Friday, June 30, 2023


In March of 1942, days after the Allied defeat at Corregidor, Lieutenant Commander Jeff Conway (Cliff Robertson, pictured at right) of the USS Dragonfish risks his submarine's safety to pick up a couple of battle survivors on a raft, an act that, though successful, doesn't sit well with his superior officers. His next assignment is to keep track of several Japanese ships which appear to be converging on New Guinea where a naval victory would assure the Japanese of dominance over the Coral Sea and put Australia at risk. He is told that, if need be, he should be prepared to scuttle the sub and sacrifice his men to stop the enemy from getting ahold of his orders. Lt. Len Ross has jerry-rigged a camera so he can take pictures through the ship's periscope and things are going well until they get caught in a minefield and the Japanese attach depth charges to the ship. Conway burns his orders and shoots the photographs out into the sea depths, then he and the crew surrender. They wind up on a POW camp island where the overseer, Commander Mori, is proud of being civilized (even though he overworks Ross, who has pneumonia) and he refuses to use torture to get Conway to spill the beans on his mission. The Americans get friendly with two British POWs (Patricia Cutts and Robin Hughes), and all are a little less friendly to Karen Philips (Gia Scala), a translator working for Mori while claiming to be neutral. Conway figures they can hold out until May 4th, by which time the Allies will already have met to begin an offensive attack, but when Mori admits that his more passive attempts to get information have failed, a new commander is called in who is anxious to use torture and death to get what he wants. Karen finally takes sides with the Allies, and soon they are executing a plan to escape by fashioning bows and arrows, and hijacking a Japanese ship.

The title of this film is misleading in a couple of ways: 1) this is not a war action movie, so don't expect the usual genre scenes of combat; 2) there was a real Coral Sea battle, but we don't see it in the movie until the final few minutes when it is recreated via newsreel footage and miniatures. I enjoyed the movie for what it is, essentially a POW camp escape story (with a slight, if less slapstick, Hogan's Heroes aura). Cliff Robertson is convincingly commanding and stoic while playing down any macho bluster. Gia Scala is quite good as the translator; occasionally she reminded me of Ingrid Bergman, especially around her eyes. Hughes and Cutts are fine, and Gordon Jones (as a beefy torpedoman) and Gene Blakely (as Lt. Ross) provide good support. It's a bit of a slow burn for action fans, but the escape and final battle are fairly satisfying. [TCM]

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

THE MYSTERIOUS MR. M (1946 serial)

In the latest of a string of murders committed by someone who leaves a note signed "Mr. M," three small-time crooks are found dead in a river, their brains paralyzed by an unknown chemical. Police chief John Blair and detective Kirby Walsh are mystified, but we soon discover that the chemical is a drug called hypnotrine, a truth serum and mind control drug developed by Anthony Waldron, a man who has been assumed dead for years. Waldron, hiding out in his grandmother’s mansion, and being assisted by his brother Derek and sister Marina, is trying to get ahold of Prof. Kittridge's new invention, a super-engine that will allow submarines the size of ocean liners to be built (a fact that is explained in literally every chapter of this serial). Waldron is calling himself Mr. M, but soon, he starts getting phonograph records with whispered instructions from someone else using the Mr. M handle, who is masterminding his own search for the engine plans and blackmailing Waldron into working for him. As the police investigate, Kittridge winds up dead, and one of his assistants, Jim Farrell, is injected with hypnotrine by Waldron to help him—it turns out that Kittridge had farmed out the production of various parts of the engine to a number of people and companies, and the Waldrons have a long road ahead of them. As it happens, Jim's brother Grant is a government agent, and after Jim winds up dead during a confrontation, hypnotrine is found in his blood, and Grant vows to track down Mr. M. Grant and Kirby and Shirley Clinton, an insurance investigator team up under Chief Blair to find the engine plans first, and to bring Mr. M to justice, not knowing that there is more than one Mr. M.

