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The Times
  • Movie Man: Check out fun, forgotten cinematic artifacts

  • As usual, the fine folks at Warner Archives (warnerarchive.com) have been digging through the ruins of movie history and coming up with some fun, forgotten cinematic artifacts. Here are three of their latest DVDs, all available via the website:

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  • As usual, the fine folks at Warner Archives (warnerarchive.com) have been digging through the ruins of movie history and coming up with some fun, forgotten cinematic artifacts. Here are three of their latest DVDs, all available via the website:
    “Is My Face Red?”
    This 1932 newspaper picture stars Ricardo Cortez (Real name? Jacob Krantz!) as a gossip columnist who stumbles onto a speakeasy murder. No great surprises here, but it zips along as only an early 1930s newspaper picture can. Robert Armstrong plays a rival columnist in this movie, but just a year he’d be playing a movie producer sailing to a mysterious island. You might be familiar with that movie — you know, it ends at the Empire State Building? Big ape? Screaming blonde?
    “The Phantom of Crestwood”
    Another Ricardo Cortez feature — and how often do you hear that phrase in 2012? This film was part of what passed for a multimedia event in 1932: “The Phantom of Crestwood” (the movie) finished the story that began in “The Phantom of Crestwood” (the radio drama), with audiences forced to pay at the box office to hear how the mystery was solved. Otherwise, it’s your standard old dark house thriller, with a surprisingly creepy death mask offering the most memorable moments. Before the days of “Law & Order” and “CSI,” studios cranked out hundreds of movies like this, short whodunits that weren’t aimed at being cinematic art. Instead, they were just aimed at helping Depression-era audiences pass an hour or so worrying about the crazy problems of people on the big screen — as opposed to the more pressing problems of their daily lives. If it doesn’t quite work as well 80 years later, that’s because no one could imagine anyone — even a movie geek like me — would still be watching movies like “The Phantom of Crestwood” so far into the distant future.
    “Lucky Devils”
    And as a movie geek, I found this 1933 film the most interesting of the three. It’s a wild-and-woolly action picture focusing on a group of devil-may-care stuntmen led by Bill Boyd (before he became famous as Hopalong Cassidy). There’s not a whole lot of plot, but there are some crazy stunts, all performed by desperate men trying to earn a few bucks in the early days of the Great Depression. What with all the special effects, insurance contracts and, well, common sense, you just don’t see this sort of thing anymore — thankfully. Dedicated movie fans will want to keep an eye out for a young Lon Chaney Jr. He’s so young, in fact, that he’s still being billed by his given name, Creighton Chaney. Before too long, he’d be starring in monster movies like “The Wolf Man” and studios would be cashing in on his dad’s fame by calling him “Lon Chaney Jr.” in the credits.
    Page 2 of 2 - Contact Will Pfeifer at 815-961-5807 or wpfeifer@corp.gatehousemedia.com.
     
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