Sunday, May 31, 2009

While I’m on the subject of Columbia shorts…

The above photo is what I have currently as my desktop background on my computer—I like this photo a great deal, particularly since it features my favorite Stooge, Shemp Howard.

My father stops by Rancho Yesteryear Friday and hands me a missive he’s dashed off that he wants me to submit to the Shreve group on Yahoo!.com. The annual family reunion—which I often refer to as “the driest weekend of the year”—is June 27, and he decided to take it upon himself (despite the short notice) to make sure people knew about it.

Anyway, he sits down a chair next to my desk and glances at the computer screen, obviously noticing the Stooges display. “I recognize those fellows,” he remarks—and keep in mind, Dad loathes the comedy trio with the passion of a thousand white-hot sons.

“The next thing you’ll be telling me is that you went to different schools together,” I joked. (My father uses this a lot, particularly when the topic of discussion concerns Ann-Margret.)

“More than that,” he responded. “Two of them are my brothers.”

The Great Chase

Some of you who have been reading Thrilling Days of Yesteryear recently may be familiar with a gentleman named Yair Solan, an individual who’s been the architect of The World of Charley Chase (a website dedicated to the legendary silent-sound comedian whose forte was the two-reel comedy) for many, many years now. Yair sent me an e-mail last night asking me to participate and, in turn, alert other interested TDOY fans to a petition that’s been put online asking the Sony people to release the shorts made for Columbia by Chase from 1937-40. According to Yair, these two-reelers have been restored and preserved on 35mm but a release of them has been postponed by the company.

The idea to release the Chase shorts came about as a result of the surprising (to Sony/Columbia, anyway) success of 2006’s Buster Keaton: 65th Anniversary Collection, which brought to DVD the ten shorts The Great Stone Face made for the studio between 1939-41. Since that release, Sony has become a bit timid with the comedy shorts, usually regulating them to extras on releases like Golden Boy (1939) and the Sam Katzman: Icons of Horror Collection box set. But the through the efforts of Michael Schlesinger—one of the few execs in the business who actually knows a little about classic movies—the grapevine soon had it that collections featuring Chase and Harry Langdon would not be far behind.

We all pretty much know that the economy is in the crapper right now, and that as a result of this discretionary dollars for entertainment and the like shrink with each passing day. But it seems a shame to allow a project like this—especially, as Yair has pointed out, since the material is ready and waiting to be released—wither and die on the vine. Speaking on a personal note, I grew up watching these shorts on television as a kid—and have often marveled at how much of an interest was sparked in seeing these comedians’ greater works later on in life…particularly since working at Columbia was often considered the nadir of their careers. I think, however, that many of Chase’s Columbia vehicles are every bit as entertaining as his celebrated work for Hal Roach; among my favorite Columbia shorts are The Wrong Miss Wright (1937), The Big Squirt (1937), Many Sappy Returns (1938), The Nightshirt Bandit (1938), Pie à la Maid (1938), Rattling Romeo (1939), The Heckler (1940) and His Bridal Fright (1940). I have these shorts on DVD-R, but I sincerely believe my enjoyment of them would be greatly enhanced if I were able to purchase them newly preserved and restored in a set from a studio that owns the original masters.

Here’s where you sign the petition:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/charleychasecolumbiashorts

You have until the end of June to put down your John Hancock, at which time comedy enthusiast Stan Taffel (who initiated the project, and a doff of the TDOY chapeau to him) will gather up the signatures and sent them off to Sony. In signing this petition, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that your efforts are going toward keeping classic movies alive on DVD…so hurry on over today!

My world and welcome to it...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

G-Men Never Forget – Chapter 11: Counter-Plot

OUR STORY SO FAR: Vic Murkland (Roy Barcroft), an escaped convict who’s terrorizing a large metropolitan city through his clever plastic surgery-enhanced disguise as Police Commissioner Angus Cameron, has ordered his abject minion, Duke Graham (Drew Allen) to croak Cameron’s assistant Hayden (Doug Aylesworth) and plant an incriminating note on the corpse to convince Special Agent Ted O’Hara (Clayton Moore) that Hayden was working for Murkland the entire time. Graham carries out this task, but in the process of doing so finds himself trapped in O’Hara’s apartment as the Fed and his sidekick, Sgt. Francis Blake (Ramsay Ames), return unexpectedly. (I know I’ve been using the word “apartment” to describe O’Hara’s crib when it’s really a hotel room—but this is one big friggin’ hotel room.) O’Hara knows that someone is inside his apartment, and as he slowly prepares to enter his domicile Graham has his gun at the ready…

As Dukie begins to shoot furiously at O’Hara’s arm (the one that reached inside the apartment to kick the lights on), our favorite Fed knows enough to yank it back inside and hit the ground. Duke then smashes a window near the fire escape and beats a hasty retreat, with O’Hara and Blake entering the apartment just in time to see Graham hauling all ass and elbows back to his car (which is probably double-parked, the rapscallion). Our heroes then find the body of the late Det. Hayden stashed in the clothes closet.

Back at the office, O’Hara shows Murkland (acting as the faux-Cameron) the note left on Hayden’s person:

MURKLAND: It’s difficult to believe that Hayden sold out to Murkland, but…this note certainly proves it…
O”HARA: The note’s authentic…Murkland’s signature is on it…
MURKLAND: O’Hara…you’ve found the leak in my office and sealed it—my compliments to you…
O’HARA: No, Commissioner…there’s still a leak from this office…
MURKLAND: Why…I don’t understand…
O’HARA: Hayden phoned that he was coming up to my place…Murkland sent Duke Graham there to kill him…therefore, Murkland must have been tipped off on Hayden’s phone call…
MURKLAND: True…but he could have called from any place between here and your hotel…
O’HARA: No, he used a department phone…
MURKLAND: How do you arrive at that?

Yeah, Federal Agent Brainiac—you’re so smart…

O’HARA: He put the call in only a few moments after he left your office…before he had time to leave the building…so it was someone here who tipped off Murkland…and I think it was Baxter, Hayden’s assistant…
MURKLAND: Baxter?

Apparently we’re back at the much-discussed and controversial “Baxter theory,” introduced in the previous chapter. Murkland pounces on this like a dog on a pork chop: “Yes…of course…I’ve should have thought of that…” Murkland wants to call Baxter in to confront him with O’Hara’s theory, but O’Hara waves him off, explaining that he has a scheme to lure Senor Baxter into a trap. As O’Hara outlines his brilliant plan, Murkland is seated at his desk smoking a cigarette…and absentmindedly starts to stick the ever-present matchstick in his mouth to chew…fortunately he catches himself in time, and it’s equally opportune that O’Hara is so full of himself pontificating about “Project Baxter” to pay any notice. After O’Hara exits from his office, Murkland phones “Doc” Benson (Stanley Price) at the sanitarium hideout and asks him to put Duke on the phone (Graham, for some odd reason, is laying on a hospital gurney resting comfortably after his criminal labors):

DUKE: Yeah, Chief—Duke speakin’…
MURKLAND: O’Hara thinks Baxter is one of my men… (Murkland is again chewing on a matchstick and he suddenly realizes what he’s doing, so he throws the match away) Well, it could work to our benefit…tell you what you do…get over here right away, and I’ll send Baxter out into the alley…back door…

There is a dissolve, and we find O’Hara and Blake standing around in the alley watching both exits for any sign of Baxter. But Francis is astonished to see a surprise guest pull up in his car—Duke Graham!

