Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three DVD review - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

Thread Tools
post #1 of 1 Old 02-18-10, 06:14 AM Thread Starter
Senior Shackster
Richard W. Haines's Avatar
Richard W. Haines
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY
Posts: 792
Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three DVD review

I screened the third box set of the "Forbidden Hollywood" series which I took
out from the library. As with the first two sets, these movies are worth watching
as 'curios' for those interested in cinema history but will have a very limited appeal
to general audiences. I say this with some hesitancy since I think it's noble of
WB and TCM to release these obscure titles on standard DVD which otherwise
would be very difficult to see since they weren't reissued or released to television.

The are advertised as "Pre-Code" movies as the marketing gimmick which doesn't
really apply to all of the six pictures in that "Other Men's Women" and "The Purchase
Price" are rather conventional romance stories without the notoriety or raunchiness
that is associated with the classification. As I mentioned previously, it's a convenient
but historically inaccurate term since there was a production code in place in 1930
although it wasn't rigorously enforced. The stricter code implemented in 1934 to
offset the threat of federal censorship by the activist FDR administration toned down
content for a few years but was incrementally chipped away at after 1939.

The noteworthy aspect of the six features in this set is that they were all directed
by "Wild Bill" Wellman who was an ultra-macho, tough guy film-maker along the lines
of Victor Fleming. What makes them interesting from a cinematic perspective is that
even though they are early Vitaphone 'soundies', Wellman used the camera dramatically
and kept it moving with interesting compositions compared to most others at the time
which kept the unit in an enclosed closet and filmed the story like a photographed stage
play. The quality of the imagery in all of the films is quite astounding considering how
old they are. Their obscurity meant that the nitrate negatives remained relatively mint
before they were transferred to tri-acetate safety film decades later. On DVD they literally
look like they are brand new with very little wear and excellent contrast and black levels.
If only the more popular films of the era remained as mint but alas, most are in pretty poor
shape due to damage to the negatives.

There is an incredible shot in "Other Men's Women" where the camera is on top of a real
moving train without the fake rear screen projection. James Cagney and another actor
are talking as he describes a fight he recently saw. In the background is an overhanging
rail guide and as the train gets closer and closer to the actors making you wonder if it
will decapitate them. Then at the last second, Cagney and the other actor duck as he
bends down to demonstrate how a punch was thrown. There are many innovative compositions
like this in these movies which illustrated that 'soundies' could be as visually interesting as silent
movies. Unfortunately, the sound suffers in these shots with some actors obviously off mike
and difficult to hear. Overall, the sound is mediocre in these pictures which is the trade off
of utilizing a mobile camera. At least Wellman actually does some modest scoring in
a few scenes rather than limiting the soundtrack to source music coming out of a radio or
phonograph like the rest of the movies in this series. The art of motion picture scoring was
launched with Max Steiner's "King Kong" in 1933 as previously mentioned in my other review.

Wellman was known as being a boorish and abusive director with a volatile temper
who yelled and screamed at the cast and crew to get what he wanted on screen. While
the actors didn't like him personally, they did admit his technique worked and they gave
good performances. His reputation was based on his work on "Wings" which was the first
movie to win an Oscar and later dramas like "The Ox Bow Incident". In general he was the
most effective when dealing with a subject matter he had experience in like war films. Wellman
was a pilot in the first world war and understood the torment soldiers went through.

The problem with Wellman is that he was a 'contract director' within the studio system and
didn't launch projects which were appropriate for his worldview but rather did the best he
could with assignments as a 'work for hire'. Most directors had to operate that way during
that era although some like Capra, Ford and Hitchcock were able to initiate and guide stories
that were close to their interests. Wellman is very stylish but the scripts he was given for
these six movies were pretty bad. Very melodramatic plots with rediculous narratives that
tended to migrate all over the place. Some like "Heroes for Sale" seem to be three plots
strung together randomly without a connecting thread. In addition, these early Depression era
stories contained some heavy handed politics. There is a communist character
in "Heroes for Sale" and some preachy dialogue about how FDR is going to save the country
and end the Depression. The "New Deal" did not solve our economic problems and made them
worse. World War II restored full employment for the duration of the conflict.

The most interesting of the melodramas is "Wild Boys on the Road" about an army of homeless
youths wandering around the country setting up shanty towns in junk yards
and garbage dumps to survive. They pan handle or steal to eat while government
agents attack them to force them to move out of town. The ending is very hokey
but it's otherwise an unsual tale about living in the depths of the Depression. The cute tomboy
girl in the story ended up as Wellman's fourth wife in real life. One son,
William Wellman Jr. is a dead ringer for his father.

"Frisco Jenny" and "Midnight Mary" are about trampy women and are more associated with the
"Pre-Code" content that made them controversial at the time.

There are two non-critical documentaries about Wellman's career that are mildy interesting.
A bit better than 'puff pieces' but they don't delve too deeply into the content of the movies
themselves. I guess what you could say about the director is that he clearly had some talent
and style but rarely had good scripts or stories to work with for most of his career.

I recommend these DVDs to those who find this era of cinema interesting to study.

Last edited by Richard W. Haines; 02-18-10 at 06:52 AM.
Richard W. Haines is offline  


collection , forbidden , hollywood , review , volume

Quick Reply

Register Now



Confirm Password
Email Address
Confirm Email Address
Random Question
Random Question #2

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address



Activation requires you reply to an email we will send you after you register... if you do not reply to this email, you will not be able to view certain areas of the forum or certain images... nor will you be able download software.


See our banned email list here: Banned Email List

We DO NOT respond to spamcop, boxtrapper and spamblocker emails... please add @hometheatershack DOT com to your whitelist prior to registering or you will get nowhere on your registration.

Email Address:


Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.

Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML is not allowed!
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome