Just Imagine (1930)

Genres - Musical, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Musical Fantasy  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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David Butler's 1930 science fiction/musical (now there's a genre bender that was only possible to create before either film genre or the audience expectations of each were established) is a clunky period piece, but not in ways that are too much the fault of the director. Hollywood just wasn't making very good sound movies, and still lacked any sense of technique, in 1930. That said, this movie is still well worth a look, not as the glimpse into the future that it constituted in 1930, but, rather, as a window to our past. Topical jokes about Prohibition, sex, modernism as glimpsed in the late '20s, and even Henry Ford's anti-Semitism (which serves as the motivation behind the best gag line in the movie, and one that still elicits laughter in the 21st century) abound, and the special effects are not only surprisingly good but will seem amazingly familiar, even to those who haven't seen the movie -- a surprising number of shots and effects here were reused for the serials Flash Gordon and Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe later in the 1930s. It's about as difficult to evaluate the performances as the direction in this early talkie, but Maureen O'Sullivan is delectable at age 19, in only her third movie, Marjorie White is a hoot as her more free-spirited and worldly friend, and El Brendel provides a link with a brand of comedy that might otherwise be lost forever.