6. FIFTY MILLION FRENCHMEN (1931) ^ The comedy team of Chic Johnson and Ole Olsen (best known for the surreal masterpiece “Hellzapoppin”) tried repeatedly but never quite found a steady niche in films. “Fifty Million Frenchmen” is an imperfect yet intriguing vehicle for them, where they play detectives who trail an American playboy in Paris who made a bet he can win a girl without the help of his money or family name. Filmed in two-strip Technicolor, this expensive production culminated in a frantic chase sequence (easily inspired by Buster Keaton’s “Cops”) in which Olsen and Johnson incite hundreds of Parisian policemen into a mad pursuit. The film also co-starred Bela Lugosi as a shaky fakir, although Bela’s big film of that year was “Dracula.” ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? The film’s Technicolor prints have not been restored for viewing today (some critics back in 1931 complained about the quality of the primitive color photography). Until the film is properly restored (and there seems to be no rush to getting it done), “Fifty Million Frenchmen” remains MIA.
7. ELSTREE CALLING (1930) ^ In the primitive early days of the talking pictures, the Hollywood studios showed off their stars in extravagant musical-comedy revues such as “Paramount on Parade” and “Hollywood Review of 1929.” The British film industry, which was considerable smaller than its American cousin, responded with its own early-talkie revue in the form of “Elstree Calling.” Five directors helmed the various sketches and songs, with the most notable contribution coming from a young Alfred Hitchcock directing a broad comic spoof of “The Taming of the Shrew” with the highly unlikely casting of Chinese-American diva Anna May Wong as the sharp-tempered Kate. ^ WHY IS THIS FILM NOT ON VIDEO? Never considered a classic, “Elstree Calling” is nonetheless an intriguing curio from an era when the British film industry was still miles behind similar cinematic spheres in other countries. Sadly, this title is in need of restoration and a rescue of its reputation. Even with the Hitchcock connection, it remains virtually unknown and neglected.
Get the complete list in the next part of NEVER ON VIDEO II: THE NEXT TOP 20 “MISSING” MOVIES>>>
Posted on August 26, 2001 in Features by Phil Hall
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