Contrary to Popular Opinion Blogathon: Song of the South (1946)

Is This Really Contrary to Popular Opinion, or Why Choose Song of the South

In the course of this brief examination of Song of the South I hope that the only mea culpa I have to write is about the fact that my enjoying this film is not a minority view. Usually, when I’ve seen discussion about the film on Twitter it has been by people who also have a fondness for the film, and are film people. However, the mere fact that it is Disney, the very company that produced the film that is doing the suppressing is a large part of the issue in my mind, and part of why it feels like an unpopular opinion.

The film is one that Disney produced in the mid-40’s, had a mixed reaction, and early detractors, the NAACP included, but was not a title Disney ran from until the 1980s, after its second re-release in theaters it was gone from American home video in the mid-’80s. Later on “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah” was even expunged from Sing-Alongs. However, one of the many aspects about this disavowal is the fact that Disney picks and chooses where and how it will shun the film. It will not distribute the film in the US, but it does still sell overseas; it will make one of its more popular Disney Wold rides about it, but it won’t include Uncle Remus or try to enlighten the park guests who is on the tee shirt they’re buying. They will have many pop singers reinterpret its iconic theme song, but no longer play the version from the film.

Song of the South (1946, Dinsey)

In the past Disney liked to used to play the “you misremember” card. With the advent of video and the internet that holds less water so editing and suppression have become the norm for certain things that have made people squeamish. While other projects, also fairly common to all forms of entertainment in their era are addressed via contextualizing disclaimer usually delivered by Leonard Maltin on a DVD collection.

In the interests of further fully disclosing where I am coming from I will say that yes, I do consider myself a fan of Disney. One of my blog’s theme topics on an annual basis is an examination of Disney fare. However, in an age of fanboydom it seems like you can only be a cynical chronic complainer or a blind follower. I’ve always equated following a studio, especially one that’s part of a large corporate armature, to be akin to rooting for a sports team: you like them, you want them to do well and right, but you’re not blind and they are not immune to being criticized by their patrons.

It’s not as if Disney has never had to deal with these questions even from their stockholders. It has come up rather frequently at annual meetings. There’s more on that and many other of the stories I will touch on here in Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? a great book I read in preparation for this blogathon. I recommend you check it out if you have further interest in the topic.

“Somebody has to kill the babysitter.”

The Cable Guy (1996, Columbia Pictures)

Television and Film as surrogate parent or babysitter is not a new concept. The quote that is in the inspiration for this heading is from The Cable Guy (1996). In that film this is the line that divulges the modus operandi of Chip’s psychosis. When this film was made the over-emphasis that some believed TV and Film had on society, or on certain individuals, was not a new debate. However, one of the points that the film is making, even in all its silliness, is that it takes a deranged sort of delusion to really use film or TV as an analogy for real life or to get it to substitute things like parenting, conversation, thought and other things. The climactic events of the film take place as the nation hangs on the live broadcast of a famous murder trial (a subplot which brilliantly spoofs the Menendez case). What this is all leading to is that one of the things that Song of the South has had to contend with, which was not a problem of its own making was the overemphasis that depictions in the media have been given on the formative process of human beings as they pertain to attitudes towards racial groups, women and the like.

I use the word overemphasis because I cannot argue there’s no impact, but it is almost never the main cause of a prevailing attitude. Those who have cited video games, movies, or TV as motivation for crimes have usually had mental issues that impaired their grasp on reality. Part of the issue stems from the fact that oftentimes a film or cartoon with dated material or material that can be interpreted as offensive are usually seen by children who are not monitored. In essence, removing the potentially offensive work of art is pandering to the lowest common denominator: the “impressionable child” watching something unsupervised.

Singled Out; Other Things are Never Questioned and Readily Available

Song of the South (1946, Dinsey)

Yet, aside from some short subjects this is the only Disney product that has been struck in its entirety. Disney’s corporate penchant for self-editing and censorship is usually in smaller moments but rarely involve making a title wholly available. Other films, even from the selfsame studio, have references or depictions by today’s standards that are wholly unacceptable but they’re still widely consumed without a second thought. One of the more notable examples is Dumbo. Aside from having its scary moments I am mostly referring to the crows. The characters are crows and clearly voiced by African-American actors, which can be construed as a reference to Jim Crow laws. However, the availability of Dumbo has never been threatened. Disney has never shied away from the title as a whole. Yes, the crows are absent from the Dumbo ride at Disney world and their songs (Namely “When I See an Elephant Fly”) are rarely collected and re-released despite being one of Disney’s finest musical creations. The Simpsons made a brilliant joke about this, Lisa asked if Dumbo was the film that had “those racist crows in it?” Homer responds “Oh, Lisa, those crows weren’t racist the men who animated them were.” Which is what a lot of this boils down to: it was a different era so the necessity of sensitivity, and the level that needed to be reached to be seen as progressive, was lower.

In watching documentary footage on a Little Rascals box set you hear speak of the progressive move it was to have characters like Buckwheat and Farina who played with white children as equals. In a nation that still had segregation and other discriminatory practices in play, yes, relative to society that was a utopian vision. Even though a lot of the dialog and gags those characters have are what most date their films relative to its own era it was a step forward. Back then it was a bold statement today children of different races playing together is far more common, as it should be.

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

In the ‘90s certain Bugs Bunny cartoons like Hillbilly Hare for one were taken off the air after complaints were lodged to Cartoon Network. Yet, to my knowledge the short where in Bugs sings “One, Little Two, Little Three, Little Injuns” as his tallies his arrow-hits and then corrects himself to mark one as only half a hit because “that one’s a halfbreed” never was removed. That fact is brought to attention because those who know of the cartoons know these facts, but they don’t get the notoriety the Disney titles get for equal or lesser offenses. Looking at the whole landscape of animated shorts from these eras ethnic stereotypes were common, broad and not unique to one studio. Even with these occasional lapses in judgment (by modern sensibilities) it doesn’t really change Bugs Bunny’s character. He was wisecracking and had a mean-streak at times but he was always the retaliatory figure in his conflicts. Only on occasion like in the aforementioned short or in his battle with Giovanni Jones, the opera singer did things go too far. Woody Woodpecker over at Universal on the other hand was an instigator but still made of similar stuff, maybe a little more unhinged. Getting back to the Disney realm, one correct modern interpretation is actually found on a t-shirt you can find at Disney World gift shops with Donald Duck on it, which cites him as the original angry bird.

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

In Song of the South, even accepting the fact that there are some miscalculations the bottom line is that Br’er Rabbit and Uncle Remus are undoubtedly heroes of the story. I used to attribute most of the notion that the film was racist to the Tar Baby sequence, which as I discovered when watching this film was and is a phrase and a fact of life in the South before it became a racial slur. Much of the belief that the film is racist stemmed from the fact that Disney did not add a title card establishing a postbellum time period. Thus, some believed it was antebellum and not postbellum. It’s an unusual miss though from an audience that frequently had to infer and decode as the Hayes Code made filmmakers get creative about such things so they could deal with adult issues in films without being overt.

One thing that Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South by Jim Korkis goes into a good amount of detail about is the pre-production process. Many of the errors and perceived errors in the making of this film can be attributed to Disney playing both ends against the middle. The first writer (Dalton S. Raymond) they hired with a mind to be true to the source material. Then after some battles about certain elements like his use of the word “darkie,” which Disney sought to avoid they hired a leftist Jewish writer (Maurice Rapf) to try and balance it out.

If you want a troubling depiction of the South and slavery set before the war watch Way Down South which I discuss here. There’s no move from any entity to strike it. On a more noteworthy level Birth of a Nation both received protests upon its release and spurred and increase in popularity of the KKK. The next decade (the 1920s) was the zenith of its membership numbers. It is in the public domain now so it would be hard to suppress, but it’s still very easy to find.


Segregation and Other Truths We’d Prefer not to Address

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

Part of this whole issue is that we like to pretend there’s no racism in America. If we didn’t how could someone seriously have coined the term post-racial with a straight face almost entirely based on one election result? Song of the South was made in an America that was still segregated, thus, in some ways racism was still government-sanctioned. Furthermore, its premiere was in Atlanta meaning that many of the cast members were not even in attendance because the premier venue was “Whites Only.” So clearly almost any film made in this time will likely reflect racial attitudes that are no longer prevalent or acceptable. But just because its not the norm, or frowned upon, does not mean that racism has been eradicated.

