Action Adventure movies


REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:

   

PACIFIC BLACKOUT. Paramount Pictures, 1941. Robert Preston, Martha O’Driscoll, Philip Merrivale, Eva Gabor, Louis Jean Heydt, Thurston Hall, J. Edward Bromberg, Mary Treen, Monte Blue, Rod Cameron. Screenplay: Lester Cole & W. P. Lipscomb. Story by  Franz Spencer (Franz Schulz) & Curt Siodmak. Directed by Ralph Murphy.

   As Seattle prepares for its first city wide blackout of the pre-War era replete with the Army providing bombers to drop faux weapons, Robert Draper (Robert Preston), a young inventor who has been working on range finder for the Army, is on trial for murdering his partner, and it looks bad for him, what with French nightclub singer Marie Duval (Eva Gabor) swearing he is guilty, though he swears he never met her.

   John Runnel (Philip Merrivale), an expert on blackouts, is advising the city and a friend of Draper’s, but there is nothing he can do when Draper is convicted and sentenced to death (they move fast in B -movies).

   While being transferred to prison that night as the blackout begins, there is an accident and Draper escapes, and while trying to find a way out of his handcuffs, he meets Mary Jones (Martha O’Driscoll), who is walking her dog in the park.

   Mary is one of those screwball types you could only find in a movie of this era, and in short order she is helping Preston in his escape through a series of misadventures that fill up most of the movie a la a more urban 39 Steps (one of the most oft repeated plots in Hollywood history, even by Hitchcock).

   About midway through, the big secret regarding the villain is revealed, but it isn’t until right at the end we discover the McGuffin: saboteurs have substituted a real bomb for one of the phony ones to be dropped on Seattle by pilot Rod Cameron’s unsuspecting crew.

   To the extent this works its because of Preston and O’Driscoll, and a decent performance by a young Eva Gabor as the French girl whose testimony has been extorted by the unexpected German spy behind the whole thing. J. Edward Bomberg has a nice bit in a medical treatment shelter as a slight of hand artist turned pick pocket who helps Preston out in a tight.

   I’m curious if there ever was a blackout quite as extravagant as this one, but being on the West Coast and knowing Spielberg’s 1941 was loosely based on fact it is just in the realm of possibility (probably not with bombers dropping bags informing kids they have just been killed by poison gas).

   This is by turns screwball comedy, spy thriller, murder mystery, and patriotic flag waver, but makes so many sudden turns you may get a little dizzy trying to follow it. It never manages to all come together, but individual bits are worth seeing, and Preston is always good.

   

REVIEWED BY DAVID VINEYARD:

   

THE STAR OF INDIA. Eros Films, UK, 1954. United Artists, US, 1856. Cornell Wilde, Jean Wallace, Herbert Lom, Basil Sydney, Yvonne Sanson, John Slater, Walter Rilla. Screenplay: Herbert Dalmas, Denis Freeman (additional dialogue), John H, Kafka (uncredited). Directed by Arthur Lubin.

   Gorgeous color and the scenic haunting mystery-ridden landscape of the Languedoc region of France are among the highlights of this 17th century swashbuckler featuring Cornel Wilde as Pierre St. Laurent, a French officer recently returned from the wars in India (when the French and Dutch were still vying for an Indian Empire with the British) whose homecoming is spoiled when he finds his home has been sold for taxes and is now occupied by Katrina (Jean Wallace, Wilde’s wife), the widow of an older Count.

   When a visit to the ruthless and feline Royal Governor of the region Narbonne (Herbert Lom) yields no relief, Pierre returns to Katrina who informs him the Count sold a family jewel to Narbonne to pay for the estate and that if he will return the jewel, she will return his estates.

   That night when Pierre steals a statue of Shiva from Narbonne, he is forced to kill another thief who dies whispering the name of the king, and when the statue in turn houses only an empty compartment, Pierre is convinced Katrina’s story is about a family jewel is a lie — certainly when the jewel in the painting of her grandmother turns out to have been only recently added to the portrait and is a different shape than the hidden compartment in the statue.

   Spying on her, he learns that she is an agent of the Dutch government in the person of Van Horst (Walter Rilla), and the jewel is none other than the sacred sapphire known as the Star of India stolen by agents of Narbonne in India from a temple which the Dutch government wishes returned to India, where the jewels theft has stirred riots and unrest and death among native and colonists alike.

   Shades of The Moonstone and The Sign of the Four.

