Wednesday, April 5, 2017

“These dramatizations are designed to demonstrate forcibly to old and young alike that Crime Does Not Pay…”

Back in June of 2010, I started what I had hoped would be a continuing feature at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear by mentioning a pair of the MGM Crime Does Not Pay two-reelers that I had caught on TCM on Demand (this was when Rancho Yesteryear was still located in the Classic City—Athens, GA—and Los Parentes Yesteryear and I subscribed to Charter Cable…may it roast in a fiery pit of H-E-double hockey sticks), Give Till it Hurts (1937) and Dark Shadows (1944).  I followed that initial post with one two weeks later with a more detailed write-up (screen captures and everything!) on Respect the Law (1941).  The idea would be that I’d tackle these shorts on an irregular basis…but much would depend on whether The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ would schedule the showing of these shorts on that same basis (TCM seems to have more of an affinity for Pete Smith comedies…or those dull “TravelTalks” one-reelers that are most assuredly not my particular cup of Earl Grey).

At the time of those first two posts, the Crime Does Not Pay shorts weren’t available on DVD save for the occasional inclusion as bonuses on classic film releases (one of Warner’s film noir collections, Volume 3, had a fistful) …but that changed in June of 2012, when a six-disc collection containing all 50 shorts was released from the Warner Archive.  When I discovered in December 2013 that I had accumulated a hefty cache of “bonus points” at (apologies for the commercial) I tried to acquire this set but was told it was “out-of-stock” due to the holiday season.  (I ended up giving the points to my fadduh, who bought me muddah a cookbook for their 51st anniversary…because I am a good son.)

For some unexplained reason—maybe due to classic movie forces beyond my and your comprehension—I was skating around the (another commercial!) site in September of last year…and saw that that CDNP set was on sale for $19.02.  I simply wasn’t going to pass that up (and besides, I had a gift card) so viola! it was given a home in the House of Yesteryear.  I then decided that once I had finished with all the VCI/Kit Parker “Forgotten Noir” flicks I’d reintroduce Crime Does Not Pay on a weekly basis.  (The last one of these I did was in November of 2014, so its removal from hiatus is very much warranted.)

The Public Pays (1936)
MGM produced these shorts—two of which, The Public Pays (1936) and Torture Money (1937), won Oscars for Best Two-Reel Short Subject—from 1935 to 1947, and not only were they popular with the moviegoing public, they served as the launch pads for the careers of such renowned film directors as Jacques Tourneur, Fred Zinnemann, and Joseph Losey.  Leonard Maltin writes in Selected Short Subjects: “Viewing some of the films today, one finds a naïve and right-handed outlook on the American way of life, although many of the targets of attack—the smuggling of aliens, retail stores selling stolen goods, undercover employment agencies that demand a kickback, shoplifting, evading United States Customs duties, and so on—are just as real, and just as scurrilous, today as they were then.”  (I should warn you right up front: the right-wing tone of a lot of these shorts makes them low-hanging fruit for a left-wing troublemaker like me addicted to mockery.)

A Thrill for Thelma (1935)
I’ve already done detailed write-ups on five Crime Does Not Pay shorts: A Criminal is Born (1938—a TDOY favorite), Jack Pot (1940), You, the People (1940), Sucker List (1941), and Respect the Law (1941).  What I’ll do when those shorts turn up in the rotation is recycle what’s been written (I’ll take the time to get new screen caps so I can ditch the TCM logo) and maybe revised some of the text if needed.  Some of the other shorts mentioned in passing, including A Thrill for Thelma (1935) and Know Your Money (1940), will get a more detailed bit of snark; I ultimately hope to eliminate the current “Crime Does Not Pay” section on the “Movies” Page of the blog and replace it with a timely listing of what has been covered.

I’m tremendously jazzed about this project (hey, I even took the time to do a nice “poster” to promote it, pictured at the beginning of this essay) and I extend to you a laurel and hearty handshake for the official kick-off this Friday with the premiere short in the Crime Does Not Pay series, Buried Loot (1935).  I hope to see everyone there!  By the way, both the Academy Award-nominated Don't Talk (1942; in the promo poster) and Eyes of the Navy (1940) are not official Crime Does Not Pay shorts—according to Maltin, there were ‘MGM Specials’ “released in the same package as ‘Crime’ for the studio’s convenience.”  (They have, however, been included in the Warner Archive CDNP they will be covered.  But we'll just keep all this on the Q.T., okay?)

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