Slaves being emancipated, didn’t end the discrimination against blacks in America. Neither did the Civil Rights Act. Nor did the creation of the term Post-Racial. However, unless some incident sparks the debate like Ferguson we choose not to have the discussion. Film has always tied art and business and with the corporations running the big studio being larger than ever the gut instinct more than not is to always be safe and never be sorry.

Splash Mountain

Splash Mountain (Disney Parks)

Splash Mountain is perhaps one of the most iconic rides at Walt Disney World. The theme parks are like an embodiment of the Fantasia ideal rides (read segments) have been switched out but the basic premise remains the same. The planning of the ride, like anything Disney, is well-documented in lore. There was much discussion and it was decided that all the animal characters could and should play a role in the ride, but Uncle Remus, the center of the film, should be omitted since it was his persona, his perception by some as being an Uncle Tom, which much of the controversy around the film swirled. Because the fables in which Uncle Remus and his cast of animal friends were a part of are no longer as well known as they once were there is no frame of reference for younger patrons.

However, what happens when he’s hidden is that Disney really ends up misrepresenting itself and baiting-and-switching its consumers. There are are people riding it who have no idea there’s a film behind the ride, many likely leave believing that Br’er Rabbit, Bear and the like may be created for the ride like Figment was for The World of Imagination in Epcot. It’s another case of Disney wanting to have its cake and eat it too: because the film is deemed misrepresentative and offensive to some in the US market we will not make it available on video there, but we will make it available in many foreign markets, exploit the song for CD sales and the other characters for a ride.

Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah

Sing-Along (Disney)

Lawrence Welk, Xavier Cugat, Freddie and the Dreamers, André Previn, Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, Mannheim Steamroller, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Mercer, Rick Ocasek, Steve Miller, Los Lobos, The Jackson 5, Miley Cyrus and many others have recorded the song. Many of them on Disney released albums. Disney has even still included James Baskett’s film version on some collections. The only apparent retraction of the song was removing it from a Sing-Along collection on later editions. It’s just another case of Disney being inconsistent. They still want to be able to profit from the movie, but not actually make the movie available.

The Split On the Film Has Always Existed

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

Upon its release the NAACP issued a statement on what if felt about the film much of their interpretation was shaped by the areas Disney left vague. The point being really that that reaction was immediate and not revisionist or in hindsight. It’s only many years later that Disney decided it would start to err on the side of caution to protect their brand name and assuage the detractors of the film and make the film hard, if not impossible to find in the US.

It’s Consistent with Disney

Song of the South (1946, Dinsey)

However, the unfortunate part of this story is that it’s just the most notable example of Disney’s in-house censorship. Many of the stories Jim Korkis tells are about films being altered, edited or otherwise modified because certain things years down the line may have been deemed objectionable.

Among them are the car crash in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, characters being digitally removed from Fantasia and shorts disappearing because they were wartime propaganda, and there are many more.

Disney Buried RKOs Swiss Family Robinson

Swiss Family Robinson (1940, RKO)

Here’s a small tidbit about Disney that really irks me, and it goes back to suppression: when Disney was preparing to make Swiss Family Robinson they made sure they acquired all the copies of Swiss Family Robinson (1940) produced by the defunct RKO Radio. The purchase was made simply because Disney didn’t want the versions compared. Now, this is not an act too dissimilar from repeatedly optioning a story, or many stories, simply so your competition can’t have any. However, where it falls into suppression is that the original they wanted hidden is now 75 years old. They audience for it, and even for Disney’s version has, dwindled. No one can see it now, it’s not impossible that the film is now lost for all time just to continue to protect the business interests of a 55 year old film.

Rerelease Madness

(Disney Parks)

Song of the South is a property that Disney didn’t cool on immediately. It was later on, when Walt was gone and the company was bigger, more successful and more corporate than it was during and just after World War II. A comic strip story was the topic of some internal debate in the 1970s, ultimately it was printed and came and went without incident. A clip from the film was featured in an episode of the Disneyland TV show a decade later. More telling is the fact that the film was, like many Disney films, rereleased on multiple occasions. The difference here was that there was more of a layoff. The film again saw the light of day in 1980 and 1986. It was released on VHS in 1986 but has since been further and further barred from the pantheon.

