Chinatown Squad (1935)
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That's why every popular movie these days is a sequel or a series or part of a Cinematic Universe. Doing something new is risky. Even when it's well done, it may not be recognized. It probably won't be. With luck, its strong points will be recognized while the creator is alive. H.P. Lovecraft lived and worked in increasing poverty. Now he's considered a major component of the great American literary landscape. Philip K. Dick never earned more than $10,000 a year from his writing, and frequently less. Now movies based on his works get made every year. BLADE RUNNER came out the year he died, and the IMDb currently shows 29 movies based on his writing, produced or in some stage of production.
It's not that people are blind and need critics to tell them what's good. Critics rarely know, since they're mired in their own personal aesthetics, thinking it's something that's objective; or they have their own narrative to support.
After a while, you stop hoping that the next movie you see and review for these pages is a great movie. You hope for some individual component you can praise, and then you hope for competence, with maybe something to add to your narrative about the evolution of the art. Then you hope for something early in the evolution of a great artist, before he knew what he was doing, looking for the roots of greatness, Finally, you look for another title to check off your list. Been there, done that.
CHINATOWN SQUAD is a been-there-done-that. Oh, I had hopes for a while. The screenplay is credited to Dore Schary, but it's a competent whodunnit with everything hanging off the fact that no one can get a straight story from Valerie Hobson. It has several elements that made me hope I was seeing something in the evolution of Film Noir, with its San Francisco setting, its fog and shadows and occasional Dutch Angle shot. It isn't though. It's another potboiler with some snappy patter and a couple of minutes' worth of location shooting in San Francisco to keep the audience amused.
Director Murray Roth would die a couple of years later, about the time Dore Schary would hit it big a couple of years later with BOYS' TOWN; Lyle Talbot's career would continue to slide, Valerie Hobson would return to England, where she would distinguish herself; everyone would cash their pay checks and, with luck, go on to the next job. The movie would play the circuits for a year or two, then go back into the vaults for eighty years. Because there's nothing very wrong with this movie, but nothing to distinguish it among several hundred feature films released in 1935.
Well, on to the next one. Here's hoping for better.
In many ways, this film is exactly like the products from all the other studios--particularly Monogram, who seemed to have made the most B murder mysteries. The acting is a bit better than usual and the cops just as dumb...so dumb you wonder why Ted would WANT to be back on the force! Worth seeing but far from a must-see.