Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Just a reminder that if you want to join the Obscure Classics team, you need to have your application stuff in by October 1st.

Here’s the original post that has everything you need to know…

After months of rumors, speculation, and just plain hoping, we finally know for certain that the Fox Borzage/Murnau DVD will be released in December. We also know exactly what films will be on the set and how much it costs. So let’s take a look see….

DVD Times has the DVD art…

There are 12 (!) movies. 10 Borzage (!!!!!) and 2 Murnau. And one feature length documentary about the directors.

LazyBones (Borzage, 1925)
Feature film, still gallery, and a new score.

Street Angel (Borzage, 1928)
Feature film and still gallery.

Seventh Heaven (Borzage, 1927)
Feature film, audio commentary, still gallery, a reproduction of the existing footage of Borzage’s The River, including a still gallery.

Sunrise (Murnau, 1927)
Movietone version of the feature film, European version of the feature film, original score, new score, audio commentary, Outtakes with title card or audio commentary, Original scenario with notations by Murnau, theatrical trailer, still gallery, screenplay, restoration notes

Lucky Star (Borzage, 1929)
Feature film, new score, still gallery

They Had to See Paris (Borzage, 1929)
Feature film, still gallery

City Girl (Murnau, 1930)
Feature film, new score, still gallery, a documentary on Murnau’s lost film 4 Devils, including the screen play, treatment, and still gallery

Lilliom (Borzage, 1930)
Feature film and still gallery

After Tomorrow (Borzage, 1932)
Feature film and still gallery

Young America (Borzage, 1932)
Feature film and still gallery

Song o’ My Heart (Borzage, 1930)
Full sound version of the film, Music and effects version of the film, still gallery

Bad Girl (Borzage, 1931)
Feature Film

Murnau, Borzage, and Fox
Feature length documentary

It is pretty pricey folks. People were originally estimating between $90 and $120. But it looks like we got a few more films than we were expecting, and it’s loaded with features. So the market price is about $240. Right now you can pre-order it at amazon $179.99. So it looks like this is going to be my Christmas and birthday present. But god, it’s so worth it.

I’ll keep my eyes open and let you guys know if there’s any place that has it cheaper.

Year: 1942

Director: Elliott Nugent

Cast: Henry Fonda, Olivia DeHavilland, Jack Caron, Joan Leslie

The “The Male Animal” started as a play a written by two former college roommates, James Thurber and Elliott Nugent. James Thurber was one of America’s best known humorists, mainly of short stories and cartoons. Some of his best works include “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, “The Cat Bird Seat”, and “The Dog Who Bit People”. Actor and writer Elliott Nugent probably best known as a film director of such lightweight movies as “The Cat and the Canary” (1939), “My Favorite Brunette”, “Up in Arms”, “Mr. Belvedere Goes to College” and uncharacteristically, the 1949 version of “The Great Gatsby.” The play premiered on Broadway in January of 1940 and was a hit running for about eight months. On stage, Nugent played the role of Tommy Turner later performed in the film by Henry Fonda. Warner Brothers purchased the rights and made it into a film in 1942.

Freedom of speech, the battle between the sexes and brains over brawn are the main themes in this film. Tommy Turner (Fonda) is an English professor at Midwestern University where three professors have recently been fired by the Board of Trustees for allegedly being communist. Tommy meanwhile is teaching a class that will include an example of a well written letter authored by anarchist Bartholomew Vanzetti. When Board of Trustee, Ed Keller (Eugene Palette) hears about it, he threatens to fire Tommy if he reads the letter in class.

Meanwhile there is big football game coming up against Michigan State and former local hero Joe Ferguson (Jack Carson) has come home for the big game. Ferguson and Ellen Turner (Olivia DeHavilland), Tommy’s wife, were once an item back in their college days. Ferguson still has a crush on the beautiful Ellen and makes no bones about making it known. With the possibility of losing his job, Ellen wants Tommy to give up the idea of reading the controversial Vanzetti letter in class. In fact, Tommy is being told by everyone it is not worth losing your job over just to read this letter, however Tommy is a person who does like to be told what he cannot say or say. He also does not like the fact that Joe Ferguson is making moves on his wife. It all is neatly tied together, thanks to a nice screenplay written by Julius and Philip Epstein, with plenty laughs and a subtle message.

