Thursday, December 06, 2001

FOG OVER FRISCO (1934) & SPY SHIP (1942)

Warning: Spoliers below!
FOG is a fast-moving crime thriller with Bette Davis in an early featured role; SPY is a remake, recrafted as a fast-moving WWII spy thriller. Neither is particularly well known, but both are interesting and worth watching. In FOG, Bette Davis plays a reckless heiress who is part of a securities-selling racket, endangering her sister, her father, and her not-so-innocent boyfriend. Things get tight; Davis disappears and her sister gets kidnapped. A reporter (who is taken with the sister) helps justice prevail. The director uses lots of flashy scene transitions, like optical wipes and dissolves, to make an already fast-paced film seem even zippier. Some people have likened the film's structure to PSYCHO, since Davis (like Janet Leigh) vanishes fairly early in the story, but otherwise, nothing here is very Hitchcockian. Lyle Talbot is Davis' boyfriend, Hugh Herbert provides his usual antics for comic relief, and Alan Hale has a small supporting part.

SPY SHIP is the B-movie remake. Despite its small budget and lack of big-name actors, it's as good if not better than the original. Instead of securities, the bad guys are selling military secrets to the Japanese at the beginning of WWII. This change gives the movie a little moral heft and darkens some of the characters' motivations. Irene Manning (in the Davis role) is a radio commentator who is in the spy ring with her boyfriend. As in the original, the sister and a reporter get involved. The only real name actor in the movie is Craig Stevens as the reporter. Both movies are under 70 minutes; the remake is barely an hour and seems to move even faster than FOG. Both are enjoyable time-passers and are especially fun seen back-to-back.

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