Thursday 2 August 2007

Sky Murder (1940) George B Seitz

Back in 1940, local cops were apparently happy to call in the FBI. When a fifth column fighting against democracy is discovered in the good ol' US of A, the feds investigate and so does Nick Carter. Then again, this was wartime, at least for us in the old world and quite a few people in Hollywood were trying to make sure America knew that too.

I've seen the first film, Nick Carter, Master Detective, directed by Jacques Tourneur, and this is the last of the three, another Jacques Tourneur film called Phantom Raiders being the middle episode in the series. Unfortunately Tourneur, a highly underrated director, wasn't responsible for this one.

Walter Pidgeon plays Carter in all three of these films, being followed a quarter of a century later by Eddie Constantine for a couple of French movies. He's more than up to the task, being underrated himself, but of course Beeswax Bartholomew steals the show again, as portrayed ably by veteran scene stealer Donald Meek. In fact he shows us the art of it here, with every single line and every single physical movement notable, quotable or both.

He has a little competition here at least in the form of perennial dumb blond Joyce Compton, who I seem to be seeing a lot of nowadays, supporting Sidney Greenstreet. She gets quite a sizable part here which is good news for us, especially as she's even more dizzily delightful than usual. George Sanders's brother Tom Conway is a bad guy, of course, given that he looks and sounds like his better known brother who was getting plenty of evil Nazi roles himself at this point, but he's the first victim Carter has to investigate.

Victim number two is another Hollywood sibling, Hal Le Sueur, brother of Lucille Le Sueur, better known to filmgoers as Joan Crawford. Given that the leading lady, who Nick Carter must protect, is Kaaren Verne, soon to be the wife of Peter Lorre, it seems that most of the cast are less famous relations to better known stars.

As for the plot, there really isn't much of one for a detective thriller. My better half usually works out whodunit before I do, but she had this one pegged within two minutes of the film starting and I wouldn't have taken much longer had she kept her mouth shut. It's just a propaganda movie from the winning side rather than the losing one for a change, and just like uniforms and marches, the bad guys always had better style when it came to propaganda. I might not buy the ethos, but give me the art of Leni Riefenstahl over Nick Carter any day. I'll give this one an OK but fully half of that rating is for Donald Meek.

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