Saturday, May 08, 2021

Pardon Us (1931) Laurel & Hardy

Laurel and Hardy's first feature-length comedy. They play a couple of "beer barons" during Prohibition who are arrested for selling alcohol to a policeman ("I thought he was a streetcar conductor," Stan says).

The episodic structure feels very much like a series of shorts patched together to an hour's running time. Familiar faces from the Laurel and Hardy stock company pop up in various roles: Walter Long, Tiny Sandford, James Finlayson, and Wilfred Lucas in a memorable turn as the fiery prison warden.

There's a prison "schoolroom" scene with Professor Finlayson teaching basic spelling and math to the convicts that is quite funny for the incongruity of the hardened inmates behaving like naughty schoolkids.

There is also some great slapstick in the final prison break scene, including a hilarious bit with a hose and a ladder as the Boys attempt to rescue the warden's daughter from a burning building. This scene wasn't in previous versions of the film that I saw years ago on VHS and TV, but it seems to have been re-instated some time in the last decade.

Summertime (1955) David Lean

A light, frothy romantic comedy by David Lean. Katharine Hepburn is a secretary from Akron, Ohio on vacation in Venice, where she is quickly swept up in the romance of the city and falls in love with shopkeeper Rossano Brazzi.

Gorgeously photographed in color, entirely on location in Venice, providing a postcard-perfect backdrop for the paper-thin plot.

Feels very much like the kind of comedy Billy Wilder might have made around this time.

The Tall Target (1951) Anthony Mann

Dick Powell plays NY detective John Kennedy, who is traveling to Baltimore to foil a plot against Lincoln's life on the eve of his inauguration. When he can't convince his bosses to take the threats seriously, he turns in his badge and sets out by train to reach Baltimore before Lincoln's arrival, trailing several people (including an army colonel played by Adolphe Menjou) that he suspects might be involved in the assassination plot and stand in the way of his investigation.

The whole thing is filmed very deliberately like a contemporary Noir, with high-contrast B&W cinematography, lots of steam and wet streets, etc. It's an interesting experiment in taking a period setting and a fictionalized version of historical events, and taking a deliberately contemporary approach to filming them.

A gripping thriller that runs a tight 77 minutes.