Release Date: May 12th, 1938 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley Written by: Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, Rowland Leigh Music by: Erich Wolfgang Korngold Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, Claude Rains, Una O’Connor, Patrick Knowles, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale Sr., Melville Cooper
Warner Bros., 102 Minutes
“Why, you speak treason!” – Lady Marian Fitzswalter, “Fluently.” – Robin Hood
I’m actually kind of shocked that I haven’t reviewed this yet, which means it’s been far too long since I’ve seen it. This was one of my favorite “old” movies when I was a kid and I probably watched it dozens of times throughout the years, as my mum and granmum always had classic movie channels on.
This is also the movie that introduced me to Errol Flynn, one of my all-time favorite actors, and the swashbuckling subgenre of action and adventure films.
Beyond that, this also introduced me to Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains, two actors that were mostly known for being horror icons. However, in this picture, Rathbone proves that he’s much more skilled than that and especially while wielding a sword.
With that, this isn’t the first time that Rathbone and Flynn are both wielding swords against one another. They had an epic and memorable duel in Captain Blood, which was also directed by this film’s director, Michael Curtiz. Flynn and Rathbone just make perfect rivals and their sword work is pretty exceptional in a time where the actors had to get out there and do it on the screen without quick edits, special effects and the level of fight choreography and stunt people Hollywood has at its disposal now.
The final duel between the two legends may even be better in this movie, as they have their final showdown in a castle and use that environment pretty well, where in Captain Blood, their duel was on a beach.
I’ve also got to mention Olivia de Havilland, who is stunning and wonderful in this, as Marian. Still to this day, she’s my favorite Marian and a lot of that has to do with her style and grace, which is why she was also one of the most sought after actresses of her time.
Claude Rains is pretty much perfect too. He’s such a devious little shit and really delivers the best performance he could’ve given. Being that he’s immensely talented and owns every role he’s ever had, he made a great villain as King John (not Prince John, mind you).
The story is good, quick paced and just moves from great moment to great moment. The animated Disney film probably borrowed most from this version of the Robin Hood legend. So if you’re familiar with that movie, this will all feel very similar.
In the end, this is still one of the best swashbuckling adventure movies ever made.
Release Date: December 10th, 1962 (London – Royal premiere) Directed by: David Lean Written by: Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson Based on:Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T.E. Lawrence Music by: Maurice Jarre Cast: Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Jose Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole
“I killed two people. One was… yesterday? He was just a boy and I led him into quicksand. The other was… well, before Aqaba. I had to execute him with my pistol, and there was something about it that I didn’t like.” – T.E. Lawrence
My grandmother used to watch this movie a lot when I was a kid. It was always on her television and I’d catch big chunks of it from time-to-time. While I was always enthralled by it, especially its epic scope and cinematography, I never actually watched it in its entirety from start-to-finish until I was in my late teens.
From that point on, this became one of my all-time favorite films. Granted, it’s not something I can revisit too often, as it’s incredibly long and it doesn’t need to be revisited frequently, as its effect is almost otherworldly and sticks with you pretty deeply.
That being said, I’m not sure what it is about this that makes it pretty damn close to perfect and a bonafide masterpiece. But if you look at every element of this picture, there really isn’t anything one can pick apart. I guess some modern filmgoers might think that the pacing is too slow but I feel like the whole story is sort of a slow burn towards the end and once you get there, the payoff far exceeds the time invested in the picture.
Earlier, I mentioned its cinematography. For me, this is probably the first film that I saw that made me start paying attention to these sort of details and craftsmanship in motion pictures. I wanted to be a filmmaker, as a kid, and while I was more inspired by the work of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas back then, it was films like this, Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus that really opened my eyes to the actual art of filmmaking and what was possible using just the beautiful real world outside your door.
This movie also introduced me to Peter O’Toole, who I would go on to love in every role that I saw him in after this, except maybe King Ralph. I thought that one was well beneath his talent level (and also beneath John Goodman’s).
