:15 pm
Saturday December 15: 2:30 pm and 8:15pm
Sunday December 16: 2:30pm

Each movie will feature live music on the Wurlitzer Organ, a sing-a-long of classic Christmas songs as well as a short subject. On November 30th, Jeremey Arnold, film historian and author of Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season and The Essentials: 52 Must See Movies and Why They Matter will introduce the film and sign copies of his books. Tickets are $10 and $8 for seniors.

I will be writing on this blog about each showing I attend, so stay tuned for that.

The address is 140 Richman Street, El Segundo California, 90245.

For more information click here.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Movie Review: Green Book

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: Excellent movie.

This is a movie about two people who strike a unique and powerful friendship that causes each to learn more about the other and grow as people. A movie like this is almost completely dependent how much we believe this friendship. The great thing is that this movie makes us believe it completely. Tony (Viggo Mortensen) is foulmouthed and not exactly one who would fit into high society, while Dr. Shirley (Mahershala Ali) has a very refined and classy way of presenting himself. However each has something important to learn from the other and this effects both their lives profoundly. We see the two go from having little to talk about to the two understanding perfectly that the other person wasn't the way they originally thought they were. We truly see this friendship grow over the course of the movie, in a gradual and natural way. There is no exact moment in which this happens and because of this when we see one standing up for the other, we completely believe and accept this. Adding to this is two powerhouse performances from the actors. The two have fantastic chemistry with each other and it is just a joy watching them share the screen.

This movie also benefits from some really funny humor. Scenes like them sharing fried chicken and Tony's original attempts at letters as well as just much of the banter between the main characters help make this film laugh out loud funny. I don't think there is a joke in this movie that doesn't work. Adding to this is that the humor is such a part of the characters it makes us believe them even more (I know this based off a true story, but again how many based on a true story movie are their where the main characters still don't feel real).

The easiest complaint to launch against this movie is that you can always tell what is going to happen next. This movie is full of cliché plot points (I know this is based off a true story, but I am sure dramatic license was taken in at least some of these scenes) and there is little here that hasn't been done before. The story is still a good one though and the emotional moments still hit quite well. We care about the characters in a way we don't in a lot of similar movies and because of this we can still get involved with them emotionally. Overall any predictability in this movie is overcome by the film's pure undeniable charm.

By the way one of the co-writers on this movie was Nick Vallelonga who is the son of the real life Tony.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Movie Review: Widows

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: With how many heist movies there are out there it seems hard to believe anything fresh and new could be done with the genre, but that is just Widows manages to accomplish.

Unlike many heist movies this is not a pure action movie. Instead it is a character study. This works so well because we believe our main character completely. Much of this is due to Viola Davis' magnificent performance. Every emotion on her face is absolutely genuine. Despite the character trying to put on a tough face, beneath it all you powerfully feel her pain and vulnerability.

Director and co-writer Steve McQueen (as well as Gillian Flynn (the other writer)) does an incredible job mixing exciting action, fascinating character studies and social / political commentary. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker these elements would distract from each other and at least one feels forced. This is not even slightly the case here. This is all pulled off so seemingly effortlessly and naturally that when watching it you don't even realize what a feat the filmmakers accomplished. After the film was over I realized this and was impressed. When watching it I was simply too entertained and interested in the story to realize.

Though this film is far from constant action and much of the time focuses on the characters and the story, the action packed climax offers more than enough for those looking for some fun popcorn action. Nothing about Steve McQueen's previous filmography (12 Years a Slave, Shame, Hunger) would even hint at the idea that he could be a top notch action director. However as we see here he is just as great at this as directing thought provoking social commentary. This climax is nonstop action, but never for a moment gets dull, because it keeps getting bigger and more intense. Some fantastic plot twists don't hurt either. None of this means though that Steve McQueen has given up on his social commentary. The commentary here is very smart, complex and thought provoking as it never gives any easy answers or directly preaches to the audience. What McQueen has done instead is to seemingly effortlessly mix this in with a style of movie that will appeal to a more mainstream audience. He amazingly managed to do this without once sacrificing or comprising his social conscience.

-Michael J. Ruhland     

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Laurel and Hardy Festival at the Old Town Music Hall

Last night I had an amazing time watching classic Laurel and Hardy shorts at Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, California. As mentioned before this is one of my favorite places to watch old movies. Each weekend there is a different classic film from the 1910's through the 50's. It is also the home of the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ which dates back to 1925 and was originally used to accompany silent movies.

This weekend was a great selection of classic Laurel and Hardy shorts. We started off with a
fun little silent film in which the boys do not work as a team but are instead two actors in the same film. This was Sugar Daddies (1927) and it received live accompaniment by the very talented Bill Field on the Mighty Wurlitzer. If you have not seen a silent film with live musical accompaniment, you are missing out. In my opinion it is something every movie lover should do in their lifetime. The difference between this and watching a silent film on DVD or TCM (and you will find few who enjoy watching silent films both those ways more than me), is incredible. It is like a whole new experience. I have seen plenty of silent films this way after seeing them on TV and it felt like I was seeing them for the first time. Following this was Blotto (1930) a fantastic early talkie from the boys that never fails to make me laugh out loud. After an intermission there was Twice Two (1933) a fun little film with the duo playing each other's sisters. Following this was two of my favorite Laurel and Hardy talkie shorts, Them Thar Hills (1934) and Tit of Tat (1935). These two films are an anomaly when it comes to Laurel and Hardy shorts. Tit for Tat was actually a sequel to Them Thar Hills directly referencing the earlier movie. Both these films follow the same basic comedy idea, a tit for tat comedy fight with each tit getting a bigger and funnier tat.

Laurel and Hardy still pack them in. The crowd was quite big. If you have never seen Laurel and  Hardy with a live audience you should. This was the way the movies were meant to be seen and it is amazing how much it enhances the films. These films seem so much fresher and funnier when you see them this way. One thing I love to see is that there were some kids there. It is always great to see a new generation being introduced to these classic films and this new generation laughs just as loud at these films as I am sure audiences did in the 1920's and 30's.

