Remember, a dagger (†) by a title means that it is available at Amazon Prime...
TITLE, Year, Director, GG, Time, IMDB, Rating
*Behind the News, 1940, Joseph Santley,, 75, 2, 5.1
Did You Ever Hear of Joseph Santley?
boblipton 1 December 2018
Lloyd Nolan is a great reporter, but when he sends in an expense sheet that includes more than $200 of poker losses, Managing Editor Robert Armstrong gets mad. He saddles Nolan with a cub reporter, Frank Albertson, who is just out of journalism school, full of ideals. Nolan hates it.
It's a sturdy excursion into the land of THE FRONT PAGE, with tricks picked up from Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY: corruption, cynicism and some great snappy patter. It's such a good movie that the Academy could not deny it at least an Academy Award nomination; it being Republic, however, they limited it to "Best Sound Recording;" can't let a major award go to a horse opera factory.
Everything works in this movie, even the veering into the serious subplot. Everyone deserves some praise, but on a project like this, the director deserves a lot, and that's Joseph Santley. He had entered show business as a child actor and made it to Broadway at the age of seven. He slid into the movies in the 1920s, and his first feature is his best-known one: THE COCOANUTS, starring the Marx Brothers. By the early 1930s, he was working for the larger minors, directing a varied mix of westerns, thrillers, comedies and even Judy Canova movies. He left the movies after 1950 and directed and produced for television, including episodes of THE COLGATE COMEDY HOUR with Martin and Lewis. He retired in 1962, lived with his wife of 54 years and died in 1971, aged 82.
That's a great career, what used to be called a trouper. Nowadays, of course, people think of directors as 'auteurs' and don't have respect for the craftsman who took what they were given and made the best movie they could with it. Sometimes, like this movie, Santley got what he needed to make a great picture and did so.
The Crooked Road, 1940, Phil Rosen,, 66, 6, 6.7
Let's Get This Straight
boblipton 8 December 2019
Edmund Lowe is a successful businessman, about to marry Irene Hervey. In steps Arthur Loft. They were in prison together in England; Lowe was there for manslaughter, even though Loft had done the deed. Lowe escaped and now Loft wants a lot of money or he'll tell the authorities. Once that's done, he figures, his wife, Claire Carleton, will stop playing around with Paul Fix. So Lowe kills Loft and frames Fix.
But Miss Carleton and her lawyer, Charles Lane, aren't letting it go at that. They enroll lawyer Henry Wilcoxon, who is a friend of Lowe's and falling in love with Miss Hervey, to get him out. At that point, the story becomes complicated.
This high-speed Republic murder mystery has some film noir touches, like shadows thrown by Venetian blinds in the courtroom, but it's not actually noir, but a complicated murder-and-law mystery, with a plot that's a lot of moving parts. Director Phil Rosen started out as a cameraman, so the visuals on his films was important to him; with the coming together of film noir in the late 1930s, he was probably intrigued, and cinematographer Ernest Miller -- the American one, usually stuck in B westerns -- and art director John Victor Mackay were happy to oblige.
The actors are good, the story interesting, and it moves along at such a clip that it is consistently entertaining. Even if this title was a frequently used one over the years, it's striking on its own terms.
Everything's on the up and up until the road takes a swerve right off the cliff.
mark.waltz 18 June 2020
For a good 95% of this Republic crime drama, everything is direct and to the point. But the writers have to rescue the hero because after all, Edmund Lowe once played Philo Vance, one of the great detectives of the earlier part of the 1930's. But here, he's a murderer, and even if the audience is rooting for him, the ridiculous twist the writers take makes them the major villain, not Lowe or Paul Fix as Nick Romero, an old prison mate of Lowe's who intends to spill the beans that Lowe is really an escaped convict. This would certainly ruin his status in town, and Lowe comes up with an elaborate murder scheme, ultimately framing someone else. Irene Hervey, Henry Wilcoxin and Charles Lane co-star in this B picture which utilizes Lane for bizarre comedy relief as an attorney who seems to have taken his method from Groucho Marx. This does have some good points about it, but there is a bizarre twist in the conclusion that had me wanting to turn into Kathy Bates as she ranted about a car going off in a cliff in a serial that she recalled in "Misery". The writers expected that the audience would be dim enough to accept it, but 80 years later, it just doesn't gel with this audience of one.
The Devil Pays Off, 1941, John H. Auer,, 70, 2, 5.5
More convoluted than complex.
mark.waltz 10 November 2018
A good cast scrambles to try to make sense of this dark espionage drama dealing with the sale of ships to evil foreign powers. Being pre-war America, it never really states the name of those countries, but it is obvious through the casting (and a bit of knowledge of other anti-Nazi films) which countries they are. J. Edward Bromberg gives a complex, disturbing performance as the ship manufacturer, always seemingly on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and it is fascinating to watch him implode.
Osa Massen, best known for getting the Joan Crawford slapdown in A Woman's Face, plays his confused wife, alternately cheerful and perplexed, and thus has an interesting well rounded character to play. The third billed William Wright is the real lead, pulled out of skid row by his former military commander for the secret mission of discovering who is behind the sale of these ships. His leading lady is the pretty but ultra obscure Margaret Tallachet who gets a few amusing lines, especially when seen with Massen who apparently once was involved with Wright. The presence of character actor Martin Kosleck indicates a Nazi connection, as do several minor supporting players with harsh German accents. I tried watching this twice back to back to understand the motivations and structure, but even after the second viewing, came to the conclusion that I could watch this a dozen times and still be frustrated over how ridiculously convoluted this is.
A Man Betrayed, 1941, John H. Auer,, 82, 16, 6.1
Taking Down a Machine
bkoganbing 24 April 2006
Lawyer John Wayne's friend, a high school basketball star from his town, is shot down and then run over by a car. The death is declared a suicide by the local coroner. Wayne goes to the big city to investigate.
Wayne's directed to see Edward Ellis who is the local political boss and of course the Duke falls big time for Ellis's daughter Frances Dee. Never mind he's got a job to do, even if it costs him Dee.
This was John Wayne's one and only attempt at playing a crusader type, a scaled down version of Jefferson Smith. Ellis is a combination of the characters played by Edward Arnold and Claude Rains in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Dee combines both Jean Arthur and Astrid Allwyn. I'd say the results were mixed. Perhaps with a better script at a larger studio with more production values, Wayne might have done more with the part.
As it is there are some nice John Wayne style fight scenes in A Man Betrayed, a couple with Ward Bond, and a king sized brawl outside a polling place where Ellis is bringing in repeaters from his sponsored soup kitchens. Machine politics, American style. Hopefully none of those countries where we're crusading for democracy ever sees this film.
Ward Bond plays the moronic brother of Alexander Granach, owner of the red light district club where Wayne's friend was killed in. His performance while good, was a carbon copy of Lon Chaney, Jr.'s from Of Mice and Men. I expected him to ask Granach about the bunny rabbits any minute.
At this phase of Wayne's career, Republic was casting him in a variety of parts to broaden his casting potential in the wake of his success with Stagecoach. Herbert J. Yates of Republic films was making almost as much money loaning Wayne out as in his own films and he was trying to make him more marketable. He didn't succeed with A Man Betrayed, but it wasn't the Duke's fault by any means.
Sort of like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington done on a microscopic budget and starring a caveman.
MartinHafer27 November 2015
This John Wayne film is rarely seen and I was surprised to see it being aired on a local TV channel. Since I've seen just above all of Wayne's AVAILABLE films, I was excited to see this film. While it wasn't bad, it also was underwhelming since, at heart, it was just a cheap B- movie made just before John Wayne became a super-star.
When the film begins, a man is murdered. However, it's all quickly chalked up to suicide and it's all swept under the rug. What they didn't anticipate was that the dead guy had a bull-headed friend, Lynn (John Wayne) and he was intent on getting to the bottom of things. At first, the local political boss is able to make Wayne believe that there was no conspiracy and the man died of natural causes. Besides, the man's daughter, Sabra (Frances Dee) was cute and Lynn was obviously very taken with her. But, over time, Lynn starts to realize that there is more than meets the eye to all this...the local 'Progressive Party' is anything but! What's next? See the film.
