Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Hell's Angels

I found an interesting site the other day: archive.org, they've got loads of public domain resources there, one of 'em is the excellent Hell's Angels, directed and produced by Howard Hughes. It's a rather special film because it was made during what's referred to as: the pre-code era. The code in question was the Hays Code and under its auspices, cinematic expression was quite severely restricted for several decades. As such I found watching the film, although entertaining, a somewhat sombre experience when considering the inferior melodrama that became prevalent under the code. Hell's Angles is a lively flick, its characters full of vitality and exuberance which is epitomised by the role played by Jean Harlow, who here is devastatingly alluring. Unfortunately, for me, her allure didn't survive the application of the code, weird eyebrows and the plaster manikin make up are poor proxies for the sensual grace she displays in Hell's Angels, just wait till you see her in that dress.

James Whale has a credit for staging which I infer is equivalent to sound stage director, meaning he directed the dialogue scenes. It's interesting to note that several dialogue scenes feature quite evident pauses, something that serves to underline dramatic tension. Overall the film is rather less stylised than is typical for the era and the interaction between the cast is quite subtle and full of detail. There's also plenty of high action in the film, most of which is rendered with real aircraft. So here it is, give it a go if you're interested.

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