What's Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Seven Chances (1925)

And now we have Buster Keaton’s fifth feature film, the 1925 silent comedy Seven Chances.

James Shannon (Buster Keaton) has been courting Mary Jones (Ruth Dwyer) for most of a year, but can’t quite bring himself to propose. James is a stock broker, but he and his partner, Billy Meekin (T. Roy Barnes), are in trouble, potentially facing jail time unless they can get some money. Enter in James’ grandfather’s lawyer (Snitz Edwards), who tells him he is set to inherit $7 million IF he is married by 7pm on his twenty-seventh birthday. That proves to be a problem, as it IS his twenty-seventh birthday, so he immediately goes over to propose to Mary. At first, she accepts, until he fumbles over the reason, and she turns him down. Despondent, he returns to his partner, who helps him try to propose to seven women they know at the country club. He fails, and his partner decides to put an ad in the newspaper, which results in MANY women coming to the church to marry him. Meanwhile, Mary, after talking with her mother (Frankie Raymond), decides to marry him anyways. But with all this trouble, will their marriage happen in time, if at all?

The movie was based on a stage comedy of the same name produced by David Belasco. I’ve seen different statements about the success of the original play, but what hasn’t differed is that Buster Keaton had seen it and did NOT like it. However, his producer (who was also related to him by marriage at that time) had paid a lot of money for the movie rights, and, since Buster owed him money, he was stuck doing it. The film’s most famous sequence (and Buster’s main moment of inserting his own bit of creativity into the story) is the final bridal run sequence, with all the brides chasing after him through the city and the hills, culminating in a big rock slide. The rock slide itself wasn’t even originally planned! It came about after seeing the big reaction from a preview audience at Buster dislodging a rock that hit a few others, resulting in those chasing him. So he went back and milked the idea, creating rocks of varying sizes from Chicken wire and papier-mache, and improvised from there.

It’s been said that Buster considered this film to be one of his worst, and, while I haven’t seen a huge number of his movies yet, I will agree that it is definitely one of his weaker entries. It’s definitely showing its age as a story, not to mention its less-than-politically correct moments which make it tougher to watch. At least one woman he rejects appears to be Jewish (although he may just be rejecting her solely because she doesn’t appear to speak English) and another woman he rejects is black (although that could have been because of laws at that time prohibiting interracial marriages). What is tougher to get past, though, is the hired hand (played by Jules Cowles, who appears to be wearing blackface), who is a few too many racist stereotypes to get past. Honestly, if not for the bridal run sequence at the end, I would have a hard time recommending this movie. But that sequence alone saves the movie, giving Buster a chance to do many of his pratfalls (and run for ages without losing his breath). Honestly, it’s hard not to laugh at that point, as ridiculous as it gets. If only for that sequence alone, this is a movie worth seeing!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Cohen Media Group with Battling Butler (1926) as part of “The Buster Keaton Collection Volume 3.” Now, the movie was originally filmed with the opening sequence in Technicolor as they show the changing seasons to show how long Buster’s character was courting before switching to black and white for the rest of the movie. With Cohen’s transfer, the color barely comes through (admittedly, I’m not experienced enough with this movie to know how that section should look, and I know the technology for color wasn’t quite there yet, so I wouldn’t exactly expect it to quite look like it was filmed yesterday, color-wise), and the film elements really show their age and damage, particularly on the edges here. However, once we get past that part, the movie looks pretty good, and the main debate becomes whether you like the amber tint to the image or not. Personally, I don’t mind, and, with a second film in the set, I certainly think it’s worth it for the price! The movie itself is fifty-seven minutes in length.

My Rating: 6/10

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Out Of The Blue (1947)

Our next film is the 1947 comedy Out Of The Blue, starring George Brent, Virginia Mayo, Turhan Bey, Ann Dvorak and Carole Landis.

German shepherd Rabeleis has been burying his bones in the Earthleighs’ terrace. Mae Earthleigh (Carole Landis) wants her husband Arthur (George Brent) to tell off their next-door neighbor (and Rabeleis’ owner) David Galleo (Turhan Bey), and have him get rid of the dog, or they will have him evicted. Mae leaves by train to go visit her sister, and while she is gone, Arthur goes to a restaurant, where he meets Olive Jenson (Ann Dvorak). After flirting and drinking together, Arthur invites her back to his home. However, he decides against it, but can’t get her out of his apartment, and she ends up fainting. Arthur, believing her to be dead and unwilling to risk the scandal, tries to leave her on David’s terrace. The police are called when two nosy neighbors see the “body” (considering how much the news had mentioned a serial killer in the area), but Olive wakes up for David and his girlfriend, Deborah Tyler (Virginia Mayo), and they plan to get their revenge on Arthur for trying to evict Rabeleis. They fool Arthur into helping them bury a dummy made up to look like Olive, while the strain continues to get to him. Meanwhile, Olive ends up causing trouble between David and Deborah when she won’t leave his apartment, either.

I admit, I had a lot of fun with this movie. Now, to be fair, this movie does require a LOT of suspension of disbelief, considering George Brent’s Arthur Earthleigh is told by Olive that she has trouble with fainting, and he conveniently forgets it (although, to be fair, the two spinsters watching everyone do admit he tends to forget things when we are first introduced to him). Still, Ann Dvorak as Olive is absolutely hilarious, as she is almost always tipsy, and easily gets under everyone’s skin as she continuously overstays her welcome, whether with Arthur or with David. Of course, watching David and Deborah play a trick on Arthur and have him help bury a dummy is hilarious, as is Arthur’s visit to the lawyer to tell him about the “murder.” Is this one of the absolute best comedies you can find? No, but it was a fun one, and easily recommended just the same!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Classicflix. Honestly, that alone should say how wonderful this movie looks (great!), and it certainly made it an easy decision to give this movie (which I had never even heard of before they announced it) a try! An easy recommendation as the best way to see it! The movie is one hour, twenty-five minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Stagecoach (1966)

Happy New Year, everyone! And what better way to start the new year than with a long-delayed review of the 1966 western Stagecoach, starring Ann-Margret, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Alex Cord, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers and Keenan Wynn!

As the movie starts, we find Crazy Horse and the Sioux attacking the cavalry. Meanwhile, in a local town, there is a fight between two Army men over dance hall girl Dallas (Ann-Margret), with the two men killing each other, while the boozy Doc Boone (Bing Crosby) looks on. Dallas and Doc Boone are both thrown out of town by Army Captain Mallory, and decide to leave on the stagecoach. They are joined by an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings), a whiskey salesman (Red Buttons), the pregnant wife of Captain Mallory (Stefanie Powers) and a gambler (Mike Connors), with the marshal (Van Heflin) joining the regular stagecoach driver (Slim Pickens) to go to Cheyenne. Due to the Sioux war party, they are accompanied on the first part of the trip by a troop of cavalrymen. They run into escaped convict Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), who joins them on their trip, under the watchful eye of the marshal. Along the way, the group constantly argues on whether to keep going, as they continue to hear about Crazy Horse’s war party.

This is a movie that I enjoyed very much. I saw it originally, for one reason, and one reason only: Bing Crosby. As a fan of his films, this was one that I wanted to see. For him alone, this movie is worth viewing, as he provides a lot of the humor, and does pretty well with the role (although it saddens me that this ended up being his last theatrical movie, as he pretty much made a complete switch to television after this, mainly doing his various TV specials).

