The Black Cat (1934)

Edgar G. Ulmer savours every demented moment of conflict between Bela Lugosi’s creepy psychiatrist and Boris Karloff’s prowling Satanist in The Black Cat, painting over its uneven narrative pacing with a macabre expressionism that makes for a darkly mesmerising occult horror.

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Gone with the Wind (1939)

If Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara represents the Old South in Gone with the Wind, then her selfish vanity paints a pricklier portrait of this historical culture than one might expect, deserving nothing less than the sweeping Technicolor grandeur of what may be Hollywood’s most ambitious historical epic put to film.

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Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Dr. Moreau’s twisted biological experiments are brought to disturbing, expressionistic life in Island of Lost Souls, immortalising H.G. Welles’ classic sci-fi story onscreen as a horror fable complete with fearsome prosthetics, treacherous villainy, and a tightly-plotted script cautioning against the dangers of interfering with nature.

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Love Me Tonight (1932)

Blowing in the wind through the French cities and royal castles of Love Me Tonight, Rouben Mamoulian’s infectious melodic motifs unite distant characters from across class boundaries under stirring expressions of love, carrying a narrative dexterity and formal texture that canonises this early movie-musical as one of cinema’s great fairy tales.

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Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

Tragedy marks the beginning and end of the brotherly love between Blackie and Jim in Manhattan Melodrama, touchingly binding them together as soulmates destined for incompatible lives on either side of the law, and by crafting such robust formal connections between them, W.S. van Dyke draws out a pair of internal struggles forcing them to confront their own principles and loyalties.

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Young Mr Lincoln (1939)

The ripples of history that would go on to generate monumental waves can be felt all through Young Mr Lincoln, where John Ford turns the future president’s origins as a judicious Illinoisian lawyer into a historical fable, offering us insight into the storytelling traditions and legal battles that have shaped an entire nation’s values of liberty and justice.

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