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Film 147: WHISPERING WHOOPEE, 1930. It’s Charley Chase, it’s Thelma Todd, it’s Hal Roach!!! This is bound to be great, right?! um… nope. A cast of unsympathetic degenerates have a wild party. No one is likeable, nothing that happens is especially funny, or clever, or ingenious. The characters are motivated only by carnality, which wouldn’t be a problem if they weren’t all so unlikable. Even the comedy greats, unfortunately, make an occasional dud. And… am I mistaken, or does the film begin with Charley Chase hiring three prostitutes? Quality 3/10 Entertainment 1/10.

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To class things up around here, I decided to watch HOME ALONE 3, my 146th film of the year. Summary: one would need to be a psychopath to find any of this amusing. John Hughes was a filmmaker who, on average, made bad, stupid films. It’s sad, but true. This film aims for outrageous slapstick, but is actually just sickeningly violent. There is nothing that isn’t misjudged or contrived; nothing that isn’t an insult to the audience. This, in a nutshell, is why I very, very rarely watch modern films. It’s a staggeringly cynical money grab that left me feeling a little bit sick. Quality 3/10 Entertainment 0/10.

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Film 145 of the year so far: BRIGHT EYES, 1934. Summary: rich folk are wicked and hate Shirley Temple; ordinary workin’ folk are kind-hearted and all love Shirley Temple. After being, mostly, impressed by the Shirley Temple movies I’ve watched this year, I sought out another; unfortunately, although Temple is staggeringly good, I didn’t enjoy this in the least. Temple plays a likeable little tragedy-magnet, who learns important lessons about grief and bereavement whilst suffering indignities at the hands of unchristian rich folk. Our heart-strings are yanked on so brutally that all genuine emotion is destroyed: it’s like being force fed a gallon of artificial strawberry favouring when all i wanted was one real strawberry. It’s a testament to Temple’s genius that this film is at all watchable. Quality 5/10 Entertainment 3/10.

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Film 144 of the year so far: THE GORILLA, 1939. Summary: A millionaire’s family in a spooky mansion is terrorised by a serial killer… who may or may not actually be a gorilla… that bit isn’t clear. I’ve seen a couple of films this year which featured the Ritz Brothers in supporting roles. I quickly grew to loathe the Ritz Brothers. Inspired by masochistic curiosity, I chose to watch a Ritz Bros feature. I was surprised by the relative gentleness of the humour - it’s more zany than madcap or knockabout; and even more surprised to find that, although the brothers are rarely funny, and rarely entertaining, they’re nowhere near as insufferable as I was expecting. This isn’t a good film, but with better comics in the lead roles it might have been. Quality 5/10 Entertainment 5/10.

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Film 143 of the year so far: SHE LEARNED ABOUT SAILORS, 1934. Summary: a smart, self sufficient gal is harassed and seduced by a moronic sex-crazed sailor. Rarely has a film tried so hard to be funny. Rarely has a film failed so badly. Alice Faye gets 2nd billing in her 2nd ever film appearance! WTH? Ms. Faye is very good, which shouldn’t be a surprise; everything else in this film is, to be blunt, contemptible drivel: romance that’s trite and wafer thin, comedy that’s laboured and purile: there is no part of my being that isn’t offended by this film. Quality 3/10 Entertainment 1/10.

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Film 142 of the year so far: NO FATHER TO GUIDE HIM, 1925. A gem-like short from Hal Roach, addressing the all-too-common problem of accidental public nudity, amongst other things. In its own, quiet, way, this is a perfect film; it isn’t hilariously funny, but it isn’t aiming to be: it’s trying to be gently amusing, and gently amusing it most certainly is. Charley Chase is perfectly effective - I’ve never seen him be otherwise. Soon-to-be-famous Fay Wray makes an uncredited appearance. Quality 9/10 Entertainment 7/10.

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Film 141 of the year so far: WHAT PRICE GOOFY? 1925. Charley Chase gets caught in a compromising position of the marital kind in this gently amusing short - a short which aims for chuckles rather than guffaws, and which succeeds admirably. Scarcely will you see a film more highly polished or more expertly crafted than this. Fledgling movie star Fay Wray appears, uncredited, applying perfume to a dog. Watch this. Quality 10/10 Entertainment 8.5/10.