Conclusion

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

Perhaps what should really be asked is “What is gained through the suppression of Song of the South?” If there’s one thing that many recent headlines have proven is that freedom of speech is still under attack, and many of us who are fond of the arts and making a living therein are willing to fight tooth and nail to defend the right to speak. The argument that passive racism is more pervasive and harmful than overt racism is a fair one. In my estimation there are cinematic trends that are far more harmful than one interpretation. If you look at the landscape of films most award-nominated performances for African-American actors are still Civil Rights or Slavery-themed films. Films without award aspirations usually still cater to stereotypes that are not new. The Help may be a film that was divisive, but regardless if your outlook on it is positive or negative it is still about domestics as well-intentioned as it is. The point I’m driving towards here is: Song of the South had good intentions that were muddled in the the production decisions, and furthermore through interpretation. There are far more obviously troubling titles that never get questioned.

The expunging of history, and formerly accepted attitudes, many of which still exist, do not change the fact they once existed. If there’s one thing that history, or even the nightly news proves, is that ignoring problems does not make them go away. Even in its condemnation of the portrayal of African-Americans in the film the NAACP did commend the filmmaking at play involved, and the Academy followed Mr. Disney’s suggestion and gave him a honorary Oscar. Correcting the notion that this was an antebellum tale lessens much of the issues. The costuming was another aspect that in reading the book I had to roll my eyes. If the white characters had been more threadbare and destitute in the throes of reconstruction as they had been described as in the script the notions of class and master-slave relations wouldn’t have been able to take hold. That doesn’t alter the fact that these children are taught sage advice, and helped out greatly by Remus more so than their parents can.

Song of the South (1946, Disney)

While I’ve gone over the finer points and discussed how the film has been construed as racist, and where I believe more deliberate decisions could have been made to make the facts and points of the narrative more clear; I do not agree with its assertion that its racist. I have not been able to get past Birth of a Nation’s introductory shot of African-American characters sitting on a porch eating watermelon. There it’s not the kind of offense I can roll my eyes at and continue Propaganda films are still available to see in more cases, highly uncomfortable to sit through and at times more uncomfortable because of how effective they are like Triumph of the Will. However, these are opinions I’ve formed by seeing all or part of this film. I’ve seen Song of the South on multiple occasions. Those who have seen it and contend it is racist are at least informed by their interpretation of the film. As Eric Vespe of Ain’t It Cool News points out, the gatekeepers who keep the film hidden are not as informed:

I was speaking to an ex-Disney executive a few years ago at a film festival and I brought up Song of the South. We had been watching a lot of films together over a couple of days and I decided it was okay to broach this subject. After all, this unnamed exec seemed very smart and obviously cared about cinema.

My big question: “When do you think we’ll ever see Song of the South on DVD or Blu-Ray?”

His response: “Never.” I asked why. “Because it’s racist,” he exclaimed.

I know that’s the general perception of this film, but I was still taken aback. I thought for a second and asked, “Have you seen it?” Incredibly he said he hadn’t and that right there is the root of the problem. People see the Tar Baby image or remember Uncle Remus as a slave, which is wholly incorrect. The film is set during Reconstruction and Uncle Remus is a free man. In fact all the people working on the farm are free.

The heart of the film is Uncle Remus’ friendship with the white kids, played by Walt Disney favorites Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten. Their characters didn’t see Uncle Remus as black or a lesser person. He was a friend.

Someday someone at Disney will realize there’s a way to release the movie to home video. Harry had a good idea to have someone like Spike Lee put the film in context with a specially filmed intro. It’ll take something like that, which is a bit of a shame. It’s also a bit hypocritical since they aren’t afraid to monetize the cartoon characters and the infamous Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah while pretending the actual movie they come from doesn’t exist.

Dated and inaccurate portrayals where they are found are different than a film that is in its entirety a racist construct. Furthermore, there is a bottom line notion that every film is a film of its time. Disney here becomes a victim of its own marketing where titles are branded as classics prior to even coming out. There’s also a fallacy of timelessness, of unchanging social mores and that everything will always be the same. Nothing is ever the same. A popular film notion has always been “They don’t make them like they used to.” Recently I saw that amended to read: “They don’t make them like they used to and they never did.” Film is an ever-changing artform just as society continually adjusts our interactions, laws, politics, etc. Therefore, how can a film made nearly 70 years ago ever be acceptable by current standards of anything. Context always matters, and discussion is not bad regardless of what side of a topic you land on.

That puts a button on the final point of the last argument. I feel if anything Disney was trying to make its point in not-so-many words. The problem there, especially when things were usually more didactically done is that it can be misconstrued. However, just because something makes us uncomfortable or can be difficult to discuss doesn’t mean it should go away. Ignoring problems doesn’t make them go away as we’ve been forced to rediscover many times over. I happen to be pro-Song of the South. However, even if I was against it and thought it to be a harmful representation, I would not be in favor of its being made unavailable. Too many films are lost to the ravages of time and chance. Where other arts enjoy more permanence film remains fragile in this regard and we should not wilfully remove films from existence just because some may dislike it. It’s a part of cinematic history and our history that should be readily available.

contrary-blogathon-6

Advertisements

VHS Gems

Here’s another great list idea courtesy of @bobfreelander. Whenever contributing to a popular list I believe that once must always include their slant on it so you understand the selector’s criteria, perspective and so forth.

I do have a horror story of foolishly trusting a VHS-DVD dubber and then tossing the back-ups only to find the DVDs incompatible with any other players, save the one that broke from overuse; despite that VHS is not my favorite format. I’m fine with progress in that regard.

What I’m not fond of is losing access to titles and that’s what format changes have done. Granted, with streaming, DVD, Blu-Ray and movie on demand distribution we’re getting closer, eventually to having most of what is still extant available, completism is all that will satisfy me. Therefore, here are some of my top choices of films I saw on VHS but have not had an official region 1 DVD version (BTW, going multi-region will change your life, and blow your face off your head).

I did pick some titles to try and make them representative of a niche that is likely replete with missing titles and you may see some of these titles pop-up on another similar list soon.

Ghost Town (1988)

This is a film I actually heard of thanks to Rupert Pupkin Speaks. Then, as luck would have it, I found it on sale at the library where all VHS tapes that get donated cost $0.50. Quite a bargain. If you see enough Charles Band movies, and get a taste for them, you’ll find that as a director/producer he’s somewhat in the Roger Corman mold inasmuch as if you sift through enough of his refuse, there’s some good movies to be found, and this is one of them! Western-horror and ghost towns in general have always interested me, and while what’s delivered is not something quite like the box promises it is strong enough to withstand a late second act bout of sloth.

Song of the South (1946)

I’ll save my Song of the South rant for another post. In fact, this selection isn’t really about Song of the South but Disney in general. There are rumors abound that Disney will create its own streaming service. They’ve already put their toes in the water on an international line, and recently into an MOD line. Both of those are very small and release titles infrequently. It’s bad enough the animated classics get vaulted, but for certifiable Disney nuts like myself (and I’m more tame than most) Disney’s squatting on its titles is terribly bothersome and this is at the top of the list.

The Son of the Shark (1993) and Jacqout de Nantes (1991)

I combine these two selections to further illustrate a point, and that’s about foreign-language films in the US. Far too often when formats change, some new home video distributors emerge, others fall by the wayside; and to capitalize on new technology some older titles get overlooked. These two French films couldn’t be more different: the first is a hard, gritty, disturbing look look at juvenile deliquency the second is a delightful, charming warm-hearted portrait of Jacques Demy by his wife Agnes Varda. It is a film she made in memory of him, that features many clips of his films, as well as ho his childhood shaped them and his life.

These films have not made it to DVD or blu-ray in the US.

American Gothic (1988)

I have to be honest and confess that I really can’t recall that much about American Gothic, other than I can differentiate it from the excellent short-lived TV show of the same name. However, I do recall seeing it as a Blockbuster rental and enjoying it a great deal – it’d be perfect to revisit but I cannot.

The Cellar (1989)

The Cellar represents another interesting aspect of distribution inasmuch I first saw it on cable, I believe at some point during the DVD era, but it has not moved past VHS into further means of being viewed.

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937)


I needed an older film here but I also needed one representative of serials, which I do like but don’t get to see enough of. As for Blake of Scotland Yard it’s as good a choice as any. In fact, one of my first posts on this new blog was my consumer outrage at discovering that such a thing as a composite serial, or as I like to call it “Studio Sanctioned Nonsense,” exists. I’ve probably seen it three times through in one for or other and it should be in print.

