Thu 24 Jan 2008
DANGEROUS LADY. PRC, 1941. Neil Hamilton, June Storey, Douglas Fowley, Evelyn Brent, Jimmy Aubrey. Directed by Bernard B. Ray. Based on a story by Leslie T. White.
With bargain basement movies like this one, you get what you pay for, which is – unless you’re not particularly careful with your wallet – almost nothing. Most of the online reviews for this movie, out on DVD, include the line “Neil Hamilton and June Storey play the married sleuths with a bemused and breezy ease in this clever Thin Man-style mystery thriller.”
Bemused, maybe, wondering why on earth they’re in this film. Breezy, yes, with a plot having holes in it wider than the cheesiest Swiss you’ve ever seen. Thriller, not at all. In the first ten minutes what passes for witty repartee between husband (private eye Duke Martindel, played by Neil Hamilton) and wife Phyllis (a hot shot lawyer lady played by June Storey) as they prepare for bed (and quite noticeably, separate beds) will get you to sleep even more quickly than they do.
It is difficult to say who should bear the brunt of the blame. All of the players have long careers in the movies, but they’re as a group awfully wooden in this one. Neil Hamilton lasted long enough to become Commissioner Gordon in the Batman TV series; by that time his gray hair made him look distinguished.
June Storey was in maybe ten of Gene Autry’s western movies – but this photo of her below with William Henry was probably taken from a 1941 musical drama starring Carole Landis entitled Dance Hall – and Jimmy Aubrey’s comedic efforts were on display in over 400 films.
Leslie T. White wrote a long list of tales for the pulp magazines, but they must have run out of both film and shooting time to fill the gaps in what passes for a story line in this one. Nor was this director Bernard B. Ray’s only chance at directing a film. Also known as Raymond K. Johnson, he did over 60 of them.
The music in the background was stolen from an early 1930s comedy, though of course in Dangerous Lady, some of the action was intended for laughs, as most mystery and detective movies were obliged to do before noir came along, not that they called it noir back then. Looking back at the first paragraph of this review, I suppose this was what was meant as “breezy.”
You will have noticed that I have said nothing about the story itself. You’re right. I haven’t.