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Classic Movies

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Seeing as though this is a meeting spot for those who enjoy the music of the 1920s to the '40s, '50s & '60'ish days I wonder if any of you are fans of classic movies? My love for movies, particularly from the '10s to the 1950s, began in grade school when I caught the Universal Horror movie bug. There was a late night show called 'Not So Classic Theatre' which I believe was coming out of Boston or Bangor (can't remember) which played all the old classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, The wolf Man . . . & me & my buds would try to stay up late Saturday nights to catch them. There were also a number of books in my grade school libraries about these classic films with great still reproductions . . . It's now relatively easy to see all these old flicks & I've since become a fan of classic cinema in general & i'm lucky enough to have a number of musician friends in my area with the same tastes & some great collections . . . so any of you Weenies share my love for the golden Age of cinema?   

Bricktown Bob:
Hey, Cheapfeet, greetings from another movie buff.

Can't say I go with you all the way from the 10s to the 50s; I have a low tolerance for silents, apart from Buster Keaton and some of the UFA Expressionist stuff (Caligari, Metropolis, Dr Mabuse, etc.).  But when Hollywood simultaneously got the Germans and sound -- wow, things really took off.  Starting with your Universal horrors.  About the only thing I don't like about the Universal horrors is the precipitous decline in quality after the first one or two. When they became programmers, that is.  The first two Frankensteins, the first two Mummies, the first Dracula, the first Wolfman -- all quite good, but then they became series, and went straight to hell (so to speak).  Of course, that sort of thing would never happen today (right).  Don't get me wrong, I like series programmers as a mindlessly entertaining sort of thing (your Charlie Chans, your Thin Mans, your endless string of intrepid girl reporters, and so on).  I like the 30s serials, too, though not so much the late-40s Republic serials (which are still good for a laugh).  And an awful lot of film noir I really like, and John Ford westerns, and Preston Sturges comedies, and especially the Val Lewton horrors of the 40s (superior to even the best Universals, IMHO), and Kurosawa.  And Leone.  And Hong Kong action flicks before John Woo.  And there's a special place in my heart for crappy 50s sci-fi flicks.  Most of them tried soooo hard, but they never ever had a chance, poor things.  Of course a lot of them just didn't give a damn, and that's fun too, in a way.

I used to watch a lot of old movies, back in the days I had cable.  Turner Classic Movies, and American Movie Classics and such.  One of them (forget which) some years ago ran a series of race films (yes, the movie equivalent of the race records we know and love).  I deeply regret that I missed most of it, but I did see one of their ubiquitous fillers: the Bessie Smith short of "St. Louis Blues."  Way over the top campy/weepy storyline, but the music's there, and she's Bessie Smith, forgodsake, and she can do that.

Yeah Bob the original/first universal horror flicks are certainly superior, definately more strange & original with more artistic integrity but I have to say I like the 'serial' aspect of the later incarnations . . . there's something perfectly stupid & typical & fun in the 'House of Dracula/Frankenstein' movies, I quite like all the Mummy sequals . . . 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman' is just pure cheap fun (Bela as the Monster is pretty laughable) & so on. There's something very archetypal in all those movies which I find fascinating . . . I recently acquired several that I've been wanting to see/own for years: 'Old Dark House' (superb), 'The Black Cat' (with Bela & Boris, real perverse & great) & 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', another cheaply violent & dark movie . . .
My main obsession in the last year has been the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies beginning in 1939 & going to the mid-forties or so . . . I have all 14 of em & guiltily admit watching them 5-6 times each, just can't get enough of them, they're perfect in their own way. They should be playing these movies on saturday morning/afternoon TV.
I recently spent time with my father & a brother & a sister that I didn't grow up with & we went through a bunch of the classics. "The Invisible Man' with Claude Rains was the favourite I think . . . now if I can turn them on to Lemon . . .   

Bricktown Bob:
I absolutely loved the Rathbone/Bruce Holmses when I was a kid.  Some TV station played one just about every Saturday, I think, and I was there for most of them.  Haven't seen one for a long, long time, but I'm sure I'd find them just as fun.  Even though I don't like the idea of Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis.

For a long time Holmes seriously hampered my appreciation of Rathbone as a great movie villain.  His villainy won out in the end, of course.  And many of the qualities that made him a great villain were also at the heart of his Holmes.  The only man better with a sneer, for instance, was Henry Daniell (best known, perhaps, as Garbitsch in The Great Dictator), but there was always something slightly foppish about Daniell.  Rathbone was just flat-out sinister.  I've always thought it a shame that even though he was (reputedly) the best fencer in Hollywood, he always had to lose the sword fights.

Your original post got me to thinking how I got into old movies in the first place, and I think I started out much the same as you.  With me it was Channel 6 out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi's Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on Saturday nights.  Their very first show was Dracula; I think their second was Bride of Frankenstein.  I remember most, though, their Laurel and Hardy, especially the features, such as Fra Diavolo and Bohemian Girl.  Great stuff.  Good times.

Aside: Gailard Sartain, who played Mazeppa, went on to have a pretty decent acting career, starting with regular work on Hee-Haw and The Sonny and Cher Show; his break-out role was as the Big Bopper in The Buddy Holly Story (Gary Busey apparently appeared a few times on the Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting, though I don't remember seeing him there).

Hey, I just looked up Henry Daniell on IMDB (to get his name spelled right), and guess what -- he was in three of the Rathbone/Bruce Holmses!  The Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes in Washington, and The Woman in Green, in which he played Professor Moriarty (perfect!).

Henry Daniell is great . . . considered by many to be the best Prof. Moriarty (Holmes' nemesis). He plays a very cool & collected villain. George Zucco & Lionel Atwill are more familiar to me as villains because of the sheer number of movies they were in, esp. Atwill who seems like he's a bad guy even when he's not playing one! The other actor I've always found made a great villain or all-around seedy character was Cedric Hardwicke. He had a way of moving & staring at people that made him suspect from the get-go.
I haven't really seen Rathbone in many villain roles . . . for me he's the quintessential Holmes. Bruce plays a blustering, goofy Dr. Watson, quite unlike Doyle's literary character, but I find it charmng & entertaining & hey, it's the movies!


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