Most of the above and more happens in the first chapter. It's thick with exposition but still manages to be exciting. More exposition follows, but a nice variety of locales and minor characters keep things moving fairly well over the next 12 chapters. At one point, Kirby is captured, injected with hypnotrine, and has an experimental electronic device implanted in his ear, allowing Waldron to send him orders remotely. Among the cliffhangers: an oil field set ablaze, a building set ablaze, a plane with an unconscious pilot, fisticuffs and car chases, and the apparent fatal shooting of a major character. The script is a notch above the average, though the plot recaps that open each chapter are delivered as exposition from one character to another (often someone reporting developments to the desk-bound Chief Blair) and that gets tedious. Oddly, in the onscreen billing for each chapter, the two bad guys, Edmund McDonald (Anthony) and Danny Morton (Derek), are billed first and third, far above the good guys, Dennis Moore (Grant) and Richard Martin (Kirby), who get seventh and eighth billing (second billing goes to Pamela Blake (Shirley) who gets a big action scene in the disabled plane). I liked the acting throughout, especially Morton and Martin; also Jane Randolph as Marina and Byron Foulger as the mousy lawyer Wetherby.

This serial came late in the serials era, though they were still being released through the early 50s, and this was the last one produced by Universal. The general view is that the later serials were losing steam, but I have not necessarily found that to be the case. I quite enjoyed SECRET AGENT X-9 and MANHUNT OF MYSTERY ISLAND, both from the late 40s. I think a bigger reason for the demise of the serial was television, where if the shows weren't exactly like serials, they were serialized, even if each segment was a stand-alone story. The plot of this serial contained more variety in incident than usual, with some plot strands lasting only a couple of chapters, and some characters came and went throughout—and one of the top-billed characters is surprisingly killed off before the last chapter. There is also a trick involved in the unmasking of the real Mr. M in the last chapter. I did like this, and I can actually imagine watching it again. At top left are good guys Richard Martin and Pamela Blake; at right, bad guys Danny Morton and Edmund MacDonald  [DVD]

Tuesday, June 27, 2023


American Interpol agent Tom Rowland (Brad Harris) and his buddy, detective Joe Walker (Tony Kendall), are back in another Eurospy movie, the second in the Kommissar X series after KISS KISS, KILL KILL. In Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), three men attempt to kidnap Babs Lincoln, daughter of a wealthy American businessman, resulting in the death of Rogers, an American diplomat, by a fatal karate chop administered by a big bald bruiser named King (Dan Vadis). As it happens, Rowland gives a public demonstration of his impressive karate skills in Singapore and he is tapped to investigate the kidnapping attempt, apparently being masterminded by a mysterious criminal organization called the Golden Cats. When Walker is hired by Babs' father to keep an eye on her, the two wind up working together on the case. As Walker prepares to take a shower in his hotel room, the water comes streaming out blood red, and it turns out to be infected with man-made bacteria that can eat human flesh. As is often the case with these 60s spy films, the plot becomes labyrinthine and hard to follow, but turning off your narrative logic senses will help you enjoy the proceedings which include the following: a beachside chase between a jeep and a train, a thrilling rooftop chase between Tom and King, a cab that is used to gas backseat passengers to death, an assassination attempt foiled by a flashing mirror, more karate attacks, a bizarre amphibious tank that patrols a creepy swamp filled with dead trees, and eventually a climactic sequence of elephants versus a plane.

I'm finding these Kommissar X movies quite fun, almost as much fun as the classic James Bond films, taking into account their lower budgets and less creative screenwriters. Harris and Kendall have a nice 'antagonistic buddies' chemistry, and though in theory, it's Kendall whose character is Kommissar X—though that name is never used in the film—it's Brad Harris (pictured to the left of Kendall) who gets the lion's share of the action and attention here. Vadis makes an effective and imposing bad guy, and Siegfried Rauch is nicely repellent as the secondary villain Nitro, though of course, neither one of them is the chief bad guy whose identity is kept secret until near the end. The finale takes place in another supervillain secret island lair, though it feels oddly truncated. The German title, Drei gelbe Katzen, means Three Yellow Cats, but the English dub always refers the group, definitely more than three people, as the Golden Cats—the 'three' may refer to a ceramic bauble of three cats which is sometimes left at the scene of a crime. Enjoyable. [YouTube]

Friday, June 23, 2023


During the Chinese civil war of the 1920s, Shanghai is in chaos. Bob, a missionary, is about to marry Megan, his childhood sweetheart whom he hasn't seen in three years. On her arrival in Shanghai, her rickshaw driver is hit and killed by the car of the warlord General Yen. Megan is upset that Yen seems unconcerned that he has caused a death (as in Casablanca, human life is apparently cheap) but for good or ill, they have made a brief connection. As the missionaries spout cruel comments about their charges, Bob decides to postpone the wedding briefly to go off and save some orphans. He goes to Yen to get a safe passage document, but Yen gives him a note which mocks him for leaving his bride-to-be. Bob and Megan get to the orphanage, but street battles separate them and an injured Megan is saved from further harm when she is taken onto the private train of General Yen. While recovering at his home, she sees a brutal mass execution carried out from her window even as she sees scenes of luxury in his palatial house. Megan has been reported dead so Yen decides to keep her around. She tries to sneak letters out to Bob, but Yen's mistress Mah-Li gives them to Yen instead. Yen says he will send her back to Shanghai once things have calmed down in the streets, but he engages in a slow burn seduction with Megan, and soon she is having erotic dreams of a suave and loving Yen saving her from a demonic Yen. But even as she begins to fall for him, she cannot convince him to show mercy to Mah-Li when it is discovered that she is the lover of one of Yen's henchmen, and has been feeding information to Yen's enemies. In the end, Megan agrees to stay with the isolated warlord and she dresses as a courtesan to serve him tea, but he has poisoned the tea, and after he dies, she says she will never leave him, and will see him again in the afterlife.

This early Frank Capra film is a footnote in movie history as the first film to play at Radio City Music Hall, but it still holds interest as an example of fine pre-Code moviemaking. The shimmering black & white photography is gorgeous, and though the sets may not be as elaborate as those at MGM (this was shot at Columbia, at the time not quite a grade-A studio), they are effective. Romance between races would soon be banned by the Production Code, and some critics believe that the portrayal of love between an Anglo woman and a Chinese man doomed the movie at the box office. Barbara Stanwyck is as fine as ever as Megan; the Danish actor Nils Asther dons what we would call "yellowface" to play Yen, but he plays his role with some subtlety and I don't think his performance is as jarring to modern viewers as those in the Charlie Chan or Mr. Moto movies. There are Asian actors in a handful of roles, including Toshir Mori as the complicated mistress. Walter Connelly plays an American money man who has raised a good deal of cash to finance Yen's ambitions, and Gavin Gordon is the unlikeable Bob. Given how interracial romance was treated through most of Hollywood’s classic era, the ending here in which Megan still pines for Yen after his death is almost shocking. [DVD] 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

KWAIDAN (1964)

We popped this award-winning Japanese anthology film in the DVD player as a Friday night Chiller Theatre pick. Not a good choice. Despite its reputation, this is not a horror film in any meaningful way. We gave up after the slow first half-hour. But the next night, with genre expectations gone, we enjoyed it for what it is: a beautifully shot, deliberately paced rendition of four ghost stories (more or less) with a tone of unease rather than horror. The film dramatizes four supernatural stories of Japanese folklore, originally collected and retold by Lafcadio Hearn. In "The Black Hair," a samurai reduced to poverty leaves his wife to make a more financially beneficial marriage with a woman from a high-class family. But after several years, he soon realizes that his new wife is selfish and a life lived just for material satisfaction is not fulfilling, so he leaves to go back to his first wife. She welcomes him home, though oddly, she seems not to have aged, and their home is just as it was. As he learns, appearances can be deceiving. The second story, "Woman of the Snow," has a beautiful, if patently artificial, setting, with a winter skyscape of clouds that look like eyes. During a snowstorm, a woodsman and his apprentice take shelter in what seems to be an abandoned hut. The next morning, a woman with long black hair appears and breathes frost onto the older man's face, killing him. She spares the younger man but tells him he must never tell anyone about the incident. Of course, in folklore, we all know what eventually happens when someone is told not to do something: they do it. Consequences follow. 

The third story is the longest and has the slowest pace, and its title,"Hoichi the Earless," is a bit of a spoiler, but it's worth sitting through. We first see two clans in a sea battle, and the losing clan dies out when all the women kill themselves in disgrace. The shoreline is said to be haunted by ghosts of the clan. A blind servant named Hoichi is known for singing a ballad of the battle, and one night, a samurai arrives and takes Hoichi to the shoreline where what appears to be a mighty court of people listen to him play his song. He does this night after night until two of his friends realize he is playing to the ghosts of the losing clan, and they fear that he will be taken by the dead as one of them. The set and effects make this a very effective sequence. The last story, "In a Cup of Tea," is the least. Its tale of a writer whose creativity is stymied when he sees a vision of a face in his tea is both predictable and muddled. Overall, the film, directed by Masaki Kobayashi, is too long—the version I saw on a Criterion DVD is 161 minutes, and a 3 hour cut is available elsewhere—but its slow pace is part of what makes it evocative. Kobayashi's use of vivid color and studio sets bring to mind the films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburgerer, like Black Narcissus or Tales of Hoffmann. Well worth watching for its look and atmosphere. [DVD]

