Love it or hate it -- and there are plenty who will fall into both camps -- Gabriel Over the White House is an unbelievable viewing experience, with the word "unbelievable" very carefully chosen. This is one of those films that you watch with your mouth constantly falling open in wonder at what you're seeing on the screen. Not visually, mind you, for there's not much in Gabriel that is of particular visual inventiveness; it's the audacity of the filmmakers in creating a picture like this that makes one watch in fascination. That audacity counts for a lot, for much of the screenplay of Gabriel is clunky and mechanical. The plot, as one might gather, is simply incredible, and it's presented in a kind of simplistic connect-the-dots manner (which, though it doesn't give the film any points for subtlety, does add to its undeniable power.) A person's reaction to Gabriel will ultimately depend on whether s/he can buy its premise that a dictatorship that destroys everything America is founded on is A-ok, so long as the dictator is a "good" one. But even those who have some trouble with this dubious premise should be swept along by Walter Huston's stunning, mesmerizing performance. His work here is among his finest, and it's to his credit that he makes the crackpot theories expounded herein come across as almost acceptable. Gregory LaCava's direction is spirited and he gives the impression of believing in the material -- which is essential in this case.
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In 1933, at the height of the bleakness and desperation of the Depression, MGM released this genuine curiosity piece -- directed by comedy (!) director Gregory La Cava -- concerning a Warren G. Harding-like partisan hand-shaker President of the United States who, after seeing a vision, revokes the Constitution, becomes a reigning dictator, and solves all of the nation's problems. Walter Huston plays Judson Hammond, recently elected President of the United States, who treats his elected office as a joke and acts as a dispenser of Party favors. But after an automobile accident, he sees the Archangel Gabriel, who inspires him to declare himself dictator. His first line of business after his conversion is to fire his Cabinet. This leads to impeachment proceedings, but Hammond enters the Senate chamber and takes over the Congress. He then tackles unemployment by meeting with John Bronson (David Landau), the leader of masses of marching unemployed men. When gangster Nick Diamond (Henry C. Gordon) and his goons assassinate Bronson, Hammond uses his brown-shirted storm troopers to blast their way into Diamond's headquarters and blow him away. The President then intimidates the leaders of countries that owe money to the United States to pay their debts then forces them to disarm and pledge world peace. Hammond rapidly becomes the most popular fascist President in United States history.
All Movie Guide - Craig Butler
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