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Nick Carter, Master Detective was the first of the two movies about a
very popular fiction detective Nick Carter, which were directed by Jacques
Tourneur for MGM, the other one being 1940 Phantom Raiders.
Nick Carter was created in 1886 and since the times of silent cinema had several times been chosen as a protagonist of various films made in France and United States prior to this 1939 Jacques Tourneur version. This time Nick Carter is played by Walter Pigeon in his first starring role. He is chosen to conduct an investigation in the case of industrial espionage on one of the American factories that manufactures warplanes. The film quite memorable especially because of the very remarkable plane chase sequence at the end and because of the comic relief given by Bartholomew, the Bee-man, wonderfully played by Donald Meek, a Nick Carter's partner in investigation who always appears when less expected to give help or to free a number of bees.
Overall Nick Carter, Master Detective is a quite pleasant 1930s B detective film, with its memorable moments, worth to take a look at. 6/10
I totally disagree with the IMDb reviewer who panned this film. Walter Pigeon is just right as the master detective, Nick Carter. He made two more superior Nick Carter B films after this one, but then was on his way to becoming a big Hollywood star. The producers decided to can the series rather than find a suitable replacement. And the Bee man is one of the great movie characters. Donald Meek was a wonderful character actor who could play many roles and this is one of his best. He is a good comic foil for the great detective. The masterful Jacques Tourneur directs with a knowing eye. He knows exactly how to give the audience chills, excitement and mystery in an hour time slot. It was a stroke of genius for the writers to put the bee man in the Nick Carter movies. He is one of the reasons I like to watch the Nick Carter movies more than once.
This B movie was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who went on to direct
one of my favorite films, Cat People. It also has handsome Walter
Pidgeon in an early starring role. This is a 1939 film about sabotage
at an aircraft plant that Carter is called in to investigate. There are
many airplane sequences, lots of fog, and everyone looks suspicious.
Donald Meek is on hand as loony Bartholemew, the bee man, providing the
It's fun to see people who, 15-20 years later, would be TV names: Frank Faylen of "Dobie Gillis," Milburn Stone of "Gunsmoke," Sterling Holloway, he of the unusual voice, of just about every TV show, who was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh. Henry Hull, who plays the old man in this and sported white hair, was 49 when this film was made. I took the trouble to look it up because in the 60s he was at least 150 years old. No, just in his 70s, one of those people who played old man all his life, I guess.
This is a fun movie, with its old-fashioned and poorly done process shots, a very handsome Pidgeon, and some character actors from my youth.
Very Entertaining-----Walter Pigeon was charming as the lead and Rita Johnson was excellent as his leading lady. The plot is a bit sophomoric, but the leads make this an A film. Although some of the humor is lost with the beeman, the movie is rather fast paced, albeit short-length with a rather abrupt ending. The special effects are rather good for that time, and the line, " If I am wrong, I will apologize" serves as a great tagline for Pigeon's Carter. Ultimately you watch a film like this for the chemistry of its two main stars, and this film delivers. Walter Pigeon and Rita Johnson are no William Powell and Myrna Loy, but they are perfectly matched for each other and cover some of the plot holes amicably. This is a great movie to see on AMC or TNT one late night.
A rather good looking B-Movie that has that MGM sheen. One of the
earliest Pulp Detectives, Nick Carter on screen turned out to be a
rather ho-hum, if pleasant presence, although the surroundings in this
film, especially the visuals, are quite impressive.
It is an interesting pre-war (but gearing up for war) entry that is heavy on parading the growing aircraft industry and "new" weapon mythological propaganda. Although Hitler was on the move at this time, America's entry in the WWII was still two years away. But, you would never know it from this movie. The villains have German accents and names like Otto.
There is some creative editing and some fine aerial work. Also, a bizarre scene of Carter using a tommy-gun while zipping around in an open cockpit that looks straight out of a Pulp Magazine cover.
Overall it is a thrilling one hour ride that is either aided or distracted (depending on your taste) by some silly Bee-Movie comedy relief.
MGM in buying the rights to the Nick Carter stories and then making
three films with the character just shows the twist of fate in some
Walter Pidgeon was one of their second magnitude stars at that time. B picture leads and occasionally in an A film where he always lost the girl.
Louis B. Mayer must have thought a whole slew of these would have been made for Pidgeon and he would have become identified as Nick Carter on screen. But he managed to get some decent films, two back to back Best Pictures, How Green Was My Valley and Mrs. Miniver and a lifetime partnership with Greer Garson. He escaped movie oblivion then.
It's a competently executed film, but I have to agree with previous reviewers. Donald Meek as the bee man looked like he just took his zany character from You Can't Take It With You and it just didn't fit in this fast paced detective story. The film itself is barely an hour. Meek distracts from the plot. Too bad because Donald Meek is usually a fine performer.
I much prefer Walter Pidgeon as the Reverend Mr. Gruffydd or Clem Miniver or even Dr. Morbius. Good thing he escaped Nick Carter.
Walter Pidgeon is cast as detective Nick Carter, whose mission is to
find out who is behind plans to steal blueprints for the enemy in this
pre-WWII yarn. Rita Johnson is teamed nicely as leading lady. Her
presence is so welcome that it's a wonder she never had a bigger career
With a supporting cast that includes Frank Faylen, Henry Hull, Donald Meek and Stanley Ridges, it's a neat programmer that crams a lot of plot into a one hour time slot. The only sore spot is Donald Meek in his bumbling role as a bee-keeper who aids Carter. Usually a very reliable character actor, this time his role is so unlikeable, unlikely and annoying that it's more of a distraction than a help. Whatever humor is supposed to be gathered by his involvement in the plot, never quite makes its mark.
But in its brief running time, this one passes the time pleasantly enough with the handsome Pidgeon marking his time at MGM before he became a big star.
Tourneur's first feature was basically a B-movie, albeit made for
slick-but-superficial MGM; at a mere 60 minutes, it is eminently
watchable and, given the film's modest reputation, it proves
surprisingly enjoyable. Watched after the same director's CIRCLE OF
DANGER (1951) and the somewhat similar ROUGH SHOOT (1953), this
provides yet another connection to Fritz Lang's MAN HUNT (1941) in
leading man Walter Pidgeon.
The central figure was a popular crime-fighter in print, debuting in 1886 and reportedly involved in over a 1,000 cases before transferring to a 12-year stint on the radio between 1943-55. However, only 3 films were ever made and, bafflingly, they all turned out to be based on original scripts (since such characters' exploits were, in any case, being updated to the prevalent wartime aura for instance, the contemporaneous Sherlock Holmes series); incidentally, I just found out that the second one, PHANTOM RAIDERS (1940), was also directed by Tourneur! Anyway, the narrative here involves secret aviation plans being leaked to the enemy that climaxes in a far-fetched chase sequence involving a plane and a speeding boat.
Apart from leading lady Rita Johnson, the rather-too-jovial star is ably supported here by the likes of Henry Hull (already playing eccentric old types!), Stanley Ridges (type-cast as a villain), Martin Kosleck (ditto) and Donald Meek. The latter's hilarious characterization, of an improbably zany private eye, seems to have dropped in from another movie altogether: keeping bees as a hobby but constantly getting into the hero's hair, he even ends up deposited in the trash-can!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a cast list as long as your arm, there's no denying that M-G-M's high-budget, introductory "B" casebook of Nick Carter, private detective, is either a movie you love or one you will hate. The reason for this gulf between admirers and detractors is a little actor with ultra-fussy mannerisms (topped by a penetrating voice) named Donald Meek. In fact, Meek was so popular with moviegoers that his Bee Man became a continuing character in both the sequel, Phantom Raiders and the third and final entry, Sky Murder. All three of course starred Walter Pidgeon as New York detective, Nick Carter. In this first entry, Nick is engaged to ferret out spies at an airplane factory and highly ingenious are the methods in which spies manage to steal plans and specifications. But in addition to the spies and the Bee Man, the movie also manages to cram in a lovely if slightly suspicious heroine played here by the ultra-beautiful Rita Johnson. The support cast is full of familiar faces including Addison Richards, Henry Hull, Martin Kosleck, Frank Faylen and Sterling Holloway. And the director was none other than Jacques Tourneur, here making his second feature after graduating from M-G-M's shorts department (to which he returned briefly in 1942 and 1944). His best film, in my opinion, was Stars in My Crown (1950) though most people would select Cat People (1942) or I Walked with a Zombie (1943) or Out of the Past (1947). He was most surprised and pleased when I told him that Stars in My Crown was my favorite. It turned out that Stars was his favorite too. "And it was a movie the studio had no faith in!" he told me. And yet that's what Stars was all about! Faith!
Walter Pidgeon is breezy, clever and tough as master detective Nick
Carter in this spies-in-the-airplane-factory adventure that contains
plenty of laughs and a couple of good action scenes.
An exciting opening sequence features a pilot setting down his plane in the middle of the desert, snatching up some valuable plans, and dashing off on foot to meet his waiting cohorts. Passenger Nick Carteron the plane incognitoraces after him, rescues the plans and jumps back on the ship as the flight nurse starts up the plane and flies it away to safety. It's all pretty far-fetched but it's well staged and the actors give it plenty of zip.
Rita Johnson is fine as flight attendant, nurse, sometime pilot and possible spy named Lou. Unfortunately, her character isn't given quite enough to do after the daring plane ride, but she and Pidgeon are good together, their characters initially suspicious but eventually rather fond of each other.
Donald Meek is bizarre but irrepressible as an amateur detective who calls himself "Bartholomew the B Man." He keeps bees in his hat and follows Carter around offering theories and advice. The two exchange standard but likable enough B movie dialog: "What made you say murder?" "Because it looks like suicide."
A decent plot moves along brisklybad guys are smuggling out top secret airplane plansbut it's really the stars who hold our interest. Walter Pidgeon is actually a lot of fun: "If I'm wrong, I'll apologize," he smirks whenever proposing a new theory.
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