A bad Cisco Kid knock-off that's not for the faint of heart!
The few reviews for this film are all over the place--with scores of 2, 4, 7 and 8. Some described it as "dreadful" or "weak" while others called it "richly entertaining"! With such divergent views, I had no idea what to expect. After watching the film, I thought the everyone was being way too kind to this terrible film. Now to a degree you might want to cut the film some slack--after all, it was one of many films in the early days of sound that came up short. Film dialog and acting did improve greatly by just 1932. However, even for 1930, this film was truly craptastic.
Apparently there was some sort of confusion among the actors. While the film is supposed to be set in Mexico, many of the supporting characters speak with what sure sound like Italian accents! It's the early days of sound movies, so perhaps they still didn't have voice coaches to help the actors--and they sure needed it here because even the Mexican accents were often pretty poor. As for the leads, Fay Wray sounded better than I expected but oddly, the pudgy and Hungarian Victor Varconi was Captain Thunder. The end result sounded a bit like Bela Lugosi and Pancho from the Cisco Kid series put together.
As far as Varconi's look, it was pretty interesting. Because the film seemed to be a ripoff of The Cisco Kid films, they tried to make him look like this character. IN OLD ARIZONA, the first sound Cisco Kid film, had just won the Oscar for Best Picture and I think CAPTAIN THUNDER was Warner's attempt to cash in on the series' success. However, dressing Varconi in an outfit EXACTLY like The Cisco Kid's did not produce the same effect. Instead of a tough lover like Warner Baxter or Cesar Romero, he looked more like an accountant dressing up as The Kid for a costume party! I just can't imagine women back in 1930 swooning for this guy! This, combined with the accent, doomed Varconi to a second-rate performance (at best).
By the way, although Varconi was bad, El Commandante Benito Ruiz (Charles Judels, who was Dutch) was by comparison even more dreadful--his acting and accent. My daughter and I tried to figure out WHAT he was supposed to be--she thought German, I thought idiot. Please don't get mad at me for making fun of the bad acting--they're all dead by now (as are their mommies) and I'm not hurting their feelings.
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