• From Show Boat

The restored print of Show Boat (1936) playing this week at the Gene Siskel Film Center is one of the must-see movies in town. For one thing, it contains some of Paul Robeson’s greatest film work: his performance of “Ol’ Man River” has been justly celebrated, and it’s well worth seeing within the context of the film. But more importantly, the movie showcases some of the most ambitious filmmaking by director James Whale, whose work outside the horror genre remains too little known. Case in point, several of his major features—Show Boat, the melodrama One More River, and the Expressionist-influenced The Kiss Before the Mirror—remain unavailable on DVD. It’s unfortunate that a number of Whale’s movies should be relegated to the archives, as they often feel surprisingly modern.