Monday, August 27, 2012


In Panama, slick businessman Al Taurez (Joseph Schildkraut) runs a sailor's social organization and keeps a donation jar on his desk for an animal and bird refuge charity, but he's actually a con man pulling an insurance scam. He insures cargo on ships, then plants an explosive on the ship in the form of a radio.  When he or one of his underlings sets off a high-frequency signal from his office, the ship explodes, destroying the cargo so Taurez can get the insurance money, but also usually killing all on board. The insurance company asks playboy private eye Nick Carter (Walter Pidgeon) to investigate, and he does with the help of his bee-fancying sidekick Bartholomew (Donald Meek) and a young woman named Cora (Florence Rice) whose boyfriend (John Carroll) is the captain on a boat that just might be targeted by Taurez. 

Nick Carter is a pulp fiction detective who appeared in a series of books and magazine serials from 1886 through the 1990s, though his movie career has not been so stellar. Pidgeon played him in a rather uninspired fashion in three MGM films, this being the last, and Rice is practically a non-entity. However, as a B-movie thriller, this entry is worth seeing for its supporting cast. Meek, who usually plays passive, shy or, well, meek characters, is very good cast against type here as a fairly cool operator who pretends to be a bumbler but always comes through in the clutch. Schildkraut, who didn't normally sully himself in second-features, is excellent as the villain. Carroll makes for a solid if colorless good guy with not much to do until his ship is directly threatened at the finale. Nat Pendleton has a nice bit as one of Schildkraut's goons who is kept in the dark about the nefarious deeds, and Steffi Duna is fun as a Latin bombshell who spews out random English phrases now and then. Cecil Kellaway (pictured above behind Schildkraut) and Dwight Frye also appear. Not a bad way to spend 70 minutes on a Saturday morning.  [TCM]

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