On Borrowed Time
Published on Thursday, 06 May 2010 20:00
Written by Will
|Title||On Borrowed Time|
|Directed By||Harold S. Bucquet|
|Written By||Alice D.G. Miller, Frank O'Neill, Claudine West|
Based upon the play written by Paul Osborn, based upon the novel by Edward Watkin
|Starring||Lionel Barrymore, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Beulah Bondi, Una Merkel, Bobs Watson, Nat Pendleton, Henry Travers, Grant Mitchell|
|DVD Distributer||Warner Bros. Archive Collection|
|MPAA Rating||Not Rated|
|By It Now On|
"Aunt Demetria is a pismire" - 'Pud'
Some movies have a way of fastening themselves to the soul, viewed at an impressionable age these symbiotic parasites of art have a strange way of weaving themselves into a young psyche like a carnivorous worm in the brain. Burrowing deep they stowaway in the subconscious until such a time, many years later, something triggers the memory. For me, the indelible image of deaths feet dangling from an apple tree brought this film rushing back. On Borrowed Time
from Director Harold S. Bucquet (Dr. Kildare
, series of films from the '30's and 40's) is a film that calmly chewed into my gray matter when I was just a funny looking child. Unfortunately despite the impact the story had on me, I still forgot the title. Remember I was young when I first saw it and had not yet killed most of my brain cells with drugs and alcohol. On Borrowed Time
may have remained nothing more than the ghost of a bong hit were it not for my recent discovery of Warner Bros. Archive collection. This is a connoisseurs collection of lesser known, older titles aimed at a collectors market. Available only as an on demand DVD-R, this is good news for those of us already acquainted with the films in question, but not so good for those of you who would like to view the film prior to purchase. These are pricey titles, this disc cost almost thirty dollars after shipping and handling. Being a nerdy collector I grudgingly paid the exorbitant price, those simply curious or hindered by budgetary restrictions, will not. This is a shame and I urge the powers that be to reconsider the prohibitive price tag.
1939 was an historic year for many reasons, the United States had just declared a policy of neutrality regarding WWII, department store Montgomery Ward invented 'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer' introducing him as Santa's newest and hippest addition to the team , a catastrophic earthquake killed 30,000 people in Chile, Frieda Wunderlich was appointed first woman Dean of a graduate school, Ted Williams hit his first double against the Yankee's, and Hollywood had what many film historians refer to as films greatest year to date! 1939 boasted the release of films such as Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
, Gone With The Wind
, Dark Victory
, Gunga Din
, The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
, The Wizard Of Oz
, and the list goes on! It is easy to see where a quiet little film such as On Borrowed Time
would easily get lost in the shuffle of theater patrons distracted by some of the showier titles that appeared the same year.
Taking its cue from the successful stage play based upon Edward Watkin's original novel , On Borrowed Time
is a film that doesn't need to be loud and in your grill to appeal. It quietly gives breath to a desire all of us at some point in our lives wish for, the ability to cheat death of the inexorable march to our own, or a loved ones destiny. Who wouldn't relish the chance to bend old death over and fuck him instead of the other way around?
Enter 'Gramps Northrup' (Lionel Barrymore), a whelchair bound octogenarian that suddenly finds himself raising his young grandson 'Pud' (Bobs Watson) after the boys parents are killed in a car accident. As the unfortunately named Pud tries to cope with the loss of his parents, 'Death' (Cedric Hardwicke), calling himself 'Mr. Brink' comes to call again. This time he has come for the boys aged grandfather and will not leave until he has gotten what he came for! As gramps prepares to take Mr. Brinks hand for the journey to the hereafter, gramps makes one last request of death. In the front yard of his home there is an apple tree and he would like to have one last apple before going! Ever the gentleman Mr. Brink obliges the elderly man, only to find moments later that he has become trapped in the branches of the apple tree. The magical tree takes its orders from the old man, and the old man doesn't want to go! It seems only Gramps Northrup possesses the power to free someone once they are caught in the tree's magical branches.
The story plays out wonderfully as it weaves itself with a subplot that involves Pud's skeevy aunt 'Demetria Riffle' (Eily Malyon), a miserly spinster that wants to take custody of the boy so that she may inherit the money Pud's parents insurance policy paid out when they were killed. Oddly Malyon's 'Demetria' "the pismire" is a character eerily similar to that of Margaret Hamilton's 'Almira Gulch' from The Wizard Of Oz
, released the same year as this picture!
If you have never seen this mini-masterpiece I can't recommend it enough! On your next nostalgia foray why not pick this up instead of The Wizard Of Oz, it is a quiet film and admittedly does not boast the star power of Wizard, but makes up in heart all that it may be lacking in elaborate SPFX. Watch it for Lionel Barrymore who delivered one of his most touching performances here as 'Gramps'. You will laugh at poor 'Pud' and his ridiculous name but the interaction between the aged Barrymore and Bobs Watson captures the special bond often shared between children and their grandparents. It is about time this lost classic saw the light of day, if only it weren't so damn expensive! (HINT)