You Won’t Believe Some of the Camera Shots In ‘The Shakedown’ (1929)

61hDgN3fgdL._SX385_The Shakedown (1929)*, USA, 65 min

Special Features: (1) Audio commentary by film critic Nick Pinkerton, (2) booklet essay by film historian Nora Fiore & (3) a score by Michael Gatt.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber & Amazon

“The Shakedown is a heartwarming boxing drama directed by Hollywood legend William Wyler (The Best Years of Our Lives, The Big Country), presented in a new 4K restoration from Universal Pictures. Dave Roberts (James Murray, The Crowd) is a fighter better known for taking falls in fixed fights than for taking home the prize money. He is part of a traveling team of scammers that fleece gamblers across the country. But then he falls head-over-heels for a fiery waitress (Barbara Kent) and a rough-and-tumble orphan (Jack Hanlon), and he begins to dramatically alter his life inside and outside of the ring.”

Guys seriously … where has James Murray been all my life? He’s an absolute breath of fresh air and so very natural in front of the camera. I’ve seen him once before in The Crowd (1928) and though it was a fantastic film, Murray didn’t quite stand out in it as much as he did here in The Shakedown. He practically leaps off the screen in The Shakedown and it’s his vim and vigor that kept me absolutely mesmerized throughout the entire film.

Well, him and the incredible Jack Hanlon who played the young homeless boy Clem that Murray’s character ultimately falls in love with and rescues from the streets. Jack Hanlon was so good in this film that he could have given fellow child star Mickey Rooney a real run for his money. He’s exuberant and magnetic in all the right places and practically stole every scene he was in.

Jack Hanlon & James Murray in The Shakedown

I’m a fan of shorter films and The Shakedown had, like, the perfect run time at a zippy 65 minutes. The character development was on-point, the world building was great and the story development was just perfect. There’s a very nice build-up to the final fight scene and the last 10 minutes of the film had me sitting on the edge of my seat, biting my nails down to bloody stumps. Oh, and then the crying started! Make sure you have tissues with you, folks, when you watch this one.

Though the film is a bit jumpy in parts due, no doubt, to a damaged film negative, the action never stops in The Shakedown and nothing in terms of story is lost during these skips and jumps. Kino Lorber’s new 4K digital restoration of the surviving print looks fantastic considering how old the original film negative is. Visuals, for the most part, are crisp and clear.

Barbara Kent

Let’s talk about the camera shots for a second. There were a couple of outstanding shots in this film: 1) the overhead crane shot of James Murray making his way to the top of a high-rise building’s construction site, and 2) the rotating shot of a carnival’s ferris wheel and the people riding on it. Absolutely jaw-dropping considering this film was made at the end of the silent era!

Another aspect of the film that I feel I really need to point out here are the fantastically realistic inter-titles. They were perfectly suited to that time period, including era-specific slang and vocal mannerisms unique to almost every speaking character. A few of the inter-titles also included fun text animations that I very much enjoyed seeing, heightening my viewing experience.

The cast of The Shakedown

This new blu-ray release from Kino Lorber certainly doesn’t skimp on the special features. Not only are you getting a 10-page booklet with this edition (which includes a fantastic essay from film historian Nora Fiore), you’re also getting one audio commentary track by film critic Nick Pinkerton and a brand new score from composer Michael Gatt. This particular release reminds me a lot of the limited edition releases we’re seeing from boutique labels like Criterion Collection and Eureka! Masters of Cinema. Kino Lorber, you did a fantastic job on The Shakedown! Well done!

*This item was gifted to me by Kino Lorber in exchange for an honest review

4 thoughts on “You Won’t Believe Some of the Camera Shots In ‘The Shakedown’ (1929)

  1. Toronto Film Society screened this film in 2015 at Eastman House Museum and it was very well liked, certainly by me. An interesting tidbit brought to our attention was that the man holding up the cards in the boxing ring, letting us know what round was being fought, was William Wyler himself.

    I was first introduced to Barbara Kent in the film LONESOME (1928) and always was able to recognize her distinct modern looks from then on. And besides, she was a Canadian girl!

    Nick Pinkerton is someone I’ve met socially a couple of times, so I was excited to read that he does the commentary.


    1. Hi Caren! You’re absolutely right – William Wyler’s brief cameo in the boxing ring was mentioned in the booklet that came with the blu-ray. I was like “Whhaaaaa?!” I guess Hitchcock wasn’t the only director keen on making onscreen appearances back then 😉 I had no idea Barbara Kent was Canadian, wow. Thank you for your lovely comment!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Elizabeth! I must admit, I don’t know an awful lot about James Murray, but I do know that he had a troubled life? Is that right? I’m going to research him further later today. Onscreen, he was absolutely magnetic.


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