By The Decade: 3 Great Films From The Thirties

After the recent Quick Read on ‘Give It A Go’ films received such a great response, I thought I’d ask you to join me in a little experiment.

To expand my cinematic horizons, and inspire anyone who reads this to try new films, this is the first entry in a series of Quick Reads* asking for your top films from a given decade of cinema.

Each entry will name a decade, I’ll give you a few of my favourites from that period and ask for yours too – you can give reasons if you like, or just send a title and a year and I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the next showing and see what the fuss is about.

Basically, if you’re a fan of movies from this period, which films would you recommend to someone who hadn’t really tried cinema from that era?

Kicking off with the 1930s then, and in no particular order, three of my favourites are…

The Invisible Man (1933)

I’ll be honest, if you’d asked me six months ago it’d have been a completely different entry from the Universal monster back catalogue, but following a virtual watch-a-long with an old friend in lockdown, my love of this film grew significantly.

See, I’d remembered it as one of the more lighthearted films of that era – years after last seeing it, the worst thing I remembered Claude Rains’ mad scientist doing was stealing a bike and knocking someone’s hat off. Upon watching it again though, two things surprised me – firstly, the tone is way darker than I’d remembered, with some incredibly callous murders leaving blood on his invisible hands, and secondly, the effects have really held up after all this time.

There’s also some really inventive camera work and editing which lifts The Invisible Man bandaged head and shoulders above Universal’s Dracula and Frankenstein… at least until I watch those again and remember how great they are too.

The Thin Man (1934)

There were plenty of screwball comedies released in the thirties, and plenty of them were good. Not many of them had a relationship between the two leads that shone quite so brightly as the sparks between Myrna Loy and William Powell in The Thin Man.

They play off each other so beautifully, and there’s such a clear fondness between the pair that whenever they’re not on screen the film does seem to sag a little.

Alright, it’s pretty light, but there’s also a decent mystery at its heart to boot, which means it’s worth watching for more than just the central couple and it’s dated pretty well. The film itself is genuinely funny too, even after 80-odd years, with slapstick, wordplay and general boozy shenanigans, plus there’s a terrific canine actor too – what more could you ask for?

Murders In The Rue Morgue (1932)

I’ve spoken about this one before, so I’ll keep it kind of brief here except to say this is another one from the Universal pre-code stable and really inventive, brilliantly shot and features a great performance by Bela Lugosi.

The deaths are surprisingly brutal, the sets are amazing, the camera gets fixed to a damn swing for one shot, and Lugosi shows us there’s more to him than scowling behind a cape (alright, he’s being a mad scientist, but it’s still range, isn’t it?).

The Blu-Ray set I got this on has been discontinued, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take too much snooping online to be able to find a way to watch this one and I’d highly recommend seeking it out if you can.

What have I missed?

I’ll be honest, as much as I love film, the 1930s isn’t a decade I’m incredibly knowledgeable about – that being said, once I started checking the shelves, I was surprised at the number of discs from that era that were knocking about on there.

If truth be told, I hesitated a little on The Thin Man, as it’s one I only saw for the first time in the last 18 months, but I remember it so fondly, it made the list. Maybe I’ll add one or more of the backups to the eventual follow-up to this Quick Read, providing you lovely readers submit some recommendations of your own!

You know what to do then – take to Twitter, Facebook or the comments section and let me have your films from the thirties that you either love or recommend!

*this could be the first and last in this series, depending on how well the experiment goes!

UPDATE: You can now read the full list of recommendations from Late Reviewer readers here!

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