Take 3: Angel on My Shoulder Review

Last November, I participated in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon. My contribution was a review of the 1963 movie, Twilight of Honor, which I thought was ok. I also recognize the film was released outside of the Breen Code era. This year, I will write about the 1946 film, Angel on My Shoulder. I chose to review this title for two reasons. The first is my curiosity in seeing how a film from the Breen Code era would address topics such as the afterlife and the devil. The second is how the story’s basic concept reminded me of the animated film,  All Dogs Go To Heaven. As I mentioned in my Twilight of Honor review, I have seen some of Claude Rains’ films. Since Angel on My Shoulder is the sixth movie of his I have watched, I knew what to expect from him as an actor!

Angel on My Shoulder poster created by Premier Productions and United Artists.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because Claude Rains is one of the reasons why I chose to review this movie, I’ll talk about his performance first. His role as Nick, the devil, was very different from his other roles I’ve seen. In Angel on My Shoulder, Claude carried himself with a kind of confidence that one would expect from a villainous character. Nick was an arrogant person. However, Claude made this component work by keeping his performance consistent. Another consistent performance came from Paul Muni! Throughout the movie, Eddie was on the edge of his seat, unsure of who to trust. This was an interesting quality for Paul to add to his character, as gangsters in movies sometimes deal with untrust-worthy people. Eddie also tells things as they are, another piece of his personality that Paul pulls off! Anne Baxter did a good job portraying Barbara Foster! In her performance, she utilized emotion, especially through her eyes, to make her character believable. When Eddie, as Judge Frederick Parker, interacts with Barbara for the first time, it is clear she is very uncomfortable with the way her fiancée is behaving. She pushes him away and attempts to walk away from the situation, showing her displeasure the entire time.

The depiction of Hell: Like I said in the introduction, I was curious to see how a Breen Code film would approach the subject of Hell and the devil. The way Hell is depicted in Angel on My Shoulder evokes fear into audience members who support good winning over evil. The underworld is a dark environment that only uses fire as its source of light. Shadows were cast over the characters, with light only being shown over the characters’ eyes. In entertainment media that features the devil, he will sometimes appear as an other-worldly creature. In Angel on My Shoulder, Nick, the name the devil goes by, appears as a human. This shows the reality of how someone can turn to the dark side.

The dialogue: Since Angel on My Shoulder was released during the Breen Code era, any talk of Hell or the devil needed to meet Breen Code standards. Within the story, the word “hell” is never spoken. Nick is not called “the devil”, but Mephistopheles instead. The script does feature subtle references to who Nick is that respects the intelligence of the audience. One scene shows Eddie and Nick riding in a plane. When Eddie notices how Nick appears uncomfortable, he asks Nick if he is ok. Nick tells Eddie that he likes being near the ground more than in the sky.

The Third Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited use of music: Music in film can help set a tone for a particular scene. One example is when suspenseful music is played during a scene that is more intense. Without music, the scene would be missing an emotional component. Angel on My Shoulder is an hour and forty-minute film. In that amount of time, about seven scenes feature music. To me, this seems disproportionate to the movie’s run-time. It also forbids certain moments in the film from having a more emotional impact.

A mostly static character: In a story like Angel on My Shoulder, it’s common for the audience to witness the protagonist grow as an individual over the course of the movie. While we do see Eddie change his ways, the transformation doesn’t happen until sometime between an hour and eleven to twenty-three minutes into the film. Beforehand, Eddie remains the same as he did before he died. He even refuses to act more like Judge Frederick Parker in an attempt to avoid suspicion from those around him. Breen Code era movies typically feature a core lesson or message for the audience to take away. Even though Angel on My Shoulder does have a good message, it takes quite some time to get there.

A meandering story: Angel on My Shoulder is about a recently deceased gangster who works with Nick, the devil, to satisfy a favor. As I mentioned in the introduction, this concept reminded me of All Dogs Go To Heaven. But where Angel on My Shoulder failed is not having a sense of urgency. Because of this decision, the majority of the movie is spent showing Eddie reliving his life as Judge Frederick Parker. Any course of action for Nick and Eddie’s plan doesn’t appear in the story until an hour and eleven minutes into the movie. For me, I was waiting for something interesting to happen instead of actually watching something interesting happen.

Angelic statue image created by Marcelo Gerpe at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Marcelo Gerpe.”

My overall impression:

 Angel on My Shoulder is a painfully average film. Because the movie placed more emphasis on showing Eddie reliving his life as someone else, it took almost the entire story just to get to the intended point. I liked seeing how this film addressed subjects such as the afterlife, Hell, and the devil in the time of the Breen Code era. But, personally, it should have been included in a stronger script. There were aspects of this movie I did like. The acting was enjoyable to watch and the script was intelligently written. But when I find myself checking the time on multiple occasions in order to see when this film would end, my unenjoyment of the overall project overshadows its strengths. If you’d like to watch a movie with a similar concept to Angel on My Shoulder, I would recommend All Dogs Go To Heaven. In my opinion, that movie did a better job executing almost the same idea.

Overall score: 5.5 out of 10

Have you seen Claude Rains’ films? If so, which one is your favorite? Comment below in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Take Me Out to the Ball Game (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Blogathon Part 1)

Because Heidi’s new blogathon celebrates two classic film stars, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, I decided to write a double feature in their honor. I’m starting with one of Gene Kelly’s movies first, as my movie selection had a shorter run-time. On 18 Cinema Lane’s Pinterest account, there is a recommendation board where people who visit the blog can make a suggestion for future reviews. That board hosts some Gene Kelly titles, so I had plenty of options to choose from. In the end, I picked the 1949 film, Take Me Out to the Ball Game, which was recommended by Kristen from KN Winiarski Writes! The idea of a musical surrounding an athletic sport was a fascinating concept. It also gave me an excuse to finally watch one of Esther Williams’ films, as I had not seen one up until this point. 2020 has become the year of Frank Sinatra films on this blog, as Take Me Out to the Ball Game is now the fifth film from Frank’s filmography I’ve reviewed. An interesting coincidence I just noticed is how most of these movies have had a musical element included.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I reviewed Anchors Aweigh back in September. In that review, I said that Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly were one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen because of how different their characters were from each other. Because of Frank and Gene’s experience working together, it allowed them to be familiar with the other performer and know what to expect from them in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! Like Anchors Aweigh, their characters in the 1949 film, Dennis and Eddie, were opposites of one another. This time, however, it was for different reasons. While Eddie was interested in the night life of his world, Dennis has a quieter soul that seems to notice the finer details within his surroundings. While I wrote a list article about the travels of Esther Williams, this was my first time watching one of her films. Even though Esther spent more time on land than in the water, she appeared at ease in her role as K.C. Higgins! When people tried to stand in her way, K.C. always stood her ground. At the same time, she tried to instill fairness into the situation. One great example is when she insists on a curfew penalty for every member of the Chicago Wolves. On the surface, it seems like K.C. is being unfair toward the team. In reality, she is looking out for their best interests by making sure they get a good night’s sleep so the team can perform better on in their baseball games.

The set design: Because a significant amount of time in Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in Florida, the sets surrounding the characters are going to reflect the Sunshine State. This is done through a variety of design choices. What made me like these sets so much was how appealing they were! When Dennis and Eddie arrive in Florida for Spring Training, the audience is introduced to the stadium, located right on the beach. With fair weather in the scene and the sandy shore taking center stage, the beach looked inviting! At night, when K.C. is interacting with both Dennis and Eddie near the pool area, lights illuminated this location to show off its exterior design. The white balcony of K.C.’s hotel room complimented the dark sky shown in the background. Light colored outdoor furniture consistently carried the color scheme this set was striving for! In an outdoor sitting area occupied by K.C. and Eddie, tan wicker chairs were paired well with green plants placed in various spots. This design choice showcased a good color combination!

The majority of the musical numbers: For the most part, I liked seeing the musical numbers in Take Me Out to the Ball Game! They were well choreographed and each performer looked like they truly enjoyed what they were doing. Like I said earlier, Frank and Gene’s experience working together helped them become familiar with the acting/performance style of the other actor. This certainly worked in their favor when it came to the musical numbers! In the opening number, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”, both actors wonderfully pull off a tap-dance duet! Even though tap was out of Frank’s creative comfort zone, he was able to hold his own throughout the routine. Like I also said in this review, Esther spends more time on land than water. However, she was given one scene where she swam and sang the song from the movie’s opening number. Because of Esther’s experience with musicals, she was able play her own unique role in the film’s musical department that allowed her to stand out. Esther also appeared comfortable with the performance material given.

