Thursday, September 12, 2013

Movie of the Week: Moon Over Harlem (Review)

Moon Over Harlem (1939)
(Late Review--featured movie for the week of September 2nd)

A gangster named Dollar Bill (played by Bud Harris) marries Minnie, a wealthy widow (played by Cora Green), but uses her funds to play the horses. The widow’s young daughter, Sue, (Izinetta Wilcox) also catches Dollar Bill’s fancy; but Sue's boyfriend (Earl Gough) is a community activist who wants to rid Harlem of miscreants like his girlfriend’s new stepfather. It all winds up in a nightclub, where song and dance routines are intermixed with the tough guy shenanigans. [Film Threat]

This movie came out during Hollywood's greatest year and was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, but surprisingly (and at the same time, not so surprisingly) it still managed to be one of the worst movies I've ever seen--probably the worse race movie. 

First off, this movie hasn't been preserved very well--the lighting was bad and so was the sound. It was too bad for it to actually be made like that, you know? The script was terrible and the acting was too. It took me awhile to figure out who was who and exactly what was going on in some parts (due to sound and I'll be honest, immediate boredom), but I think got the gist of the it. However, as is always the case with race movies (and any other independent film of the time, really) one must take the subject of finances into consideration...

First off, according to IMDb, this movie was shot in four days, and like most race movies, on a very low budget ($8,000 to be exact)--and the actors probably had little-to-no time to rehearse, as the photo below may attest to that:

Izinetta Wilcox as "Sue"

The photo above is a screen shot of Izinetta Wilcox looking directly at someone on set, probably the director--seemingly after butchering a line. Even though that's definitely a no-no when making a movie, it was still quite funny to see.

None the less, even with the super-low budget and other production problems (check out the first line of trivia here), the script was still crappy. Characters said and did the dumbest things at the most random times--for example, spoiler alert:

When a character is shot in this film, as opposed to calling the police and/or an ambulance, the entire apartment building gathers around the person and watches them. 

Even some of the camera angles were weird and random.


Moon Over Harlem had the potential of being a great film. The storyline wasn't exactly new or riveting, but so many problems prevented it from being even somewhat entertaining. I'd only recommend watching it for its historical value.

to watch Moon Over Harlem on Youtube.

A review for King of the Zombies (featuring Mantan Moreland, Marguerite Whitten, Leigh Whipper, and Madame Sul-Te-Wan) will DEFINITELY be posted this weekend. 

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