Cinecon 52 Classic Film Festival Report with Plot Summaries, Movie Reviews and Ratings

Featuring my reviews, ratings (from 1 to 10, 10 being tops), plus plot summary for each of the films screened at the Cinecon 52 Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, California. To be held over Labor Day weekend from September 1st to September 5th 2016 at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. REVIEWS coming after the event.

For more information about the festival visit :
Cinecon Classic Film Festival

Announced films to be screened (note: subject to change)

Cinecon 52 Schedule

My Reviews for Cinecon 52 Films

Cinecon 52 is now over and a good time was had by all. I saw many of the films that were screened over the five day event and am now working on my reviews for the films seen - will gradually post each write-up and report as completed.
(Please note the films reviewed on this site contain plot summaries and may contain SPOILERS.)

Movie Screenings Thursday September 1, 2016

  • JUNGLE MYSTERY (1932) - A twelve chapter serial that was considered lost until recently. All 12 of the chapters were screened at this year's Cinecon, spread out over the course of four days. I saw 8 of the 12 chapters shown (I had to miss some based on needing to get more sleep). I found the story in this serial hard to follow, so am pretty vague on the exact details of the "plot" here - but I did find this rather interesting, in a sort of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" kind of way (so bad, it was actually rather amusing).

    The "jungle" setting of this gave me the feeling of a sort of weird amusement/theme park for tourists to experience the jungle, sort of like a Jurassic Park but filled up with all sorts of African jungle animals. And this place was absolutely "teaming" with animals (via stock footage) roaming and running all about: elephants, lions, tigers, herds of some sort of gazelles, monkeys, crocodiles. And then there was a couple of other strange creatures running about as well - what looked like a man in a gorilla suit, and "the" jungle mystery: a sort of half African human, half ape creature that likes to hang in trees groaning. The story seemed to involve some men who crash land their plane into the jungle and are confronted by some other "bad" men who are angry because they believe these new fellows are there to find the ivory they seek. There is also a father and his pretty blonde daughter, desperate to locate her brother who has gone missing. The girl ends up being a big bimbo, dumbly running into the jungle alone and getting into all sorts of scrapes and close calls. She's usually being rescued by one of the men after being attacked or almost falling into a pit of crocodiles. She also gets captured and held captive by the bad guys, who are trying to find out where the ivory is hidden and believe the new men have the answer. As the male lead and his pals roam about the jungle, one or the other seems to continually get attacked by a lion or that man in gorilla suit. There's also a big game hunter who is featured in a running gag throughout the serial where he shoots at some poor wild critter and misses it, but never blames himself for his poor aim. Then, when a lion gets caught in a hunter's net, he shoots the poor thing at close range and proclaims himself a great hunter - jeez, what a turkey (I was hoping, when watching this, that no animal was actually harmed in the filming of this - I have my doubts on that score). There are also a few native African tribes in this jungle, some are friendly, some not so much (I think I did hear mention of headhunters somewhere in this tangled tale). And there is a group of African slave women locked in some hut (one crazed woman is about to kill the blonde with a big knife just before she is, yet again, rescued).

    All in all, rather campy fun - wish I had been able to see all the chapters. One chapter I missed was actually the last one, chapter 12 (was struggling to stay awake through several of the movies on Sunday after two days in a row of only four hours sleep, so had to go home at the dinner break and try to catch up on sleep). I would love to know how this weird and wild tale all turned out! By the way, there was a contest done between films (on the Sunday, if I'm remembering correctly) and three men went up front to compete for a prize for best imitation of the Jungle Mystery half-man/half-ape creature's wild roar. This was quite funny and really made me laugh - all three contestants were really good at this too. Rating - * 6.5/10 stars *

  • LOOKING FOR TROUBLE (1934) - PLOT SUMMARY - Brisk-paced story, a tale of telephone repairmen who, while busy going about town fixing various company's wire connections and climbing about doing repairs on high wires, get mixed up in a gambling den and murder mystery. Casey (Jack Oakie) is a cocky practical jokester who likes to pull old-timey pranks on people like the "joy buzzer", exploding box of matches, and, yes, the infamous "Whoopee cushion" - yikes. He has just transferred himself to Los Angeles from his self-described position as top repairman of Azusa. Repairman Joe (Spencer Tracy) has just lost his regular partner, Dan, who refuses to work the night shift (possibly off "visiting his sick mother", I think is mentioned here) - so Casey is, on the spot, assigned to partner up with Joe for the evening. Joe and Casey arrive at a gambling club to do repair work, where they spot bad Dan. While repairing the telephone, Casey overhears the cops call in a police raid on the joint and he tells Joe - Dan hears about the upcoming raid and warns the club owner, causing the raid to fail. Our boys get the blame but they tattle on Dan, who is promptly fired. Meanwhile, Joe is dating Ethel (Constance Cummings), a pretty co- worker who works on the line of girls who handle phone calls on the information desk. Seems she has been secretly stepping out with Dan 'cause she finds beau Joe to be too inattentive (he likes to work late - she's just a girl who wants to have fun, at least until he marries her). She ends up quitting her job and going to work for Dan as his rather inept secretary - his latest move is running a scheme with a few other men in which they are operating a fake "realtor" business as a cover while they are secretly wire-tapping the investment firm next door in order to steal inside dope on stocks. Well, Dan ends up murdered and a mystery forms over whodunnit! Ethel ends up getting accused by the cops of the crime and Joe and Casey set out to find the true killer. Suspecting Pearl, a hard-edged seductive blonde who worked at the gambling den featured earlier in the film, they try to locate her but find out (via her landlady) that she has moved to Long Beach. Our boys start calling every phone number in the Long Beach area phone book in an effort to find her - and when they do, they arrive to get her confession only to be struck by a big earthquake!
    REVIEW - Actors Spencer Tracy and Jack Oakie team well together, making for a pleasant pairing as characters Joe and his sidekick Casey. This is an entertaining, slickly done, easy to watch film boosted up by good performances - of course, anything with Spencer Tracy in it always seems to be good! The film's climax, featuring the big earthquake and it's destruction of the city, are scenes that are particularly well done and realistic looking -- the setting was stated in the film as Long Beach for this segment, so obviously imitating the actual Long Beach earthquake of 1933. The view of the latest "thirties-style" telephone equipment is interesting. This crime drama includes some humor here and there, mainly via actor Jack Oakie. This was the first of four Jack Oakie films screened at Cinecon 52. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Friday September 2, 2016

Movie Screenings Saturday September 3, 2016

  • THE FIGHTING LEGION (1930) - PLOT SUMMARY - B-western starring Ken Maynard as clean-cut, strong-jawed cowboy, Dave Hayes, who comes across Dawson, a Texas ranger recently murdered by a shot in the back. With his trusty, goofy, grizzled (and stereotypical) sidekick Cloudy by his side, our cowboy picks up the ranger's badge and heads into the nearest town - an old frontier town that is pretty much just a hotel and a saloon filled with assorted "bad guys" and oddball characters like "the Hook brothers" (Ed, Fred, and Red). There's also the hotel owner's daughter Molly (Dorothy Dwan), known as the "prettiest girl in town" (and who, obviously, will shortly catch the eye of our handsome leading man). When the badge falls out of his pocket, the townsfolk proclaim Hayes to be Dawson, Texas ranger -- and he is thus given the town's best hotel room. He decides to go with his new mistaken identity as he sets out to find Dawson's killer - and there's plenty of disagreeable roughnecks and tough guys in this town to choose from. And as for Molly - yes, she certainly does catch our cowboy's eye, but she ends up being a sort of prop in this story, screaming or simply standing around in most of her scenes.
    REVIEW - I would call this film lightly entertaining with a touch of humor to it. Interestingly, this movie starts out silent with title cards (plus soundtrack and sound effects), then about halfway through switches to sound - and I barely noticed the transition as it really didn't make much difference to the feel of this film! Our cowboy hero rides a beautiful white horse named Tarzan, who rather steals the show here. Being not so much of a big B-western fan, I don't know if I have seen actor Ken Maynard in much of anything before - he kept reminding me, while watching this, of the actor (Richard Burgi) who currently plays character Paul Hornsby on my well-watched daytime soap, General Hospital (yes, I don't *only* watch old movies). Rating - * 7/10 stars *

  • A MILLION BID (1927) - PLOT SUMMARY - In which a scheming mother who is out of funds attempts to sell off her beautiful daughter, Dorothy (Dolores Costello), to the highest bidder. Dorothy is in love with a handsome young "mental health" specialist (Malcolm McGregor) who she has been writing letters to while they have been apart. She has received no responses from him and can't understand why. A rich man, Geoffrey Marsh (Warner Oland), offers one million dollars to Mama and a marriage is arranged - but Dorothy warns her suitor that she doesn't love him and could never love him. He accepts that (he seems to think she will "learn" to love him) and she agrees to marry him (since she doesn't know if she will ever hear from the young doctor again and worries that he has lost interest in her). The honeymoon night on Marsh's yacht, and our Dorothy locks her new husband out of her room! But that doesn't stop him - he busts the door down and is about to get what he thinks he "deserves" out of this marriage (love or not). Forcing himself on her, she pushes him and he falls and hits his head and then - a huge storm at sea sinks the boat, throwing everyone overboard. Dorothy is rescued, her mother and new husband presumed lost at sea. Her old love, the brain doctor, arrives home and tells her he never received any letters from her - and never received any answers to the letters he wrote! Then, in opening up Mama's trunk, rescued from the ocean, Dorothy finds both stacks of letters unopened - seems Mother's been bad! Dorothy and Doctor get married and have a little daughter. A few years go by and an amnesia victim turns up, rescued from an isolated island. Our doctor plans to perform surgery on this man, and restore his memory. Turns out, the rescued man is Dorothy's "not" deceased first husband, Geoffrey Marsh. What a quandary - if his memory is restored, he will remember her and she will lose her new family and happiness.
    REVIEW - This was one of my favorite silent films screened at this year's Cinecon. The film featured Italian inter-titles, so a live translation (done very well, by the way) was done while this film was runnning. Very entertaining, interesting melodramatic story and photography. I thought actor Warner Oland was really good in this, great facial expressions. While this film was going, I had this weird, vague idea I had seen this before (or something with similar plot), but I don't think I have (yet, I seemed to know what was going to happen and was correct). Rating - * 9/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Sunday September 4, 2016

  • PLAY SAFE (1927) - PLOT SUMMARY - Silent thrill comedy, starring Monty Banks. Pretty, blonde Virginia (played by Virginia Lee Corbin) is a rich heiress who will gain sole control of the successful family business (a factory with hundreds of employees) when she comes of age - which is soon, apparently. The trustees want to quickly marry her off to an undesirable older man so that they can keep control of her company. Caught in a rainstorm, Monty helps rescue her from a baddie who is attempting to molest her and/or steal her purse as she huddles in front of a doorway to a saloon. He brings her up to his apartment, helps her dry off, lets her wear his pajamas, feeds her beans, and makes fast friends with her - he even lets her spend the night at his place while he pretends his usual practice for the weekend is to "stay with friends". She tells him her name is "Bill". Next day, he rents a car, picks up "Bill", and takes her for a ride which ends up destroying the car! As it happens, he is an employee of her company (unaware of who she is) and when the trustees notice Virginia's interest in him, they promptly fire him. A gag then places him in a job line where he spots the owner of a shop across the street putting up a "man wanted" sign -- he grabs the job, which ends up being to move this enormous jug onto a truck. Of course, the jug is broken and he quickly makes a run for it, hiding back in the line. Eventually, Virginia and Monty are chased by the men who are trying to keep them apart and they end up on a runaway freight train that is speeding along curving tracks, high up in the mountains. A heart-pounding ride, with Monty being chased, running along the top of the train, he eventually manages to separate the caboose from the rest of the train as Virginia and him are on the roof. Then he ends up hanging on the end of a long plank that is hanging off the top, with him dangling high above the ground miles below. Somehow they must get this train to safety before it's too late!
    REVIEW - The action-packed, fast-paced climax on the runaway train is a WOW and totally makes this film worth seeing. Exciting and very well done, filled with one, amazingly done, hair-raising stunt after another. These scenes are quite impressive and the action was certainly made more thrilling as seen on such as large screen as that at the Egyptian theatre. I have enjoyed the antics of comic Monty Banks in a few other shorts and movies I've seen over the years, but I think this film showcased him at his best. Rating - * 9/10 stars *

