Your image fix for the day

Startling visuals from ALIAS THE DOCTOR, directed mainly by Michael Curtiz (I’d say he’s the father of the Warner style, along with Anton Grot), with some additional scenes by Lloyd Bacon. Curtiz’s high style subsumes Bacon’s more traditional approach.

Curtiz also gets a lot of visual beauty out of medical equipment insert shots — as he would in THE WALKING DEAD.

Richard Barthelmess plays a medical student who takes the rap for a drunken friend, and then is forced — forced! — by circumstance to masquerade as a qualified medico. Impressive and compact plot contrivance makes this all, not plausible exactly, but compelling, before the story does kind of choke on its own unlikeliness.

Marian Marsh is pretty and smiles a lot, Norman Foster is as unreliable as ever, and Barthelmess agonizes wetly. He’s the pre-code cinema’s number one drip, with David Manners as number two (see the great THE LAST FLIGHT, in part to see two starkly contrasting drips attempt to play world-weary together, a truly thrilling sight, and I’m not being facetious). Remarkable how much gravitas and genuine world-weariness Barthelmess has picked up by the time of ONLY ANGELS HEVE WINGS.

The sinister pathologist, hovering like an angel of death over the proceedings, is played, in a wordless bit of sepulchral moping, by the distinguished Nigel de Brulier, in movies since 1914 — regular bad guy support for Fairbanks, Chaney, Barrymore…

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6 Responses to “Your image fix for the day”

  1. “Using tilted walls, shadows and other expressionist techniques, Curtiz and Grot made the film a triumph of style and paved the way for their teaming few months later in the eerily atmospheric Doctor X.”

    This was how the film was described on the Warner Archive site when it first became available. But the title? Alias The Doctor? Honestly, I balked for that reason. Should I have done otherwise?

  2. I don’t mind the title at all — plenty of Warners films had cheesy or generic titles, this one has a certain mystique. It’s not a classic by any means, but the visuals are so tasty.

  3. david wingrove Says:

    There was one called ANOTHER DAWN (starring Errol Flynn and Kay Francis, I think) that was so called because Warners couldn’t think what to call it. They fell back on the generic title they used to put on the marquee of any movie theatre that appeared in the background of a set.

  4. Yes, I have that one — Dieterle, I think. Just watched his Fashions of 1934, which is properly bananas. Slightly too reliant on Frank McHugh and his trademark comedy laugh, but Busby Berkeley and Orry-Kelly take up the slack.

  5. I wish someone would start a cable channel called WARNERS FILMS FROM THE ’30S AND NOTHING ELSE. I’d get cable just for that.

  6. TCM gets pretty close to this at times, but they’re diluted (that’s the only possible word) by MGM and such.

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