DARK MOUNTAIN. Paramount Pictures, 1944. Robert Lowery, Ellen Drew, Regis Toomey, Eddie Quillan, Elisha Cook Jr. Director: William Berke.

   Robert Lowery may have been the nominal star of this film, but it’s the villain of the piece, played exceedingly well by Regis Toomey, who takes home the acting honors, and by a landslide. Lowery plays a stalwart but not exceedingly bright park ranger, or shall we say not terribly swift on the uptake, who when he gets a promotion, finally asks his girl (Ellen Drew) to marry him.

   He, of course, has waited to long to make his affection in this regard known, and she has already married another. Regis Toomey, that is, and you know immediately, once he walks into the room, that he’s an out-and-out no-good-nik. Lowery bows out gracefully, or at least his character does. But when Toomey’s character shows his true colors, kills two people, and takes Drew with him on the lam, Lowrey is there to aid and assist and eventually pick up the pieces.

   It does take a while, but even so, to fill out the running time, the film still needs some comedy mixed in with the suspense, which is minor to begin with. Comedy provided courtesy of Eddie Quillan, Lowery’s fellow ranger who in one scene plays checkers with himself for well over five minutes, or what seems like it, his moves on either side of the board assisted by the knowing nods or disapproving shakes of his dog’s head.

   Reading back what I’ve written so far, I should caution you that the movie isn’t as bad as I’ve probably made it sound. Regis Toomey, in particular, is just as fine as the kind of smooth-talker operator who could have someone like Ellen Drew fall in love with him as he is the kind of villain who can wipe out anyone who crosses his path without thinking at all about it. Most of his career, I suspect, was spent in secondary roles such as this one and doing them well.