The most interesting thing about this movie is the eccentric turn of Ralph Richardson as Bulldog Drummond and Francis L. Sullivan as His nemesis Carl Peterson. Plus an early look at the young Ann Todd as Phyllis Drummond. The film reflects some of the crudity of British Film production outside of the films of Alexander Korda. Exhibiting the same level of competence as the 'Poverty Row' studios in Hollywood, like Mascot, Monogram or P.R.C, etc.
Drummond leads a group of armed x-officers (The Black Clan) on a crusade against what is a perceived a threat to World peace led by Mr. Peterson. It was a popular theory that the GREAT WAR (WWI) was caused or manipulated into by Arms Cartels. Peterson's character being based on Basil Zaharoff. A international arms dealer affiliated with VICKERS with a more then suspect past of corruption, shady dealings, possible murder and sabotage too obtain His ends. Make a lot of money at other People's expense.
Well our Hero's accomplish there goals and Peterson meets his deserved end. Is peace brought to the World, well no. Imperial Japan would initiated the fun with the start of the 2nd Sino-Japanese war in 1937. Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia would use the Spanish-Civil War as a testing ground and Italy would trash Ethiopia, wanting too create a new Roman Empire. Then in 1939 things really got going with a BANG, enter WWII! A reality far beyond what was imagined by THE RETURN OF BULLDOG DRUMMOND.
You would think Universal/Filmcraft with their top Serial Star Larry 'Buster' Crabbe would be a worth while watch, wrong. Based on the RED BARRY comic strip by William Gould I would expect a strong plot and two-fisted action, that does not occur in this Serial.
Two/2 Million Dollar$ from China too buy War-Planes is the MacGuffin. Four/4 parties compete for it and like a game of musical chairs it rotates between the four/4. Not much of a plot device and this Serial is almost as boring as HOLT OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1941) Columbia Pictures. Except 'Buster' Crabbe is far more engaging then Jack Holt and Evelyn Brent.
Fortunately it runs only 13 Chapters rather then the 15 of H.O.T.S.S.
For those with a Historical bent, China's motivation for the War-Planes is too help repulse a invader. Though they are not mentioned it is obviously Imperial Japan. The second Sino-Japanese War having started in 1937 and in Chapter one/1 background news-reel footage clearly shows who the aggressor was. It is worth one/1 watch, but solely if you are a Serial fan.
Captain Corliax of the LAFAYETTE (Walter Huston) has a very attractive wife, Lottie Corliax (Lil Dagover). She has had previous relations with his executive officer Bromberg (John Wray) and a junior officer, D'Ortelles (Warren William). She wants to remain loyal too her Husband, but feels ignored being drawn back to D'Ortelles and repulsed by Bromberg. A Naval battle intrudes upon all of this and in the end there is NO happy ending for anybody. Watch and find out the details.
Strong cast supports the film. Lottie Corliax a popular German Actress is attractive and seductive, if She had stayed over here (Hollywood) might have rivaled Garbo or Dietrich. Huston and William did what needed too be done, acted like professional Naval Officers. As for John Wray, he is just as big a weasel in this film as he was as Himmelstoss in ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (1930).
The SFX are credible done for the time and the Naval battle a fair representation of early 20th Century Sea combat. The LAYFAYETTE described in the film as a Battle-Cruiser would more correctly be called a Armored Cruiser. A type totally obsolete by 1914. In the film represented by full sized sets a large scale model and some pick up shots of ship activity from a Colorado class standard Battleship. The model taking its inspiration from the EDGAR QUINET class Armored Cruiser. Just like in the real conflict, the LAYFAYETTE showed little resistance to underwater attack and succumbed fairly quickly too her Central Powers opponent. France was very lucky She had Great Britain and its Royal Navy on Her side. Her Navy would have been no match for the powerful German Fleet.
British Captain, Jim (Reginald Sharland) suffers from a form of 'shell-shock' as his command is wiped out by German Storm-Troopers with Flame-Throwers. Exiles himself to a south-sea island becoming a lush. Enter Josie (Sally O'Neil) young lady of the world, but all around good egg. She helps Jim overcome his fear of fire, booze and the bully of the island, McEwen (Mitchell Lewis). There is more too the story so suggest you watch it.
The villain played by Lewis had a long and productive career in character parts from the silent era too the late 1950s. Sharland's career was rather short lived and this could be considered his biggest film role. Ms. O'Neil achieved success in the mid 1920s, but by the mid 1930s her career in Hollywood was done. Surprising as She projected a attractive and vivacious image.
THE GREAT ALASKAN MYSTERY (1944) Universal has a few things to recommend it. First thing is the cast, the film is loaded with quality character actors. Many who appeared in the previous decade for the major studios, M.G.M, Paramount, Warner Brothers etc. Second, much documentary footage of the 'Great White North' was used for back-round plates. Third, the musical score, though a Hodge-Podge collection from previous film scores it is fun too pick them out. From THE SPOILERS (1942) too most of the Universal Horror Films.
Why the low rating? For it fails like most Universal Serials do except for BUCK ROGERS and the FLASH GORDON Trilogy, too much talk not enough action or decent SFX. Universal Serials were dialogue and plot driven and except for the previously mentioned, lacked the action of their competition from REPUBLIC Studios. Though a middle tier Studio, Universal had a excellent SFX department, but its head John Fulton did not work on Serials. REPUBLIC devoted original musical scores to support the action and the Lydecker Brothers SFX, not so Universal. Stunt work was sub-par also with the Fight scenes so-so.
The serial is about as entertaining as most of those from COLUMBIA and made with the same level of competence. The plot is centered around the 'PARATRON', at first, a matter transmitter, but with a energy boost a super Death-Ray and our Axis enemies want it, nuff-said! Our two (2) disc copy came courtesy of ALPHA VIDEO via our local Flee-Market. It appears to be from a 16mm dupe print. Night scenes are a little too dark, but the sound is quite clear.
Other then bringing on John Cameron for a cameo almost all the information is a repeat or rehash of the most probable theories on the fall of ATLANTIS. The most plausible of them being that the Minoan Island Trading Empire on THERA, now SANTORINI was built upon a dormant Volcano. This erupted with a massive explosion and venting of the caldera which subsequently collapsed. Thus creating a massive Tsunami which inundated the eastern Mediterranean. This occurred sometime during the 16th Centuries B.C.E. The eruption took some time to develop its full fury, so the Island appears to have been evacuated prior to the major eruption. The eruption on the Volcanic Explosivity Index was at the level Six (6), possibly as high as a Seven (7).
There are several other candidates, starting with MALTA, then keep moving West. Even beyond the PILLARS OF HERCULES (Straits Of Gibraltar). To take that theory seriously you would have to believe that ATLANTIS was best represented by George Pal's ATLANTIS; The Lost Continent (1961). A enjoyable fantasy film, but hardly science. If you have seen the other documentaries on ATLANTIS you might want to skip this one. If not watch it. Those who have, watch the movie instead. Its hokey, but fun.
Director Keisuke Kinoshita had to 'toe the line' in the film. Sponsored by the Imperial Japanese Army (I.J.A.), nothing but honor and respect were to be shown to that service. The failure to do your duty to the Emperor and State was inexcusable. The word 'coward' is liberally thrown around at any sign of acting less then a man, any sign of weakness.
The story covers three (3) generations of a Japanese Family and its contributions too the war effort. Starting with the First Sino-Japanese War (1894>1895), Russo-Japanese War (1904>1905) finally the commitment in 1937 to the 2nd Sino-Japanese War which evolved/merged into World War II in 1939. The prelude to the story set in 1944 illustrates this, Japan is being pressed by the Navies of the 'Western Powers'. Japan is always portrayed as a victim. Either not getting its fair share of the spoils of war, nor the proper respect as a player for Empire.
The film ends with the I.J.A. marching off to defend the Empire from the alleged aggression of the Chinese. The Mother runs after Her Son, desiring a last farewell. Is She distraught of His leaving or proud He is finally living up to His duty? With no dialogue save for martial music playing it is left up to the viewer. Though it did not please all those in the I.J.A. it skirted the issue enough to pass the censors.
This is the sound remake of the M.G.M. Silent feature of 1925 which allegedly was a hit play in 1906. The film was shot both as a silent and in sound. Not a unusual practice at that time since outside of large cities most theaters had not been retrofitted for sound. This was particularly true with Warner Brothers/1st National since they were using sound on disk, rather then sound on film, like FOX, M.G.M., R.K.O. and PARAMOUNT.
