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Mystery & Crime Series 30's & 40's

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Mysto, Apr 10, 2018.

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  1. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Dick Tracy
    [​IMG]
    Morgan Conway

    Dick Tracy, Detective
    Dick Tracy Vs. Cueball


    [​IMG]
    Ralph Byrd

    Dick Tracy’s Dilemma
    Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome


    From his humble beginnings Oct 14, 1931 in the Detroit Mirror, Dick Tracy became THE depiction of law enforcement. This Comic strip character by Chester Gould was different. Instead of for laughs this strip was a “mostly” serious depiction of police vs. the forces of evil. I am temped to say if you don’t know about Dick Tracy you have probably been living under a rock but the reality is that mostly only us old timers remember him. It is strange how so many major characters of the past have faded into history. For many of our younger forum members you can only imagine how much of this strip was ingrained into the public consciousness.

    [​IMG]

    Dick Tracy first came to the silver screen as a serial (remember in those days serials were part of the short subjects and not just Saturday matinees) Dick was a little different from the strip (he was a Fed instead of a local cop) but it was pretty close and popular. The serial spawned three more all starring Ralph Byrd.

    [​IMG]
    Dick Tracy 1937
    Dick Tracy Returns 1938
    Dick Tracy’s G-Men 1939
    Dick Tracy Vs. Crime, Inc 1941


    Dick Tracy finally got its chance as a B feature in the 1945 Dick Tracy Detective starring Morgan Conway (I have no idea why the switch – he did a fine job but for me Ralph Byrd is Dick Tracy). One more film with Conway and then back to the original Dick Tracy, Ralph Byrd for the final two, ending with Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome with Boris Karloff getting top billing.

    It wasn’t over for Ralph Byrd yet. He would go on to play Tracy in 1950 for two seasons on TV.


    Dick Tracy 1950 Promo - TV clips used to sell the series

    They tried for TV one more time in 1967 but the pilot failed

    Warren Beatty came out with a feature film in 1990. The movie was beautifully shot with wonderful comic book primary colors. I just wish they would have worked as hard on the story as they did on the look. Passable, if not inspired film, but nothing to keep the series going. The rumor is that another TV series was proposed but the Warren still has control of the rights and squelched it.

    [​IMG]
    I hadn’t watched this film series in a very long time. They are great fun. We describe many of these B films as breezy – these are almost a gale. Each moves along quickly with lots of action and Chester Gould’s always interesting villains. These are crime thrillers, not so much mysteries, as we usually know who did it early in the story. Although they will never be considered great film making, they make no apology – they are what they are…quick, hard driving, fun, action flicks. A great way to spend a dreary Saturday. The serials are also a romp but I wish someone had edited them to a feature film, removing the intros and recaps. Hard to watch a 200+ minute B movie.

    These films are readily available:

    All are available on DVD from multiple sources in decent quality

    All are available on youtube (along with some of the TV shows and serials)

    All can be downloaded from Archive.org
     
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  2. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Absolutely love the junior G-Man tommy gun ad! The text itself is a testament in creative writing and art to appeal to its target audience--kids. I suspect that I got some of whatever writing ability I have from the hours I spent breathlessly reading stuff like this. It's not exactly David Ogilvy in terms of advertising genius, but sure as hell worked good enough to sell plastic toy guns that go rat-a-tat-tat.

    Great tie-in with your Dick Tracy film commentary, Marv!
     
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  3. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    [​IMG]
    These are the guys that got me.
    I have an original catalog from the 1930's and I still want to buy everything in there.(especially the x-ray glasses)
     
  4. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Yeah, all us kids wanted those x-ray glasses. And not just to see through walls...
    Fantasy always outplayed reality.
     
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  5. ponset

    ponset Second Unit

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  6. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Great when you add radio stuff. I haven't yet done a summary on one of my favorite series that I prefer on radio - The Shadow! But I will soon.

    However - my favorite radio program of all time is the Bickersons (Don Ameche ones). Next would be Jack Benny. Then a bunch of action/mysteries.
     
