11 March 2015 | dougdoepke
So Who's the Firebug
The 30's were full of amateur sleuths. This Columbia production amounts to a neat variation. Instead of a gentleman detective, Fletcher's (Lowe) a professional arson investigator, cocky and high-priced, with a Sherlock instinct for sifting through ashes. So who's the firebug setting half the town ablaze. We figure it's got to be one of the supporting cast, at least that's the way the game usually works. But in this nifty screenplay, the culprit could even be a cast principal, since they have reasons as well. But whatever you do, watch out for those lashing flames. They're realistic as heck.
Lowe's too cocky here to be really likable, but he does command center stage. Too bad the actor's largely forgotten since he could pass for William Powell's over-eager brother. On the other hand, Sothern hasn't yet created her sparkling comedic side and hasn't much to do but stand around and look blonde. Then too, I really like the movie's added comedic touches, like the comely blonde secretary, who soon gives way to an annoyingly squeaky replacement, who in turn gives way to a battle-hardened witch— the company's way of punishing the demanding Fletcher. Then there're the street spies who are either "blind" old guys or "harmless" old ladies. Touches like these lift a programmer from the merely ordinary to the memorable. Yet, I have to agree with reviewer planktonrules. The relationship between Fletcher and his assistant Grayson (Stevens) goes suddenly sour mid-way through without explanation (was this an error of editing?).
Anyway, the 60-minutes is a better than average programmer with a number of engaging touches.