Coming from the Stage and a early silent film most likely explains the rather 'stagy' and stilted performances by the actors. Ian Keith, normally a competent supporting actor is out of sorts as a romantic lead. Dorothy Mackaill a popular Silent Star who transitioned easily too 'Talkies' is lost here with a poor characterization and script. Finally Myrna Loy is still stuck in Her exotic period which She would finally escape from by the mid 1930s' over at M.G.M. Only Claude Gillingwater had a grasp of His character a stodgy businessman. A role He would continue to play His entire career.
Throw in some unrecognizable songs which I doubt were ever popular, you have one of the early sound quasi-musicals. Thus explaining the fall in popularity of movie-musicals. Which would not be reborn until Busby Berkeley at Warner Brothers and Astaire and Rogers at R.K.O. revitalized the genre. This is best watched as a curiosity piece. In just three (3) years such crude efforts will be totally eclipsed.
L.O.T.R. (Redmen) aka 'Last Of The Redskins' was a postwar effort in 'B' adventure by Columbia Pictures. Featuring Cinecolor, a alternative to the more expensive (and beautiful) 3-Strip Technicolor. The plot was the reworking and simplification of 'The Last Of The Mohicans'. Eliminating several Action Sequences, Characters and Plot Elements. In other words, emasculating some of the best parts of the Film/Novel.
The most positive thing could be said about the Film is the curious casting. Columbia borrowing from other Studios, Jon Hall, Evelyn Ankers, Julie Bishop and Buster Crabbe with the quality Director Vincent Sherman. With the short running time of 79" being the films only other merit. Unfortunately being a Columbia feature and Produced by Sam Katzman you know it would be done on the cheap. The cheapness would continue in further Adventure Epics, but the leads would evolve to Paul Henreid, Cornel Wilde and John Derek.
A better watch would be 'The Last Of The Mohicans' (1936) a Edward Small Production or the 1992 version featuring Daniel Day-Lewis as HAWKEYE. The most complete version of T.L.O.T.M. was a BBC T.V. Serial in 1971 shown in the U.S.A. on Masterpiece Theater. Though largely Studio bound it was a dedicated and sincere production. So take a pass on L.O.T.R. and view the suggested three (3).
Women has three (3) adorable Baby-Boys, then becomes a Widow. Her Sister in Law helps her raise them, but they do not get the results expected. Instead they get a triplet of alleged Men, who act like irresponsible spoiled Children. Treating their Mother not with love and respect, but as another housemaid and somebody to put a touch on. Will they grow-up and meet their responsibilities to Mother and Country, watch and find out.
'B' film from Warner Brothers features good cast. Irene Rich (Mother), Marjorie Rambeau (Sister in Law) and Moroni Olsen (Mothers Suitor) with Wayne Morris, William T. Orr and Tom Brown as the loser Sons. They all fulfill what is expected of them and Warner Brothers delivers a fine small film for Family viewing. Not a classic, but illustrates what the studio system did right. Made just before our entry into the BIG ONE (WWII) it is topical for the time. One other cast member, though underused does make a impression, Susan Peters. Who would go on to a successful, if brief career at M.G.M.
This could/should have been a break-out role for Bruce Cabot (Robert Webster/Bat Williams, Criminal) just like the PUBLIC ENEMY (1931) was for James Cagney. Cabot though already had his chance in KING KONG (1933) and by 1936 had firmly established himself as a dependable character actor. In this film he does show he had more to offer and was particularly effective as a murderous sociopath.
Webster/Williams has two (2) lives, as Webster respected engineer and Son of John Webster (Lewis Stone) pillar of society. Then as Williams a criminal mastermind who uses the parole system to duck in and out of prison at his convenience. John Webster is finally confronted by the truth just prior to his Daughters Wedding, Mildred Webster (Betty Grable). Webster/Williams once more gets off, black-mailing his Father now on the Parole Board, though trying for one more BIG SCORE meets his undoing.
At 65" the film moves right along at a quick pace and would not disgrace the efforts over at WARNER BROTHERS. RKO being very efficient and turning out these programmers needed in filling out its release schedule and theater chain. Also to cover expenses for such flops as MARY OF Scotland. A film that cemented Katherine Hepburn for being 'Box Office Poison' through the balance of the 1930s.
HURRICANE ISLAND (1951) is another in a series of mediocre Pirate Films churned out or released through Columbia Pictures. Non of which is going to make you forget about CAPTAIN BLOOD, THE SEA HAWK or THE BLACK SWAN. This one is not up to the level of those that usually featured Paul Henreid. Here we have Jon Hall as Capitan Carlos Montalvo and Marie Windsor, Pirate Queen Jan Bolton.
The objective, the 'Fountain Of Youth' on the island of Florida. Capitan Montalvo wants it to restore the health of Ponce de Leon. Pirate Bolton and her Buccaneers want the alleged Gold. In the way, the indigent People, Indians, some wanting peace the others war. Who will win out, watch it and see. There is a Hurricane at the end of the film. If you expect it to be a spectacle, look somewhere else. There is NO John Fulton, Gordon Jennings or Fred Sersen masterminding the SFX here. Forget the musical score also. Largely recycled from the Humphrey Bogart WWII actioneer SAHARA.
Poor Mr. Hall and Ms. Windsor. Both had successful careers with the major and 2nd tier studios from the late 1930s through 1940s. This is quite a step down for them. Both would find more rewards, both financially and professionally, in the new medium of Television in the 1950s.
The setting could have been the OLD WEST or a Prohibition Gangster film, the plots are that interchangeable. Instead we have the great North-West territory of Alaska at the beginning of the 20th Century. The formula, a standard one for the 1930s, two Friends from similar back-rounds in Childhood. Upon maturity both come to a fork in the roads one going for the 'fast buck' the other wanting to build a new civilization.
Casting George Raft as Tyler Dawson assured that his character was going to take short-cuts. That left Henry Fonda's Jim Kimmerlee as the forthright and upright Friend. Each has a girl reflecting their respective temperaments. Dawson's Nicky Duval, Dorothy Lamour with a questionable background and good girl, Diane 'Di' Turlon, Louise Platt. Daughter of Windy Turlon, John Barrymore and with a name like 'RED' Skain you knew Akim Tamiroff was going to be up to no good.
The fight is over the annual Salmon run. 'RED' and Tyler just wanting to skim off others hard work. Jim and his Friends form a Vigilence Committee and with 'Harp Guns' at the ready do battle with the FISH PIRATES. Plenty of action, scenery with skillful directing by Henry Hathaway. Seldom seen now it was often shown on the old AMC. Available on DVD, good print, but NO extras, not even subtitles for the hard of hearing. Ask your library to order this one it is worth the viewing. Though John Barrymore was slipping into a caricature of himself and no longer 'The Great Profile'.
We have seen almost every interpretation of Moses and the Exodus. Film, Made for T.V. Movie even the Animated effort(s) and the question remains why did they bother?! There is only one (1) version worth watching and it is shown every year around Easter/Passover on the ABC Network. Cecil B. DeMille's THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, Paramount (1956). Better yet, buy it on DVD and get both his versions.
Yes, we know all the faults of the film. A presentation suitable for a early 20th Century Stage melodrama. SFX that could/should have been tighten up. Plus some over the top acting, but that ignores the positives. Egypt looked like a powerful EMPIRE, which it was. Not some back-water mono-chromatic third world state. When GOD struck down with its POWER, you knew IT meant business. Rameses was a Rat, Nefretiri a over sexed nymphomaniac and Moses true to the Lord, without the second guessing introspective.
What you get in MOSES is a wimp, who whines about doing the Almighty's will. Weasly Hebrews who are not worth saving and SFX which would have been better done in the 1935, let alone in 1995! Plus a musical score which is not forgettable, but not even noticed. It takes more then a strong cast to make a great film. It takes a Director/Producer that loves the subject matter. There is no doubt that DeMille filled the bill in both matters.
After some minor, but impressive roles James Stewart was handed the lead in SPEED (1936). A typical 'B' programmer that the Major Studios used for actors to work the 'kinks' out before they were moved on to major projects. In this one Stewart plays TERRY MARTIN a talented test driver and inventor from the wrong side of the tracks. That means he is loaded down with all sorts of class warfare hang-ups that was supposed to endear him to the mid 1930s audiences. Actually in the 21st Century he just comes off as a ASS!
MARTIN is working on a new SUPER CARBERATOR with his side-kick 'Gadget' Haggerty (Ted Healy). He duels for creative control with Frank Lawson (Weldon Heyburn) educated engineer and top intellect of the company and also for the romantic interest of Jane Mitchell/Emery (Wendy Barrie). 'Jo' Henderson (Una Merkel) wants Lawson, but just does not know how to go about it. Fear not, true love will conquer in the end and automotive innovation, money and success will follow, with a happy ending.
The idea of a engineering miracle invention like the SUPER CARBERATOR was a typical one in the 1930s. Whether for Automobiles or Aero-Planes it promised a revolution in performance. Either by stretching a gallon of gas to a 100 miles or promising speeds (in the air) in excess of 500mph. The movies though were on the wrong track. In Germany and Sweden, fuel injection was shown as the way to go, not carburetors. Don't think so, just look under the hood of your Car!
The fifth (5th) service is featured in this 1939 effort from Columbia Pictures, the COAST GUARD. This is the one that is constantly on patrol in the air and/or sea to safeguard those who underestimate the dangers on the water. In war it falls under the command of the U.S.N. and has proved just as effective at deterring our enemies.
COAST GUARD features a typical love triangle featured in the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood. Used constantly in both 'A' or 'B' efforts like this. The objective, Nancy Bliss (Frances Dee) attractive Grand-Daughter of Tobias Bliss (Walter Connelly). Whose Ship is in distress and rescued by Lt. Raymond 'Ray' Dower (Ralph Bellemy). Enter Thomas 'Speed' Bradshaw (Randolf Scott) and his side-kick O'Hara (Warren Hymer). Represnting the more glamorous Air branch of the service.
Now as expected 'Ray' does not stand a chance against 'Speed', Nancy quickly setting her cap for him and succeeding in marriage. 'Speed' though cannot break old habits which leads to a estrangement. Fear not, a improbable Artic Rescue of 'Ray' allows true love to triumph in the end, with the couple reunited.
Poor Ralph Bellemy, he started off strong with RKO in the early 1930s, but even then, when it came to getting the girl he struck out. If it was not Bruce Cabot or Gary Grant it was somebody else. This was one of the last roles for Walter Connolly who a year later would die (05/28/1940). Warren Hymer's career was spiraling down and he to would go just nine years later (03/25/1948). Bellemy, Dee and Scott would continue on for another two Decades or more.
Wartime Serial from Universal, ADVENTURES OF THE FLYING CADETS (1943) was clearly aimed solely at the youth market. The plot is particularly predictable, most of it given away in Chapter One! Even a six (6) year old back then would have figured out that THE BLACK HANGMAN or 'Schwarze Henker' was Arthur Galt, Robert Armstrong with a bad German accent. This was pointed out by Kurt Von Heiger/Corby played by perennial bad-man Eduardo Ciannelli. The objective of our hero's is prevent those NAZI's from obtaining the precious HELIUM from a mine in Africa. This is accomplished in 13, somewhat thrilling chapters.
Each chapter though gets you moving with the jaunty song 'Here Comes The Air Cadets'. Air Cadets being a better rhythm for the lyrics then 'Flying Cadets'. There is no prologue recap between chapters, just a repeat, then on to the next adventure. Though not in the League with the FLASH GORDON franchise or BUCK ROGERS it is still a enjoyable ride. The young leads all former 'Child Stars' on the minor league level perform as expected. They are backed up by quality character actors. Most who would be appearing in 'A' or 'B' efforts at the major studios. Though half seemed to get killed off in the first chapter.
Our copy from ALPHA VIDEO came via the local flee market for $02.00. Which we feel was a good deal and what it is worth. There copy seems to come from a combination of transfers from film and video, but you can hear it and see it clearly. Remember 'digitally remastered' does not mean 'digitally restored'. Universal during the War years invested less and less in its Serial output and there would be only ten (10) more before it was discontinued. There efforts at this time were no way equal to those of REPUBLIC, but were way ahead of COLUMBIA. Now those were really bad!
Quicky 'B' picture (61") featuring now 2nd tier Stars of WARNER BROTHERS (W.B.). Lyle Talbot and Ann Dvorak were first rate Stars in the early days of the Sound-Era at the W.B. By 1934 they had fallen out of favor with Jack Warner, head of production at the Studio. Mr. Talbot because of his involvement with the Actors Labor movement. Ms. Dvorak because She felt over-used in trite material, complained too much and would not play casting-couch politics.
MURDER IN THE CLOUDS (1934) is another of those Aerial Adventures all the studios cranked out, with RKO leading the pack. This time a new 'secret explosive' must be shipped by air too our Government. What is needed is crack pilot 'Three-Star' Lyle Talbot. '3'Star is waylaid by enemy agents, the explosive stolen and Judy Wagner's (Dvorak) Brother is killed along with the Government Agents. Have no fear, with the help of Wings Mahoney (George Cooper) taking time off from 'comedy relief' both the explosive and Judy are rescued. The Villains meeting their just rewards.
Talbot's '3'Star is the typical overbearing ASS that was passed off as a 'hero' in that era. All of his irresponsible actions are forgotten and glossed over in the last reel. Dvorak only needs to look good and hit her mark, which She has no problem in doing. The Villains, Gordon 'Weasel' Westcott and ever dependable Russell Hicks are particularly ruthless. The murder of the Agents and Judy's Brother is merciless and as cold-blooded as you can imagine, told in flash-back. The film shows up on TCM and can be picked up either through www.oldies.com or at your local flee-market. Where I got my copy.
Ellery Queen had made two (2) previous appearances during the 1930s. THE Spanish CAPE MYSTERY (1935) Liberty Pictures, featuring Donald Cook and THE MANDARIN MYSTERY (1936) Republic Pictures, with the light-weight Eddie Quillan. Producer Larry Darmour cornered the rights to the Ellery Queen novels and through Columbia Pictures and Harry Cohn launched a new series of films. Starting with ELLERY QUEEN, Master Detective (1940).
Ralph Bellamy for the first four (4) pictures played 'QUEEN' with Margaret Lindsay as romantic interest and side-kick, 'NIKKI PORTER'. Bellamy after a strong start at RKO had slipped into character parts and second leads by the latter half of the 1930s. The same could be said about Ms. Lindsay over from Warner Brothers. This series kept them working and in the company of other professionals like Charlie Grapewine as Inspector Queen. Here also was Marsha Hunt, up and comer on loan-out from M.G.M. and Katherine DeMille who plugged in character parts too her other interests. Former Silent Director Fred Niblo (BEN-HUR, 1925) also picked up a check. For plot details, read the synopsis, it's all there.
Bellamy plays 'QUEEN' with a light touch, but with a earnest intelligence, making him a viable character. Ms. Lindsay also hits her mark with a attractive appearance and winning smile. Though She seems to wear the same suit the entire film. The rest of the cast and a quick running time makes this a worth while watch. After the first four (4) films William Gargan would pick up the 'QUEEN' mantle with Ms. Lindsay soldiering on. Gargan proved a acceptable replacement and would rate the entire series a even IMDB******Six(6) or a Standard Rating of Two(2)**Stars.
Amnesiac 'Ford Adams' (Walter Abel) wandering through a Boston Park meets sympathetic 'Marie Smith' (Margot Grahame), believing that he has committed a crime, MURDER. What follows is a typical mystery programmer that any of the Studios of the 1930s would churn out to complete there programming schedule. After the usual twists and turns the likable Couple not only prevail, revealing the real/reel culprits, but find 'true love'.
The film has two (2) redeeming features that makes it a worthwhile watch. It moves in a brisk 72" minutes and has a fine cast of supporting character actors. Who knew how to bring this type of material to a satisfying conclusion. You cannot go very wrong with a cast that includes Wallace Ford, Gail Patrick, Alan Hale, J. Carroll Naish, etc.
The only real reservation is with actor Walter Abel. RKO never had much luck developing leading man material. Usually borrowing quality from other Studios, like Cary Grant or Fredric March. Mr. Abel delivers all dialog with the same flat monotone that you cannot distinguish if he is angry, concerned, passionate or scared. It all sounds the same. RKO should have realized that they had a dependable character actor and not a leading man. That should have been obvious from the previous years THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Never was there a more tepid 'D'Artagan' featured, either on screen or stage! What a contrast from the fine Female actors they developed, like Ann Harding, Katherine Hepburn, Irene Dunne and Ginger Rogers.
THE SHOW OF SHOWS (1929) is Warner Brothers (WB) entry into Studio self promotion through a Vaudeville 'Revue' in the early sound era. M.G.M. the same year would contribute THE Hollywood REVUE OF 1929 and Paramount would respond with PARAMOUNT ON PARADE (1930). Both are better efforts and rate them IMDB******Six(6), why can be easily discerned with one viewing of this film.
THE SHOW OF SHOWS featured about 70+ 'Stars' of the W.B. of the time, most who would evaporate within the next five (5) years. It was filmed in the two-strip TechniColor process in which only one sequence survives, more about that later. The rest is gone as well as the quality of the surviving footage in B&W, nor is it enhanced by the soundtrack which is of poor quality, sometimes barely audible. Which may be a saving grace particularly when emcee FRANK FAY is on hand, BARBARA STANWYCK's first Husband.
Like its rivals, THE SHOW OF SHOWS features a series of skits mostly featuring Dancing and Singing. The Dancing is some of the most poorly choreographed ever recorded for the Silver Screen, with unfit and out of time chorus girls. As for the songs most are forgettable except for the dimly remembered 'Lady Luck'. Which is pummeled into the audience through 1/2 dozen permutations from the first reel too the last. When the entire cast pretends to sing it, except JOHN BARRYMORE who hams it up. BARRYMORE's main contribution is a extract from HENRY VI/RICHARD III. BARRYMORE at the time being considered the finest interpreter of Shakespeare and the best American stage actor since EDWIN BOOTH. The other hi-lites are WINNIE LIGHTNER who is featured in several skits and a underused BEATRICE LILLE. Who completely upstages her three (3) co-stars.
The surviving TechniColor sequence features jazz guitarist NICK LUCAS singing Li-Po-Li (?) and the alleged dancing talents of MYRNA LOY. Ms. Loy trying to do her 'best' interpretation of ISADORA DUNCAN and failing. Actually coming across like the Hippopotomus in FANTASIA (1940) and about as graceful, with the same thick ankles and the flat chested appearance of the two-dimensional cartoon. Fortunetly when She moved on to M.G.M. designer ADRIAN was able to disguise her physical shortcomings with a 'chic' wardrobe. Her acting ability made up for the rest.
Despite our low rating the film should be seen, once, along with its competitors efforts. Contrast these efforts with those just made three (3) years later. It is just not a leap in technological accomplishment, but a advancement in every phase of film making.
Once more in the 'Golden Age' of Hollywood a major studio, Paramount, ventures forth into the South Seas. These films follow pretty much the same formula. A exotic tropical island, the adversary, in this case Pirates, romance and finally the concluding disaster. Where the attractive couple always survive and true love is fulfilled.
TYPHOON (1940) follows this formula with a few interesting variations. Pearls are the objective and to help get them Skipper Joe (Lynne Overman) has a pre-WWI Submarine at his disposal. He is assisted by shanghaied Johnny Potter (Robert Preston). They are pursued by Pirate Kehi (Chief Thundercloud) and threatened by mutinous Mekaike (J. Carroll Naish). Who manages to lose the Submarine, forgetting that you have to close the hatches before diving the boat.
All is not lost though, on their island is Dea (Dorothy Lamour) back in the Sarong again! Rehabilitating the perpetual drunk Johnny with the help of her Chimpanse companion and finding romance. The Pirates make a reappearance, but fortunately are dispatched by the TYPHOON arriving in the nick of time to wrap up the film. In a brisk seventy (70) minutes.
Lamour had first donned the Sarong in THE HURRICANE (1937) the best of these epics, Directed by John Ford. Lamour is always good to look at even in material like this. She was capable of more as in JOHNNY APOLLO (1940) and looked just as good in contemporary fashions. Filmed in TechniColor the ending disaster benefited from Paramounts SFX Wizard Gordon Jennings. Though lasting only about five (5) minutes it is impressive, though not the equal of THE HURRICANE. This is a light entertainment and should be enjoyed as such.
After the 'BIG ONE', WWII, Costume Drama's still were popular and would continued to be so for the next fifth-teen (15) years. Some were big prestige pictures like SAMSON & DELILAH (1949) Paramount or IVANHOE (1952) M.G.M. Others were diminutives like THE SWORDSMAN (1948) Columbia, but they were not the only studios to produce these epics, both major and minor, even those including Serials and T.V.
THE SWORDSMAN had Columbia's fair-haired boy of the day Larry Parks as Alexander MacArden. His main goal is to bring peace between the feuding Clans of the GLOWAN's -vs- MacArden's. High-Lands -vs- Low-Lands, just like Cattlemen -vs- Farmers in the OLD WEST. The film features a strong supporting cast including George MaCready/Robert Glowan, head nasty and general all around skunk. As well as the attractive Ellen Drew/Barbara Glowan. A-lot of double dealing and nefarious goings on before PEACE and TRUE LOVE completes there course.
Filmed in brilliant Three (3) Strip Techni-Color, the film runs a brisk 81". It will not task any 21st Century viewer (one time) and it is appropriate for Family viewing. Larry Parks though is not up to Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, let alone Douglas Fairbanks (Sr. & Jr.), etc. Columbia, after Larry Parks' fall through his political associations moved on to John Derek and ex W.B. heart-throb Paul Henried. Showing that if you could just keep your mouth shut and fill a pair of tights you could still have enjoyable employment.
Our 'Hero' Gene Autry must help out Frog Milhouse (Smiley Burnette) who has acquired a Dairy Farm rather then the Ranch intended. There is trouble with the local Dairy Association and a group of Rackeeters who wish to control all deliveries of milk. These are led by Dr. Rodney Blair (Robert Barrett) with Dave Haines (Buster Crabbe) doing the heavy lifting. Carol Haines (June Storey), Dave's Sister and manager of the local radio station is their unwitting dupe and future romantic interest for Gene. Don't worry, justice will prevail and the milk will get through to the Big City and the Kiddies!
Robert Barrett usually played a similar role in 'B' films over at Warner Brothers, so is quite at home roughing it up out west. Buster Crabbe over from Universal lays down his Raygun and Sword for Six-Shooters and switches from Space-Ship to Horses. Doing very well playing a heel who redeems himself in the last reel. Mr. Crabbe in the 1940s and 50s would make the switch to Westerns for most of his roles.
Like most Autry Westerns the 'west' is a combination of contemporary and traditional. The print on Encore Westerns is the restored 65", nice and clean. Usual Western themed songs are interspersed with action scenes. The climatic chase is very well handled and would not disgrace a 'A' film. These films have a innocent charm about them and are well worth the watch.
STEEL AGAINST THE SKY (1941) is one of Warner Brothers (W.B.) 'Working Man' pictures. This time featuring the building of a bridge. While building the bridge, competing Brothers vie for the affection of a comely young lass. The Brothers are Rocky Evans (Lloyd Nolan) -vs- Chuck (Craig Stevens) both with eyes on Helen Powers (Alexis Smith). Who wins out, well you should already know if you have seen THE IRISH IN US (1935).
Yes, S.A.T.S is T.I.I.U. recycled just six (6) years later. In that picture Pat O'Brien (Pat O'Hara) is out-pointed by James Cagney (Danny) for hand of the beautiful Lucille Jackson (Olivia De Havilland). The differences, rather then build bridges we have the Police. Instead of a eccentric inventor as Chuck Evan's protégé we have Cagney's Boxer, Carbarn Hammerschlog (Allen Jenkins). The remake, a gruff lovable Father 'Pop' Evans (Edward Ellis), the original a sweet and 'oh' so Irish Mother 'Ma' (Mary Gordon).
This is not the first or the last time the W.B. and all the other studios would recycle plots going back to there original 'Silent' incarnations. Some will even use the same exact footage. Which can be really jarring. Example, THE CROWD ROARS (1932) became INDIANAPOLIS SPEEDWAY (1939). Do you think in seven (7) years both the Cars and Women's fashions would be noticeably different? Yes they are, but it did get the picture made quickly, under budget and profitable.