BLAKE: Ted…it’s Duke Graham…let’s get him!
O’HARA: Wait a minute…let’s see what happens…

Duke hides behind some boxes in the alley (apparently police headquarters is exempt from any kind of trash pickup rules) with his weapon at the ready and out the back door pops Baxter (Russell Whitman), just another cog in the bureaucratic machine who’s about to experience the high point of his sad, miserable career. Walking past the concealed Duke, he’s pistol-whipped and, falling to the ground, is grabbed by another one of Duke’s endless parade of flunkies (this time it’s Tom Steele…again) and chucked into the back of the car. Blake pleads with her partner to do something about Baxter’s kidnapping:

BLAKE: But they hit him…
O’HARA: Sarge, I don’t like to see a policeman hurt anymore than you do…but Baxter’s already hit and we can’t help him now…besides, I want to trail him…

As Duke and Jack drive off with the unconscious Baxter, Ted and Frances race to their car and continue pursuit. During the chase, O’Hara once again overcompensates by explaining to Blake that this was really his plan all along:

BLAKE: Something’s haywire…Baxter falls for your trap…he runs out the back door and is knocked out by Duke, who drives off with him…it doesn’t add up…
O’HARA: It does to me…I thought this might happen…that’s why I wanted to watch the rear door…
BLAKE: But if Baxter is one of Murkland’s men…
O’HARA: He isn’t…Baxter’s an honest cop…

“He insists on paying for every donut!” The quartet ends up at the old farmhouse hideout—and yes; this is the same farmhouse that was blowed up real good in Chapter Eight. How were they able to rebuild it so quickly? How did they manage to make the rebuilt house look exactly the same as the demolished one? And why, for crying out loud, rebuild it at all—I’m sure there were several other hideouts that could have been had for the same price…with better schools and loads of off-street parking to boot. (Just between you, me and the lamppost—I’m beginning to think they’re making this up as they go along.) Well, I don’t have to tell you where this is going—Duke and Jack are about to tie up Baxter when Ted and Frances bust into the joint, and it’s balsa-wood furniture slamming time! (Frances is out of this melee early when Jack knocks her to the floor and then smashes a clay pot over his head…the view of which is unfortunately obscured by a chair.) O’Hara and Graham tussle, and Jack is about to dispatch our hero to the great beyond by stabbing him with a knife when Baxter decides he’s sat out the fight long enough and shoots Jack—allowing Duke to get away in the process. (The guy goes through flunky-partners like Kleenex.)

O’HARA: Good work, Baxter… (The two of them go over to the part of the room where Frances is struggling to her feet…being hit with pottery apparently has left her without a bruise or scratch.) How are you doing?
BLAKE: All right, I guess…I’m still in one piece…
BAXTER: Say…what’s this all about, O’Hara?
O’HARA: First, let me ask you a question…did Commissioner Cameron send you out the back way?
BAXTER: Yeah…he wanted some aspirin…and for some reason or another, sent me out the back door…
O’HARA: There’s your answer,
Frances

Cameron is in cahoots with the Bayer Company!

O’HARA: …Cameron thought I suspected Baxter of selling out to Murkland…and planned to have him taken for a ride…
BLAKE: But why?
O’HARA: To draw me off the track…but what he didn’t realize was the plan I outlined to him could work two ways…if Baxter had been guilty…and I was sure he wasn’t…it would have exposed him…but Duke showed up, and Cameron was the only one who knew the trap…
BLAKE: Then Commissioner Cameron…
O’HARA: Exactly…Commissioner Cameron has sold out to Murkland

Well, actually Ted isn’t anywhere close (but we’ve only one more chapter left, he’s bound to figure it out by then) but he orders Baxter to “take care of the dead man” and announces to Frances that “we have a date with the Commissioner.” I don’t buy one bit of his explanation as to how he figured this whole thing out—and I don’t think any of the other characters do, either—but since he’s a fragile and insecure man, let’s just cut to the eventual confrontation between O’Hara and the faux-Cameron:

MURKLAND: Hello, O’Hara…Sergeant…did you follow Baxter?
O’HARA: Yes…
MURKLAND: Good! Tell me about it!
O’HARA: The game’s up, Commissioner…we know you’ve been working with Murkland…Sergeant, phone the District Attorney and ask him to come here…
MURKLAND: Now, wait a minute O’Hara…
O’HARA (cutting him off) Save it for the D.A.! Go ahead, Francis…
(Blake goes over to the phone at the exact same moment Duke makes his entrance through the office’s back door…)

DUKE: Well…looks like I got here just in timedrop that phone!

Ted runs cowardly toward a recliner and ducks behind it, allowing Murkland to grab Frances as hostage: “We’re leaving, O’Hara—and we’re taking Sergeant Blake with us! Either we go free or she dies!” (With the speed he used to crawl under that recliner, I’m guessing Ted is having second thoughts about the relationship again.) Murkland and Duke duck out the back with Frances in tow—Duke is ordered to stay behind and take care of O’Hara if he attempts to follow them, and Frances finds herself reluctantly taking the wheel as Murkland’s chauffeur. Finally, I guess O’Hara is concerned about the fun they’re going to make of him if he doesn’t try to rescue Frances and he emerges from the back entrance, shooting at Duke and managing to get past him and to his own car so that the chase can begin.

On that oh-so-familiar stretch of back road that we’ve seen nearly a hundred times in this serial, O’Hara is starting to catch up with Murkland—so the master criminal cold cocks Frances with his pistol and then leaps out of the car to safety. With Frances resting her head on the steering wheel for a power nap, the car begins to careen wildly out of control and off a high cliff—the car bursting into flames as it hits the point of impact…

Next Saturday, the Final Chapter: Exposed!

DVR-TiVo-Or whatever recording device strikes your fancy-alert!

If you have the misfortune to subscribe to the now bankrupt CharredHer Cable service, occasionally a small beam of sunlight will manage to waft its way down and illuminate your otherwise dreary cable-watching existence. I’m speaking of, of course, the fact that CharredHer does offer up free movies and shorts on their TCM on Demand service, and from now until June 6th, they’re running the 1932 Charley Chase two-reeler Mr. Bride.

I taped/watched this one this afternoon and while it’s certainly no Chase classic, the comedian himself does provide some amusing facial expressions and other physical bits of comic bidness (though fairly limited) as a social secretary accompanying his boss (Del Henderson, who you may remember as the harried gentleman taking charge of the “orphaned” Our Gang in Choo-Choo! [1932]) on a “honeymoon,” with Henderson ordering Charley to play the role of Henderson’s soon-to-be bride (Muriel Evans). This weak, one-joke premise basically repeats the same gags over and over again (people do double-takes when Charley is introduced as “Mrs. Henderson”) and the gay subtext here is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the forehead. Still, it does provide an interesting example of what filmmaker Robert Youngson meant when he once described Chase’s presence onscreen as “one long embarrassing moment.”

