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: Twilight of Honor Review

When Tiffany from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society invited me to join The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon, I was familiar with Claude as an actor. I’ve seen five of his movies, as I reviewed Caesar and Cleopatra back in September. While looking through his filmography on IMDB, I discovered that Claude starred in a film called Twilight of Honor. Because I happened to have this movie on my DVR, I figured it would be a great choice for the blogathon. This isn’t the first time I’ve talked about a courtroom film. Last year, I reviewed two movies from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries’ Darrow Mystery series. What I enjoy about those films is the mystery component featured within the narrative. It creates an intriguing and interactive experience for the audience. Will I find a mystery in Twilight of Honor? Keep reading if you want to find out!

Twilight of Honor poster
Twilight of Honor poster created by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Image found at commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twilight_of_Honor_FilmPoster.jpeg.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The overall cast in this film was pretty good! Everyone’s performance appeared believable, especially for their character’s situation. Even though Claude Rains was in the film for a limited amount of time, his portrayal of Art Harper was memorable! He brought a pleasant persona to his character and was a joy to watch on screen. The lead star, Richard Chamberlain, also gave a good acting performance! His character, David Mitchell, had a healthy balance between the seriousness of a lawyer and the charm of a gentleman. That’s because his acting abilities were well-rounded enough to pull off this specific kind of portrayal. The supporting cast was just as talented as the starring cast! Joey Heatherton was a standout in this film as Laura-Mae Brown! With an on-screen personality that was feisty and bold, Joey found a way to shine among her co-stars. Her character certainly brought an interesting element to the story.

 

The dual screen special effect: Whenever one of the characters shared their perspective on the case, the screen was split to show the flashback on one side of the screen while the character was speaking. After this was shown, the flashback was presented in a full-screen format. This element made the project appear ahead of its time. Because the ‘60s weren’t known for experimentation with technology in film, it makes the creative team behind this movie appear innovative. I respect their decision to try something new. They took a creative risk and it worked in their favor.

 

The Clinton house: At one point in the movie, David visits the widow of the murder victim, Mrs. Clinton, at her house. Despite this location being featured on screen for a short amount of time, this house looked very appealing on film! The way it was staged and decorated gave the impression that the creative team was going for: the living environment of an affluent family. From the winding staircase to the large door-frame, everything about it spoke volumes about the characters that lived there. It was also just a nice-looking place in general. I’m not sure if this was a real location or a set, but the people associated with bringing this place to life did a good job in doing so.

Claude Rains Blogathon banner
The Second Annual Claude Rains Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/10/18/round-up-the-usual-suspects-the-second-annual-claude-rains-blogathon-is-coming/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: Twilight of Honor is almost two hours. Because of this, it makes the story feel drawn out and some scenes last longer than they need to. One example is some of the courtroom scenes. I understand that court cases in film take time to be explored and discussed. But, personally, I don’t think this particular story needed to be as long as it was. If this movie was an hour and ten or twenty minutes, then the script could have been a little bit tighter and the run-time would be more condensed.

 

Very little intrigue: When I first heard about this movie, I was expecting the story to have a mystery element. Similar to programs such as Matlock, Perry Mason, and Hallmark’s Darrow Mystery series, I was ready to figure out whodunit. Sadly, that’s not the kind of story Twilight of Honor is. It’s a courtroom drama with a surface level narrative that’s “cut and dry”. Because the story was so basic, I found the final verdict to be anti-climactic. It wasn’t a boring story, but it wasn’t exciting either.

 

David and Susan’s relationship: I have nothing against David and Susan’s relationship. The issue I have with it is how little emphasis it was given in the film. David and Susan’s relationship feels rushed and under-developed. They are seen spending so little time with each other that when their relationship does progress, it just comes out of nowhere. There’s no build-up to where this relationship ends up. It just seems like it was placed in the movie just for the sake of being there.

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Scales of Justice image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Twilight of Honor is not what I expected it to be. That intriguing, courtroom mystery that I was looking to ended up becoming a straight-forward drama with a simplistic story. Because of that, I found the movie to be just ok. While there were things about it that I liked, the story itself could have been stronger. But that doesn’t mean that the movie is void of purpose. Twilight of Honor does have its place in film history with the use of the dual screen special effect that was featured in the movie. It also gives people a good excuse to watch Claude Rains perform on screen. This isn’t one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, so far. But it’s definitely not one of the worst films I’ve seen either. I’m glad that I saw Twilight of Honor, though, because now I can have an honest opinion about it.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What do you think of this review? Which movie from Claude Rains’ filmography is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Caesar and Cleopatra Review + 140 Follower Thank You

September has been a weird month for 18 Cinema Lane. The movies that I’ve reviewed have either been period films or films with a release date from the 1940s. In October, I will try to review movies that are outside of these cinematic realms. But for this blog follower dedication review, I have chosen a movie that was released in September of 1946. According to Wikipedia, Caesar and Cleopatra was released in September of 1946 in both the United States and the United Kingdom. So, this is the film I have chosen for this review. When it comes to this particular cinematic story, I have heard of the version starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. But I had never heard of the 1946 film until I was researching movies for this specific post. The only film of Vivien Leigh’s that I’ve seen is Gone with the Wind. Despite the fact that I was not a fan of that movie, I wanted to give other movies starring Vivien a chance.

