For Reel


Down to Their Last Yacht (1934)
May 29, 2016, 2:32 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Paul Sloane
3 Stars
Down to Their Last YachtBelonging to a delightful trend of surrealist comedies in the early 1930s (including films by the Marx Brothers, Wheeler & Woolsey, and Million Dollar Legs), Down to Their Last Yacht plays as an equally bizarre take on Paramount’s admittedly more satisfying We’re Not Dressing. The early-goings are actually played with a nice efficiency in the storytelling—within minutes, we’re introduced to a family of three being knocked off the social register and finding blue collar work when the Depression strikes. Before long, they’re renting out their family yacht for bourgeois travelers to voyage on the south seas. When the skipper (Ned Sparks) purposefully runs the boat ashore on a tropical island, the pleasure-seeking elite find themselves held captive by an ex-socialite island queen (Mary Boland) who complains that she needs mental stimulation because, “These Polynesians seem to be so busy lovemaking they haven’t the time for much else!” The picture was reportedly a financial disaster, and without the big name stars that kept other surrealist pictures palatable, the film has mostly left audiences flummoxed. But if you’re interested in seeing Boland dressed like a peacock and threatening to feed innocent civilians to sharks, this is for you.



Traveling Husbands (1931)
March 1, 2012, 10:28 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Paul Sloane

The sadly overlooked Evelyn Brent – she of Josef von Sternberg’s Underworld and The Last Command – is first-billed in the rare RKO pre-Code feature, Traveling Husbands. She plays a prostitute who, midway through the narrative, shoots a notorious womanizer who had been aggressively making a move on an innocent young girl. It is later revealed that the victim had once had an affair with Brent, and, lovelorn, she became saddled with her profession and vowed revenge. Her role is that of a superhero feminist – stemming from the actions that transpire after the attempted murder, several of the titular husbands decide to take better care of their wives and remain loyal to them. It takes a while for the plot to find its focus and, when it does, things drag due to how little Brent’s character is given. Not only is her whole history withheld until a climactic speech, but before then she is given little substantial dialogue that might suggest her intentions. Good as she is, ambiguous reaction shots until the third act don’t quite satisfy. Late in the picture, the spouse of the victim delivers a wrong-headed, condescending speech about how wives need to be patient and understanding of their husbands. While the film touches on some interesting ideas relating to gender, it is precisely that noncommittal moment that spoils the whole thing.