   Pierre manages to get himself invited to stay with Narbonne by returning the statue of Shiva, claiming to have stopped the thief he killed with a promise from Narbonne he can present his case to Louis XIV (Basil Sydney) himself. But he soon discovers that Louis, who is traveling with his Mistress Madame de Montespan (Yvonne Sanson), wants the jewel for her (and already sent the thief Pierre killed to steal it from Narbonne).

   Now Pierre must choose between his king, his conscience, and his growing love for Katrina if he can discover where Narbonne has hidden the jewel, steal it from under the eye of Narbonne, his man Emile (John Slater), and the greedy king (well played by Sydney).

   It’s a clever film with an attractive cast made even better by Wilde, a natural swashbucker (Bandit of Sherwood, At Sword’s Point, Forever Amber, Treasure of the Golden Condor, Sword of Lancelot) and a gifted swordsman (he qualified for the 1936 Olympic fencing team but never competed), who was as at ease as Errol Flynn in this type of role.

   There were always complaints about Wallace role in Wilde’s films, but while she was no great actress, she was photogenic and competent and certainly the films are better than those Hugo Haas put Cleo Moore in, and I would argue she is better than Sondra Locke in most of Clint Eastwood’s films and at least as good as Jill Ireland in Charles Bronson’s. As nepotism goes it seems a lesser sin.

   The film might have fared better with Maureen O’Hara or Rhonda Fleming, but Wallace is more than adequate, and between Wilde’s swashbuckling, Lom’s villainy, a smart script, capable direction by Lubin (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves with Wilde and many Abbott and Costello films and later television), attractive sets, well staged action, and the too seldom seen Languedoc scenery, the film has more than enough going for it to compensate.

   If, like me, you like a good swashbuckler this one is relatively rare and quite worth the effort to see. I don’t know if it is available on DVD, but you can find it streaming on YouTube in English with not too distracting foreign subtitles in a decent enough print.

   

JOLT. Millennium, 2021. Kate Beckinsale, Bobby Cannavale, Laverne Cox, Stanley Tucci. Jai Courtney, David Bradley. Director: Tanya Wexler. Streaming on Amazon Prime.

   There is about half a good movie in this recent action-comedy thriller. The second half? Pure dreck. And not good dreck at that.

   Kate Beckinsale (last seen by me in The Widow, reviewed here )  plays Lindy Lewis (no relation), a woman who since she was a young girl has been afflicted with intermittent explosive disorder, which I have discovered is a real thing. Anyone having the problem is plagued by bouts of anger, rage and utter hostility toward others, expressed by outbreaks of uncontrollable violence.

   Lindy’s case is far worse than others. She barely has a life, cannot hold a job, and when it comes down to it, simply cannot get along with others. Finally, now grownup, she has found a doctor to help control the symptoms. It’s only in the experimental stages, but by wearing an intricate wire harness, Lindy can push a button and give herself a jolt of electricity to subdue her violent urges.

   Problem is, as soon as she finally meets the man of her dreams, he’s found murdered, even before they have their third date. The police are of no help. Solution: find the man responsible, and provide her own punishment.

   This first half of the movie is fun and even a little romantic and and funny. Enjoyable, even. Problem is, moviewise, from this point on, it seems that working intensively with her problem over the years, Lindy has developed what the comic books call superpowers, and there’s no way that anyone that gets in her way can stop her. Lots of action, violence, bad language and fighting ensue. All of which are boring. Even the villains of the piece are boring. Eh. Who cares? Not I, said this viewer.

   

REVIEWED BY DAVID FRIEND:

   

WILD WILD WEST. Warner Brothers, 1999. Will Smith (James West), Kevin Kline (Artemus Gordon), Kenneth Branagh (Dr. Arliss Loveless), Salma Hayek, M. Emmet Walsh, Ted Levine. Loosely adapted from The Wild Wild West, a 1960s television series created by Michael Garrison. Director: Barry Sonnenfeld.

   Soon after the American Civil War, impulsive Army Captain Jim West (Will Smith) sets out to find his parents’ killer: the bitterly ruthless ex-Confederate General ‘Bloodbath’ McGrath (Ted Levine). The trail leads to a West Virginia brothel where the blundering intervention of undercover U.S. Marshal Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) and an accidental nitroglycerin explosion causes McGrath to escape.

   The two Americans may be on the same side, but they dislike each other on sight, so neither are pleased when President Ulysses S. Grant orders them to join forces and continue the hunt for McGrath, who has kidnapped several of the country’s best scientists in a plot which could destabilise the government.

   Aboard Gordon’s gadget-laden train ‘The Wanderer’, the fiercely competitive pair follow a bloody clue to the New Orleans home of Dr. Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh), a legless ex-Confederate officer and ingenious engineer in a steam-powered wheelchair and decorous goatee beard. Imprisoned there is singer Rita Escobar (Salma Hayek), who claims her father is one of the captured scientists. It seems that mysterious new weapons are being manufactured, one of which they discover to be an armoured vehicle – what we would now recognize as a tank – that has the power to kill dozens of soldiers in a single sweep.

   Yet something even bigger abounds in an eighty-foot mechanical spider stocked with two nitroglycerin cannons. Loveless uses this war-machine to kidnap the President before threatening to destroy the United States if they aren’t divided among other nations and himself. The ensuing struggle on the cliffs of Spider Canyon ends with West – and the fate of the country itself – at risk of falling into a yawning abyss…

   In the ’90s, making films of ’60s TV shows was a major trend. Baby boomers were buying tickets to see at the cinema what they had seen in their living rooms as kids. And so, after Batman, we got a cycle of remakes, mostly bad (Lost In Space, My Favourite Martian, The Saint) but some good (Mission Impossible, The Fugitive). Wild Wild West was yet another, based on the quirky action-adventure series made to weather the western genre’s declining popularity by having it capitalise on the James Bond craze – what you might call ‘spies-in-saddle’.

   This film version must have sounded great at the time. People who had enjoyed Will Smith and middle-aged straight man Tommy Lee Jones being government agents in sci-fi comedy adventure Men In Black would surely watch Will Smith and middle-aged straight man Kevin Kline being government agents in western comedy adventure Men In Chaps. Smith even chose it over The Matrix, believing it could result in another of his “big Willy weekends”.

   Instead, Wild Wild West was a disaster. The script was re-written, scenes were reshot, and the budget ballooned until it became one of the most expensive films of all time. On release, it lost money and “won” five Razzies, including Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay and Worst Director. Smith has repeatedly joked about its failure. It might now be bundled alongside those two other self-afflicting franchise films of the late ’90s, Batman and Robin and The Avengers.

   And yet, whereas I think such clunkers could be enjoyed as weird camp classics that just don’t care – the cinematic equivalent of streakers on a sports field – Wild Wild West is just bad.

   The pace is off from the start: Smith’s first fight, though shot continuously, is placed either side of a languid scene with Kline in drag, immediately killing any excitement. From there, the humour is ribald, with two different sequences showing scantily-clad prostitutes, and at one point both main characters suggestively fondle a pair of fake breasts. It’s a strange attempt at a running joke with a crude pay-off, much later, in which Smith’s character beats his hands against a woman’s bosom.

   The sexism becomes downright tasteless when Salma Hayek’s character unwittingly wears a buttock-exposing night-gown, much to the stunned pleasure of our heroes, who go on to mutter much innuendo built around the word “ass”. Apart from that, in fact, Hayek is barely in the movie at all. She tries to join them by slipping onto their train, yet Smith’s character doesn’t believe she can handle herself and insists she get off again. The actress herself felt underused in what is little more than an extended cameo. You know they only put a woman in it so they could splash her over the posters.

   Elsewhere, Ted Levine – playing yet another southerner – is dependable as always, though he gets dispatched halfway through with little consequence. Branagh is fun, and director Barry Sonnenfeld regularly has him wheel close to the camera to humorous effect. Thinking, though, of how Ken justified all this to his high-brow theatre friends in London is more entertaining than anything managed on set.

   The balance, throughout, between Smith and Kline is not quite set and neither appear to be the foil. (Maybe they’re not meant to be equal? Note how the title drops the definite article of the original version, subtly giving Smith the eponymous character – did Kline not notice?).

   Characterisation, too, is a bit ropey: at times, Kline gives us an amiably absent-minded scientist, proud of his gadgets and easily distracted by them, yet at others he seems cynical and condescending to his partner. And the decision to have him play the President too is just baffling. It made sense in Fierce Creatures when he was a father and son, but here it’s contrived, convenient and not at all cute.

   Meanwhile, Smith’s loud, smart-guy persona seems a little anachronistic in the Old West – and though some of the race jokes work in his favour, others are just clumsy and misconceived, especially a sequence in which he must appease a lynch mob, and another that sees him doing a harem dance (even the director hated it).

   Perhaps most importantly, the stakes in this thing are too fuzzily defined: why, for example, must Loveless be caught before the transcontinental railroad is inaugurated? And which is the super-weapon – tank or tarantula?

   A boisterous, preposterous romp, Wild Wild West does show occasional flashes of inspiration: the opening, in which a terrified man is decapitated by a flying buzz-saw, is vividly Avengers-esque, and there’s playful humour in all manner of steampunk gadgets. Yet the film never enjoys its western trappings as thoroughly and warm-heartedly as, say, Maverick or Back to the Future Part III, and neither does it do anything with the world of spying. This is an espionage-western which isn’t interested in either genres, focusing instead on infantile comedy, tired buddy-cop tropes and empty, if eccentric, spectacle.

   Had it been a light-hearted mystery-adventure with a sense of proportion, it could have been terrific. As a comedy, however, it’s a wild, wild mess.

Rating: **

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS. Universal, 1952. Gregory Peck, Ann Blyth, Anthony Quinn, John McIntire, Hans Conried, and Sig Ruman. Screenplay by Borden Chase and Horace McCoy, from the novel by Rex Beach. Directed by Raoul Walsh.

   Rollicking.

   Greg plays a two-fisted seal hunter known as The Boston Man, just arrived in San Francisco (1850) with the richest haul of pelts ever, full of ambitious plans to buy Alaska from the Russians and stop their rapacious seal-slaughter. He also engages in friendly rivalry with a scoundrel called The Portugee (Anthony Quinn, playing the part like Chico Marx) and more serious pursuit of Ann Blyth, a Russian Princess passing as a commoner for the sake of the plot.

   Screenwriter Borden Chase once said the secret of his success was to write in a part for John McIntire, a character deliberately added, whose dialogue will provide background, explication and foreshadowing, and relieve the leading man of a lot of burdensome talk. In this case the part is played by McIntire himself as a sort of soloist in a Greek Chorus, and done quite smoothly.

   And in this case Chase also wrote in a part for Bill Radovich, an ex-linebacker built like a tow truck and entrusted with the role of Ogeechuk, Greg’s Inuit pal, whose function it is to break down doors and throw folks around—it seems The World in His Arms was originally written for John Wayne, who could do all the door-breaking and folk-throwing himself, but with Greg it just didn’t work. Hence Ogeechuk.

   This film could have coasted along on sheer charm, but someone felt constrained to fill in some kind of story. Something about Greg being disappointed in love, fighting with Anthony Quinn, getting blown out of the water and captured by Russians, but the whole thing is so hopelessly interlarded with fights and chases, it’s hard to care about the story, much less follow it.

   One thing does stick in my mind, though. I saw this movie on local TV back in the 1960s, and I distinctly remember a scene where Greg and his boys go about clubbing baby seals to death while John McIntire explains that what looks like gleeful Pinniped Slaughter (Clunk!) is actually a responsible culling (Boink!) of excess population (Whack!) necessary to protect the species (Smack!)

   Which is as may be, but when The World in His Arms showed up on my streaming service, those few minutes were conspicuously absent.

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

DARK STREETS OF CAIRO. Universal, 1940. Sigrid Gurie, Ralph Byrd, Eddie Quillan, Katherine DeMille, Rod La Rocque, George Zucco, Yolande Donlan, Lloyd Corrigan and Henry Brandon. Written by Alex Gottlieb. Directed by László Kardos.

   An afterthought to The Mummy’s Hand (also 1940) with the same sets, music and extras. George Zucco even wears the same shiny fez! But the players somehow manage to carry it off.

   Alex Gottlieb’s script is nothing special, and the characters are strictly from boilerplate: Stuffy old archeologist (Wright Kramer) his brash young assistant (Ralph Byrd) and the assistant’s wing man (Eddie Quillan) icy aristocratic lady (Sigrid Gurie) just waiting to be melted, dance hall girl (Yolande Donlan) with a heart of gold and a jealous boyfriend (Henry Brandon) etc. etc.

   The actors are so accustomed to parts like these by now they slip into character gracefully and even with a certain amount of authority. Rod La Rocque makes an effective Police Inspector, up against suave master criminal George Zucco, and their wit-matching scenes have that kick that comes when two veteran actors strike sparks together.

   The plot also has a few unusual wrinkles. Stuffy old Kramer has unearthed the priceless jewels that usually turn up in movies like this, and Zucco wants them. In fact, he has already arranged a sale to wealthy collector Baron Stephens (Lloyd Corrigan – and come on now: “Baron Stephens?” Really?) with a cover story that Kramer is selling them under the table, and he’s even got some fakes to switch with the real jewels, when henchman Henry Brandon bungles the theft by killing Kramer — which tips off Baron Stephens that it’s kinda shady under that there table. But when Corrigan backs out of the deal, Zucco abducts him, with an eye to framing him for Kramer’s murder. So it’s up to Byrd and Gurie — who turns out to be Corrigan ‘s daughter — to find and rescue him.

   That’s a lot of plot to squeeze into less than an hour, but director Kardos steps on the gas and runs through it with speed that defies illogic in the plot.

   I’m not here to tell you Dark Streets of Cairo is an undiscovered classic. Bu it’s a little better than it needed to be, and fans of fast-paced B-movies won’t regret watching this one.

   

   There’s a new Jack Reacher in town. Physically, he’s got Tom Cruise beat, hands down:

RED NOTICE. Netflix, 2021. Dwayne Johnson (John Hartley), Ryan Reynolds (Nolan Booth), Gal Gadot (The Bishop), Ritu Arya, Chris Diamantopoulos. Screenwriter/director: Rawson Marshall Thurber.

   A “red notice” is a global alert issued by Interpol to hunt and capture the world’s most notorious criminals. In this regard, an FBI profiler (Dwayne Johnson) is called upon to nab the world’s most wanted art thief (Ryan Reynolds), but as chance will have it, they become reluctant partners in crime, but with the goal of obtaining Cleopatra’s bejeweled “third egg” ahead of a master thief (Gal Gadot), who seems to be able to outwit them both at every turn.

   Following constantly (and mostly futilely) in the of all three wake is Inspector Urvashi Das (Ritu Arya).

   It should be noted that this is a comedy as well as a slickly-made action thriller.

   It should also be noted that this film follows solidly in the footsteps of movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, without supplying anywhere near the thrilling experience that  that earlier movie did when I saw it the first time. Or even the second or third time. This one’s OK on its own terms the first time, but watch it again? I have no interest.

   Gal Gadot is a pleasure to watch, but I think “The Rock” is getting up there too far in years to keep making adventure movies such as this. And while Ryan is a motormouth when it comes to wisecracking and joking around, one wonders when if ever he also might grow up a little.

   While the movie is fun to see — and it really is a lot better than the trailer above — a lot more money was spent in producing it than the folks behind the syndicated TV series Relic Hunter had at their disposal,for example, and I’m not so sure the results are all that much better. If you’re already subscribed to Netflix, it won’t cost you anything to see this one, but if you’re on the fence as to deciding whether to sign up or not, I’d have to tell you that this one’s not the deal-breaker you’ve been waiting for.

   Unless , that is, you’re a Gal Gadot fan. Why else would I have watched this one?

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   
THE IRON MISTRESS.  Warner Brothers, 1952. With Alan Ladd, Virginia Mayo, Joseph Calleia, Phyllis Kirk, Douglas Dick, Anthony Caruso, Nedrick Young, and Jay Novello. Screenplay by James R Webb, from the novel by Paul I Wellman. Directed by Gordon Douglas.

   A bit flabby, but it has its moments.

   The flabbiness is due mainly to lapses in James Webb’s script, which takes entirely too much time rolling out the action, cruising along the Upper Crust of New Orleans society, drawing rather labored parallels between the effete rich and backwoodsy Bowie, until one wonders if this is going to be a comedy of manners. Eventually though some action just can’t be avoided and here….

   Well here is Director Gordon Douglas, one of the most proficient action men in the game, with rip-snorters like TONY ROME, THE FIEND WHO WALKED THE WEST, KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE, and RIO CONCHOS on his resumé, and he makes the most of every fist-swinging, gun-smoking, sword-sticking moment in the picture.

   Producer Henry Blanke (Whose credits include THE MALTESE FALCON and TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE) also took care to populate the cast with worthy opponents for Ladd’s Jim Bowie to come up against. Joseph Calliea, Jay Novello, Nedrick Young, and Anthony Caruso all comport themselves with creditable nastiness, and we get a fair share of excitement from scenes like:

   ● A Duel that turns into a massacre when the seconds start firing on the opposing principals;

   ● A knife fight with the Ladd and Anthony Carusos’ left arms strapped together;

   ● A woodland ambush that becomes a prolonged stalk-and-kill;

   ● And best of all, a duel in a darkened room with Bowe’s knife against Nedrick Young’s saber, choreographed by the great Fred Cavens.

   Nedrick young, by the way, is best remembered as the gunman in black who faces off against Sterling Hayden and a harpoon in TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN.

   Moments like this pack real excitement, and on the balance, IRON MISTRESS is well worth your time. But keep a finger on the fast-forward button.

   

REVIEWED BY DAN STUMPF:

   

OUT OF SINGAPORE. Goldsmith Productions, 1932. Noah Beery Sr, Dorothy Burgess, Mary Carroll Murray, George Walsh, Montagu Love, Leon Wong, and Jimmy Aubrey. Written by John Francis Nattleford and Frederic Chapin. Directed by Charles Hutchison.

THE LAST ALARM. Monogram, 1940.  J Farrell MacDonald, Warren Hull, Polly Ann Young, Mary Gordon, and George Pembroke. Written by Al Martin. Directed by William “One-Shot” Beaudine, as William West. (The latter added later.)

   My life was blighted at the tender age of Fourteen.

   Or if not actually blighted, at least noticeably warped when I read William K Everson’s The Bad Guys (Citadel, 1964) and was seduced by his loving descriptions of films I had little if any chance of seeing. I mean, for a kid in his mid-teens, living in a one-TV household in a three-station town, the opportunities were a bit slim, all in all, and if something interesting did make it onto the local channels, it was usually late on a School Night.

   And so I grew up feeling Life had cheated me, thinking “If only I had been around when these films, so knowingly praised and lovingly analyzed, were made…. Or if I were just a few years older, living the free and independent life of an adult….”

   Of course I had no way of knowing then that before I reached middle-age, the world would expand: Satellite TV, then VHS, then DVDs and streaming, brought all this to me in the wisdom of my advancing years. And finally I have the chance to see what the Old Sage of the Cinema was talking about, all those years ago.

   Well it ain’t much. Everson himself admitted Out of Singapore was “one of the cheapest of poverty row quickies” but even that doesn’t begin to describe the static camerawork, cardboard characters, perfunctory screenplay, and jagged editing.

   Or the rudimentary plot: Captain Carroll of the Marigold, desperate for a First Mate, signs on Woolf Barstow (Noah Beery Sr) a seaman who holds the Indian Ocean Division record for losing the most ships at sea, all full of dubious and heavily-insured “cargo.”

   Also on board is a skullduggerous Bos’n, Scar Murray (Montagu Love) The two rascals take to each other immediately, and I have to say their scenes together are a delight, chortling over their plans to do away with the Captain, sink the Marigold with all hands, and make off with the skipper’s nubile daughter (Mary Carol Murray) “A few weeks on a desert island will bring her around!”

   Of course if things went according to scheme, Out of Singapore would be a much different movie. In this case, the flies in the ointment are a doughty Second Mate (George Walsh, rather ineffectual and obviously no match for either of the nasties.) and a fiery Latina temptress (Dorothy Burgess) whom Beery is ditching for Ms Murray — and who will not go gentle into the tropical night.

   Well we’ve all had relationships like that, haven’t we? In this case, it leads to a rather predictable comeuppance for Beery and Love. A pity that, because they were the liveliest part of the whole enterprise.

   The Last Alarm is a quieter affair altogether, despite reams of fiery stock footage to pad out the plot of aging an Fire Department Captain (J Farrell MacDonald) put out to pasture just as a serial arsonist begins terrorizing the city — cue stock footage of massive conflagrations, none of which seem terribly exciting because they’re all done in grainy long-shot. From time to time we cut to cynical reporters, the Chief demanding action from the Arson Squad, and old MacDonald grumbling about being old and useless. Big whoop, as the kids say.

   (Do the kids still say that? “Big whoop?”)

   But about this time George Pembroke comes into his own as the Mad Fire-Bug, and the scenes of him peering through his thick spectacles, cackling over his latest atrocity, or going all googly-eyed when someone lights a pipe are the stuff of real old-school, full-blooded villainy, and a pleasure to behold.

   So what we’ve got here is two bad movies that I kind of enjoyed. I can’t recommend either of them to any serious film buff, but those of us who recall the works of Willian K Everson, will feel a pleasant twinge of nostalgic fun.

   

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