Henry Fonda’s performance as the intellectual professor, who in the end, wins his wife back over the former football jock and stands up for freedom of speech is a real highlight. Fonda’s reading of the Vanzetti letter is an inspiring experience giving the film an importance lacking in most comedies. Fonda always imparted a sense of idealism and decency in his roles whether it is the freedom of speech defending Professor Turner, or as Juror # 8 in “12 Angry Men”, or as Tom Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath.” Olivia DeHavilland is spunky as Ellen Turner providing a nice comical performance; however, it is Jack Carson as the football jock, Joe Ferguson and Eugene Palette as the commie hunting head Board of Trustee who provide some real hardy laughs.

Year: 1932

Director: Jack Conway

Cast: Jean Harlow, Chester Morris, Una Merkel, Lewis Stone, Leila Hymes, Henry Stephenson, May Robson, Charles Boyer, Harvey Clark

Red-Headed Woman is a very simple movie that follows a gold digger named Lillian as played by Jean Harlow as she shamelessly uses her sexuality to try and climb higher and higher. While the movie seemed mediocre to me I could certainly see why some would enjoy it more then I did. My sympathy for her boss and what he goes through as she does everything in her power to ruin his marriage got in the way of enjoying her antics. Some enjoyment comes from seeing such blatant sexuality portrayed in this pre-code film, but the shock value of hearing sex frankly discussed and sexuality paraded so freely in such an old film wears off quickly. It certainly doesn’t make up for the overly simple story line and the stiff acting of the films atypical leading man, played by Chester Morris. The acting highlights were Una Merkel, who plays Lillian’s roommate and best friend and Jean Harlow herself.

Red-Headed Woman is one of the quintessential films that typifies the typecasting that plagued Jean Harlow’s short career. The film also contains some well known scenes and dialogue from Harlow’s career that would have to be included on any reel featuring her most memorable moments. An example being the placement of a key down her blouse.  A key that is a married man’s only hope of getting out of the bedroom she has just locked him in, alone, with her. Another example is a famous line where Lillian asks a store clerk if the dress she is considering buying is transparent and after receiving the reply that it is, eagerly deciding to purchase it.

The film is an interesting look at the lengths a woman so inclined would go to in order to secure status and wealth. My assumption is that the film was meant to be light and fun, a sexual romp on celluloid, if you will, but I couldn’t help but get distracted by the tragedy of Jean Harlow’s character and the mayhem her promiscuous choices cause. I wonder if any women would find any sort of joy out of the portrayal of power a woman wielding her sexuality can have and the influence she can have simply by being beautiful and sexually accessible. My guess is that most women would look down on her and find her inability to be successful in a less demeaning way tragic. It is interesting to see how a woman willing to abandon all self-respect can so easily throw a monkey wrench in the lives of incredibly powerful and influential men. Perhaps I over thought this movie. Those interested in simply seeing a 1930s film that deals candidly with the subject of sex will likely get a kick out of this naughty bit of nostalgia.

I know, there hasn’t been an update in a long time. There were a lot of personal things going on that would bore you all silly. But things seem to be taken care of (or at least they will be within the next few days) and I can get back on track.

One of the good things about having the new writers coming on in the next month or so is that this sort of thing (going so very long without an update) shouldn’t happen quite as much. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to bring more people on regularly.

Greg and I do have a new podcast to put up. We recorded it a few weeks ago now, but there have been some technical difficulties (file hosting sites ain’t what they used to be). As soon as we find a site that will actually let Greg upload his half of the podcast so I can download it and edit in with mine, we’ll be golden.

And I do have a few reviews that were sent to me that I’ll be uploading over the next few days, and hopefully I’ll get some stuff up myself.

I just wanted to let you all know that we aren’t dead. At least, I’m pretty sure we aren’t. Maybe we all got sucked into a black hole when they turned on that super collider thing, and we just don’t realize it.