I would say that my feelings towards the rest of the cast are mixed (although they do well enough to make the movie enjoyable). Bob Cummings does great as the thieving banker, who proves himself a jerk as he continues to insist on pushing forward in spite of the danger (even when the doctor says they shouldn’t move on after Mrs. Mallory gives birth). In spite of his brief appearance at the end, Keenan Wynn makes for a very despicable Luke Plummer, making it easy for the audience to cheer for the Ringo Kid. Mike Connors as the gambler and Stefanie Powers as Mrs. Mallory really don’t make much of an impact in their roles, but I feel they fare better than Alex Cord as the Ringo Kid. He does decently, BUT he is taking over the iconic role from John Wayne, who became a big star after appearing in the 1939 film, and Alex Cord just doesn’t compare to him.

What this movie does have in its favor is the improvements that came with time. This movie is in color, and widescreen, allowing us to see some wonderful scenery from the Colorado location shooting. This movie came out around the time that things were changing with the Production Code (whether you like that or not is up to you), so they were able to show a little more, as evidenced by attacks by Crazy Horse and the Sioux (although the blood more or less looks quite fake, which is fine by me). I have seen all three versions of Stagecoach, and this is the film I prefer. Is it perfect? No, but it is a fun ride just the same, and one I would recommend seeing.

Getting back to why this review has been long-delayed, I originally had planned to post it on March 3, 2019, after watching my copy of the out-of-print DVD from Twilight Time. However, before it could be published, Twilight Time announced an upgrade to Blu-ray and I pulled the review until I could see the new Blu-ray and see how it looked. I have seen it now, and I can say that it is a definite improvement over their earlier DVD release. The picture shines in high definition, allowing the beauty of the different locations to really shine. And of course, the color is great, too, showing off the different costumes for the main cast. An easily recommended way to see this movie! The movie is one hour, fifty-four minutes in length.

The movie is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time as a limited edition with 3000 total copies available through either www.screenarchives.com or www.twilighttimemovies.com

My Rating: 9/10

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Glorifying The American Girl (1929)

Next up, we have an early talkie musical, the 1929 film Glorifying The American Girl starring Mary Eaton.

Gloria Hughes (Mary Eaton) has long wanted to be in the Ziegfeld Follies, but she has failed to get in so far, and has been working as a song plugger in the music department of a store. She works with Buddy (Edward Crandall), who loves her and their friend Barbara (Olive Shea), who loves Buddy. At a company picnic, Buddy proposes to Gloria, but she refuses, stating that the stage is her first love. A pair of performers at the picnic, Miller (Dan Healy) and Mooney (Kaye Renard), pick a fight, and Miller decides to go with Gloria as a new partner when he sees her dance. They start traveling together as a team, bringing along Gloria’s mother (Sarah Edwards), although Miller has certain designs on Gloria which she doesn’t agree with, resulting in the team almost breaking up. However, when Miller finds out she might have a chance at a Ziegfeld show, he tries to make up with her and offer her a five-year contract where they split everything 50-50, which she accepts at her mother’s urging. They come back to New York, where they audition for Ziegfeld’s director, who turns the team down, but Gloria, determined to make good, tries to show what she can do, and is hired. Buddy and Barbara had met them at the train station, but Barbara had been left behind and ended up in an accident and sent to the hospital. When Buddy found out, he came to her, and they ended up as a couple. Meanwhile, Gloria had the show to do.

Most of what I learned about this movie, I learned from the recent Blu-ray’s commentary by Richard Barrios, who wrote A Song In The Dark: The Birth Of The Musical Film. Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. was a famous theatrical producer, mainly known for putting on the Ziegfeld Follies from 1907 through 1927. With the Follies, he was indeed known essentially for “glorifying the american girl” (which would actually become the slogan of the Follies in 1922). In 1925, Paramount made a contract with Ziegfeld to use his name and the slogan for a silent movie. Obviously, we’re talking about a musical talkie from 1929, and not a silent film, so it’s safe to say that the movie suffered through a number of cast, director and script changes over the years. Production on the movie only really picked up steam after the success of the 1929 MGM musical The Broadway Melody. They cast actress Mary Eaton, who was coming off the Marx Brothers comedy The Cocoanuts, had been a Ziegfeld star herself for four years. However, troubles continued to plague the movie, and they brought in Rudy Vallee, Helen Morgan and Eddie Cantor to add more star power for the movie. Sadly, by the time it was released, the market had been flooded with many backstage musicals by that point, and the film flopped. Of course, it didn’t help that the movie had been highly publicized, resulting in everyone knowing that production had been jinxed.

