Tuesday, April 27, 2010

No posts this week

The Professor will be back Saturday, May 1st with new posts. And be sure to join us next week (May 4-7)for Silents Week!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday TV - You Bet Your Life

I suppose you could say this was one case where someone would be happy to hear the word "Duck!" intead of scared.

The story goes that Groucho Marx was supposed to make a guest appearance on Bob Hope's radio show. Miffed at having been made to wait too long in the dressing room, when he finally came on the show and was asked by Hope "Groucho, what brings you here from the hot desert?" his response was "Hot desert, my foot, I've been standing in the cold waiting room for 40 minutes." From that point on, Hope never regained control of his show, as Groucho improvised and wisecracked his way through the rest of the alotted time and beyond. Meanwhile producer John Guedel was listening in and afterward approached Groucho about hosting a game show that would be part interview and part quiz, but which would mostly focus on Groucho's impromptu style. At first reluctant, Groucho finally agreed, and You Bet Your Life was born.

The show began on radio in 1947 and moved to TV in the 50's. for awhile it was actually run both on the radio and television. The show lasted until 1961 when it was finally brought down in the wake of the 50's game show scandals. (Though YBYL itself was clean, because of the accusations of cheating running rampant through the industry, the public simply soured on game shows in general, and not even Groucho's brashness (nor a name change to The Groucho Show) could save it.)

Here, then, is an episode from the mid 50's:

Unitl next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday Funnies - Happy Go Lovely (1951)

David Niven is as suave as ever.

Cesar Romero is thankfully nowhere near as over the top as the Joker.

Vera-Ellen has incredible legs.

It's a film about backstage manuverings and a play that's about to run out of money.

It's also a film about mistaken identity.

It also (for some reason) takes place in Scotland.

For a musical comedy it really has very few musical numbers.

The worst (and really the best) that can be said about it is that it's charming.

Here's a preview:

And here's the skinny:
Title: Happy Go Lovely
Release Date: 1951
Running Time: 97min
Starring: Vera-Ellen, David Niven, Cesar Romero
Directed by: H. Bruce Humberstone
Produced by: Marcel Hellman
Distributed by: Associated British Pathe, RKO Radio Pictures

Happy Go Lovely is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: Happy Go Lovely [Remastered] [1951].

And Netflix has it for to save: Happy Go Lovely

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Blogcritics Feature Page

"From the Public Domain Treasure Chest" is now a regularly appearing feature at Blogcritics.org! Check out the new feature page complete with banner logo: http://blogcritics.org/video/feature/from-the-public-domain-treasure-chest/  and look for new articles to start going up there next week! Regular readers of the blog shouldn't worry, though, I'll still be here daily sharing some great (and some not so great) movies with you. These articles will simply give me more room to expand on certain topics and hopefully reach an ever expanding audience to spread the word about all the treasures to be found in the public domain!

Silent Thursday - The End of an Era

In anticipation of Silents Week coming up in May, I thought I'd share with you today this documentary which chronicles the transition from silent films to "talkies". It's roughly 50 minutes long and is in five parts which should (if I've made this playlist right) play one after the other. Enjoy, and until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting!

-Professor Damian

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Whodunnit Wednesday - Money Madness (1948)

Somehow, I don't think Ward Cleaver would approve if he caught the Beav doing this stuff.

Seriously - robbing banks, poisoning a poor, defenseless (though incredibly annoying) old lady, framing her niece as an accomplice - these are not the kinds of actions we usually associate with the man TV Guide ranked as one of the top 50 all-time TV dads.

Actually, before he became known to a generation as the achetypical laid-back suburban-philosophy spewing dad of Wally and the Beaver, Beaumont was regularly known for his tough guy roles. He portrayed hard-boiled detective Michael Shayne in a series of five films beginning in 1946, and guest-starred in a number of detective series on both sides of the law. As a matter of fact, it's said that Beaumont resented his role as Ward Cleaver, feeling that it overshadowed his true abilities.

He definitely strikes a different note in this film, portraying bank robber Steve Clark who has just pulled a $200,000 heist. Looking for a way to safely launder the money, he stops off in a small California town. Stashing the money in a safe-deposit box, Clark quickly gets a job as a cab driver and just as quickly starts making time with local lovely Julie Saunders. Saunders lives alone except for her sickly and demanding (but rich) aunt. When Clark sees the set-up he immerses himself in Julie's life while at the same time poisoning her aunt. His plan is that when the elderly lady dies, Julie will inherit everything in the house, including the robbery money which he will secrete in a trunk in the attic. then they can run away together and be free. The real question, of course, is just how desperate is Julie, and will she go along with the plan.

Let's take a look, shall we?

And, the skinny:
Title: Money Madness
Release Date: 1948
Running Time: 73min
Black and White
Starring: Hugh Beaumont, Frances Rafferty
Directed by: Sam Newfield
Produced by: Sigmund Neufeld

Money Madness is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available for purchase on DVD from Amazon: Money Madness.