Monday (June 1), Turner Classic Movies kicks off its all-month Directors Salute and because Leo McCarey is first up at bat, the channel will feature three silent Chase shorts beginning at 6:00am—Innocent Husbands (1925), Be Your Age (1928) and Dog Shy (1926). Age is the only one of the three I have not seen; the other two are available on Kino’s The Charley Chase Collection: Volume 2. Shy is certain worth a glance, but Husbands is one of my favorite Chase silent outings: a standard cheese-it-I’ve-got-a-strange-woman-in-my-room-and-the-wife’s-on-her-way-up vehicle that features some hilarious throwaway bits. But later on the schedule—right after McCarey’s Duck Soup (1933)—TCM will show Soup and Fish (1934), a Thelma Todd-Patsy Kelly comedy that features our heroines crashing a high society party and sticking out like the proverbial turd in a punchbowl.

These announcements are regularly presented here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear as a public service to like-minded fans of Charley Chase, Thelma Todd & Patsy Kelly, and the other hard-working clowns from the Hal Roach Studio who kept audiences in convulsions during the 1930s. No money has exchanged hands. (Shucks, I can’t even get a notebook!)

If Sam Johnson ever needed a haircut, this is where he'd be...

Friday, May 29, 2009

A hot dog makes her lose control

Earlier this week, I stated that the announcement of the TV western Tales of Wells Fargo coming to DVD in a “Best of” release was the brightest TV-on-DVD news to date. Once again, I have been proven wrong with a resounding “Get outta here!” TVShowsOnDVD.com is announcing that Shout! Factory will release the first season of the sitcom classic The Patty Duke Show on disc this September 29th.

Created by potboiler author Sidney Sheldon—who also masterminded I Dream of Jeannie and Hart to Hart (this show, by the way, is why Sheldon occupies a special circle of Hell)—Duke remains one of the wildest situation comedies of the 1960s…and in a group that included Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian, My Mother the Car, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, The Flying Nun and others too numerous to mention, this is indeed a prestigious honor. Child actress Patty Duke—who was just coming off an Oscar win for her role in The Miracle Worker (1962)—was the titular star, playing wacky teenager Patty Lane…and her more reserved Scottish cousin, Cathy. The premise of the series was that they were cousins—identical cousins all the way. One set of matching bookends…different as night and day.

I’ve always been a big fan of this series despite the fact that it had all the nutritional value of cotton candy—particularly because the show also starred The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis alumni William “Leander Pomfritt” Schallert and Jean “Imogene Burkhart” Byron. (Byron was one of the sexiest moms in the history of family sitcoms, and anyone who disagrees with me is more than welcome to step outside…while I remain here, laughing and poking merciless fun at you.) The series was rerun for many years on the late, lamented Nick at Nite and was “Must See TV” during my exile in Morgantown. Oddly enough, I’ve still yet to see the reunion movie made back in 1999—if anyone knows where I can buy a copy, help a brother out, will ya?

Timeless Media Group is also working away in the DVD mines with a new release of Red Skelton telecasts—Red Skelton, America’s Clown Prince will be released on July 14th and will contain thirty shows sanctioned by the Red Skelton estate. TMG will also repackage their earlier The Guns of Will Sonnett releases into one big collection on that same date—I sold my earlier Sonnetts on eBay some time ago in order to generate some fast cash and shore up some needed bedroom space but if the price is right on this collection (the SRP is $69.99, which might come down a bit depending on where you shop online) I may pick it up again. I got a big kick out of this underrated series, as evidenced by a review that can be located here as part of TDOY’s voluminous Salon Blog archives.

R.I.P, Jane Randolph

I saw the notice of actress Jane Randolph’s passing at the age of 93 at Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings yesterday and meant to comment on it but became preoccupied working on other things. You should go ahead and read her post, however—Laura mentions a couple of interesting tidbits about Randolph's career, including the fact that she served as a skating model for the icy pond sequence in the 1942 Disney film classic Bambi.

Around Rancho Yesteryear, Randolph is renowned for several films, notably Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944)—and also has a goodly-sized part in the last of Universal’s serials, The Mysterious Mr. M (1946), which I reviewed here back in those halcyon Salon Blog days. (I think I’m one of the few people who actually likes Mr. M.) She also appeared in two of the films in RKO’s Falcon series: she makes a brief appearance at the end of The Falcon's Brother (1942), the film that featured the transition of the lead character from George Sanders to brother Tom Conway, and then plays the female lead in The Falcon Strikes Back (1943), the first official Conway-as-Falcon film (RKO did this as a gimmick in a few of the early Falcons before dropping the idea altogether).

But I would remiss if I forgot to single out the one performance of Randolph’s that will live on as long as there’s a DVD player in good working condition at Castle Yesteryear: she’s insurance investigator Joan Raymond in the comedy classic Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948). TDOY readers are well aware that this film is a staple of the yearly Halloween film festival held in these hallowed halls, come rain or come shine.

R.I.P, Jane. You will be missed.

If Blog d'Elisson were a comic strip...


Thursday, May 28, 2009

Movies that I’ve stared at recently on TCM #30 (Jungle Jim edition)

In 1948, just after completing Tarzan and the Mermaids (his final contribution to the long-running series based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs), Johnny Weissmuller quickly found another paycheck awaiting him when he signed up with super-cheap film producer Sam Katzman to do a series of programmers based on the popular comic strip Jungle Jim, created by the legendary Alex Raymond in 1934. The “funny papers” feature was no stranger to the big screen, having been adapted by Universal into a twelve-part chapter play in 1937 that starred Grant Withers as the titular hero. But eleven years later, Weissmuller—while still in great physical condition but getting a bit long-in-the-tooth to continue playing the Lord of the Apes—would take the role and run with it, ultimately appearing in sixteen B-features produced between 1948 and 1955.

It was probably a refreshing change of pace for the former Olympic swimming champion, who had been typecast as Tarzan but as Jungle Jim was at least allowed to speak complete sentences. Other than that, however, the Jungle Jim series really didn’t deviate much from the Tarzan formula; as Matt Winans observes on his “Jungle Jim” website: “The plots are farfetched and often have too many overlapping and confusing story threads. What they lack in storytelling, they more than make up for with all-out action and over-the-top heroics. There are enough spills and thrills in a typical Jungle Jim movie to fill three regular jungle epics! Another wag summed it up more succinctly with the comment: “Tarzan with clothes on.”

