For Reel


Ghosts on the Loose (1943)
October 30, 2016, 5:07 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Beaudine
2 Stars
ghosts-on-the-looseGhosts on the Loose was a transitional film for the East Side Kids, who were ditching their “juvenile delinquent” roots for broader, less specific comic personalities. Leo Gorcey’s malapropisms come to the fore, Huntz Hall firmly takes his place as the second lead, and this would be the last film to star personalities like Sunshine Sammy Morrison, arguably the highlight of the group’s horror comedy outings in the early 1940s. Unfortunately, although the title and the reteaming of the gang with Bela Lugosi show potential, the film barely qualifies as a horror picture—Lugosi plays a Nazi spy who attempts to scare the men out of a mansion largely through the use of rotating paintings. Director William Beaudine has a fine sense of tone and sustains a few suspenseful sequences due to the pacing, but the screenplay simply isn’t inventive enough to keep much interest. Worse yet, the plot simply takes too long to get going—about a third of the film is spent at a wedding, free of genre thrills and a discernible lack of narrative progression. Later horror-comedy pictures from the team, including the enjoyable The Bowery Boys Meet the Monsters, display a better understanding of the genre hybrid by not skimping on the inventive horror elements.



Make Me a Star (1932)
March 25, 2014, 8:18 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Beaudine
5 Stars
Make Me a StarParamount made an appalling miscategorization when they billed Make Me a Star as a comedy. In fact, it is among the most cynical of classic movies about the Hollywood system. The picture follows Merton Gill (Stuart Erwin), a small town grocer who longs to be a screen cowboy. He makes his way to Hollywood and waits for his big break… only when he gets the one he wants, he blows it. To make matters worse, an actress who pities him (Joan Blondell) gets him a starring part in a comedy that he misunderstands as being a western melodrama. That the resulting picture is a grand success and positions him as a potentially successful comedy star doesn’t help his humiliation in the slightest. Erwin’s performance is as brilliant as any from the period–it is absolutely uncompromising in its earnesty, with Erwin playing it straight to the point where he initially comes off as little more than a rather drab oaf with grand delusions. His manner of speaking is noticeably different than those he shares the screen with, taking longer pauses and over-annunciating certain words. It’s no wonder that he’s eaten alive by the fast-talking, high pressure studio system. A word should also be said for Joan Blondell, giving a reliably terrific performance while generously elevating Erwin’s performance even higher. It’s a heartbreaking film, only Erwin doesn’t know it for much of the picture–that Blondell shows the extent of her guilt with consistency makes his performance and the film all the more wrenching. The picture is also fascinating for historical purposes, involving a number of glimpses of the filmmaking technology from the period.