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LawrenceA

Recently Watched Action/Adventure

13 posts in this topic

Air Mail (1932) - John Ford directed this look at the US Air Mail Service, from Universal Pictures. Ralph Bellamy stars as Mike Miller, the tough boss of an air mail station and supervisor over a number of pilots. The hazards are many, and turnover in the ranks is frequent as many pilots crash, permanently injuring themselves or, more likely, dying. After one such death, hot-shot former war ace Duke Talbot (Pat O'Brien) joins the service and immediately starts rubbing everyone the wrong way. But when the chips are down, he may be the only one who can save the day. Also featuring Gloria Stuart, Lillian Bond, David Landau, Russell Hopton, Slim Summerville, Leslie Fenton, Frank Albertson, George Irving, Jack Pennick, Jim Thorpe, and Ward Bond.

 

The highlight here is the aerial footage, with some excellent shots from under the planes while doing low-flying aerobatics. Some rear-projection and miniature work is antiquated, though. There's a lot of the typical "men in close, stressful quarters" type of dialogue and camaraderie, which comes off as more genuine than the attempts at melodrama involving infidelity. The movie serves as a nice snapshot of a type of work, and the characters who worked it, that are now distant history.   7/10

 

Source: YouTube, from a recording off of AMC.

 

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The Hurricane Express (1932) - Action-packed serial from Mascot Pictures and directors J.P. McGowan & Armand Schaefer. John Wayne stars as Larry Baker, a square-jawed pilot who vows revenge when his father, the conductor of a train named the "Hurricane Express", is killed by the "Wrecker", a mysterious master of disguise who, along with his gang of henchmen, is after a gold shipment. Larry is assisted by Gloria (Shirley Grey), a young woman posing as a railroad company secretary in order to find the evidence to clear the name of her falsely-convicted father. Also featuring Tully Marshall, Conway Tearle, Edmund Breese, Lloyd Whitlock, J. Farrell MacDonald, Fred "Snowflake" Toones, Yakima Canutt, and Glenn Strange.

 

This bears all the hallmarks of your standard serial: barely adequate acting, weak dialogue, sloppy staging, and lots of good stuntwork. Wayne seems to do quite a bit of his own, including some train-jumping stuff that looked dangerous. This had a few touches that I liked: Wayne's uncharacteristic cries of distress when his dad is killed; a brawl in which Wayne keeps picking up a little guy and throwing him around like a ragdoll; and the bad guy who uses full-head latex masks to alter his appearance - no word on how he changes height, weight and speech. Wayne's character gets knocked unconscious at least 6 times over a short period of time. The non-existent sequel would have dealt with his subsequent brain damage, I'm sure.  5/10

 

Source: YouTube.

 

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The Flaming Signal (1933) - Ridiculous turkey from the little-known Imperial Productions company and directors George Jeske and C. Edward Roberts. Flash the Wonder Dog gets top billing and "plays himself". He belongs to famous daredevil aviator Jim Robbins (John Horsley). When Jim and Flash set out on a trans-Pacific flight, they experience trouble and crash in the waters near a remote island south of Hawaii. After Flash parachutes to safety (!) he finds local white girl Molly (Marceline Day), the daughter of the kindly Rev. Mr. James (Henry B. Walthall), and she escorts Flash and Jim to the one hotel on the island. It's run by the sleazy Otto Von Krantz (Noah Beery Sr.) who takes advantage of the primitive natives and their pearl diving efforts. Unfortunately for Flash and Jim, it will be some time before a rescue can arrive, and things among the islanders are heating up. Also featuring Francisco Alonso, Mischa Auer, and Carmelita Geraghty.

[SPOILERS] I have to put the warning because this camp-fest requires some discussion. First off, Horsley is terrible, one of the worst actors that I've seen. However, even the cast of veterans are bad, especially Beery, who drunkenly garbles his dialogue when he isn't just indiscriminately grunting. Alonso, as the main young islander, looks about as Hawaiian as Tony Bennett and sounds like he's auditioning for the role of Tonto. The Native American similarity doesn't end there, though, as in a later scene, one of the movie's most inscrutable, the islanders conduct some sort of ceremony led by a guy in what appears to be a buffalo headdress, which would be quite remarkable for a south Pacific islander. The oddball title refers to a stunt performed by Flash where he runs with a lit torch in his mouth. That must have resulted in some painful days for old Flash when he was being trained. On a normal scale this rates a 3/10, but on the so-bad-its-good meter, its a solid 8/10.

Source: YouTube. The print I watched was too dark.

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Poor Flash is nowhere to be seen on the poster. That does seem to have been the heyday of the dog action hero.

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On 11/10/2017 at 11:01 PM, LawrenceA said:

First off, Horsley is terrible, one of the worst actors that I've seen. However, even the cast of veterans are bad,

Sounds like the best actor in the film was the dog!    

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In the Wake of the Bounty (1933) - Laughable Australian film that's a mix of poor historical reenactments and documentary footage, from writer-producer-director Charles Chauvel. A crusty old sailor tells some other crusty old sailors the story of the HMS Bounty and the mutiny, led by Fletcher Christian (Errol Flynn), against the tyrannical Captain Bligh (Mayne Lynton). The second half of the 1-hour movie is documentary footage of Pitcairn Island in contemporary (1932) times, showing the society that has evolved there descended from the mutineers and their Tahitian wives.

This picture is most notable for being Errol Flynn's movie debut, but he, like the rest of the reenactment section, is terrible, offering no hint at his future star quality. These passages are cheap looking, poorly staged, and almost comically inept. The documentary footage is excellent, though, and I especially liked the brief glimpses of what remained of the Bounty's hull at the bottom of the bay at Pitcairn. If any of this second half of the movie looks familiar, it was later bought by MGM and edited into a pair of short subjects that ran with the 1935 Mutiny On the Bounty.  (4/10)

Source: YouTube.

In-the-Wake-of-the-Bounty-Universal-1933

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Jungle Bride (1933) - Goofy junk from Monogram and directors Harry Hoyt and Albert Kelley. A ship sinks off the coast of Africa, and only four survivors make it to shore: Gordon Wayne (Charles Starrett), a guitar-playing nice-guy who has been accused of killing a cop back in the U.S.; Doris Evans (Anita Page), the sister of the man "wrongly" convicted of the crime, and who made it her goal to see Gordon arrested in Europe and brought back to the U.S.; John Franklin (Kenneth Thomson), a law enforcement officer who actually did the arresting of Gordon, and who is set on taking him back for trial; and Eddie Stevens (Eddie Borden), Gordon's comic-relief buddy. These four try to make the best of their situation, constructing primitive huts when not battling fierce lions and laughing at the chimpanzees.

Why a single male lion is wandering around a dense jungle is never explained (that happened a lot in 30's jungle pictures, when the general population was unaware that lions live on the savanna). However, that's about as exciting as this gets, with the remaining animal action meager, to put it mildly. The acting is barely adequate, although the small cast is notable for a variety of reasons: Starrett was on the cusp of becoming one of the longest running B western stars (in the Durango Kid series); Page was reaching the premature end of her stardom, with her abruptly "retiring" this same year at age 23 (she later said that she had been blacklisted for refusing sex with Irving Thalberg); and bad guy Thomson was one of the founders of the Screen Actors Guild. Still, none of that makes this any more watchable.  (4/10)

Source: YouTube.

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Tarzan the Fearless (1933) - Another take on Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic jungle hero, this time from the Principal Distributing company and director Robert F. Hill. Buster Crabbe stars as the title character, a white man raised by apes in Darkest Africa who has become an almost legendary figure among the natives. When a group of Americans and Europeans arrive in the jungle to look for a missing compatriot, Tarzan meets the lovely Mary Brooks (Jaqueline Wells), whom he continuously has to rescue from savage beasts, wild tribesmen, and crooked jewel thieves. Also featuring Eddie Woods, Philo McCullough, E. Alyn Warren, Matthew Betz, Frank Lackteen, Darby Jones, Carlotta Monti, and Mischa Auer.

There's the usual parade of jungle antics: lion attacks (in the jungle again), crocodile attacks (you gotta have an excuse to get Olympic swimmer Crabbe in the water), elephant rides, natives and their "jungle drums". This movie also has the bizarre added bonus of Arab guides who are secretly part of an Ancient Egyptian cult. Crabbe makes for an energetic Lord of the Jungle, and he even appears to be in better shape than Weissmuller was at the time. Wells, who later changed her name to Julie Bishop, is fetching. My favorite moment was when a record player gets cranked up and all of the jungle animals start to dance.   (6/10)

Source: YouTube.

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The Three Musketeers (1933) - Average action serial, an updating of sorts of the Dumas novel, from Mascot Pictures and directors Colbert Clark and Armand Schaefer. The "musketeers" are soldiers in the French Foreign Legion: Clancy (Jack Mulhall), Renard (Raymond Hatton), and Schmidt (Francis X. Bushman Jr.). They are stationed in North Africa where they battle frequent Arab uprisings. During one such battle they are saved by American military pilot Tom Wayne (John Wayne). When Tom is later framed for murder by the insidious "El Shaitan", mysterious leader of the Devil's Circle, the three legionnaires promise to help Wayne is whatever way they can, leading to much high-flying mayhem, desert sands survival, and dangerous shoot-outs. Also featuring Ruth Hall, Lon Chaney Jr., Noah Beery Jr., Hooper Atchley, Gordon De Main, Robert Frazer, and Robert Warwick.

Despite the title, this is much more Wayne's show than the three legionnaires. Wayne is good at the action scenes, even if his character should be a complete wreck by the end, after multiple fist-fights, falls from great heights, and even being shot a few times. Both Chaney and Beery Juniors have early roles, and it was fun seeing them so young. The story gets repetitive (a drawback for many lesser serials), and I would have liked the three musketeers to have been featured more. The masked bad guy El Shaitan was physically performed by Yakima Canutt with a voice dub from Charles Middleton.  (5/10)

Source: YouTube.

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Interesting write-up on the Musketeers movie. Of course, Mascot and a few other small independents would be melded together to form Republic Pictures. And in 1936 Republic began its long-running THREE MESQUITEERS series with Robert Livingston. John Wayne would costar in eight of those B westerns (a total of 51 were produced). Nat Levine served as producer.

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The Whispering Shadow (1933) - Wild action serial from Mascot Pictures and directors Albert Herman and Colbert Clark. Two-fisted shipping company foreman Jack Foster (Malcolm McGregor) is determined to avenge the murder of his brother, a delivery driver for the same company who was killed by agents of the Whispering Shadow, a mysterious figure leading a criminal gang who keep attacking deliveries made by the company. Company president Bradley (Henry B. Walthall) also enlists the aid of noted detective Robert Raymond (Robert Warwick) to assist Jack in his efforts. All signs point to the culprit being a creepy magician named Professor Strang (Bela Lugosi) who operates a wax museum out of his House of Mystery. Also featuring Viva Tattersall as Strang's lovely daughter and accomplice, Karl Dane as a goofy comic-relief radio operator, Roy D'Arcy and Lafe McKee as shady company employees, Ethel Clayton, Lloyd Whitlock, Bob Kortman, and Yakima Canutt.

The outlandish plot, wide variety of interesting characters, and incredible stunts all combine to make this a stand-out in the serial genre. It's still pretty dumb, and goes on longer than the story can sustain it, but it's silly fun. Lugosi, appearing in the first of several serials he would make, hams it up quite a bit, but seems to be enjoying himself. Dane, who struggled with his thick accent in sound pictures, makes his final film appearance. He would die by suicide less than a year later.  (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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British Agent (1934) - Suspense and intrigue set against the backdrop of revolution-era Russia, from First National and director Michael Curtiz. Leslie Howard stars as Stephen Locke, an agent for the British government stationed in Moscow shortly after the first Russian revolution. The allied forces are afraid that the post-revolution government will withdraw from World War One, allowing Germany to send their eastern front forces to the west where they would most likely overrun the battle-weary armies of Britain, France, the U.S. and other allies. The Russians vow to stay in the fight, but when a second revolution occurs, installing the Soviets led by Lenin into leadership, things change, and a ceasefire with Germany is imminent. Locke stays in Russia despite increasing danger to himself, in an attempt to convince the Soviets to stay with the fight. It doesn't hurt that he's also fallen in love with a Soviet agent, Elena (Kay Francis). Also featuring William Gargan, Cesar Romero, Irving Pichel, J. Carrol Naish, Phillip Reed, Ivan F. Simpson, Halliwell Hobbes, Walter Byron, Tenen Holtz, and Paul Porcasi.

While the setting is unique enough, and the cast is more than capable, this just never clicked for me, and it never seemed to really gel into a cohesive story. There are good moments, and some nice character touches, but they just don't add up to much. Howard is classy and well-manicured as usual, and Francis isn't bad as the conflicted Elena. Pichel and Naish seem to be veiled stand-ins for Stalin and Trotsky, respectively, and neither is shown in a flattering light. Although I posted this in the Action/Adventure section, there isn't much of either, although there's some shooting. I would have placed this in the Drama section, except there isn't one, so, since this deals with spies, I settled on this thread.   (6/10)

Source: TCM.

british-agent-1934-dvd-leslie-howard-kay

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17 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

British Agent (1934) - Suspense and intrigue set against the backdrop of revolution-era Russia, from First National and director Michael Curtiz. Leslie Howard stars as Stephen Locke, an agent for the British government stationed in Moscow shortly after the first Russian revolution. The allied forces are afraid that the post-revolution government will withdraw from World War One, allowing Germany to send their eastern front forces to the west where they would most likely overrun the battle-weary armies of Britain, France, the U.S. and other allies. The Russians vow to stay in the fight, but when a second revolution occurs, installing the Soviets led by Lenin into leadership, things change, and a ceasefire with Germany is imminent. Locke stays in Russia despite increasing danger to himself, in an attempt to convince the Soviets to stay with the fight. It doesn't hurt that he's also fallen in love with a Soviet agent, Elena (Kay Francis). Also featuring William Gargan, Cesar Romero, Irving Pichel, J. Carrol Naish, Phillip Reed, Ivan F. Simpson, Halliwell Hobbes, Walter Byron, Tenen Holtz, and Paul Porcasi.

While the setting is unique enough, and the cast is more than capable, this just never clicked for me, and it never seemed to really gel into a cohesive story. There are good moments, and some nice character touches, but they just don't add up to much. Howard is classy and well-manicured as usual, and Francis isn't bad as the conflicted Elena. Pichel and Naish seem to be veiled stand-ins for Stalin and Trotsky, respectively, and neither is shown in a flattering light. Although I posted this in the Action/Adventure section, there isn't much of either, although there's some shooting. I would have placed this in the Drama section, except there isn't one, so, since this deals with spies, I settled on this thread.   (6/10)

Source: TCM.

 

Since Howard is my favorite actor and I like Francis and Curtiz is a capable director (you think!),  I when to watch film thinking how could it not be great.    But yea, just something lacking from this film that prevents it from being top notch.  

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