Archive for July 13th, 2015

Wild Boys of the Road 1

by Judy Geater

The long shots panning over crowds of nameless children are the most haunting thing about Wild Boys of the Road. ‘600,000 Children’ proclaims the original trailer in huge letters – but, from reading about the Depression era, it seems as if the real numbers of kids taking the road were even higher than that.

Seeing the weary lines of men moved on from town to town is grim enough in Heroes for Sale, another film made by director William A Wellman for Warner in the same year. But the world of Wild Boys is if anything even bleaker, because this time it’s penniless kids (girls as well as boys, despite the film’s title) who are being driven from one place to another. They risk injury and even death as they leap aboard moving freight trains, and have to beg for food before sleeping rough in shanty towns beside rubbish dumps.

If this is a “coming of age” film, it’s a cruel version. Growing up has to happen all too fast, as the teenagers are forced to realise they can’t rely on anyone or anything for support. Sometimes portrayals of hoboes suggest there is something romantic about a life on the move –  but there is no romance in the struggle faced by the kids in this film. There are some lighthearted moments,  but the prevailing mood is one of bleakness. Especially shocking are the scenes which show adults turning against the children and trying to drive them out, as in one sequence where the firefighters turn hoses on them.

It’s often claimed that most Hollywood films in the early 1930s served up escapism. But, although the glossier musicals and comedies may be remembered better now, there were many gritty dramas which did address the realities of the day. Especially from Warner, and especially from Wellman. His astonishing run of powerful dramas in the pre-Code period didn’t pull many punches, except in the jarringly upbeat endings which were sometimes forced on him by the studio, as in this picture. (more…)

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Screen cap from Bernard Wicki’s masterful German war film ‘The Bridge’, recently released on Criterion blu ray.

by Sam Juliano

Depending on your taste in weather the past week has either been excrutiatingly hot or markedly beautiful in and around the Big Apple. Certainly, for the most part the humidity has been low, allowing a scorching hot sun to exert minimal discomfort for those spending much of their time outdoors.  For those less adventurous, there is always the allure of air conditioned at home film viewings, or local trips to the theaters.  In any event, it does seem like the summer is moving along with mid July imminently at hand.  Some in our fraternity are preparing for their long awaited vacations, and I wish all a great time.

Here at Wonders in the Dark the Greatest Childhood/Adolescent Films Countdown has completed three full weeks.  Comments and page views have been consistently fine, with a few instances of excellence.  As was the case with past countdowns, there was one film that remained unclaimed, meaning no review was posted.  It doesn’t appear that this are instance will be happening again during the countdown.  The writing has been first-rate and the films themselves an honor to consider for any countdown.

Lucille, Sammy, Danny and I attended the ‘First Annual Children’s Book Celebration” in the Queens Museum, located in Flushing on the grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair (which I attended as a ten-year old Lincoln School student) on Saturday afternoon from 12 to 4. The museum is situated a very short distance from CitiField and the Corona Park Tennis Courts. We met the renowned author illustrator and FB frie Sergio Ruzzier and the Caldecott Honor winning artist David Ezra Stein among others, and strolled the grounds near the famed World’s Fair Unisphere. Danny, an aspiring artist himself, drew on the public canvas inside. A fabulous NYC map was displayed along a wall. Ruzzier’s new fantastic work TWO MICE is due out in September! (more…)

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