Suave, lip-reading DA Thatcher Colt plans to get away from the big city for a while. So he and his secretary, Miss Kelly hop on a train for an Upstate NY town called Gilead. They expect a ... See full summary »
The poem quoted by Colonel Gimpy aboard the plane is from "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage" by Lord Byron. See more »
Good morning, Baron. I didn't know you were in America.
I've been here many months. I came over here on a very important mission. So important that if I fail, they would expect me to...
[mimics shooting himself]
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Great performance by the exuberant, scene-stealing Lorre
This is Lorre in his first role for Fox, and it offers a glimpse of the man before he was ground down to a heap of bitterness (albeit justifiable bitterness) by contractual obligation that saw him playing a Charlie Chan rip-off role (Mr. Moto) in a series of B and C films for the next several years. Harnessing an actor with Lorre's chops with a dumb repeating role was criminal, and he seems never to have recovered fully from the injustice done him by the studio.
But here, here, he is at the height of his powers and in all his glory. This performance is as to-be-relished as his roles for Hitchcock in The Man Who Knew Too Much and Secret Agent. For years, before being pulled for copyright violation, major excerpts of this film were up on youtube, and that was probably the best possible intro to it, cutting straight to the Lorre parts. When you see the film itself from beginning to end, you realize that the vehicle is a bit slight, more like an early TV show episode than a feature. But Lorre is at the top of his form, and redeems it. As Colonel Gimpy -- a supposedly harmless wacko character who hangs around the airfield, who is in fact a spy and criminal mastermind -- Lorre is taunting, coolly insolent and ironic, menacing, comically threatening, and at times downright hilarious (intentionally so). Lorre takes professional and personal glee in this role, and the result isn't at all like watching some self-absorbed stiff pal around with his star friends for two hours (ala Clooney and Ocean's 11 pack). The difference is, we feel the glee. Whereas Clooney and company have always wasted our time laughing at a great in-joke that only they are in on, Lorre hands us an engraved invite to the party. We are -- as in a Marx Brothers film -- in on the in-joke more than anyone else on screen. We each feel that we "get him", and no one on screen does. Lorre is a thorough wild party to watch here, generous with his gifts and madly creative.
There's a little hurt, a little wistfulness, when one realizes what might have been for Lorre. There was no other actor like him all through the early-mid 1930s, from M to this very film. Shortly after this, the inventive joyride without precedent was over, and he was put in yoke for a really dumb series that spoiled his morale not just as an actor, but as a person. Hollywood didn't know what to do with him, but that didn't stop it from doing something, really doing something to him.
The film gets about 5 stars by itself; Lorre gets a solid 10. Net out around 7 or 8. If you're a Lorre fan, you must see this. (It used to show up on AMC. It's the type short film that will never ever show up on DVD. I got my copy of a DVR from a seller online.)
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