Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
One of the films I saw prior to this year’s time frame, and lot of the selections were influenced by the passing of Mickey Rooney.
Comments on the Future
While I won’t go so far as to strike the tab from the menu screen, I don’t think this will be a month-long focus next year. Rather, when I feel like a quick screening I will come back to these titles. It’s already a site category and a short niche of film history that interests me greatly that I’d like to continue to feature, just not in such a singular way.
This is a post that is a repurposing of an old Poverty Row April post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically depending on the theme. Enjoy!
One Year Later (1933)
Every once in a while there is a film that will have you firmly ride the fence for a while. I usually like to give myself time to digest and think about a title. There have been quite a few titles that were about nothing or next to nothing in this theme (and that was not unexpected). This film is clearly not in that category, but it does have its issues, and plays a little coy with the details of the drama unfolding.
Ultimately this title gets a pass for a few reasons: while it doesn’t use a lot of voice over or flashbacks, the combination of audiovisual cues was still new film grammar at the time, it does tell a tale of fractured chronology, which is rather different than most of the fare thus far. Though it plays a little hard to get and does time-wasting tactics, it is also playing subtext while skirting what precisely happened in the year of the story that intervened. The events that escalate towards the film’s climax don’t click as well as they could, but they all make sense. I had a concentration lapse that cost me not to fully account motivations at first; I’ve bridged those gaps. It’s a film that is well-made, takes interesting story paths and for the most part stays engaging, despite its hiccups and difficulties.
Here’s another Mickey Rooney-starring title. This one is for Monogram when he’s a bit older than the last one. It’s a great performance by Rooney in what feels like two long short films intertwined, as a character who seems like she may be the lead does an impressive vanishing act in the secon half of the film. It’s no great shakes, but it’s a decent way to pass the time.
There have not been that many selections thus far this April. It has become an impromptu Mickey Rooney tribute as well. This film is a decent, if ham-fisted tale of a doctor who is an idealist and loses his way. There are pretty big lulls but holds interest a lot better than most of these films do.
This film definitely falls under the noteworthy category rather than a necessarily good one. It’s an exploitation film about forced castration implemented in many states when the Eugenics movement took hold. However, with the choices made by the story and the way its conveyed it makes it a bit murky as to whether this is pro- or anti-eugenics film. Either way it’s eye-opening short feature.
This is purportedly the last of the series of Mickey McGuire shorts (back when Rooney was credited as such) that he starred in while not signed with a major studio. The story is simple escapist fare and fairly humorous. It’s more noteworthy because I had not yet seen one of these shorts. Enjoy!
In this year’s Poverty Row April post I said I’d dedicate Sundays to sharing features. However, I missed last week so I will get two up this weekend.
When I found out that this was available from Alpha Home Video I did not find it on the Internet Archive. It has surfaced since I saw it. This film features early performances by both Mickey Rooney and Jackie Searl.
The film deals with a cop who seeks vigilante justice when the system won’t find solutions. It’s a surprisingly effective title.
I’m a bit late in discussing it, however, a series I started last year is back. Poverty Row was a strip of independent studios on the outskirts of Los Angeles. These studios thrived, relatively speaking, during the dawn of the sound era. I partook in a marathon of these films last year in part to research a personal writing project.
Many of the titles I downloaded remained unwatched, and my interest has not wained. Thus, I decided to bring the theme back – in a different way than last year. I will try to find four new and worthy titles of being featured on Sundays. If nothing good is seen during the week the most noteworthy title will be profiled.
Some of last year’s viewings did affect the best older films list so I do find films I like in this theme and hope to find some more. I highly recommend you read Povery Row Studios for a fuller picture of these companies than reviews and comments can provide. Virtually all the films I feature will have been seen on The Internet Archive. Happy viewing to all!
I planned this theme by downloading many of the films I wanted to see ahead of time. All downloads are free and legal through The Internet Archive, as all titles selected are in the Public Domain. My grandiose plans called for over 50 films. That didn’t happen, and I did improvise through the month, and will likely continue to watch them through the year for personal viewings. However, the theme has come to an end so the reviews will cease and a wrap-up is required since the only other post in the theme I wrote was about the book that acts as my bible for this theme.
First, a statistical overview may be in order:
By the Numbers
Films: 23 Cumulative Score: 125 Average Score: 5.435
Titles scoring 6 and above: 10 Titles scoring 5 and below: 13
Best Films: The Phantom Express
In Love with Life
The Ghost Walks
Hearts of Humanity
The World Accuses
Usually the case with such a focused theme is that eventually I do seek to get out from under it. However, and perhaps this has to do with only seeing nearly half the number of films I expected, I leave this series wanting more. I attribute this to three main factors: first, there is the personal writing fiction writing project that this acts as research for (For my prior project(s) you can go here). Second, there is the fact that I’ve always had an affinity, not necessarily matched by viewing patterns, with this era of film history. Lastly, I think I chose well. Based on my reading Poverty Row titles that were good seemed like they’d be diamonds in the rough. However, by narrowing down my options to ones that sounded interesting to me I upped my odds and liked nearly half of the selections I made.
In my Favorite Older Films lists, as in my film viewing in general, I do like to celebrate diversity in era, country of production, director, genre and however else I can. However, I feel that Poverty Row titles, whether featured on this blog or not, will factor into my viewing choices, and the theme may be back next year.
The Phantom Empire may be the most unique movie serial ever created. I was told of its existence by my favorite film professor in college and I was fortunate enough to have found it on VHS shortly thereafter. After having viewed it I was glad to have given it to him. Now I have since reacquired it on DVD. It stars Gene Autry in his usual singing cowboy persona but there’s also science fiction mixed in and quite a few other things along the way.
Through Poverty Row April I will likely watch a composite version of this film but I am glad to be able to present to you the serial version of the the film thanks to The Internet Archive. To view please visit the links below.