As a fan of a lot of the classic movie musicals, many of which feature stories of vaudeville performers trying to make it big, it’s hard not to have heard of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. (especially when you’ve seen any combination of the movies The Great Ziegfeld, Ziegfeld Girl or Ziegfeld Follies). So I admit, seeing Ziegfeld’s name advertised on the cover, combined with it being an early talkie musical (an era I haven’t seen much of for the genre, a fact I am trying to rectify), this was a movie I wanted to try. To a large degree, it was about what I expected. The dancing was only so-so, which, from what I have seen, seems to be typical of the early talkie musicals, and the music itself was fairly forgettable. I would say at least two of the actors were rather wooden in their performances, but at the same time, they were VERY minor characters, so that is easy to live with. The main disappointments were the more downbeat nature of the film, poor editing to end a song and a comedy skits in the “show-within-a-show,” and the fact that neither the conniving dance partner nor Gloria’s leech of a mother get their comeuppance. All that being said, I did still enjoy the movie! Even if his comedy skit as “Moe The Tailor” was cut short (not to mention being a little out of place in an otherwise more serious movie), Eddie Cantor was one of the best moments of the movie. And the movie was interesting from a historical perspective, as one of the few remaining movies with any parts filmed in two-color technicolor to still survive. Of course, being a pre-Code film, it does have a few instances of minor swearing, and a few outfits that, from a distance, might give the impression of nudity, but it’s still minor stuff. This movie may not be a frequent viewing, but it’s still enough fun to make it worth recommending!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. Their transfer makes use of the UCLA restoration, and it looks fantastic! Sure, there are some scratches here and there, and the two-color technicolor sections don’t look great (but, according to the commentary by Richard Barrios, that was due to how it was filmed), but the movie’s restoration makes it worth seeing! The movie is one hour, thirty-six minutes in length.

Note: For the December 3, 2019 Kino Lorber Blu-ray release of this movie, it has been reported that there are audio issues on some (but not all) Blu-ray players, with sound playing only on left speaker, and Kino will be offering a replacement program (however, the replacements won’t be ready until about February or March 2020)

My Rating: 6/10

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What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Jezebel (1938)

Now we’re here for that classic 1938 drama Jezebel starring Bette Davis, Henry Fonda and George Brent.

In 1850 New Orleans, Southern belle Julie Marsden (Bette Davis) bucks a lot of social conventions as she tries to do things her own way. She is engaged to banker Preston “Pres” Dillard (Henry Fonda), who disagrees with her, but seems more prone to giving in to her. However, things come to a head on the night of the Olympus Ball, when Julie plans to wear a red dress instead of the traditional white dress she was expected to wear. Pres isn’t thrilled, but he goes along with it when he sees that she refuses to back down. Once there, she starts to regret her decision as everyone else shuns her, but Pres forces her to take her medicine and stay there dancing with him. Afterwards, they break their engagement and Pres leaves New Orleans on business. After a year has passed, Julie has barely left her house, even as yellow fever is starting to hit New Orleans. Dr. Livingstone (Donald Crisp) encourages her and her Aunt Belle (Fay Bainter) to go to her plantation at Halcyon, but she really doesn’t want to. She changes her mind when she hears that Pres is coming back, and starts making plans for a big party. However, when Pres arrives, he brings along his new wife, Amy (Margaret Lindsay), which upsets Julie. As the party goes on, she goads her friend Buck Cantrell (George Brent) into trying to pick a fight with Pres, but he has to leave on business, and Preston’s brother Ted (Richard Cromwell) challenges Buck to a duel. When Buck is killed in the duel and Pres comes down with yellow fever, Julie is forced to reconsider her selfish actions.

