DAREDEVILS OF THE CLOUDS – 1948
This is another of the countless low budget programmers that were the bread and butter of, REPUBLIC PICTURES. REPUBLIC ground out these low rent quickies, westerns, adventure, crime and film noir that all followed the same formula. Good guy, bad guy, damsel in distress, femme fatale, a robbery, gold or jewels etc. They all moved at a quick pace and usually ran for just under, or just over an hour. They fit nicely in the bottom half of the double bill and pretty well always made the studio money.
This one has a rather misleading title and sounds like it is an adventure yarn. While it does involve aircraft, it is really a crime programmer. While not really a noir, it does hover around the edges.
Robert Livingston is an ex WWII flying ace who now runs a small air cargo service in Northern Alberta and the Yukon. He is always one step ahead of going broke, but is slowly building up a good reputation. Down in California, Pierre Watkins, the owner of a large US airline wants to expand into Canada. He offers to buy Livingston's contracts and the few aircraft he has. No go, as Livingston enjoys being his own boss. What Livingston does not know, is that Watkins has a man, James Cardwell, working as a pilot for Livingston. Cardwell is to report any problems Livingston might be having to Watkins. A little inside info never hurts.
Now on the scene comes Mae Clarke. Clarke is an ex ferry pilot looking for a job. She had plenty of hours in the air flying bombers from US factories over to England for the Air Force. Times have been a little hard since the war. Clarke and Livingston hit it off and he hires Clarke to run his office.
One of Livingston's contracts is flying personal from Edmonton up to a gold mine in the Yukon. Livingston is always having trouble with the hard drinking miner types. Several, Ray Teal and Grant Withers take a real dislike to the pilot and swear to mess him up.
To spice up the action we have several close calls with flights between Edmonton and the Yukon. Of course this all leads to some underhanded behaviour by the villains of the piece. Pilot Cardwell decides that he will take a delivery of gold worth 120 large bound for Edmonton, and fly it to a small out of the way field. There, his partners, Teal and Withers will unload the cargo and hide it in a cabin. Cardwell will then takeoff, set the automatic controls north, then call in a S.O.S. He will give a false heading over the radio and bail out. The three men will then split the gold up. Plus Cardwell will get a bonus from his real boss, Watkins, for sabotaging Livingston's operation. Livingston has no insurance to cover the loss.
Cardwell however has counted his chickens a tad early. His partners, Teal and Withers, see no reason to make a three way split. They rig his parachute so it will fail to open. Everything goes to plan, the gold is unloaded and Cardwell takes off. He then makes his unplanned, or planned fall, depending on the villain's point of view.
The local R.C.M.P. soon find the body and the sabotaged parachute. The body of course was nowhere near where Cardwell had radioed he was. A very smelly rat is quickly sniffed by Livingston. It does not take Livingston and Clarke long to discover the two surviving rodents. With the help of Livingston's mechanic, Edward Gargan and his radioman, Jimmie Dodd, they set a trap for Teal and Withers.
Everything comes to a head with the nasty types holding Clarke as a shield, as they exchange lead with Livingston. Needless to say, our man drills some unneeded extra holes into Teal and Withers with a display of superior marksmanship. The gold is returned, the airline saved and Livingston and Clarke hook up.
Not a barn-burner by any means, but it does make for a watchable 60 minute time-waster. The director, George Blair was one of REPUBLIC's more prolific helmsman with 40 films cranked out between 1944 and 53. He managed a few quite good low budget film noir during this run, these include, END OF THE ROAD, EXPOSED, POST OFFICE INVESTIGATOR, UNMASKED, FEDERAL AGENT AT LARGE, LONELY HEART BANDITS, SECRETS OF MONTE CARLO and INSURANCE INVESIGATOR.
Robert Livingston was known to a generation of western fans as, "Stony Brooke" in the THREE MESQUITEERS film series. He appeared in 29 of these. Mae Clarke will always be remembered as the woman whose face James Cagney smashed a grapefruit on. (PUBLIC ENEMY 1931) Character actor Ray Teal appeared in over 340 different film and television roles in a 40 year career.