Monday, December 31, 2018

Sea Racketeers (1937)

A cute and light hearted little nautical adventure set on a gambling boat, the owner of which (J. Carroll Naish) is also smuggling furs though the Coast Guard is doing their best to stop them (though not that well).

Weldon Heyburn and Warren Hymer are two of the Coast Guard seamen but seem to spend most of their time making fools of themselves and chasing women, especially showgirl Toots (Penny Singleton). Their dog Skipper seems to be the brains of the outfit though.

Meanwhile Patricia (Jeanne Madden), the daughter of a lighthouse keeper who was killed by the smugglers turns up to carry out her own investigation, and sing. Yes there are some pretty swell songs interspersed thoughout. Its light and inconsequential but fun.

Friday, December 28, 2018

The Fatal Hour (1940)

Mr Wong (Boris Karloff) is enlisted by his friend Police Captain Street (Grant Withers) to find the killer of his old friend who was found fished out of the waterfront in San Francisco whilst investigating a smuggling ring.

Harry "Hardway" Lockett (Frank Puglia) is something to do with the smuggling ring which involves his club, the Neptune. Helping (or is that hindering?) is reporter Bobbie (Marjorie Reynolds) who has a fractious relationship with Street...

It is an enjoyable murder mystery it starts off quite slow and formulaic but things perk up when the bodycount starts rising. An early remote control (for a radio) also becomes a very interesting technological plot device. The story is quite average but what raises the film above the average of Karloff of course.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Panama Patrol (1939)

Major Waring (Leon Ames) is just about to marry his secretary Helen Lane (Charlotte Wynters) when he gets the call to translate a coded message that has just been received, well duty calls! After a brief interlude to arrest a suspicious East Asian and suspected spy (who promptly gets shot by enemy unknown) the code is broken.

Waring heads to New York masquerading as the shot spy and begins to uncover a plot by Chinese spies to damage the Panama Canal. However is one of his own men, Arlie Johnson (Abner Biberman) in on the plot? Why indeed and Waring ends up getting captured by the spies, who luckily are pretty useless...

Much of the plot doesn't make sense and there is plenty of Yellow Peril nonsense but it is an exciting and fast paced movie with plenty of action and some neat code breaking. The soundtrack though is weird, no attempt at all seems to have been made to match the music to the actual action.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Madonna of the Desert (1948)

A valuable Madonna has been unearthed in a ranch owned by Joe Salinas (Don Castle). Crooks Nick Julian (Sheldon Leonard) and Monica Dale (Lynne Roberts) plan to steal the Madonna and replace it with a replica made by skilled forger Hank (Paul E. Burns).

When Monica is trying to switch the Madonna she learns that Joe truly believes that it is supposed to bring good luck to good people and begins to have second thoughts on the plan... Naturally Nick isn't too pleased on the change of plan.

So a neat little crime movie with a few twists and turns plus the added mystery of the Madonna. Leonard and Roberts play good roles.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Flash Gordon (Serial) (1936)

Classic serial action (in fact in many ways the classic serial) as Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe) and Dale Arden (Jean Rogers) travel to the world of the evil Ming the Merciless (Charles Middleton) which is travelling towards Earth...

The planet Mongo is inhabited by various warring factions including the Hawkmen and Lionmen but Ming rules over all. Flash, Dale and scientist Dr Zarkov (Frank Shannon) have a series of adventures in the crazy world, and as its a serial there are many cliffhangers.

It is just so much fun, and sparking space ships. Of course it is also rather simplistic but that doesn't matter as its thrills a minute and has so much charm and energy.

Princess Aura (Priscilla Lawson) is endlessly scheming to get Flash for herself but he only has eyes for Dale of course... To be honest that's just one of many things that doesn't really make much sense in the cold light of day but that is exactly the wrong way to approach this romp.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Christmas Eve (1915)

A cute little short feature with a traditional Christmas story. Gregory Scott plays a poor man with a sick wife and a young daughter. Desperate to improve his wife's condition he steals from his employer and is fired. Angry and even more desperate he gets a gun and goes to fire his ex-employer but he sees his daughter talking to him and changes his mind. In the end his employer forgives him in the spirit of Christmas and invites the family to join Christmas with them.

That is basically it really for the story which is a bit basic and is probably inspired by Dickins. It is nicely filmed, the acting is fairly natural especially by the little girl whose name unfortunately does not seem to have been recorded.

Friday, December 21, 2018

The Way of the West (1934)

An unexceptional B-movie western. It has a reasonable story though the dialogue is oddly stilted in delivery. Wally Gordon (Wally Wales aka Hal Taliaferro) is a government agent who stumbles upon a conflict between cattlemen and sheep farmers the Parker family which include Firey (Myria Bratton) who provides the love interest.

Parker has the best grazing land in the area for his sheep and the cattlemen want to get rid of him. They hire in an ornery gunman called Cash Horton (William Desmond) to do the job - this is a bad guy so hardcore he has a swastika on his back! (You wouldn't get away with that in a few years...) Wally meanwhile decides to help out and find out exactly what's going on...

