5 September 2002 | arthursward
Burning Up? You, if you paid to see this...
I love the early talkies, they present themselves with an exuberance and freshness that clearly wore off by 1934. Having researched the early Paramount products so recently made available to me [thank you Forgotten Hollywood], it was with higher expectations that I viewed this title.
Although I have given this film a 6 of 10 rating, it was in spite of the direction. Richard Arlen and Mary Brian work hard in their lead roles of racecar driver and girlfriend but their scenes leave you uninvolved. The venerable Tully Marshall plays Arlen's promoter well, but his whining scenes are too repetitive and frequent. Francis McDonald is irritating AND intimidating as the antagonist racecar driver. Only Charles Sellon as Mary Brian's dad scores a good showing and his presence is all to infrequent. These flaws, which may not be the director's fault, are within the power of the director to ameliorate. Dialogue is poorly paced and the script is even worse.
So what's the 6 for? Plenty. The film opens with a montage of old amusement park thrillrides that set up the main character's introduction. In something called a Motor Drome, Arlen and McDonald race motorcycles in what I can only describe as a large wooden barrel. Roaring ever faster in a circle, centrifugal force glues them to the side of this barrel while the crowd cheers (and wagers). While a couple of shots are less than convincing, you've gotta hand it to the stunt doubles. The climactic race in open wheeled roadsters on a dirt track displays bravura camera movement. The action is captured from EVERY possible point-of-view. You'll see Arlen trying to overtake McDonald from beside McDonald's car then from a camera mounted behind Arlen. Tracking shots from behind and in front of (oh! the dust) are well edited into a thrilling sequence. The soundtrack roars agreeably, though some dialogue is lost.
Prior to viewing this Eddie Sutherland effort, I enjoyed his "Pointed Heels" (released earlier) so I'd hoped for more. Incidentally, "Pointed Heels" has an amazing tracking shot into a nightclub which ends in a 360 degree pan around a table. I wish someone could tell me how it was done.