Betty Ross Clarke

Killer-Dog (1936, Jacques Tourneur)

Killer-Dog is the story of a dog on trial. Really. It’s a courtroom short concerning a farm dog accused of being a sheep killer. Tourneur and producer Pete Smith take a while to get to that detail though, just referring letting the sensational title do the work of riling the viewer’s imagination.

It’s a rather effective short, which Tourneur manages to tell without a lot of sentiment. Even though he’s constantly showing the dog’s owner, young Babs Nelson, sympathetically, the case against the dog is strong. In order to get the narrative to work, in order to keep it suspenseful anyway, Tourneur and Smith have to actively deceive the viewer.

The finale is so well-executed, however, it’s impossible to hold that deception against Killer-Dog. Smith’s narration, occasionally grating, can’t even compare with the excellent direction and performances. Nelson’s great, Ralph Byrd’s great.

It’s a fine little film.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Jacques Tourneur; produced by Pete Smith; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Ralph Byrd (Father), Betty Ross Clarke (Mother) and Babs Nelson (Betty Lou); narrated by Pete Smith.


A Night at the Movies (1937, Roy Rowland)

A Night at the Movies opens with Robert Benchley in a domestic situation (Betty Ross Clarke does a fine job playing his wife). They’re trying to figure out what movie to go see. It’s a gently amusing scene—each has seen movies without the other so they’re trying to agree on an unseen one. It’s almost more interesting in a historical sense—did people really see so many movies or is Movies just, you know, advertising going to the movies.

But then they get to the theater and it takes a turn. The humor’s more absurdist (but still realistic), with Clarke now the wife whose husband can’t stop embarrassing himself in public. It’s incredibly funny—Benchley’s great, bumbling but still sympathetic amid the rude theater employees and moviegoers.

Rowland does a great job with composition, but the editing lacks any rhythm.

Benchley’s grounding makes the short’s outlandish final joke work.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Roy Rowland; written by Robert Benchley, Robert Lees and Frederic I. Rinaldo; produced by Jack Chertok; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Robert Benchley (Husband) and Betty Ross Clarke (Wife).


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