Copyright 7 February 1933 by Vitagraph, Inc. A Warner Bros. picture. No New York opening. U.S. release: 17 December 1932. U.K. release: May 1933. 57 minutes. (Available on an excellent Warner Home Video DVD).
SYNOPSIS: Hampered by bandits, two heirs try to find a missing fortune in an abandoned gold mine. This film is a re-make of the 1928 silent "The Phantom City" which starred Ken Maynard and Eugenia Gilbert. The director was Albert Rogell, the photographer Ted McCord. "Blue" Washington repeats his original role..
COMMENT: It would be wrong to exaggerate the virtues of this little western, but the fact is that on a first viewing - despite some clumsy effects that don't quite come off - it's a mighty entertaining little piece. It's only on a second look that you realize the reason for the mismatched cuts, under-cranking and too dark location photography is that the producer has liberally spliced in footage from the 1928 silent version, "The Phantom City". Not only have whole action sequences - including an elaborate chase in which our hero foils his pursuers by pulling a whole house down in their tracks, plus a wonderfully exciting ascent up a mine shaft with displaced beams falling right into the camera, plus a truly astonishing series of stunts from a bucket suspended over a canyon, plus an amazing bit of business when "Duke" (the horse, not Wayne) forces one of the heavies over a cliff - been incorporated, but even background and establishing shots.
Nonetheless, that first viewing is certainly a marvelous entertainment experience. You think to yourself, how can they afford all this excitement, all this elaborate staging on a "B" budget? True, the players are strictly second-rate, though Wayne himself gives a likable and ingratiating performance. By contrast, the other players are somewhat traditionally stiff.
Although heavy-handed and even at times inept, the direction tries mightily to get plenty of spooky atmosphere out of the sets and situations. In some scenes Wright successfully employs an unusually large variety of odd camera angles. Musuraca's shadow-laden photography is also an asset.
1 out of 2 found this helpful