Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Two B-movies with Eleanor Parker:

The critics who bother to mention this Warner Brothers B-thriller don't much care for it, but I was pleasantly surprised. A doctor (Lester Matthews) arrives at a small English village one night during the war. He claims to be on a walking tour of Cornwall, but the locals don't take kindly to him, suspecting that he may be a spy. The doctor takes a particular interest in an abandonded mine which is supposedly haunted by a headless ghost. Other characters we get to know include Sir Henry (John Loder), lovely young Letty (Eleanor Parker), an RAF lieutenant (Bruce Lester) and a mildly retarded man (Matt Willis) with a secret in his past. Our sympathies shift occasionally as we learn more about the characters. The movie eventually becomes rather propaganda-heavy, but despite a few loose ends, the ending is satisfying, and at just over an hour, it's exactly the right length. Clearly done on the cheap, but nicely atmospheric. Parker is fine and Loder is better than usual.

A bland wartime crime story. Richard Travis is a cop who poses as corrupt in order to uncover a bootleg tire operation, rubber being scarce due to war consumption. The bootleg tires are actually worn and shoddy, but spruced up to look new, and therefore potentially dangerous for the buyers. Travis' brother, Charles Lang, winds up being involved in the scam, though he gets a chance to redeem himself at the end. Frequent B-movie bad guy Jack LaRue is also in the cast, as is Eleanor Parker, who doesn't have much to do. It all feels more like an episode of a second-rate TV cop show. Travis, who was so terrible as Bette Davis' love interest in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, is a little better here, more in his element. All Movie Guide claims this was the last movie made by the Warners' B crew, but based on many inaccuracies I've found on that web site, I'd take that with a grain of salt.

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