Jezebel generally receives a lot of comparisons to Gone With The Wind, which was actually in production at the same time. Jezebel was actually based on a Broadway play (that had flopped) that was actually before the novel of Gone With The Wind was published. Warner Brothers was able to get the rights pretty cheaply, but it wasn’t until after the novel of Gone With The Wind became a big hit that Warner decided to revisit Jezebel, giving it to Bette Davis and teaming her with director William Wyler, whose frequent retakes allowed Bette Davis to improve her performance over time. Due to the similarity between the stories, Gone With The Wind producer David O. Selznick worried about how Jezebel would affect his own movie’s performance (of course, history has shown that David O. Selznick had nothing to worry about, as Gone With The Wind has become one of the biggest and most popular movies of all time).

To be honest, I was very hesitant going into this movie. I’ve never really been much of a fan of Bette Davis. Sure, I’ve seen a handful of her films (including her appearance in the previously reviewed Thank Your Lucky Stars), but as a whole, I just tend to avoid most of her films. With this movie, I was more willing to try it out, since I know Warner Archive Collection’s reputation for their Blu-ray releases, plus I’ve been waiting four long years to see more of the Warner-owned 30s movies given a Blu-ray release, and I wanted to support this one in hopes of continuing to see more of their films from that decade. All I can say, after having seen this movie now, is that it was WORTH EVERY PENNY. Sure, as a movie about the Old South, it’s not exactly the most politically correct when it comes to how the slaves are treated in the movie. But, it is well worth it just to see Bette Davis’ Oscar-winning performance. I admit, I was entranced right from the start, and, not only that, I now have a strong desire to see more of Bette’s filmography (starting with the recently restored WAC release of The Letter, if I can get to it sometime soon)! While it has certainly been compared time and time again to Gone With The Wind, I think this movie is good enough to stand on its own two feet! And for those that like to dream of the “what if”-type scenarios, it is as close as we will get to seeing what Bette Davis might have been like as Scarlett O’Hara in that classic! Again, see this movie if you get the chance!

As I said, this movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Warner Archive Collection. Since this was my first viewing, I don’t know what the transfer was like on DVD firsthand, but I’ve heard it was definitely in need of a lot of work. For this Blu-ray, Warner Archive put in a lot of work, going with nitrate lavender fine-grain elements (since the original camera negative was gone), and it certainly paid off! The movie looks fantastic, almost as if it was filmed yesterday! I certainly can’t recommend this release enough, not just for the movie, but also for the wonderful restoration here, too! The movie is one hour, forty-four minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

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*ranked #6 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… The Kid Brother (1927)

Next up, we have the recent release of the classic 1927 Harold Lloyd silent comedy The Kid Brother!

In the town of Hickoryville lives Sheriff Jim Hickory (Walter James) and his three sons. His sons Leo (Leo Willis) and Olin (Olin Francis) are both big and strong like him. However, his third son, Harold (Harold Lloyd), is the runt of the family. But what Harold lacks in size and brute strength, he makes up for in intelligence, as he finds ways to get his chores done more efficiently. Still, he wishes to be regarded as a man by his father. While his father and brothers are at a town meeting about money they were collecting to build a dam for the town, a traveling medicine show comes to the house. Since he had been messing around with his father’s gun and was wearing his father’s badge, they mistook him for the sheriff and had him sign a permit for them to set up in town. Later, Harold’s father found out and sent him to stop the show. Instead, the two men made fun of him, hanging him up on a bar. The town bully, Hank Hooper (Ralph Yearsley), tries to get in on the act, but in the process sets the wagon on fire. Afterwards, Harold offers Mary Powers (Jobyna Ralston), who was working with the show, a place to sleep at his home (although she ended up going to a neighbor’s home instead, since she would have otherwise been the only woman in the house). The next day was to be a town celebration, but things turned sour quickly when the money that had been collected for the dam and placed in the sheriff’s hands was discovered stolen. Hank’s father, Sam Hooper (Frank Lanning), accuses the sheriff of stealing the money. Unable to do anything himself, the sheriff sends Leo and Olin to find the men from the medicine show, but won’t let Harold. When his brothers fail to find the men, it is up to Harold to help save his father, but can he do it?

The Kid Brother is considered to be one of Harold Lloyd’s best movies. It was his second-to-last silent film, as the sound era would soon start to creep in with the success of The Jazz Singer later on in 1927. Harold Lloyd put a lot of work into this movie, nearly eight months (more than usual), and it shows. From the location shooting, to the use of an elevator filming Harold as he climbs a tree to keep talking with Jobyna’s Mary, to the various gags all working with the story, to the final fight between Harold and the brutish Sandoni (played by Constantine Romanoff), everything just works and shows the effort put into the movie. Me personally, I enjoy many of the gags, but particularly watching Harold dealing with his brothers (and attempting to show how “brave” he could be in front of Mary) are some of the most memorable laugh-out-loud moments for me. I personally wouldn’t call it his absolute best movie, but I would agree that it ranks up there (admittedly, at this point, I’ve only seen about five of his films, but still)! Easily a movie I would recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. The new restoration looks fantastic for a nearly ninety-year-old movie. Sure, there are some scratches here and there, but, for what they had to work with, I have no complaints! Add in the fact that the set includes two of his shorts, one the five minute 1917 Over The Fence which features him disguised as a baseball pitcher to get into the park when his tickets are stolen, and the other being the eleven minute 1918 short That’s Him, where he is mistaken for a mugger and chased by the police (word of warning, though, as this short does feature an obviously white man wearing blackface as a train conductor). The shorts don’t look quite as good as the movie, owing to the fact that many of his early shorts were lost in a fire, and they made use of what elements they could find. Between the movie, these shorts and a few other fun extras, this is a very enjoyable set! The movie is one hour, twenty-three minutes in length.

My Rating: 10/10

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*ranked #7 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019

What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2019) with… Detour (1945)

And here we are to try out the recent release of the 1945 noir Detour, starring Tom Neal and Ann Savage!

Piano player Al Roberts (Tom Neal) is in love with singer Sue Harvey (Claudia Drake), who has decided to go out to Hollywood alone. One night, when a patron is a bit more generous in tipping him, Al calls Sue and decides to come out to see her and get married. He starts hitchhiking his way from New York, eventually ending up with Charles Haskell (Edmund MacDonald), who is also going towards California. However, one night when it’s raining and Charles is fast asleep, Al tries to get his help with putting the roof up on the convertible, only for Charles to fall down and hit his head, dying instantly. Worried, Al decides to hide the body and assume Charles’ identity, so he won’t get into trouble. Al ends up picking up another traveler, Vera (Ann Savage), but finds out too late that she knew Charles and tries to blackmail Al. In her greed, she drives him up the wall as she first orders him to sell the car, then changes her mind when she finds out Charles’ rich father is about to die, leading to the two of them quarreling.

Apparently a very low-budget film, this is a wonderful movie. None of the people in this movie were big stars then, and would probably be forgotten if not for this movie. I would definitely say that actress Ann Savage lives up to her last name here, making for a very greedy and dangerous femme fatale as she drags Tom Neal’s character down further and further. While the sets are few, they help create this movie’s atmosphere (of course, during the driving scenes, they do have rear projection screens, but they work well enough here). I had heard of this movie prior to my first viewing, but seeing it is definitely an experience, and one I would definitely recommend!

This movie is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. It’s long been in the public domain, so most transfers have looked terrible. While I myself haven’t seen the movie prior to this release, I can say, based on the set’s restoration featurette, which showed what they had to work with from some elements, that this movie does indeed look fantastic, and is definitely the best way to view this movie! Detour is one hour, ten minutes in length.

My Rating: 9/10

Audience Rating:

*ranked #10 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2019