The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ rolled out a mini-marathon of Weissmuller’s Jungle Jim oeuvre yesterday afternoon, beginning with the inaugural film, Jungle Jim (1948), at 3:45pm. I thought this one was going to be a real inducement for a power nap but surprisingly, it’s not that bad—I think the film’s major debit is that there’s just a tad too much stock footage and had Katzman (apparently channeling his inner Carl Denham) had trimmed some of it back it would be a much more enjoyable little programmer. The plot features our hero being hired by Dr. Hilary Parker (Virginia Grey, the actress kvetching about all the retakes she had to do with Joan Crawford in that The Women segment they run constantly on TCM) to track down a native poison that, used in the correct and proper manner, is a cure for polio. Accompanied by his pal Kolu (professional serial baddie Rick Vallin)—who is apparently the chief of a native tribe but is treated by J.J. as his personal valet—and Kolu’s smokin’ hot sister Zia (Lita Baron, who fills out a sarong rather nicely if you know what I mean…and I think you do), our merry band of wanderers locate the stronghold of “the Devil Doctors” but find themselves at the mercy of a man who’s using the tribe for his own nefarious purposes: an irresponsible treasure-seeking photographer named Bruce Edwards…played by The Man Who Would Be Superman, George Reeves.

Reeves’ performance—laced with a casual “What? Me worry?” attitude—is the main reason why Jungle succeeds as the entertaining time-killer it is; in fact, when we’re first introduced to Reeves’ character he’s sprawled out nonchalantly on a couch in the office of Commissioner Geoffrey Marsden (Holmes Herbert), pith helmet over his eyes and not a care in the world. He doesn’t turn up again until about the thirty-nine minute mark, and from that point on he fluctuates from comedy relief to genuine menace (in a particularly exciting cliffhanging sequence, he “bumps” into Weissmuller, causing our hero to lose his footing and fall, winding up clinging to a branch growing out of the side of a cliff) and what’s even funnier is that the Jim character has no response to his outrageous antics; he just continues to fume and swallow his anger throughout the entire safari. Grey’s character is the sort of pedantic female who is rankled when any man thinks less of her due to her profession (on her arrival in the jungle and greeted by an astonished Commissioner Herbert, she interrupts him to say “You expected a man…people usually do. I find it extremely annoying”) but is reduced to Kate Capshaw-like spastics when a crocodile comes up to her and wants to make fast lunch friends. (I also giggled at the fact that Grey’s doctor wears scholarly-thick spectacles but unfortunately the film robs us of the moment when she takes them off and her male love interest remarks: “Why, Doctor…without your glasses, you’re…you’re beautiful!”) Jim runs a total of seventy-one minutes and if the only thing you’re really looking for in a movie is mindless entertainment—believe me, you could do worse.

Jungle Jim in the Forbidden Land (1952) – J.J. is approached by yet another female of science, an anthropologist (Angela Greene) who begs him to lead her to the Land of Giant People—a mysterious race of beings who might provide a piece of the puzzle to the development of man (a.k.a. the famed “missing link”) but Weissmuller—who apparently took Tarzan’s constant moralizing about not screwing around with the jungle with him in developing his new character—refuses to do so. There’s another party looking for this Irwin Allen territory; a pair of ivory traders (Jean Willes, William Tannen) who’ve learned that Giantland contains a secret pass extensively used by the jungle’s elephant population…and if they were there to pick off the pachyderms at the time of their exit they’d soon be rich as hollandaise sauce.

Again, stock footage is pretty much the order of the day here but boosting the entertainment value are the appearances of TDOY fave Willes (who plays one of the most cold-blooded villainesses in cinematic memory) and Tannen (whose character, “Doc” Edwards, explains his nickname with “I went to medical school one time, and the name just stuck”). Willes is introduced as the ward of ivory hunter George Eldredge, and because there are no real familial ties between the two it’s only a matter of time before Willes arranges for George to be croaked (by some native lackey named Zulu [Frederic Berest]) and Jim framed for his murder! As for the “giant people,” two of them are captured during Forbidden Land’s running time; they’re not even really “giants,” however, and the male appears to be a distant werewolf cousin of Lon Chaney, Jr. (every time I saw him on screen I couldn’t get that “His hair was perfect” lyric from Warren Zevon’s Werewolves of London out my head) while the female looks as if she’s in dire need of electrolysis. Towards the ends of the film, Willes gets hold of a pistol and begins to fire at the male giant dude—who does not forget that Willes tried to pump some lead into him when he rushes her and the two of them go careening off a cliff to be smashed on the rocks below.

Jungle Manhunt (1951) – The last in the trio shown by TCM yesterday is a notch below the other two; Jim rescues a saucy photographer (Sheila Ryan) from near-drowning and she asks for his help in locating Bob Miller (Bob Waterfield), a former gridiron star whose plane took a header whilst flying over the jungle and neither hide nor hair has been seen of him since. (Actor Waterfield, former quarterback and later coach of the Los Angeles Rams, apparently took a flutter with acting but is probably better known as the hubby of screen siren Jane Russell from 1943 to 1967 [Russell was his high school sweetheart; the two of them also formed a production company that oversaw such Russell epics as Gentlemen Marry Brunettes [1955] and The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown [1957]].) When asked by his native friend Bono (Rick Vallin again—and it’s pronounced like Sonny’s last name, not the lead singer of U2) to investigate some “mysterious skeleton men” who are fomenting fear and loathing among the other tribes, Jim and Sheila set out to investigate (coincidentally running into Waterfield in the process) and come face to face with famed movie villain and Ozzie & Harriet neighbor Lyle Talbot…who’s using the natives he’s captured to dig for igneous rock (he’s processing synthetic diamonds) and exposing them to radiation in the process (the cad!).

Talbot is always worth his weight in villainy and Ryan manages to inject some humor in her role (check out her first encounter with Weissmuller; she tells him to turn his head to the right and he turns it to the left)—plus she shows up in a later scene sporting a very appealing bathing suit. Waterfield manages not to come off too awful (though I hope he was a better husband than actor) and I find myself endlessly fascinated with Tamba, Jungle Jim’s pet chimpanzee—who’s like Cheetah on meds (honest to my grandma, this is one seriously psychotic chimp). The scene that made me laugh out loud is when Weissmuller, Ryan and Vallin arrive at their point of arrival and “Jim” tells “Bono” to get the suitcases—here’s a chieftain, leader of the “Matusa” tribe, and he’s schlepping luggage.

In 1955, producer Katzman cut a deal with the fledgling television arm of Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, to do a television version of Jungle Jim (which also starred Weissmuller) that produced a single season of twenty-six half-hour adventures (this show had one of the most memorable openings of any series, with Weissmuller diving off an incredibly high cliff). But Weissmuller owed the studio three additional pictures, and because the rights to the character had reverted to the TV series, he was forced to finish his contract playing…Johnny Weissmuller! That’s right—even though he continued to wear the Jungle Jim togs, the actor used his real name…but his mad chimp wasn’t so lucky, having to change his name to Kimba (since again, “Tamba” was now on the boob tube).