With Glamour & Panache: A Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon banner created by Heidi from Along the Brandywine.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Two songs that didn’t age well: In Take Me Out to the Ball Game, there are two songs that have aged poorly. The first song, “Yes, Indeedy”, is performed by Frank and Gene when their characters are telling the Chicago Wolves about the females they met during their traveling talent tour. The lyrics reveal how one woman committed suicide and another female was 11 years old. Because the song itself is faster paced and upbeat, it almost sounds like Dennis and Eddie make light of the woman’s passing. Even though they say they didn’t interact with the 11-year-old for long, it makes me wonder why this child would have anything to do with Dennis and Eddie in the first place? The second song, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, is performed by Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett. The purpose of this song is for Betty’s character, Shirley, to share her feelings for Dennis. How she does it is very forceful, with the musical number showing Shirley blocking Dennis’ path, chasing him through the stadium, and picking him up against his will. Because of her aggression in the situation and her lack of accepting rejection, it feels like a unhealthy relationship in the works.

The character of Shirley: While Betty Garrett did a good job with the acting material she was given, I was not a fan of her character. Personally, I found Shirley to be a selfish individual who didn’t seem to care about the feelings of others. As I just mentioned, Shirley is very forceful when it comes to expressing her feelings for Dennis. If her musical number, “It’s Fate Baby, It’s Fate”, wasn’t bad enough, she wants to treat Dennis like she’s his mother. The way she talks to him in a scene where she blocks Dennis’ path with her horse and buggy shows Shirley talking to Dennis like she has more authority than him. More often than not, Dennis expresses how he doesn’t like Shirley in a romantic sense. He goes out of his way to avoid her and shows displeasure when she’s nearby. However, everyone surrounding him overlooks Shirley’s actions and encourages Dennis to spend more time with her.

An unclear time period: According to Wikipedia, Take Me Out to the Ball Game takes place in 1908. Certain aspects of the movie reflect this, with the various modes of transportation being one example. But there were some outfit choices that appeared to belong in a different decade. Whenever the Chicago Wolves are spending time in the hotel, all the team members wear team sweaters featuring their team logo. This style of sweater looked like it came from somewhere between the ‘30s and ‘50s. Like previously said, Esther has a swimming scene in this film. Her swimsuit resembles the style she wore in her “aqua musicals” of the ‘40s and ‘50s. These costume choices prevented me from getting fully immersed in the movie’s world.

Baseball game image created by Macrovector at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/baseball-game-illustration_2871359.htm’>Designed by Macrovector</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/man”>Man vector created by Macrovector – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:  

Even though Take Me Out to the Ball Game is the second Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration I’ve seen, I’d still prefer Anchors Aweigh over the aforementioned film. While Take Me Out to the Ball Game is a fine movie, I feel the 1945 film was a stronger picture overall. However, I’m not going to dismiss the movie completely. One of the strengths of the 1949 project is the acting performances! Musical experience from Frank, Esther, and Gene definitely worked in this movie’s favor, with each actor appearing comfortable in their roles! I also enjoyed most of the musical numbers! They were certainly entertaining and fun to watch! Even though I didn’t mention it in my review, I feel the film’s conflict was underutilized. Within the last thirty minutes, Eddie tries to juggle baseball and performing in a café. Eventually, he learns that he can’t have everything he wants. Story wise, I think the film’s main conflict should have been Eddie’s struggle to fit his love of performing and baseball into his life. I actually found this part of the story more interesting than the Chicago Wolves dealing with a new team owner.

