|Index||9 reviews in total|
This is first and foremost a western. I wouldn't put any
science-fiction label on it, even with the "special ray" (which
actually looks more like part of an electric chair set-up and makes way
too much noise for my tender ears) that causes the engines of planes to
fail, which is the basis for the investigations, and which most of the
plot revolves around. There are some amusing scenes, which aren't
great, but good for a bit of entertainment.
In case you don't know what's going on when you are actually watching the movie, there will be plenty of shots and references to two newspaper clippings from start to finish! Try not to fall asleep when it cuts to the newspaper clippings each time. For slow readers, I guess. This never really works, as by the time I understand that I am supposed to actually read parts of the article, it is already too late to get more out of what I am seeing and the scene changes.
Tim (from the Department of Justice) taking over the character of the bad guy to fool the other bad guys isn't really very convincing and of course he has to have an annoying sidekick to generate what little amusement unfolds.
You've got to love that enormous white hat with matching scarf (Tim's outfit) which always seems to be in perfect placement regardless of what happens! Simply unbelievable! The "lesson on hitchhiking" is somewhat amusing at any rate, as are the scenes on the wagon about twenty minutes in.
I must comment on the extremely annoying amateurish soundtrack, especially the sound of when each plane's engine begins to fail, which sounds a lot more like someone playing with the button on a tape player as it is playing the sound of a plane engine in the distance! For quite awhile in the first scenes, I thought the movie itself (the sound) was actually very messed up, until I understood it was SUPPOSED to sound like that. You can even hear the clicks of the heads making contact with the recording (and other aspects of a recording not playing right) as you are watching it!
4/10. I would have given it 5/10 were it not for the highly annoying soundtrack. It was also saved by Tim's giant white hat and scarf, which gives the movie somewhat of a cartoon feel, along with Tim's penguin-like stance and manner and bizarre way of shooting (which looks more like he is playing darts). Enjoy it on a late night with cold pizza that was left over, or something.
When a woman finds out that a plane which has crashed in the forests in Shiloh, she immediately pulls out another clipping about her father inventing a new ray (but not a new Bob) and immediately, not really too sure how, puts the two together that they're related. And she's right! Bag guys have kidnapped her father so that the ray machine (which makes a LOT of noise) can bring planes carrying loot down from the sky (you know this is happening when the plane sound effects go off and on). FORTUNATELY, Tim Mccoy, still wearing the biggest cowboy hat ever known to man, is also going to Shiloh to check things out! Will they figure out the mystery of why planes are going down in the area before the plane full of G.I.'s to help Mccoy in the mystery is affected by the ray? (why would they take a plane in the first place?), will Dad and Daughter reunite? Will Mccoy ever aim his gun? Tune in to find out. Well, you don't have to. It's not much of a movie, lots of implausibilities. Fortunately, Mccoy is always a hoot, and the hybrid of Western / Sci Fi is always interesting.
I actually like Westerns set in contemporary times and find the added science fiction elements kinda interesting. While I consider Tim McCoy to be a somewhat lackluster personality, this outing was good enough that I watched it to the end. When movies include newspaper shots, I always quickly scan adjoining articles just for the fun of it. I was thus intrigued when the kidnapped scientist Professor Brant's daughter compares two newspaper articles, the articles were on screen for so long, that it was possible to scan other article headlines, one of which had the title "100,000 Chinese live in trees after flood." Just out of curiosity, I did a quick search and learned that there was indeed a major flood of the Yangtze River in 1935. There were a number of major floods in China in the early 30s so it's not unlikely that sadly someone was having a bit of fun with the "living in trees" business. The best thing about watching this movie was then being able to understand how funny the review of the movie by Spuzzlightyear was I shall long remember "Will McCoy ever aim his gun"?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A resourceful Justice Department agent, Tim Caverly (Tim McCoy of
"Bulldog Courage"), is winging his way over California's Shiloh
Mountain range when the engine of his bi-plane begins to cut out. He
notifies his superior, Justice Chief Anderson (Bruce Mitchell of
"Mystery Plane") back in Los Angeles about his problem as the aircraft
descends. Anderson has already warned Caverly that the job may be too
dangerous, but Caverly isn't the kind of hombre to back down from any
assignment. Meanwhile, a group of horsemen is following the progress of
Caverly's aircraft as it approaches the same place, five miles from
Rocky Point, where the previous plane went down. Prolific director Sam
Newfield of "The Flying Serpent") must have gotten a good deal on the
aerial footage because the plane that Caverly is piloting spirals down
for what seems forever while the second-string villain, Kincaid
(Wheeler Oakman of "The Ape Man"), challenges his henchmen to make
wagers about where the aircraft will crash. Caverly bails out to
safety, while Kincaid and Charlie (Dick Curtis of "Renegade Girl")
ransack the wreckage and find a half-million dollars worth of bonds.
