Night at the Crossroads (La Nuit de Carrefour, 1932) / A Day in the Country (Partie de campagne, 1936)

Director/Screenwriter/Actor: Jean Renoir By Roderick Heath Sometimes a famous name can be a boost or a burden. Or just a name. As the son of one of the most lauded Impressionist painters, Jean Renoir’s attraction to cinema gave the young art form an aura of matured sophistication, but might well have also lifted a few …

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Fährmann Maria (1936) / Strangler of the Swamp (1946)

Director: Frank Wisbar By Roderick Heath Frank Wisbar is today a fairly obscure name in the roll of classic film directors, and yet lovers of horror cinema still remember him for making two of the genre’s finer deep cuts, each film a variation of the same story, made ten years and continents apart. Born in …

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Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Director: James Whale By Roderick Heath Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus is a foundation text of both the science fiction and horror genres. Born of a dull, rainy summer by Lake Geneva by the brilliant young bride in the company of her famous husband Percy, his even more famous friend George Gordon, Lord …

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Think Fast, Mr. Moto / Thank You, Mr. Moto (1937)

Director/Coscreenwriter: Norman Foster By Roderick Heath J. P. Marquand had a serious reputation as a writer in the 1930s, but he’s been remembered to posterity chiefly for his sideline in pulp fiction. He created Mr. Moto for the Saturday Evening Post in 1935 as a replacement for Charlie Chan, whose creator Earl Derr Biggers had …

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The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Director: Josef von Sternberg By Roderick Heath In the hectic days of 1920s Hollywood, Jonas Sternberg, son of Austrian Jewish emigrants who had lived in the United States since childhood, was just one of many prodigious blow-ins. But he worked his way up through the ranks, and eventually appended an exotic, aristocratic background to his …

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The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

The Days of High Adventure: A Journey through Adventure Film Director: Harold Young By Roderick Heath The true romantic adventure film is a rare breed. Not an action film where a romance is grafted on as a momentary distraction from stunts and gunfights, a romantic adventure film generates excitement not just by posing danger to …

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Hell’s Angels (1930)

Directors: Howard Hughes, James Whale, Edmund Goulding By Roderick Heath Few movie productions can be described as legendary events, but the making of Hell’s Angels has surely achieved that status. This mythologising reached its zenith with Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004), which documented the extraordinary dash and cash expended on Howard Hughes’ colossal industry-crashing project. …

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Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Directors: Sergei Eisenstein, Dmitri Vasilyev By Roderick Heath In the decade after he reshaped cinema with his then-experimental technique in works like Strike (1924), Battleship Potemkin (1925), and October (1928), Sergei Eisenstein became a peripatetic semi-exile when Stalin’s rise made life uncomfortable for him at home, and the international film scene beckoned. And yet he …

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