Overall score: 7.2 out of 10

Have you seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game? Which Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly collaboration is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Anchors Aweigh Review

This is it, my 200th movie review! It’s hard to believe I’ve reached this accomplishment in only two years! The recent occurrence and my participation in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Joe Pasternak Blogathon caused me to choose Anchors Aweigh as the next movie to review! This film was recommended to me by The Classic Movie Muse from the blog, The Classic Movie Muse. Anchors Aweigh is also the fourth Frank Sinatra picture I’ve written about in 2020. When reading about Joe Pasternak in the announcement post for the blogathon, I learned that Joe put a lot of thought into the films he produced. Prior to joining the event, the only movie of his I’ve seen is The Unfinished Dance. Back in April, when I reviewed the project, I said it was a good, solid picture! I also mentioned how the movie did a good job at exploring thought-provoking ideas, such as the disappearance of truth. I’m looking forward to talking about Anchors Aweigh, as it is very different from The Unfinished Dance!

Anchors Aweigh poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, M-G-M Cartoons, and Loew’s Inc. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anchors_aweigh.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Anchors Aweigh is the fourth movie of Frank Sinatra’s I’ve seen, as I said in the introduction. His performance as Clarence “Brooklyn” Doolittle was different from his roles in Marriage on the Rocks, High Society, and Ocean’s Eleven. This is because his on-screen personality was sweet-natured. It was a good contrast to Gene Kelly’s character, Joseph “Joe” Brady. In Anchors Aweigh, Gene displayed a confident and headstrong personality. This set of opposites is what helped Gene and Frank become one of the best on-screen duos I’ve ever seen in film! Despite watching only one of Joe Pasternak’s films, I have noticed how the female characters are intelligent women who always hold their head up high. Kathryn Grayson’s character, Susan Abbott, is a great example! Even though she is a single parent, she never gives up on her dreams of being a singer. Because of a believable performance, Kathryn made Susan someone worth rooting for! While Pamela Britton appears in Anchors Aweigh for a limited time, I really liked her character! She not only had a good on-screen personality, but she also had good-screen chemistry with Frank Sinatra. Watching Pamela in Anchors Aweigh was a joy to watch, as her presence brought a bright light to any of her scenes!

The comedy: I found Anchors Aweigh to be a genuinely funny movie. That’s because the humor in this film was well-written and delivered! When Susan and Clarence are on their way to dinner, Clarence suggests that Joe join them. When Joe asks Clarence why he should go, Clarence tells him he won’t know what was said in Joe’s phone conversation. Not only was this conversation clever, but it was also executed well by Frank and Gene. Another funny scene involving Gene and Frank is when Joe is chasing Clarence around the service lodge. This moment was caused by Joe sleeping in, making him miss his meeting with Lola.

The musical numbers: In Anchors Aweigh, the musical numbers were definitely a highlight! There were so many good scenes, it is difficult to choose a favorite. Gene’s dancing talents were utilized to their fullest extent, from his duet with Jerry (the animated mouse) to his Latin inspired solo. These dance numbers were very colorful. The costumes and set design were bright and cheery, allowing the overall mood to be light-hearted and joyful. Frank’s singing abilities were also well incorporated into the story. His solos were slower, ballad pieces. This choice complimented the more romantic moments of the narrative. Having Frank and Gene perform together was a great decision! They were able to keep up with each other’s fortes as well as work well with one another. “I Begged Her” and “If You Knew Susie” showcases this creative partnership wonderfully!

The joining of animation and live-action: In one scene, Joe finds himself in a magical make-believe land where he interacts with animated animals. This is because he is telling a story to the children of Hollywood Day School how he earned his Silver Star. This part of the movie looked really good, especially for a film released in the mid-‘40s! It felt like Gene was actually in that world, as the technology of the time appeared top-notch. I also liked the quality of the animation! It contained bright colors and clear lines, reminding me of the older films from Disney.  Seeing Gene and Jerry dance together was impressive, as it seemed like they were in the same room. Before the actual dance routine, Gene led Jerry onto the ballroom floor by holding his hand. Because of how good the technology looked, this interaction between these two characters was convincing!

The Joe Pasternak Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/08/21/announcing-the-joe-pasternak-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A drawn-out conflict: The main conflict of Anchors Aweigh shows Joe and Clarence trying to set up an audition for Susan. While conflicts take time to be resolved, I wasn’t expecting the conflict in this film to last the entire story. Quality script-writing made the conflict itself interesting. But I honestly feel it could have been resolved sooner.