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Film 140 of the year so far: SURE-MIKE, 1925. A Hal Roach comedy which features a brief glimpse of Fay Wray. Martha Sleeper plays a hapless shop girl in a stunt-packed, gag-filled short. Apparently, Roach was trying to sell Sleeper as, basically, a female Harold Lloyd. Happily, for the same of her health, the films weren’t a success, and Ms. Sleeper went on to lead a good, happy life - a feat probably impossible in Hollywood. This is an amusing, well made film, far superior to most of the product being churned out by Sennett at that time. The story lacks a focus, but that’s its only fault.

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Film 139 of the year so far: THE COAST PATROL, 1925. You can’t go wrong with Fay Wray, I’ve always said - at least where her talkies are concerned. But does the same hold true for her silents? Sadly, no. In this, her 4th film, 17 year old Wray - ‘A waif from the sea’ - is unrecognizable, doing her best Mabel Norman impersonation, complete with a mop of lanky ringlets. Unfortunately, she hasn’t the quick expressiveness that’s needed for this type of role; and neither does the film as a whole have the visual eloquence which gives the best silents their magic. Every scene and almost every shot is far, far too long, which failing makes this a very dull watch. There’s a speed-boat chase, though, which is cool. Quality 5/10 Entertainment 2/10.

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Film 138 of the year so far: BLOOD BEACH, 1980. Summary: kids this dumb deserve to be eaten. As a young boy I saw this film being discussed on Jonathon King’s tv show; I remember being distressed by the realisation that such horrific things existed in the world, and that there were people who enjoyed them. It’s odd that a film so utterly mediocre should have gained, and retained, such significance for me. This film is, it turns out, only remarkable for how badly it fails to do what it sets out to do. There’s indisputably something wrong with an entertainment industry which cannot discern the presence of, or absence of, entertainment in its products. A script this dull, this incoherent, this stupid, should never have been green lit. Widespread idiocy can be the only explanation. They were aiming, it seems, to ape Close Encounters. They failed very, very badly.

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Film 137 of the year:THE EVIL MIND, 1935. It’s strange and unfortunate that Fay Wray is only known, by most people, for King Kong; which, novelty aside, is far from being her best film. ‘The Evil Mind’ treats its viewers like intelligent adults, and amply rewards thoughtful viewing. A good idea was transformed into a very good script by its writers, and then into a brilliant film by its actors. It’s an engrossing drama, by turns fun, thrilling, and dreadful. The two leads are superb. Quality 9/10 Entertainment 9/10.

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Film 136 of the year so far: MURDER IN GREENWICH VILLAGE, 1937. An invigorating massage for the brain! I don’t know how to describe this film: it’s a successful mystery, despite never taking itself seriously; the humour is great, and constant, but the film isn’t a comedy. The film belongs in no category: it is the perfect example of itself: it’s an absolute joy. Fay Wray gets a chance to demonstrate her prowess as a comedienne - she’s excellent, of course: so far as I know, every film she’s in, during the 30s, is a winner. If you enjoy enjoyment, watch this film. Quality 9.5/10 Entertainment 9.5/10.

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Film 135: SCHOOLGIRL CHUMS, 1982. Inspired by my fondness for classic Doctor Who, I’ve been watching a heap of Who-related movies lately; that enjoyable endeavour comes to an end today with this odd little tv movie, featuring 4th Doctor companion Lalla Ward. Although this presents itself almost as if it were a ‘Ripping Yarns’ style parody, it’s actually quite a serious little story, and an enjoyable one. Ms. Ward is her usual self, excepting that she’s made up rather like a kabuki vampire, for some reason. Fun though it is, every element of the production seems lacklustre and lazy when compared to modern Canadian and Australian kids’ tv. If this same script were to be produced today in either of those countries, it would be doubt be a blast.