This film is pretty much like most Bs--hastily written, full of plot problems and yet is entertaining. It's also featuring John Wayne as a caveman, of sorts--the sort of role folks liked back in the 40s but which will annoy many viewers with today's sensibilities. A film mostly for big-time Wayne fans and that's all--especially with the really, really dumb ending where the ultra-bad guy suddenly changes his spots!
Well meaning political drama suffers from mood swings.
mark.waltz 17 December 2013
Small town attorney John Wayne arrives in a very corrupt big city to find out the truth about the alleged suicide of a local college basketball hero. The dead kid, shot through the lungs right before being struck by lightening, apparently was going to blow the ruthless gambling house "The Inferno" ("Beware all who enter here!" a sign warns) and tie in a local political bigwig up with the mob. This Capra-esque drama with a ton of comic overtones is pretty impressive "A" stuff for Republic, and pairs Wayne with the lovely Frances Dee who gets an entrance usually saved for big MGM stars like Hepburn and Garbo.
The Inferno set is like something out of a carnival fun-house and features most of their staff dressed as the devil, including the chorus girls. An election day fight turns comical with Wayne trying to tame the feisty Dee but suddenly turns tragic. It is pretty obvious from the get- go who the bad guys are, but Edward Ellis, as the political boss (and Dee's father) is given many dimensions, making him much like Claude Rains' senator in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. To give one of the "heavies" a name like "T. Amato" indicates the mood of the script which never gets its bearings to really make you take the film seriously.
One of Wayne's first non-action/westerns (and set in the present day), this shows him in the same light as James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Fred MacMurray, Gary Cooper and yes, even Ronald Reagan as the simpleton fighting for truth, justice and the American way. The film both benefits and suffers from its comic elements, a plus for the prissy butler Barnett Parker, a definite minus for the brute who lusts for Dee in a seemingly light-hearted manner which turns treacherous, and stunned silence for the slapstick manner of the fight.
Mr. District Attorney, 1941, William Morgan,, 69, 6, 6.3
Not bad for a B-movie, but it's hardly 'noir'.
MartinHafer 27 January 2011
This is one of three movies bundled on a DVD entitled "Forgotten Noir", though I really wouldn't consider it an example of film noir. It's more a kooky movie where one of the characters just happens to work for the District Attorney. Dennis O'Keefe plays a recent Harvard Law graduate and from the start he irritates his boss to no end. So, to punish him, he's given a dead case--one no one else wants. However, when the missing witness suddenly shows up, this becomes a very hot case and O'Keefe and his spunky female reporter friend (what a cliché!!) do what any assistant DA would do--investigate the crime and get caught up in the middle of it.
The bottom line is that none of this is the least bit believable and the idea of these two kooky characters solving a crime is silly. But, the characters are likable and if you only look at it as a kooky B-mystery, you'll not be disappointed. Not bad, but clearly a low-budget B-film.
Dennis O'Keefe and Peter Lorre
kevinolzak 15 January 2014
1941's Republic version of the radio series Mr. District Attorney is far more lighthearted than its source, starring Dennis O'Keefe as Prince Cadwallader Jones, rookie assistant to DA Winton (Stanley Ridges), assigned to an old case involving the missing Paul Hyde (Peter Lorre), whose hidden cache of embezzled loot mysteriously turns up at the race track. There are red herrings and murder victims, but it's a waste of Lorre, in a criminally small role. Florence Rice supplies much comedy as nosy reporter Terry Parker, who also shows a tendency to get into hot water. The 1947 version from Columbia was probably more faithful than this one, certainly more serious; highly enjoyable in a breezy style, upper class for Poverty Row's Republic Pictures, who followed it with a pair of little seen sequels, Mr. District Attorney in the Carter Case and Secrets of the Underground (both featuring different actors in the lead).
*The Traitor Within, 1942, Frank McDonald,, 62, 1, NA
A cold-war title on a truck-driving film.
horn-5 24 November 2005
Ambitious young truck driver Sam Starr(Donald M. Barry) is in love with Molly Betts (Jean Parker), who shares with her father a resentment against John Scott Ryder (Ralph Morgan),the town's Mayor. In WW I, Ryder took credit for an act of heroism performed by "Pop" Betts (George Cleveland)and all of Ryder's success since then has been the direct result of the hero-worship of the town's citizens---adulation which should have been extended to Betts.
