The Crime of Helen Stanley (1934)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: D. Ross Lederman Scr: Harold Shumate Story: Charles R. Condon Cine: Al Seigler (i.e., Allen G. Siegler) Cast: Ralph Bellamy, Shirley Grey, Gail Patrick, Kane Richmond, Bradley Page, Vincent Sherman, Clifford Jones (i.e., Phillip Trent), Arthur Rankin, Lucien Prival, Ward Bond, Helen Eby-Rock, Stephen Chase, Edward Keane.

While most audiences’ default attitude toward the offerings of Poverty Row studios like Monogram and PRC is one of mockery, however often we might find ourselves pleasantly surprised by the actuality, it’s worth recalling that some of the contemporaneous B-feature output from the major studios wasn’t so very much better.

Ralph Bellamy as Trent; might this be his last case?

An instance in point is The Crime of Helen Stanley, where it’s visible on-screen that the production had a far bigger budget to play with than might a Monogram or PRC equivalent yet the churned-out nature of the resulting movie is practically palpable. There’s no sense at any point that anyone involved in this production had any love for or pride in what they were doing, with the possible exception of Phillip Trent as studio gofer Larry King—and, ironically, Trent chose to appear here under a pseudonym, Clifford Jones.

Gail Patrick as Helen

Plenty of people have good reason to loathe Hollywood star Helen Stanley (Patrick), so when she’s gunned down on set Continue reading

The Missing Lady (1946)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson Pr: Joe Kaufman Scr: George Callahan Story: Stories in Shadow Magazine based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, James Flavin, Pierre Watkin, Dorothea Kent, James Cardwell, Claire Carleton, Jack Overman, Jo Carroll Dennison, Frances Robinson, Almira Sessions, Nora Cecil, George Lewis, Dewey Robinson, Anthony Warde, Bert Roach, George Lessey, Douglas Wood.

The third and mercifully the last of Monogram’s series of The Shadow B-features. Surprise, surprise, but The Shadow/Lamont Cranston (Richmond) finds himself accused of murders he didn’t commit—although, as Lamont himself points out, there’s a variation in the formula: last time, in Behind the Mask (1946), Lamont had to clear The Shadow of murders he didn’t commit; this time The Shadow has to clear Lamont.

Barbara Read as Margo (left) and Dorothea Kent as Jennie

Wealthy collector James Douglas (Lessey) is murdered in his home and a valuable statuette, the Jade Lady, is stolen. The obvious culprit, so far as we viewers are concerned, is hoodlum Ox Walsh (Overman), whose enmity Continue reading

Behind the Mask (1946)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson, possibly augmented on bad days by William Beaudine Pr: Joe Kaufmann Scr: George Callahan Story: Arthur Hoerl, based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson and stories in Shadow Magazine Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, Dorothea Kent, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Shayne, June Clyde, James Cardwell, Marjorie Hoshelle, Joyce Compton, Ed Gargan, Lou Crosby, Bill Christy, Nancy Brinckman, Dewey Robinson, Jean Carlin, Laura Stevens.

Kane Richmond as Lamont and Barbara Read as Margo

In the second of Monogram’s three installments of Shadow chronicles—the first was The Shadow Returns (1946)—the “humor” has been allowed to swallow up entirely any elements of suspense that might have been there.

On the eve of the marriage between Lamont (Richmond) and his secretary, Margo (Read), someone impersonating The Shadow knocks off blackmailing journalist Jeff “Man About Town” Mann of the Daily Bulletin (Cardwell) and—for no apparent reason—a Continue reading

The Shadow Returns (1946)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Joe Kaufman Scr: George Callahan Story: Walter B. Gibson for the character and the stories in Shadow Magazine. Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), Tom Dugan, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Emmett Keane, Frank Reicher, Lester Dorr, Rebel Randall, Emmett Vogan, Sherry Hall, Cyril Delevanti.

This was the first of three comedy-crime adaptations to screen of Walter B. Gibson’s famous pulp character that Poverty Row studio Monogram released in 1946. The other two were Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady. This one had Phil Rosen at the helm (although it has been reported that William Beaudine did some filling in); the other two were done by Phil Karlson.

Lamont Cranston (Richmond) is outwardly a respectable young man of business who never seems to do any work; because he’s the cherished nephew of Police Commissioner J.R. Weston (Watkin), he and his secretary/fiancée Margo Lane (Read) are allowed to horn in on police investigations, to the ill concealed fury of Inspector Cardona (Crehan).

But there’s more to Lamont Cranston than meets the eye. His secret persona is as The Shadow, a mysterious vigilante crime-solver who, on donning his special garb—a mask and fedora—slips unobtrusively from Continue reading

Young Dynamite (1937)

US / 58 minutes / bw / Conn Dir: Leslie Goodwins Pr: Maurice Conn Scr: Joseph O’Donnell, Stanley Roberts, Arthur Duriam Story: “The New Freedom” (1927, Cosmopolitan; vt “For His Money”) by Peter B. Kyne Cine: John Kline Cast: Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, Charlotte Henry, William Costello, David Sharpe, Carlton Young (i.e., Carleton Young), Pat Gleason, Frank Austin, Frank Sarasino, Earl Dwire.

The government is clamping down on gold hoarding, and the gang ostensibly headed by Flash Slavin (Costello) is using the situation to mount a racket. When Flash’s sidekicks Butch Barker (Gleason) and Spike Dolan (Young) murder a gold smuggler rather than pay his price, the State Troopers are soon on the case.

New to the Troopers that day is Johnny Shields (Sharpe), to the delight of his sister Jane (Henry) and her fiancé Corporal Tom Marlin (Richmond), another Trooper; Johnny’s kid brother Freddie (Darro) feigns ennui, but is soon running a campaign of his own to catch the crooks.

The next victim of Butch and Spike is Johnny . . . a demise that, bizarrely, appears to affect Freddie, Jane and Tom not at all, for that evening they’re clowning and joking just like always! Obviously, Freddie and Tom eventually snare the bad guys, Jane conveniently disappearing (bridge night, perhaps?) when her presence might hamper events.

The intent is clearly to give the character played by ex-child actor, ex-silents star Darro an appealing irrepressible-trickster quality, but he comes across as merely brattish—and also as far older than the teenager he’s supposed to be (he was 20 by now). Story and screenplay tend toward the clichéd—it’s hardly a surprise when the gang’s real boss proves to be the Shields’s purportedly crippled lodger Endebury (Austin). The dialogue has on occasion a certain naive charm, as when Spike tells elderly simpleton farmer Finnegan (Dwire): “Listen, whiskerpuss, don’t move from this spot or I’ll plug ya!” There’s a fairly depressing lack of ambition on display: the moviemakers seem to have aimed only as high as mediocrity and been perfectly content to fall short of that target. For Henry it was a long way down from such roles as Alice in the all-star Alice in Wonderland (1933).

Author Peter B. Kyne was best known for his The Three Godfathers (1913), which has been adapted for the screen a number of times, most famously as 3 Godfathers (1948) dir John Ford, with John Wayne, Pedro Armendáriz and Harry Carey Jr.

 

On Amazon.com: Young Dynamite