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Film 134 of the year so far: THE POWERS GIRL, 1943; a film so forgettable, I forgot the plot whilst I was watching it. Carole Landis stars as a woman whose greatest aspiration is to ogled and lusted after by men. There are some good dance numbers, and some ok jazz, but everything else is, frankly, difficult to watch - especially considering what we know now about Ms. Landis’ life: one is reminded of the great Stella Maris - rarely is a film so poetically suited to its star. This film only stops being dull when it’s being offensive. Quality 4/10 Entertainment 2/10.

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Film 133: A GENTLEMAN AT HEART, 1942. Comical criminal capers! Cesar Romero plays a fast-talking, wise-cracking wide-boy, aiming to get his sticky fingers on the big bucks of the art world! It’s a con movie; it’s a romance; it’s one of the best, smartest, comedies I’ve ever seen! Carole Landis excels as the straight guy; Romero is flawless, as always; the dialogue is fabulously funny. It’s comedy perfection! Quality 8.5/10 Entertainment 9/10

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Film 113 of the year so far: TURNBOUT, Carole Landis. Although Hal Roach is more famous - indeed legendary - as an overseer of silent comedies, his directorial offerings during the talkie era are high quality, enjoyable romps. Never one to shy away from outlandish themes, in this film Roach tackles marital strife and supernatural gender swapping. Whatever slight short-comings Roach had as a director are more than made up for by the very clever and funny cast, making this, perhaps, his most successful creation. The premise doesn’t really make sense, but, that aside, this is the perfect light-zany comedy. Finally, after carefully studying this film, I think it’s safe to say that Mr. Roach definitely had ‘a type’. Quality 9.5/20 Entertainment 9.5/20. (I found this film on archive.org)

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Film 131: THE PONY EXPRESS, 1926 - another Betty Compson movie. Politics! Cowboys! Romance! Historical drama! Civil war! Religion! This film is a confusing jumble! Ms. Compson, based on this evidence, was a competent and likeable silent actress. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of silents, or of James Cruz ( the director of this jumble, and Ms. Compson’s then husband, and erstwhile director of the great Arbuckle) then you should avoid this movie. It’s a small amount of plot, inflated, confusingly, to fill a large amount of film. Watching it, I did find myself wondering - not for the first time - why it is that filmmakers found it so much easier to create strong female characters in the 1910s and 20s than they do today. Quality 3/10 Entertainment 2/10.

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Film 130 of the year so far: THE LADY REFUSES, 1931. I enjoyed Betty Compson in Cowboys From Texas, and I wanted to see some more of this important early Hollywood star. And, boy oh boy… This is astonishingly saucy stuff: unblinkingly Frank to an extent which would be excruciating in a less thoughtful film. Seriously, it’s astonishing. The script is well writen, and, for the most part, entertainingly acted; and, though it’s all jarringly old fashioned, it’s still tense and dramatic. Quality 4.5/10 Entertainment 5/10.

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Film 129: COWBOYS FROM TEXAS, 1939, another Carole Landis movie. Hey kids - you like cowboys?! You like hackneyed old plots?! Evil profiteers are thwarted by a masked rider in this unremarkable western, which sees Ms. Landis reunited with The 3 Mesquiteers - all 3 of whom have been recast since their last outing. Fans of old, old movies will enjoy seeing Hollywood veteran Betty Compson playing a no-good saloon owner, 24 years after her debut. That aside, there’s enough good drama here to make this enjoyable hour. Quality 6/10 Entertainment 6/10.

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Film 128 of the year so far: SHE LOVED A FIREMAN, 1937. Starring the greatly underappreciated Ann Sheridan; with Carole Landis, fleetingly, in a swimsuit. Whilst all of Europe was caught in a political whirlwind, America was producing films like She Loved A Fireman… funny old world, isn’t it? This is a disconcertingly simplistic, silly piece of stuff, in the midst of which Ann Sheridan’s talent towers - as out of place as an octopus in a laundromat. The film feels like an hour-long advert for the fire brigade, but, even so, there’s more character development and intelligence here than you’ll find in most modern movies. Quality 3/10 Entertainment 6/10.

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