CRIME RING. RKO Radio Pictures, 1938. Allan Lane, Frances Mercer, Clara Blandick, Inez Courtney, Bradley Page, Ben Welden, Charles Trowbridge, with (uncredited) Paul Fix, Byron Foulger, Tom Kennedy. Director: Leslie Goodwins.


   For a fellow who ended his career as the voice of a talking horse, Allan (Rocky) Lane sure had a long and varied one, beginning, believe it or not, in 1929.

   As a young lad I knew him most as the B-western movie star, and after Roy and Hoppy, I think I might have ranked him number three. I never cared all that much for Gene’s movies, but (come to think of it) Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid has got to be up there quite high as well.

   But I digress. Lane was several years from the saddle when he made this one, a crime film of little major significance, but moderately entertaining enough for me to have watched it twice, once this week and once about seven years ago, when I first recorded it from TCM.

   Lane plays a Joe Ryan, a good-looking newspaper reporter in this one. (The “good-looking” part of the role came naturally.) Aiding him in finding out who’s heading the gang of hoodlums who’re pulling the protection racket on his city’s cadre of fortune tellers and phoney mediums are two lovely ladies from a group of dancing girls he rescues from jail. (I believe they were dancing girls, stranded somehow by their manager, and while I am not sure, I refuse to believe otherwise.)

   And either though phoney mediums are also on his target list, he sets up Judy and Kitty (Frances Mercer and Inez Courtney) as a pair of phoney mediums. Once well established in the town’s circle of fortune tellers, one of whom is about to swindle a wealthy woman (and a good friend of Ryan’s) out of her considerable wealth, they’ve got the foothold they need to bust up both rackets.

   You learn several things from watching low budget crime movies like this. One is that (as the old saying goes) there is no honor among thieves. The other is that you should trust phoney mediums no farther than you can throw them, and I hope a large portion of the audiences who watched movies like this in the 1930s got the message loud and clear.

   And with the message, they got 70 minutes of entertainment to boot. It’s not nearly as entertaining today, I don’t imagine, not for most audiences, but on the other hand (and as for me), read that third paragraph again!