Before the films we were treated to some great music from Bill Field on the pipe organ. This even included a sing along to classic Christmas songs like Let it Snow, Winter Wonderland and Jingle Bells. This only added to the fun.

If you are a fan of old movies and are visiting the area, The Old Town Music Hall is the perfect place to go. They do these Laurel and Hardy Festivals multiple times each year and every Laurel and Hardy fan should see one.

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Friday, November 23, 2018

Movie Review: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Review: One of the laugh out loud funniest movies of the year.

This movie is fantastic on every single level. As funny as the first movie was, humor-wise this movie tops it. The jokes come fast and furious and very few miss. This movies makes fun of everything from internet culture to the Disney studio itself. Each bit of satire feels not only perfectly relevant, but the movie seems to avoid just going for the easy basic humor we have heard a million times. This movie doesn't set out to make any great insight into these cultures though. Rather it simply goes for laughs and here it works incredibly. This does not mean there is not a wit to the humor though, as it is very smartly written. There are many things people who spend enough time on the internet will find very relatable and true. There is also of course a lot here for my fellow Disney buffs. The Disney princess scene is even funnier than what we have seen in the previews. The dialogue here is absolutely perfect with an honest and extremely funny look at all the clichés of Disney animated features. This even leads to one of funniest song numbers I have seen in a recent movie in a long time. One that is a brilliant parody of the songs from such Disney movies as The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. With this bit of self parodying Disney does not spare themselves as they mercilessly make fun of each of their own clichés in a smart and funny way. This does not mean this movie has nothing humor-wise to offers those who aren't tech or Disney savvy. There is quite a bit of simple slapstick that is also laugh out loud funny.

This talk of how great the humor is, does not diminish how well this movie works dramatically as well. The characters of Ralph and Vanellope as just as likable and real here as they were in the first movie. When the two's friendship is threatened I was legitimately upset. I did not want to see these two hurt each other, as I love seeing them together so much. This realness to the characters and that as over the top the story is it is still relatable, make for some great emotional moment as well.

Just like the first film did this movie perfectly transports us to another world as we see it. This view of life inside the internet is so well thought out. This environment does not just work for satire but as a real place as well. The attention to detail here is amazing as there is so much to behold in the internet world. Despite how much is going on in the background in this movie it is never distracting. Our attention is always on Ralph and Vanellope, because we are compelled by them and the movies storytelling.

Just a great movie on every level.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Christmas Movie Guide: Babes in Toyland (1934)

Merry Christmas all. Now that Thanksgiving is over it is officially the Christmas season and as such I am glad to spend some time writing about some Christmas movies I love. Enjoy.

Because of the success of the duo's first comic operetta The Devil’s Brother (1934), Laurel and Hardy appeared in more comic operettas. The best was probably Babes in Toyland based off of Victor Herbert’s operetta of the same name.
The story centers on Stanley Dum (Stan Laurel) and Ollie Dee (Oliver Hardy), who live with the woman in the shoe (Florence Roberts) and her daughter Little Bopeep (Charlotte Henry). The woman in the shoe can't pay her rent and if she doesn't get the money soon Bopeep will have to marry the evil Barnaby (Henry Brandon), despite Bopeep being in love with Tom-Tom (Felix Night). Stan and Ollie try to do everything they can to help Bopeep, the woman in the shoe and Tom-Tom.
Henry Brandon would later revive his role as Barnaby in the Our Gang short, The Our Gang Follies of 1938. The script even refers to the character as Barnaby.
Hal Roach had much different plans for this film in the beginning. He wanted it to feature all the studio's stars, including the Our Gang kids, Thelma Todd and Charley Chase. However no one but Hal Roach seemed to be pleased with the original outline for the film, and it was put on hold. When the idea was picked up again, all the other stars of the Hal Roach studios except Laurel and Hardy would not be in the film anymore. Everyone but Hal Roach became happy with this new film. Hal Roach would still like the original idea better.
 Hal Roach and Walt Disney were friends and because of this Walt allowed him to use the song, Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf, from the Disney Silly Symphony short cartoon, The Three Little Pigs. Also this film featured Mickey Mouse as one of the characters in Toyland. Since this was a live action movie Mickey was achieved by using a monkey in a mouse suit.
 Babes in Toyland was directed by Charles Rodgers and Gus Meins. Nearly all of Charles Rodgers’ directorial credits are Laurel and Hardy films. Gus Meins was one of the main directors of Our Gang films.
Babes in Toyland is very charming on all levels it is very funny, it has a good story, nice musical numbers, and a great atmosphere. The Bogey Land sequence is very atmospheric. The Stan and Ollie characters are just as likable as ever. What makes this film so great is that all the different elements work together perfectly. None of them distract from the others, and they all are done well individually as well. Though the look of this film may be dated (though not much) it is very charming and is a delight to see. Everything comes together perfectly here. The story, music, and humor all come together to create something very special and what is probably the best of the duo’s operettas and one of their greatest feature films. 
The following are two exhibitor’s reviews from the Motion Picture Herald (dated February 2, 1935).  
Babes in Toyland: Laurel and Hardy – Played to fair business and all liked it. Good for both children and adults. Played January 11 – Warner McLaughlin, Empire Theatre, Port Henry, N. Y. Small town patronage.”
Babes in Toyland: Laurel and Hardy – Wonderful. Laurel and Hardy do some fine work and the story is good. Production, cast, story, sound, sets and in fact everything is all that one could ask or except. – S.H. Rich, Rich Theater, Montpeiler, Idaho.” 
-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Treasures From The Disney Vault on December 18th

Good news all my fellow Disney lovers. On December 18th, Turner Classic Movies is offering us another great helping of classic Disney films as part of their on going Treasures From the Disney Vault series. Again this will be hosted by Film Historian, Critic and Disney geek Leonard Maltin, who will give some great insight into these great films. We once again have a fantastic line up. Interestingly this time all the films are sports related slapstick comedies.

