Hollywood Before the Code (this week at the Roxie)

In case you missed the SF Chronicle article (“Pre-Code films tell truth about life in gritty era“), the Roxie theater in San Francisco is running a series of double-features from the early 1930s. In my opinion, this is the best era of film – and the costumes were frequently scandalous (i.e. skimpy and tight). Actresses Joan Blondell, Clara Bow, Sylvia Sydney and Miriam Hopkins as well as some of the kings of early horror are included in the films showing this week. Check out the descriptions (and the photo-teasers) below.

“Tuesday, March 6:


A pretty young flower-girl rejects the advances of a notorious hood who then frames her and her new boyfriend for murder that sends the boyfriend to death row and the flower girl to a vicious women’s prison. Things go from bad to worse when its discovered that the hood’s former moll is behind bars there too! A wild pre-code extravaganza with an abundance of heart-pounding big-house violence;cat-fights galore! A rarely seen gem from the height of the pre-code era! Starring Sylvia Sidney, Gene Raymond, Wynne Gibson, Louise Beavers. Directed by Marion Gering. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print! 77 mins. 1931.

TUE at 8:00 only!


Against a graphically depicted Depression-era backdrop, the story of a wise-cracking gal who rises to the top in the male-dominated crime rackets is played out with enough gusto and sexually charged ammo to load a dozen tommy guns. A rapid-fire exercise in economy and excitement, this is first-class pre-code entertainment of the highest order! Starring Joan Blondell, Chester Morris, Mae Busch, Allen Jenkins. Directed by Ray Enright. In B&W. HQ Digital. 67 mins. 1933.

TUE at 6:30 and 9:35


The Story of Temple Drake

Wednesday, March 7:


A spoiled rich girl is abducted by vicious bootleggers and held sexually captive by the gang’s brutal leader. But her troubles are really only just beginning. Freely adapted from William Faulkner’s novel “Sanctuary,” this is one of the most legendary of all pre-code films, a jaw-dropping array of censor-baiting violence and sexual frankness. Unforgettable to say the least! Starring Miriam Hopkins, William Gargan, Jack LaRue, Florence Eldridge. Directed by Stephen Roberts. In B&W. HQ Digital. 70 mins. 1933.

WED at 6:30 and 9:45


Clara Bow in "Call Her Savage"

Simply put, an astonishing and daring epic of rampant sexual energy, the likes of which have rarely been duplicated in the American cinema, before or since. A headstrong young woman attempts to defy the wicked and wild roots of her questionable parentage by embarking on a life of reckless debauchery! Time has done nothing to diminish the utter blasphemy of this red-hot pre-code classic! Starring Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Thelma Todd, Monroe Owsley. Directed by John Francis Dillon. In B&W. HQ Digital. 88 mins. 1932.

WED at 8:00 only!


Thursday, March 8:


Bela Lugosi, Lucille Lund, Boris Karloff in The Black Cat

Very little if anything of Poe’s classic tale remains in this brilliant and fatalistic shocker from the visually ambitious director of poverty-row film noir classic DETOUR. Young American honeymooners are stranded in storm-swept Hungary at the fortress-like home of demented architect Hjalmer Poelzig. Also on hand is Dr. Verdegast, a mysterious traveler who has sworn savage vengeance on Poelzig for unspeakably profane crimes! A powerhouse classic of pre-code horror! Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Julie Bishop, David Manners. Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. In B&W. 35mm Studio Archive Print! 65 mins. 1934.

THURS at 6:40 and 9:45


Walter Huston and Lupe Velez, in Kongo (1932)

An intensely morbid tale of macabre horror! In the jungles of Zanzibar, a crippled, evil white man commands a cult of natives to commit unspeakably horrible acts of torture and terror! Twisted, savage violence, rampant drug abuse, prostitution, rape, and incest…this staggering pre-code epic has it all…and then some! Unbelievable! Unless you’ve already seen it, you’ve never seen anything like it! Starring Walter Huston, Lupe Valez, Virginia Bruce, Conrad Nagel. Directed by William J. Cowen. In B&W. HQ Digital. 86 mins. 1932.

THURS at 8:00 only!”

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