Until next time, Happy Teasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

New Blogcritics Article

Just had a new article published at Blogcitics.org. This time it's a look at the 1945 movie Detour, and why it's such a good example of the film noir genre. Just click the link above and check it out!

Tuesday Terrors - Cat-Women of the Moon (1953)

Ok, let's be honest. The title of today's flick is Cat-Women of the Moon. It features "The Hollywood Cover Girls". Having read those two sentences, you already know whether you want to see this one or give it a pass, and there's really no need for me to tell you any more. Of course, has that ever stopped yer Ol' Professor before? No. Is it going to stop me this time? Nope.

From the so-bad-it's-actually-still-really-bad school, this B-reeler was actually created during the height of the 50's 3-D craze, and yes, it was originally released in 3-D. Why? Unfortunately, as seems to be increasingly the case today, the answer appears to be "because they could". Admittedly watching a 2-D print today may not have the same ambience, but there really seems to be no effort at all to exploit the possibilities of the process.

So what we have here is sort of a contrast of styles. The first part of the film is a fairly typical space-faring adventure (well, typical if you accept that future space-farers will be traveling in lawn recliners and office chairs), and the second part is their encounter with the titular Cat-Women who are the last of a race of people who apparently have been trapped on the moon for around 2-million years. Having developed a telepathic rapport with the lone female crew member of the space-ship, (who just happens to be the navigator for this flight which apparently has not even tried to figure out where the optimum landing spot is before they took off) the Cat-Women subtly direct her to direct the craft near to their cave-lair. Their plan is to overtake the men on the flight (exploiting their "weak points") and then hijack the ship so they can escape to the Earth.

The Cat-Women are certainly suitably slinky in their black tights, damsel-in-distress Helen is definitely distressed, the men are all brash and brave and curt, and the spider... what? I forgot to mention the spider? Oh, yeah, there's a giant spider. Well, actually there's something resembling a giant spider puppet that the men spend some time struggling with before... well, anyway, yeah, there's a giant spider.

Ok, let's take a look, shall we?

And now the Skinny:
Title: Cat-Women of the Moon
Release Date: 1953
Running Time: 64min
Black and White, 3-D
Starring: Victor Jory, Marie Windsor
Directed by: Arthur Hilton
Produced by: Jack Rabin, Al Zimbalist
Distributed by: Astor Pictures

Cat-Women of the Moon is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available for purchase on DVD from Amazon: Cat-Women of the Moon.
Netflix also has this DVD available for rental: Cat-Women of the Moon.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday Oaters - Billy the Kid Returns (1938)

Ok, Kiddies, let's get this one straight from the start. I know we've talked before about films like Jesse James meets Frankenstein's Daughter and Billy the Kid versus Dracula, but I'm sorry to report that, though Billy is shot and killed by Pat Garrett at the very first of this flick, despite what the title might lead you to believe, he does not actually return as a zombie. Instead, he doesn't so much "return" as he is replaced by Roy Rogers who, it just so happens, turns out to be a *ahem* dead ringer for the Kid. Quickly convincing Garrett to let him masquerade as the infamous killer in order to thwart a brand of villainous ranchers who are threatening the local homesteaders. Promising that, unlike Billy, he won't actually do any killing, (though with a total of seven songs in this less-than-an-hour b-reeler he might well sing them to death) Roy, of course, saves the day.

This was actually Roy's second leading role in a film. Earlier in the year he had taken over the lead in Under Western Stars when the original lead, Gene Autry, walked out on his contract. Roy had already been building popularity both as a singing cowboy film star under his original name Leonard Slye, and with his western musical group The Sons of the Pioneers. When the opportunity presented itself, Roy quickly stepped into the role, and through numerous movie roles and his own TV show (in which he appeared alongside his wife, Dale Evans) he quickly became Autry's number one competitor for the title of America's favorite singing cowboy.

Rather than a trailer for this flick, here's a short tribute to Roy's group The Sons of the Pioneers which features them singing one of their biggest hits, "Tumbling Tumbleeeds":

And now, the Skinny:
Title: Billy the Kid Returns
Release Date: 1938
Running Time: 53min
Black and White
Starring: Roy Rogers
Directed by: Joseph Kane
Produced by: Charles E. Ford
Released by: Republic Pictures

Billy the Kid Returns id available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available for purchase on DVD from Amazon: Billy The Kid Returns.
It appears to be out of stock at Netflix, but you can reserve it: Billy the Kid Returns.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Thursday, April 15, 2010

No Updates Thursday thru Saturday

Hiya Kiddies! Afraid I'm going to be taking a few days off from updates to catch up some other things, but I'll be back 4/18 with your the next chapter of our Flash Gordon serial.

Until then, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Whodunnit Wednesday - The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935)

There have been so many different adaptations, interpretations and reiterations of the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective that it is often quite nearly impossible to keep up with them. Wikipedia lists the first filmed Holmes story as 1900's Sherlock Holmes Baffled, and since that time there must have been hundreds of different actors portraying the famed investigator right up to last year's entry starring Robert Downey Jr. Some of these interpretations, of course, have been more faithful (and some more successful) than others. A while back, I wrote about one of my personal favorite portrayals, that of Basil Rathbone in the series of films produced by Universal Studios. Today I'd like to take a look at another, slightly earlier series of films which unfortunately have been overshadowed by those Universal films.