We begin with (at 5pm Pacific and 8 pm Eastern), one of the many great Goofy cartoon shorts of the 1940's with Double Dribble (1946). This is immediately followed by a fantastic live action comedy and all around classic, The Absent Minded Professor (1963). This is followed by that film's enjoyable sequel Son of Flubber (1963). After this comes two post-Walt live action comedies. These being The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), The Strongest Man in the World (1975). This is followed by another classic Goofy cartoon of the 1940's, The Olympic Champ (1942). We then see another post Walt live action comedy with Gus (1976). It ends with one of the best Goofy sports cartoons with How To Play Football (1944).

Don't miss it, this is gonna be good.

For more info:

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Overlooked Classics: All-American Co-Ed (1941)

In many ways All-American Co-Ed is a perfect example of a B movie musical comedy. There is nothing in this movie that tries to be anything more than silly escapist entertainment and the film successeds marvelously at providing just this. Of course helping this was that the film was made at the Hal Roach Studio (Laurel and Hardy, Our Gang, Charley Chase), which was one of the best studios for this type of entertainment.

A college fraternity likes to dress and drag and put on musical shows. A female college is offering a dozen free scholarships for “unusual girls”. The winners would be showcased in a big musical extravaganza. However the advertisement for this contest makes fun of the fraternity and bans them. The boys however send one of their own, a young man named Bob Shepard (Johnny Downs) to infiltrate this contest disguised as a girl. This becomes complicated when he falls for a girl he meets there (Frances Langford).

This may be a simple film, but there is a lot to recommend it. The humor is often really funny, the musical numbers are fantastic, the performances are great and the 49 minutes just flies by. Johnny Downs is delightful as the lead and completely believable and it is tons of fun to watch Frances Langford on screen here. However one performance that especially stands out is Harry Langdon as a newspaperman. Though Harry Langdon was one of the greatest comedians in silent film, most of his sound work is disappointing. This movie is a delightful exception. Harry brings some fantastic laugh out loud moments and just great comic energy to this film, and he shows that the old timer still had it. All in all this movie is one for which if you just turn your mind off there is plenty to enjoy.

This movie was directed by LeRoy Prinz. Prinz as a director mostly directed musical short subjects. This was one of the only two feature films he directed (the other being Feista (1941)). He is better known and more prolific as choreographer. He choreographed such famous films as Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Road to Singapore (1940), The Ten Commandments (1956) and South Pacific (1958). 

A review in Photoplay was not very complimentary stating “Frances Langford sings – which is very easy to take, but it’s a non-entertaining little musical.” A review in The Exhibitor was much more positive stating “Langford and Downs carry the big load in this entertaining ‘streamliner’, which has a snappy production and tuneful songs.” A review in The Independent Exhibitors Bulletin stated, “’All American Co-Ed’ has one of the funniest openings we have ever seen in a motion picture. For ten minutes thereafter it is one of the most amusing shows we have ever seen on screen. Thereafter it was permitted to go to pieces, so badly in fact that at the preview the audience openly derided its puny efforts to get laughs.”

This film was nominated for two Academy Awards. One was for Edward Ward’s score and another was for the song Out of the Silence (Written by Lloyd B. Norlin)

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Mickey Mouse in "Mickey's Good Deed" (1932)

With it being Mickey Mouse's 90th Birthday and with Christmas rapidly approaching, I feel it is the perfect time to look at what may be my favorite Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey's Good Deed.

Mickey's Good Deed was a shockingly huge departure from what most earlier Mickey Mouse cartoons have been . Most of the earlier cartoons had been non-stop gag fests. There was little to no room for sentimentality as the cartoons tried to cram in as many jokes as possible. In fact The Moose Hunt (1931) unsubtly mocked such sentimentality as seen in this film. In that cartoon Mickey believes he shot Pluto and is crying. Pluto, when Mickey is not looking, literally winks at the audience and then continues to play dead when Mickey looks at him again. Mickey's Good Deed marks the first Mickey cartoon in which we are supposed to take any sentimentality seriously. This was a bold move on the part of the Disney studio. We were now supposed to feel actually sympathy with a character who previously was only meant to be laughed with or at. To ask an audience to emotionally connect with any cartoon character was not a popular thought at the time. It is not only something the Disney studio was not doing at this time, but something no American cartoon studio was trying. The idea that one could emotionally connect with a moving drawing was something animation studios were warry about. It was well known that audiences could laugh at a cartoon character, but the idea of them accepting such a character as real seemed unbelievable.

Around this time many critics referred to Charlie Chaplin and Walt Disney as the two true geniuses of the cinema. This cartoon is probably one of the closet connections that can be found between their films. This came not only from this cartoon's use of sentimentality but also from the depiction of Mickey Mouse here. Mickey like Charlie Chaplin's tramp is an outsider who doesn't truly belong in the world around him. The world of the rich pigs in this movie is completely separate from the world of Mickey and Pluto. Despite this Mickey is a wise character who has his own outlook on life that is much more rich and beautiful than that of those who are finically better off, again this is something that is very similar to Chaplin's little tramp.

In this film, Mickey is poor and happy, while the rich characters are unhappy. With this film being made during the Great Depression, this probably helped audiences of the day relate to and root for Mickey. Audiences of this time did not want to see rich characters go through life on easy street. They wanted to see a poor character make it not by using money but instead by good old American optimism and a can do spirit. This gave them hope and a feeling of pride in who they were.

The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated January 6, 1934).

"Mickey's Good Deed: Mickey Mouse - Christmas cartoon. Kids like Mickey. That's why they come. One Mickey Mouse cartoon on your Saturday's program brings the kiddes out to the matinee. Running time eight minutes. - Edmund M. Burke, Fort Plain Theatre , Fort Plain, N.Y. General Patronage."

The following is another exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated December 23, 1933).

"Mickey's Good Deed: Mickey Mouse - This is another good cartoon comedy, if you can play this on Christmas day, it will go over good. This one is not as good as the last one but will please the kiddes. Running time, eight minutes. -JJ Medford, Orpheum Theatre, Oxford, N.C. General Patronage."

The following is yet another exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated January 13, 1934).

"Good Deed: Mickey Mouse - One of the best Mickey Mouse cartoons Walt ever made. Running Time eight minutes. Louis Perretta, Crescent Theatre, Maboningtown, Pa. Town and city patronage."

The following is another exhibitors review for the Motion Picture Herald (dated December 2, 1933).

"Mickey's Good Deed: Mickey Mouse - Got a lot of laughs and pleased generally. Something for the kids when the feature isn't too their liking. Mayme P. Musselmann, Princess Theatre, Lincoln, Ka. Small Town Patronage. "

The working title for this film was Mickey's X-mas Picture. This cartoon was directed by Burt Gillett, who was directing most of the Mickey Mouse cartoons of this time as well as a few of the Silly Symphonies. From 1934 to 1936 he would head the Van Bueren animation studio. Afterwards he would work at the Walter Lantz studio. This film featured a great team of animators as well. Les Clark would go on to become one of Walt's Nine Old Men. Norm Ferguson was one of the great personality animators for the studio and helped define the character of Pluto. Ben Sharpsteen would be the supervising director for the Disney features, Pinocchio and Dumbo. Dick Lundy would later join the Walter Lantz studio and become one of Woody Woodpeckers best directors. Tom Palmer would later direct cartoons for both Warner Brothers and Van Bueren.

Johnny Cannon (Mickey playing on street - passers by drop coins in cup; Pluto howling - bites fleas, etc.; Mickey and dog cont. Dog finishes howl - exit)

Ben Sharpsteen (Café - both hungry - Mickey empties cup in hand - surprised expression; Mickey's hand - nuts, blots, screws, etc., instead of money; Mickey and Pluto walk away - feel sad; See rich man's house - they start to play; Mickey running - slips on ice - drops fiddle - it slides cut to R; Fiddle lands in street - gets smashed by sleigh. Mickey in - sees wreckage; Crowd in sleigh yells "Merry Xmas!"; Mickey sad - hears off-stage sobbing - looks around; Poor house - Mickey and dog look thru the window; Interior of poor house; Mickey outside watching - gets idea - grabs Pluto and runs on pan; Flash of mother sleeping - repeat; Exterior - kids yelling off-stage - Mickey peeks in window to watch them; Fireplace scene kids playing with toys; Pluto with turkey, etc. on tail. kids hits father and dog with fruit, dishes, etc.; Butler on ladder fixing star on Xmas tree - dog knocks, ladder from under him; kid on table throws cake; Butler sees cake, ducks - pan over to father - he gets it in face; Pluto climbs tree - kid runs in, pulls on tinsel; Pluto knock father down - ornaments fly thru - star sticks him in fanny; Father tells butler to throw dog out - turkey still on tail; Interior - kid gets spanked)

Les Clark (Inside - kid breaks toys, cries; Kid hears dog - goes to window; Flash Mickey and dog playing; Father sends butler out of house to buy Pluto)

Frenchy de Tr'emaudan (Exterior of front door - butler comes out with money in hand - yells at Mickey; Mickey and dog scared - run with fiddle; Butler catches Mickey - tries to buy dog - Mickey refuses - dog bites butler - dog and Mickey exit to R)

Tom Palmer (Outside house - Mickey sells dog - runs off with money in his hand)

Hardie Gramatky (Interior rich house - butler gives dog to kid - brat stops crying; Kid hits dog with mallet, dog surprised - pinches nose - dog flops out of sc.; Pluto lands on R.R. tracks; Kid turns switch - train starts out of sc.; Train rams dog - chases and gooses him; Kid laughing; Father and butler chuckle - shake hands; Flash of kid laughing - repeat)

Dick Lundy (Mickey takes presents to poor house - puts on Santa makeup; Mickey enters; Kids asleep - Mickey in - raises cover to see another row of kids under covers; Fireplace - Mickey tries put toys in sox quietly - makes lots of noise; Jack-in-box; Flash of kids asleep; Front door - Mickey exits - trips on toy train - big noise going out; Kids wake up - start to pile out of bed, very excited when they see gifts)

Gerry Geronimi (Dog lands in snow - comes up - looks around; Dog starts off to look for Mickey - turkey still tied to tail)

Norm Ferguson (Dog finds Mickey all alone - they eat the turkey - "Merry Xmas" with mouth full of food. Iris Out.)

Story: It is a snowy Christmas Eve night and Mickey is playing bass fiddle on the street to make some extra money. When Mickey checks what is in his change jar he finds nuts and blots leaving him and Pluto no money to eat. Meanwhile in a rich house a father and a butler are trying to keep a crying kid entertained with all sorts of toys, but the kid keeps on crying. The kids hears Pluto outside and wants him. The father sends the butler out to buy Pluto, but Mickey refuses to sell. Running away Mickey's bass fiddle gets broken. Mickey is sad for a moment but is distracted when he hears a noise. He goes up to a poor house and sees a crying mother with nothing to give her kids for Christmas. As the kids' heads are filled with thoughts of Santa Claus and presents, Mickey knows come Christmas morning they will be disappointed. He goes back to the rich house and sells Pluto. Pluto is miserable in this new house as the little rich kid tortures him. Mickey uses his new money to buy toys for the kids. He visits their house late at night dressed as Santa Claus. He tries to deliver the toys quietly but his clumsiness makes more and more noise. The kids wake up and Mickey barely escapes without being seen. The kids are playing with their new toys as happy as can be. As Pluto is running away from the little kid who keeps chasing him. The father becomes the brunt of this slapstick chase, he demands the butler to throw the dog out. While the father himself spanks the little kid. Pluto still has a turkey the kid threw at him attached to his tail and when him and Mickey have their happy reunion the two have a nice Christmas dinner.


In 1991, the Disney studio made a colorized version of this cartoon short.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Movie Review: Girl in the Spider's Web

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Review: Fun and engaging action film, may not always make sense but is fun.

