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Another fun Popeye short
I was fortunate to see an excellent print of this. Popeyes is in pursuit of the rogue Abu Hassan, and Olive Oyl and Wimpy are along for the ride. Alas, their plane crashes in the Arabian Desert and the trio must trek across the desert getting more hungry and thirsty as they go. As to be expected, it is Wimpy who sees a mirage of sumptuous food. My favorite line of the film happens during this trek. Popeyes looks around and all he can see is sand and mumbles "I'd make a sandwich if I had a which." Abu Hassan captures Olive Oyl and Wimpy, but not to worry, Popeeye lays low not only the forty thieves but Abu (who could be Bluto's twin) - and all this to John Philip Sousa sounding music. Popeye's under his breath comments are always a highlight of these cartoons.
Sudden Danger (1955)
Was it suicide or was it murder?
This is one of five mysteries Westerns star Bill Elliott did in the fifties. He returns as a Lieutenant in the L.A. Sheriff's Department but is now called Andy Doyle. I preferred this entry into the series over the first due to the superior supporting cast of Tom Drake, Beverly Garland, Lyle Talbot and Minerva Urecal. Also, this entry was more of a true mystery than Dial Red 0. The first mystery is whether Wallace Curtis' (Drake) mother committed suicide or was murdered, a mystery that Lt. Doyle resolves. But if murder, whodunit? A prime suspect would be Curtis since he was accidentally blinded by his mother. Drake and Beverly Garland, who plays Curtis' girlfriend, Phyllis, really shine in this movie. In fact, their characters are more memorable than Elliott's. Garland had a long television career and is noted for her groundbreaking although short lived television series "Decoy." A good mystery with a solid cast.
Home, Sweet Homicide (1946)
A delightful gem of a movie
The movie is based on the book of the same name by Craig Rice, who was a popular mystery writer in her time. This movie is a pretty faithful adaption of the book and is somewhat autobiographical. Marian Carstairs (played by the underrated Lynn Bari) is a widow who writes mystery books featuring Detective Bill Smith as the protagonist. Her three children (Dinah, the eldest, April, and Archie, the youngest who is bossed around by his sisters and rightly resents it). Even so, the banter between the youngsters and their obvious fondness for each other and their mother is refreshing. When a murder happens in their neighborhood, the siblings decide they need to solve it and make sure their mother gets the credit for doing so and in that way she will get a lot of publicity for her books. Leading the murder investigation is a detective coincidentally named "Bill Smith," nicely played by Randolph Scott. Smith's partner, Sgt. O'Hare (played by the always excellent James Gleason) is continually frustrated by the youngsters' antics. In their effort to solve the mystery for their mother and to protect the husband of the victim from being accused of the murder, the children come up with the harebrained and potentially dangerous idea of giving the police untrue information. They also come up with the idea that Lt. Smith would be a good beau for their mother. This really isn't much of a mystery as it's easy to figure out who the murderer is but it is a delightful and highly entertaining movie. The siblings, played by Peggy Ann Garner, Connie Marshall, and Dean Stockwell work wonderfully well together and are a highlight of this movie. This movie has one of the best introductory credits I've ever seen. A group is singing a sedate "Home Sweet Home." The rendition is interrupted by screaming and other murderous sounds. It's hilarious. For those interested in Craig Rice, Jeffrey Marks has written an excellent biography of her entitled "Who was that lady? Craig Rice: queen of the screwball comedy."
Dial Red O (1955)
Straight forward police drama
Ralph Wyatt, a veteran with a outstanding World War II service record escapes from a mental institution to go and see his wife who divorced him. Soon thereafter, his harridan of an ex is murdered by her lover. We know from the get go who the murderer is (Paul Picerni as Roper) but Roper tries to put the blame on Wyatt. Bill Elliott portrays Sheriff's Department Lt. Andy Flynn as a dour, humorless detective who interestingly is also smart, non-judgmental and does not jump to conclusions nor is he corrupt. I only knew Paul Picerni from "The Untouchables" so I wasn't use to seeing him as a bad guy and he did a fine job. Elliott did a good job but his character isn't particularly memorable even though likable. An okay detective story worth the hour it takes to watch it.
A lavish production
This movie is adapted from the incredibly popular British musical stage show that had over two thousand performance on the London stage. It's based on the Ali Baba and Forty Thieves story. The sets are lavish and highly stylized and a large number of extras are used - the production values in this movie are stunning. The uncut 102 minute version is available from VCI Entertainment - it's a very good print. For me, the major reasons for seeing this film are that it is of such historical importance and that it features Anna May Wong. It was nice seeing her in such a prestigious film. That said, some of the acting was overdone and not really suitable for film, although undoubtedly fine for the stage. It's purely a matter of taste but I didn't find the story interesting or the music memorable or enjoyable. I think the movie is too long and slow going. I probably should have watched the 78 minute version - which VCI includes with the uncut version set.
Deadwood Pass (1933)
So so Western
Tom Tyler, a once very popular Western hero comes across as both likable and strong. In this outing Tom is a postal inspector who poses as the notorious Hawk, a thief who has just escaped from jail. Both the good guys and the bad guys are looking for the $200,000 in securities that the Hawk hid in, it is assumed, Deadwood Pass. The best action sequence is when Tom takes over for the stagecoach driver killed by bandits. Tom not only drives the stagecoach at top speed but he turns around and shoots a couple of bandits off their horses. Although a bit far fetched, it still is a good scene. Although there are a number of familiar names in the supporting cast neither they nor the personable Tom could raise this movie above the pedestrian. There's no humor or any memorable dialog and the leading lady (Alice Dahl playing the Sheriff's daughter) gives a bland and stilted performance. Not one of the best Tom Tyler Westerns.
Another good and entertaining episode
As is to be expected from this outstanding series, the production values, costuming, sets (especially the music hall), music, underlying humor, and acting are all top-notch. Suchet is the quintessential Poirot with, however, perhaps a more pronounced display of humor and wit than Poirot of the books. In this outing, an elderly and eccentric artist dies from an apparent accidental fall down the stairs. But Poirot, while having dinner with his dentist friend at Bishop's Chop House had seen Gascoigne on the night of his death. The waitress comments to Poirot and his friend how much Gascoigne has deviated from his previous schedule and dinner choices. When he later hears that Gascoigne died soon after that dinner, Poirot becomes convinced that Gascoigne was murdered. He also learns that Gascoigne's twin brother has also died. Although it doesn't distract from enjoying this episode, it is slightly flawed by having too few suspects and thus it is easy to figure out whodunit. This quibble is more than offset by the running and humorous side story of Hastings' enthusiasm for following a cricket match. Poirot refers to cricket as "Cricket, an English enigma. I don't know of any other game where even the players are uncertain of the rules." This episode is another winner.
The Cowboy Millionaire (1935)
A sneaky con man is no match for a cowboy
Any B western with George O'Brien is worth watching. He had the charisma, underlying sense of humor, good looks and athleticism that made him a joy to see perform and always entertaining. In this western, Bob (O'Brien) and his sidekick Persimmon (Kennedy) take a job at a luxury dude ranch in order to earn enough money to continue to continue working on their mining claim. Part of their duties are to greet incoming visitors at the train station and then take them to the ranch in a stagecoach. Along the way, they stage a mock holdup in order to evidently give visitors a thrill and a taste of the old West. In this case, the passengers are an English mother and her daughter Pamela (Bostok) and a smarmy hanger on manager. When the prank is revealed, the mother is amused, the manager livid and the daughter is insulted and in quite a snit. The two plot lines are the one-oneupmanship game played between Pamela and Bob and a con man trying to cheat Persimmon and Bob out of their valuable mining claim. Understandably, the con man works only with Persimmon who is naive and gullible. Bob becomes smitten with Pamela, but, still in a snit, she flits back to England. Bob pursues her there and they join forces in trying to catch the con man. O'Brien and Bostok work very well together and she holds her own in the acting and charisma even if she loses the one-oneupmanship battle. Edgar Kennedy is, well, the familiar Edgar Kennedy but this time in a Western. He is funny and one of the more entertaining obligatory sidekicks. Very enjoyable B Western.
The Delavine Affair (1955)
Okay British B movie crime thriller
Rex Banner (Reynolds) the owner of a small news agency and free lance reporter finds one of his informants, "Gospel Joe" murdered with a newspaper clipping about the Delavine robbery clutched In his hand. Banner sees a possible big news story but the police see Banner as a possible suspect. With the help of his wife and the news agency photographer, Banner tracks down the murderer, gets the reward and makes a bundle on the news scoop. A real plus of the movie was that it featured Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson and Katie Johnson (forever remembered for her role in The Ladykillers). One highly distracting small bit about the movie was Banner's unfortunate hairdo - it made him look like a real doofus. A pleasant enough mystery but unremarkable.
Well, it has Houdini as the star
The best thing thing this movie has going for it is that it has Houdini starring as Haldane, a Treasury agent who is tracking down a worldwide counterfeiting ring. Also a plus is that it uses a lot of extras for crowd scenes and has a large number of different sets including a couple in London. One of the interesting crowd scenes was of a Chinese festival in Chinatown. The most exciting scene is when Houdini is tied to a water wheel and escapes - that was good. But the movie was a real slog to sit through - very dull. It was overloaded with title cards. The movie's introduction is three long frames starting with "China - old in wisdom when the world was young - mother of mystery and the black arts of necromancy behind her yellow veil of secrecy"...and on and on. Along the way, Haldane falls in love with a pretty but really dim (and dull) damsel in distress. With one important exception, all the Chinese characters are described as being sly, wily or sinister. Even the title cards are boring. The crooks, who are hiding out in a monastery are describe as "... Disguised in the habiliment of Godly men." Habiliment? You don't see that word used too often (like never). Glad I saw it once but that was enough.
Ella Cinders (1926)
And Ella lived happily ever after
This Cinderella story stars the wonderful Colleen Moore as the much put upon Ella Cinders. Ella is the household drudge for her nasty step-sisters (Lotta and Prissy Pill) and step-mother. Ella's one pal is the iceman, Waite Lifter. Ella's chance to escape comes when the Gem Studio is promoting a movie contest ball. Among the funniest scenes in the movie are when Ella goes to a professional photographer to get the photo needed for the contest. As she's leaving her house, a title card informs us that "When Ella got into her good clothes, six moths laughed until they died." The session with the photographer does not go well for Ella (but it does for audience!)- thanks to a pesky fly. That and the bit Ella does with her eyes were amazing and funny. Much to the chagrin of her step-relatives, Ella wins the contest because the judges were sure Hollywood needed an actress who could cross her eyes while looking at a fly on her nose. Arriving in Hollywood, Ella does not have the reception she expected, but perseveres and through some clever studio gate crashing (and the amusing help from Harry Langdon), Ella lands a long term movie contract. But, she gives it all up to marry her Prince Charming, the erstwhile Waite Lifter (actually George Waite, the son of a wealthy businessman). Once a little boy iceman cometh, Ella's life seems a perfect Hollywood ending. Well, Ella certainly earned it. As every reviewer has commented, Colleen Moore was a joy to watch and makes it worth seeing this movie more than once.
Hold That Woman! (1940)
Busy afternoon for a repo man
Jimmie Parker, an easy going, affable, likable guy is just not very good at his job as a skip tracer. Skip tracers either get the cash owed on a product or repossess the product and return it to the store. Parker's completion rate is very low and he is in danger of losing his job. His boss likes to point out how very good Miles Hanover (Dave O'Brien) is as a skip tracer. Given how smug and smarmy Hanover is, the audience can eagerly anticipate his being given his comeuppance by Jimmy. In addition to being a nice guy, Jimmy also has incredible good luck. In one afternoon he gets married to a beautiful woman (who is fortunately also easy going), buys a house, buys furniture, moves into the house, catches jewel thieves and helps a colleague repossess a car. There are a couple of snags along the way like getting arrested and buying the furniture from a crooked old lady who sold it (cheap) to Jimmy right before the skip tracers came for it. Somehow this convoluted plot works and is actually entertaining and a pleasant way to spend an hour.
Two Boobs in a Balloon (1935)
Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy take a trip that goes awry
Edgar Bergen, as the professor, and Charlie McCarthy are at a fair to demonstrate their hot air balloon with a spherical gondola that is aptly named "The Spitit of Ammonie." Bergen wasn't much of a ventriloquist but oh we're he and his dummy Charlie funny. As was usual Charlie got the best lines and most of the laughs. Often the laughs were at the expense of Edgar who was a wonderful straight man. After liftoff, things soon go awry and the duo are soon in trouble. A rescue team calls them on the radio and Charlie tells the professor "They want to know if we need help.? Replies the professor: "Tell them of course we need help you darn fool." So of course, Charlie tells them "Of course we need help you darn fool." They crash onto the property of the Apple Valley Asylum. Almira Sessions is easily recognizable as the woman who launches the balloon, and a friend of mine is sure that the young flirt who tries to hitch a ride with the pair is Patricia Morrison. Since she is never shown in full face, it's hard to be sure but it's certainly possible as she is credited with having done another short that year. This is a fun short that is available on YouTube in a compilation of comedy shorts.
The Duchess of Buffalo (1926)
Entertaining mistaken identity and bedroom farce
Marian Duncan (Talmadge) is an American dancer touring pre-revolutionary Russia (even though Duncan's dress and hair style are clearly 1920s) who falls in love with a Russian dragoon, Vladimer Orloff. They wish to marry but to do so Orloff must get permission from his commanding officer, the Grand Duke. Alas, the Grand Duke has his lecherous eye on Marian for himself and has Orloff detained. Orloff escapes and he and Marian run off to a grand hotel in Orel where the obsequious hotel manager (Chester Conklin) mistakes her for the Grand Duchess. The fun begins as Duncan and Orloff try to maintain the mistaken identity pretense and the situation becomes even more absurd as the Grand Duke and later, the Grand Duchess, show up at the hotel. Talmadge's comedic timing and gift are apparent in all of the scenes at the hotel and she and her co-star (Carminate) work very well together and wring out every laugh possible. The lap bouncing scene between Duncan and the Grand Duke must have had audiences in 1926 either laughing uproariously or blushing (or maybe both!). An absurd and silly quintessential farce that is still funny today. Great fun throughout.
The Rodeo (1929)
Some great gags and a lot of fun
Either I saw a different film than the other reviewers or more likely, I have a lower brow sense of humor, for I thought this comedy short was funny, enjoyable and entertaining. The Smith family (father, mother, little daughter, grandma, uncle) are starting their Sunday noon meal and while title cards aren't really needed, they add some humor ("Uncle believed in regular exercise - he pushed himself away from the table three times a day"). The kids and the dog really have all the best scenes. The cook's kid substitutes wax candles for asparagus stalks and the look on the Smith kid's (Mary Ann Jackson) face after she has taken a big bite is priceless. Even the dog gets in the act when he eats a wax "asparagus" and slow motion stumbles to the bathroom. Once that frivolity is over, we hear a radio show where they're promoting a rodeo that's in town and cowboy Bill Cootie announces " Tomorrow's your last chance, folks, to see those stockyard sheiks vamp them cows." Ah, they just don't write dialog like that anymore. Off to the rodeo where "Everyone was having a good time except the cows." But there are obstacles along the way and not every Smith makes it to the rodeo. Mary Ann Jackson was the highlight of this short - such an expressive face - and amusing. Not only worth seeing but worth seeing more than once.
Back Page (1934)
Pleasant B programmer
Peggy Shannon did a nice job as a reporter, Jerry Hampton, who was fired from a big city newspaper and becomes the editor of a small town paper. Shannon has a certain charm and sparkle that enhance the movie; her reporter character is not rough edged or somewhat brassy like a Torchy Blane but neither is she silly or vapid. She also has a certain comedic touch - I thought the extended scene between Sterling Halloway and her was funny and well done by both of them. The movie starts and finishes with showing the impact of power and influence on what stories newspapers will print. I can't decide if the ploy Jerry uses at the end of the movie to ensure a happy ending for the good guys was a case of quite rightly and nicely hoisting the nasty guys on their own petards or unethical. Worth a watch.
On the Spot (1940)
Fun outing for Darro and Moreland
Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland (a gifted and underrated comedian) teamed up for a series of B movies. These movies were always entertaining even with their thin and sometimes silly plots. In this entry, Frankie is an odd job assistant/soda jerk in the small upstate NY town of Midvale drug store. Mantan (as yet once again playing a character named "Jefferson") is Frankie's good pal and a porter at the local hotel. One day at the drugstore a known gangster "Hype Inness" who has just been shot comes in to use the phone. He opens the booth door tells Frankie and Jefferson that he has a message for Smilin Bill (another big time gangster) but before he can relate the message, he falls over dead. Well, the town is inundated with reporters and assorted thugs, including Smilin Bill. A special investigator thinks that the message Hype was going to convey was the whereabouts of $300,000 of stolen bank money. Frankie is a bit of a screw up with some harebrained schemes and at one point tells Jefferson " You know Jefferson, I've been thinking." Jefferson replies "Uh, oh." I like the camaraderie between Frankie and Jefferson and the humor and silliness of the movies. The one thing I didn't care for was Frankie trying to imitate Jefferson's accent - too dated and not particularly funny.
The Mystery Man (1935)
Entertaining B crime/romance
I like Monogram movies - you can generally be sure of two things - (1) the movies will be entertaining and (2) there will be either a silly plot or a plot with big enough holes in it to drive a truck through. And this movie is no exception. Robert Armstrong's Larry Doyle is a cock-sure but good reporter for a Chicago newspaper. The police respect him (indeed, they give him a gun to show their appreciation for his help with a case) but his editor can't stand him. Larry spends his $50 bonus on treating his pals to a night on the town. His editor fires him but Larry goes on celebrating and winds up in St. Louis where he befriends a down and out but spunky young woman, Anne Ogilvie (played by Maxine Doyle). One of my favorite bits in the movie is where Larry secretly pays for the Anne's coffee and donut when she finds out she doesn't have enough money. Larry sees himself as the Anne's protector and because of Larry's moxie, they end up staying in a hotel suite (with two bedrooms). In spite of his former editor's trying to prevent it, Larry eventually gets a job on the St. Louis News. He is soon hot on the trail of the notorious criminal known as "The Eel." The rest of the movie doesn't make much sense but all's well that ends well. Armstrong does a good job but does not do the snappy reporter type as well as Chester Morris or Wally Ford. However, he does such scenes as that at the coffee shop better than they so it all evens out. I had never heard of Maxine Doyle and she did a somewhat surprisingly good job as Anne. A pleasant enough way to spend an hour.
The Squeaker (1937)
Interesting British crime drama
Scotland Yard is baffled and frustrated by a jewel fence and informer known as "The Squeaker." In an effort to catch the elusive criminal they re-hire former Inspector Barrabal (Lowe), a brilliant police officer who left the force because of excessive drinking. Suspicious of a businessman who has a penchant for hiring petty ex-convicts, Barrabal goes undercover pretending to be an ex-con. The ending is a bit hokey but it did nicely wrap things up. Lowe does an adequate job as the polished and pleasant Barrabal. I best remember Lowe from the films he and Victor McLaglen did together (What Price Glory? and its sequels and Guilty as Hell). He was better in those movies. And poor Ann Todd - she has a totally thankless (and unmemorable) role in this movie. But, more than making up for this waste, are Robert Newton as a jewel thief (Larry Graeme) who knows who The Squeaker is, and Alistair Sim as the reporter (Joshua Collie) covering The Squeaker's exploits. Newton's character is one thief I kinda hoped would get away with it. As most would agree, Sim is an actor than can make every role, even a small one, memorable. To my recollection, I've only seen one other movie based on Edgar Wallace's work - The Terror. Sim is in that movie as well and is a riot. This movie may not be quite as good as that one but it never drags and holds one's interest to the end. Especially Sim and Wallace fans should see.
The Egyptian Mummy (1914)
Too little Talmadge, too much Quirk
Billy Quirk is a young man who decides that a good way to make some quick money would be sell a "mummy" to a nutty doctor (Lee Beggs) who thinks he has a procedure to bring the dead to life. Quirk wants the money to marry his girlfriend Constance Talmadge. Talmadge has such a small, unremarkable role that there is no indication of the great silent comedy star - such as in The Matrimaniac and Duchess of Buffalo, she would later become ( although oddly, one of her most memorable roles, for me, was as the Mountain Girl in Intolerance). This silent comedy short was just not that funny. What humor there was, except for the whole silly premise of the plot, was provided by the emancipated hobo playing the "mummy." Certainly of historical interest because of Talmadge and because of that worth a watch by silent comedy fans.
The Show-Off (1926)
A wonderful silent comedy
Having only seen a couple of Keystone Kops comedies, I hadn't realized what a gifted comedic actor Ford Sterling was before seeing this movie. He's great as the loud mouthed, pompous, lying braggart Aubrey Piper. For some inexplicable reason, the much younger and beautiful Amy Fisher (Lois Wilson) falls in love with and marries him. Piper pretends to be a railroad executive when in fact he's a lowly crook. His colleagues laugh behind his back, calling him "Carnation" Charlie for the airs he puts on. But Amy loves and supports him even though her family and every one else finds him obnoxious. There's a great scene where Aubrey explains in gestures how an automobile accident happened - no title cards, yet it was perfectly understandable and amusing. Also top notch and funny was the court room scene. In spite of all logic, Aubrey actually saves the family from financial ruin (but he was the one who got them into the financial mess in the first place). It's unlikely that Aubrey learned anything positive from this near disaster and he probably becomes even more of a braggart. Poor Amy. As Ma Fisher so aptly puts it in the last title card line: "Heaven help me from now on!" Highly recommended.
The Great Rupert (1950)
A whimsical, delightful film
A down on their luck family, the Amendolas, (Jimmie Durante, Queenie Smith, and Terry Moore) have been out of work for months since their "human pyramid" vaudeville act is no longer popular. They've no money but manage to rent, without prepaying a month's rent, a small, ramshackle, one room dwelling from Frank Dingle (Frank Orth) who is a tight, cynical man. The previous occupant, Joe Mahoney (Jimmie Conlin), is also a destitute vaudevillian who cant't get any bookings for his trained squirrel act (Rupery - Himself the Squirrel). Mahoney vacates the premises without paying back rent and has to leave Rupert in a near by park. It's Christmas time and although Mr. Amendolas maintains his optimism and high spirits, the future looks grim. But then Rupert returns to the premises and the fun begins "when money is sent from heaven." There is a budding romance, a change of heart by a life long curmudgeon, an underlying faith in the power and importance of generosity and a happy ending for all - even Rupert. A fantasy world indeed but a charming and uplifting one. Best of all is Jimmie Durante - as ever, highly entertaining and engaging. I particularly enjoy his idiosyncratic singing style, in this case, his rendition of "Jingle Bells." For its day, the animation is also good. This movie is a winner and one the whole family can enjoy.
Jim Hanvey, Detective (1937)
Watchable but not a top tier B comedy/mystery
Guy Kibbee brightened many a movie in supporting roles. Kibbee was a great character actor but really couldn't carry a leading role even in a B movie. Jim Hanvey (Kibbee) has retired to the country but, since he was a renowned detective, an insurance company asks him to recover the stolen emeralds. Come to find out a young friend of Hanvey, Don Terry (Tom Brown) and Joan Frost (Lucie Kaye) stole the emeralds from her family's home safe on a dare. They intended to replace the emeralds but before they can do so, the jewels are in turn stolen from them. They too ask Hanvey to investigate and help them get the emeralds back to the safe. Hanvey finds the emeralds, but when Don tries to replace them, he's knocked out and unfortunately, the Frost's butler is murdered. In a rather hit or miss fashion, Hanvey sorts it all out in the end. A high light of the movie is seeing Ed Gargan and Edward Brophy as incompetent and rather likable thugs who were initially menacing but end up helping Hanvey. Gargan generally played dumb cops or house detectives so it was odd seeing him as a hoodlum. All in all, a pleasant enough way to kill an hour but a rather humdrum programmer. However, the print of the movie I saw was the shortened version and was a poor print. This certainly may have influenced my assessment of the movie.
Fast and Furious (1939)
Slick comedy/mystery from MGM
Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern star as Joel and Garda Sloane in this slick, lighthearted murder mystery. Joel loans his good friend Mike (Lee Bowman) $5,000 to invest in a beauty pageant. Mike invites Joel to the pageant and enlists him as a judge. When the pageant's producer is murdered and the police are convinced that Mike did it, Joel and Garda decide to investigate in order to clear Mike. It's all a bit of a lark since no one really liked the murder victim. As to be expected, Tone and Sothern did a good job with their banter and comedic flair. However, Sothern's Garda's excessive jealousy of Joel's casual attention to the bevy of beauties quickly becomes boring and somewhat annoying. The bit about the lion tamer (Frank Orth) and his two lions is far fetched but quite funny. This is an entertaining and enjoyable movie and is recommended.
Of the 1930s movies, the most accurate Perry Mason portrayal
Donald Woods' portrayal of Perry Mason is the best of the 1930s movies and the one that is closest to the Mason character from the books and the Burr t.v. series. This doesn't make it the only or most entertaining of the Mason movies - the William movies are more fun, if much less accurate. A Bishop from Australia asks Mason to investigate an over 20 year old case of an accusation of manslaughter, a charge that the Bishop says the woman accused of did not do. The plot quickly moves to a question of "who is really the granddaughter of the wealthy (and arrogant and nasty) Renald Brownley?" There are two claimants. On the plus side for this movie are that, for the first time in this movie series, Paul Drake (played by Joseph Crehan) is not a doofus, but actually a competent private detective, Tom Kennedy is his usual dim, but funny detective (in this case a house detective who works part time for Mason and actually helps solve the case), and Donald Woods characterization is serious but still has a lightheartedness about it that makes the character so likable. On the negative side is that Ann Dvorak, a gifted actress, is absolutely wasted in the role of Della Street. It's not a negative for me that the plot was somewhat convoluted and certain plot elements laughable because the movie was still entertaining and well worth viewing, especially by Perry Mason fans - even though there is only one Perry Mason - Raymond Burr, of course.