For Reel

Man Hunt (1936)
March 30, 2016, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: William Clemens
2.5 Stars
Man HuntThe enforcement of the Production Code did a number on the gangster characters who populated Warner Brothers in the early-1930s. Although earlier efforts did ultimately argue that, “crime does not pay”, the crooks were nonetheless presented as suave; the violence and law-breaking sexy. Man Hunt is released immediately in the post-‘G’ Men era, where the gangsters are understood as the villains, with little effort given into making them sympathetic characters. William Gargan plays a small town newsporter who gets a big break when his girlfriend, a school teacher (Marguerite Churchill), has a run-in with a notorious prison escapee (Ricardo Cortez). The studio’s new penchant for this type of moralizing is exemplified by the consistently bland Gargan, one of the most anonymous of white-meat leading men in early 30s B-pictures. More than just condemning the life of crime, the picture goes so far as to suggest that the city itself is encroaching on a small town and attempting to corrupt rural values—in the end, a persnickety old coot (Chas. Sale) helps bring down the enemy with his own weapon. Churchill is now largely forgotten but has a striking beauty and charisma about her, but it’s Cortez as the gangster who steals the picture. There’s such a dangerous chemistry between Churchill and Cortez that viewers should be excused for hoping that Churchill becomes his moll and leaves the lame Gargan.

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