I really expected to be disappointed with the Jungle Jim films I watched yesterday because I’ve heard from a good many individuals that the films aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (and are mostly just nostalgic pieces for adults who grew up watching them at Saturday matinees); previously, I’d only seen one film in the series, Captive Girl (1950)—which is entertaining as heck because you get two Tarzans/Olympic champions for the price of one (Buster Crabbe plays the bad guy). But except for the excessive stock footage, the Jim movies are undemanding entertainment—certainly better than Monogram’s competing Bomba, the Jungle Boy series…which featured the Weissmuller-Tarzan’s “son,” Johnny Sheffield. I hope to see more Jim on TCM soon—a DVD box set release of the films had been in the works sometime back (to cash in on the success of the Warner Bros. Tarzan sets) but apparently that project has fallen by the wayside.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Of dogs, and book blurbs and lowcountry boils…

Well, there’s not much of substance to offer up on the ol’ blog today—I spent most of the afternoon watching the Jungle Jim movies TCM scheduled in order to have a post for tomorrow and my morning was preoccupied with accompanying me mudder to Publix for some groceries—but I did have a couple of things I wanted to point out, most of which are of a shameless self-promotion nature.
Monday night, my Mom invited me over to the house for a lowcountry boil—and for those of you not familiar with this tantalizing bill of fare, it’s essentially corn-on-the-cob, new potatoes, summer sausage (Mom usually buys the extra hot links) and peel ‘n eat shrimp all boiled together in the same pot. She also gets some thick-cut bread to go with this repast (great with a generous slavering of butter) and whips up a cocktail sauce (for the sausage and/or shrimp) that will clear your sinus cavities and take the paint off any automobile. (It’s also a good idea to wash down this incredible meal with the ice-cold beer of your choice, which in my case would be two or three bottles of Rolling Rock.) By the time I finished dinner, I was stuffed beyond satisfaction—a good thing, since lately I’ve really been off my feed.

The beagle in the picture above was awarded the status of “Boarder of the Week” by the Jordan Creek Animal Hospital in West Des Moines, I-o-way…and while normally this would be a ho-hum occasion, the animal known as “Daisy” happens to be the beloved family pet of my sister Debbie, brother-in-law/husband Craige and niece Rachel. Personally, I think the dog adopted the good behavior attitude because it was looking to bust out of the jernt like an old Warner Bros. prison movie—this angelic canine is the same one who bites “Snip” on a regular basis and she has the scars to show for it. (My sister...not the dog.) Still, I think Daisy deserves a small round of applause, seeing as how this is the dog’s inaugural appearance on Thrilling Days of Yesteryear.

Jack French, a man who will forget more about old-time radio than I’ll ever remember, has been informed that his Agatha Award-winning reference book, Private Eyelashes (a fascinatingly detailed history of female detectives in The Golden Age of Radio) will be coming out in a second edition later this year and he was kind enough to send me a proof of the back cover—which includes a logrolling contribution by your humble narrator. If you’re interested in downloading this PDF document…click here.

When worlds collide #35

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Let the teasing begin!

Over at TVShowsOnDVD.com, they’ve put up a photo of the final box art for the Here’s Lucy: Season 1 collection to be released by MPI on August 25th. Since it doesn’t deviate too much from the early design, it has received the TDOY seal of approval—though I’m pretty certain the people at MPI couldn’t care less whether I like the box art or not.

The brightest TV-on-DVD news (so far) this week comes from the company dedicated to keeping the torch of nostalgia burning bright and free, Timeless Media Group—who announce in this short-and-sweet blurb that July 14th will be the kick-off date for Tales of Wells Fargo, a “best of” release that will contain forty-six episodes from the popular NBC western originally telecast from 1957-62. The series starred Dale Robertson as Land Agent Jim Hardie, who “faced weekly tests of will and character, as he protected the stage coaches from outlaws, bandits and Indian raiders, seeing them safely through their journey.” (I just hope he didn’t wait to study for each test until the night before.)

Timeless’ latest release, Classic TV Western Collection, apparently has an episode or two of Tales of Wells Fargo included—I’m really just speculating here because even though I ordered a copy of the set (Video Universe had it for pre-order for under twenty bucks) I’ve yet to receive it; Universe an e-mail last week informing me it’s on backorder. (I think this may be one of those deals where Timeless is a little slow getting out of the gate—they don’t even have the collection listed at their website.) The SRP for the Best of set is $69.98—but if I can find it cheaper (perhaps DVD Pacific) I may take a flutter. Fargo was a phenomenally successful TV oater back in the late 50s/early 60s (after a successful summer run, it wound up ranking in the Nielsen ratings at #3 for the full 1957-58 season) and a huge favorite of my Mom’s, so I’m sure she would love the opportunity to see some of these old episodes again. The interesting development here is that my father loathed the program, and would often mock the show’s star (Dad referred to him as “Dale Roberts”) by suggesting—in less politically correct times—that he was “a little on the retarded side.”

The skinny on this set is that it will contain episodes from all five seasons, which would indicate to me that season five will be included—that was the year the series moved from its comfortable Monday night berth to Saturdays, and expanding to a full hour in the process. Along with the scheduling and format changes, Agent Hardie found time to acquire a ranch (though he was still punching a time clock at Wells Fargo) that included TDOY fave William Demarest as ranch foreman Jeb Gaine and OTR veteran Virginia Christine (of Folgers’ commercials fame) as the widow Ovie—who owned the spread down the road from Hardie and who had a pair of comely young daughters, Mary Gee (Mary Jane Saunders) and Tina (Lacy Patrick) in her care. (“The Widder Ovie” had a few romantic designs on foreman Gaine, despite his indifference to her advances.)

Monday, May 25, 2009

“By the way…my name is Nick Charles…”

Edward Copeland was kind enough to ask me to contribute an essay to his blog this week, knowing full well that such a decision could result in a great deal of embarrassment and possible ostracization in the cinematic blogosphere. He also suggested that I could cross-post the entry on both of our blogs, and while that’s a mighty tempting proposition for an individual who’s dedicated his life to making laziness the national pastime, I decided to do a companion piece…and here it is:

Seventy-five years ago today—for those of you who keep track of these things…or received a TCM calendar for Christmas— The Thin Man (1934) was released to movie screens; a delightful comedy-mystery that spawned a successful series of six films in total and made stars William Powell and Myrna Loy the celluloid epitome of “the perfect couple.” Based on the best-selling novel by Dashiell Hammett, The Thin Man later made a successful transition to radio, a subject I tackled several centuries ago here.

In the 1950s, as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer began to make inroads into television, one of the studio’s earliest offerings was a small-screen version of their popular film franchise—with contract player Peter Lawford in the role essayed by William Powell and the lovely Phyllis Kirk channeling her inner Myrna Loy. The show premiered on NBC on September 20, 1957 and lasted two seasons (totaling 72 episodes) before its cancellation on June 26, 1959—and for a time after that, reruns showed up on the network’s daytime lineup from September 1959 to February 1960.

For the most part, the series concentrated on the sophisticated couple’s misadventures in the world of crime, but there were also a few recurring characters that turned up from time to time. During the show’s run, the Charles’ contact on the police force was alternately played by Stafford Repp (as Lt. Ralph Raines) and Tol Avery (Lt. Steve King) until finally settling down with Jack Albertson (in one of his earliest television showcases) as Lt. Harry Evans (although he was introduced in a first season episode as “Edwards”). By season two, the show featured two of the Charles’ neighbors, Hazel (Patricia Donahue) and Mrs. Dukem (Blanche Sweet)…as well as a beautiful con artist named Beatrice Dane (also known as “Blondie Collins” and played by Nita Talbot) whose presence often raised Nora’s hackles.