Less Tom, More Jerry: Tom and Jerry, the famous animated cat and mouse, are listed in the opening credits of Anchors Aweigh. I was not expecting this special guest appearance, so seeing these characters in the film was a pleasant surprise. Even though I liked Jerry’s duet with Gene, Tom showed up for only a few seconds. I found their cast listing misleading, as an equal amount of screen time is expected when Tom and Jerry are included in a program.

I had this patch lying around my house and thought it would be perfect to include in this review! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

For someone who had never seen any of Frank Sinatra’s films, I have really made up for lost time in 2020. By selecting Anchors Aweigh for the Joe Pasternak Blogathon, I gave myself an opportunity to watch one of Frank’s earlier works. It also gave me an excuse to see more of Joe’s films. I can honestly say Anchors Aweigh is, so far, the best movie I’ve watched this year! There is so much to like about this project and it was pleasantly joyful! I spent most of my time smiling and laughing, as the humor was one of the strengths of this story. The entire movie was well thought out, showcasing an engaging film that was also entertaining. Thank you, Classic Movie Muse, for suggesting this film to me. If not for your recommendation, I might have never seen this delightful movie!

Overall score: 8.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Joe Pasternak’s films? If so, which one is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Shock (1946) Review (Clean Movie Month #5)

It’s now the end of Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. For my second year participating, I’d say I did a pretty good job staying consistent with my content! Throughout July, I have reviewed five films; two from the ‘30s and three from the ‘40s. The film I will talk about in this review, Shock, is a part of those aforementioned five, boasting a release date from early 1946. This film was included in The Blog Complainer’s Random Movie Roulette series, which ended up being the best movie out of that collection. Because of Cameron’s review, I chose to include Shock in my Clean Movie Month line-up! While I usually watch movies from my DVR, cable, or through physical media, the only way I could watch this film is from Youtube, where it was posted on the Cult Cinema Classics channel. I’m glad I was able to watch it so I could bring you this review of Shock!

Shock poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shock_movie_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: So far, I have seen The Whales of August and House of the Long Shadows. Despite seeing a small amount of films from Vincent Price’s filmography, I noticed something different about his performance in Shock. In this film, the character of Dr. Richard Cross was terrifying because of his influence and choices. Vincent also expressed emotions in subtle ways. Good examples came from when Richard expressed fear anytime someone brought up his wife’s murder. This cast was so strong, even secondary characters were memorable! Even though his character, Mr. Edwards, was in the movie for a short amount of time, John Davidson did a good job with the acting material he was given! His performance was emotionally driven, as he didn’t rely on dialogue. It added intensity to one of the film’s suspenseful scenes. The one actor who stole the show was Anabel Shaw, who portrayed Janet Stewart. Her emotionality was on point in this film! One beautiful example is when Janet witnesses the murder.

The music: The music in Shock did a good job setting the tone throughout the story! Whenever a suspenseful scene played out, ominous or dramatic music was heard. In a scene featuring Richard and Elaine, a sweeping tune that would usually be heard in romance films served as background music. Musicality also boosted these scenes, with the strong percussion of that scene’s tune landing right on an intense moment. This helped the musical element of the project maintain a sense of consistency.

Moments of suspense: In Shock, suspense was included in a few scenes. Within these parts of the story, the suspense’s execution was well done! One example is when Mr. Edwards has a fight with Elaine. The build-up toward the moment itself was steady, like someone walking to their destination. The surroundings of the characters were dark and mysterious, which worked in the favor of that scene. Mr. Edwards’ lack of speech makes the audience question his motives. All of these elements effectively came together to create one of the best scenes in this film!

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited amount of suspense: As I previously mentioned, I liked the suspenseful scenes in this film. However, these scenes were very limited. When I read Cameron’s review of Shock, I believed the film would be similar to a story like Rear Window. In the Alfred Hitchcock picture, there was a consistent use of suspense, as the audience receives the mystery in pieces. Because the whodunit, howtheydunit, and whytheydunit of the mystery was revealed early on in Shock, it caused the story to not be as suspenseful as I thought it would be.

