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Mystery & Crime Series 30's & 40's

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mysto, Apr 10, 2018.

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  1. Rustifer

    Rustifer Screenwriter
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    A gaggle of squealing girls can sometimes be just the ticket for a film, e.g. Bye Bye Birdie, A Hard Day's Night and some Elvis Presley opuses.
    But I digress from the subject matter of this thread....
    I found it somewhat sad that Tom Conway (George Sander's look-alike brother and subsequent debonair lead in the Falcon series) was an incurable alcoholic by 1965 and living in a $2-a-day room in a Los Angeles flophouse.

    upload_2019-1-7_12-48-54. upload_2019-1-7_12-49-58.
    Tom Conway and George Sanders
     
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  2. Rustifer

    Rustifer Screenwriter
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    And you're getting perilously close to that magical 1,000 "Likes" benchmark.
    Keep it going, bro.
     
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  3. Mysto

    Mysto Supporting Actor

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    Ah! What can I say. They like you more than me.:P
     
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  4. Rustifer

    Rustifer Screenwriter
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    Nah. I just have more posts. On a ratio basis, you're well on track.
    You're the 3M-- Mystery Maven Mysto.
     
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  5. Message #605 of 801 Jan 7, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Cheers, Marv, glad to know my ramblings have been of some use!
    500 posts - woo-hoo! Will try and contribute a few more to help get this thread to 1,000.
     
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  6. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Supporting Actor
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    Amen to this, Russ! While I love the in-thread facilities of this forum, the thread organization is virtually un-navigable. I've tried several times to find threads on other subjects, with no results other than extreme frustration. I recall that I couldn't even find this thread until Marv provided a direct link.
     
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  7. Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Screenwriter

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    Yes, a very sad end for a likeable actor. As I've said before, while I'm a great admirer of George Sanders, I think Tom Conway makes for a superior Falcon. He also turned in fine performances in several other films, including Cat People, The Seventh Victim and I Walked with a Zombie for Val Lewton.

    At least he made it to 62. Poor, sad Gail Russell (who I just watched the other day in the Randolph Scott western Seven Men From Now) drank herself to an early grave. She was only 36.

    [​IMG]
     
  8. Rustifer

    Rustifer Screenwriter
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    Hey, Marv---it's okay if you don't agree with some of my views. You can let me know. I mean, don't get nasty about it or anything--but I enjoy a spirited tête-à-tête discussion. There are more than just a few of my posts in the 77 SS thread that get gleefully thown back at me by participants as wrong or skewed or whatever.

    I don't take umbrage to this.
    I just calmly find out where these people live and send a large individual by the name of Vinny to their home to "discuss" our differences...

    [​IMG]
    Vinny.
     
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  9. Message #609 of 801 Jan 8, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2019
    Mysto

    Mysto Supporting Actor

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    Dr. Fu Manchu

    [​IMG]
    Warner Oland

    The Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu (1929)
    The Return of Dr. Fu Manchu (1930)
    Daughter of the Dragon (1931)


    [​IMG]
    Boris Karloff

    Mask of Fu Manchu – 1932

    [​IMG]
    Henry Brandon

    Drums of Fu Manchu – 1943 feature of 1940 serial

    [​IMG]
    Christopher Lee

    The Face of Fu Manchu – 1965
    The Brides of Fu Manchu – 1966
    The Vengeance of Fu Manchu – 1967
    The Blood of Fu Manchu – 1968
    The Castle of Fu Manchu - 1969


    [​IMG]
    Peter Sellers

    The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu – 1980 Spoof

    Sax Rohmer created the evil genius Chinese Fu Manchu in a series of novels starting in 1913. A criminal mastermind with a mastery of hypnosis and an inexhaustible knowledge of poisons. So started a legend of both the villain and the moustache.

    We have had a discussion about racial stereotypes in many of these B movies. I have stated that in most of them I didn’t think they were or at least not intentionally. This series is different as it was born as a racial stereotype in a response to the perceived “Yellow Peril” in the early 20th century. When Rohmer wrote the first Dr. Fu Manchu novel, he claimed that he got the idea when he queried an Ouija board about the greatest threat to the white man and the response was CHINAMAN. This master villain creation sold over 20 million books. The crime action series appeared on the silver screen as early as 1923 with two silent serials – Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu and Further Mysteries of Dr. Fu Manchu the following year (now both lost films). Sound films followed soon after in 1929 starring first Warner Oland for three outings and then Boris Karloff did a one off. Another serial was born in 1940 and Wikipedia reports that the US State Department asked for a halt on further productions (Remember China was our Ally in WWII). They claim it didn’t surface again until 1965 when Hammer films revived the super evildoer for a series of horror films starring Christopher Lee. That appears to be untrue. A feature film version of Drums of Fu Manchu was released in 1943 apparently in spite of the request of the State Department.

    This series is one of the reasons why I am kinder to Charlie Chan than some of the critics. In Fu Manchu and in fact pretty much all of the early American cinema, Asians were portrayed as villains. People that were odd – different – not to be trusted. In Charlie Chan we find the Asian is not only the good guy, the smart hero, but someone we can rely on to help and protect us. America was growing up.

    The last film in the Fu Manchu series, The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu, was a spoof by Peter Sellers (His last film). Some found it an offensive stereotype (it definitely is not politically correct ) – I found it making fun of, not the race, but the character (Fu Manchu) as the world had come to realize that Fu no more represented Asians than Ming the Merciless from Mongo did. I think this film signaled we’d moved on. Fu Manchu had become just a villain from a long list of villains from all over the world.

    From here on out we will move on from this discussion and look at these as films. These are characters in a story, and for me, have no relationship to reality. If you find them hurtful or offensive, I would move on to other series. These films are history for better or worse and I think we have grown and gotten better.

    As we already mentioned Fu Manchu movies started with a pair of lost silent serials in the early20’s but the sound films first made it to the screen in 1929. This was very early in the sound film era (so early the first one was released in both a sound and a silent version so that theaters not yet equipped for sound could screen it) and it shows in the production. There were three films (four if you count the short in Paramount on Parade) starring Warner Oland. This is very significant for us mystery series buffs as he would go on to play the first Charlie Chan. I’m sure his success as an Asian in this series helped him get the part as Charlie Chan.

    In the first outing, The Mysterious Fu Manchu, a motive is given for his fiendish attacks. He is a friend and trusted by the English (in fact an officer sends his daughter to be in his care) but during the boxer rebellion a British shell kills his wife and son. He vows vengeance on the families of the British officers involved for three generations. I found the movie to be a little hard for watching. Being a very early sound film the acting is stage bound. The sound recording is so poor they were complaining about it in Harrison’s 1929 movie reviews. The performances can be over the top reminding one more of an early play than a movie. The butler, William Austin, was intended as comic relief. He might have been a real knee slapper in 1929 but just comes across as silly now. I did find the story mostly kept my attention but the pacing was uneven, and I felt Neil Hamilton and Jean Arthur did a good job. This will never be a favorite of mine but it gets a 7 on IMDB so others must like it more than I. If you are into older films and can overlook their quirks you may enjoy this and the remainder of the Oland series. It is fun to see what Warner was doing before Chan.

    [​IMG]
    Jean Arthur fills the female supporting lead with grace and beauty.

    The next actor to play Fu was Boris Karlof in Mask of Fu Manchu. He had already played Mr. Wong in the self named series. This movie became infamous later when it was re-released in 1972 and gained protests from a Japanese group complaining it was racist toward Asians.

    The film is the real bad boy of the group and if you are looking for PC move on. It is wonderfully camp with Boris chewing on the scenery and can be a romp if you view it that way. I would watch it again just to see lovely Myrna Loy in one of her many “exotic” roles before the glorious Thin Man series.

    [​IMG]
    Did I mention it had Myrna Loy in it?

    [​IMG]


    Next came the serial Drums of Fu Manchu released in 1940 and re-released as a feature in 1943. Here’s a short clip from chapter 5 from youtube. Judge for yourself.



    The series lay dormant for over twenty years until Hammer resurrected it. These are no longer what I would consider vintage mysteries but are closer to the spate of 60’s spy movies spawned by the James Bond craze. If you like Chris Lee – if you like Hammer – you’ll probably like these, others may want to check one out before buying the entire series. Low budget action crime thrillers in the Hammer style but more fist fights than blood. These get 5’s on IMDB and I agree not terrible but not great. Take a look at the trailer:



    In the 50’s there was a 13 episode TV series, The Adventures of Fu Manchu. I think they are kinda fun.


    The Oland movies appear to not be available from commercial sources so you’ll have to buy from alternate sources. NBC Universal apparently owns Mysterious Dr. Fu Manchu and has blocked it on youtube but has not seen fit to release it.

    Daughter of the Dragon is on Youtube and for sale on Amazon from third party sellers.

    Mask of Fu Manchu is available as part of a collection on Amazon and is available for rent on youtube.

    Drums of Fu Manchu serial is available at Amazon. I haven’t found a source for the movie version.

    The Hammer series is available separately or as a set commercially.

    Vengence of Fu Manchu is on archive.org

    The TV series is on youtube and can be purchased on dvd from various sources.
     
  10. Rustifer

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    Excellent, Marv--as always!
    I especially like your tidbit about Sax Rohmer's character being born from a Ouija Board, though I'm still pondering the correct grammatical use of "an" versus "a" as a definite article before 'Ouija'. Seems as if "a" speaks better than "an". Picky, picky, picky.
    It has been a long while since I've seen a Fu Manchu movie, and I'm now inspired to watch one of the earlier ones again to see what I think about it. I agree with you that Charlie Chan films were not only more politically correct, but also more theatrically sound.
     
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  11. Message #611 of 801 Jan 8, 2019
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    Jeff Flugel

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    Great stuff as always, Marv! I see you haven't lost your mojo when it comes to these overviews.

    I've read some of the Fu Manchu books but haven't seen the Karloff Mask of...need to remedy that some day. I do quite like the first of the 60s Fu Manchu movies, Face of Fu Manchu. Set in the 1920s with good period detail, nice action and a solid cast, including Lee, Nigel Green, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Dor and Tsai Chin (coincidentally, both Bond girls in You Only Live Twice). Here's a piece I did on the film:

    http://thestalkingmoon.weebly.com/the-stalking-moon/chop-suey-bond-the-face-of-fu-manchu-1965

    The sequels to this one get progressively worse and worse (the last few directed by schlockmeister Jess Franco).
     
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  12. Message #612 of 801 Jan 8, 2019
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    Mysto

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    General rule for "an" as I remember is proceeding a vowel sound. i.e. An apple. I never understood the British use of An Historic occasion but maybe it's because they drop their H's.

    So maybe it depends on how you pronounce Ouija - OhWeeGee or WeeGee?

    The proceeding has been my feeble understanding and in no way should be considered as my knowing anything. If you follow the lost you get what you deserve.
     
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  13. Mysto

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    I had read most of your stuff but forgot you had done a piece on Fu Manchu. Well done as always.
    Mask of Fu Manchu is so over the top that it's a must see for those that don't take offense. The first reveal of Karloff with his face distorted in the mirror. Karloff bending electric bolts with his bare hands. It just goes on and on. And Myrna smiling as she bids they whip the prisoner faster. They don't make them like that any more - and probably wouldn't be allowed even if they wanted to.
     
  14. Message #614 of 801 Jan 8, 2019
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    Rustifer

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    I have never heard anyone pronounce Ouija as OhWeeGee.
    Answer your door, Marv. Vinny's just arrived.
     
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  15. Mysto

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    :rolling-smiley:
     
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  16. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Supporting Actor
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    That is correct.
     
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  17. criblecoblis

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    Two vowels in succession, each belonging to a different word, require some sort of consonantal separation to maintain intelligibility when spoken.

    Just saying.
     
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  18. Message #618 of 801 Jan 10, 2019
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    Rustifer

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    The Professor has weighed in. Somebody has to put a check on our grammatical rambunctiousness.
     
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  19. Message #619 of 801 Jan 10, 2019
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    Mysto

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    Grammarians!... Grammarians!
    We don't need no stinkin' pedantic; persnickety; puritanical and prescriptivist poppycock grammarians! :D

    We is movie peoples!

    Rob and Russ - this thread would be a lot less fun without you guys!
     
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  20. ponset

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