Thu 30 Apr 2009
CAPTAIN THUNDER. Warner Brothers, 1930. Fay Wray, Victor Varconi, Charles Judels, Robert Elliott, Don Alvarado, Robert Emmett Keane. Director: Alan Crosland.
It was “Captainís Day” one day last week on TCM. This one followed Captain Applejack which I watched and commented on a couple of days ago, with several more taped and ready to be watched as soon as Iím able, including Captain Blood, which is first movie I remember watching as a kid, when I was perhaps six or seven years old.
Many of the other movies in this grouping, which were shown all day, seem to have been newly recovered from the vaults, but if so, this one may as well go back in. It does feature Fay Wray, whom I can watch in anything, as this movie has proven, but it has little else going for it that would prompt more than the slightest recommendation.
Not only does Fay Wray have a leading role, but the very first time we see her, sheís in a very skimpy slip and little else, a fact worth both pointing out and explaining.
Captain Thunder, a Mexican bandit raising havoc with the forces of the utterly inept and totally comical El Commandante Ruiz (Charles Judels), has previously robbed the stagecoach in which she was coming into town, and part of the tribute demanded was the outer clothing of all its passengers. (And perhaps the driver and the fellow riding shotgun as well. I should go back and look. I was distracted at the time.)
El Capitan Thunder is played most boisterously by Victor Varconi, a Hungarian playing a Mexican in this movie. His career began in the silents back in his homeland, starting in 1913, and as is often the case with many early talking films, some actors did not at first understand that less is sometimes more.
Be that as it may, Captain Thunderís credo is that he will keep all of the promises he makes, which puts him in a quandary when one he makes to the slim and supremely beautiful Ynez Dominguez (Fay Wray) runs headlong into one he makes to the evil Pete Morgan (Robert Elliott), a strutting gent with eyes on Ynez himself, although she is about to marry another. Much booing and hissing expected here.
Fay Wrayís career survived this pre-King Kong film, Iím happy to say, and surprisingly enough, so did Victor Varconiís, who had many small parts and supporting roles through the early 1950s. Director Alan Crosland died in 1936 at the age of only 41, but before that, he was at the helm of a couple of Perry Mason movies, and The White Cockatoo (1935), a film based on a pretty good mystery novel by Mignon G. Eberhart.