Another stroll through Poverty Row, the tawdry low-low-budget collection of film studios that probably were not the stuff of which dreams were made.
Tonight it’s Victory Pictures’ 1936 ludicrous The Face in the Fog – a great title.
The movie…not so much.
But it has its charms;
- It features bullets made from frozen water. The bullets melt after doing their damage, destroying the evidence (brilliant!), but amazingly survive for hours in the killer’s pocket before they’re used (stupid!).
- There’s a theatre company terrorized by a hunchbacked villain called “The Fiend.” Well of course there is.
- It features the classic death scene line; “I recognized him. It was…agh-h-h-h-!”
- Our hero (an obligatory and intrepid newspaper reporter, engaged to marry the obligatory social editor) has to race to his desk to retrieve his pistol and his snap-brim chapeau before he can “follow that car!”
- Said hero-reporter is accompanied by an obligatory and comedic dumb photographer. People once built careers playing this stock character. All my actor friends sitting idle in these pandemic days should be weeping now.
- Beautiful and plentiful shots of great shiny cars with running boards and exterior-mounted spare tires are major moments in the flick. I’m not a car guy but these are knockouts and probably a single man’s ticket home.
…and it’s still pretty silly.
I loved it.
Victory Pictures Studio could always be counted on to deliver a quality product (well no, they couldn’t) and AMATEUR CROOK (1938) proves it (well…No! It doesn’t).
AMATEUR CROOK was worthy enough in someone’s eyes to be released under two other titles; JEWEL THIEF, and CROOKED BUT DUMB. If I read CROOKED BUT DUMB on a theater’s marquee, I’d give it a try.
I can’t truthfully say I recommend viewing many of the films I cite. A goodly number of them are awful in spite of the affection I may feel for them. But if you stumble across AMATEUR CROOK, an hour of your time will be rewarded with a few tawdry wonders.
- A diamond as big as a chicken egg is pawned by a wealthy man who has clearly never required the services of a pawnbroker previously. He does this for no discernible reason except to provide a “McGuffin” for us to follow for sixty minutes.
- Former Olympian Herman Brix (before he morphed into Bruce Bennett) plays a starving artist. He gives one of his classic deer-in-the-headlights performances. This was during his deer-in-the-headlights period which lasted for much of his career.
- Mr. Brix participates in the worst screen fistfight I’ve ever witnessed. Worst. Fistfight. Ever.
- Mr. Brix’s character in one scene improvises instantly a most brilliant plan for escaping the police. He exclaims; “I’ve got it! Let’s go out the back way!!”
- Then, later in the film, he repeats the same plan. Hey, if it ain’t broke…
- And yes, it works both times. I can only assume police work has improved greatly since 1938.
- Did I mention; Worst. Fistfight. Ever.
I loved it.