best film:  The Bride of Frankenstein by Whale

  • The sequel (four years after the original apparently because Whale would only agree to do it if he had complete artistic control) lacks some of the narrative genius (this is far removed from Mary Shelley’s book) and novelty of the 1931 original but we have a much heavier influence of gothic set design, The Cabinets of Dr. Caligari German Expressionism and I think that makes this the superior film and a borderline masterpiece
  • There’s a very interesting homosexual reading of the film which came to light decades after the film—the monster and his bride to not hit it off and we have him and the hermit getting along so well
  • The hermit sequence is pure narrative tenderness but is a pretty quiet period stylistically
  • Very detailed sewer, lab, cemetery and prison—the visuals here are superior—we have gorgeous gothic interiors at the castle as well- almost every scene is laid out with ornate woodworking, great work in shadows with the lighting, candle work both add to the lighting and the detailed and busy mise-en-scene
  • Elsa Lanchester dual role here with her playing the bride and the Shelley character in the very good opening prologue author introduction and recap
  • Harshness again- two fatalities in the first two minutes
  • Many love the intentional campiness and humor here in the second film—mainly here from Una O’Connor’s crooning and tongue-in-cheek wit.
  • Many of  the shots are taken from canted odd angles—changing the floor or baseline or even blocking part of the mise-en-scene intentionally a la von Sternberg

harsh expressionistic lighting, shot at obscure angles in James Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein

the sequel has a much heavier influence of gothic set design, The Cabinets of Dr. Caligari German Expressionism and I think that makes this the superior film and a borderline masterpiece

most underrated:   Toni is ranked at #1441 on the TSPDT consensus. I think it’ll make my top 500 the next time I update it.

  • Toni is a prime example Renoir’s trademark poetic realism—and it foreshadows both Italian neo-realism (the subjects being Italian doesn’t hurt when thinking about this comparison) movement and the Hollywood noir antihero’s that would pervade so many quality films from the 1940’s-1970’s
  • It starts with a prologue about Babel and the immigration story and how it is a true story (the prologue is clearly marked and set apart from the rest of the film)
  • Renoir’s elegant fluid camera. Walking with the immigrants as they get off the train and listen to diegetic guitar music to open the film (which will make for a formally sound and tragic bookend)
  • Complimenting a film’s authenticity is hard as those rules and expectations change over time—the characters are speaking French, but I believe look passably Italian. This is realism- they’re working the quarry, the film is largely plotless, there are fights galore (this has a dark side to it like La Chienne—very raunchy stuff for 1935)
  • Like The Rules of the Game there is unrequited love, flirting, jealousy as major themes
  • A stunning shot at 31 minutes as we are again tracking along with the camera. We go from the guitar player to a row of people listening, to Toni in bed with Marie— there is another really impressive tracking shot as Renoir’s gliding camera moves along the line of the wedding party with people singing at minute 33.
  • A standout mise-en-scene photographic moment with Marie standing on a boat with reflection in the water
  • Here again we get the guitar player (five times in total I believe) and it’s clearly a part of Renoir’s formal structure-  brilliant
  • Remarkable stylistic standout sequence is the murder scene- dueling close-ups with the camera moving it—it seems impossible this scene and film didn’t influence Demme’s Something Wild—directly after this shot we get the camera floating into the house after the gun shot with Toni

Remarkable stylistic standout sequence is the murder scene- dueling close-ups with the camera moving it—

… it seems impossible this scene and film didn’t influence Demme’s Something Wild

  • Another shot at 77 minutes as Renoir’s camera slips back to reveal a cop watching Toni – and yet another stunner with someone yelling at Toni in the foreground while Toni is way off in the background running
  • The ending is perfect- great film form—and it packs a wallop as we end up at the train station with more immigrants getting off the train singing just like the beginning. Stirring.

 

most overrated:  Top Hat is certainly one of the better Astaire/Rogers films, if not the best, but it doesn’t below so close to the top 500 (currently at #518 on the TSPDT list).

gem I want to spotlight:  Captain Blood by Curtiz. Sure, The Mutiny on the Bounty has Gable and Laughton but the Curitz film is my choice here. It’s very entertaining and was the first of four Curtiz/Flynn collaborations to make it in the archives including The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Dodge City. Sit back and enjoy the rousing score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

 

trends and notables:

  • Genre filmmaking by the studio system dominates 1935. Hitchcock is at the beginning here of being a genre unto his own for the next 40 years but we have horror (Universal’s The Bride of Frankenstein), comedy (A Night at the Opera), the musical (Top Hat)  and the action/adventure film (Captain Blood) along with Hitchcock’s thriller (The 39 Steps– this is the blueprint for North by Northwest) all rounding out five of the top six films of the year.

Genre filmmaking by the studio system dominates 1935. Fred Astaire in Top Hat here

  • It’s not quite as strong but we’d have also have a massive wave of literary classic adaptations. In this year alone, the archives is filled with A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), Anna Karenina (Tolstoy), Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), David Copperfield (back at Dickens again) and Les Miserables (Hugo). They are all fine films for sure but couldn’t match the work of the top films of the year.
  • It is just a time of transition with the great auteurs. We haven’t heard from Eisenstein in almost a decade, Lang is in transit here from Germany to the US, Murnau has past away, Chaplin has six years five years between his films, Keaton is long since done at this point and Pabst’s last archiveable film is 1933 as well.
  • Also, though not a top 10 of the year quality film- Becky Sharp would be the first three strip Technicolor film- an important innovation.
  • He doesn’t quite get a mention below but worth noting Laughton in the archives three this year (Red Gap, Les Miserables, Mutiny on the Bounty)
  • The archiveable debut for George Stevens at the helm for Alice Adams
  • First time archiveable films for both Michael Curtiz and his star Errol Flynn in Captain Blood

The 39 Steps– this is the blueprint for North by Northwest

best performance male:  It is a quiet year here– only Charles Biavette playing the titular character in Renoir’s Toni gets a nod.

best performance female:  Nothing here for this category in 1935.

 

top 10

  1. The Bride of Frankenstein
  2. Toni
  3. The 39 Steps
  4. A Night at the Opera
  5. Top Hat
  6. Captain Blood
  7. Mutiny on the Bounty
  8. The Informer
  9. Peter Ibbetson
  10. Ruggles of Red Gap

this is from The 39 Steps– Hitchcock and Renoir have strong entries in 1935– but it is just a time of transition with many of the great auteurs. We haven’t heard from Eisenstein in almost a decade, Lang is in transit here from Germany to the US, Murnau has past away, Chaplin has five years between his films, Keaton is long since done at this point and Pabst’s last archiveable film is 1933 as well

Archives, Directors, and Grades

A Midnight Summer’s Dream- Dieterle R
A Night At the Opera– S. Wood HR
A Tale of Two Cities- Conway R
Alice Adams- Stevens R
Anna Karenina- C. Brown R
Becky Sharp- Mamoulian R
Broadway Melody of 1936 – Del Ruth R
Captain Blood- Curtiz HR
Crime and Punishment- von Sternberg R
David Copperfield- Cukor R
“G” Men-  Keighley R
Les Misérables- Boleslawski R
Mutiny on the Bounty-  Frank Lloyd HR
Peter Ibbetson- Hathaway HR
Ruggles of Red Gap- McCarey, HR
Sylvia Scarlett- Cukor, K. Hepburn R
The Bride of Frankenstein-Whale MS/MP
The Informer- Ford HR
The 39 Steps – Hitchcock MS
Toni– Renoir MS
Top Hat- Sandrich HR

 

 

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives