Sunday, July 29, 2012

SKY LINER (1949)

Eakins, a State Department man, is heading from New York to Los Angeles to give an important speech, but before he can get out of his office to board his plane, Amy, his secretary (who is also a dirty spy), calls her contact Smith to tell him that top secret papers have been delivered to him. Moments later, Smith kills him and steals the papers, then boards the plane under Eakins' name and sits with Amy. When the plane lands for a quick stop in Chicago, foreign agent Bokejian gets on, planning to buy the secret info from Smith, but Smith holds out for more money. Bokejian reluctantly gives it to him, but is understandably upset when the papers he paid so much for are blank. He kills Smith in the restroom and when the body is discovered, an FBI man on board takes control, hoping to solve the case before the plane lands.  

A couple of critics have called this a B-movie Grand Hotel in the air—storylines of several people who interact in a confined space—though with very little character development, that comparison is too generous (to be fair, the print I viewed was 12 minutes shorter than its length of record at IMDb, so I may have missed an entire reel). There are a few characters who are peripheral to the main action, including a young newlywed couple, two nervous old ladies, and a jewel thief who becomes important to the plot at its climax, which plays out far too quickly to be exciting. Richard Travis as the FBI man (pictured above, in the middle) is good, far better than he was in his Warner Bros. days (he was dismal as Bette Davis' suitor in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER). Pamela Blake, as the stewardess who helps save the day, doesn't have much to do; more interesting are Rochelle Hudson as Amy and Steve Pendleton as Smith—I was almost wishing they could get away with their swindle.  This low-budget indie film's production values are passable, though process shots of the plane flying through fog are terrible, resulting in what looks like a ghost plane in the sky.  [DVD]

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