Monday, June 19, 2023


At her engagement party, socialite Emily Blair (Loretta Young) falls ill with meningitis; when she recovers, she has lost her hearing. The doctors don't know how long it will last, so she puts off marriage to Jeff Stoddard (Barry Sullivan). She spends months visiting doctors all over the world but gets nowhere (though she kicks ass at lip-reading). On her return train trip to her hometown, she is pulled out of the way of a runaway luggage cart by Dr. Merek Vance (Alan Ladd), who has a practice at a free clinic in Pittsburgh. He's a hometown boy visiting his mentor, Dr. Weeks (Cecil Kellaway), who has, coincidentally, asked him to work on Emily's case. At first, she assumes that this free clinic physician couldn't possibly help her, and on Merek's part, he resents her family because years ago, Emily's father laid off Merek's father just before Christmas. But she agrees to try his treatment and he agrees to stay in town for a few weeks to see if it works. Their relationship remains a bit prickly, but eventually they warm a bit to each other. Soon, Merek stumbles on an unpleasant fact: Emily's fiancé Jeff is having an affair with Emily's sister Janice (Susan Hayward).

This small town soap opera is, refreshingly, short on showy melodramatics, and allows the relationship between Emily and Merek to develop at a leisurely pace, perhaps a bit too leisurely as, at just 90 minutes, things bog down a bit in the final third. But if thwarted romances and medical dramas are in your wheelhouse, you'll like this. I like Young better in her 1930s movies where she seems bright and energetic. Here, she seems artificial at times, and she doesn’t really inhabit her character. But she's OK, and better are Ladd and Kellaway. Sullivan and Hayward are fine, even though, for the most part, they remain cardboard characters—though you can feel Hayward trying to make something meatier of her role. Grant Mitchell and Beulah Bondi provide solid support. Good line, early in the film: at a diner, Ladd asks for coffee, "hot, strong, and made this year." The cook replies, "You won’t like ours." Pictured are Ladd and Young. [DVD]

Wednesday, June 14, 2023


A man seated at a desk near a statue of Kali is killed when a gloved person tosses a large round tablet on the carpet near the desk. The tablet dissolves into gobs of hissing gas, choking the man to death. Scotland Yard doesn't know what to make of it, except that the gas causes facial scarring and seems to be a poison found in India. Meanwhile, in another house, John Milner, a minor member of a large crime gang run by a mysterious, never-seen boss, has a list of all the gang's members that Scotland Yard would like to get ahold of. Detective Harry Raffold (Joachim Fuchsberger) is on the grounds when another gas tablet attack occurs, killing John. Ann (Karin Dor), the victim's daughter and now an heiress, sees Harry try unsuccessfully to stop the killer, and soon he has appointed himself Ann's protector (and suitor) and delves into the poison gas case as well. The gang's hideout is a basement beneath a car repair shop where they gather to see instructions from the mysterious boss which appear typed out on a large TV screen. Ann moves into a boarding house run by Mabel (Eleonora Rossi Drago), who may or may not be interested in a fling with Harry. The Colonel (Carl Lange) is a possibly sinister fellow boarder. After a series of increasingly outlandish events—and more gassings, although one character is racing against the clock to develop an antidote—the boss is finally exposed and defeated, and Harry and Ann, who get engaged in the back of a taxi, can live happily ever after.

This German krimi film has the usual genre markings including an unknown but all-knowing villain, a crime gang, a trap door, and a convoluted plot. Nevertheless, I found this to be quite fun. I've become quite a fan of Fuchsberger (pictured) and he's in good form here. Harry Raffold seems like the kind of character who might have been brought back for more adventures, though essentially, he is very much like all the other heroes that Fuchsberger plays in these krimi films. Dor is a notch above the usual krimi heroine and the rest of the cast is fine, especially Drago who keeps you guessing about what her role in all this might be. The ridiculous title might give you pause (though the German title is almost as silly: Der Teppich des Graunens = Carpet of Dread), but I recommend this. The print I saw is dubbed in English but the German text on the screen is untranslated. [YouTube]

Monday, June 12, 2023


Gruff small-time fisherman John Mills lives on his small boat with his tomboyish teenage daughter (Spring, played by Hayley Mills, John's real daughter). The pair can be con artists when they need to, as when we see the two pretend to be starving in order to get food and supplies from a bigger boat. While in dock in the Florida keys, they get a visit from a nearby yacht from young handsome James MacArthur who is looking to buy some fish for his uncle and the uncle's young female guests. A recent law school graduate, James decides he's bored on the yacht (and intrigued by Hayley) and when Mills invites him to stay a while, he does. Mills' ulterior motive is to get James to help him (in legal matters and otherwise) find a lost treasure marked on a map in his possession that two other groups of men (which include Lionel Jeffries, Harry Andrews and Niall MacGinnis) also want to find. Ultimately, as sparks fly between James and Hayley, everyone winds up on an island beach, digging up an old wreck that may or may not have anything valuable in it. The most surprising thing about this movie is that it's not a Disney production. It is family-friendly, it has Hayley Mills (from the Disney films Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, and In Search of the Castaways), and it has a fairly strong supporting cast, but it's from Universal via the British company Rank. Though certainly watchable, that hard-to-define Disney magic is missing. Hayley Mills was almost 20 and James MacArthur (pictured with Hayley Mills) was closing in on 30, but her maturity and his youthful looks help make them seem more evenly matched. She seems to be having fun, though MacArthur (who had his own batch of Disney films in his past) feels a little less into the proceedings. John Mills is good as always, and the other stalwart British supporting players are fine. At times, it verges on a Home Alone-ish feel, with villains who never seem very threatening, and I suppose that's what makes this ideal viewing for children—there is a little bit of innocent romance and a little bit of danger and a little bit of adventure. Adults may feel differently, especially since it feels rather long at around 100 minutes, and though it's harmless, you might prefer to rewatch Mills in The Moon-Spinners or MacArthur in Swiss Family Robinson. [Blu-Ray]

Thursday, June 08, 2023


It's a foggy night in London as the ship Tilbury Pride heads for a dock along the Thames. Young Dusty Bates (Anthony Newley), an orphan who has run away from his abusive adoptive parents, has stowed away on the ship following his Uncle Hank. Dusty, in hiding, sees a couple of sailors, Tod and Walrus (nicknamed for his mustache) conniving to hide some smuggled jewels in a crate to be taken off the ship and put into a warehouse where they can retrieve them when they're not being watched by dock police. When Dusty is found, he asks to stay with his uncle Hank, but Hank suggests that Captain Ford and his wife, who have two children of their own, take Dusty in until more permanent arrangements can be made. At first, Ford's son David resents having to share his room with the newcomer, but soon, David and his sister Gill initiate Dusty into their "secret" club which involves minor adventures, the details of which must all be kept secret. However, Dusty sets them off on a major adventure when he finds out that Uncle Hank is implicated in the smuggling—he was the unwitting carrier of the jewels onto the boat—and he and the Secret Three try to find the jewels before Tod and Walrus. What they don't know: 1) the head of the shipping company is also after the jewels, and 2) Captain Ford, though completely innocent, is being set up to take a fall if the smuggling effort is exposed. Can the Secret Three get the jewels and avoid getting caught by the villainous forces after them?

As a fan of classic-era Hollywood serials, I was surprised to discover that the British were apparently making their own serials, or at least this one—I couldn’t find much information about other such serials. It follows the American pattern of a serialized narrative in chapters of 15-25 minutes each, with cliffhangers at the end of each chapter to bring audiences back the next week. But there are differences. This one is explicitly aimed at children, or as the opening credits before each chapter put it, "An adventure story for children of all ages." With only five chapters, the total serial runs just two hours instead of the three- or four-hour running times that American serials typically had. The cliffhangers are not quite as exciting as the Hollywood ones, but they also don't cheat the viewers by showing our heroes being blown up, only to cheat an escape in the next chapter. The longer serials fell into repetitive patterns with the story stalling around chapter 3 in order to fill out the long running time (rather like streaming television shows today); this narrative went along at a brisk pace with little repetition. Though one might be tempted to dismiss this as kiddie matinee stuff (which, of course, is what the Hollywood serials basically were except with adults in the leads), the children are put in real danger; the primary villainous pair of Tod and Walrus might seem a bit like comic relief, but they're never slapstick bad guys as in the Home Alone movies. The kids mostly go through their adventures on their own, though Uncle Hank gets drafted into the secret society near the end. Anthony Newley went on to a strong showbiz career as an actor in movies and on the stage, and also found fame as a composer (songs for WILLY WONKA and the lyrics to the theme from GOLDFINGER). Bernard Lee, M in the early James Bond movies, has the relatively small role of the captain. I quite liked John Longden (Tod), Tony Arpino (Walrus), and Ronald Shiner (Squeaky, Hank's comic relief buddy. Recommended for serial fans. Pictured are Arpino and Longden. [DVD]

Monday, June 05, 2023


At the Taft Clinic, the senior surgeon, Dr. Crespi (Erich von Stroheim), gets a call from Estelle Ross, wife of Stephen Ross, another renowned surgeon. He has been gravely injured in a car accident and she asks Crespi to operate on him. At first, Crespi turns her down because of their past love triangle; Crespi had been in love with Estelle, and he remains bitter that she married Stephen, Crespi's assistant at the time. Soon he relents, and the operation seems successful, but we find out that Crespi was actually using Stephen as a test subject for an experimental drug. After injection, Stephen becomes paralyzed and appears to be dead but is still aware of everything around him. By the time the drug wears off, Stephen will be buried alive. Crespi manages to stop an autopsy before the doctor would notice that the body was still alive, but cringing underling Dr. Thomas (Dwight Frye) notices that Crespi had filled out a death certificate while Stephen was still alive. Will Thomas have the wherewithal to report Crespi, and if so, will Stephen be rescued from his premature burial? The best thing about this Poverty Row melodrama is the stark set; necessitated by the low budget, it gives the movie an interesting and eerie feeling which, for the most part, the acting and writing can't do (and neither can the music because there is essentially no background score). Stroheim is playing Stroheim, as he usually did, and his one-note performance robs the film of a strong central figure. However, supporting players Dwight Frye, Paul Guilfoyle, Jean Brooks, and Geraldine Kay bring their characters to life enough to keep the viewer's interest. There is a subplot involving a romance between a doctor and a nurse that is mostly played for comic relief, and with a running time of barely more than an hour, this ends up feeling a little long. But it remains watchable for its almost expressionistic visual style, and for giving Frye a fairly normal and sympathetic role. Pictured are Stroheim with Harriet Russell as Estelle Ross. [Blu-ray]

Thursday, June 01, 2023

WILD GIRL (1932)

This pre-code melodrama is framed as if we're flipping through a photo album, with scene transitions done by page turns instead of wipes or fadeouts. The credits feature the actors introducing themselves in character. In the small mountain town of Redwood City, young tomboyish wild child Salomy Jane (Joan Bennett) is well liked by the townsfolk, and is being pursued by several men—though in the film's intro, she tells us that she likes trees better than men. Rufe, a scruffy sort, is feuding with Jack, a slick gambler, over Salomy. Phineas Baldwin, a mayoral candidate and supposed member of the Purity League, is planning on driving the saloon's ladies of leisure out of town, even as he eventually aggressively nuzzles Salomy though she adamantly refuses his advances. While Salomy engages in some innocent skinny dipping in the woods, she meets a handsome and gallant stranger (Charles Farrell) who is looking for Baldwin, whom he blames for driving his sister to suicide. When Baldwin assaults Salomy, the stage is set for revenge, murder, robbery, and a lynching. The biggest reason a classic movie buff might have for wanting to see this is that the young Joan Bennett is blonde (pictured with Farrell); the first sight of her this way is a bit of a shock to anyone who knows her from her later work (especially as the matriarch in Dark Shadows). Only 22 when she made this film, Bennett is surprisingly light and fizzy and quite good as the title character. Her wildness, as we discover quickly, is much more about energy and innocence and has nothing to do with sexual behavior. Charles Farrell, who could be a bit dull in romantic lead roles, is very good as the Stranger, maintaining the character's mysterious aura throughout. A youngish Ralph Bellamy is Jack and Morgan Wallace is appropriately slimy as Baldwin—his final comeuppance scene is a standout. Eugene Pallette has fun as Yuba Bill, the stagecoach driver. He is partly comic relief, though his character is important to the story. The visual style gives the whole thing a kind of fairy tale or folklore feel, and some  location shooting was done in the Sequoia National Park in California. The director is Raoul Walsh, best known for a string of 1940s movies (WHITE HEAT, HIGH SIERRA, THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT) and he gives the film a light touch even as it deals in sordid melodrama. [TCM]