Down and Dirty in Gower Gulch: Poverty Row Films Preserved by UCLA

APRIL 11-29

“These ‘orphan films’ are worthy of restoration and presentation. They visualize many of the repressed or forbidden themes that preoccupy the nether regions of the American psyche. Get ready for a wild ride!”
JAN-CHRISTOPHER HORAK, DIRECTOR, UCLA FILM & TELEVISION ARCHIVE

Lurid, low-budget treasures from the fringes of the Dream Factory are on display in this UCLA-curated program of newly restored features, most dating from Hollywood’s more permissive, less-censorious pre-Code era, and all produced on Hollywood’s so-called Poverty Row, a strip of Gower Street in Los Angeles between Sunset Boulevard and the Paramount lot. There, small, fly-by-night studios churned out inexpensive pictures — genre films, typically — for the B-movie (bottom half of a double bill) and secondary theatrical markets (in those vertically-integrated days, the major studios also controlled the primary exhibition chains). Most were shot quickly, in five to ten days, and made for less (often much less) than $100,000. These bargain-basement stakes made for a certain artistic freedom: controversial or risqué subjects the big studios wouldn’t touch could be explored; and directors creatively inclined (most weren’t) enjoyed a degree of licence. Poverty Row auteurs, such as Edgar G. Ulmer and Lowell Sherman, emerged — or, at least, were “discovered” decades later by film critics and fans of disreputable cinema.

The six-pack of selections presented here emphasizes film noir, horror, and sheer Poverty Row audacity. Included are The Sin of Nora Moran, a hallucinatory harbinger (and, perhaps, influencer) of Citizen Kane; Damaged Lives and Strange Illusion, two movies by the aforementioned B-master Ulmer (best known, of course, for his no-budget noir classic Detour); and Mamba, an early Technicolor feature that was Hollywood’s first all-colour non-musical. In a throwback to how movies used to be presented in those bygone, pre-TV days, each feature will be preceded by an era-appropriate newsreel and a short subject. Among the latter are several vintage gems by animation legends Dave Fleischer and Ub Iwerks.

 

 

 

Acknowledgements: The Cinematheque is grateful to Jan-Christopher Horak, Steven K. Hill, and Marisa Soto of the UCLA Film & Television Archive for their kind assistance in making this Vancouver presentation possible.

All titles restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive

Click for film notes + showtimes

Recent Showings

This stylish horror made by Poverty Row studio Majestic Pictures is preceded by a 1933 newsreel and Jack Frost, a ComiColor Cartoons short.
This lurid melodrama, a highlight of our Poverty Row series, is preceded by a 1933 newsreel and Balloon Land, a ComiColor Cartoons short.
This delirious mix of sophisticated comedy and grotesque horror is preceded by a 1932 newsreel and Snow White, a Betty Boop cartoon.
The first American movie by Austrian émigré Edgar G. Ulmer is preceded by a 1933 newsreel and Dancing on the Moon, a Fleisher Studios cartoon.
This crazed colonialist drama set in pre-WWI German East Africa is preceded by a 1930 newsreel and Me and the Boys, a musical short.
Edgar G. Ulmer’s Freudian film noir is preceded by a 1945 newsreel and Grampy’s Indoor Outing, a Betty Boop cartoon.