Wednesday, July 23, 2014


One night as the well-off Lamberts and their friends are indulging in some postprandial relaxation, a series of explosions rock the house, but it's just the experiments of eccentric uncle Hunter Hawk (Alan Mowbray, at right). Most of his relatives can barely put up with him, though his young niece Daphne, whom he lovingly calls Daffy (Peggy Shannon), admires him. As it happens, Hunter has finally finished his latest invention: a ring that can turn people to stone, and can bring stone statues to life. He proceeds to turn the whole obnoxious family to stone, except for Daphne and Meg (Florine McKinney), the gardener's flighty daughter who insists that she’s 900 years old and has a crush on Hunter. Hunter and Meg head off to the Metropolitan Museum and bring to life the statues of several Roman gods, including Bacchus, Neptune, Mercury, and the Venus de Milo, and they all head out to experience, as the title says, the night life. Of course, the gods are rambunctious and cause much trouble before order is restored (via a trick ending).

This strange little fantasy is based on a novel by Thorne Smith who wrote a series of bawdy adult fantasies in the 30s; if he's remembered today, it's because of the movie adaptation of his novel Topper with Cary Grant. This is not another TOPPER, but it is fun, and about as bawdy as the Code would allow—both Mercury and Venus are brought to life naked or nearly so, though they are both immediately covered up. I must admit that it's difficult to judge the look and style of the film because the print I saw on YouTube was very murky—supposedly the film has been restored by UCLA but it hasn't been released commercially yet—and it ran at least ten minutes shorter than the IMDb running time. For a high-B production, probably intended as a second feature, the effects were OK, though the acting was nothing special; Mowbray is usually a welcome presence in a movie's supporting cast but he makes for a drab leading man, especially when he's supposed to be the love interest of a sexy woman almost 15 years younger than him. But many of the lines are amusing, especially when delivered drily by Mowbray's butler (Gilbert Emery). When Mowbray announces that his family has turned to stone, Emery says, unflappably, "So I see, sir." The next morning, he asks, "The family—should I give them breakfast or dust them?" When a woman sees the bunch of half-clad gods entering a nightclub, she says, "That's what we get for bringing liquor back." I'd love to get a chance to see a clean print of this. Even in this print's diminished state, it's cute, clever fun. [YouTube]

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