So the story isn't that original but it's a decent enough movie, except for the rather shoddy editing. The "humour" with the kid Little Bobbie (Bobbie Nelson) falls a little flat. The action especially some of the horsemanship is pretty good.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Adventure in Iraq (1943)

An unintentionally hilarious adventure film set in Iraq during the Second World War. Doug Everett (Warren Douglas) is flying George Torrence (John Loder) and Tess Torrence (Ruth Ford) across Iraq when engine trouble forces them down in the middle of nowhere. To add some spark George and Tess are married but getting divorced and Doug has the hots for Tess...

They end up in a remote kingdom ruled by the smooth talking Sheik (Paul Cavanagh). The Sheik appears kind and refined, living in an Arabian Nights-esque palace but with a population of devil worshippers. Soon they begin to suspect the Sheik's is not as nice as he appears (which to be honest is pretty obvious)...

An enjoyable romp and the movie studio was no doubt able to reuse plenty of existing sets and costumes. Don't expect a very accurate portrayal of 1940s Iraq though. Paul Cavanagh is wonderful as the Sheik with plenty of good if corny lines, he also wears a monocle.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Below the Deadline (1936)

Molly Fitzgerald (Cecilia Parker) works for a diamond merchant, she is chatted up by a man (Theodore von Eltz) but he is after more than her pretty face, he is planning to rob the merchant. Not only does he carry off the crime he manages to frame Molly's policeman fiance Terry (Russell Hopton) for both robbery and murder.

Terry goes on the run but is badly injured in a train crash. He takes the identity of a dead man (and thus is assumed killed in the crash) and is given plastic surgery in hospital. Now with a new identity and a new face (not that he looks much different) he sets out to find out who set him up...

Although the plot is a bit ridiculous, Terry is framed on the most flimsy of evidence for example. Also despite seemingly being a respected policeman the Force dump on him in an instant. The film is well made and entertaining with a few twists.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Doomed to Die (1940)

Mr Wong (Boris Karloff) is bought in to help investigate a murder which at first appears to be an open and shut case. Shipping owner Cyrus Wentworth (Melvin Lang) is already reeling from the loss of one of his liners when the son of his bitter rival Dick Fleming (William Stelling) turns up to try and get his blessing for the marriage to Wentworth's daughter Cynthia (Catherine Craig). There is an argument and a shot is fired. Wentworth is found dead.

Captain Street (Grant Withers) arrests Dick for the murder but keen reporter Roberta (Marjorie Reynolds) calls in Mr Wong who isn't so sure the case is that open and shut. He begins to investigate the people killed on the liner, an illegal shipment of Chinese bonds and tong activity...

Another enjoyable Mr Wong mystery. Plenty of red herrings and a complicated case but the calm and suave Mr Wong/Karloff makes the film as usual.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Amateur Crook (1937)

Mary Layton/Betsy Cummings (Joan Barclay) steals a diamond from two loan sharks (oh wait the diamond was her father's which the loan sharks were intending to steal). On the run from the sharks and the police she gets mixed up with a rather minor artist called Jimmy (Herman Brix - later known as Bruce Bennett).

Then the diamond goes missing inside a mannequin and it's a terrible palaver.

It's a rather silly film, and with some rather poor acting especially dialogue delivery. You get the impression there wasn't much time if at all to rehearse. Vivian Oakland plays a good role as a landlady. The film has some charm and that gets you through it. It is played light and should be treated as a bit of fun.

Friday, December 14, 2018

The Hangman Waits (1947)

This is a strange little film about a murder hunt but in a docu-drama style centred around the News of the World newsroom (well this was a long time ago!)

The film is very low budget but also at times quite artistic and innovative. A cinema usherette (Beatrice Campbell) is murdered and we follow the case from the point of view of the police (who investigate the case rather ineptly) and the newspaper men trying to find out what is going on...

Well it sounds like it could be a decent film... but is executed rather poorly overall. Much of the acting is rather wooden, you wonder if they used actors or just dragged people off the streets and handed them the script. One actor definitely in the film is John Le Mesurier, apparently his first role. Much better was to come.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Yellowstone (1936)

Perky young tourist Ruth Foster (Judith Barrett) turns up at Yellowstone National Park for a holiday, young ranger Dick Sherwood (Henry Hunter) chats her up but Ruth is really here to see her father James (Ralph Morgan). She hasn't seen him for eighteen years and is under the impression that he has been in Australia... but really he has been in San Quentin.

Eighteen years ago he stole a stack of money which he has hidden in the park. Now released he is after his money but so are others. When James Foster is found dead the truth about his past comes out and a hunt for the murderer is on.

Though as a murder mystery its no more than basic with a little too much silliness. Of course the ranger gets accused of murdered Ruth's old man (which puts a bit of a cloud on their budding romance for some reason). The film really scores with the scenery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Man on the Run (1948)

Derek Farr plays Brown, an Army deserter, who is hiding out in a seaside pub but when one of his old Army comrades (Kenneth More) recognises him and tries to blackmail him he flees to London.

Penniless and in danger of being thrown out on the street he mistakenly gets involved in an armed robbery and accused of murdering a policeman. While on the (literal) run from the law he barges into the home of Jean (Joan Hopkins). Jean believes him but the police are hot on his trail. His only course of action is to find the real villains and clear his name...

A nicely tight and gripping noir. Post-war bitterness is very evident, Farr gives his reasons about why he deserted and how badly the Army treated him. Tension between soldiers and civilians they think didn't pull their weight in the war is also portrayed.