What makes this movie work so well is the main character. She is the very definition of cool. Much of this is due to Claire Foy's fantastic performance. She makes even the most outlandish parts of this film feel completely believable. This is especially true during the scenes with very little dialogue. Just the slightest look on her face tells so much, and not long into the movie we feel like we know and love this character. Because we care about this character the action scenes are much more exciting. This is important because there are a lot of them. These are typically enjoyable movie action scenes. They offer nothing we haven't seen many times before, but it is done well. These action scenes often feel intense, exciting and big. Making this feel like the thrill-ride that has become a cliché to refer to an action movie as. This is also a visually beautiful film. Some of the shots here are breathtaking. They are all in service of the rest of the film and never distract from it instead adds a great sense of atmosphere to the movie.

The story does its job well. It keeps us interested in what is happening on screen and rooting for our protagonists. We can easily argue that is just what we should get from the story in an action film, but that does not mean it doesn't have faults. The main fault is a lack of motivation for the villain. The villain is a good character and her relationship with our heroine is no doubt one of the best things about the film. Still this makes it more disappointing when we don't actually understand what her plan is. It is instead made to vague and unclear, when just a simple explanation of why would have made this movie better. True this movie uses a McGuffin, but even then we should know why the character is interested in said McGuffin, even if we don't care about it. This is also a story which we can not deny we have seen before and anyone who has seen enough action films will at times think "Wasn't this done in..."

Don't go to this movie excepting anything new or thought provoking. Just go in excepting a fun action film that may not be perfect, but is fun.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Movie Review: Beautiful Boy

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: A very well made film with real heartfelt emotion, however it does get tiring at times.
What makes this movie work so well is that the characters are so real (yes they are based off of real life people, but how often have characters based off of real people not felt real). This is due to both the script by Luke Davies and Felix van Groeningen (who also directed the movie) and powerful performances from the cast. Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet are rightfully being praised for their performances here. These are heart wrenchingly beautiful performances with a single false note in them. However there is not a weak link in the entire cast. The performances will be overlooked here are those of Christian Convery and Oakley Bull who play Nic's Younger siblings. They both give very real performances and manage to tug at your heartstrings. The story itself is a powerful one I fortunately have never had a loved one struggle with addiction therefore I can't tell you how realistically this treats the situation, but I can tell you it felt real to me and it was handled in what seemed to be an honest mature way.

The use of flashbacks in this movie are both a positive and a negative. They work in the sense that they allow us to see in the minds of the characters. At times like this we would be stopping to think "how did we get here?" These flashbacks let us look back at this as the characters would making us become more involved with their emotions. On the other hand the transitions between flashbacks and modern time are not always very clear. This causes the movie to get unnecessarily hard to follow at times. There were important scenes that at first I thought were flashbacks, but ended up not being so. This is not done in a thought-provoking way but instead feels clumsy.

This movie also has a problem with feeling longer than it is. Much of this comes from the fact that the movie goes for long stretches without anything remotely happy. Many great depressing movies have happy scenes or comedic scenes to lighten the load for the audience and give them brief moments of relief. This also comes from the fact that we are watching Nic struggle through the same things over and over again. Sadly after so many times of seeing this with no relief, the audience simply grows weary and tired of watching. Two hours of this makes the movie pass by really slowly towards the end. However with how moving much of this film is, I can still recommend it easily, but don't watch it if you are either depressed or restless.          

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Movie Review: The Grinch

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A

Review: Not only Illumination's best movie yet, but the best anyone not named Chuck Jones can do at making a film adaption of Dr. Seuss' great book.

This movie successeds where so many Dr. Seuss movies have failed. This is to take a short book and turn it into a feature length film. It is shocking how well this movie does this. As well as the plot of the book this movie adds a few subplots. These could have so easily been just distractions from the story we all came to see, but this movie finds delightful ways to tie everything together. This makes everything in this movie feel like it has a purpose and something to add to the story, making this unlike the 2000 movie version of the same story, feel like one cohesive whole. Another way this movie was made into feature length is by the addition of slapstick humor. However the slapstick humor never feels forced it. Instead it comes naturally out of the story and characters. It is also very funny. There were quite a few times I laughed out loud watching this movie. The early scene of the Grinch trying to avoid some Christmas carolers is cartoon slapstick at its finest. The whole thing is perfectly timed, and beautifully animated. It is also fantastic how like much great slapstick comedy, this scene starts off rather realistically and then gets more over the top and funnier as it goes on. This scene is also perfect because it is so relatable. We all have had times we have been grumpy and wanted to just avoid everyone around us, but some darn happy people just want to be around us. We (at least I have) have also been on the other side and been happy wanted to share that happiness, but a grumpy person doesn't want us to be happy around them. Also hilarious are almost all the scenes involving Fred the reindeer. This character is a great example of personality animation that can express a character's thought without ever having to hear a line of dialogue from him. He provides fantastic pantomime humor that made me laugh out loud several times and was all together a delightful addition to the classic story.

One fear I had was that this movie would try to make the story modern and hip. Luckily the only instance of this in the movie is a rap version of You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch, but this was short and not as bad as it sounds. Everything else in this movie felt like something that could have been made at any time and I am sure that this will make this movie appeal to future generations the way the Chuck Jones version did. This movie also understands how much of the story's charm comes from its very simplicity. As such it never tries to overcomplicate things, therefore keeping much of the story's irresistibly simple charm. Adding to this film's timelessness are the great designs of the characters. Eric Guillon is the unsung hero of Illumination's movies. His character designs are always very visually appealing and unique. He does just as amazing of a job here (with the help of Mael Gourmelen and Craig Elliott) here as he has done in the past giving this movie a look as timeless as the story itself.

However all of this said the best thing about this movie is by the end I felt that warm unexplainable Christmas-y feeling. I am a full on Christmas lover, and any film that can make me have this feeling is winner in my book. This is a movie I will be watching every Christmas season and loving each time I watch it.

-Michael J. Ruhland        

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mickey Mouse in "Mickey in Arabia" (1932)

Mickey in Arabia marked the last Disney cartoon for Columbia, thus fulfilling the contract to that studio. By this time Walt had already signed with Untied Artists for U.A. to distribute the Disney cartoon shorts. They had already been signed with Untied Artists for around a year and a half by the time this film was completed.

This cartoon also marked a shift in the content of Mickey Mouse cartoons. The early Mickey Mouse cartoons were mostly a series of unrelated gags connected by a loose story. From this cartoon on the Mickey cartoons would take on a more adventurous spirit. Many cartoon would now be a mini-adventure. Though there were still many gags, each gag played a part in telling the story. Like what was already being done in the Mickey Mouse comic strip (at this time done by Floyd Gottfredson) the cartoons often would take Mickey to an exotic or fantasy-based place, where he would face some sort of danger and save the day. However despite this film signaling a change in pace for the cartoons the basic story resembles that of the earlier Mickey cartoon, The Gallopin' Gaucho (1928).

This cartoon was directed by Wilfred Jackson, one of the studio's best directors of this era. He directed such classic Disney shorts as The Whoopee Party (1932), Mickey's Mellerdramer (1933), Santa's Workshop (1932), Puppy Love (1933) and The Grasshopper and the Ants (1934).

The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated December 13, 1933).

"Mickey in Arabia: Mickey Mouse - Up to previous standard. Good for a lot of laughs. Appealing to both old and young alike. Running Time seven minutes. - William A. Crute, Victoria Theatre, Vancouver, B.C. Neighborhood patronage."

The following is another exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated April 7, 1934).

"Mickey in Arabia: Mickey Mouse - About like the usual run of Mickey Mouses. Running time seven minutes. - A.B. Jefferis. New Piedmont Theatre, Piedmont, Mo. Rural and small town patronage."

The following is another exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated February 18, 1933).

"Mickey In Arabia: Mickey Mouse - Not quite as good as some of the others in this series but Mickey is always popular. Running Time, 7 minutes - M.R. Harrington, State Theatre, Portland Oregon."

The following is a review in The Film Daily (dated November 22, 1932).

"Another choice bit of cartoon comicalities from the Disney shops. This time Mickey and Minnie are tourists in the Arab country. Riding into town on their dilapidated camel, Minnie is spotted by a sheik, who carries her off to his castle. Mickey follows on his trick camel and effects her rescue to the tune of plenty laughs."

According to an issue of Motion Picture Herald (dated August 6, 1932), this cartoon had been "unanimously recommended for the family by previewing groups that have seen" it. To read where this is stated click here.

In 1937 this cartoon was released for home viewing on 16MM sound film. Below is an advertisement for that.

Johnny Cannon (Mickey and Minnie on camel; Mickey and Minnie; Outside city gate - camel starts in; M.L.S. Inside - camel in - follow on pan - stop in front of saloon; Snake charmer)

Dick Lundy (Dancers and orchestra)

Kevin Donnelly (Woman with several vases on head - kids in them; Kids skipping rope with old man's beard; Woman with vase on head - man in it smoking cigar)

Clyde Geronimi (Mickey and Minnie get off camel - out of scene camel starts to drink beer; Mickey and Minnie take picture of girl with eye shade; Juggler; Mickey whistles at juggler; juggler poses; Minnie takes picture; Juggler continues to juggle)

Les Clark (Minnie taking picture of Mickey posing with kids; sheik looks over wall; Minnie looks in camera - backs up; Sheik ducks - looks out small door in gate - Minnie backs on - hands grab her; Mickey hears scream - drops kids - runs out; Mickey pounds on gate - hops over wall - sheik out with Minnie - Mickey after him)

Tom Palmer (Mickey gets drunken camel started)

Ben Sharpsteen (Sheik and camel out city gate - follow drunken camel on pan; Sheik riding donkey with Minnie; Sheik's castle - sheik rides in; Repeat drunken camel - camel on humps; Sheik chasing Minnie around bedroom; Mickey on camel humps - stumbles - Mickey runs out of scene; Mickey pounds on door - runs up wall to window; Window from inside - Mickey looks in; Sheik trying to kiss Minnie; Mickey leaps to chandelier - swings down out of scene; Repeat sheik trying to kiss Minnie - Mickey shoots into scene - kicks sheik out; Sheik hits gong; Slaves jump out and surround Mickey and Min.; Sheik starts shoots; Slaves duck for cover; Slaves hide in jars; Slave into snake basket - snakes gallop away; Two slaves try to hide in the same vase; Slave with false teeth; Mickey hides Minnie in flower vase - tries to open door; Sheik stops shooting sees Mickey; Sheik throws sword at Mickey; Sword sticks in door - runs towards Mickey; Mickey trips sheik; Minnie sees sheik slide thru scene; Sheik sliding on belly; Sheik sticks vase with sword - slave jumps out through ceiling - falls back - hangs by other slaves beard)

Jack King (Sheik throwing knives; Mickey running and dodging knives; Knife breaks vase as Mickey jumps for it - another knife pins Mickey to screen; Repeat sheik throwing knives; Mickey uses screen to shoot knives back at sheik; knives takes sheiks clothes off; Knives stick pillows - slaves jump up and run out; Sheik grabs sword runs to R; Mickey blows water out of pipe into sheik's face - runs upstairs - sheik after)

David Hand (Sheik chases Mickey and Minnie up minaret; Mickey running along edge of roof with Minnie in vase - stumbles - vase rolls; Minnie off roof - Mickey grabs at her - stone comes loose - both fall; Mickey and Minnie land in awning; Sheik jumps up at Mickey and Minnie; Mickey fold awning - sheik falls thru scene; Sheik lands in sand hand first - stuck - feet kicking; Mickey and Minnie in awning - look up; Slaves on edge of roof throw spears; Repeat Mickey folding awning - spears thru scene; Spears stick sheik in fanny - he runs over hill - camel watches; Mickey and Minnie jump off awning)

Frenchy de Tremmaudan (Mickey and Minnie land on camel ride away)

Story: Mickey and Minnie ride into an Arabian town on their camel. When they arrive there they are typical tourists taking pictures of everything and asking many residents to pose for them. This all goes well into a sheik (who looks a lot like Pete) sees Minnie. In a sweep of lust he swoops Minnie up and carries her off to his castle. Mickey runs after to save his girlfriend. When he reaches the castle Mickey must fight off both the sheik and many slaves all of who have many swords they hurl at our hero. Unarmed Mickey has to defend himself with just his wits. Luckily that proves to be more than enough.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: A smart, touching and sometimes quite funny film version of a fantastic true story that remains down to Earth in all the best ways.

What makes this movie so great is that it always feels so real. True it is based on a true story, but there are many movies based off true stories that don't feel real in the slightest bit. Much of why this movie feels so real comes from both the fantastic script from Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitley and an incredible performance from Melissa McCarthy. To be honest I am not always a fan of Melissa McCarthy. This has more to do with her material than anything else. I find much of her over the top and often vulgar comedy, more annoying than actually funny. That is what made this movie surprise me so much. I could see that she truly is an extremely talented woman. While there is humor in her performance, this is mostly a very dramatic role for her. She pulls this off with incredible skill. There is an underlying sadness in her performance that is played subtlety, but that it is hard not to feel. If I had to pick one word to describe this performance it would be real. Without every having to be over the top, McCarthy plays every emotion perfectly and heavily because of this it never feels like there is anything remotely false in this character. This could easily be her best performance and it will blow away both fans and non-fans of her alike. It would have been so easy to make Lee Israel seem like a complete caricature of grumpy woman who prefers cats over people. Yet this never comes to be and instead we completely feel for her as we see that beneath her rough exterior, she is a lonely and insecure person.

This is a very quiet and low key film. There is comedy but it is played down and never calls attention to itself. Likewise the only suspense is whether or not Lee will be caught, but there is never a full suspense scene where we are on the edge of our seats. Instead this movie is much more a character study than anything else. Again this works because we are so fascinated and in tune with her. Just because this is a character study does not mean this movie is all art and no fun. There is a lot of enjoyment to be found here. The story is amazing and it is fantastic to watch what Lee Israel was actually able to get away with. The scenes with her and her friend Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) are great and it is a lot of fun to listen to their banter.

  Marielle Heller proves just how great of a director she is here. Her direction never calls attention to itself, but rather stays in the background. This does not mean it is not there and is not fantastic. She knows this is the perfect way to tell a story like this and does just that.

This may not be attracting the same attention as many of the big blockbusters right now, but it is more than worth your time, so definitely go and check it out.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: While this is not a perfect movie by any means, what works is fantastic.

Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way. The music is incredible. Queen's songs are always fantastic to hear. They sound like no other rock band in the world. Their songwriting skills were absolutely amazing and they had the musicianship to match. With Queen members Brain May and Roger Taylor producing the soundtrack themselves, it is no wonder this movie shines so brightly in this department. I have a feeling this soundtrack can and probably will turn the unconverted into Queen fans.

The cast in this film is absolutely incredible as well. This is especially true of those playing the four band members. There are times watching this movie that I forgot I was watching actors. I felt like I was really seeing Queen. This is true in both the dramatic scenes and the musical performances. While it is true that the music is original Queen recordings, the cast still had to appear on screen as if they were performing these songs. This could not have worked better. You believe every second that you are watching Queen perform. The sheer presence and energy conveyed by the cast is amazing. They have the fantastic charisma that is a very important part of rock and roll. During the dramatic scenes there is no denying that these four actors share great chemistry together. You love watching them play off each other in the more playful and humorous scenes, just as much as you believe in the love and affection the band shares in the serious scenes. During any fights you feel bad and truly want to see them patch things up, not just because of the music but because you want to see these four together. The visual transformation of the cast is also incredible. Congratz to not only the actors, but to the makeup artists, hair stylists and costume designers for making these four look exactly like the true life people they are portraying.

The story is quite good, but at first it seems a little unfocused. It feels like the movie hasn't decided whether it wants to be about Freddie's romantic relationships, the stories behind famous songs, the band's trouble with mangers, Freddie's relationship to his family, the band's fights or a collection of performances of the band's best songs. All this is done quite well but they don't see to tie together as well as they should, making the movie feel a little confused. This is however remedied as the film goes on. Further into the film, the movie becomes about Freddie's self destructive nature and him having to learn how to deal with and atone for his personal demons to get his life on track. True this is similar to the basic plot of many musical bio-pics, but it is still done really well despite feeling cliché at times.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, November 2, 2018

Movie Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C

Review: An enjoyable film, but I couldn't help but feel it should have been quite a bit better.

Interestingly for a movie that starts off in the real world and then moves into a fantasy world, I found myself much more engrossed in what happened in the real world. The relationship between father and daughter is quite engaging. They both lost the same person (his wife and her mother), but express this loss in completely different ways. Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants to shut herself off from the world, while her father (Matthew Macfadyen) wants to hide his pain and do "what is excepted" of them. This causes a lot of friction between them as they disagree heavily with how the other is dealing with it. The emotion here feels completely real and sincere.

However as we move into the actual fantasy world, the movie becomes less engaging. The world itself, while very visually pleasing never immerses the audience the way it should. It looks all too familiar. Truth be told when I first saw it I thought of how Narnia looked and those Disney movies. With this in mind I never felt I was fully transported to another world. It is also interesting that the scenes in this fantasy world feel rushed and underdeveloped while the scenes in the real world feel very well developed and like they are given just enough time. This is odd considering more of the movie takes place in the fantasy world. This is probably best seen in the character of Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). She is built up when we first see and hear of her. This gets us to thinking this will be a great character. However when we finally meet her, we discover this is not true. By the end of the movie we know next to nothing about this character. The character of Sugar Plum (Keira Knightly) while better developed is hampered by forced dialogue. Whether she is trying to be cute or threatening it sounds like she speaks in nothing but cliché movie lines. I think we have heard most of the lines she says over the course of this movie at least 100 times in other movies. The action scenes feel likewise really rushed and very anti-climatic. I personally did not believe a second of what was supposed to be this movie's action packed climax.

