Sunday, January 14, 2007


Snappy little B-film from Warners, worth seeing for its interesting if not totally successful pairing of handsome tough guy Lyle Talbot, who pretty much remained a B-level star, and the somewhat classier Mary Astor who is more often associated with A-level work. The narrative breaks down into three acts. Talbot, a race car mechanic who aspires to be a champion driver, works for Henry Kolker and has the hots for his boss's daughter (Astor), a race car designer. Astor dates slimy driver Gavin Gordon, though she clearly has a hankering for Talbot, and after a confrontation in which Talbot is egged on to punch Gordon out, Kolker feels he has no choice but to fire him. In Act 2, Talbot, now a full-fledged driver, ends up in a race against Gordon, who along with his mechanic (Bradley Page), has rigged up a sharp spear-end bolt intended to slash the tires of any car that gets too close to him--thank you, Fisher L. Forrest on IMDb, for pointing out the "Ben-Hur" chariot race parallel! During the race, however, the use of the implement backfires and Gordon's car wipes out, resulting in his death. Page removes the incriminating evidence and Talbot, found guilty of setting out to kill Gordon, is sent to jail. Astor and some sidekicks find the missing evidence and get the governor to pardon Talbot, but the very moment that Astor delivers the pardon, Talbot breaks out of jail (with the help of his sidekick Roscoe Karns) and heads to Brazil to start a racing career under the name Bulldog Banks. In the bizarrely improbable Act 3, Astor recognizes his fake name (taken from a silly song he used to sing) and sends him a message asking him to come back to the States to drive her car in an important race. He does, flying a biplane right onto the racetrack grounds in order to drive Astor's car to victory. Of course, Page is arrested, Talbot is cleared, and Astor gets her guy, all in the last two minutes. There's not much chemistry between the leads, but since they don't have a lot of scenes together, that's OK; individually, they're fine. An odd running joke about Karns dating an imaginary woman named Maggie climaxes when he actually does meet cute with a lady named Maggie (Mary Treen). Juvenile star Frankie Darro had passed out of adolescence by this time and is starting to lose his spunky charm and youthful looks, but he does a nice job as a midget-car racer who idolizes Talbot and helps to clear his name. Black comic actor Clarence Muse has a very short bit as a sidekick to the sidekick (Karns), but the scene feels out of place, perhaps indicating that his role was shortened in editing (the same, perhaps, with Mary Treen). [TCM]

No comments: