Monday, April 30, 2012

Born to Dance (1936)

“What’s this all about?”
“Boy meets girl.”

            In true typical MGM fashion Born to Dance is very much boy meets girl story. It follows the plot of boy meets girl, they fall in love, a misunderstanding arises, the misunderstanding involves some heartache, then the misunderstanding gets resolved, the heartache goes away, and boy and girl live happily ever after. I think it is safe to assume that everyone who has ever watched movies in their life has seen this exact scenario played out hundreds of times especially in musicals. But when a musical like Born to Dance does and makes it fun the plot is enjoyable and leaves you wanting more.  
            Ted Barker (James Stewart… Yes, I said James Stewart) is a sailor for the US Navy. His ship has just pulled into New York Harbor. He is given leave for the night so he heads out with two other sailors Gunny Saks and Mush Tracy (Buddy Ebsen). Gunny is looking for his wife that he married and a few days later he left and has not seen her in four years!
            Nora Paige (Eleanor Powell) is a dancer. She has been in New York City for weeks. Nora had an audition but she did not get a place in the chorus. She goes to a hotel called Lonely Hearts where she meets Jenny (Una Merkel) who works the front desk. At first Jenny is a little rude and mean to Nora but they make nice and become friends. When Nora tells Jenny she is a dancer Jenny has her dance for the guests in the lobby.
            Gunny tracks Jenny down to the hotel. At first Jenny mistakes Ted for Gunny and when she sees Gunny she is not happy. Ted sees Nora by the bar and says hello. Nora is not too sure about him at first but before you know they are singing and dancing together and in love.
            The following day the famous stage actress Lucy James comes aboard the ship at the request of the captain who had dinner with her the night before. All the men clamor around her and the captain is nothing but tickled when he gets to take a picture with her for the paper. In an effort to impress the actress the captain “accidentally” throws her dog overboard. All the sailors jump over to save her dog with Ted the one who saves it. Lucy’s publicist comes up with the idea to create a romance for publicity. Ted had promised to take Nora out on a date in the park the same night. Lucy keeps Ted from seeing Nora that night.
            Nora is very upset with Ted especially after seeing his picture with Lucy in the paper that morning. Jenny wants to see Gunny and to tell him that they have a daughter so she takes the daughter and Nora to the ship. Jenny needed to build up to the fact that they have a daughter so Nora saves her and says that the girl is her daughter. Nora says this in front of Ted getting him back for the night before. She tells Ted that she is already married to another sailor.
            Nora gets a part in Lucy James’s new Broadway show as her understudy and a part in the chorus (even Mush gets a part!). When Lucy has a fit over a song on the piano saying that she cannot dance to it and storms off to her room the director asks Nora if she could dance to it. She does but Lucy comes out of her furious and makes the director fire Nora. Jenny tells Ted what happened to Nora and that Nora is not really married with a kid. Ted gets his revenge on Lucy by calling the papers saying that they are getting married. The publicist and Jenny are furious but Ted says he will only call if they let Nora be in the show. Lucy storms out and refuses to perform thus giving Nora her first Broadway starring role.
            The whole cast was just perfect. Eleanor Powell is so adorable. She was not the best actress but MGM had hired her for her dancing. There were a few scenes of Powell where I could not get over her face she was so pretty and adorable. Powell’s dance numbers were incredible she was so unbelievably talented. She seemed to have so much energy and to thoroughly enjoy dancing. I can never get over her legs how muscular they were from tapping so hard.  James Stewart I am not too much of a fan of but he was good. I was cracking up when he had to sing and dance. Compared to everyone else in the film he was so stiff when he had to dance a little. His singing was not bad he actually did a great job to the point where Cole Porter, who wrote the songs, said that he sang the best version of one of numbers. Una Merkel, Sid Silvers, and Buddy Ebsen stole the whole film. Merkel and Silvers’ story line was so funny and both of them were so good. Ebsen was a good dancer and he was very funny but he kind of freaked me out when he danced he looked so awkward and creepy!
            My favorite scene in the film is when Nora and Ted go out to a department store and take a look at a furnished model house. Ted is totally disgusted and does not want to listen to the salesman’s shtick but Nora will not let him leave because she does not want to interrupt the poor guy. The next thing they know they are being shown to the bedroom. The salesman has Ted sit down on the mattress and bounce on it and the whole canopy falls. Powell’s faces to Stewart were so funny and Stewart’s face after the canopy fell was priceless.
            The songs by Cole Porter were alright. It was interesting to hear I’ve Got You Under My Skin as a ballad. I just finished reading a book on Irving Thalberg where the author writes about when Porter went to the producers to perform his songs he wrote for the film. Thalberg came in and did not look happy to be there, Porter noticed and got a little nervous. By the end of the performance of the songs Thalberg had a big smile on his face having enjoyed the songs. Apparently Thalberg had no ear for music so who knows what he was really thinking. Also, the day Irving Thalberg died production of Born to Dance and several other films that were filming were shut down even though they were not his productions out of respect.
            Born to Dance may seem like a typical extravagant MGM musical… well it is but it is so good and so enjoyable that the overused plot fades away. Eleanor Powell’s marvelous dancing and Una Merkel’s comedic timing and wit are really what make Born to Dance so much fun to sit through.   

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Silent Sundays: The General (1926)

Depending on where you read about Buster Keaton’s 1926 film The General or what review you are reading the film is considered to be Keaton’s best. I think after reading reviews of this kind I had high expectations for The General and fell flat. But despite this set back I found the film to be fun and amusing.
            Keaton is Johnnie Gray engineer of a train called The General. He has two loves in his life one being his train and the other his sweetheart Annabelle Lee. The day he comes home and visits Annabelle her father and brother arrive with the news that Fort Sumter has been attacked and that the war has officially begun. Johnnie plans to enlist and is the first one on line at the recruitment office. Unfortunately the army will not take him because he is an engineer and say he will be more useful that way. Johnnie is heartbroken and to make matters worse Annabelle’s brother tells her that he did not even see Johnnie on line to join. She says that Johnnie is a disgrace and that she does not want to speak to him until he is in uniform.
            Not long later Annabelle needs to visit her father who has been injured. She travels on The General. On the train also happens to be Union officers who plan to steal the train and travel north. Johnnie makes a stop at a station when the Union officers steal the train. Annabelle is on the train when it is stolen. Johnnie steals another train and gives chase to his beloved train. The chase becomes very drawn out and a battle as the Union officers try to throw whatever they can in front of Johnnie’s train to slow him down.
            After a long chase the Union officers finally stop Johnnie’s train. The night is cold and rainy as Johnnie is lost in the woods. He comes across a house where he sneaks in to steal some food and to warm up. Men walk into the dinning and Johnnie sees they are the soldiers who stole The General. He quickly hides under the table and listens to their plans on how they are going to attack the southern army. Two soldiers bring in Annabelle and lock her in a room for the night. When the soldiers retire for the night Johnnie rescues Annabelle.
            The next day they come to the train depot where The General is stationed and being loaded. Under disguise as a bag of supplies Annabelle- being held over Johnnie’s shoulder- takes the pin out that holds the train cars together. Johnnie gets to the engine and takes off in a flash with his train. Another long chase begins. At bridge Johnnie burns some longs over the tracks to weaken it. He and Annabelle get the southern camp and warn the soldiers about the incoming Union army. The Union general tells his men to cross the bridge the fire is not that bad but the bridge collapses along with the train. A battle ensues and in the end the southerners win.
            Before Johnnie had left the station with The General he had really knocked out a Yankee soldier. The soldier woke up after the battle and Johnnie took him to southern general. For his part in helping to win and in capturing the enemy the southern general makes Johnnie a lieutenant.
            While I found the chase scenes to be a bit drawn out there were some very good moments in the film. My favorite was when Johnnie and Annabelle were I the woods after they had run away from the Union soldiers. Johnnie lost Annabelle for a few moments and was calling to her as he was sitting on a log. She pops up out of nowhere and scares him and he falls off the log. I do not know why but I was dying it was so funny. In the second chase Johnnie stops the train to fill it with water. The water is not coming out so he pumps it and instead of going through the pipe it gushes all over Annabelle drenching her.
            Buster Keaton was such a good actor. I liked seeing his climbing all over the train and becoming a hero in the end. My favorite scene of the whole film was at the beginning as he is walking to Annabelle’s house: two little boys are following him. Annabelle sees him and follows behind the boys without telling Johnnie. At the house he takes his time knocking on the door and when he does Annabelle lets it be known that she was behind him. The reason I love this scene is because of Keaton’s face when he sees Annabelle he looks surprised as well as nervous. His face and reaction was so sweet and genuine I loved it. I was cracking up with his scenes where he has to fire a cannon. He did it once in the first chase then at the battle against the northerners. The first time the cannon was aimed at his train because it fell but luckily the trains rounded a turn and the cannon hit the other train. The second time he shot the cannon straight up in the air but it hit the other northern train across the bridge.
            Although The General is not one of Buster Keaton’s best films and the train chases are a bit drawn out I did enjoy sitting through the film. Keaton was an excellent filmmaker and story teller. 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Adventure in Manhattan (1936)

One plotline you can usually count on seeing in old films is a newspaper reporter who is following a big story. He is hot on the trails of the bad guy because the police do not know what they are doing. Along for the chase is a girl the reporter has just met and is somehow involved in the case but they are crazy for each other even if they do not know it. In the end the reporter solves the case, gets the big scoop for a very frustrated editor, and gets the girl. That is how the Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur film Adventure in Manhattan plays out but with a few twists.
            The latest news in New York City is about a valuable ruby that has been stolen. Every newspaper in town is writing about with no variations. Editor Phil Blane (Thomas Mitchell) wants someone from his paper to add a woman to the story or anything just to make their paper different. In walks a young reporter named George Melville (McCrea). George is a very good observer which makes the other reporters think he can predict the future. He predicts what will happen based on past events and more so for the fact that he believes the thief is still alive under a different name.
            On his way home from the office he runs into a woman on the streets asking for money. Before he can give her anything an accident happens and runs away from the woman. When goes to leave he realizes his wallet has been stolen. George follows the woman to a salon where she comes out all nice with a new hairdo and dress. He grabs her by the arm tells her he is going to take her to the police but first he wants to take her out to dinner. Over dinner the woman named Claire Peyton (Arthur) tells George that today is her little daughter’s birthday and that she has not seen the daughter in four years. The reason she stole the money was to get herself fixed up. Out of sympathy George takes her to her husband’s house but when they get there the little girl has died. George takes Claire back to his place. She asks him for a favor to go get the ring her daughter was wearing. George goes to the house but no one is there and guard says that the owner has been away in Europe for months. When George goes to the telephone inside the house he gets the surprise of his life when the other reporters he was talking to that day come out telling him that everything was a joke. Claire is just an actress they hired to go along with the gag. They just wanted to pull a joke on him. A man named Blackton Gregory helped to put everything together he is a Broadway producer who happens to be financing Claire’s latest play.
            Still in the house the group hears a gunshot go off in the house next door. They learn that a priceless painting has been stolen. As the audience we find out that Blackton is the one behind the painting theft as well as the theft of the ruby. He plans to have George join his side after he finds out that George is a collector and admirer of artistic things.
            George and Claire meet for lunch. He tells Claire they are going to The Ritz and by The Ritz he meant his apartment. George plays it cute dressing up as a waiter with the apron and a hat on his head. All his has in his cupboards is cans of beans. Blackton finds his way to George’s place. They discuss the thefts and George explains why he believes the thief is still alive: the man wants the things that he stole because he could not purchase them they were not for sale.
            George makes another prediction. He tells his editor that the next place to be hit will be the vault in the bank next to the theater where Claire’s play will be running. Not knowing that Blackton is the thief Claire lets slip George’s prediction. Blackton has the robbery pushed back to the opening night. George is put to shame when the robbery does not happen since he boss had the whole story written up and ready to go for minutes after the robbery. For days after he is fired Claire is worried about George he seems to be going crazy. Blackton lets George stay at his mountain home to recuperate.
            From the way George is acting it may seem obvious that he has something going on that he is on track to catching the thief. With his observation, some acting, and Claire’s help George helps the police catch Blackton.
            Now I really liked Joel McCrea I feel he played his character very nicely. Reginald Owen was fabulous as Blackton Gregory he had the perfect look, mannerisms and speech for a bad guy. Jean Arthur I could not get into. The character was good I did not mind the character but Arthur I was not a fan of. This was the first time I have ever seen Jean Arthur in a film. I am not sure what I was expecting if I was expecting anything about or from her. For one thing her voice completely threw me for a loop it was a bit high and at times got annoying. I am not going to pass judgment on her acting until I have seen more of her films which I would like to do.
            When I first heard the newspaper editor Phil Bane speak I could not get over how familiar his voice was. All I have to say is thank God for IMBD because Thomas Mitchell who played Bane is Gerald O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. I love his Irish temper and love it and understand it even more when I read he was born and grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey (north Jersey is notorious for the bad, tough attitudes. And it is mostly where all the Jersey Shore- type people come from).
            Adventure in Manhattan is a cute crime story but typical of the time period. Definitely worth a viewing for Joel McCrea and the interesting twists with his character and the story. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Conqueror (1956)

“Come and take me, mongrels - if you dare. While I have fingers to grasp a sword, and eyes to see your cowardly faces, your treacherous heads will not be safe on your shoulders. For I am Temujin, the Conqueror. No prison can hold me, no army defeat me.”

            Before you really read this post or even continue reading it after you ponder this thought I want you to think about John Wayne as Genghis Kahn…. Ok are you hysterical laughing right now because it is perfectly fine to be totally confused and laughing at that thought. Well actually this is supposed to be before Kahn got the name Genghis in The Conqueror he is called Tamujin.
            It is not even worth me summarizing the plot because it is just so bad. Just know Tamujin starts a lot of crap because he wants to take the woman Bortai (Susan Hayward) from a rival tribe as his prize and wife.
            The acting is horrendous and when I mean horrendous I sincerely mean it. John Wayne is most definitely not the greatest actor ever but in this film he is just a joke. Every time he opens his mouth I have tears in my eyes from laughing. Susan Hayward who I adore and love as an actress was awful. Agnes Moorhead was in the film too and she just sucked. Every one of the cast members was bad. The acting is like a joke it is so bad. I feel especially terrible for Hayward and Moorhead because they were two fantastic actresses. It seems they were reciting their lines as if they just memorized them and give no feeling. Put this way a kindergartener could have done ten times better.
            Dick Powell directed the film. I do not know whether to say he did a good job or a bad job because of the acting. Powell got some great shots of the fighting and the scenery but it is as if he did not direct the actors at all.
            Now I am sure you must be wondering why on earth if The Conqueror is so bad why I ever sat through it. The first time I watched the film was in Film Club when two years ago in college. The kid that ran it found it at Wal Mart, read the bad, and just had to get it. He showed it to us and we were all laughing nonstop. We all had such a ball that is one of my favorite memories I have. There was one scene in the film with a dancing bear and one of the guys was laughing so hard that we had to rewind it again! I remember watching this film with my friends like it was yesterday I had such a good time.