Under-utilized characters: A few under-utilized characters could be found in Shock. One of them was Mr. Edwards, who was featured in about three inter-connected scenes. Before these particular scenes appeared in the movie, Richard talks about Mr. Edwards’ mental regression, saying how the patient may need to be moved to a new facility. Because of these story-telling details, I was hoping Mr. Edwards would play a larger role in this story. Sadly, it just felt like he was in the film for the sake of being there.

A slower pace: Because Shock is classified as a film noir, the pace is going to be on the slower side. But most films in this specific genre have an under-lying suspense that consistently weaves through the overall narrative. Since the suspense in this film was limited, it caused the pace to be slower than it should have been, as the majority of the movie revolved around Janet’s prognosis. I’ve mentioned before that mysteries, more often than not, have faster paces. As I already said in this review, the mystery was revealed early in the story. This also prevented the pace from picking up speed.

Love of mental health image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

All of the movies I chose for Clean Movie Month were enjoyable in their own respective ways. If I were to rank them, however, Shock and Goodbye, Mr. Chips would be tied toward the bottom of the list. Shock was a fine film, with memorable aspects that made me like the picture for what it was. Anabel Shaw’s performance was one of the best parts of this project, outshining bigger stars like Vincent Price. But some things in this movie held it back from being stronger. One of the movie’s biggest flaws was the limited amount of suspense. Because of this creative choice, the majority of the story felt like a drama than a film noir. Shock is a Breen Code friendly film. But I was surprised by the references of excessive alcohol use that were included in the script.  When Janet’s husband is asking about Richard’s medical credentials, one of the hotel’s employees says that Richard can cure a hangover. When an investigator working on Richard’s wife’s case is talking to Richard about a potential suspect, he tells Richard that the suspect is a “drunkard”. An excessive amount of alcohol use is never glorified or promoted in a typical Breen Code film. This is why I was shocked (yes, that word choice was intentional) to find these statements in a movie from 1946.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on this year’s Clean Movie Month? Are you excited for A Month Without the Code? Tell me in the comment section?

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Cry Wolf Review (Clean Movie Month #4)

When I joined Pale Writer’s Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, I had never seen any of Barbara’s movies. Despite this, I had heard good things about her as an actress. For my submission, I knew I wanted to review one of Barbara’s films from the Breen Code Era. Because I signed up for this blogathon and the Clean Movie Month Blogathon, which both take place in July, I figured it’d be the best of both worlds! After searching through her filmography and seeing the choices of the other participants, I chose the 1947 picture Cry Wolf! It’s no secret that mysteries are a staple on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, the most popular review on my blog is for Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill, which has over a thousand views! When I read the synopsis for Cry Wolf, I knew I had to select it for the blogathons. It sounded like a mysterious retelling of Frankenstein, which would be an interesting concept to explore during the Breen Code Era. What did I think of this film? That mystery will be solved when you read this review!

Cry Wolf poster created by Warner Bros. and Thomson Production. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Crywolf1947.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I said in the introduction, I had never seen any of Barbara’s films prior to Pale Writer’s blogathon. Therefore, I didn’t really know what to expect from her performance in Cry Wolf. What stood out in Barbara’s portrayal of Sandra was how confident she appeared! In every scene, she seemed sure of herself, never letting doubt stand in her way. When Sandra interacted with Julie, she took charge of the situation and displayed a sense of leadership. Speaking of Julie, I enjoyed seeing Geraldine Brooks’ portrayal of this character! It reminded me of the performances of Judy Garland, where she is presented as acting like her age with a dose of innocence. This can be seen when Julie meets Sandra for the first time. Errol Flynn’s performance was consistent throughout the film! His portrayal of Mark always had a sinister undertone, giving away the impression he was always enveloped in a cloud of suspicion. This character fit within the nature of the project because of what Errol brought, talent-wise, to the role.

The atmosphere: Because Cry Wolf is classified as a mystery film, the overall atmosphere is going to be darker in tone. It should also be noted that the atmosphere was consistent throughout the project. This was accomplished through a collection of film-making techniques. One of them is the use of shadows. In scenes that were more mysterious, shadows could be seen on the walls. The scene where Sandra and Julie make their initial trek to the lab is a great example of this, as the audience can see Sandra’s shadow on the wall in the hallway. Another technique involves music. Scenes with sinister undertones featured orchestral tunes that sounded ominous. It really matched the tone the movie’s creative team was striving for!

The interior design: The majority of this story takes place inside the Caldwell-Demarest family home, with the interior design effectively matching the wealth of the family. A noticeable design choice was the wrap around balcony overlooking the foyer. Some homes feature one balcony section that looks down on a particular room. The fact that the balcony in Cry Wolf was larger than one section showcases how expansive this space is. Wood was a prominent material found in the interior design. It not only served as wall paneling; it was also used as detailed crown molding in the library. Even though the kitchen was only in one scene, the detailed art on the walls made it a memorable space. The overall design within this location enhanced the visual appeal of the house!

The Queen of Sass: Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon banner created by Pale Writer from Pale Writer. https://palewriter2.home.blog/2020/06/20/announcing-the-queen-of-sass-barbara-stanwyck-blogathon/

What I didn’t like about the film:

Julie’s relationship with Ronnie: One of the components of Julie’s subplot involved a secret relationship with a young man named Ronnie. This part of her story was meant to correlate with her feelings of isolation and entrapment. However, it seemed like it was there for the sake of being there. The relationship didn’t lead anywhere and Ronnie was never mentioned again after Julie’s interaction with him while horse-riding. It makes wonder why it was included in the story at all?

Mark’s attempts to charm Sandra: There were a few moments in Cry Wolf where Mark attempts to charm Sandra. To me, these attempts felt out of character for him. Throughout the film, Mark uses influence and control to gain power. When it comes to Sandra, however, he ends up overstepping boundaries. During one conversation, Mark kisses Sandra. She responds appropriately by expressing displeasure and slapping him in the face. It’s as if he completely forgot that Sandra was still mourning her husband.

An unclear resolution: I’m not going to spoil Cry Wolf if you haven’t seen it. But I will say I found the mystery’s resolution to be unclear. The film presents one idea of what happened. Several scenes later, an unreliable source shares another idea of the mystery’s outcome. As the film wraps up, the resolution is not given any explanations. However, I’m not sure if this creative decision was intentional.

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

My overall impression:

I’m glad I chose Cry Wolf as my introduction to Barbara Stanwyck’s filmography! It was a good film that allowed me to stay invested from start to finish! This was helped by the inclusion of solid acting performances, a consistent atmosphere, and great interior design. While these are components that strengthened the project, the movie also had flaws that held it back from being better. One of these flaws is an unclear resolution, which was unexplained by the end of the film. But, as I said in my review, this choice might have been intentional. Like I said about Goodbye, Mr. Chips and The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf is a Breen Code friendly film. However, there was one aspect I was surprised to see. In one scene, a deceased body was shown on screen. As I said in my review of The Wife of Monte Cristo, a death would usually be implied.

Overall score: 7.9 out of 10

Have you seen any of Barbara Stanwyck’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Wife of Monte Cristo Review (Clean Movie Month #2)

Last November, in my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish-List, I talked about how I wanted to see The Wife of Monte Cristo. My plan was to review the film for Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month, as the movie was released in 1946. Based on the title of this post, it means my Christmas wish came true! Several months ago, I purchased a DVD copy of this film. I waited until July to watch it, so I could contribute to Clean Movie Month. Now that this blogathon has finally arrived, I can write about The Wife of Monte Cristo! In my aforementioned post, I shared how the movie’s story made me want to see it, as it seemed to focus on Monte and Haydée’s relationship, as well as allowing Haydée to become a more prominent character. Monte Cristo and Haydée are one of my favorite couples from pop culture. Unfortunately, their relationship is barely addressed in any film adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo. These film adaptations also give Haydée a small amount or no amount of screen time. The Wife of Monte Cristo allows these two voids to be filled.

Here is a picture of the DVD I purchased for this review. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: All of the acting performances in The Wife of Monte Cristo shared one common factor: they made every cast member appear natural in their role! Because of this and the believability that came from these performances, each interaction felt like it was taken directly from real-life. Haydée has a greater appearance in this film than Edmund/Count of Monte Cristo, so I’d like to mention Lenore Aubert’s portrayal of Haydée. Her on-screen personality was pleasant, making Haydée a character worth rooting for. Through body language and facial expressions, Lenore showed how Haydée can be intelligent, resourceful, and just a good person overall! I also liked watching John Loder’s performance! In The Wife of Monte Cristo, he portrayed De Villefort, the head of Paris’ police force. What impressed me was how he could adopt two different personas for the same character. Whenever he was socializing or interacting with Haydée, De Villefort was charismatic and had a certain amount of charm to him. But when he is with comrades, planning on catching “The Avenger”, De Villefort is cunning and sinister.

