3 January 2016 | AlsExGal
Rinty makes this movie...
...because of all of his canine stunts. Sure there is the normal chasing and swimming and saving his master, but this dog manages to light a lighthouse lamp in one of his most exciting stunts, free himself from a net in which his entire body is encased, and untie his master.. He also can show a whole range of emotions - anger, confusion, affection - that is why I watch these films in the first place.
Probably the two human names you will recognize the most are Darryl F. Zanuck, who wrote the screenplay and later owned Fox Studios as one of the most colorful movie moguls, and Louise Fazenda, who here is playing a 20-something daughter of a blind lighthouse keeper somewhere on the rocky New England coast. Usually a comedienne, just six years later she'll be playing matrons in their 40's! The outline of the story is that a lighthouse keeper of 30 years, Caleb, has gone blind in his old age, and his daughter, Flora, is helping out, doing what her father can no longer do. There was no Social Security in those days, usually no pensions, so getting the boot due to complete disability would be like getting fired - there would be no safety net to catch them. But then the lighthouse inspectors show up, and Caleb does manage to fool them into believing he can see. The purpose of their visit is to say that a cutter will be out in a few days to catch rum runners that have been operating along the coast, and the lighthouse working is vital to the plan.
After they leave, Flora goes to find a helper, since for some reason unexplained she now believes she can no longer do the job alone. Ultimately, the survivor of an emigrant ship that has sank, Bob, washes ashore with his dog, and Caleb and Flora offer him the job. Meanwhile, the rum runners are planning to get the key to the lighthouse so they can disable the lamp and get their shipment of rum in darkness. The whole thing ends with an exciting adventurous sea battle in which Rinty is key to saving the day. As a matter of fact, it is a good thing Bob has Rinty, because Rinty gets him out of almost every scrape as Bob proves himself rather useless in a fight, even one on one.
Now this film has several plot holes, and this was not an A list production of an A list studio (Warner Bros. was poverty row at the time), so I can forgive most of them, but some are just too big. Why does Flora go to a bar full of ruffians at night to find a helper before Bob washes ashore? Doesn't she know she'll likely be hit on or even attacked? Is this the place to find a trustworthy assistant? She is attacked, by Doggett, the apparent muscle of the rum-runners, which is strange because he has got to be 140 pounds soaking wet. What he lacks in muscle, though, he makes up in meanness. When he is walking along the coast at the same time Flora finds the waterlogged Bob, he commands her to just let him be because "there are enough beachcombers". Rinty has to bite Doggett to get rid of him. And on it goes. The actual boss of the outfit is much more refined, and I had to wonder - the key to these kind of prohibition operations was subtlety and discretion and Doggett is a loose vindictive cannon. The refined boss has the the sea, he has the henchmen, and he has some very big rocks - why not make this guy Doggett disappear, because he is only going to cause trouble to the operation by bringing attention to himself and doing evil beyond the call of duty - and he does.
When the night that the feds are supposed to catch the rum runners comes around, the two heads of the criminal gang seem to make all of the wrong decisions. They seem to think that the solution to all of their problems is to kidnap everybody and take them with them on their rum boat. All I can say is - and then what? Well, watch and find out. It certainly is exciting. For lovers of the old silents and especially Rin Tin Tin and his great canine action sequences.