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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Hell's Angels (1930)

Two British brothers couldn't be more different. One (Ben Lyon) is self centered and a womanizer and the other is more idealistic (James Hall) and in love with a girl (Jean Harlow) who is less than he thinks she is. When WWI breaks out, the brothers join the Royal Flying Corps. Originally conceived as a silent film, Howard Hughes had most of the film re-shot as a talking motion picture. James Whale (BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN) is credited with "staging the dialogue". The narrative involving the brothers is fairly hackneyed and tedious and it doesn't help that with the exception of Harlow, the acting is dreadful. What makes the film special and watchable today are the awesome aerial sequences. In the first half (the film has an intermission), the German dirigible over London sequence is beautifully shot (there are six cinematographers credited) and in the second half, there's a humdinger of a dogfight over Germany that's amazing. The film is shot in B&W, tinted and two strip Technicolor. This was a pre-code film but still, I was taken aback to hear epithets like "son of a bitch" and "goddam it". 

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