Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Golem, Peter Lorre and Guy Kibbee

By Doug Gibson

Because I write about 10 editorials/reviews a week and work 50-plus hours a week in my paid job, I thought I'd try a weekly missive mentioning, albeit briefly, films I watch that I just don't have the time to review now, although I may well do so in the future. These reviews will only be a paragraph, but there will be links to more information and usually at least one will have a video web link.

So, here we go:

I saw "The Golem," from 1920, finally and all I can say is WOW, what a magnificent movie. It's pre-code sexy, compelling and the German expessionist genre, with winding, narrow, looming street, staircases and interiors, is as strong as "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." The story involves a rabbi in the 16th Century Prague who invokes black magic to create a Golem, a man/monster that will protect the Jews from the secular leaders/royalty. The Golem, played by Paul Wegener, invokes the emotions, sounds and characteristics that Boris Karloff would place into the Frankenstein monster 11 years later. Watch it above.

"The Face Behind the Mask," 1941, may be Peter Lorre's most understated masterpiece. He's superb as kind, pacifistic immigrant Janos Szabo, who is disfigured in an accident. His appearance kills his career as a watchmaker, so he embarks on crime and is very successful, buying a mask to alleviate his appearance. One day he meets a beautiful blind working woman, played by Evelyn Keyes, and they fall in love. Szabo leaves his crime gang, but they won't let him go. The final 20 minutes or so of this film has the impact of a punch in the gut. Ironically, I learned on TCM's commentary that Lorre hated the film, and was usually half-bagged by noon.

Plan9Crunch readers know I'm a Guy Kibbee fan and 1937's "Don't Tell the Wife" is a great mild Kibbee comedy. He plays "Dinky" Winthrop, a seemingly dense financial columnist for a hick newspaper who is used as a patsy by a gang of con men pitching worthless gold mine stock. Una Merkel is very funny as well playing the chief con man's disapproving wife. This is one of those pleasant hour comedies where you know nothing really bad is going to happen. Kibbee's patsy character turns out to be a lot smarter than the grifters realized.

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