Paul Muni is ‘Scarface’ in the original gangster masterpiece on Criterion Channel

The original Scarface (1932), loosely but boldly based on the notorious life and legend of Al Capone, didn’t invent the modern American gangster film. It blew it up. Films like The Public Enemy and Little Caesar had whetted the American moviegoing appetite for crime movies that reveled in vicarious thrills before delivering a sentence of […]

Gary Cooper bids ‘A Farewell to Arms’ on Amazon Prime

A Farewell to Arms (1932), the first screen version of Ernest Hemingway’s novel, is not the most faithful adaptation—at 90 minutes, it was greatly reduced and Hemingway himself was quite vocal with his displeasure at the adaptation of his semi-autobiographical story—but almost a century later it is still the most passionate and moving version. Gary […]

‘The Bride of Frankenstein’ – a delirious sequel on Peacock and Criterion Channel

Boris Karloff wrings even more pathos from his plight as the misunderstood monster and Elsa Lanchester’s hissing, birdlike performance as the bride made her an instant icon.

The original ‘Frankenstein’ on Peacock

“It’s alive! Alive! In the name of God now I know what it’s like to be God!” James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) is the granddaddy of modern monster movies. Universal was looking to a follow up to the tremendous success of Dracula when it assigned sophomore director Whale to helm an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s famous novel […]

‘The Big House’ – the original prison picture on Criterion Channel

The 1930 The Big House, directed by George Hill from a script by France Marion, is the original men-in-prison drama in terms of the way it established the conventions. There’s the pecking order of tough guys behind bars, the culture of loyalty, the sniveling snitches, the prison reform speech from the tough but committed warden […]

Gloria Stuart stars with Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, and Ernest Thesiger in James Whale's classic horror comedy

James Whale’s ‘The Old Dark House’ on Criterion Channel and Kanopy

James Whale followed up his iconic horror classic Frankenstein (1931) with the strange, sly, and sardonic The Old Dark House (1932), part haunted house terror and part spoof executed with baroque style. Boris Karloff (fresh from his star-making turn in Frankenstein) takes top billing in the supporting role of Morgan, the scarred, mute butler with […]