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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: King Kong (1933)


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

There are some novels or albums or films that have a clearly underlined thesis. The writer, director, or musician is overtly telling you what the whole point of this specific work is. Sometimes, like in Fargo, you don’t get treated to the treatise until late in the story. In other movies, however, if you’re paying attention at all, you will be told what the point is of what you’re about to see right off the top. 1933’s King Kong is one such film, giving the audience unambiguous bookends that make the same statement about itself. And in case you’re really not sure, one of its characters repeats the same idea more than once during the body of the film. It’s an entirely stupid, old-fashioned, and poorly proven thesis, but there it is, hitting you over the head. I would argue though, that there is another main theme to Radio Pictures’ iconic giant monster movie that can at least be argued to be valid and meaningful.

Join me below and we’ll have a chat about it.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Dracula (1931)


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

When considering the history of any art, craft, or set of knowledge, there will invariably be works which are both hugely important, without which the entire subject may be wholly different, and undeniably flawed. I think it can be argued that Todd Browning’s 1931 version of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, fits that general description. The film is undoubtedly iconic in some of its imagery and resulted in an enormous pop culture footprint that still persists today. It also possesses some genuinely fine work in its 74 minute running time. Unfortunately, the movie contains flaws that are hard to ignore. Some of these flaws are a matter of approaches not aging well, while others are simply a matter of poorly executed storytelling, both from a writing and visual point of view.

Come along, and we’ll talk a bit about both the best and worst of Dracula.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Vertigo


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

As a puzzle focused on movie posters, some of the chosen films or versions of their posters featured on it are not necessarily top notch. None of this can be said about the amazing poster for Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller, Vertigo. The great designer Saul Bass produced a wide array of promotional images for this Hitchcock masterpiece, but the above one sheet version has become one of the most famous and striking posters in film history.

However, Vertigo is much more than a great marketing campaign. The film was worked on by some of the legends of the art form, and it shows. Although the movie’s reputation had gained steadily over the years as film lovers continued to see it over and over, a dramatic million dollar restoration and re-release of Vertigo in 1996 allowed even larger numbers of people to fully appreciate the beauty of Hitchcock and company’s work on it. Despite mixed reviews on its initial release in 1958, it has become one of the standard members of any compiled list of the finest films ever made, and actually replaced the legendary Citizen Kane at the top of Sight & Sound’s 2012 critics list.

Join me below, and we’ll discuss this amazing poster and film. Oh, by the way, there will be enormous spoilers for the movie after the break, so if you haven’t seen Vertigo yet I’d recommend you go take care of that momentous lapse in judgement first and then come back and finish reading this article.
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Building My movie Posters Puzzle: A Night at the Opera


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Following last week’s inspection of the great transatlantic comedy duo Laurel and Hardy, comes one of the most highly praised efforts of the even more famous American immigrant comedy team, the Marx Brothers. Although there were five different brothers who joined the act at different times, the three most well-known show off the true depth and versatility of their talents in A Night at the Opera, an expression of sheer unadulterated entertainment. As is often the case with comedy, it is difficult to write a lot about this movie specifically without risking taking the air out of it. I’ll cover some of the background for the production and the history of the brothers in general, but to get a real sense of the thing, you’ll want to search out A Night at the Opera for your own viewing pleasure. It is one of those movies that it is entirely possible to smile all the way through.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: The Painted Veil


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

When I set this task for myself, there were obviously some of the included films that I had already seen and there were some others which I had yet to experience. Of the latter group, my anticipation in tackling them has varied for a range of reasons. A movie like For Whom the Bell Tolls comes with its own attached literary and historical interests beyond the content of the actual film. Meanwhile, something like Tarzan the Fearless was an opportunity to consider a character whose wild popularity has mostly dissipated in the intervening years. This time around, the primary interest was in getting an additional look at a legendary film actress: one Great Garbo.
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Building my Movie Posters Puzzle: American Graffiti


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Funny how powerful nostalgia can be, even when it’s not for something that’s directly your own. In the case of George Lucas’ 1973 film American Graffiti, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the characters themselves are pretty darned sentimental to begin with. Curt (Richard Dreyfuss) and Steve (Ron Howard) are recent high school graduates on their last night at home before they’re supposed to fly away to college and the film as a whole serves as an inspection of transitions personally and societally. Set in 1962, this is a movie full of people who have not yet heard of The Beatles and are still playing out the routines and styles that had been established in the late 1950s. Enough so, that if you ask a bunch of people who haven’t seen the movie for a while, they probably think it’s set earlier than it is. Let’s investigate the unique sentimentality and nostalgia of a movie that was actually pretty revolutionary for its time.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: The Bride of Frankenstein


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Last year I covered the first installment in Universal’s Frankenstein series starring Boris Karloff and Colin Clive and now, with both represented on my puzzle, it’s time to take a look at the 1935 follow-up Bride of Frankenstein. The film has been, especially in later years, widely considered to be superior to the classic original and as director James Whale’s masterpiece. Critics Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss of Time Magazine made this declaration in 2005 as part of the publication’s “All Time 100 Movies” series. The same opinion has been expressed subsequently by high-profile sources such as Entertainment Weekly, The Boston Herald, and Playboy. But is this an easily affirmed estimation of its merits, or is there a more complicated answer to the question? Join me as I share some information about the film’s production and qualities along with my own experience in giving it a few viewings.

Warning- There will be spoilers for Bride of Frankenstein in this article
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Rear Window


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

I want to mention two things before we proceed beyond the break to a discussion of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 suspense film Rear Window. First of all, I should let you know that discussion will necessarily include some spoilers for the movie, so if you haven’t seen it I would recommend that you go rectify that situation (it’s available for rent through iTunes) and then come back to read the rest of this article. It’s an immensely engaging and electrifying movie that any film buff should have under his or her belt.

Secondly, I have to say that the version of the poster for Rear Window included in the puzzle which is the inspiration for this entire series is pretty far from my favorite.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman


In late June of last year I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

This puzzle sure has a lot of genre and “B” pictures represented, doesn’t it? It’s sort of a mixed bag, including the aforementioned populist fare alongside Oscar bait pictures, classic comedians, and yes some truly great films. Aside from pointing out that there’s nothing here from after the 1970s, you can’t really complain that it isn’t trying to be genre inclusive. Today we’re looking at a movie that, in my personal experience, is actually more famous for its poster than for the film it was created to promote. During my twenties I seem to remember this poster cropping up on the walls of plenty of my female friends’ apartments. I’m not sure how many of them had actually seen the movie, but the poster in itself could certainly be interpreted as an expression of female strength. Being that it was written, directed, and produced by men in 1958, I don’t think it should be much surprise that Attack of the 50 Foot Woman doesn’t quite live up to its iconic advertisement’s implied promises.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: Citizen Kane


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Okay, so this is a pretty big one, right? For decades now, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane has been one of the ultimate go-to answers amongst film critics and aficionados when asked about what is The Greatest Film of All Time. It has, in fact, held down the top spot on multiple high profile lists, including the American Film Institute’s top 100 lists of both 1998 and 2007 and for forty years in the critics Sight and Sound poll. Just last year, the movie was again pronounced the greatest American film of all time by a poll of critics from the BBC. Roger Ebert included it in his unranked list of his top ten films. For quite some time it was just the standard answer to the question, as if it was a foregone conclusion. But time is a funny thing, and Citizen Kane has actually gone through a wide re-evaluation…or two.
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Building My Movie Posters Puzzle: The Phantom of the Opera


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

There have been multiple versions of this story put to film, but unless you’re a huge musical theatre dork, Lon Chaney’s version is by far the iconic one. Despite its relatively modest success at the box office, 1925’s The Phantom of the Opera created enough public interest to motivate  a re-release with sound added five years later (Chaney was then under contract at MGM so he was unable to add his voice to this lost “talkie” version). Universal was so encouraged by the film’s notoriety, in fact, that they launched a long stream of horror and monster-related movies such as Bela Lugosi in Dracula, Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and The Mummy, and The Wolf Man which starred Chaney’s own son in the lead. These films would become the calling card for the studio for years to come. The path to this sort of cultural influence was a rough one for The Phantom of the Opera, though.
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Building my Movie Poster Puzzle: Gone With the Wind


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Obviously, this is one of the most famous and iconic American films ever made. Even if you’ve never sat down and watched Gone With the Wind from start to finish, you are probably familiar with it and know a little about the story, cast, imagery, or lines. Margaret Mitchell’s novel of the same name was an enormous success when it was released in 1936, becoming a million-seller rather quickly despite being  highly priced for the time at three dollars. There was so much anticipation for the film version, in fact, that when work on the script dragged out the film’s producer David O Selznick was able to milk the delay for additional publicity by announcing a nationwide casting call for the central role of Scarlett O’Hara. Big stars such as Katherine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, and Lana Turner were considered for the part, but eventually it went to the relative unknown British actress Vivien Leigh after she made a trip along with Lawrence Olivier to America and arranged a chance meeting with Selznick. Clark Gable was always the number one choice to play Rhett Butler, but a good deal of bargaining with MGM had to be done to secure his services. Gone with the Wind would go on to break box office records and win eight competitive Academy Awards. That’s all been well-detailed elsewhere, but I want to take a different angle if you’ll follow me past the break.
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Building my Movie Posters Puzzle: Creature From the Black Lagoon


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In late June I took advantage of some free days to visit my Mother in Virginia for her birthday. It was a fun long weekend that included meals out, a screening of Finding Dory, and an unexpected shared activity when I ran across a puzzle in the book store that was just too good to pass up. It consists of thirty-nine posters from a wide variety of classic films stretching from the silent era of the 1920s into the 1970s. It was an engrossing project to undertake alongside my Mother and we naturally discussed several of the featured movies as we built it. What stunned me a little was that I had actually only seen twenty-six of the thirty-nine films honored. I have vowed to fill these gaps in my knowledge of film and take you along for the ride as I reconstruct the puzzle in question. I’ll re-watch the movies I’ve already seen along with experiencing the ones that are new to me and share my thoughts on each one.

Up to this point in my coverage of this visual celebration of classic movies, what we’ve seen have been largely either legendarily great films, or top-notch examples of genre forms. Even something like Pillow Talk holds a significant place in the history of the romantic comedy and still stands as an excellent example of that kind of movie. Today’s entry Creature From the Black Lagoon, though plenty famous and possessing of some admirable qualities here and there is the first of a few flicks that will be part of this project which will mostly be considered memorable as just being fun.
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