16 April 2011 | MartinHafer
An enjoyable B from Warner.
This is a B-movie through and through. Now a lot of readers hear that term and don't exactly know what it means. A 'B' is a second and lesser film from a double-feature (mostly made in the 1930s and 40s). They had much smaller budgets, lesser-known or completely unknown actors and usually ran only about 60 minutes. Big studios made them and tiny independent 'poverty row' studios (with even smaller budgets) cranked them out one after another. They have a reputation for being cheap (that's true) and crappy (not at all true in most cases). They filled a nice niche at the time and are often breezy escapist entertainment.
"Men in Exile" has B-movie written all over it. None of the actors are recognizable to the average viewer, though you might recognize Dick Purcell--who appeared in some A-pictures though did not star in them (typical of many B leading men). It also runs at just about 60 minutes. And, like many Bs, it is an action-adventure film.
The movie is set on the mythical Caribbean island of Caribo. A mug (Purcell) is framed for a killing and escapes there because the government of the island could care less about your past and he can get a new start. However, a quiet life is NOT in store for him, as he's gotten himself in the middle of a plot to bring guns to revolutionaries on the island! His 'friend' Rocky wants him to come in with him in the gun-running venture but he refuses--only to end up smack in the middle of another conspiracy. Can poor Dickie survive AND/OR clear his name? The acting and direction are good here-as you'd expect in a Warner Brother B-film. It also sports an exotic-looking locale (actually just a nicely decorated sound stage with a few outdoor sets) that many Bs could not match. It also has a reasonably interesting plot and a few nice plot twists. As a result, the film was enjoyable and worth seeing--but like many Bs also a bit unremarkable.
By the way, this film is a remake of "Safe in Hell"--a film I absolutely hated. However, unlike the original, "Men in Exile" has been sanitized A LOT. The original film was made before the toughened Production Code and had many sleazy plot elements (including several attempted rapes!)--all these are missing in the remake. In fact, the newer film has been changed so much, it's hard tell they are the same basic plot. I much prefer the remake--and that is rare for me. It's just because the original was too florid and silly, while the remake is more believable and engaging.
By the way, Purcell's life story is pretty sad. Believe it or not, he died from a heart attack at only age 36! So ended the life of the first big screen Captain America.