International Crime (1938)

US / 64 minutes / bw / Grand National Dir: Charles Lamont Pr: Max Alexander, Arthur Alexander Scr: Jack Natteford, John Krafft Story: Foxhound (1937) by Maxwell Grant (i.e., Theodore A. Tinsley) Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Rod La Rocque, Astrid Allwyn, Thomas Jackson, Oscar O’Shea, Lew Hearn, Wilhelm von Brincken, Tenen Holtz, William Pawley, Wm. Moore (i.e., Peter Potter), John St. Polis, Jack Baxley, Walter Bonn, Harry Bradley, Will Stanton.

This follow-up to the previous year’s The Shadow Strikes (1937) is often listed as a sequel, but so much has been changed about the essential setup—perhaps reflecting the fact that this movie was based on a much later novel in the series than its predecessor—that it’s almost as if it’s a completely separate entity linked only by the fact that the two movies’ leading characters share a name and pseudonym.

Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston

In this iteration Lamont Cranston is a crime reporter on the Daily Classic (or Evening Classic; both names are used); he also gives a bulletin every evening on the paper’s affiliate radio station, EMOR. The Shadow isn’t the name of his crime-fighting alter ego; it’s merely the Continue reading

The Shadow Strikes (1937)

US / 62 minutes / bw / Grand National Dir: Lynn Shores Pr: Max Alexander, Arthur Alexander Scr: Al Martin, Rex Taylor Story: The Ghost of the Manor (1933) by Maxwell Grant (i.e., Walter B. Gibson) Cine: Marcel Pickard (i.e., Marcel Le Picard) Cast: Rod La Rocque, Lynn Anders (i.e., Agnes Anderson), James Blakeley, Walter McGrail, Bill Kellogg, Cy Kendall, Kenneth Harlan, Norman Ainsley, John St. Polis, Wilson Benge, John Carnivale, James Morton, John Dilson.

I posted a while back about the dire Monogram series of The Shadow movies, and thought it might be fun to look at a couple of the character’s earlier screen incarnations. Here’s the first of two movies released in the 1930s by Grand National, with Rod La Rocque in the title role; the other was International Crime (1938), about which I’ll be posting here shortly.

Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston

Lamont Cranston (La Rocque), in his guise as The Shadow, interrupts a robbery in the offices of lawyer Chester Randall and calls the cops on the thieves, but fails to make himself scarce by the time the cops—Captain Breen (Harlan) and Breen’s sidekick Kelly (Morton)—turn up. To explain his presence to them he presents himself as Chester Randall.

Lynn Anders/Agnes Anderson as Marcia

Just then the phone rings. Elderly millionaire Caleb Delthern (St. Polis), Continue reading

Mr. Wong, Detective (1938)

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Boris Karloff stars in a triple locked-room mystery!
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US / 69 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: William Nigh Assoc pr: William Lackey Scr: Houston Branch Based on: characters created by Hugh Wiley in 12 stories published 1934–38 in Colliers Magazine Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Boris Karloff, Grant Withers, Maxine Jennings, Evelyn Brent, George Lloyd, Lucien Prival, John St. Polis, William Gould, Hooper Atchley, John Hamilton, Wilbur Mack, Lee Tong Foo, Lynton Brent, Grace Wood, Frank Bruno, Wheaton Chambers.

mr-wong-detective-0a

The first of a series of six movies about the San Francisco PI James Lee Wong, created in print by Hugh Wiley; the first five movies starred Boris Karloff as Wong, while the sixth starred an actual Chinese-American in the role, Keye Luke. Depressingly, that sixth movie, Phantom of Chinatown (1940), flopped and so the series came to abrupt end. (When I get a chance, I’ll add it to this site. But it seemed silly to start watching a series with its final entry.)

I confess that for years I’ve avoided the Mr. Wong movies—as I generally do the Charlie Chan ones—because I find it just as creepy to watch a white actor play what I suppose we have to call Yellow Face as I do watching white actors play Black Face. I have to report, though, that the experience wasn’t as grueling as I’d expected. There is no mockery at all of Chinese culture or mannerisms. To the contrary, Wong is the most respected character in the movie; at one point the romantic lead compares the elderly Wong so favorably to her police-detective boyfriend—“Mr. Wong, it’s been such a pleasure meeting a detective with such charming manners”—that the cop’s eyes narrow in jealousy.

The Dayton Chemical Co. is planning to ship a consignment of toxic chemicals to Europe aboard the good ship Orinoco. The operation is spied upon by Lescardi (Bruno), an enforcer working for a pair of activists embedded in European politics, Anton Mohl (Prival), who goes by the name Baron von Krantz, and Olga Petroff (Evelyn Brent), who goes by the name Countess Dubois. They’re eager to divert Continue reading

Gambling Sex (1932)

vt Laughing at Luck
US / 59 minutes / bw / Monarch Dir: Fred Newmeyer Pr: Burton King Scr: F. McGrew Willis Cine: Edward Kull Cast: Ruth Hall, Grant Withers, John St. Polis, Maston Williams, Jean Porter, Jimmy Eagles, Murdock MacQuarrie.

Gambling Sex - 0 opener

In Miami, rich John Tracy (St. Polis) is losing heavily at the casino as he follows the system devised by his “friend” Ralph Jordan (Williams); what he doesn’t know is that the system’s a complete con and Jordan is harvesting from the casino a cool 20% of Tracy’s losses.

Some years ago, during the Crash, Tracy’s acquaintance Bill Foster (Withers) lost everything. Bill insisted that Tracy take his string of racehorses in payment for a debt; Tracy insisted on giving Bill paid employment as the manager of the string. Bill and jockey Sandy Lane (Eagles) feel guilty that Tracy’s not getting much of a return on his investment: the only horse they have that’s any good is Lightning, and Lightning—“the fastest thing on earth”—seems well-nigh untameable.

Gambling Sex - 1 John's photo of Sheila

John Tracy’s treasured photo of his daughter Sheila (Ruth Hall).

Foolishly, Tracy thinks that he might be the one to tame the beast, and lets himself into Lightning’s stall. A few noisy moments later he’s being helped away to what will prove to be his deathbed. Bill sends for Tracy’s extraordinarily toothsome daughter Sheila (Hall), a student at snooty school Stewart Hall, where the teachers are really, really strict (“I’d advise you not to get that bathing suit wet. It might shrink”) and the girls are really, really unbridled (“I know a place where they weaken the ginger ale so it doesn’t make us dizzy!”). She arrives in time to witness her father give Continue reading

Haunted House (1940)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Robert McGowan Scr: Dorothy Reid (i.e., Dorothy Davenport) Story: Jack Leonard, Monty Collins Cine: Harry Neumann Cast: Marcia Mae Jones, Jackie Moran, George Cleveland, Christian Rub, Henry Hall, John St. Polis, Clarence Wilson, Mary Carr, Jessie Arnold, Hooper Atchley, Marcelle Ray, Buddy Swann, Henry Roquemore, Robert Dudley.

Haunted House 0 opener

Jimmie Atkins (Moran) is office boy at the Brownsville Bugle. All Brownsville—evidently a small town in the middle of nowhere—is agog over the trial of Olaf Jensen (Rub) for the murder of his employer, farmer Mary Blake. Jimmie, though, is a friend of Olaf’s and decides to prove the man didn’t do it. In this he’s assisted by pretty Mildred “Millie” Henshaw (Jones), visiting niece of Continue reading