Friday, April 27, 2018

Movie Review by Gayle Plummer

Fantasy/Drama
1939
1hr. 39 min.

For any who enjoy old movies, this one is right up there with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.  In fact three of the lead characters from this one were in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starting with Lionel Barrymore who played mean old Mr. Potter.  In this one he’s old endearing Gramps. Beaulah Bondi who plays Granny in “On Borrowed Time” was Jimmy Stewart’s mother in “It’s a Wonderful Life”; and Henry Traners who plays Dr. Evan in this one, was the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” As you may guess, Lionel Barrymore was related to Drew Barrymore.  He was her great-uncle.

Welcome to the cozy, little home of Gramps and Granny and their grandson Pud. We venture along with them in their ordinary, lazy days of the time period and we are witness to the extremely close relationship Pud has with his grandfather. Pud was played by Bobs Watson, a child actor who was well known for his ability to cry on cue and be extremely convincing about whatever pain he was portraying at the moment. I can attest to this; his performance is beyond convincing. (Yes it is “Bobs” not “Bob.” Mr. Watson reportedly was always able to cry real tears at any given moment, from a very young age in real life.)

The premise of this comfortable old movie is that feisty old Gramps has devised a way to stop Death, who is referred to as Mr. Brink. The movie takes a nice, easy stroll before all the bizarre pieces fall into place. Before all erupts, we are treated to a relaxed, warm, fuzzy experience. And once this plot begins to thicken, you’ll find it is very well written, quite deep and rather intriguing. 

Poor old Gramps has to endure medical scrutiny to determine if he’s sane or not - once word gets out that he believes he has Death trapped. He uses drastic measures to prove he’s not insane. Gramps is deliriously happy to think that Death has been stopped dead in his tracks (excuse the pun). However, it’s about here that things get a little abstract. Gramps is carrying on conversations with Mr. Brink (Death); this does not help his cause at all. Then to prove he has trapped Death, he has to shoot someone and all the while, poor Pud is fretting about being taken away from Gramps. 

All this is unfolding while the doctor, an evil relative and Granny are all trying to figure out if this sweet, wise old man is truly cheating Death. However, amazingly enough, Gramps has indeed stopped Mr. Brink from having any power. Mr. Brink no longer can escort people off this planet at their appointed time. 

But now the hard questions begin, both for Gramps and the viewing audience.

This seemingly simple plot carries some extremely complex issues within it. Not only does Gramps have to prove he’s sane to keep his grandson out of the clutches of a money-grubbing relative; but there’s the whole Death issue to figure out. The question of all mankind, since the beginning of time is wrestled with here and we are completely entertained while it’s all being worked out.  

There are several plots going on here at once and while we are taken along for this ride back in time, these characters let us know that we are not alone in our search for a meaningful life – and death.  
Obviously, these old movies lack the razzle-dazzle of today’s special effects movies and their fast moving plots and dialogue. However, when we need to unplug from today’s lightning speed of everything; this one will refresh and recharge our batteries. Rent it or see it on Netflix.