Red Dust

Red Dust ★★★★

If Only Angels Have Wings (1939) had Clark Gable, no planes, and an East Asian setting, it'd look a lot like Red Dust (1932). Took me a while to realise that Dennis is supposed to be a massive piece of shit, not merely a "product of his time" in which a plantation owner/serial womaniser/borderline rapist could still be sold as hunky old dreamboat. Basically, the Dennis of Red Dust is as knowingly sociopathic as the Dennis of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (2005–), and as the film progresses, his masculinity is gradually picked apart until he cracks beneath the weight of his own monstrous behaviour. No, Jean Harlow is the real star here: 21 years old, and 5 years away from death, she's as racy, radiant, and rambunctious as any actress of the pre-Code era. The only thing that holds this beautifully scripted, shot*, and characterised movie back from higher praise is the horribly racist caricature of Hoy, who's possibly even more offensive than the infamous Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), and, unfortunately, he's twice as prevalent within the movie.

(*Seriously, this thing is screaming for a good Blu-ray restoration).