Friday, June 12, 2015


In the fall of 1923, young Tommy Tompkins goes to see his hero, WWI ace pilot Brandy Rand, in a barnstorming exhibition, and manages to get Rand to visit him afterward and look at his scrapbooks of Rand's exploits. The pilot is clearly touched by the boy's devotion. Fifteen years later, Tommy, known as "Tailspin Tommy" for his daring in the air, is a pilot working at an independent airport run by Paul Smith. They're testing a device they hope to sell to the military that would automatically drop bombs over a target, and when Tommy and his sidekick Skeeter take the plane up, the device works, but when the plane malfunctions, Tommy has to pull it out of a, yep, tailspin to save the device, the plane, and himself. The Army brass is impressed, as is a group of crooks hoping to get their hands on the device to sell to the highest bidder. And they've snagged Rand, now an alcoholic mess, to help them. Tommy and Skeeter are shanghaied by the bad guys, and Tommy is shocked to find his former hero involved. Even worse, when Tommy's best gal Betty Lou is kidnapped, he may be forced to work with the villains.

Tailspin Tommy was a comic book character who was the star of a couple of serials in the early 30s, and who was brought back by B-studio Monogram in four short films, all in 1939.  The later DANGER FLIGHT is straightforward kiddie matinee material, with Tommy the head of a boys' club. This one is a little less aimed at kids, and despite the poor reviews this film has on IMDb, I found it to be fast-paced and enjoyable. John Trent is the all-American straight arrow hero and manages not come off as an insipid drip; Milburn Stone (pictured above to the right of Trent) is a notch above the usual comic sidekick; Marjorie Reynolds is serviceable as Betty Lou; best is George Lynn as Brandy, who makes his character very sympathetic. There are some good ass-whooping fisticuffs at the climax. [DVD]

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