Kincaid sends Charlie off to the remote town of Shiloh to hand the
bonds over to Louie. Interestingly, Kincaid and his gunmen neglect to
take care of Caverly. This is all the more curious because Kincaid had
mentioned the fates of the previous fliers. Anyway, Caverly reaches his
crashed aircraft after Kincaid and company have ridden away. We see
Caverly as he is still wearing his pilot's outfit and wrestling to
bring his billowing parachute under control. Mind you, Caverly is
unarmed so Kincaid and company could have killed him without much
effort and saved themselves a lot of trouble.
The scene shifts to a woman, Natalie Brent (Claudia Dell of "Sweet Kitty Bellairs"), who reads about her renowned scientist father, Professor Brent, who has created a gadget that can shut down the electric system of a plane and bring it down. When she isn't perusing this newspaper clipping, she is looking at a Los Angeles area newspaper about another mysterious airplane crash. Whoever assembled the articles for this bogus newspaper that Natalie reads must have had a sense of humor because an article about hundreds of thousands of Chinese living in trees after a devastating flood can be seen next to the article about the aircraft crash. Immediately, Natalie makes a phone call to get tickets to go to Shiloh. She is the plucky little heroine who goes off in search of her father. Eventually, Natalie's path will cross that of Caverly. Meantime, the villains encounter trouble when plainclothes Los Angeles gunman Tim Toomey (Blackie Whiteford) interrupts Charlie as Charlie is talking to Kincaid on a shortwave radio in the Shiloh Hotel and tells Kincaid that he is being watched. The conversation starts off amiably enough with the unsuspecting Kincaid saying, "What's on your mind besides your hair?" Kincaid and company are shocked when they hear gunshots. Charlie takes a slug in the shoulder before he signs off.
The next time that we see our hero, he is decked out like a frontiersman. Ostensibly, "Ghost Patrol" is a B-movie western. Nevertheless, like many B-movie westerns, the action here takes place in contemporary society because we see airplanes, shortwave radios, telephones, and other bits and pieces of twentieth century technology that wouldn't have been around on the early frontier. Our hero sports the biggest Stetson in the film. Caverly encounters Natalie Brent on the way to Shiloh. She is sitting on a rock, checking her make-up when Tim, who is driving a two-horse wagon with his partner, Henry Brownlee (James P. Burtis of "The Hurricane Express"), is concealed underneath a tarp in the back. Caverly gives Natalie a lift to town.
Tim masquerades as the villainous Tim Toomey so he can infiltrate Kincaid's gang. In Shiloh, Kincaid's men welcome them with drawn six-guns, but Tim and Henry turn the tables on them. While Tim and he are holding them at gunpoint, Henry observes that his finger twitches when his nose itches. Eventually, Tim enters Kincaid's hideout and informs Kincaid's boss, Ted Dawson (Walter Miller of "Street Scene"), about another aircraft transporting currency flying from New York City. Our hero discovers that Dawson and company have kidnapped Professor Brent and hold him hostage in a radium mine. Dawson has forced the scientist to use his electrical ray to shut down aircraft engines so they will crash. This idea was put to later use in the British spy thriller "Clouds Over Europe" several years later.
Meantime, Kincaid is surprised when Charlie returns to the gang. Everybody thought Charlie was dead. Now, Dawson grows suspicious about Toomey, because Charlie says the G-men arrested Toomey in Los Angeles. Our intrepid hero prevents Dawson from looting the next plane, but Professor Brent is wounded when he refuses to bow to Dawson's demands. Everything concludes on a happy ending with our hero rounding up the villains and getting hitched to Natalie. Altogether, "Ghost Patrol," which contains no ghosts, is a marginal effort with some sci-fi gadgetry. Newfield doesn't generate much in the way of suspense or mystery. The best thing about "Ghost Patrol" is that it runs about an hour in length. Nevertheless, Professor Brent's contraption that brings down aircraft foreshadowed it later use in "Clouds Over Europe" and the same device was modified to bring down space capsules in the James Bond thriller "You Only Live Twice."
I've seen quite a few B-series westerns in recent months--and several
starring Tim McCoy. Well, up until this film I liked the McCoy films
and assumed his films were all pretty good. Not so fast,
however,...after seeing "Ghost Patrol" I realized he COULD make a bad
film...a very bad film.
In his book "The 50 Worst Movies of All Time and How They Got to Be That Way", Harry Medved picks an obscure Gene Autry film as the worst B-series western. Well, I saw this film ("Twilight on the Rio Grande") and thing "Ghost Patrol" is a lot worse--and for many of the same reasons why Medved disliked the Autry film. Both were the oddest sort of westerns--ones set in modern times and featuring modern problems. In "Ghost Patrol", the cowboy McCoy investigates a ray gun that is able to knock down airplanes!! And, naturally, the government sends in a single dandy cowboy (in his prettiest cowboy clothes)---not an army of Secret Service men or soldiers!!! Who thought any of this made sense?! While there is more to the story than this, seeing airplanes, telephones, cars and death rays just make the story seem like a jumbled mess.
I think if the film had been rewritten without all the cowboy references and having McCoy wearing normal clothes when he investigated the plane crashes, the film might have been worth seeing. Or, conversely, if they'd just made a western, it might have been a decent film. But this amalgam was just a silly mess....and might just make your brain hurt! Bad acting and a limp plot didn't help any!
The previous year saw the "Phantom Empire" serial. Though it is all but
forgotten now, it had a profound effect on movies. It mixed cowboys,
radium, planes, scientists. It also had an underground civilization. In
short order, studios produced a slew of cowboy science fiction movies,
many with titles that copied "phantom" in some way. Most omitted the
This is one of them, and not particularly bad by the standards of the time. It ends with our cowboy hero and the presumably beautiful and plucky daughter of the just-saved scientist. She doesn't know who he is and says "can you give me your name," which he turns into a proposal.
I watched it only to see the effect of "Phantom." Otherwise, it isn't much of interest.
Ted's Evaluation -- 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.
Ghost Patrol (1936)
** (out of 4)
Airplanes begin falling from the sky so a Depertment of Justice worker (Tim McCoy) begins to investigate. Before long he uncovers a group of people using a death ray machine to bring the planes down.
GHOST PATROL often gets credited for being in the Western genre that mixes in horror elements. There aren't any ghosts on display and the film really isn't horror but it does fall into the science fiction field as the story itself is rather ambitious or at least a lot more interesting than you typical "C" Western from this era.
The film actually borrows heavily from the previous year's film AIR HAWKS from Columbia, which was about a mad scientist (Edward Van Sloan) using a ray to bring down planes. The setting here is obviously that of a Western but the story makes for a quick hour and there's no doubt that the story is interesting enough to keep you entertained.
McCoy certainly has no problem playing the hero and makes it look quite easy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Multi-talented Wyndham Gittens wrote some good scripts, but this is not one of them. Mind you, it does show promise here and there. We like the scene when our heroine positions herself on a rock and gives her face a thorough dusting, but after this wonderful introduction, she has little else of interest to say or do. The rest of the players also seem to be struggling to make something out of a movie that was so conspicuously filmed on the cheap. The introductory scenes with the plane are so obviously lensed against a process screen, they carry no weight at all. The good old process screen also comes into its own in other scenes including a long time-waster when our hero picks up our heroine in his wagon. Neither the director nor his producer make any attempts whatever to disguise these blatant meanwhile-back-in-the-studio or time-for-some-more-stock-footage effects. Oddly, Tim McCoy seems to be unfazed by all these cheap stunts. He just keeps on enunciating his lines, no matter how corny or overly fulsome they are. He also just goes on wearing his over-sized hat, although it too looks way out of place. The other players seem unperturbed by the whole ridiculous plot. Only Lloyd Ingraham has the grace to look more than a trifle embarrassed from time to time. But I must admit it's good to see Jimmy Burtis in a decent-sized role for once. The picture is almost worth seeing just for his clowning alone. And I strongly suspect that our director, his producer-brother and maybe other members of the behind-the-camera crew make up the numbers in the airplane-to-the-rescue at the climax. They all look surprisingly ill-at-ease and they sure don't act like extras from Central Casting. They don't look like G-men either, but that, as I say, is another story.
Tim McCoy is a government agent looking into how various mail planes
are being knocked out of the sky. Pretending to be an outlaw, he and
his buddy end up battling crooks with a spectacular ray that shorts out
This brief little western is an okay time killer. It would be better if it didn't have as many stretches of watching the planes falter in the air or guys riding horses. Its an odd mix of "now" and old west with radios, planes, and the typical western stuff so that it some who seems anachronistic. The acting is good, especially when it comes to Tim Mc Coy's hat which is so huge that it borders on parody (If most hats are ten gallon, this is 100). Actually the cast is pretty good since its packed with character actors from top to bottom.
If you run across I'd give it a shot on a slow night. If nothing else its a movie to pick apart for numerous continuity errors and weird shifts in logic.(for example- why do they keep flying over the same place when planes are always crashing there?)
And while you're at it see if you can make sense of the title when compared to the actual content of the film.
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