Wednesday, November 30, 2005

PURSUIT (1935)

Tight, fast-paced film which provides a nice showcase for one of my favorite B-leads, Chester Morris. He plays a pilot who is being paid to deliver 6-year-old Scotty Beckett (one of the Little Rascals), a child in the middle of a nasty custody battle, to Mexico to stay with his birth mother. Along with Beckett for the ride is Sally Eilers, who is working for middleman C. Henry Gordon, but they never make it up in the air after the prop plane takes off with the kid in it alone and Morris has to jump in and crash it into a barn to save the kid. The three take off in a car for Tijuana and have a series of mostly comical misadventures, some of which involve getting handcuffed to each other and being followed by snoopy Henry Travers, who is out for some reward money. They dress the boy up as a girl to throw Travers off the track, and a pregnant dog named Perfume provides other diversions. Once they get near the border to meet Gordon and the mother (Dorothy Peterson), Gordon tries to pull a double cross to get the reward money, which is substantially more than he'll get from Peterson, but there's a happy ending in store involving the trio dressing in blackface and driving across the border in an old jalopy in full view of Gordon. Normally, I prefer some decent characterization and backstory, but here the fact that we are given very little background about the characters works well with the short timeframe (the hour-long movie takes place over just 2 days time). Morris and Eilers work up some good B-level chemistry, the kid is fine, and Erville Alderson does a nice comic turn as a befuddled cop. [TCM]

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