            On the way back to my doorm I called my grandma to tell her about the film. I told her Susan Hayward was in it and she told me that Hayward was a great actress. I trust my grandma’s judgment when it comes to actors because she is very critical. I found some of Hayward’s other films and have since them become a fan of hers. If my grandma had not told me that Hayward was a good actress there would have been no way I would have seen her other films!
            So The Conqueror is one of the worst films ever made. I believe my friend told me that even when it was released it was just bad and that RKO actually had to bill it as a comedy after some previews. But guess who owns The Conqueror on DVD? That’s right I do! It is one of those films that are so bad it’s good. I have shown The Conqueror to some of my other friends and we laughed the entire time. If the film can be found online or if for some unknown reason TCM ever plays it sit and watch it you will not regret it haha. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We Were Dancing (1942)

“I chose my life, and I like it.”

            MGM was known for the fluffy films (“LB. Mayer loves his schmaltz so MGM made the great waltz”). The studio made them forever well into the fifties. One of their most overused plot devices was either a poor guy or a poor girl falling for the rich opposite sex and going through a lot of opposition because of family or friends or whatever the case may be. Sometimes the rich guy or girl is of some royal lineage which makes the plot all the more complicated. We Were Dancing was one of those rare instances in MGM (well to me anyway) where the main characters were both royalty but neither boy nor girl had any money.
            Norma Shearer plays a Polish princess with a long name but simply goes by Vicki. Melvyn Douglas plays an Austrian baron who also has a long name but simply goes by Nikki. They meet at a party one night and fall madly in love as they dance to a waltz (See!! LB Mayer did love his schmaltz and made the great waltz!). Their love could not come at a worse time, the party they are at is for Vicki’s engagement to lawyer named Hubert Tyler! Hubert’s aunt and uncle who are throwing the large party take Vicki and Nikki into separate rooms to try to talk them out of their infatuation with each other. The talks do not work at all they both wind up sneaking away into the night.
            That night they are married. Nikki and Vicki spend the night at this place… or to be more exact his guest bedroom he does not have a place of his own. Vicki notices that the service is not surprised that he is not alone which makes her a little made. Nikki is a professional partygoer. He goes to parties for food and somewhere to sleep. He gets Vicki to join him and she devises that they can go to parties and pretend not to know each other. She points out it will keep their romance fresh and exciting. They go to the party separately. In the train station Vicki runs into Hubert. She lies and tells them that she did not marry Nikki the night she ran away.
            At the party the hostess sees that Vicki and Nikki (ugh those names!!!) are eyeing each other. The hostess tells her that Nikki is a perfect guest and that he is very charming. Also invited to the party was Nikki’s old girlfriend Linda Wayne (Gail Patrick). Linda is all over Nikki making Vicki go nuts with jealousy but there is nothing she can openly do since no one knows they are married. Hubert also shows up he wanted to surprise Vicki since he still loves her. Nikki leaves his wife in her separate room. He tells her he will whistle as he walks to his room so she can follow. Linda is in the room next to her and she wakes up too when Nikki passes. In the morning the party is looking for Vicki and Nikki since they are not up to go hunting. They find the couple in the same room and the cat is out of the bag.
            The next party Nikki and Vikki go to they wind up being guests for a few weeks. After a few days and hearing that they are being kicked out for new guests Vicki has had enough. She wants to get a place of their own. Nikki gets the idea that he will actually get a job. On their way back to the city they stop at a little inn for some food. Of all the people in the world they run into they run into Linda Wayne. A combination of seeing Linda and Nikki going back to being his old self Vicki wants a divorce.
            Vicki gets the divorce and is once again engaged to Hubert. Nikki is upset and is willing to do anything to get her back, even going to far as to ask Linda for a favor. Linda is an interior designer and her competition is working on Vicki and Hubert’s home. Nikki goes under a different name and gets the job. Vicki is furious mostly because she still loves Nikki. At the engagement party Nikki and Vicki are right back at where they started. This time Nikki has a job and they run away to Hollywood where his job is.
            Norma Shearer and Melvyn Douglas were flawless together. Shearer’s acting was wonderful I never enjoyed her more. She was not the giggly annoying girl from her earlier films. She was mature and controlled. Shearer had a great comedic flare. I cracked up every time the princess would get mad she would rant in Polish which Shearer pulled off to perfection. I loved it when Vicki and Nikki are in bed the morning after they are married and she playfully bites on Nikki’s ear. This was Shearer’s second to last film she made in her career. It is a shame to think of what Shearer could have done since her acting (and she) had matured. Douglas was the perfect gentleman. He worked so well with any actress. I am convinced the man was a chemistry machine!
            Gail Patrick always played the other woman. She was gorgeous and should have been the leading lady more often.
            We Were Dancing was so cute and so funny. I truly enjoyed every minute of the film. I was just so happy to see a romantic comedy from MGM from the early 1940s where the characters were not rich royalty but broke royalty having a good time. This schmaltzy waltz by LB Mayer was incredibly enjoyable. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Key to the City (1950)

“When I think of my intentions on Telegraph Hill!”

            Alright so let’s put this out in the open because I am sure this bit of information is always mentioned when Key to the City is reviewed: in 1935 Clark Gable and Loretta Young made Call of the Wild together. A few months later Young, out of wedlock, had Gable’s child. When Key to the City was made the director knew about the affair which is why he casted Young. If she had declined rumors might have started up so she agreed.
            Ok good that is over with and mentioned. On to my review:
            A convention for select mayors from all over the country is gathered at a hotel in San Francisco. Clarissa Standish (Young) is the only female mayor that has been invited. She is smart and Harvard educated. Also invited is Steve Fisk (Gable) a rough and tough former longshoreman and mayor from Puget City. Steve brings along his advisor and trusted friend Fire Chief Duggan (Frank Morgan).
            Clarissa and Steve meet in his room where there was supposed to be a meeting but Steve called it off. Clarissa is all business and very professional so she was a little upset that the meeting was canceled and she did not hear about it. Feeling a little guilty about canceling the meeting and wanting to take Clarissa down a few notches Steve calls a meeting at a nightclub where a dancer, Shelia, he is sweet on is a performer there. When he sees Clarissa walk in Steve makes it a big deal with the band playing an entrance song and a spotlight on her. At dinner Clarissa said she did not realize that the mayors’ wives would be with them saying that she wanted to put some motions and propositions (in the business sense) before them and the wives give her a dirty look haha. While opening a bottle of champagne the top goes flying off and pops the balloons on Shelia’s costume. The incident causes a huge brawl and the police are called in. Steve throws Clarissa over his shoulder and takes her out before they are caught. Unfortunately they wind up getting caught and brought to jail. The police chief does not feel like taking the heat for incarcerating two mayors from out of town so he lets them go. Steve and Clarissa are sneaking out but they get into a fight and Steve leaves before her. Clarissa gets caught by a photographer and her picture is put in the papers the next day.
            Steve tries to make night the next morning sending her two dozen roses and some other things but that does not help she is still mad. Clarissa calls her uncle who is a judge in their hometown. He does not really comfort her he tells her that he was hoping she would live her life one day! That night Clarissa and Steve are invited to a party where they dress the way they were when they had their first kiss. Both were little kids. Steve has an in issue with his pants and goes out to the streets with his hat, rain coat, and only his socks and shoes on. He sees Clarissa and starts talking to her. She still does not want anything to do with him so she is a bit hostel with him. A cop walks by the two of them thinking that Clarissa is really a little girl and Steve is an older man bothering her. Again the two of them get thrown in jail but this time they get away without any incident.
            After their second jail escapade Steve takes Clarissa to Telegraph Hill. He puts all the moves on her making her a little nervous. Then she does the same thing back to him and he has no idea what is going on! Before the night is over they have each other thinking they are engaged! But when they get back to the hotel things go wrong and the engagement is broken off.
            Steve has to go back to Puget City for important business. Clarissa is upset and leaves.
            Things get a little complicated plot wise to explain but just know that Steve and Clarissa wind up together and engaged for real.
            Clark Gable and Loretta Young were fabulous together. Their chemistry was excellent you could really believe their characters loved each other. There was a good scene at the end where Steve gets into another fight and I mean it is a drag out smack down fight where his office gets completely trashed. Shelia shows up before the fight and she tries to pick a fight with Clarissa. Well Shelia had no chance because without breaking a sweat Clarissa completely knocks Shelia on her behind with some awesome moves haha.
            This was Frank Morgan’s last film before he died. The film was made in 1949 the year Morgan died but was released in 1950. Morgan went out on top he nearly stole the whole film. I was cracking up with him in one scene especially because Duggan was so concerned with fire safety and he nearly burns down the room when he throws a lit cigar in Steve’s pajama drawer! Duggan was so neurotic and all over the place and played that so well. Morgan was great.
            Key to the City is a cute comedy film. I enjoyed it very much, there are some silly parts that are perfect because they do not go over the edge. The story was good and the acting was wonderful.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Silent Sundays: Leave From Satan's Book (1921)

"But know thee that for each man yielding to thy temptation the doom upon thee shalt be prolonged by one hundred years, but for each one resisting thee, thou shalt be relieved of 1000 years of thy judgment. Get thee away and continue thy evil doings."

            The battle between Good vs. Evil is a story old as time. All films no matter their subject or genre have a story of Good vs. Evil. In religion, especially, there are always story of the two forces colliding. Like most of the world’s population I was raised a Catholic. The story of Jesus being tempted by Satan is one I have heard many times. I was told that Satan will try to tempt us to do the wrong things. Let me just say this I am not a religious fanatic. I have become over the years a C&E Catholic where I only go to church on Christmas and Easter. When I was in undergrad I had to take a religion class as a requirement so I took a class on the Old Testament and I liked the class and the professor so much I took his New Testament class the following semester.
            Anyway I am sure you are wondering why I am telling you about me being a Catholic. I should not be saying that as not to offend any of my followers or readers of this entry but trust me it goes along with the silent film Leaves from Satan’s Book I recently viewed. The film was one of the best stories I have seen I was hooked from beginning to end.
            The film is told in four acts.
            The first act takes places in Jerusalem in the time of Christ around Easter. Satan takes the form of a Pharisee. The rabbis and the Jews did not have a very big problem with Jesus until the Pharisee came along and started antagonizing them saying that Jesus wants to take their places and other things. The Pharisee sees Judas one day. He sees that Judas is torn about Jesus he does not know what to believe in. He tells Judas that Jesus is the Devil’s son that he (Judas) can do something about Jesus. Satan goes further telling Judas that Jesus is an imposter and that Israel has chosen him (Judas) to kill the Son of God. Judas being a weak man believes in what the Pharisee is telling him. The Pharisee tells Judas that Jesus will be arrested and to betray him with a kiss.
            The second act takes place during the Spanish Inquisition. A young friar named Dom Fernandez has been tutoring a beautiful girl named Isabella. Whenever he tutors he fantasies about being with her. At the end of a lesson he whips himself out of penance but even as he punishes himself he thinks he sees Isabella under the cross. Satan is the Grand Inquisitor. He tempts Fernandez into becoming an inquisitor where nothing will be denied him. Isabella’s father is an astronomer which at the time was blasphemous. The Inquisitor hears about this and tells his people to bring him in along with the daughter who will most likely be a heretic too since he believes it runs in the family. He sends Fernandez to bring both father and daughter him. The father is killed for his blasphemous practice. The Inquisitor holds a trial for Isabella but of course she is found guilty. He lets Fernandez continue the trial and the friar has his way with her. Isabella is burned at the stake.
            The third and longest act takes place during the French Revolution. Marie Antoinette has been taken prisoner. She sits lonely in her cell and constantly prays to god. She is to be beheaded like her husband. A count named de Chambord has been sentenced to die because he is a noble. He tells his loyal servant Joseph to take his wife and daughter away and hide them so they will not suffer the same fate. He takes them to an inn in Paris and hides them there in peasant clothes. At the inn the Jacobins hold their meetings. Joseph has started to become interested in the ideas of the Revolution. Satan as a former servant named Erneste Durand tells the young servant that he is now in a high ranking Jacobin club and tempts Joseph into joining. Joseph becomes a high ranking henchman for the club. He is to help get Marie Antoinette out of jail and to safety (*or so I believe I was a little fuzzy on that detail*).  The count’s daughter tells Joseph they can never be more anything more than friends. That night a letter is given to a judge by Satan dressed as cripple. The letter states that the person knows where the de Chambords are hiding. The women are arrested and brought before the judge. Satan points to Joseph as the informer when he did not write the letter but to save himself he says yes that he wrote it. Joseph was supposed to help save the queen but instead he informed and gave her away. Satan tells Joseph that he has murdered three women as well as saying “Murderer is you true name now, as Satan is mine. Eternal damnation to you who dragged me into your ruin.”
            The fourth and last act is modern to director’s Carl Theodore Dreyer’s time and his home country of Finland. It takes place during the Finnish civil war between in the Whites and the Reds in a small village named Hirola. A young woman named Siri has a husband named Paavo and two small children. A name named Rautamiemi is in love with her. He tries to get her alone and make love to her but she resists. He threatens that if she does not run  away with him he will inform the Red guards of Paavo’s work for the Whites. Rautamiemi is unsure of what side he belongs to until he hears a lecture by a monk named Ivan who is Satan. Rautamiemi becomes a Red and tells them about Paavo and his followers. Paavo has a wireless telegraph and phone hooked to the followers to send messages to them. The Reds and Ivan go to Paavo and Siri’s house. They want him to send a message to a location where they can head the Whites off and kill them. Paavo refuses and is sent to the woods to be killed. Paavo tells Siri not to send the messages no matter what. She sticks to what her husband says even though she is threatened with the life of her children. Rautamiemi wants to have Siri all to himself but Ivan tells him to wait. Rautamiemi never gets his chance with Siri as Paavo is saved. Siri has unfortunately taken her own life to protect her country.
            Finnish actor Helge Nissen who played Satan throughout the film was excellent. He deserves a lot of credit for his part in making the film so incredible. He truly gave me the creeps in the third act when he had to yell at someone. He looked like he had sharp teeth and black eyes.
            I loved the stories. I was glued to them. They were so sad and so moving at the same time. What I liked the most was seeing how Satan was fitted in to historical events and what forms and people he took. It really does make you think.
            Another aspect I liked was how the women were not the ones doing the tempting as the Bible like to make women out to be. I mean if you really think about it the women in the stories besides the first act are the reason why the men go astray and are easily tempted by Satan because they have been rejected by their lovers but they are not the ones who are tempting the men to destruction. Also the women in the film are very religious and pious. A woman washed the feet of Jesus, Isabella was praying on her altar when she was arrested, Marie Antoinette prayed constantly, and Siri had a crucifix in her home.
            Leaves From Satan’s book takes a very Catholic/Christian point of view of Good vs. Evil. At the time the film was made that was most of the world’s thinking (just take a look at why the production code was enforced and who really drove it to be enforced). I believe the Catholic thinking of the pitted natures is very interesting and philosophical. Honestly to me any religion’s view of Good vs. Evil and their origins is interesting. You do not need to be religious to enjoy and like Leaves From Satan’s book the stories will keep you enthralled.