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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Comedy > Romance > Music > Affair > Sex > Identity > Crime > Fraud > Prison > Abuse > Scheme > Prejudice > M > A Bigger Splash (2015/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Complete Unknown (2016/Sony DVD)/Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 9 (with Big City Blues, Hell's Highway, et al) + 10 (with Secrets Of The French Police, et al/1931

A Bigger Splash (2015/Fox Blu-ray w/DVD)/Complete Unknown (2016/Sony DVD)/Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 9 (with Big City Blues, Hell's Highway, et al) + 10 (with Secrets Of The French Police, et al/1931 - 1934/First National/MGM/RKO/Warner Archive DVD Pre-Code Classics Sets)

Picture: B & C/C/C+/C+ Sound: B & C+/C/C+/C+ Extras: C/D/C-/C- Films: C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Forbidden Hollywood DVD sets are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.

Films for mature adults are not a constant in Hollywood, with a freedom before the mid-1930s before the Production Code kicked in, then after the latter films of the 1960s arrived with a new generation of groundbreaking filmmakers to the early 1980s when suppression arrived again, than a thaw of sorts in recent years. The following films are of the more open nature.

Luca Guadagnino's A Bigger Splash (2015) has Tilda Swinton as a singer whose taking a long break from even talking as she needs to rehabilitate her vocal chords, living with her current love player by Matthias Schoenaeris, but that peace is about to be shattered when an old loudmouthed boyfriend of hers (Ralph Fiennes in nutter mode) visits and oddly brings his daughter (Dakota Johnson) who looks like his underaged girlfriend to them at first. Conflict follows, some of it obviously predictable when it is obvious, toxic behavior, but things seem to be in check at first. Many of the sequences are pretty convincing (sans documentary feel) between the actors and that part of the film works.

But the script cannot find new places to go or ways to deal with a somewhat obvious situation, outside of being lucky enough to have this cast. More amusing moments include Fiennes trying to match the falsetto while dancing of one of The Rolling Stones' most notoriously criticized hits, ''Emotional Rescue'' (made during the Disco era) which in itself tells us he is just too high on himself. The last part of the film is mixed and I'm not for sure I bought it either, but it is worth seeing this once if you like the actors because actors rarely anymore get to make films about humans like this one, even with its many flaws and limits.

Extras include Digital HD Ultraviolet Copy for PC, PC portable and other cyber iTunes capable devices, while the disc versions add a Stills Gallery, Promotional Featurette and Original Theatrical Trailer.

Joshua Marston's Complete Unknown (2016) has a married Michael Shannon revisited by a beautiful woman and former lover played by Rachel Weisz, but something is odd. She seems different and communication with his group seems fine until they start asking too many questions and she either does not want to answer or gives answers that don't make sense and/or throw off the others. Conflict results making Shannon's married man wonder why she has changed or is acting this way.

As we learn, she is not who she is or was, but it is the specifics that are such a mystery. However, the script is not as interested in this mystery as much as it is showing the interaction between the actors (not bad here), but it could have done more with its 82 minutes. Danny Glover and Kathy Bates also show up later on, but it is an odd aside with mixed results. Thus, this is not great, but has a few moments that work. Too bad the makers could not take another approach as this might have worked better and had more to say.

A feature length director's audio commentary track is the only extra.

Forbidden Hollywood: Volume 9 + 10 (1931 - 1934) continues a series so popular that Warner scrapped plans to fold it. These two new sets have five films each, almost all that would have been changed, censored or not even made by the mid-1930s. We'll explain why in each case as we describe each film...

Volume 9 features Mervyn LeRoy's Big City Blues (1932) has Joan Blondell as a chorus gal finding a young sap she likes to get her what she wants (greed, drinking and sexual suggestion are among its qualities) and a young Humphrey Bogart even shows up), but Blondell is the reason to watch in her early prime. Pretty decent.

Rowland Brown's Hell's Highway (1932) has Richard Dix as a jailed convict working on a road crew for a corrupt warden in this film bashing prison corruption and big business as the prisoners are being used for slave labor against established laws to make a businessman a quick buck. Both themes would be minimized or nonexistent in later such films, but this one's as relevant as ever.

Michael Curtiz's The Cabin in the Cotton (1932) has Richard Barthelmess as the son of a cotton picker in a work situation about to explode as some of the other pickers are stealing cotton, as they feel they are being cheated by their landowner, then you have Bette Davis as his daughter with her eye on our hapless lead. Thus, we get the early classic Davis line, "I'd love to kiss you, but I just washed my hair" that helped establish her as a rising star at Warner. Class division, robbery by the wealthy, official oppression, prejudice and lust are items that would have made this film impossible to make this a few years later. Not bad.

Harry Beaumont's When Ladies Meet (1933) has the upper crust getting involved with extramarital affairs, something the code would later say no one (especially those with money) does, but this is a smart, not bad film and the conversations are almost as naturalistic as the kind from the newer films reviewed above. Robert Montgomery, Ann Harding, Myrna Loy (who was about to go through a real life such scandal at the time that almost destroyed her career), Alice Brady and Frank Morgan make up the really good cast.

Finally in this set, Robert Florey's I Sell Anything (1934) was made when the code kicked in, but this tale of scams, auctions, fraud and high society still has traces of the city films of the pre-Code era and includes Pat O'Brien, Claire Dodd and Ann Dvorak in this sort of heist film. It makes sense to include it here and is not bad.

Volume 10 offers W.S. Van Dyke's Guilty Hands (1931) has Lionel Barrymore as a District Attorney about to see his young daughter marry one of his friends his own age (!) and then decides to kill him! Both the marriage and crime where he is the respectable lead are soon not to be seen in Code Era films, especially with the zeal in which Barrymore plays the killer. Kay Francis, C. Aubrey Morris and Marge Evans are solid in the supporting cast of this mystery where the audience knows who did it, but wonder if the others will find out.

James Flood & Elliott Nugent's The Mouthpiece (1932) has Warren William as a corrupt lawyer who will do anything to make a buck or win a case, which would not fly as well a few years later. This beings with his ego getting an innocent man sent to the electric chair, then onto other schemes. William plays this to the hilt, but the script is not bad, though there are a few flaws here and a few things that go unaddressed.

Edward Sutherland's Secrets of the French Police (1932) is the big surprise here, a mystery film that landed up influencing the James Bond films, especially Goldfinger, involving kidnapping, brainwashing, body mutilation, murder and a possible plot to overthrow a government or two when a flower gal (Gwili Andre) is kidnapped and told she's the lost Russian Princess Anastasia! A smart French Inspector (Frank Morgan, who shows up in the film earlier in an interesting gag role) and a jewelry thief (John Warburton) he is not fan of get together to find out what exactly is going on. This is almost a horror film at times and the best film on either set. Gregory Ratoff also stars.

Warren William also shows up as the title character in Howard Bretherton & William Keighley's The Match King (1932) is the silliest film here despite being a biopic, in which he somehow becomes the top manufacturer of the title fire-starting stick and this lands up getting him involved in multi-million dollar deals with governments, debt, robbery, possible murder, sex (Glenda Farrell is the female lead) and official corruption. Much of this would not be possible under the code. The film gets silly, but it was worth seeing once.

Archie Mayo's Ever in My Heart (1933) is a melodrama with Barbara Stanwyck (an impressive early performance) as a woman married to a German immigrant (Otto Kruger) just before WWI breaks out and how ugly, hateful prejudice affects them, her household, her little son and her life. It is very brutally portrayed to such an ugly extent that you could not get this made this honestly a few years later. Some parts just do not work, but this is often intense and worth seeing for sure. Ruth Donnelly, George Cooper and Ralph Bellamy also star.

For more from the series, try out these links...





4, 5, 6 & 7




Some of the films have original or reissue trailers, but that is the extent of any extras.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Splash, mostly shot on 35mm film save a few HD-shot night scenes, is easily the best playback performer on the list with fine color, depth and detail. It is also a perfect match for the exotic locale the characters inhabit. However, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image DVD and the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Unknown are much softer in their DVD versions than expected, so much so that the 1.33 X 1 black & white image on all ten Forbidden movies can compete (from age and damage!) or even surpass their performance. Blu-ray versions of the DVD-only release could and would only show improvement.

The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on the Splash is well mixed and presented enough for a dialogue-based film and is easily the best sonic performer here too, while its lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 DVD version is passable. Unknown also has a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, but it is off, odd and has a poor soundfield, yet I don't know if it is from the location recording, mixing or both. That leaves lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on all 10 Forbidden films that can offer flaws, background hiss and minor flaws, but they are often more consistent than Unknown.

To order either of the Warner Archive DVD sets, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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