A few months back I shrewdly brokered a deal with my chum Rodney Bowcock (proprietor of the late, lamented Comics and Stories blog) to obtain four volumes (four discs each) of this rarely-rerun series…and while I can certainly understand while this program hasn’t been given serious consideration for any kind of DVD release at the present time, that doesn’t make any less entertaining. I took out one of the discs last night and watched four episodes (including the first and second shows in the series) in order to get an idea of program’s overall quality.

The debut episode, “The Dollar Doodle” (09/20/57), is a particularly lackluster affair: an old Vassar classmate (Natalie Norwick) of Nora’s has taken to kleptomania like a duck to water, and Nick gets roped into investigating her odd behavior. As he delves deeper into the case, he learns that her use of the “five finger discount” is directly related to her being blackmailed by a pair of gangster brothers, one of which is played by OTR vet Ken Lynch. If this show was an indication of what was to come—the only bright spots are provided by Roy Glenn as a jazz musician and an uncredited Joe Flynn as a jewelry counter clerk—the series’ future wasn’t going to be particularly rosy, but the second entry, “Duke of Sing Sing” (09/27/57) is a bit more engaging: recently paroled Duke Martin (Robert J. Wilke) is out looking for Nick, and the word on the street is that he’s still holding a grudge (Nick sent him up) and looking to settle the score. Nick has decided to start making regular visits to the gym in order to get back into shape (and also to hold his own in any pummeling in which he might receive) and there’s a particularly funny moment when he pulls up in front of the Charles’ apartment building in a taxi with Asta wearing nothing but his judo “pajamas.”

“Double Jeopardy” (03/14/58) has a similar plot to “Sing Sing”: A thug (played by TDOY fave Edward Binns) is in New York looking to kill Nick, who had the gentleman deported sometime ago. While Nick is held hostage in the apartment by a protective cop (Harry Lauter), Nora keeps an appointment with a client of Nick’s…who’s being impersonated by Binns. But the best of the episodes I watched is “The Departed Doctor” (04/04/58), which finds our sleuthing couple out of their New York element (they’re vacationing in Arizona) and looking for the vanishing medico of the title. Dan “Hoss” Blocker plays a creepy hotel desk clerk and Three Stooges nemesis Kenneth MacDonald a deputy sheriff—but most of the laughs come from Nick and Nora’s attempts to blend in with the locals (introducing herself to a female saloon keeper [Mary Beth Hughes], Nora drawls: “Howdy…folks call me Montana…”).

If you don’t compare the TV version of The Thin Man to any of the six films in the movie series, you’ll pretty much be entertained by these unpretentious half-hours. My only quibble is that while Lawford and Kirk have a wonderful chemistry together, Lawford himself is miscast—his English accent is off-putting, almost like watching Ronald Colman as Nick. I also had to choke back a guffaw at the Charles’ “luxurious” New York apartment which, while certainly not approaching the level of a hovel, is a tad curtailed by the television budget. The Charles’ well-known predilection for strong drink is missing from the series (as is their son, Nick, Jr.) and without the martinis, Nick and Nora are pretty much indistinguishable from Jerry and Pam North.

The only “official” release of The Thin Man TV series is a second season episode entitled “I Loathe You, Darling” (11/21/58), which appears as an extra on the Alias Nick and Nora disc in The Thin Man Collection box set. I watched this one before the Bowcock discs and while it isn’t a bad entry it features Paul Richards as an annoying beatnik type who may be involved in two murders involving young, voluptuous women. (At the risk of spoiling this for everyone, the actual killer is a music publisher…played by The Man Would Be Flintstone, Alan Reed.) I’ve seen Richards in about a gazillion television episodes and not only is he not my particular cup of Earl Grey, watching him “do beatnik” is more painful than usual.

As I was watching the episodes I purchased from Rodney, I spotted a station identification superimposed over one which informed me that the origin of these surprisingly well-preserved Thin Mans (though I’d expect nothing less from Rodney and his partner-in-crime, Martin “The Isaac Asimov of OTR” Grams, Jr.) was KXLI-TV Channel 41 (St. Cloud, MN)/KXLT-TV Channel 47 (Rockford, MN), an independent station that was once known as “TV Heaven” when it showcased reruns like The Phil Silvers Show and Gunsmoke…then it found religion and became a PAX affiliate. (KXLI was the source of some “root peg” Our Miss Brooks episodes I discussed back in 2007.) Here’s a little promo I dug up on YouTube that promotes not only The Thin Man but Get Smart and the Alfred Hitchcock film Torn Curtain (1966):

And now—also through the magic of YouTube—you can decide for yourselves whether or not The Thin Man would be worthy of a DVD release. This first episode, from January 3, 1958, flashes back to the time when Nick and Nora courted each other and first acquired the wire-haired terrier known as Asta:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

And also for your edification, “The Art of Murder” from May 23, 1958 (the episode that introduces Jack Albertson as “Lt. Edwards”:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The Wonderful World of Facebook (#1 in a series)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

As time goes by

Last night while watching television, I found myself confronted with one of thorny decisions that require careful analysis and deliberation…before flipping a coin: should I watch A Walk in the Sun (1945), a favorite war film of mine directed by Lewis Milestone and featuring an all-star cast in Dana Andrews, Richard Conte and Lloyd Bridges? Or should I check out the Silver Anniversary Special of To the Manor Born—a Britcom currently in heavy rotation on Georgia Public Television?


I went with Manor, even though I was a teensy bit perturbed that the special’s hour length pre-empted the only comedy that I regularly watch on GPTV, the Britcom warhorse (in its 37th year on television) Last of the Summer Wine. I guess curiosity must have been the main factor because I’ve never been a huge fan of Manor (seen on the Beeb from 1979-81) even though I am very fond of the show’s leading lady, Penelope Keith. My often dim memory banks inform me that Manor showed up on our West Virginia Public Television station (I believe it was Channel 9 in Beckley) about a year after its final series was shown in the UK and though at the time I thought WSWP was running it just because of the success of Good Neighbors (b.k.a. The Good Life in its native country), I later learned that Manor was a phenomenally popular show across the pond. Its final episode (“Back to the Manor,” November 29, 1981) garnered a viewing audience of 23.95 million (comparable to the final episodes of such American TV series as The Fugitive or M*A*S*H), a record not shattered until the final installment of Only Fools and Horses (“Sleepless in Peckham,” December 25, 2003—with 27.5 million tuned in).


The concept of Manor focused on oh-so-proper Audrey fforbes-Hamilton (Keith), an unrepentant snob of a woman who’s positively giddy that her husband Martin has gone to his rich reward because she is now in sole charge of stately Grantleigh Manor—gaining control of the huge estate has been her lifelong dream. But a snag in her plans for estate domination occurs when her solicitor informs her of Martin’s enormous debts, and that selling Grantleigh is the only option available to paying off his creditors. Grantleigh is purchased by a wealthy businessman named Richard DeVere (Peter Bowles), who is CEO of a multinational company called Cavendish Foods, and when Audrey learns that DeVere isn’t even British (he’s from Czechoslovakia, and his real name is Bedrich Polouvicka) she vows to take back what she considers her birthright by hook or by crook. Audrey and Richard begin a sort of love-hate affair with one another, much to the consternation of her best friend (and Ethel to her Lucy) Marjory Frobisher (Angela Thorne), who has designs on DeVere herself, and DeVere’s mother Maria (Daphne Heard), who’s forever kvetching at her son to settle down and get married. The other regular characters on Manor include Audrey’s loyal retainer Brabinger (John Rudling), the village rector (Gerald Sim) and Ned (Michael Bilton), one of the workers on the estate.


My mother was a big fan of To the Manor Born (though not so much that she bothered to watch the box set of the series when I purchased it for as a gift several Christmases back) and I planned to purchase her a copy of the Silver Anniversary show until she told me to go ahead and sell the box set on eBay. The special’s plot involves Audrey and Richard planning their 25th wedding anniversary celebration (though it should be pointed out that twenty-six years have lapsed between the final first-run episode [1981] and the special [2007])—both of them are putting together a “surprise party” for one another. But the nuptials celebration comes to a screeching halt when Richard reveals to Audrey that the corporate behemoth known as Farmer Ted—a food conglomerate who’s forcing the local farmers into bankruptcy—is a company of his own invention; she leaves him and moves in with Marjory (who bought the Old Lodge, the residence at which Audrey lived in the original series), leaving him to cope (badly) on his own. After a few misadventures (one of which has the two women arrested at a rave) Audrey and Richard reconcile and the “surprise” celebration goes on as planned.


The Silver Anniversary Special reunites four of the original Manor cast members—Keith, Bowles, Thorne and Sim—and though they all look a lot puffier and wrinklier (with the exception of Sim, who looks as if he hasn’t aged at all) they all do a bang-up job at reprising their characters with spirit and verve. One of the reasons I never particularly cared for Manor is because I never completely bought into the Audrey-Richard romance (it always seemed a bit forced), but the special shows that Richard has resigned himself to his fate and his character is prone to the same kind of remarks that the late Paul Eddington would throw at Keith in their roles of Jerry and Margo Ledbetter on The Good Life. (Plus, Bowles the actor doesn’t seem to fret too much about vanity, and seems undisturbed that the top of his scalp is thinning out faster than the crowd at a Paris Hilton film festival.) The special even offers a nice tribute to deceased players John Rudling (Brabinger) and Daphne Heard (Maria) by showing them on prominent display in framed photos in the DeVeres’ living room (I didn’t see a photo of Michael Bilton, so I don’t know if he got a nod or not). The special didn’t bring anything new to the comedy table but that doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t enjoyable; it comes off in the end with the same substance as an extended episode of As Time Goes By—though I did think the DeVeres’ new butler, a sarcastic gentleman who answers to “Emmeridge,” was a hoot. (He’s played by Alan David, a sitcom veteran who’s probably better known as the mad Welsh neighbor of Boycie and Marlene’s in the Only Fools and Horses follow-up, The Green Green Grass.)

I mentioned at the beginning of this post how this To the Manor Born reunion interrupted the normally scheduled outing of Last of the Summer Wine, but this recent article announces that the future may not be all that rosy for the veteran Britcom (which is currently enjoying its thirtieth series on the air). The BBC, according to the article, has been on a purge lately of shows that “appeal to older generations.” The previously mentioned The Green Green Grass has received a pink slip, as has After You’ve Gone (a very amusing comedy with Nicholas Lyndhurst and Celia Imrie) and Not Going Out. A BBC spokeswoman stated that a decision on Summer Wine would be made (without an acknowledgement of the irony) later this summer.

R.I.P, Joan Alexander

I saw this notice on Mark Evanier’s blog this morning (how I missed it yesterday still has me puzzled, since I read it practically every day) that OTR actress Joan Alexander has gone on to her rich reward at the age of 94. Mark points out that her most famous radio role was that of Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman, and that she also provided the voice for some (but not all) of the entries in the Superman cartoon series from 1941-43. (She later reunited with Superman actor Clayton “Bud” Collier to reprise their Lois Lane/Clark Kent roles in a Saturday morning cartoon series telecast on CBS during the 1960s, The New Adventures of Superman.)

Alexander played so many roles on radio it would be a Herculean task to name every program she was on but a few of the notable series include Bright Horizon, This is Your FBI, Studio One, Crime Club, The Falcon, The Big Story, Mr. President, The Shadow, Barry Craig, Confidential Investigator and X Minus One. Her most permanent radio gigs outside of Superman were as loyal secretary Della Street on Perry Mason, and dependable gal Friday Ellen Deering on Philo Vance.

The only television venue that I remember Alexander actively participating in was the panel show The Name’s the Same (1952-55), a series that also featured some OTR vets in Robert Q. Lewis, Meredith Willson, Clifton Fadiman, Abe Burrows and Bill Stern. Same was at one time prominently featured on The Game Show Network’s black-and-white lineup but it looks as if that novelty has come to pass.
R.I.P, Joan. You will be missed.

If he didn't exist, he'd have to be invented...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

G-Men Never Forget - Chapter 10: The Innocent Victim

OUR STORY SO FAR: Last week, in order to save a little money on this big-budgeted serial extravaganza, the good folks at Republic presented a chapter in which the principals in this story discussed how exciting the first installment was (with accompanying footage) while neglecting to mention that the story has since become mired in utter ennui. But before the chapter played out, Special Agent Ted O’Hara (Clayton Moore), Sergeant Francis Blake (Ramsay Ames), Special Deputy Roberts (Phil Warren)…and even criminal mastermind Vic Murkland (Roy Barcroft), in his plastic-surgery disguise as Police Commissioner Angus Cameron were in danger of being exterminated, thanks to clever little vandal Duke Graham (Drew Allen), who had transformed Cameron’s office into a gas chamber. As the four individuals pass out from the noxious fumes, only O’Hara has the intestinal fortitude not to succumb to the gas, and he quickly opens a window in the Commissioner’s office to allow fresh air into the room. Looking outside, he spots Graham on the back of a truck that is speeding away…

MURKLAND: Who was it?
O’HARA: Duke Graham…he had a gas cylinder on a truck…
BLAKE: Yes, it was coming from that vent…
ROBERTS: Then…Murkland must have known of my visit here…

I’m beginning to see just how this guy reached the rank of Special Deputy…nothing gets past him!