The historical accuracy: The Wife of Monte Cristo takes place in Paris of 1832. The story’s time period and the location within this time period can be seen in every aspect of the film. Characters’ wardrobes are a good example of this. Male characters wore solid colors, with wealthier men in society sporting some embellishment on their outfit. In one scene, De Villefort wore a dark jacket that featured white embroidery. The female characters, Haydée and Lucille, wore elegant dresses that boasted a simple pattern. During a meeting with one of De Villefort’s comrades, Haydée wore a black dress with consistent sparkly detailing. This outfit was eye-catching, but not over-the-top. Another indicator of this historical accuracy were the choices in the set design. In De Villefort’s office space, chandeliers with candles can be seen. Because light bulbs did not exist in 1832, this design choice fits the story’s time period.

The on-screen chemistry: As I already mentioned, Haydée has a greater presence in the film than Edmund/Count of Monte Cristo. This causes Haydée and Edmund to spend a limited amount of time together on screen. In the scenes where they are together, Lenore Aubert and Martin Kosleck displayed strong on-screen chemistry! The on-screen chemistry between Lenore and Martin allowed the audience to see how much Haydée and Edmond truly loved and cared about each other. Even when they were apart, the love between these two characters could still be felt. In one scene, Edmund visits the daughter of a supporter of “The Avenger”. During their conversation, Edmund explains how Haydée saved his life and helped him see the good in humanity after he escaped from prison. What Edmund tells this character is very telling of the love he feels for his wife.

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The audio: In my review of The Boy Who Could Fly, I mentioned how the audio of the actors was on the quieter side. I noticed the same flaw when watching The Wife of Monte Cristo. The actors were so quiet, I had difficulty understanding what they were saying. I needed to turn up my television’s volume just to hear them. I’m not sure if this was an issue with the movie itself or with the audio on my entertainment system.

A somewhat misleading title: I said in the introduction that Haydée’s prominence in the story is what caused me to see the film. While she did have an important role in the overall narrative, she wasn’t the central focus. The majority of The Wife of Monte Cristo revolved around “The Avenger” and the villains’ attempts to foil his plans. Because of the title, I was led to believe the film would be a sequel to The Count of Monte Cristo, but from Haydée’s perspective. However, it was simply a sequel to The Count of Monte Cristo.

Edmond and Haydée’s limited interactions: Earlier in this review, I briefly mentioned how Edmond and Haydée spend a limited amount of time together on screen. This disappointed me, as I was hoping to witness the continual growth of their relationship. I was also hoping to see more adorable moments between them, especially since their relationship is barely shown in any film version of The Count of Monte Cristo. While I appreciate the times I did get to see these characters together, there was more to be desired in this department.

Illustration of Paris, France created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/travel”>Travel vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Seeing and reviewing this movie is a Christmas wish come true! As someone who is a fan of Monte Cristo and Haydée’s relationship, I am thankful to have discovered this film! It was enjoyable and interesting, as it gives Haydée an opportunity to save the day. Through clever problem solving, teamwork, and wits, we see Haydée making a difference in her world and lending a hand when possible. Despite the film being titled The Wife of Monte Cristo, she is not the star of the film. She does serve an important role though, as she receives a bigger part in this story than she has in other versions of The Count of Monte Cristo. As a film released in the Breen Code Era, it is, for the most part, Breen Code friendly. However, there were two aspects of this movie that I was surprised to see in a Breen Code film. In some scenes, both Haydée and Lucille wear dresses with low necklines. While this style of dress was likely common in the 1830s, its presence would not be frequent in a Breen Code film. There is one scene where the deceased body of one of De Villefort’s comrades is briefly shown on screen. In Breen Code films, a death would usually be implied, not seen.

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

What are your thoughts on my Clean Movie Month reviews so far? Are you looking forward to my next review? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen