For Reel


One Night in the Tropics (1940)
February 23, 2016, 3:03 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
2.5 Stars
One Night in the TropicsBudd Abbott and Lou Costello’s second appearance on screen was in 1941’s Buck Privates, which proved to be such a success for the duo that they were leading men for the rest of their careers. One year earlier, however, they made their screen debuts in this minor musical as supporting players. As they were billed behind bland leads like Allan Jones, Nancy Kelly, and Robert Cummings, it is needless to say that they stole the show (although Cummings does have a likable charisma about him). Among the routines they bring to the table is perhaps their best known “Who’s On First” bit, which stops the show even as a condensed version. In fact, the duo is such a breath of fresh air that it is to the detriment of the rest of the plot, which in itself is not a bad one (adapted from a novel by Earl Derr Biggers, who excelled with gimmicky narratives like Seven Keys to Baldpate). Jones plays “Lucky” Moore, a gambler who has the bright idea to sell “love insurance” to his friend Steve (Robert Cummings) as a guarantee that he will marry Cynthia (Nancy Kelly). Things get complicated when Lucky begins to fall for Cynthia, just as Steve is falling for another girl–should Lucky follow his heart, he’ll have to shell out $1 million!  There is some amusing banter between the foursome, and the conceit that each member of a couple is longing for someone else does create convincing tension. Other than that, however, the songs are forgettable and the leads are interchangeable, and those problems become evident every time a scene between Abbott and Costello really works!



Having Wonderful Crime (1945)
August 6, 2015, 2:09 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
2 Stars
Having Wonderful CrimeMystery novelist Craig Rice (a pseudonym for Georgiana Ann Randolph Craig) appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1946, the first of her genre to achieve such as distinction. Her novels were set apart by their particular brand of zaniness–they were detective stories with a screwball sensibility. It comes as some disappointment, then, that an RKO adaptation released at the peak of her popularity is such a slog. The team of Pat O’Brien, Carole Landis, and George Murphy form the rare detective trifecta, with O’Brien playing the exhausted straight man caught between the bickering couple. It’s a fresh concept to interrupt the crime solving couple with a third party (imagine if Nick and Nora Charles never had the luxury of a moment alone), but unfortunately most of the comedy in the picture doesn’t play. Director A. Edward (Eddie) Sutherland evidently didn’t have the faith in the screenplay to carry the tone and employs Leigh Harline’s obnoxious, persistent score, which serves as the equivalent of a slide whistle that underlines the lame gags. Gloria Holden (most famed for Dracula’s Daughter) brings her uniquely icy screen presence and Carole Landis reminds one of the career that she might have had, but the picture doesn’t do anything to capture what might have made the novelist so successful in her time.



Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
October 6, 2014, 11:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
2 Stars
Beyond TomorrowIn its early goings, Beyond Tomorrow lays on the schmaltz thick enough to make a claim for its spot in the Christmas movie pantheon. The characters are exceedingly friendly and much of the conversation involves how grateful they are to have one another. Mawkish as it may be, one misses the simple-minded sentimentality once the three old men (Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith, and Charles Winninger) die and return as ghosts to reunite the young couple (Jean Parker and Richard Carlson) that they brought together on Christmas Eve. It’s a familiar formula, but strangely the old men are little more than passive observers–they linger about and mourn the direction Carlson is going in without having the ability to cast much influence on his life. A little humor might have aided the deadly-serious proceedings–in fact, things get rather frightening in a scene in which Carey enters the “darkness”, not to mention the misery of Carlson’s descent into the evils that come with fame. For a Christmas movie, it’s all rather grim.



Secrets of the French Police (1932)
July 7, 2014, 12:55 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: A. Edward Sutherland
2.5 Stars
Secrets of the French PoliceWhile the title Secrets of the French Police might evoke a sly, fact-driven police procedural, in actuality this 1932 RKO production is more of a melodrama until it devolves into an all-out horror grotesquerie. Gregory Ratoff plays a Russian general who kidnaps and hypnotizes a Parisian flower girl (Gwii Andre) into believing that she is an exiled princess due millions of dollars held in London bank accounts. In hot pursuit is the team of inspector St. Cyr (Frank Morgan), a brilliant veteran with innovative methods of tracking down criminals, and the recruited gentleman burglar Leon Renault (John Warburton). There are some interesting looks at early 20th century investigative work here and there (one highlight sees an early form of the facial composite in which a towering face is assembled on a wall), but there isn’t quite enough to appease fans of genre. The most memorable sequence occurs when the maniacal Russian general reveals the extent of his perversity and begins the process of making a statue out of a helpless victim. Though abstracted by shadows and extreme close-ups, the audience is still made fully aware of every gory detail.