Shortly before his marriage to Molly, Sam takes Molly for a ride in his truck, the truck is sideswiped by another truck, and Sam's truck and its contents are demolished. Molly "imagines" the other truck carried the insignia of Ryder--the first Ryder Truck?--who operates a rival trucking line. Sam demands restitution from Ryder who, at first refuses, until Molly, unknown to Sam, tells Ryder she has uncovered evidence that proves Ryder was really a coward in the war, and not the hero he is thought to be. Ryder then buys Sam a new truck.
An oily, crooked politician, Al McGongile (Bradley Page, typecast as usual), also learns of this information and decides to shake-down Ryder for all the traffic can bear, He sets Sam up in a trucking business and blackmails Ryder, unknown to Sam, to turn over most of his most-profitable contracts. The Starrs become very affluent until, on their first wedding anniversary, Sam learns for the first time how unwittingly he has actually built his business upon blackmail and he leaves Molly.
He goes to Ryder, reimburses him for the truck and berates him for the lack of courage to confess the truth about his war-time record. He berates him so much that Ryder, after Sam leaves, writes a confession and then shoots himself. Ryder's wife (Jessica Newcombe) finds his body and the note...and destroys the note.
And Sam Starr is charged with murdering Ryder, and a mob of angry Republic stand-by rabble-rousers gather around the jail with intent to lynch.
X Marks the Spot†, 1942, George Sherman,, 55, 13, 5.3
Not bad for a B.
MartinHafer 12 February 2010
This film is a B-picture--a term used to denote a "second feature"--a lesser and less expensive film to be shown with a higher-quality/budget film (an A-picture) back in the 1930s and 40s. Bs were mostly passable entertainment or often a bit less, but occasionally a B rises above the modest expectations...a bit. X Marks the Spot is a better than normal B and even though it clocks in at well under one hour, it has some originality and a few decent plot twists.
The film begins by introducing a cop and his son who is soon to be inducted into the military, as the film was made during WWII. This can also be seen in the plot, as the film involves a smuggling ring--one that deals in black market tires--because tires were limited due to rationing. The good ol' cop accidentally wanders into the midst of the activities of the gang and is killed. So, his son (who is still a detective) goes to investigate. However, when the chief suspect is murdered a bit later, people assume the son did it--and it's up to him to escape from custody and prove his innocence (a rather standard cliché of the day).
What I liked about it was the whole rubber tire angle--something you'd only see in a WWII flick. I also liked the twists when the REAL culprits are discovered. While the film doesn't have any real stars in it, it's well acted and interesting.
Entertaining Crime Story.
rmax304823 13 October 2017
It's a film about bootlegging rubber tires in the middle of the war and opens with an elderly Irish cop coming across some suspicious characters standing in front of a warehouse. "What's going on here?" Oh, nothing. "I'll just take a look in that warehouse if ye don't mind," says the cop, who is shot to death while trying to open the door. Delaney, the cop, is in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which requires a search warrant from a judge after establishing probable cause. But never mind. This isn't a technically demanding film. The old cop's murder sets the son, a private detective, on the trail of the gang, to their ultimate disadvantage.
It should be pointed out that during World War II, tires and the rubber they were made from, were as valuable as gold. You couldn't GET new tires. The rubber that they were made from came from Southeast Asia, now in the hands of the Japanese. What little rubber the Allies had were used to build tires for military vehicles like Jeeps. Stealing tires was not just a criminal act but an unpatriotic one.
Well, the cop's son, Damian O'Flynn, is about to be inducted into the U.S. Army. As a first lieutenant. (How do you do that?) He's angry and fast. He cooperates with the police at first because they're both in pursuit of the chief heavy -- Jack La Rue, not to be confused with "Lash" La Rue. Some reviewers keep pointing out that I'm criminally careless for having mixed up the two. Well, I AM criminally careless but at least I don't suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder! Anyway, the heavy here is Jack La Rue, née Gaspere Biondolillo in New York. And kindly don't confuse him with Jack La Rue, Jr., son of Jack La Rue, not son of Lash La Rue. Now, I'm glad we got that out of the way.
No particular acting skills are on display. None are necessary. It's a fast paced mystery with no fooling around and no time for theatrics. The performers are professionals. They hit their marks, say their lines, express whatever feelings are appropriate to the situation, and dart out for the next scene. They're all likable enough, and Helen Parrish is conventionally attractive.
*Secrets of the Underground, 1942, William Morgan,, 70, 0, 6.7
[no IMDB reviews]
With the help of a WAAC group, Mr. District Attorney smashes a Nazi spy-ring that is selling counterfeit War Stamps and Bonds.
London Blackout Murders, 1943, George Sherman,, 59, 9, 5.9
Patriotism via murder.
mark.waltz 17 December 2014
You already know who the murder is when the first one is committed, so there is no mystery here as far as that is concerned. The mystery is to as why, and that plot point also really comes to no surprise. This is more interesting for its plot set-up, the abundance of eccentric British characters and a twist that comes out from the plot revelation that was obvious a mile away. It all surrounds a frail young woman (Mary McLeod) who witnessed her parents being killed during an air raid and is instantly paranoid of the intellectual man (John Abbott) who owns the house where she is resting. Anita Sharp-Bolster, a British version of Margaret Hamilton, is amusing as a hatchet-faced busybody who suspects Abbott of nefarious deeds, and indeed, he is. The victims are dispatched with the aid of a hidden weapon which literally causes a physical burning that kills quickly after horrendous pain. Portly Lloyd Corrigan (as an easy going detective) is obviously not British, but it is his investigation which exposes everything. While there are some interesting things about this low-budget Republic programmer, it really isn't all that intriguing even though there are some interesting elements about it.
As quick as they get
the_mysteriousx 18 October 2010
London Blackout Murders is a 50 minute suspense B-picture from early 1943 about the then-current war in London. I'm always amazed at how Hollywood would make so many films in the early 40s about the war, whereas today it took them until 2006 to release anything on the Afghan and Iraq wars. This film definitely embodies the one-for-all and all-for-one spirit that films of this era did, but in this quick running time, there isn't much time for anything.
The story involves a man (John Abbott, an excellent actor) who is murdering select individuals during the German bombings of London. He uses a hypodermic needle that is embedded in his pipe. So, the film is not about who, but why. We follow a young lady (Mary McLeod) who, after her parents are killed in bombings, is boarding in his building. She sees the needle in the pipe and is suspicious of him as newspapers say the killer used such a needle. Upon his second murder, Abbott is witnessed by a police officer (Lloyd Corrigan) who looks into his character further.
This is somewhat reminiscent of what Hitchcock was doing around this time -Suspicion and Foreign Correspondent. It is interesting and neatly directed by the journeyman George Sherman. One only wishes it were longer. By the 40 minute mark we are in the final lap and are about to find out the why. I understand there seems to be a 59 minute version that originally came out, but I would think that would be hard to ever see again. Paramount owns these old Republic films and seem pretty stingy on releasing them. You can only find them through collectors.
That all being said, London Blackout Murders is recommended to suspense fans (there are absolutely no horror moments despite what you may have read elsewhere), and fans of the WWII era.
*The Mantrap, 1943, George Sherman,, 57, 4, 6.7
Stephenson and Corrigan. Should have been a series.
mark.waltz 6 April 2019
Veteran character actor Henry Stephenson gives a superb performance as a former student of Sherlock Holmes who became a popular writer of mysteries and at the ripe old age of 75 is called upon to solve a murder mystery, simply to honor him on his birthday. but the police have the wrong suspect in mind, and Stephenson utilizes all of the lessons he gathered from Holmes and solves the crime himself, in a most clever way!
This enjoyable, compact Republic programmer easily could have been a series of films with Stevenson and Lloyd Corrigan playing a modern version of Holmes and Watson--even though over at Universal, they somehow updated Holmes and Watson to the World War II period. It is a combination of clever writing and funny dialog, with the supporting characters not bogged down in pointless romantic subplots (even though it is suggested), and Stevenson, one of the better character actors of the early forties, is simply delightful. The art direction makes it look very elaborate, and that under an hour, this will keep you truly entertained.
great Sherlock Holmes pastiche
CatTales 18 February 2012
Really a hidden gem.
While main character Humphrey Quilp was only a pupil of Holmes, the plotting and dialog are pure Holmes/Conan Doyle. Pretty funny and clever script by Curt Siodmak. Jam packed with dialog and scenes, like a 90 minute mystery condensed into a 60 minute time slot. As such, it's never dull and keeps your attention. The modern police humor him and his "prehistoric" methods (such as noticing subtle yet simple illogical discrepancies), while he humors their total blindness to the details.
The actual humor in the film is never broad but usually circumstantial- people getting annoyed with each other, or Quilp's friend (a Watson stand-in) who worries about his health and pulls cigarettes or drinks out of Quilp's hand when he isn't aware. Interestingly, Quilp drives (and advocates) an electric car. Certainly ahead of his time.
Don't want to say more and spoil your experience.
A Scream in the Dark, 1943, George Sherman,, 55, 8, 6.2
The only thing that prevented me from screaming here was it short running time.
mark.waltz 6 December 2018
Enjoyable in spots but basically a very predictable mystery comedy, this Republic programmer starring Robert Lowery, Marie McDonald and Edward Brophy has a couple of surprising moments that save this from being below average. In this quickly forgettable bottom of the barrel film, the trio runs a detective agency specializing in cases involving marital discord. when they're first big case proves to be a success, they end up on another case very quickly which result in a sudden murder.
Between the three of them, they all have different ways in trying to solve the case, with Lowery not afraid of facing any danger and taking a lot of risks, MacDonald ("the Body") truly using her brain, and Brophy barely thinking at all, getting into constant trouble. A fine supporting cast aids them in resolving the complicated to the point of being convoluted plot, and and just when I was getting to the point of annoyance of thinking it would never end, it did to my relief. You can't expect much from these programmers that run less than an hour as they certainly are not of the "Thin Man" quality or anything close to the Falcon or the Saint. Brophy comes off best with his dumb lug manner, while Lowery and McDonald are obviously there to provide the romantic clench at the end.
richardchatten6 January 2021
The corpses pile up in this inconsequential comedy-thriller whose gallows humor reflects the title of the novel by Jerome Odlum on which it's based called "The Morgue is Always Open"...
The enormous sets--presumably from a bigger production--are glossily lit to create a veneer of opulence. Against such a backdrop, the women are all glamorously big-haired and big-suited, including Elizabeth Russell (best remembered for her spectral presence in several Val Lewton films), who here plays the mysterious Muriel around whom the plot revolves.
The name of her character may evoke early Resnais but the plot is pure late Resnais, with a noisy music score constantly reminding us how hilarious it all is.
Whispering Footsteps, 1943, Howard Bretherton,, 54, 10, 6.0
Noirish Hypocrisy of Small Town Life!!
kidboots 26 May 2019
Gripping little thriller that manages to expose the hypocrisies of small town life in less than 55 minutes. Because of the brevity there is really no time for characterization so the "shady lady" who arrives in the town and whose ostracism sees her reaching out a helping hand to hapless Marcus remains unexplored. Marcus is a bank teller whose two week vacation in Cambridge coincides with a murder in that town. His appearance fits the murderer's description and after a while his shy personality begins to be viewed with suspicion by the towns people who initially were so eager to defend him. Even the local sheriff who at first was on his side - now his shyness is seen as moodiness.
Also just arrived is a mystery lady Helen La Salle who is having not so discreet meetings with the bank manager who not only has the final decision to okay her loan but his shares in the department store where she works means he can also jeopardize her employment if he wishes. Joan Blair gives a strong performance and if the film had been longer she may have been able to flesh out her "strange lady in town" characterization. Another ally in Marcus' corner is Brooke, the bank manager's daughter--they have been friends since childhood and she is the only person to rage against the the small town sanctimoniousness (people are quick to suspect Marcus but turn a blind eye to her father's philandering). There is a thrilling scene midway, Brook is supposed to meet Marcus in the park, he doesn't show but someone else is there in the shadows, she is chased home and the next day...there are more bodies found!
I found the ending interesting as Marcus rebelled more and more about being put into a suspect's convenient pigeon hole. He faces down the boarding house denizens and tells them individually just what he thinks of them...he slowly climbs the stairs....
Also agree with the comments about that annoying Juanita Quigley - her's was a piercing scream and I cannot imagine cinema patrons being very appreciative of her presence.