Caesar and Cleopatra poster
Caesar and Cleopatra created by Gabriel Pascal Productions, Eagle-Lion Films, and United Artists. Image found at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038390/?ref_=nv_sr_1?ref_=nv_sr_1.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: The acting performances in Caesar and Cleopatra were pretty good! Claude Rains did a great job at bringing his character to life! Creating a character that appears both likable and unlikable is not an easy feat. By adopting a persona that was both charming and cunning, Claude was able to present Caesar as being likable enough to form relationships and alliances, but unlikable enough to show how self-centered this character truly is. Despite having a limited amount of screen-time, Apollodorus quickly became my favorite character in this movie! This is because Stewart Granger, the actor who portrayed this character, was so expressive and animated. Because of applying these elements to his performance, Stewart’s portrayal of Apollodorus was such a joy to watch.

 

The set designs: I really liked seeing the sets throughout this movie! They made this cinematic world feel larger-than-life and epic because of how grand they were in size. These sets appeared historically accurate, showing the level of detail that the film’s creative team applied to this part of the project. The craftsmanship of the sets was truly remarkable, with Cleopatra’s palace being a good example of this. All of these factors helped make the scenery feel immersive, like the audience can see themselves entering that world. The sets were so impressive, that they were visually appealing!

 

The costumes: Caesar and Cleopatra was presented in Technicolor, so the costumes were showcased in the way they were meant to be seen. These costumes were as stunning as the cinematic world where they resided in! The characters were clothed in bright colors, helping to make the costumes eye-catching and vibrant. Even outfits that were mostly white had a splash of color incorporated into them. The use of metals was also interesting, as it ended up complimenting the outfits. One example was Apollodorus’ blue outfit that had gold embroidery. There was one scene where Britannus explains to Cleopatra why he wears the color blue. This explanation provided some interesting insight that isn’t always found when it comes to a film’s costume designs.

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Illustration of Egyptian sphinx image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Cleopatra’s character development: When I think of Cleopatra, I think of a woman who has the skills and intelligence to lead a kingdom. While watching Vivien’s performance, there were times when she brought my idea of this historical figure to life. But there were also times when it felt like Vivien was trying to recreate her portrayal of Scarlett O’Hara. I recognize that she was making the best of the material she was given. However, I think the film’s creative team was attempting to take advantage of the popularity and success of Gone with the Wind. If this was their intention, the decision caused Cleopatra’s character development to come across as inconsistent.

 

The run-time: Caesar and Cleopatra is a film that is over two hours. Because of this, it caused the movie to feel longer than it might have been intended. The run-time also made some scenes feel drawn out for the sake of satisfying the film’s run-time. One example was when the Roman army met the King of Egypt. The conversations featured in this script also seemed longer than they needed to be. If Caesar and Cleopatra was under two hours, maybe an hour and fifty minutes, then the story would have moved at a faster pace.

 

Lots of dialogue-heavy scenes: In this movie, there’s a war taking place between Rome and other countries, including Egypt. However, the majority of the story focuses on the characters having conversations with one another. As I’ve already mentioned, these conversations felt longer than they needed to be. Because of the number of dialogue-heavy scenes, it created an imbalance between these scenes and any scenes that were action-heavy. The scenes that involved action were far and few between. Moments of suspense were also subdued. A perfect example of this is when Alexandria’s library was on fire. I understand that this film was created during the Breen Code era. But it doesn’t mean that project shouldn’t have action, especially if the story calls for it.

stone-horses-1219399-1278x670
Chariot statue from the Roman Empire image created by Michel Meynsbrughen at freeimages.com. “FreeImages.com/Michel Meynsbrughen.”

My overall impression:

As I mentioned in my review, Gone with the Wind became a very successful and popular movie. When this happens, other studios will try to recreate that success. But not every movie can recapture that accomplishment that the previous title had reached. Caesar and Cleopatra is a perfect example of this situation. While the movie was just ok, it feels like it tried to take advantage of Gone with the Wind’s popularity. From Vivien’s reenactment of Scarlett O’Hara to the story being more dialogue-heavy, this film wasn’t able to be its own project. Despite this, there were factors within the film that I liked. Some of them were the costumes and the sets. Because this is the only cinematic version of this story that I’ve seen, I don’t have anything to compare this project to. But I’m glad that I chose this film for my 140 blog follower dedication review. To each and every one of my followers, thank you for choosing to support 18 Cinema Lane! Your interest in this blog means a lot to me.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

What are your thoughts on this review? Do you like films that feature a historical approach to the story? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen