GYPSY WILDCAT. Universal Pictures, 1944. Maria Montez, Jon Hall, Peter Coe, Nigel Bruce, Leo Carrillo, Gale Sondergaard, Douglass Dumbrille. Director: Roy William Neill.

   Last month AMC ran a bunch of those “Arabian Nights” Movies, which I blush to admit I watched and enjoyed while other, worthier tapes, languished on my shelves.

   It doesn’t help a bit that these movies were mega-hits in the 40s, catapulted Jon Hall and Maria Montez to dubious stardom, and launched several mostly cheap and inferior imitations. I noted that Cobra Woman was directed by Robert Siodmak, in the bland, expressionless style that would become his trademark in the 60s, after all those wonderfully stylish films nour, and Gypsy Wildcat was done by that James-Whale-of-“B” -Movies — Roy William Neill — with all the panache poured into Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman and the Sherlock Holmes series.

   Of course, in Gypsy Wildcat, the plot kind of got away from the writers: First the Gypsies sing, then they get taken prisoner by Evil Baron Douglass Dumbrille (who at least always managed to have a good time with his villainy) but Jon Hall escapes. Then he joins them and they’re all caught, so they decide to sing. Then Jon Hall escapes again and comes back for Maria Montez and they both escape, but then they get caught. One of the Gypsies escapes, then they all decide to escape, and to cover up the noise of their escape, they sing.

   Having escaped, they prison the Guards, but then Douglass Dumbrille escapes with Maria Montez, so they chase after him, but while they’re gone, the guards escape and start chasing after the gypsies, who catch Doug just as the guards catch them and …

   Well, I guess that’s why they call it Escapist Entertainment. But Damn, that Movie sure moves around a lot!

— Reprinted from Shropshire Sleuth #71, May 1995.