In Nazi Germany in 1936 seven men escape from a concentration camp. The camp commander puts up seven crosses and, as the Gestapo returns each escapee he is put to death on a cross. The ... See full summary »
1939's "Captain Fury" is an undeservedly obscure venture behind the camera for longtime comedy producer Hal Roach, whose few non-Laurel and Hardy features include the famous "One Million B. C." This earlier effort, like "Of Mice and Men" from United Artists, brings together a spirited cast in a lighthearted adventure set in 1840s Australia, where the British banished many prisoners to spend the rest of their days in hard labor. Brian Aherne stars as Captain Michael Fury, among 300 new arrivals set to work the station of evil landowner Arnold Trist (George Zucco), in possession of many whip wielding guards to keep the prisoners in line. During a fracas involving light fingered tough Blackie (Victor McLaglen), Fury makes his escape, and becomes the happy captive of pretty Jeanette Dupre (June Lang), until overhearing Trist's henchmen threatening all the valley settlers to give up their homes or face dire consequences. Convincing the frightened townspeople to give him the chance to fight on their behalf, Fury orchestrates a jailbreak for several comrades, who spend the rest of the film making things difficult for the bad guys. While George Zucco (wearing a black toupee) is as evil as the part warrants, virtually all his henchmen are played for laughs, even Douglass Dumbrille and Charles Middleton (the latter does come to a surprisingly bad end however). Difficult to spot among the many convicts are plug uglies Rondo Hatton and Harry Wilson, while perennial Hal Roach favorite Charlie Hall can be seen as a gossiping townsman (pretty daughter Margaret Roach does well in a rare featured role). Best of all is legendary scene stealer John Carradine, given free reign to shine as one of the good guys, Roger Bradford, whose persistent cough (earning him the nickname 'Coughy') marks him as a terminal case right from the start. Having the time of his life cast against type, Carradine also surprisingly makes it all the way to the end, adding to the exuberant sense of fun by doing a running commentary on the beauties of life, kicking, pummeling, and generally distracting the villains until the final showdown opposite Zucco. In a busy year that included well remembered turns in "Stagecoach," "Jesse James," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," "Five Came Back," "Frontier Marshal," and "Drums Along the Mohawk," this must rank as one of John Carradine's very finest (and least appreciated) film roles.
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