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  7. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    The Johnson Smith Company lives! http://www.johnsonsmith.com/
     
  8. criblecoblis

    criblecoblis Second Unit
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    Ooh, this looks good! I'm a huge Alastair Sim fan, believe it or not. Among other things, he's my favorite Scrooge.
     
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  9. Message #489 of 494 Oct 13, 2018 at 7:29 AM
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018 at 6:24 AM
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Bulldog Drummond
    [​IMG]
    Ronald Colman

    Bulldog Drummond
    Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back


    [​IMG]
    Kenneth MacKenna

    Temple Tower (Film Exists UCLA but is not available)

    [​IMG]
    Ralph Richardson

    The Return of Bulldog Drummond

    [​IMG]
    Atholl Fleming

    Bulldog Jack


    [​IMG]
    John Lodge

    Bulldog Drummond at Bay-1937

    [​IMG]
    Ray Milland

    Bulldog Drummond Escapes

    [​IMG]
    John Howard

    Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge
    Bulldog Drummond Comes Back
    Bulldog Drummond in Africa
    Bulldog Drummond’s Peril
    Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police
    Arrest Bulldog Drummond
    Bulldog Drummond’s Bride



    [​IMG]
    Ron Randell

    Bulldog Drummond Strikes Back
    Bulldog Drummond at Bay-1947


    [​IMG]
    Tom Conway

    The Challenge
    13 Lead Soldiers


    [​IMG]
    Walter Pidgeon

    Calling Bulldog Drummond-1951

    [​IMG]
    Richard Johnson

    Deadlier Than the Male
    Some Girls Do


    Captain Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond. Honed in the battlefields of WWI and off to solve crimes, live adventure, defeat the bad guys, and keep safe the British way of life. The “Gentleman Adventurer” was created by Herman Cyril McNeile (a real life war hero) under the pseudonym Sapper (a private in the Royal Engineers). He died too young at 48 and on his death bed asked his good friend Gerard Fairlie (some say Herman’s inspiration for Drummond) to take over the series. By this time Bulldog was already a movie star. This hero of the screen has been portrayed in the movies by at least 14 different stars. This doesn’t even count the radio and TV adaptations. Although the core of the series belongs to John Howard, others including Walter Pigeon, Ray Milland, and Ronald Coleman have all been at the helm.

    Bulldog gets into exciting adventures in every film, sometimes on purpose (even when admonished by Scotland Yard to stay out) and occasionally by accident along with his faithful sidekick Algy Longworth. In addition he is aided in many movies by his man servant Tenny and his “almost a bride” Phyllis Clavering. This sometimes a mystery always a thriller series is all over the map with different stars, helpers, marital status, a lost - then recently found film, different studios, multiple decades – (heck these films go from deep in the potboiler B territory to an academy award nominee for best actor) I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Bulldog always remains the champion but his surroundings and styles do change a from film to film.

    Normally I try to not comment much on individual films in these summaries but with so many choices I felt I had to expound a bit. There is still a lot of room for individual reviews. (Anybody?)

    We start out in the late 1920’s with major star Ronald Coleman in his first Talkie film - Bulldog Drummond. This was not the first Drummond; the captain had already been on the screen three times before in the Silents.

    Bulldog Drummond 1922 Silent (Lost Film) (Carlyle Blackwell)
    The Third Round 1925 (Can’t find) (Jack Buchanan)
    Captain Swagger 1928 (Rod La Rocque) on youtube

    This first sound outing garnered an Academy Award nomination for Mr. Coleman but I think his next Drummond was just as good, if different in tone.

    Next came (actually it came between the two Ronald Coleman films from another studio) Temple Tower with Kenneth MacKenna but like so many vintage films it exists only at the UCLA collection and is not available for the likes of us. The source novel was re-used later as Bulldog Drummond’s Secret Police.

    1934 Ralph Richardson leads in The Return of Bulldog Drummond. It is interesting because Bulldog has his gang from the war working with him just like the novels. Not my favorite as it is highly politicized.

    Bulldog Jack is really a parody and while some may find it entertaining (not me), I don’t consider it part of the canon and it is only included for completeness.

    Next John Lodge (the grandson of Henry Cabot Lodge) in Bulldog Drummond at Bay. This is the last British produced entry for quite a while. Overall this has almost the feel of a serial with a series of cliffhangers throughout the film. Filmed in 1937, this version is not to be confused with the 1947 Ron Randall movie of the same name.

    Ray Milland stepped up doing a fine job in Bulldog Drummond Escapes. Milland is better than the material but it’s still a fun outing. E.E. Clive makes his appearance as the manservant Tenny, a role he continues for the next seven movies. This film is one that fell into public domain and very bad copies are rampant.

    We now get to the core of the series. John Howard played our hero in seven films. Don’t look for any depth here but they are solid B entries that I enjoy probably more than they warrant. The continuing gag is trying to get married but it never happens (shades of the Falcon) until the final outing. Louise Campbell starts the portrayals of Miss Clavering (the bride to be) ending with Heather Angel. Reginald Denny plays Algy and E.E. Clive is wonderful and steals a lot of scenes. One other note – Bulldog Drummond Comes Back has John Barrymore playing Colonel Nielsen taking first billing.
    [​IMG]
    Ron Randall goes to bat for a couple. He starts by Striking Back (yes the pun was intentional) just as Ronald Coleman had done years before. This is a case of the material being better than the actor but they are still fun films and get high ratings on IMDB.

    Tom Conway pretty much plays a Falcon version of Drummond for two films with his usual charm on a very low budget. One of these, 13 Lead Soldiers, was thought to be a lost film until a 16mm copy showed up on eBay at the turn of the 21st century. The copy is a little hacked but it’s all we are likely to get and warms my heart that we still occasionally get to find one that is lost. These films are not the best Drummonds but I always enjoy Conway’s screen time.

    As we enter the 50’s Walter Pigeon does a one off with a slightly different feel. Hugh Drummond is called out of retirement by Scotland Yard and goes undercover. Not bad but it just didn’t feel like Bulldog Drummond to me.


    The final two films don’t even count as far as I’m concerned. It’s ironic that a series that was probably a model for James Bond became a caricature copy of Bond (in this case he’s an insurance investigator but he’s still a Bond) to try cash in on the 007 craze in the 1960’s. These are Bulldog Drummond only in name.

    Overall I like this series. Many of these are just simple B picture potboilers but they are fun potboilers. If you try one of these and don’t care for it you might want to try another. With so many stars and treatments, it’s a smorgasbord of mystery/action/thriller goodness.

    I’ve had my copies for some time so I can’t directly speak to quality of current DVD offerings. Amazon seems to have most of these covered. There is a mostly complete collection DVD but the reviews have stated poor quality on some.

    Most of the films can be found on youtube and several are also on Archive.org. and a few episodes appear on TCM from time to time.
     
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  10. Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    I suspect you'll enjoy these. I really enjoyed the re-watch.
     
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  11. Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    Another fine write-up, Marv!
     
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  12. Message #492 of 494 Oct 13, 2018 at 11:32 AM
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018 at 7:55 PM
    Rustifer

    Rustifer Supporting Actor

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    The Saint Strikes Back (1939)

    Marv has already done a fine overview of this perennial series, but I know he doesn't like to single out specific episodes. Well, that's kind of my thing, so here's my take on this particular one which recently appeared on TCM. I must admit that I was trying to multi-task while watching (key word: trying) so I didn't exactly follow the entire plot.

    upload_2018-10-13_11-45-12. upload_2018-10-13_11-45-38.

    This was the first in the Saint series with George Sanders in the lead as the urbane but laconic Simon Templar. If you're looking for a kick ass, smash mouth rough 'n tumble hero, this is not your guy. What can you expect from a man whose brand is represented by a stick figure as if drawn by a four year old? Templar's tendency is to murmur his way through various predicaments with acute witticisms nasally delivered in an impeccable English accent. Oh, and he's very well dressed.

    This particular plot has the Saint in San Francisco facing off against Val Travers (Wendy Barrie), the daughter of a disgraced cop and a shady figure in the crime syndicate. Simon hooks up with his old pal NY Inspector Fernack (Jonathan Hale) to help investigate. One of the most amusing sequences had Templar and Fernack flying to the West Coast on a DC-3, back in the days when it took as long to fly across the country as to go by wagon train. However, the plane is bedecked with sleeping berths and stewardesses that take dictation and send off wires on demand. On one leg of the journey, Fernack is about to miss the connection and yells at the departing plane to halt. The porter wisely points out "They's pretty hard to stop once they get goin', sir".

    There's lots of creeping around dark or foggy places, revolvers being fired but never hitting anything of consequence, crooked police departments, bad guys with pencil thin mustaches and chasing after $80,000 stolen from the Central Bank. At one point, Simon confesses to Val, "I'm really a very shallow person that loves fireflies, mockingbirds and pink sunsets, but let's not get sticky about it".
    "I dislike you intensely", she sparingly replies. Val changes her mind later on.

    The set interiors, in true 1939 style, have wallpaper that could have only been designed by set decorators high on peyote. In one key scene, Algenon (Willie Best) the cook, serves an epic dinner in the dining room to the Inspector, Simon and Val consisting of a pile of lobsters and crabs, roasts of various livestock, boiled potatoes, and wedges of cheese. Dessert is Milk of Magnesia with a side of Tums.

    Also appearing in the story is Barry Fitzgerald (the iconic Father Fitzgibbon in "Going My Way") as semi sidekick Zipper Dyson, whose intellect is about as deep as mayonnaise; and Neil Hamilton--noteworthy in episodes of Batman, Perry Mason and 77 Sunset Strip.

    These are mysteries whose conclusions can generally be deciphered in the first 15 minutes of the film. But the Saint series, regardless of who's playing the lead, are fun to watch with a non-critical eye and a strong cocktail. Or two.

    Note:
    [​IMG]

    Willie Best was originally billed as Sleep 'n Eat, and along with Stepin Fetchit, one one of the first black actors to receive screen billing and earn a million dollars in the industry. Willie mastered all of the stereotypical antics: drooping jaw, bug eyes and the ability to run as if his life depended on it. He was well aware of being racially used by Hollywood, but also aware that if he didn't do it, somebody else would as those were the only parts available to black actors in that time period.
     
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  13. Message #493 of 494 Oct 13, 2018 at 2:46 PM
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018 at 2:55 PM
    Mysto

    Mysto Second Unit

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    Your review, as always, is a unique reflection of your wonderfully warped mind. Fun to read and surprisingly perceptive. Thanks for keeping it going.
    I like individual reviews but right now I'm spending my time on the overall summaries. Hopefully when they are completed, I'll add to the fray (if two or three of us positing is a fray)

    We are past18,000 views so even though they are silent - somebody must be reading this stuff.
     
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  14. Message #494 of 494 Oct 13, 2018 at 6:03 PM
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2018 at 6:20 AM
    Jeff Flugel

    Jeff Flugel Supporting Actor

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    Yes, an epic post, Marv - great job! I haven't seen as many of these Bulldog Drummond movies as I'd like to, but am a fan of the 60s revamps with Richard Johnson, esp. Deadlier Than the Male. Any traces of the original character are pretty much gone by that point, replaced by an attempt to cash in on the James Bond craze, but this is one of the better Bond knock-offs. I wrote about it years ago here:

    http://thestalkingmoon.weebly.com/the-stalking-moon/deadlier-than-the-male-1967

    A fun flick, with some stunning starlet scenery. The blu-ray looks very nice.

    [​IMG]

    I need to pick up that Ronald Colman Drummond DVD two-fer someday.
     
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