O’HARA: That’s right!
MURKLAND: That’s impossible—how could he have known?
O’HARA: That’s what I’m going to find out, Commissioner…
ROBERTS: Good idea, Ted…

Oh, please…don’t start patting him on the back—this is pretty much what you pay him for, isn’t it? Roberts announces that he’s on his way back to Washington and Ted—ever the brown-noser—offers to drive him to the station. His good deed done for the day, O’Hara commiserates (and no, it doesn’t mean what you think it means, you gutter-minded reprobates) with Sergeant Blake back at his bachelor’s pad:

BLAKE: This Murkland case has the Commissioner’s office worried…
O’HARA: Yes, and the Commissioner’s office has me worried…
BLAKE: How’s that?
O’HARA: All of our moves we’ve talked over in the Commissioner’s office somehow got back to the Murkland gang
BLAKE: But Commissioner Cameron has such a fine record

“He plays it every year at the office Christmas party…”

BLAKE: Surely you don’t believe that…
O’HARA (interrupting her): I don’t believe anything until I prove it…besides, the Commissioner has a secretary…Mister Hayden…
BLAKE: Him?
O’HARA: That’s just what we’re going to find out…

O’Hara’s plan is to type up a phony letter for Francis to drop off at Hayden’s desk—the contents inside revealing that a valuable painting is being stored at the city’s museum. Murkland, having read the letter, contacts Robert “Doc” Benson (Stanley Price) at his sanitarium hideout and informs him of his sudden interest in art:

MURKLAND: I just got a hot tip through O’Hara that ought to net us plenty…there’s a painting waiting to be shipped to the London Art Museum worth at least a quarter of a million dollars…
BENSON: Duke’s here and ready to go…where is it?
MURKLAND: The
Andrew Art Gallery office, in the Andrew Building…now here’s the way I want it handled…

The scene shifts to the gallery’s office, where Duke and another nameless flunky (Duke Green) dedicated to Murkland’s empire of crime break in to put the snatch on the canvas. But guess what, fellas? It’s a trap, and both men are surprised by O’Hara…who engages the two goons in another balsa-wood melee. (What I found so amusing about this is that while the furniture is easily busted up, the box containing the painting remains intact throughout the fight scene.) Although “Sarge” Blake is temporarily knocked out during the donnybrook, she manages to come to just in time to put a slug into Nameless Thug Boy before he wails on O’Hara with some sort of brass ashtray…but unfortunately, Graham beats a hasty retreat out of the office:

BLAKE: It was a little bit rough, but you proved your point…
O’HARA: Not quite…now comes the showdown with Hayden…
BLAKE: That’ll be a pleasure to see…
O’HARA: Listen, Sarge…we’re dealing with a pretty sharp character…and it might be better at this time if we split up…

Uh-oh…sounds like Ted is giving Frances the old “it’s-not-you-it’s-me” speech…

O’HARA: In case anything happens to me—you’ll be in a spot where you can finish the job…
BLAKE: Well…I hope nothing happens to you…
O’HARA: Thanks… (Looking around) I have to get someone to take care of this mess…meet me at my place…see you later…

Awww…I knew those crazy kids were destined to be together…they were just having a little spat. (Trust me, folks—this is as close as we’re going to get to any actual romance in this thing.) The scene then shifts to Cameron’s office, where Murkland is surprised to receive an unwanted guest:

MURKLAND: What are you doing here? Someone might have seen you!
GRAHAM: Can’t be much worse than it is now…that picture deal you had me touted on had a nice frame on it…
MURKLAND: What are you talking about? I’ve got the letter right there on my desk…
GRAHAM: Sure, and O’Hara used it as bait for a neat trap

Murkland and Duke’s conversation is interrupted by the buzzing of Cameron’s intercom—and Murkland learns through Hayden (Doug Aylesworth) that O’Hara is there to see him. Duke quickly ducks out of sight into a nearby closet as O’Hara (who asks Hayden to join them) brings Murkland some news he can use:

O’HARA: I’ve evidence that indicates that someone in this office has sold out to Murkland…
(There is a quick shot of the closet door, which opens slightly to reveal Duke’s gun at the ready…)
MURKLAND: Why, that’s ridiculous…the next thing you’ll be telling me is that Hayden is a member of Murkland’s gang…
O’HARA: Strangely enough, that’s just the way the evidence points…
HAYDEN: But…but…I…you…
O’HARA: You received a sealed envelope from Francis addressed to me…
HAYDEN: Sure…and I gave it to the Commissioner just as she said…
O’HARA: The information in that envelope somehow got to Duke Graham…and Hayden was the only one who handled it…
HAYDEN: That’s not true…Baxter also had it—he relieved me for lunch…
O’HARA: Baxter?

Well, Mr. Smarty-pants Special Agent…you hadn’t counted on Baxter, had you? Looking as sheepish as only an idiot can, O’Hara announces that he’ll investigate the man known as Baxter—but warns Hayden that he’s to be made available for further questioning. When both O’Hara and Hayden depart, Murkland warns Duke that with the finger of suspicion pointing at this office, things could get rough…the two men are then interrupted again by Hayden:

MURKLAND: What is it now?
HAYDEN: I’m sorry, sir, but…I hope you didn’t believe that I…
MURKLAND (forcefully): I’m sorry, too, Hayden—but I can’t commit myself…O’Hara has complete charge of the Murkland case and all I can do is lend assistance wherever he needs it…
(Murkland absentmindedly pulls out a matchstick and begins to chew on it…Hayden’s eyes become as big as dinner plates as he soon realizes…Cameron is being impersonated by Murkland!)

With Murkland’s little charade exposed to the hapless Hayden, he and Duke listen in on a phone conversation between the doomed man and Sergeant Blake—he tells her he knows where Murkland is, and she gives him Ted’s address so that he can wait for him there. Duke tells Murkland that the only way to settle the matter is “to take Hayden for a ride.” “That’s not a bad idea,” Murkland snarls in return. The criminal mastermind takes pen, envelope and paper out of his desk and scrawls something that will incriminate Hayden:

Hayden—The enclosed thousand dollars is for services rendered. Murkland

The scene shifts to Ted O’Hara’s apartment. It is night, and a jittery Hayden waits for Mr. Special Agent to return, pacing and smoking cigarette after cigarette. He hears someone at the front door, and cautiously walks over, asking who’s outside. A muffled voice answers: “O’Hara.” Hayden foolishly opens the door, and Duke Graham, Boy Hoodlum barges in, roscoe in hand. Hayden ends up on the other side of the room, and because he’s so scared to the point of soiling himself he stupidly opens up a door behind him…only to discover it’s a clothes closet. How Hayden planned to make a smooth getaway via a closet will be a mystery for the ages—and a moot one at that, since Graham turns the radio on full blast and pumps three slugs into the government lackey, the music drowning out the shots.

Down on the street, O’Hara and Blake pull up in Ted’s car at the same time Duke plants the envelope on Hayden’s corpse. He’s all set to vacate the premises when he spots the two in the corridor, and ducks back inside, turning off the lights. (A neon sign outside blinks on and off, allowing us to see Duke maneuvering in the dark…and makes me wonder how O’Hara manages to get a good night’s sleep…unless he’s spending his nights shacking up at Chez Blake, if you know what I mean.) Ted hears the music blaring from his digs…and when the music stops abruptly, he tells Francis to stand back. With his weapon at the ready, Ted slowly begins to enter his darkened apartment, his hand reaching for the light switch…and Duke responds with appropriate gunfire…

Next Saturday, Chapter 11: Counter-Plot!