So those are just 7 films that are on VHS alone as of this writing. If I sat down I could find many more I am sure, but these were the ones that came quickest to my mind and also highlight gaps in distribution patterns that hopefully get picked up.

8 Out of Print Titles That Shouldn’t Be

These days it is very difficult to find anything which is out of print, which is a great thing, it is usually the diamonds in the rough which will inspire future generations. And the more of those which are readily available the more likely great art will be inspired in coming generations. More studios should be following suit with Warner Brothers and slowly rolling out their vaults and making almost anything and everything available to all. Below are films which good, bad and ugly are currently unavailable on either VHS or DVD, and that ought not be so. Many of them represent types and I’m sure you can find a handful of films similar to the titles I mention. Those suggestions are welcome and just as viable.

8. Serials (any serial)

The most idealistic choice, but seriously I don’t know how these can be expensive and someone should pick them up and distribute them on an On Demand basis because they’re like a cinematic drug; addictive. The serial is just classical storytelling at its best and it has inspired some of the best loved film series of the 20th centuries (think Star Wars and Indiana Jones). If you chop those down into 15 minute installments you get classic cliffhangers. Blake of Scotland Yard for the novice has absolutely everything you need, if you want the most inventive array of genres mixed together get The Phantom Empire.

7.Song of the South

Song of the South (Disney)


Here are facts regarding Song of the South: The controversy surrounding racism in this film is centered on two key points: first, the “happy slave” character. This, however, was cliché. The vitriol against the film really comes from the subplot of Bre’er Rabbit and the Tar Baby. This was a direct adaptation of the original tale and literally about a baby made of tar. The film unintentionally put the term into the common vernacular as a racist slur. While I can’t defend many animators regarding many insensitive jokes in this era this one did seem rather innocuous. Due to one short scene an all around decent and wonderful film has been lost in time. Compounding it is that clips of the film have been used in Sing-A-Longs, characters from the film are at Disneyland and -World and everyone sings “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” It’s a bit hypocritical and a bit of a tease to let younger generations know this film exists and that they’re not allowed to see it. Disney should either bury it or put it out there, stop trying to have your cake and eat it too. Keep in mind that titles which are overtly racist like Birth of a Nation and Leni Reifenstahl’s propaganda films are readily available, so it’s not even as if the home video market is devoid of contentious subject matter so if one disagrees with this assessment of Song of the South rest assured it’s not readily available and if it were you needn’t buy it.

6. As Aventuras da Turma da Monica

As Aventuras da Turma da Mônica (Mauricio de Sousa)


This is the original animated feature which sews together vignettes starring Mauricio de Sousa’s seemingly endless cast of characters. It’s a wonder no studio has tried to introduce these characters to the States since his comics and cartoons are syndicated all over Latin America, Europe and Asia.

5.Ciske the Rat


Ciske the Rat (Concorde Films)

A staggering, realistic and disturbing portrayal of the birth of a juvenile delinquent in the most haunting and disturbing way possible where you can identify with it and almost want it to happen. A strong 1980s entry from the Netherlands.

4. Shark: Rosso nell’oceano

Shark: Rosso nell'oceano (Cinema Shares International Distribution)


This is a film I first and only saw on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and is one of the most memorable and hilarious episodes of that show. It truly is one of the grotesquely terrible films ever made. Case in point, it’s more like an octopus than a shark, not sure what the rationale behind the title was exactly. With or without any comic relief this film is painful.

3. Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar

Eu Sei Que Eu Vou Te Amar (Embrafilme)

Features Fernanda Torres in a role which won her Best Actress at Cannes in one of her first performances it is another compelling, complex and fascinating film by Arnaldo Jabor which takes place almost entirely within the confines of an apartment yet stays engagingly cinematic.

2. The Cellar


The Cellar (Hemdale Home Video)

Is a prime example of execution of a film and its plot heavily outweighing the importance of budget, production value and actor’s ability. The sum of the last three factors should not be enough to make a great horror movie but the cinematography, ingenious and practical effects work, score and editing make this movie happen.

1. They Shall Have Music


They Shall Have Music (United Artists)

I saw this during 31 Days of Oscar on TCM. It is a standard 1939 tear-jerker which makes it better than anything today in that regard. It’s a nice easy watch with a deservedly Academy-Award nominated score by Alfred Newman and great cinematography by Gregg Toland.