However despite these complaints the fantasy scenes are not a waste. Clara is still a great character through out these scenes. She uses her brains to overcome many obstacles in many fun amusing ways. Also the scenes where she talks or hears about her mother are quite touching. This is all helped by a great acting performance by young Mackenzie Foy. There is also a fantastic but brief ballet sequence. This scene is what all the fantasy scenes should have been. The visuals are striking and for once we feel like we are transported to another world. This scene does not simply feel like a filmed version of the ballet but rather something fully cinematic. It is a shame this scene is so brief as it is really good.

A very uneven movie to say the least. The stuff that works is quite good and occasionally great. However what doesn't work falls flat on its face.

-Michael J. Ruhland     

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Silent Film of the Month: The Lodger (1927)

Run Time: 74 minutes. Studios: Gainsborough Pictures, Carlyle Blackwell Productions. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Writer: Eliot Stannard. Based on a book by Marie Belloc Lowndes. Main Cast: Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, June Tripp, Malcom Keen, Ivor Novell. Cinematographer: Gaetano di Ventimiglia.

Note: There is a bit of interesting history involving how this film ends, that I feel obliged to include. So keep in mind there may be spoilers.

In François Truffaut's incredible book long interview with Alfred Hitchcock, Hitch referred to The Lodger as the first real Alfred Hitchcock film. In many ways this is true. Though this was not the first Hitchcock film, it may be the first that truly shows what the master would become known for. This was his first suspense movie and even at this early stage Hitch shows a mastery of genre. It would also introduce one of Hitch's favorite story elements, this was an innocent man being accused of wrong doing and being made to suffer for it. Hitch would keep using this plot element as late as Frenzy (1972).  Even today when audiences have seen Psycho, Rear Window, Notorious, Vertigo and North By Northwest, The Lodger has lost none of its power and is still a fantastic film on all levels.

Hitch had seen a play entitled Who is He?, which was based on Belloc Lowndes' book The Lodger. This gave him a certain amount of inspiration for this film.

The star of this movie, Ivor Novello, though not an especially well know actor today was considered a huge star in London around this time. Because of this the character was not allowed to actually be Jack the Ripper. Hitch wanted to leave the ending ambiguous so that we would never know for sure whether or not he was the murder. However with this in mind the movie clearly tells us that he is innocent. The reason he did not want this is he did not feel wondering whether or not this man the killer was not very exciting. Instead what was exciting was how the story was told and the fear the characters around him felt. Hitch ran into a similar problem of the main character not being the villain because of the actor's star power with Cary Grant's character in Suspicion (1941).

If you read the book Hitchcock/Truffaut (which ever movie fan should), you can easily see Hitch's proudness for this film. He states in that book, "As a matter of fact, I took a pure narrative and for the first time, presented ideas in purely individual terms." He then went on to describe some of the early sequences in great detail, and just how visual they are. Hitch credited the visual flair of this film to a brief period he spent in Germany. He did some of this work in Germany thanks to his early producer Michael Balcon who created a partnership with the famous German studios, UFA and Emelka. Hitch worked for Balcon as an assistant director before becoming a director himself, so he had worked on a few of these German films. Those familiar with German films of the 1920's know that many of them were quite brilliant as visual storytelling. They used striking images that often brought the audience further into the characters' inner psyche. The Lodger uses its visuals in a similar way.  

One of the best examples of the visual filmmaking in this movie is the opening scenes. The movie starts with a woman screaming. We are given no context at this point of why the woman is screaming, and shortly afterwards the screen turns to back. This completely grabs our attention as we are shocked by this image and the abruptness in which it disappears. We become uncomfortable and completely intrigued. We have to know why this happened and what we are going to see next. The words "To-night Golden Curls" appear on screen. This lets us know where we are, a nightclub with a show involving beautiful women. After this we see the dead body of the woman who was screaming earlier. We then see an old woman staring at this body in horror. Then we see a policeman taking notes. Without any dialogue we know perfectly what has happened. A young show girl was murdered in a night club. This information is given to us in the most fascinating way possible. We get the clues of what has happened little by little making us more and more intrigued along the way. Hitch plays with both our curiosity and what we have grown to except from movie storytelling (something that was already firmly in place with 1927 audiences). The film kept this visual storytelling through out the whole movie. There are many clever visual ideas. I love the scene where the lodger is pacing in his room. We see the family below look up when they hear it. We see the chandelier moving back and fourth reacting to this. We then see a shot from the floor of the lodger's room (at a very low angle). This makes the transition seem unnoticeable. We see the family looking up at the ceiling for them and the floor for him. It then looks as if we are seeing through the floor we were looking at earlier. Even though there are some traditional intertitles. The truth is the story for the most part could be followed quite well without them. This is because the story is told as visually as possible, as is done in many of the best silent movies.  

Another first of this movie is that it marked the first time Alfred Hitchcock made a cameo in his own movie. This came about because of necessity. There had to be a lot of people on screen and there weren't enough extras. For those curios Hitch is one of the members of the mob that chases the lodger during the climax.

When first shown to the studio, this film did not win Hitch any friends. First to see it was the distribution company and the publicity department. Both thought it was horrible and could not be shown. Two days later it was shown to the boss, who hated it as well. The film then was put on the shelf for a few months. Later the studio picked it up again and asked Hitch to make some changes. Hitch later told Truffaut, "I agreed to make about two." However when picture was finally shown to the public, it was a huge box office success and many British critics considered it the greatest British film made by that time. American critics didn't like the film as much as one reviewer for Variety wrote "They took a smashing theme, gummed it up with cheap and shoddy catering to the lowest taste of what they supposed to be their public, and then further smeared it with acting and photography that belongs to the American studio of 10 years ago." The same reviewer also referred to Novello's acting as "unbelievably stilted." A reviewer in The New York Times wrote, "The picture has a very, very, excellent beginning, a mediocre middle and a most deplorable ending." 

 To read a 1927 article talking about the state of British movies in 1926, including quite a bit about this film click here.

-Michael J. Ruhland