Mystery Collection Disc 51

Mr. Robinson Crusoe, 1932, b&w. A. Edward Sutherland (dir.), Douglas Fairbanks, William Farnum, Maria Alba. 1:16 [1:10].

What to say? A yachtsman with his buddies in the South Pacific bets his friends he can swim to an uninhabited island with nothing but his clothes and a toothbrush and not only survive but thrive. Improbably (to put it mildly), this apparent engineering genius shortly manages to have a “penthouse” of sorts—and when a headhunter from a neighboring island threatens him, not only bests the headhunter, but with two radio tubes around the headhunter’s neck builds himself a radio that brings in San Francisco and other stations;

Did I say improbable? Maybe implausible.

Meanwhile, the companions are doing “sporting” things like shooting a lion in Sumatra—such manly fun! And a young woman on the very-much-inhabited nearby island flees because she’s been betrothed to a man she doesn’t care for, rows off and winds up…well, you can guess.

Oh, and the friend who made the bet doesn’t want to lose, so he hires the tribe on the nearby island to scare the yachtsman and tie him up (they make it very realistic, having him tied up like a skewered pig over an open flame—but the pet monkey turns on the radio, scaring away the tribe, and the woman unties him. And so on…

On one hand, Douglas Fairbanks (Sr.) clearly had the time of his life making this movie—which he also wrote under a pseudonym and produced. And his engineering does result in some amusing sight gags, implausible as it is. On the other…it’s racist as hell. If you can ignore that, it’s probably worth $1, but I can’t.

The Capture, 1950, b&w. John Sturges (dir.), Lew Ayres, Teresa Wright, Victor Jory. 1:31.

When you shoot a man, it’s probably not a good idea to marry his widow. Although, as it turns out, that’s not quite the story of this pretty decent flick, set in Mexico, and involving a convenient “great circle theory” of wounded arms.

The story, in brief: An American oil man in Mexico attempts to deal with the theft of the company payroll—and apparent death of all but one guard—by going after the apparent thief. He finds a person and, when the person fails to surrender with both hands in the air (because he’s been wounded in one arm and can’t move it), shoots to wound, but badly enough that the suspect dies of internal bleeding. And his guilt seems a bit questionable as the loot’s nowhere to be found.

The oil man’s fed up; his fiancée drops him; he quits and gets on a train—the same train carrying the corpse back home. He winds up working on the widow’s ranch, eventually figuring out that the couple weren’t really in love, and marrying her…and then, as he finds more information, feeling obliged to find the actual thief.

One thing leads to another, and there’s a dead oil man (the actual thief), with our hero the obvious suspect—although it’s pretty clear self-defense, he apparently never thinks of dealing with the police. In the process of escaping…he gets wounded in the same arm so he can’t lift it. He winds up spending the night recounting the story to a priest. At the last minute, thanks to his wife, he’s able to lift that other arm and surrender…and we’re somehow to believe all will live happily ever after.

Yeah, OK, so the plot’s more than a stretch, the last 20 minutes make no sense whatsoever, and the relationships involved are a touch strange—but Ayres and the rest do a good job, and in the end it was a pretty decent movie. $1.50.

Who Killed Doc Robbin?, 1948, color. Bernard Carr (dir.), “Curley and His Gang” and others. 0:55 (0:52).

A thrilling story of atomic espionage, animal experimentation, jurisprudence and an intrepid band of youngsters…well, no. It’s an atrocious little flick involving a fix-it man who’s developing Incredible Atomic Weapons as a sideline, an evil doctor who fakes his own death, a “haunted mansion” that only has electricity when it’s convenient, a justice system in which the first suspect is immediately brought to trial, as is the second suspect, with apparently no consideration of investigation.

What it really is, is a cheapo, badly acted, casually racist version of an “our gang” style set of kids, this one including two ethnic stereotypes for easy laughs…and it’s not worth a cent, color or not. (Really? A black kid falls into a magic washing machine and a chimp dons the ironed clothes that emerge? And then the other kids assume this is the black kid?) No real laughs, no coherent plot, just kids running around and fainting and screaming a lot. Just awful. (I do appreciate one IMDB review: “this film runs a short 55 minutes but I could have sworn it ran a few hours longer.”) Free on Amazon Prime, but the price is too high. $0.

Desperate Cargo, 1941, b&w. William Beaudine (dir.), Ralph yByrd, Carol Hughes, Jack Mulhall, Julie Duncan. 1:07 [1:02]

This is really more of a romantic comedy with a “mystery” thrown in. Two showgirls stuck in the Caribbean get a Broadway job offer and get set to fly home—but, while waiting for the delayed Caribbean Cruiser (a two-deck seaplane with multiple compartments), they get another telegram that the show’s closed. One of them has been dating a newsman—currently on the same island but promised a big job in the Orient if he makes it back in time—and there’s also the future purser for the seaplane involved.

The mystery part is a gang of four planning to rob the seaplane and then burn it to get away. One of the gang tries to hit on the showgirl who’s not dating the newsman (and is attracted to the purser). A fight ensues.

Anyway: lots of action, accusations of gold-digging, various entanglements, and a midair robbery. In the end, of course, it all winds up well, with the newsman and one showgirl engaged and the purser—who’s now a hero, since he foiled the robbery—firmly attached to the other. It’s all fairly cute, and I’d give it $1.50, but the print’s choppy and for a couple of minutes it’s out of registration, so I’ll say $1.25.

The Devil’s Party, 1938, b&w. Ray McCarey (dir.), Victor McLaglen, William Gargan, Paul Kelly, Beatrice Roberts. 1:05.

Four semi-tough kids in Hell’s Kitchen have a club/gang of sorts, with a girl who keeps trying to join. At one point, the group—with the girl along—decide to steal some fruit from a warehouse, and the ruse used to distract the workers sets the warehouse on fire. The kid who set the fire won’t rat out the others and winds up in reform school.

Fast-forward to much later. The reformed kid now runs a Broadway night club with an illicit casino on the side. The girl is now a singer at the club. Two of the other boys—brothers—are now cops in NYPD’s “Emergency Squad” and the last one’s a priest. The group gets together once a year to remember old times (they still have the handmade gang sign); this year, it’s in the private rooms of the club owner.

Meanwhile, the club owner had sent two of his pet thugs to encourage one customer to make good on a gambling loss, and the thugs overdo it to the point of killing the customer, then dropping a sign off the roof to make it look like an accident. Naturally, the cops are sent to check out the scene—and one of them sees that the sign’s supporting rods were cleanly cut, suggesting murder, but the detectives say it was an accident. One thing leads to another, and the cop gets pushed off the roof of the building by the thugs—just another accident.

Lots more plot, as the thugs decide to enlarge their sphere of operations and, in the process, get rid of both the other cop and the club owner. Anyway, with all parties involved, the club owner—who, not unreasonably, considers himself responsible for the first two deaths—winds up dead in the process of protecting the others. Oddly enough, there’s a happy ending of sorts.

It was better than I expected, fast moving, well played, and maybe worth $1.50.

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