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Vaudeville on Mars

Over on the Cultural Gutter, I’m writing about the musical science fiction spectacle Just Imagine. Vaudeville on Mars is a look at the similarities between the lavish 1930 Fox Studios production and the 1928 Soviet film Aelita, Queen of Mars; as well as a celebration of the outrageous costume and set design.

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War of the Welles

The country was, in the autumn of 1938, primed for a panic. In August of that year, the German military mobilized. On October 15, they invaded Czechoslovakia. Despite efforts to appease Hitler, it seemed the German appetite for conquest and, more acutely, the desire to revenge itself against the harsh punishments levied against it after the Great War, was going to send Europe into a second horrible conflict. Although war had not been declared in 1938, and although the United States was determined to stay out.

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Vampyr

There is a moment in Danish filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr, a relatively unimportant throw-away couple of seconds, where the nominal hero of the story catches sight of a couple of shadows — shadows with no physical source to cast them — creeping across a field. Either because of the particularly old source material or the specific intention of the director, the film is grainy, hazy, gauzy.

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The 39 Steps

Alfred Hitchcock’s original 1935 version of The 39 Steps is one of those films that’s so seminal that when watched today it can seem like little more than a parade of hoary old clichés; that is, until you consider that The 39 Steps is where many of those clichés originated. The film lays a foundation…

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China Seas

“It’s bad enough to have a ship that looks like this and a captain who looks like me without having a chief officer who looks like you.” — Captain Alan Gaskell When the winds roar and the rain whips at the streaked windows of my abode on tumultuous Saturday nights, plunging the world into an…

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Think Fast, Mr. Moto

“Mr. Moto is a very difficult fellow to kill.” — Mr. Moto 1937’s Think Fast, Mr. Moto, starring Hungarian actor Peter Lorre as a witty, karate-chopping Japanese man of mystery, introduces us to the budget films version of Charlie Chan. It seems that the specific nature of Mr. Moto changes as the series progresses, and…