Movie Screenings Monday September 5, 2016

  • TIN PAN ALLEY (1940) REVIEW - I have seen this one a few time before. I love, love, love Alice Faye - and Betty Grable too. This musical has never been one of my most favorites, but looked pretty good on the big screen. Rating - * 7/10 stars *

  • GIRL SHY (1924) REVIEW - This is my long-time favorite Harold Lloyd film - I have seen this at least 30 (or more) times before; I have never seen it looking so good as this fabulous looking print looked on the big screen at the Egyptian Theatre. I will write up a plot summary for this soon. Rating - * 10/10 stars *

  • THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949) REVIEW - Never saw this one before - really good, taut action thriller. Rating - * 8.5/10 stars *

  • SO THIS IS PARIS (1926) - PLOT SUMMARY - Frothy farce about two couples who live across a Paris street from each other, with windows that have a view into the other couple's living room. Maurice and Georgette Lalle are busy rehearsing a dance number, dressed in full Arabian costume. Across the way, Suzanne Giraud (Patsy Ruth Miller) is reading the latest sheik romance novel (the secret indulgence of most married ladies, apparently). When she glances out the window she sees Maurice sitting in the window, wearing a turban, and she gets all hot and bothered, her heart gone aflutter with excitement over the view of this "sheik". Her hubby, Dr. Paul Giraud (Monte Blue), arrives home and glances out the window to see Maurice, now with turban removed, looking as if he's nude (at least from the waist up). Paul disapproves of this sort of exposure in front of his wife, who he notices swooning on the couch. He decides to cross the street and clobber Maurice. But when he arrives at the Lalle home, the door is opened by Georgette (Lilyan Tashman) who, by coincidence, is one of Paul's old girlfriends. Happy to see each other again, Paul and Georgette reminisce about the old days and their happy frolics together. A few days later, she calls up and pretends a man is in need of a doctor, but really just wants to meet up with Paul. He heads to the address where he believes this "patient" to be, and gets stopped for speeding on the way there. He talks his way out of a ticket by claiming his patient may die if he's not there quickly, but then gets caught by the cop at the Paris cafe where he is now having a flirtation with Georgette. Sentenced to three days in jail for speeding (and insulting the arresting officer), he is to report a few days later at the prison to serve his sentence. Instead - he accompanies fun-loving Georgette to the "Artist's Ball", being broadcast live over the radio. His wife is home alone, listening to the broadcast, and overhears her hubby and Georgette announced on the radio as winners of the Charleston contest! Then Maurice suddenly arrives and flirts with her - throwing flowers from a vase at her, one by one. The police show up at her door to pick up Paul, who never showed up for his appointment in jail. Maurice takes over as hubby and ends up, weirdly, going willingly to prison in place of the doctor!
    REVIEW - I am a big fan of Ernst Lubitsch films, this didn't disappoint. It is visually interesting, highlighted by the wonderful "Artist's Ball" cabaret scene filled with live jazz orchestra and costumed dancers doing the Charleston, with overlapping images via double exposures showcasing the frenzied, wild atmosphere of this mad frolic. According to newspapers accounts from the day, three hundred girls appear in this scene to dance the Charleston - one hundred of which happened to be appearing in several musical comedies that were playing in Los Angeles when this was being filmed. The other two hundred girls were chosen from Charleston contests held around Hollywood. A fun comedy romp - I really enjoyed this. I would love to be able to see this one again! Rating - * 9/10 stars *


10 = Absolutely Fabulous/Superb
9 = Really Good/Excellent
8 = Good
7 = Fairly Good/Decent
6 = So-so, some flaws
5 = Mediocre
4 = Not that good, many flaws
3 = Poor
2 = Very Poor/Stinker
1 = One of the worst BOMBS ever filmed

Silent era films in review

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