Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

07 July 2007

A Pair of Classics

John Cromwell's Caged from 1950 has finally been released on DVD. It's being released in a boxed set of three DVDs called "Cult Camp Classics 2 - Women in Peril". I've heard others refer to Caged as one of the all-time classic camp movies, as well. But the movie isn't really that campy. I mean it is campy at times, but Caged is really a well-scripted, well-acted awareness picture about women's prisons. The film has obviously been designed to show how (male) society treats women who have done hardly anything wrong and to show all of the maltreatment these women receive behind bars. The film boasts a really wonderful performance by Eleanor Parker (Detective Story, The Sound of Music), who turns from the scared kid who comes to the prison to the jaded no-nonsense criminal who leaves the prison. Caged is an indictment of society at large and a film about social justice. It means serious business. So it can be watched for its camp value (it certainly has its moments) but to do so misses its larger feminist message.

Late last night I couldn't sleep and decided to watch Victor Fleming's 1937 film of Kipling's Captains Courageous. This is another Spencer Tracy movie from the early part of his career (and boasts one of the first film roles of Mickey Rooney). It's about a rich kid coming of age and learning not to be a spoiled brat through his attachment to a fisherman who takes him under his wing for a summer aboard a fishing schooner. I pretty much loved it and—you'll probably never hear me say this again because I've never thought it before, but—Spencer Tracy is kinda hot in this movie. It's really weird. I don't know what came over me. Anyway, the adaptation of the novel is good and the photography is very well done. It all looks very real (an amazing feat for 1937). I would say it's an even better "at sea" movie than Captain Blood. There is a racing sequence at the end of the picture that is riveting. Notice the father-son narrative and you'll know that it is easy to predict I would love this film. I used to be soft on Spencer Tracy, but I think I may be warming to him.