Friday, July 08, 2005

Blood Money (1933)

Took a trip across the Bay to see this pre-code at the Pacific Film Archive. Very entertaining, fast-paced comedy featuring an unexpectedly showy turn from Frances Dee. Dee, usually cast as a good girl, clearly relishes her chance to play Elaine Harbert, a masochist, nymphomaniac, and kleptomaniac! Dame Judith Anderson (in her film debut) also plays against type as a glamorous if somewhat world weary "nightclub owner." The movie crackles with some great dialogue and inventive direction by Rowland Brown. Brown only directed four films, and was blackballed after some violent run-ins with producers. However, he continued to write for films. Apparently, "Blood Money" has gained cult film status (Danny Peary mentioned it in his second volume of "Cult Movies"). Though never released commercially on DVD or video, you may be able to find it at a specialty dealer. It's worth checking out - if only for a look at the cross-dressing bar patrons!
"Blood Money" shared the marquis with a second feature at the PFA, Raoul Walsh's "Me and My Gal" a comedy/drama starring a young Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. Tracy and Bennett's abundant chemistry adds a lot to the picture; however the story dragged at times. Perhaps after the breakneck pace of "Blood Money," this film was bound to be a letdown. Bennett is hard as nails as the gum-chewing chowder house waitress, but it is a lot of fun to compare her performance here to her work in "Dark Shadows" 35 years later.