Arthur Wotner was born in 1875 and portrayed Holmes in a series of five films from 1931 to 1937. Of these five films, the first, The Sleeping Cardinal was, until recently, thought to be a lost film. Unfortunately, though prints have been found of this one, his second, The Missing Rembrant is still considered lost. nonetheless, the films that we do have show Wotner as a Holmes that is more cerebral than many interpretations, and who also definitely looks the part. Wotner is not as athletic as some of the later Holmes, relying much more on his deductive prowess, and that serves him in good stead in today's feature, his fourth outing as the titular detective, The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes.

Of course, a large part of the credit for this must go to the screenwriters who have hewn fairly closely to the original source material, in this case, Doyle's fourth Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear. One of the trickier aspects of any Holmes story is that since he is truly smarter than anyone else in the room (unless, of course, his brother Mycroft also happens to be present), he has often already figured out the main puzzle of the story before the explanation of the situation is finished. That is why he works better in a short story format than in a longer work such as a novel or film, and why, so often, those longer works feel padded with action scenes or obstacles that do not really belong. In this particular instance, Doyle figured out a unique way to lengthen the story. Almost one third of the book is taken up by an extended flashback to Holme's client's past as a miner in the U.S. The movie makers have kept this flashback, and though it does cause the film to drag a bit in the middle, it also gives the film a feeling of having more substance than other efforts at padding. On the flip side, the producers also felt the need to include Holmes' arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty in the film, when he does not appear in the original story, but that change does not distract too much from the overall quality of the film.

Note should also be made of Ian Fleming's (no, not the James Bond author) interpretation of the role of Dr. Watson. Instead of the bumbling oaf that Watson often seems, in Fleming's hands we see a Watson that lets us understand why Holmes would have kept him around. After all, when compared to the brilliance of Holmes, anyone is going to seem second rate, and it is important to remember that Watson was not only considered a first-rate doctor, but also a highly trained military man.

There's no embedable trailer online that I've been able to find, but here's a clip from the first part of the movie which introduces not only Holmes and Watson to the audience, but also the detective's arch enemy:

And now, the Skinny:
Title: The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
Release Date: 1935
Running Time: 75min
Black and White
Starring: Arthur Wotner, Ian Fleming
Directed by: Leslie S. Hiscott
Produced by: Julius Hagen

The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available for purchase on DVD from Amazon:The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes.

Netflix also has the DVD available for rental: The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes.

One final note before I take my leave today: I'd like to give a quick shout-out to Anthony DP Mann, co-host of the Horror Etc. podcast who is currently producing and starring in what looks to be a fun interpretation of Holmes called Sherlock Holmes and the Shadow Watchers. It's even been authorised by the Holmes estate. Find out more by clicking the link, and if you're at all interested in intelligent and spirited conversation about the horror and sci-fi genres, I highly recommend you check out Tony and Ted's podcast.
Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Terrors - Carnival of Souls (1962)

Sometimes a horror flick will depend upon things like jump-scares in order to try to shock its audience. You know the kind of thing I mean: the lights have gone out in the heroine's house, she's trying to find a candle, opens up a closet door, and out jumps a screeching cat that has apparently not before made a sound in protest of being trapped in there. Others rely on special effects to show us all kinds of creepy crawly aliens or ghosts that appear and disappear and attack both the viewer and the protagonist. For an especially egregious example of this, see the 1999 remake of The Haunting which turns one of the great psychological thrillers of the 60's into a showcase for bad and ill-considered cgi effects. Then there are the movies which rely on creating an atmosphere in order to provide their chills and thrills, movies which set the hero or heroine in a situation that seems just slightly off-kilter and then slowly turn up the oddness until there is no denying that something strange is going on and they must eventually confront whatever is causing it. Today's film, Carnival of Souls, fits squarely into the latter category.

Conceived when director-producer Herk Harvey was vacationing in Salt Lake City and became enamored of the abandoned Saltair Pavilion on the banks of the Great Salt Lake, Carnival of Souls tells the story of Mary Henry, a young organist who is abbout to take a job at a church in a new town. Before leaving for her new position, however, Mary is out with some friends, and they are challenged to a drag race by a car full of boys. Pulling onto a bridge, the girls' car is bumped by the other and goes careening over the edge. Police and rescue workers show, and depite their best efforts they cannot find the car or any survivors in the depths of the river. Suddenly, however, Mary appears crawling onto the bank, and it's deemed a miracle that she survived.

She may have survived the wreck, but something has changed about Mary. Moving to her new job she declares that she is never coming back to her old town, and when she gets to the new one she seems cold and distant from people, having trouble fitting in. She has also begun to have visions of a pale old man, at first just taking over her reflection, but eventually appearing before her in physical form. She is having other visions too. On her way to the town she noticed an old abandoned amusement park, and not only does she feel strangely drawn to it, but she seems to be having waking dreams of ghouls dancing and cavorting through the park. Most disturbing of all, however, is the change in Mary's music. Once described by the minister who has become her boss as music to move the soul, he is soon denouncing it as profane and blasphemous. Soon, Mary has no coice but to investigate the old carnival and see what significance it has in what has happened to her.

Filmed on a reported budget of $33,000, in and around Salt Lake City and Lawrence, Kansas, using mostly local actors and actresses, Carnival of Souls is surprisingly effective with its otherworldly atmospherics and mounting sense of dread. It's one of those films that gives you that creeping sense of "something's not quite right here, but I'm not sure exactly what it is".

Here's a trailer:

And the Skinny:
Title: Carnival of Souls
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 82min
Black and White
Starring: Candace Hilligoss
Directed by: Herk Harvey
Produced by: Herk Harvey
Released by: Herts-Lion International corp.

Carnival of Souls is available to watch or download for free here.
It's available to purchase on DVD from Amazon: Carnival of Souls - Criterion Collection.

Netflix also has the DVD available for rental or to watch instantly: Carnival of Souls.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday Oaters - The Fargo Kid (1940)

Ah, the classic case of mistaken identity. I suppose it's been a staple of storytelling ever since there have been stories. The classic greek play Oedipus Rex hinges on a tragic case of mistaken identity, as does Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. Today's police procedurals and soap operas alike take full advantage of look-alikes and evil twins. And classsic westerns were no stranger to the formula either, though today's film does put an interesting kink in the idea. In The Fargo Kid, though our protagonist is mistaken for a well-known gunman, it's not so much because he looks like the bad guy, but because he is riding a horse that he won from him in a duel.

Tim Holt, the star of today's feature, was a mainstay in westerns from is first appearance in 1928's The Vanishing Pioneer until his last in 1952's Desert Passage. In all, he racked up, according to IMDB some 75 credits, including the role he is probably best known for, starring opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

In The Fargo Kid, Holt plays, perhaps not surprisingly, The Fargo Kid, who wins a sorrel horse from gunslinger Deuce Mallory. Unfortunately for Fargo, not only does Deuce's reputation precede him but so does the look of his horse. When he arrives in Micaville, Fargo finds himself the center of a number of conspiracies. He is hired (as Deuce) to kill a prospector who is close to a gold strike. The local sherrif has also identified Fargo as Mallory and intends to arrest him. Then there is the real Mallory, who intends to not only kill Farogo but retrieve both the horse and $5000 that Fargo got with it.

Let's take a quick look at The Fargo Kid, shall we?

Oh, wait. That was the wrong Fargo, wasn't it? Alright, then, let's try this one:

Hrmmm... still the wrong Fargo. Darn this whole mistaken-identity thing. It can muck everything up. Ok, One more try:

Ah, the heck with it - let's just get on with the Skinny:
Title: The Fargo Kid
Release Date: 1940
Running Time: 63min
Black and White
Starring: Tim Holt
Directed by: Edward Killy
Produced by: Bert Gilroy
Released by: RKO Radio Pictures

The Fargo Kid can be watched or downloaded for free here.
It doesn't appear to be available on DVD at this time.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Saturday, April 10, 2010

New Ways to Interact with The Professor

Just a short update to point out some of the new buttons over there on the right hand side. Yep, your ol' Professor is now on Facebook and Twitter and also writing for BlogCritics. To become a fan on Facebook, you can just click the button over there, or you can visit my Facebook page by clicking here. To get updates and more on Twitter, again just click the button or click here to visit my profile. Finally, check out my first BlogCritics article here, and look for more soon.

Ok, we now return you, to your regularly scheduled blog...

Saturday TV - Dragnet - The Big Bird

Since I talked about the origins of the TV show Dragnet the other day in discussing the film He Walked By Night, I thought today I'd share with you one of the episodes that is now in the public domain. From season 5, here's episode 9:

There are quite a few episodes available to watch or download for free at Archive.org. Just click here.
There are also a number of collections on DVD available from Amazon. Here's one: Dragnet - Volumes 1-6 (6-DVD).
And here's a Netflix link, too: Dragnet 4.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Funnies - The Private Life of Don Juan (1934)

Ah, getting older. Sometimes it's not easy to accept. Especially for celebrities, it seems. Look at all the money that is spent each year by famous folk still trying to maintain the image of youth. Are they doing for themselves, out of vanity? Or are they doing it because we, as their public, don't want them to change from the image of them that we hold in our hearts? Of course, growing older is something that simply can't be avoided, and with it can come changes that simply can't be denied. Hair loss, weight gain, lack of movement - all of these can be byproducts of the aging process. And all oof them can change not only the public's perception of us, but our perception of ourselves.

Still, aging is something that cannot be avoided (well, in this life, at least). And that's true even if one is a well-known lothario with a reputation for smoothness and virility among the women. And that's the situation our protagonist finds himself in today. Don Juan is a man well known for his charisma with the ladies. He's also a man whose reputation has sparked a number of impersonators claiming to be the famous lover. he's also a man becoming tired of trying to live up to his reputation, so when one of those impersonators is killed, the true Don Juan also takes the opportunity to retire.

