A Trio of WAC Pre-Codes: Oh, the Horror Icons!

Perhaps it’s just the many years I spent wasting my youth away in front of a television set, but I almost always seem to find some sort of odd little connection between home video releases from the Warner Archive Collection. This time around, we have three pre-Production Code flicks from the early 1930s with a rather unique common thread: the notable presence(s) of classic horror movie stars such as Fay Wray and a hilariously miscast Boris Karloff. But they aren’t the only faces from vintage creature features to be found here, as you will soon discover for yourself. And if you’re not a horror aficionado, don’t worry ‒ we also get to see the one and only Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. in action here along with classic starlettes Loretta Young and Joan Blondell. Why, there’s even a rare villainous role by some barely-recognizable young stud named Clark Gable!

I Like Your Nerve (1931, First National Pictures)

A fantastical romantic comedy that feels like it could have inspired Joe Versus the Volcano in some very small indeterminate way, I Like Your Nerve takes place in a fictionalized variation of Latin America somewhere. After being escorted out of one country, rogue Yankee Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. crashes through the border of another (literally) in order to meet lovely Loretta Young. Alas, the beauty is betrothed to a wealthy old bastard (Edmund Breon), but Doug is willing to look past that (and does), especially once he learns Loretta’s pending nuptials have been arranged by her Minister of Finance stepfather (Henry Kokler) in order to balance the budget (how American!). Fortunately for the Young lady, Douglas has a heap of schemes up his sleeve to save her. A young nobody by the name of Boris Karloff has a supporting part as a loyally sinister (and Latin) manservant in this delightful, quirky gem, released to theaters just two months before Karloff achieved immortality as the Frankenstein monster. William C. McGann directs this charmer, which also features the very fey Claud Allister, and future oater/serial regular George Chesebro.

Goodbye Again (1933, First National Pictures)

Whereas I Like Your Nerve gave us a minor role by one classic movie monster lead, 1933’s Goodbye Again stars several supporting characters from Universal’s other three major creature feature franchises. Warren William ‒ one of the most prominent leading actors from the pre-Code era, and who would find himself as a prominently-billed co-star in The Wolf Man eight years later ‒ takes the lead here as a best-selling author with a little female trouble on his idle hands. In the midst of his new book tour, a nutty old flame (Genevieve Tobin) gets it in her head she was the inspiration for the novel, resulting in a great deal of screwball antics a full year before the “official” Screwball Comedy was born! The incomparable Joan Blondell stars alongside Mr. William as his devoted secretary, who ‒ naturally ‒ has eyes for him. Helen Chandler, who played opposite Bela Lugosi in Dracula can be seen accompanied by the great Wallace Ford ‒ who later co-starred in two sequels to The Mummy ‒ in this fun little flick from venerable director Michael Curtiz. Based on a play by George Haight and Alan Scott, the latter of whom penned several of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers’ best song-and-dance vehicles.

The Finger Points (1931, First National Pictures)

The only drama out of this line-up, The Finger Points feels like a movie from a period before people developed common sense. Silent era lead Richard Barthelmess takes center stage here as Breckinridge Lee (!), a talented reporter from the South who lands a (gifted) job as a reporter in the big city. Alas, good ol’ Breck is one of them there individuals his fellow Southerners would say “Bless his heart” to quite frequently. Immediately, he goes to work exposing a local gang of racketeers’ newest den of vice, which ‒ despite landing him in the hospital with a couple of busted ribs ‒ nevertheless tickles the fancy of journalistic colleague Fay Wray. But when Breck gets his first hospital bill, he continues his streak of stupidity by joining the gangsters, one of whom is a derby-donnin’ moustache-less Clark Gable! Regis Toomey co-stars in this early newspaper drama from director John Francis Dillon, which also features the uncredited voice of future B-horror regular J. Carrol Naish (who later played alongside Boris Karloff hunchback assistant in House of Frankenstein).

Each of these three forgotten gems are presented in their original 1.37:1 aspect ratios, as culled from the best looking (or at least, surviving) elements available. Quality varies throughout, and there are some noticeable edits in one or two of the titles (likely from a post-Code re-release, when many of the more “risqué” moments were removed. But that shouldn’t deter anyone from checking out these intriguing Pre-Code rarities from the Warner Archive. Especially if you are a lover of classic film and/or classic horror movies!

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Luigi Bastardo

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