For Reel


The Silk Express (1933)
April 12, 2012, 6:03 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ray Enright

It’s not often that one sees a mystery thriller about silk importation. Perhaps for good reason. Ray Enright – a reliable enough asset at Warner Brothers for many years – directs this preposterous train picture that nonetheless moves at a brisk pace and contains some well-accomplished visuals by the great Tony Gaudio. In the film, a crooked businessman has the booming silk market cornered and, in order to set things right, a competitor begins to import his own silk from Japan. A train that carries the cargo from Seattle to New York is the sole setting, and aboard are three men who are working to stop the shipment. If the ambition to supply the country with silk for an honest price doesn’t sound particularly exciting, how about this – the key saboteur aboard the train has apparently made it his mission to stop the cargo by doing the least amount of damage that he possibly can. Throughout the picture, the devious businessman and his cohorts are shown, and in these scenes he explains, among other things, that his man is wily and prefers to do his work without killing. So, indeed, this is a murder mystery that brazenly articulates that our heroes are not in any imminent physical danger. The material may be dead on the page – it also includes some utterly bizarre, needless details, such as the involvement of a secret order of assassins from India – but the picture does give interesting roles to several of the talented contracted character actors at Warners at the time. Most memorable is Guy Kibbee, who fares well in playing a stubborn detective, as opposed to the typical drunk that he was more likely to be seen playing in the early thirties.


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