ISLE OF MISSING MEN. Monogram Pictures, 1942. John Howard, Helen Gilbert, Gilbert Roland, Alan Mowbray, Bradley Page, George Chandler, Ernie Adams. Director: Richard Oswald.

   A strangely unclassifiable story in may ways. The title may make it sound like a crime film, but except for the fact that the film takes place on a penal island in the South Pacific, there is no crime committed during its short 67 minute running time.

   That it takes place in the South Pacific during wartime, and a Japanese warplane takes an early unsuccessful bombing run at the island, just on general principles only, might classify as a war film. On the other hand, that is the end of any reference to the war, and to honest, this movie could have taken place well before the hostilities began. It has, in fact, an overall 1930s feel to it, as if Monogram had made the film back then and only got around to releasing it in 1942.

   What Isle of Missing Men really is, is a romantic drama, centered around a blonde temptress (Helen Gilbert) who finagles her way to the island where John Howard is the governor, Alan Mowbray is the prison doctor, Bradley Page is the very suspicious second in command, and Gilbert Roland a prisoner who claims to be innocent, but then again don’t thy all? But maybe this time, just maybe.

   It is at least a four-way love triangle, and Miss Gilbert easily has her way with all her quickly gained suitors and admirers. The lady — the actress — apparently was far better known for her several marriages than she was ever was for her movie career. Isle of Missing Men may have been the peak of her success.

   A statement which I make in all seriousness. This may not have been a crime film, per se, but it has elements of a truly noir film. The low budget acts against it, of course, and so does the execrable quality of the Alpha Video DVD. And yet, and yet. The story is oddly ingratiating, if not wholly admirable. I liked this one maybe more than I should have.