More Public Domain Movies I watched in 2019
A few weeks ago, I wrote about all the Public Domain movies I watched on my home media server in 2019, with links to where you could watch them all yourself. Today I’m finishing that list off with the rest of the Public Domain movies I watched in 2019 (which means, mostly, the stuff I watched on my phone, or on a plane, or in a car, or just didn’t download for whatever reason.) This list is a little less complete, because I had to do it from memory, but there’s some good stuff in here and I think it’ll be useful. Let’s get to it.
By Whose Hand (1932) -
The police are transporting a witness by train, but the witness gets bumped off, and a locked room mystery ensues. Starts a little slow, but really picks up by the end. Recommended.
The Curse of the Faceless Man (1958) -
The narration is a little heavy, but the story of a mummy animated by the fires of Pompeii is pretty good, and there are some tense moments. If you like universal horror movies, and want another one, this is almost it.
A bunch of George Melies shorts. Like, way too many. (1890 - 1915?) -
I don’t really know what to say here. It’s unfair to lump all these together, but most of them are less than 5 minutes long, so they are getting lumped together. Melies invented modern cinema. He created special effects. He made some of the first narrative films. Some of them are really good.
Specifically: The Astronomer’s Dream, A Trip to the Moon, The fantastic voyage.
The Bold Caballero (1936) -
Zorro! With Sound, and in color! I really loved this movie, and I wish that we had a better transfer of it.
The Cook (1918) -
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in this half hour silent short. It’s not bad.
The Green Hornet (1940) -
A film serial! 13 chapters of roughly 20 minutes each. The green Hornet investigates a series of crimes he believes are related. It’s kids stuff, but it’s pretty good. (available prints are garbage)
The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) -
Another Serial! How did Billy Bastion get the power of Shazam? Find out here. (recently released in HD by the Criterion collection. Often called the best cliffhanger serial of all time.)
Inner Sanctum (1948) -
A psychic man on a train tells a woman a story about events that have happened (or will happen?) at the next train station. A film take on an old mystery/horror radio show. Clever, well paced. Spooky.
H. G. Wells’ Things to Come -
Welles tells a story of future generations torn apart by war and ignorance, until scientists with airplanes save the day. And then fast forwards again, to show the rise of ignorance again.
Apparently this film has had it’s copyright status restored in the US because of the 1996 URAA agreements, and that’s some bullshit. It’s still widely available from places distributing public domain material, and it’s pretty good.
The Spider’s Web (1938) -
Another cliffhanger serial! This one stars The Spider, who has in recent years become my favorite pulp hero. This tones down the spider a touch, but not an excessive amount. I found it really enjoyable (even if the available transfer is a little soft and low res.)
The copyright on this one is disputed. I have personally been unable to find a renewal, but I haven’t looked super hard.
Warning from Space (1956) -
I don’t know what to say about this one. It’s a Japanese Monster Movie, but it’s … weirder and less coherent than other entries in to that genre. There are starfish men. It’s fun.
A Message from Mars (1913) -
The first British Scifi Flick! It’s kind of a take on A Christmas Carol, in that a cranky dude is shown the error of his ways by a seemingly supernatural visitor. Silent (ofc), a tad slow, but worth watching.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) -
Not much needs to be said here. It’s the prototypical zombie flick. Suspenseful and spooky.
Dick Tracy meets Gruesome (1947) -
Borris Karloff stars in this one, it’s my favorite (and the last) of the Dick Tracey flicks of the 40s.
Dick Tracy vs Cueball (1946) -
Another Tracy flick. This one isn’t great, but it’s not that bad. Kid stuff, but earnest.
Dick Tracy’s Dilemma (1947) -
Another Tracy winner. Not as good as Gruesome, IMO, but much better than cueball.
Dick Tracy (1937) -
a 15-chapter film serial, and the best screen outing of the character, IMO. (In this, he fights a master criminal known as The Spider, no relation to The Spider mentioned previously.)
I’ll collect all the chapters in to one page sometime and update this post.
Robot Monster (1953) -
… I don’t really know what to say about this movie. It’s ridiculous. It’s self defeating. It’s funny when it should not be. I put the poster on t-shirt, and I wear it proudly.
The Phantom Planet (1961) -
A reasonably well produced science fiction film, with decent action and okay special effects, ultimately let down a little by a tiny budget. The plot concerns an astronaut, somehow miniaturized on an alien world.
The acting is mostly excellent, with a handful of heavy hitters from television and early film, and some uneven performances from a handful of newcomers. Ultimately actually pretty good.
The Phantom From Space (1953) -
A generic 50s B-Movie. A lone invader menaces the people of Earth. Can our Heroes stop them in time? Or will they just keep running back and forth between rooms in their big observatory?
Honestly, it’s a decent movie. Average, cheap, but well made and enjoyable.
The Curse of the Aztec Mummy (1957) -
It’s a mexican horror flick. It is okay. It features a Luchador Super Hero. If you like horror movies, and you can tolerate some cheese, you’ll probably dig it.
Monster from a Prehistoric Planet AKA Gappa: The Triphibian Monster (1967) -
Another Japanese monster movie. Allegedly it’s super similar to a UK flick called Gorgo, but I haven’t seen that. This one is pretty good. Better than it’s current notoriety might have you believe.
Midnight AKA Call it Murder (1934) -
it’s an okay little crime flick that features Humphrey Bogart in a small but significant early role. Nothing super special, but not bad.
Snowbeast (1977) -
Wow, what a bad movie. It’s a monster movie. It’s about the yeti. It’s just not very good at all.
Gangs, Inc. AKA Paper Bullets (1941) -
Similar to midnight mentioned above, this okay crime film features Allan Ladd in a small but significant role fairly early in his career.
The Lost World (1925) -
This is an adaptation of an Arthur Conan Doyle story. It’s about dinosaurs at the center of the earth. Good special effects for it’s age, but a lot of racist garbage outside of that.
Flight Commander (1930) -
AKA The Dawn Patrol. This stars Douglas Fairbanks. It was remade in ‘38 staring Errol Flynn. It’s a WWI story, and it’s supposed to be pretty good! I don’t remember it, and will have to re-watch it.
Radar Men from the Moon -
Another film serial. This one features a man with a jetpack. It’s honestly not among the best film serials, but I really enjoy the character.
Men with Steel Faces (aka The Phantom Empire AKA Radio Ranch)-
Watch it on Archive.org but really just watch The Phantom Empire instead.
This is just a worse, shorter edited version of The Phantom Empire as discussed in the last post.
The Indestructible man -
This is a solid B movie. Lon Chaney Jr. stars as a criminal who is executed, brought back to life, and made practically indestructible.
It’s not too bad.