Sensation Hunters (1933)

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Unsuitable liaisons?
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US / 73 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Charles Vidor Pr: Robert Welsh Scr: Paul Schofield, Albert E. DeMond Story: “Cabaret” (original story) by Whitman Chambers Cine: Sid Hickox Cast: Arline Judge, Preston Foster, Marion Burns, Kenneth McKenna (i.e., Kenneth MacKenna), Juanita Hansen, Creighton Hale, Cyril Chadwick, Nella Walker, Harold Minjir, Finis Barton, Zoila Conan, Sam Flint, Walter Brennan.

This bears no relation to Sensation Hunters (1945) dir Christy Cabanne, with Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay and Nestor Paiva. Where the later movie is a good minor film noir, this one is a pre-Code romantic melodrama punctuated by a couple of musical interludes.

On a ship bound for Panama from San Francisco, pausing at Los Angeles, demure Dale Jordan (Burns) attracts the attention of the male passengers, such as the exaggeratedly English uppercrust blowhard Upson (Chadwick) and the snobbish Hal Grayson (Minjir), who’s traveling with his even more snobbish sister (Barton) and his quite terminally snobbish mother (Walker).

Cyril Chadwick as Upson.

When the Graysons discover Dale is to join the troupe of cabaret artistes that’s joining the ship at Los Angeles, the two women drop her like a hot potato and Hal, after unsuccessfully trying his luck—because “everyone knows” cabaret girls are easy— Continue reading

Sensation Hunters (1945)

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The price of rebellion!
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vt Club Paradise
US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Joseph Kaufman Scr: Dennis Cooper Story: John Faxon Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay, Nestor Paiva, Byron Foulger, Vince Barnett, Minerva Urecal, Janet Shaw, Maurice Murphy, Billy Nelson, John Hamilton, The Rubenettes, The Johnson Brothers.

Every now and then Poverty Row studio Monogram got it just right and produced a splendid minor noir, and this was one of those times. Despite the coincidence of title, it bears no relation to the earlier Sensation Hunters (1933) dir Charles Vidor, with Arline Judge, Marion Burns and Preston Foster, a far inferior movie that I plan to cover here next week.

In the opening moments we see a man arrive at a darkened frontage and ring the doorbell. A negligée-clad woman appears at a balcony overhead, and summons him upstairs. Moments later, three shots ring out . . .

The rest of the movie is one long flashback leading us up to this scene. We’re soon pretty sure who the woman was (will be?), but who was the man? And who shot whom? And why? Continue reading

Deadly Duo (1962)

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Identical twins, one a sweet young widow and the other a sexpot stripper, and the fortune that only one of them wants!

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US / 69 minutes / bw / Harvard, UA Dir: Reginald LeBorg Pr: Robert E. Kent Scr: Owen Harris Story: The Deadly Duo (1959) by Richard Jessup Cine: Gordon Avil Cast: Craig Hill, Marcia Henderson, Robert Lowery, Dayton Lummis, Carlos Romero, Irene Tedrow, David Renard, Marco Antonio, Peter Oliphant.

Deadly Duo - 0 opener

Racecar driver Robby Spence dies in a spectacular crash. A month later, unsuccessful California lawyer Preston “Pres” Morgan (Hill) is recruited for a mysterious task by highly successful corporate attorney Thorne Fletcher (Lummis), acting on behalf of the mighty Spence Industries—or, more accurately, for that company’s steely owner, Leonora Spence (Tedrow). Leonora was appalled when, a few years ago, her late son Robby married Sabena Corwen (Henderson), one half of the dancing act The Corwen Sisters, the other half being Sabena’s identical twin sister Dara (Henderson again). The irate mother cut her son off without a penny. Now she wants to take her grandson, Billy (Oliphant), from Sabena and raise him herself as future CEO of Spence Industries. Pres’s task is to take a contract to Acapulco, where Sabena and Billy live, offering the mother $500,000 to relinquish all rights in the child.

Deadly Duo - 1 Leonora is initially suspecious of Pres

Leonora (Irene Tedrow) is initially suspicious of Pres.

There’s a quite effective scene in which Pres, his righteous indignation roused, tells Leonora firmly what she can do with her offer of employment, that he would never stoop so low as to collaborate in what he sees as the buying and selling of an infant . . . then discovers that his fee for the service will be $50,000.

Arrived in Acapulco, Pres goes to Sabena’s home. There he meets not just Sabena but twin sister Dara and Dara’s husband Jay Flagg (Lowery). There he marvels over the fact that the two sisters are not just beautiful but so very identical except that Sabena has shortish brunette hair while Dara has longer blonde hair. He soon notices, too, that there are behavioral differences between the rather prim Sabena and the clumsily vamping Dara.

Deadly Duo - 2a Nasty . . .

Naughty Marcia Henderson . . .

Deadly Duo - 2b . . . or Nice[Q] -- sisters Dara and Sabena

. . . or nice Marcia Henderson?

Sabena refuses Leonora’s contract point-blank—no way is she going to give up her son—and throws him out of the house.

This is to the huge displeasure of Jay and Dara, who desperately need the money. After the breakup of The Corwen Sisters, Dara struggled along on her own as best she could, which Continue reading

Dangerous Passage (1944)

US / 61 minutes / bw / Paramount, Specialty Dir: William Berke Scr: Geoffrey Homes Cine: Fred Jackman Jr. Cast: Robert Lowery, Phyllis Brooks, Charles Arnt, Jack La Rue, John Eldredge, Victor Kilian, Alec Craig, William Edmunds.

Crooked attorney Daniel Bergstrom (Arnt), working from the South American port of St. Angel, tracks Joe Beck (Lowery), who for six years has been working for oil companies in the British Honduras, to tell him he’s inherited $200,000 from his grandmother; he should take the Southern Queen to Galveston to claim his fortune.

After leaving Bergstrom’s office, Joe’s attacked by a knife-wielding mugger, whom he soundly beats; believing he may have killed the man, he instead ships out aboard the tramp steamer Merman. The steward, Dawson (Craig), proves in due course to be an undercover insurance investigator hoping to expose the Merman‘s Captain Saul (Edmunds) and First Mate Buck Harris (Kilian), who, in league with shipping company executive Vaughn (Eldredge), have been scuttling the line’s ships for the insurance money. Also aboard is chanteuse Nita Paxton (Brooks), who’s fleeing the lowlife and is in cahoots with Dawson. Soon Joe and Nita are in love.

After Dawson has been murdered and a clumsy attempt made to frame Joe for the crime, Bergstrom joins the ship along with the St. Angel mugger, Mike Zomano (La Rue), whom Bergstrom plans to pass off in Galveston as Joe in order to steal the money. The agendas of the two sets of crooks collide when the mariners deliberately run the ship onto rocks and leave the rest to face a watery fate . . .

As one would expect from Homes, this tight little noirish thriller is more than competently scripted. Lowery and Brooks work well together, managing to ensure that even the potentially schmaltziest lines come over as quite fresh. Craig does well in his small part as the diffident steward/investigator. Of the rest of the cast, none make much impact except Arnt, who does an excellent Sydney Greenstreet impersonation despite the physical dissimilarity.

A few years after this, Lowery would take the lead in Batman and Robin (1949 serial), the second actor to take this role (after Lewis Wilson in Batman [1943 serial]). Brooks was later married to Congressman Torbert Macdonald, a close friend of John F. Kennedy, who was godfather of their eldest son.

On Amazon.com: Dangerous Passage