Written by: Carroll Jenkins on February 26th, 2015
Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1931 (Blonde Crazy / Strangers May Kiss), USA, 1934 (Hi, Nellie / Dark Hazard)
Directors: Roy Del Ruth (Blonde Crazy), George Fitzmaurice (Strangers May Kiss), Mervyn LeRoy (Hi, Nellie), Alfred E. Green (Dark Hazard)
Cast: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Louis Calhern, Noel Francis, Ray Milland (Blonde Crazy), Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Neil Hamilton (Strangers May Kiss), Paul Muni (Hi, Nellie), Edward G. Robinson, Genevieve Tobin (Dark Hazard)
DVD released: November 18th, 2014
Approximate running times: 79 Minutes (Blonde Crazy), 81 Minutes (Strangers May Kiss), 75 Minutes (Hi, Nellie), 73 Minutes (Dark Hazard)
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio (All Films)
Rating: NR (All Films)
Sound: Dolby Digital Mono English (All Films)
DVD Release: Warner Archive
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $47.99
Blonde Crazy: This is a quintessential Warner Brothers pre-code comedy / drama / crime saga starring Jimmy Cagney and Joan Blondell. Cagney and Blondell were discovered in the stage play ‘Penny Arcade’ and brought to Hollywood and had appeared together several times, but here their dynamic chemistry is top billed and the central focus of this low budget but energetic and very risqué piece of depression and prohibition escapism.
The plot is epic in scope and relevant to the times, the dialog both biting and brisk, the direction taunt. The cast is impeccable and includes a few surprises, especially a very young and almost unrecognizable Ray Milland as a suitor for Joan’s affections. Noel Francis (Smart Money, I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang) is here as a sexy femme fatale, Guy Kibbee is much more lecherous and over-the-top than usual, and Louis Calhern is not to be trusted years prior to The Asphalt Jungle.
Strangers May Kiss: Very talky melodramatic romance starring Norma Shearer that can be rather tedious. Almost saved by an a endearing and funny performance by Robert Montgomery and by the future Commissioner Gordon, Neil Hamilton (Batman ’66) as a suave and charming heel.
Hi, Nellie: Newspaper chief Paul Muni (Scarface) makes a wrong call on a blockbuster story and is resigned to the love advice column. The primary pre-code content is his drinking binge. Glenda Farrell gives one of her best performances but the single most interesting character is Ned Sparks (42nd Street) as Shammy. His deadpan delivery and sharp as nails comments allow him to steal scene after scene from the consummate Muni.
Dark Hazard: Edward G Robinson plays an incorrigible gambler who marries a small time girl after promising to go on the straight and narrow. Several characters appear as temptations, including Sydney Toler (pre-Charlie Chan), Glenda Farrell as an old fling, and eventually the racing greyhound dog Dark Hazard. The result is a claustrophobic downward spiral that would not be seen again until the film noir of the forties. A good example of that would be Scarlet Street (1945), also with Robinson.
Three of the films look and sound quite good, while Strangers May Kiss is somewhat soft and muted.
Three films include theatrical trailers while Strangers May Kiss doesn’t.
Blonde Crazy and Dark Hazard are the two titles most worthy of repeat viewings and make this set a sure bet, Ho-neee.
Note: Initial quantities of this release will be traditionally replicated (pressed).