17 June 2019 | joe-pearce-1
Remembered for Seventy Years? It Must Have Something!
I originally saw this film when it came out in 1948. I was nine years old, but even in those pre-TV days, I knew who both Ralph Byrd and George Reeves were, since I was a two-year veteran movie-goer (yes, little kids could go to movies unaccompanied in those days, and the admission was between $.09 and $.20, according to the theater and the day of the week), and knew Byrd from his Dick Tracy serial and Reeves as the villain of the first Jungle Jim film. I did not see it again for almost 70 years, but never forgot it, because it was such a good-humored adventure film, and everyone in it was first rate. Imagine my surprise when, the next year, M-G-M "introduced" Denise Darcel to America, yet I had seen her in this film the year before, and very good she was, too. Anyway, just as he himself felt about his career, I always thought that the role of Superman rather ruined Reeves's chances at better things in the movies, as he was a good leading man and a really first-rate comedy actor with a laid-back and breezy style that should have matured nicely (he used it as Clark Kent, too, but it was rather wasted on the kids). The Reeves and Byrd characters here are very much in the tradition of Lowe and McLaglen as Quint and Flagg in WHAT PRICE GLORY? or Abbott and Costello in almost all their films, with the smarter of each pair (Reeves, Lowe and Abbott) always taking advantage of his best pal, but with all of them there is never any real doubt that they are bosom buddies at heart, and forgiveness from the dumber of the two is a given. Considering the intelligence Byrd showed in roles like Dick Tracy and as the hero in some serials, his convincing dumb act here comes off as very good acting. Lyle Talbot makes a wonderfully semi-comic and more-than-slightly-bent villain, and his comeuppance is very funny even if you do sympathize just a little with his oily self. Marion Martin, a truly underrated femme fatale who was destined to, and expert at, playing lower- or upper-class ladies of extraordinarily easy virtue. some goodhearted, others downright vicious (the total opposite of her non-screen life, where she was very active in all kinds of religious activities, charities and good works) has one of her best roles here. A 'B" film, yes, and not to be confused with high quality film making, yet it is a totally enjoyable 70 or so minutes of fluff and good-natured adventure, both for kids and adults. Why else would I have remembered it so fondly for over 70 years now?