Of course, when a person has become accustomed to fame, it can be hard to figure out how to carry on without it. Eventually finding that the only lover he can get now is a scullery maid, Don Juan has has enough. However, reclaiming his fame when he has grown older and no longer looks like the dashing young man the public imagines him to be may be beyond the prowess of even this legendary lover.

This was Douglass Fairbanks Sr.'s last film, and in some ways brings his legend full circle as well as that of the character he is portraying. One can certainly feel that this is a bit more than just a role to the now 51-year-old Fairbanks who, like his filmic counterpart, may no longer have the physical moves to play some of the roles he once did, still has an actor's heart and soul, and he definitely brings them to this role.

Instead of a trailer today, I'm going to give you part one of a documentary on the life of Douglas Fairbanks Sr. The documentary was produced by Delta Entertainment with the assistance of the Douglas Fairbanks Museum. It runs about 90 minutes and was released by the museum on Youtube, and is also available on DVD from the museum. It's definitely interesting viewing, and I encourage you to click on through and watch the rest.

And now, the Skinny:
Title: The Private Life of Don Juan
Release Date: 1934
Running Time: 89min
Black and White
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. , Merle Oberon
Directed by: Alexander Korda
Produced by: Alexander Korda
Distributed by: United Artists:

The Private Life of Don Juan is available to watch or download for free here.
It's available for purchase on DVD from Amazon as part of this collection: Eclipse Series 16 - Alexander Korda's Private Lives (The Private Life of Henry VIII / The Rise of Catherine the Great / The Private Life of Don Juan / Rembrandt) (Criterion Collection).

The same collection is also available for rental from Netflix: The Private Life of Don Juan

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Romance Thursday - Love Affair (1939)

A beautiful girl meets a handsome man while they are both on a cruise. they fall in love, even though each is engaged to marry someone else. They agree to ditch their current loves and meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building. On the way to the planned rendezvous, however, she is struck by a car and paralyzed. Rather than tell him of her condition, she simply lets him think that he has been stood up. Fate, however, has other plans.

If that sounds like a synopsis of a movie you remeber and brings to mind 1994's Love Affair starring Warren Beatty and Anette Bening, well, first of all, I'm sorry for reminding you of that movie but it's not too surprising. If, on the other hand, it sounds to you like the plot of 1957's An Affair to Remember, which starred Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, then at least I can say you have better taste in films than those 1994 people, and again it's not too surprising. There is one other option, though. If what I wrote above reminds you of 1939's Charles Boyer / Irene Dunne film Love Affair, well, then let me compliment the diversity of your movie viewing and admit that I am pretty surprised.

Yes, today's film is the original. And a very good movie it is. It was actually nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Writing. Unfortunately (well, unfortunately for this film, but fortunately for movie lovers), 1939 was an incredible year for movies as it was up against (among others) The Wizard of Oz, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Mice and Men, and Best Picture winner Gone With the Wind. In succeeding years it has also unfortunately been overshadowed by the 1957 remake. (Let's just all agree to forget the 1994 version, shall we, except perhaps to note its being awarded that year's Razzie for Worst Remake.) Which is actually the better film? Well, there can be no denying the presence and charm that Grant brings to the screen, but in some ways, I almost find Boyer and Dunne more convincing as lovers.

How about if instead of a trailer today, we take a look at the same scene (well, pretty much, anyway) from both movies:

And now, the Skinny:
Title: Love Affair
Release Date: 1939
Running Time: 87min
Black and White
Starring: Charles Boyer, Irene Dunne
Directed by: Leo McCarey
Produced by: Leo McCarey
Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures

(Just to be clear, only the 1939 version of Love Affair is in the public domain. An Affair to Remember and the 1994 remake are both still under copyright.)

Love Affair is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available to purchase on DVD from Amazon: Love Affair

It's also available for rental or to "watch instantly" at Netflix: Love Affair.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Whodunnit Wednesday - He Walked By Night (1948)

THIS IS A TRUE STORY. It is known to the police department of one of our largest cities as the most difficult homicide case in its experience, principally because of the diabolical cleverness, intelligence and cunning of a completely unknown killer... The record is set down here factually ---- as it happened ---- only the names are changed ---- to protect the innocent.

If the above opening sounds somewhat familiar, kiddies, then there's probably a reason for that. Today's flick, He Walked By Night, was the film that inspired Jack Webb to create the series Dragnet.

In 1948, Webb was coming off of the success of his radio show Pat Novak for Hire in which he portrayed an unlicensed private detective with a penchant for lines like "She drifted into the room like 98 pounds of warm smoke. Her voice was hot and sticky--like a furnace full of marshmallows." He had also begun to do some film acting, and was offered the role of a crime lab technician in He Walked By Night. the movies was based on the actual shooting of a California Highway Patrolman. Shot in a semi-documentary style, the film was made with the co-operation of the Los Angeles Police Department who sent Detective Sergeant Marty Wynn to the set to be a consultant. Webb and Wynn struck up a friendship, and over the course of the film, Webb had the idea that a radio show featuring the life of a Los Angeles police detective which was as true-to-life as possible and which would have episodes based on actual cases might prove popular. Taking the idea to NBC, he actually had something of an uphill battle, but eventually won them over, and the radio Show Dragnet premiered in 1949, lasting until 1954. In 1951, the show expanded, making the move to television, where it would last until almost the end of the decade.

The movie itself is actually quite good, even if it has been overshadowed by what came after. A fine example of noir filmaking, including some very dark and angular camera work by noted noir cinematographer John Alton, it contains quite a few twists during its 79 minutes. Roy Morgan, a brilliant man with an inside knowledge of police procedure, shoots and kills a patrolman named Hollis. Morgan is also a thief who steals electronics equipment and then sells it to a dealer named Paul Reeves. When the police raid Reeves store, Morgan is almost caught. he escapes, but not before shooting another officer and taking a bullet himself. Deciding to try something new in hopes of throwing the police off his trail, Morgan becomes an armed robber, but when they recover a slug from one of his robberies, forensics specialist Lee (Webb) is able to connect it to Morgan's other crimes. From there it is all downhill for the criminal.

There's not a good embedable trailer online for the flick, so instead, I'm gonna give you another Jack Webb treasure from an appearance on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show:

And now, the Skinny:
Title: He Walked By Night
Release Date: 1948
Running Time: 79 min.
Black and White
Starring: Richard Basehart
Directed by: Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
Produced by: Bryan Foy, Robert Kane
Distributed by: Eagle-Lion Films

He Walked By Night is available to watch or download for free here.
Amazon has the movie available for purchase on DVD: He Walked By Night.
Netflix also has the DVD available for rental: He Walked by Night.

Until next time, Happy Teasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Terrors - The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant (1971)

Y'know, in baseball, a double is a good thing. Depending on which side you're on, a double play can also be a very good thing. Best of all, though, especially for the fans, is a double-header. Unfotunately, I don't think anyone in today's flick is going to be trying out for the majors anytime soon. Which means in this case a double header is simply double trouble.

In The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant, Bruce Dern (yes, really, that Bruce Dern) plays a doctor who is obsessed with the concept of transplanting heads. Why? Well, from what yer Ol' Professor can tell it's because Dern's Dr. Girard just swallowed a whole bottle of why-the-hell-not pills. He's already been kicked out of the hospital he worked at, and has set up a lab in the basement of his house where he's continuing his experiments with his assistant Igor... umm, I mean Max. This, of course, thrills the doctor's wife Linda (Pat Priest, who really shouldn't be so freaked out by all of this after all those years living with the Munsters) to no end, since it explains the stench wafting upstairs that has not only killed all the roaches in the house but also made the bacon smell funny. (Ok, there's really nothing about cockroaches or bacon in the movie, but really it makes as much sense as anything you will find there.)

Meanwhile, we also meet Dr. Girard's caretaker, Andrew Norton and his son Danny. Now Danny is not a small boy, but unfortunately he does have a very small brain. According to his father he was trapped by a mine cave-in when he was a child and his brain was starved for oxygen long enough to leave him in a very retarded state. From the looks of him, nowadays Danny could probably have just pushed the boulders aside, but then...

Anyway, also meanwhile, we meet serial rapist-murderer Manuel "Mama" Cass, who escapes from the mental institution to which he had been confined. Stealing a car, Cass winds up ending his freedom joyride at Dr. Girard's house. Unfortunately, the doctor is out (well, actually he's physically down in his lab, but trust me, he's pretty far out) as is Max, which leaves Linda to confront the madman alone. Finally both the doctor and the caretaker hear her screams and rush to her aid, but Cass kills Andrew and leaves the doctor tied up, making his escape with Linda. When Danny finally comes in, he freaks out at the sight of his dead father, neglecting to release the doctor. Finally Max returns and frees Dr. Girard and they go hunting for the killer and his hostage. Catching up with them, Girard shoots Cass in the back, but doesn't quite kill him.

Hmm... ok, so now we've got a nearly dead serial killer, a practically brain dead hulk of a man-boy, and a doctor who is working on building creatures with two heads. Anyone want to guess where we're gonna go next?

How about to the trailer:

And now, the Skinny:
Title: The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant
Release Date: 1971
Running Time: 87min
Starring: Bruce Dern, Pat Priest
Directed by: Anthony M. Lanza
Produced by: John Lawrence, Volodymyr Kowal, Nicholas Wowchuk, Alvin L. Fast, Arthur N. Gilbert
Distributed by: American International Pictures

The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant can be watched or downloaded for free here.
Amazon has it available for purchase on DVD aas part of a Midnight Movies double feature:The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant/The Thing With Two Heads.
Netflix has the same double feature disc available for rental: The Incredible Two Headed Transplant / The Thing with Two Heads.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Monday, April 5, 2010

Monday Oaters - The Vanishing Riders (1935)

Hiya Kiddies! So let's spend a few minutes talking about "Buffalo Bill" Cody. William Frederick Cody was born in 1846 in what was then known as the Iowa Territory. His nickname came from his time supplying buffalo meat to workers for the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In one eight month period he reputedly killed over 4800 buffalo. Bill Comstock, another buffalo hunter, was actually the original "Buffalo Bill", and when Cody began using the nickname, Comstock challenged him to a shooting match over the rights to the name which Cody won.

Cody also was a scout in the Civil War and was given the Medal of Honor in 1872 for "Gallantry in Action". However, Bill's biggest claim to fame came once he started performing in a series of "Wild West Shows". first touring with Wild Bill Hickok and then striking out on his own, Cody toured the states and territories presenting reenactments of western battles and showcasing sharpshooters and colorfully attired performers. Later in life he was instrumental in the founding of Cody Wyoming, opened a hotel and a dude ranch, and eventually passed away in 1917.

That, however, is not the Bill Cody that stars in today's film. the only connection the actor Bill Cody had with "Buffalo Bill" was then name, which appears to have been mere coincidence, though it did attract the attention of producers and was possibly something that opened doors for him in auditions. Nope, our Bill Cody was born in 1891, and starred in a number of films, including the one we're spotlighting today, which also features his son, Bill Jr. In the film, Bill Sr. plays a sherrif who kills an outlaw in the line of duty. Vowing to raise the outlaw's now-orphaned son as his own, he quits his job, and the man and boy eventually find themselves working for a female rancher who is threatened by rustlers. Donning skeleton costumes and tricking out their horses, the two become "ghost riders" and mange to frighten away the superstitious bad guys.

Again, there doesn't appear to be a trailer or any embeddable clips online, so let's just skip straight to the skinny:
Title: The Vanishing Riders
Release Date: 1935
Running Time: 51min
Black and White
Starring: Bill Cody, Bill Cody Jr
Directed by: Robert F. Hill
Produced by: Ray Kirkwood

The Vanishing Riders is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon on this collection: Creepy Cowboys: Four Weird Westerns.
Netflix doesn't have it available for rent, but it is available to watch instantly: Vanishing Riders.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Break

Hiya, Kiddies! Yer Ol' Professor is taking the Easter weekend off to spend some time with family and friends, but we'll be back on Monday with all-new treasures from the public domain!

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and Happy Easter Egg Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Friday, April 2, 2010

Friday Funnies - The Front Page (1931)

Hiya Kiddies! I actually covered a lot of the history of this film back in my discussion of His Girl Friday. That was actually a remake of this film, starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, which was originally based on a broadway play. So how do the two compare?

Honestly, this one certainly has a lot going for it. Cinematographer Glen MacWilliams brings some interesting shots to the procedings, and Director Lewis Milestone does keep things moving along at a brisk pace, but there is simply no way that Adolphe Menjou and Pat O'Brien as Walter Burns and Hildy Johson can match the onscreen preence and charm of Grant and Russell. Even in scenes which remain pretty much the same from film to film, there is still the sense of something lacking. Nonetheless, it is still defintiely entertaining and Bartlett Cormack and Charles Lederer's script defintiely shines.

Haven't been able to find an embeddable clip online, so we'll just go straight to the skinny:

Title: The Front Page
Release Date: 1931
Running Time: 101 min
Black and White
Starring: Adolphe Menjou, Pat O'Brien
Directed by: Lewis Milestone
Produced by: Lewis Milestone, Howard Hughes
Distributed by: United Artists

The Front Page is available to watch or download free here.
Amazon has it available for purchase on DVD: The Front Page (1931) [Remastered Edition].

Netflix appears to be out of stock at the moment: The Front Page.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Special Announcement - Disney Opens Vaults to Public Domain!

Sorry about the lack of a review today, kiddies, but when I heard this news I simply had to go with it as today's lead - but don't worry, the regular column will be back tomorrow.

In a move that is sure to reverberate throughout the music, movie, and television industries, the Walt Disney Corporation announced today that it would be opening its vaults to the public domain. Formerly considerd one of the greatests proponents of copyright extensions and an enemy to those who support the expansion of the public domain, Disney today reversed its previous stance.

"In making this move we are recognizing the importance of the public domain not only to culture in general, but to the history of Disney in particular," said a Disney spokesperson. "Since many of our greatest and most popular films and shorts are themselves adaptations of works already free from copyright restrictions, we felt that it was time to do our part and pay the system back."

The history of Disney's relationship with the public domain is a long and troubled one. As the Los Angeles Times reported in 2008,
One of Walt Disney's earliest creations was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. After the cartoon proved popular, a New York distributor used an advantage in its contract to take control of Oswald, then hired away many of Disney's artists. Mickey was the product of a desperate comeback attempt by Walt and his brother. After that painful experience, the Disneys "held on to everything they did with a ferociously strong grip," former company Vice Chairman Roy E. Disney said recently.

Mickey Mouse himself actually owes a lot to the public domain. The character made his first appearance in a cartoon called Steamboat Willie, itself a parody of the Harold Lloyd short Steamboat Bill Jr., which was released earlier the same year. (Actually, since the the Lloyd film had not yet entered the public domain, one would have to assume that Disney would have defended his creation as a fair use, another concept the Disney Corporation has fought against viciously in the past.) Also, of Disneys first eight feature films, seven were taken from stories in the public domain, including Snow White, Pinnocchio, Cinderella, and others.

Nonetheless, Disney has vigorously fought against its own creations entering into that self-same well that it has constantly drawn from. Nowhere was this more apparent, or more hurtful to the concept of the public domain than in the passage of the 1998 Copyright Term Extension Act. Realizing that Mickey was scheduled to enter the public domain in 2003 with numerous of its other cartoon icons (Goofy, Pluto, Donald Duck, etc,) to follow soon thereafter, Disney, along with other members of the entertainment industry pressured congress to pass the act, which extended term for items already under copyright another 20 years. The net result of this extension is that now (unless congress chooses to change the law again) NOTHING new will enter into the public domain in the U.S. until 2018.

Todays actions, however, may serve to change everything. In recognizing the value of the public domain and the importance of the creative commons in not only preserving our cultural heritage but expanding creativity, Disney's actions (which include contributing not only Mickey and related characters to the commons but all of its pre-1953 works - the year was apparently chosen to be in line not with the pre-1998 term for corporate works, but the 28+28 rule for general works) have opened the door for even more creative entities to follow suit.

"We simply took a look around and realized that we no longer wanted to be 'that company'," Disney's chairman said. "As a company we didn't want to be the people that just took and took and took and never gave back, so this is our way of making things right."

The above, of course, unfortunately, is merely an April Fool's Day offering. Let me make it clear that none of the above is true, except, of course, for the history of the Walt Disney Company's  fight against the public domain. For more information on Disney's efforts in terms of the 1998 CTEA, I recommend reading  The Public Domain Trapped by the Mouse: Walt Disney and Ramifications of the Copyright Term Extension Act which can be found here. More info on the act itself can be found here. For information on what could have entered the public doamin this year had the copyright terms not been extended, click here. And for an intersting article that considers the possibility that Disney's copyright stranglehold on Steaboat Willie and Mickey may not be as secure as everyone thinks, check here.

Oh, and of course, the image at the top of the article belongs to its copyright holder and is only used under the concept of fair use. Or as Wikipedia puts it, it is "a screenshot from a copyrighted film, and the copyright for it is most likely owned by the studio which produced the film, and possibly also by any actors appearing in the screenshot. It is believed that the use of a limited number of web-resolution screenshots for critical commentary and discussion of the film and its contents qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law."

Finally, I leave you with the words of noted copyfighter Lawrence Lessig from his keynote speech at OSCON 2002:
...my hero, Walt Disney, created this extraordinary work, the birth of Mickey Mouse in the form of Steamboat Willie. But what you probably don't recognize about Steamboat Willie and his emergence into Mickey Mouse is that in 1928, Walt Disney, to use the language of the Disney Corporation today, "stole" Willie from Buster Keaton's "Steamboat Bill."

It was a parody, a take-off; it was built upon Steamboat Bill. Steamboat Bill was produced in 1928, no [waiting] 14 years--just take it, rip, mix, and burn, as he did to produce the Disney empire. This was his character. Walt always parroted feature-length mainstream films to produce the Disney empire, and we see the product of this. This is the Disney Corporation: taking works in the public domain, and not even in the public domain, and turning them into vastly greater, new creativity. They took the works of this guy, these guys, the Brothers Grimm, who you think are probably great authors on their own. They produce these horrible stories, these fairy tales, which anybody should keep their children far from because they're utterly bloody and moralistic stories, and are not the sort of thing that children should see, but they were retold for us by the Disney Corporation. Now the Disney Corporation could do this because that culture lived in a commons, an intellectual commons, a cultural commons, where people could freely take and build. It was a lawyer-free zone.

It was culture, which you didn't need the permission of someone else to take and build upon. That was the character of creativity at the birth of the last century. It was built upon a constitutional requirement that protection be for limited times, and it was originally limited. Fourteen years, if the author lived, then 28, then in 1831 it went to 42, then in 1909 it went to 56, and then magically, starting in 1962, look--no hands, the term expands.

Eleven times in the last 40 years it has been extended for existing works--not just for new works that are going to be created, but existing works. The most recent is the Sonny Bono copyright term extension act. Those of us who love it know it as the Mickey Mouse protection act, which of course [means] every time Mickey is about to pass through the public domain, copyright terms are extended. The meaning of this pattern is absolutely clear to those who pay to produce it. The meaning is: No one can do to the Disney Corporation what Walt Disney did to the Brothers Grimm. That though we had a culture where people could take and build upon what went before, that's over. There is no such thing as the public domain in the minds of those who have produced these 11 extensions these last 40 years because now culture is owned.

Unless otherwise noted, all movies discussed on this blog and all associated materials are believed to be in the Public Domain. If you are a copyright holder for any of these materials, please email me. Unless otherwise noted, all material created for this blog by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons license as described below. Creative Commons License
Professor Damian's Public Domain Treasure Chest by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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