Wednesday, March 29, 2006


This is an overlooked little gem; a fairly traditional mystery plot in a "boy's adventure" setting. C. Aubrey Smith is a British Army officer who has been dismissed from his post in India for issuing orders that led to a massacre of dozens of men. His four sons return to England to give him moral support; he insists that he is innocent and that the orders were forged, and he claims to have evidence, but before he can share it, he is murdered in his own home (and it's made to look like a suicide). The sons drop everything and scatter across the globe on the track of a munitions company which has ties to insurgents in India. The two sons who go to India (barrister George Sanders and Oxford student William Henry) get some help from a man who served under Smith (Barry Fitzgerald). In Buenos Aries, the other sons (Richard Greene, a diplomat, and David Niven, an officer in the RAF) are accompanied by Loretta Young, who is tagging along because she has the hots for Greene (though Niven thinks he has a chance with her, too). They fall in with three men with ties to the company, Atlas Arms, and they discover that the company is selling guns to both the government and the rebels. A bloody skirmish leads to the death of one of the three men, but the brothers get clues from the other two (Alan Hale and Reginald Denny) that lead everyone to Egypt where it turns out that Young's father (Berton Churchill) might be the big man behind everything, even though he was not directly responsible for Smith's death. Could Young herself have had a hand in it? Things are resolved most satisfactorily in the end and Smith's name is officially cleared. Greene, Niven, and Young get the most screen time, but all the leads are fine, and they all look like they're having fun, especially Niven who gets most of the jokes, such as when he asks Greene to say something American, like, "OK, Toots!" or when he does a squeaky voice like "Donald Mouse." Greene is appropriately dashing, Smith is appropriately stiff-upper-lipped, and Hale and Denny are appropriately slimy. The Buenos Aries sequence is particularly well done, with Young getting hysterical when she witnesses an execution in the street. The ties between the characters were a little hard to follow, but it all becomes as clear as it needs to be. Also with John Carradine and Cecil Cunningham. This may not be filmmaking of the highest order, but it's competent, exciting, and fun. [FMC]

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