Lawrence of Arabia is an exceptional masterpiece. It’s one of those movies that everyone should have seen at least once. Honestly, even if you don’t think that it’s your cup of tea, you should give it a shot.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with: other all-time classic films. Specifically those that are true epics.
Also known as: Everybody Comes to Rick’s (original script title) Release Date: November 26th, 1942 (New York City premiere) Directed by: Michael Curtiz Written by: Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein, Howard Koch Based on:Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison Music by: Max Steiner Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt, Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre
Warner Bros., 102 Minutes, 82 Minutes (cut version)
“Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine.” – Rick
As much as I love Humphrey Bogart, noir-esque pictures of the classic era and the films of Michael Curtiz, I’m still going to be that oddball that says that this film is slightly overrated.
Don’t get me wrong, I still adore Casablanca and it has left the universe with possibly more famous lines than any other motion picture but it’s not perfect, even if I still see it as a cinematic masterpiece.
I also can’t fully quantify or elaborately explain why I don’t view it as “perfect” but I kind of just put that on the fact that it’s not a film I really want to revisit all that often. In fact, as much as I do actually like it, I put off reviewing it for a long time because I just wasn’t ever in the right mood for it.
Full disclosure, I was also waiting to revisit it on the big screen but it’s one of those all-time classics that hasn’t played on the big screen in my area since before I started Talking Pulp. If my local theater plays Gigi one more time over anything else, I’m going to throw popcorn bucket at the theater director.
Moving on, as much as I like Bogart, I wouldn’t call this his best performance. It’s absolutely exceptional but I still think it falls below his acting in 1950’s A Lonely Place. Bogart was always on his A-game though, and this film is no different and it still ranks up towards the top of greatest acting performances of all-time from any era.
I also really liked Ingrid Bergman in this and it made me realize that I need to go back and watch some of her other films, as this is the first thing I’ve reviewed with her in it. Her performance in Notorious was also top notch and that may be the first one I revisit.
The film also features Conrad Veidt, a guy mostly known for his work in the silent era. In fact, his role in 1928’s The Man Who Laughs was so chilling and iconic, it inspired the creation of The Joker, Batman’s top nemesis. In Casablanca, it is really neat hearing him speak and seeing him have to act in a different style, as he plays a Nazi commander and primary antagonist in the story.
Claude Rains and Peter Lorre also show up and both men are legends of not just the horror genre but of motion pictures in general, as their range is far greater than just playing silver screen monsters.
More than just the stupendous acting and fabulous story, the film’s greatest asset was its director, Michael Curtiz. The man is a legend and it definitely shows in this picture from his ability to get some of the most iconic and replicated shots in history, as well as getting performances out of his actors that eclipse even their own greatness. He also shows that he had the right crew working to achieve his vision just based off of how perfect and majestic the general cinematography, lighting and set design were.
Casablanca is a special film. It definitely deserves its historical status, even if I don’t see it as a pillar of absolute perfection. It’s still significantly better than some of the other films in history that are debated over as the best of all-time.
Rating: 9.75/10 Pairs well with: other Bogart starring pictures of the ’40s and ’50s.
Release Date: July 8th, 1950 Directed by: John Farrow Written by: Charles Bennett, Leo Rosen Music by: Roy Webb Cast: Robert Mitchum, Faith Domergue, Claude Rains, Maureen O’Sullivan
RKO Radio Pictures, 80 Minutes
“I wish you’d stop calling her my daughter. She happens to be my wife!” – Frederick Lannington
Where Danger Lives is a fairly underrated and forgotten film-noir. But it stars Robert Mitchum, so it automatically has a certain level of coolness and solid gravitas. Add in the intense and always engaging Claude Rains and you’ve got something really worthwhile. Plus, Faith Domergue was exceptional as this film’s femme fatale.
I actually didn’t know about this film until Eddie Muller featured it on TCM’s Noir Alley, which is a program you should check out on TCM every Sunday at 10 a.m. EST, if you are a true fan of film-noir. That was not a shameless plug, I just love watching Noir Alley.
This picture is interesting for a lot of reasons. It pairs up two old school badasses, Mitchum and Rains, has a good plot twist when Mitchum’s character suffers a concussion in the middle of the twisty topsy turvy noir-esque proceedings and then starts pitching more narrative curveballs at you.
From a stylisitic standpoint, the film is a pretty standard noir. It’s not visually breathtaking but it is still a beautiful looking picture that is well crafted. It is also directed by John Farrow, whose hand was also in the noir movies, His Kind of Woman, also with Mitchum, and The Big Clock. I’d say this is the best of the three and it is stripped of the flamboyancy that came with the other two. It’s an “on the run” film and the sets are mostly car interiors and road stop locations. It feels grounded in realism more than the others, which had a sort of fantastical grandiose Hollywood feel.
Due to the concussion element of the story, Mitchum’s Dr. Jeff Cameron is in a state of paranoia and confusion. It adds a really interesting dynamic to the film and kind of makes it seem like it could be a big scary hallucination. Mitchum sells it well and him being a doctor going through this condition allows for some good medical explanation of his situation and an understanding of what his fate could be. It makes the film play like a race against time, at least for his character.
The fact that Domergue’s Margo Lannington is nuts and becomes more and more unhinged, also brings another level of instability to the main characters’ dilemma. You know that she isn’t trust worthy and she’s a femme fatale with a bad case of psychosis. This doesn’t bode well for Jeff and his concussed brain. Really, this film is an examination of multiple mental conditions operating in a noir landscape.
The story doesn’t end well for the two main characters, although we get a rare moment where a femme fatale shows some humanity after all the problems she was instrumental in creating. Maybe she actually did care for Jeff and wasn’t just using him like so many other similar characters in the noir narrative style. That, along with the unique type of paranoia on display here, makes this an interesting and worthwhile experience that saved this from becoming a carbon copy of dozens of films before it.
I’ve now gotten up to the Wolf Man’s series of films. Only two films here actually feature that character: The Wolf Man and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. So in addition to that, I am also reviewing the two other werewolf films put out by Universal during this era. Plus, they are also included in the Wolf Man collection of my Universal Monsters DVD box set.
The Wolf Man character was a late bloomer in the Universal Monsters franchise. Granted, he beat the Gillman of Creature From the Black Lagoon by more than a decade but unlike the Gillman, at least the Wolf Man got to mix it up with Frankenstein’s monster and Dracula a couple of times.
The Wolf Man (1941):
Release Date: December 12th, 1941 Directed by: George Waggner Written by: Curt Siodmak Music by: Charles Previn, Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Claude Rains, Bela Lugosi, Ralph Bellamy, Warren William, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers
Universal Pictures, 70 Minutes
In The Wolf Man we are introduced to Larry Talbot, played by the great Lon Chaney Jr. Chaney’s interpretation of this character is almost heartbreaking at times, as he really connects with the audience and conveys real genuine emotion as the tragic title character of this film. In fact, the Wolf Man is probably one of the top five most tragic figures in film history. And without Chaney in the role, chances are that the Wolf Man would’ve been just a pretty one-dimensional monster.
In quality, this film really could rival the James Whale films Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein and The Invisible Man, as well as the first Dracula film under the Universal Monsters banner. The Wolf Man like every other first film in each of Universal’s classic horror series was the pinnacle and a great kickoff to what would become a reoccurring character in the larger shared mythos.
This film also gives us two other horror icons: Claude Rains and Bela Lugosi. Rains plays Larry Talbot’s father, Sir John. Bela Lugosi plays the gypsy man who is the werewolf that infects Talbot. Lugosi was awesome in this role and it is my favorite thing that he did for Universal after Dracula.
There isn’t a lot that anyone can criticize this film for. It is a classic horror gem and still plays well today, over 70 years later.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943):
Release Date: March 5th, 1943 Directed by: Roy William Neill Written by: Curt Siodmak Based on:Frankenstein by Mary Shelley Music by: Hans J. Salter Cast: Lon Chaney Jr., Ilona Massey, Lionel Atwill, Bela Lugosi, Patric Knowles, Maria Ouspenskaya, Dwight Frye
Universal Pictures, 74 Minutes
This is my favorite of the Universal Monsters team-up or versus movies.
It truly is a Wolf Man movie that Frankenstein’s monster just happens to appear in but isn’t much of a focal point, as Lon Chaney Jr.’s performance as Larry Talbot takes over this film.
The film follows Talbot, who comes to life in his tomb after being disturbed by grave robbers. Coming to the realization that he cannot die, he seeks out the legendary Dr. Frankenstein in hopes that he can find a way to euthanize him by scientific means.
Dwight Frye from Frankenstein and Dracula shows up in this film in a minor role. Bela Lugosi returns again but this time as Frankenstein’s monster.
This film is awesome and it feels like a true sequel to The Wolf Man, as opposed to just a crossover film. It is much less of a sideshow attraction than the films that followed it: House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.
Werewolf of London (1935):
Release Date: May 13th, 1935 Directed by: Stuart Walker Written by: Robert Harris, John Colton Music by: Karl Hajos Cast: Henry Hull, Warner Oland, Valerie Hobson, Lester Matthews, Spring Byington, Clark Williams, Lawrence Grant
Universal Pictures, 75 Minutes
This is not part of The Wolf Man storyline and is its own film. In fact, it came out before the Lon Chaney Jr. masterpiece. The Wolf Man’s adventures continue in the films House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula, which I already reviewed in my pieces about the Frankenstein and Dracula series of films.
Getting into this film, it is well done and the special effects are great. This was Universal’s first werewolf film and this was a good early version of the effects they would employ in later werewolf films.
This film works all on its own and in fact, is considered a classic in its own right, regardless of The Wolf Man being more popular and launching its own mini-franchise.
I love this movie. It is real good classic Victorian horror and it has a lycanthrope in it. What’s not to love?
She-Wolf of London (1946):
Release Date: May 17th, 1946 Directed by: Jean Yarbrough Written by: George Bricker Music by: William Lava Cast: June Lockhart, Don Porter
Universal Pictures, 61 Minutes
As a stand alone film, this thing is pretty good. As a horror film, it is pretty bad.
The marketing for this film was all wrong. With the title of this film, it was trying to tap into the previously released Werewolf of London. However, don’t watch this expecting some werewolf action. What you get is a mystery film with some suspense and a not so ingenious plot.
The acting of June Lockhart and Don Porter was top notch but it didn’t save this film from being poorly marketed and being represented as something it is not. I say all this so that if someone is to watch it, they don’t go into it expecting the Universal Monster supernatural horror formula.
One more Universal Monsters review is coming. Next up will be the Creature From the Black Lagoon series.
The next branch of the Universal Monsters tree that I have rewatched is the Invisible Man series of films.
This character and the other invisible characters in this series, were like the Mummy in that they never really got to crossover with the other monsters of their era. I would’ve loved to have seen how Claude Rains’ Dr. Jack Griffin a.k.a. the original Invisible Man would have fared against Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man.
Like other characters in the Universal Monsters mythos, this one was milked to death. It also spawned a total of five films.
The Invisible Man (1933):
Release Date: November 13th, 1933 Directed by: James Whale Written by: R.C. Sherriff Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Heinz Roemheld Cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart
Universal Pictures, 71 Minutes
Directed by James Whale, who gave us Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, this film is another classic gem in the catalog of his stellar work. Whale, once again, gave us some amazing cinematography even though this was an insanely difficult film to shoot for its time. The tone, the humor, the dread, all of it worked to a tee and came together like a perfectly woven tapestry.
Claude Rains is one of those actors that I cannot praise enough. He was a genius and between this film and his Phantom of the Opera adaptation, he proved that he was not just a master of horror but a master thespian able to perform at a level far exceeding many of the well-known dramatic actors of his era. There are few things in life that I prefer watching to Rains playing Dr. Jack Griffin in this film. His voice work, his body work, all of it was perfection.
This is the best film in the series and a solid, if not still the best, interpretation of H.G. Wells’ classic novel, The Invisible Man. This is a great example of James Whale’s supremacy as a director, especially in the horror genre, as well as one of the very best films put out by Universal – not just in their classic monster series and not just in that time period but of all-time.
The Invisible Man Returns (1940):
Release Date: January 12th, 1940 Directed by: Joe May Written by: Joe May, Kurt Siodmak, Lester Cole Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter, Frank Skinner Cast: Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Vincent Price, Nan Grey, Alan Napier
Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes
The title is somewhat misleading, as this is a different character entirely. Although Dr. Jack Griffin’s brother Frank is a new character in this film and weirdly, Jack is referred to as “John” in this movie.
The film stars Vincent Price, a legendary horror icon in his first ever horror role. Price would gain more fame and legendary status several years later after starring in House of Wax. Regardless of that, Price played a likable and not so horrific character as this film’s incarnation of the Invisible Man. His character, Sir Geoffrey Radcliffe is sentenced to death for a murder he didn’t commit. Knowing that he is innocent, the brother of the original Invisible Man injects himself with the invisible serum so that he can escape and clear his name.
One thing leads to another and we get the happy ending.
Alan Napier who played Alfred in the 1960s Batman TV series has a big role in this film. Vincent Price would later go on to star as the villain Egghead in that same series.
This was a solid sequel and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t a rehash of the original film, it was a pretty original idea and it was executed greatly.
The Invisible Woman (1940):
Release Date: December 27th, 1940 Directed by: A. Edward Sutherland Written by: Kurt Siodmak, Joe May Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Frank Skinner Cast: Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore, John Howard, Charlie Ruggles, Oscar Homolka
Universal Pictures, 72 Minutes
With Universal pumping out an insane amount of sequels to their horror franchises, they wasted no time in releasing The Invisible Woman the same year they released The Invisible Man Returns. Sequel-mania was running rampant at Universal!
This was the first film in the series to really take a plunge. There was nothing really “horror” about it and in fact, it was a comedy.
The plot sees a recently fired department store model get revenge on her boss after she is made invisible by a loony scientist. It was basically like the plot from 9-to-5 starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. Except it was about one woman and she was invisible.
This is a pretty forgettable film and had it not been wedged into this series – ending up in box sets like the one I own, it would’ve been lost in the sands of time.
The Invisible Agent(1942):
Release Date: July 31st, 1942 Directed by: Edwin L. Marin Written by: Curtis Siodmak Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter Cast: Ilona Massey, Jon Hall, Peter Lorre
Universal Pictures, 81 Minutes
This film takes The Invisible Man formula and gives us something pretty awesome: an invisible agent fighting the Nazis and a Japanese associate during World War II. Additionally, Peter Lorre is in this as the Japanese villain, which is intriguing, bizarre and just totally awesome! Sir Cedric Hardwicke plays the villainous Nazi, making his second appearance in this series, as he also played the villain in The Invisible Man Returns.
This is my favorite sequel in the series, as the plot is awesome and it was well-executed.
Coming out at the height of World War II, this must have been an exciting film to watch. The special effects are once again top notch and the acting was good from all parties involved.
The Invisible Man’s Revenge (1944):
Release Date: June 9th, 1944 Directed by: Ford Beebe Written by: Bertram Millhauser Based on:The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells Music by: Hans J. Salter Cast: Jon Hall, John Carradine, Evelyn Ankers
Universal Pictures, 78 Minutes
The final film in the series gives us John Carradine as a scientist who is another new character with the power of invisibility.
New character wants to harness the power, new character gets the power, new character seeks revenge against those who wronged him. Sound familiar?
Well, at this point the traditional formula of this series has run its course and unfortunately, we didn’t get something as original and new as the previous film in the series.
This film isn’t a complete waste and it is okay but you’ll watch it swearing that you’ve seen it already. Plus, I really love John Carradine.
More Universal Monsters reviews are coming as soon as I rewatch them. Next up will be the Wolf Man series.