|Index||7 reviews in total|
Director William Berke knew how to deliver the goods in low-budget action films, crime films, westerns, and Jungle Jim vehicles. A fast-moving plot, a colorful and enthusiastic cast of veterans, interesting camera angles to cover what can't afford to be shot, clever little details to the characterizations and situations that make them seem realistic, and (mostly--not in the most hard-boiled films)a light touch to make the whole thing go down more smoothly (see my review of his 1935 David Sharpe short WILD WATERS). Looking at Mr. Berke's filmography, I've seen over 30 of his films and I've enjoyed every one of them! During his period working for Lippert Pictures, he made some excellent westerns and some fine detective-crime films with Hugh Beaumont (the Denny O'Brien series) and others (see my review of FBI GIRL, with Cesar Romero).This film stars the reliable and amiable Robert Lowery as a fire investigator who goes undercover to break the arson/insurance fraud ring led by Douglas Fowley, who is in great sneering form. In one scene, Berke has a low angle shot of Fowley barking orders to someone, and I thought to myself, "this is the model b-movie! These people KNOW what they are doing!" The fine cast also includes former Universal star Anne Gwynne as a schoolteacher who is moonlighting as a babysitter, and who becomes friends with Lowery. In the scene where they meet, Gwynne is grading papers on the dining room table while babysitting, and when Lowery chats her up and mentions that he did well in history class in school, she throws half of her pile of ungraded papers on the table in front of him and says "work on these!" Little touches like that make this film special. Marcia Mae Jones does a convincing job as Fowley's secretary, someone who is lonely and who is attracted to her boss while knowing what a sleaze he is, but Fowley knows she likes him and takes advantage of that fact. It's a dysfunctional relationship and it's played out very accurately. Once again, the kind of detail that makes this film special. Jones' facial expressions in the final scene in the car with Fowley are quite convincing also. There's a lot of action, and even though no viewer for a moment has any doubt how things will turn out at the end, the filmmakers manage to make it all seem fresh as it is happening, and by distinctive character touches and particulars in the script (the seedy backroom gambling den, for instance) they get us involved in a story that is so "Classic" in its details that the cynic could call it cliché-ridden. There are a number of b-movie gems hidden in the Lippert catalog waiting to be rediscovered. There's nothing noir about this film--Lowery is a hero, Fowley is the bad guy, and there's no grey area or corrupt world. It's just a well-done crime programmer that I pull out every few years and enjoy. Considering how many bad and pretentious films are playing right now on TV and in theaters, films like ARSON INC. are a breath of fresh air.
An eager young fireman played by Robert Lowery suspects arson in a
store fire and he's got good reason to think so. His suspicions are
confirmed and he gets a promotion to the arson investigation squad. The
job gets doubly dangerous when a previous arson investigator is killed
and his briefcase containing all his investigation notes go missing.
The trail leads to insurance investigator Douglas Fowley who has a sweet little kickback racket going about his insured clients kicking back money from their settlements to Fowley.
Fowley even supplies his own torch in the person of roly poly character actor Edward Brophy. Usually Brophy played good natured mugs in films and he starts out that way here. But he's far more dangerous than Lowery originally thinks.
In its short running time Arson, Inc. does deliver the entertainment goods. There's not a frame of film wasted and it's nicely edited, unusual for film from a poverty row studio like Lippert Pictures. Look also for a nice performance from Maud Eburne as the wise cracking grandma for Lowery's girlfriend Anne Gwynne.
But it's Brophy who really steals the show. It's a side of him rarely seen on screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director William Berke specialized in cheapo jungle adventures but he
worked in a variety of genres, churning out in 1949 alone 3 crime/noir
films, a Jungle Jim adventure with Johnny Weissmuller, another jungle
pic, and a western. Whew! It's amazing that this film is as good as it
is given the necessarily brief shooting schedule, budget and no-name
cast. Robert Lowery plays Joe Martin, a firefighter who in the opening
scenes is promoted to a position as an undercover investigator in the
arson department after he finds some suspicious evidence while fighting
a fire at a fur warehouse. Turns out there's an insurance scam in the
making, and Martin's investigation leads him both to a job with the
insurance company exec - really a mobster who takes over businesses
when the heat gets too tough for his clients - and a romance with a
babysitter who he meets while waiting for the first people in the chain
that will lead him to the mobster.
This is tautly and efficiently put together at 63 minutes and the acting is serviceable, though only character actor Edward Brophy as oily and garrulous henchman Pete, and Maude Eburne as the love interest's Grandma stand out. Nicely lit and shot by Carl Berger with some location work blending pretty well with the studio sets. Nothing to write home about but effective enough.
Very well shot with a good mix of angles, this is also pretty fast paced, but whilst it's interesting to see the fire services in action, this doesn't really go anywhere. The film is book-ended with very poorly delivered fire chief statements about how every has to do their best etc and whilst the main body of the film is better, the acting seems rather lacklustre. Robert Lowery just seems to coast along but Edward Brophy puts in a spirited characterful performance alongside him. Even Anne Gwynne outshines the lead even if she seems not to notice any of the danger or worry at all about what's going down. Maybe it's because she's had more terrifying jobs, like working with Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. Not a total waste of time but it would have to be a very rainy Sunday afternoon.
ARSON, INC. is a very low-budget film and its obvious for several
reasons. First, almost everyone in the film are unknowns other than
Eddie Brophy in a supporting role. Brophy was in the latter part of his
career and wasn't exactly a huge name, but at least he's a recognizable
actor. Second, occasionally the dialog and acting are very
poor--especially the prologue and epilogue by the fire chief. He had
the acting talent of a tomato and the dialog they had him read was
definitely the worst in the film.
As for the rest of the film, it's a reasonably interesting movie about an arson investigation. It seems that quite a few suspicious fires have occurred lately and it appears to be the work of organized crime. And, when people are killed, it's up to the hero to go undercover and learn who's responsible. Interesting and rather reminiscent of the film LOAN SHARK in plot--which is bundled on the same DVD as ARSON, INC..
By the way, the best aspect of the film was the comic relief by Maude Eburne (playing "Grandma"). She was exceptional and the few times she was in the film, it really brightened the whole thing up.
Overall, a decent little low-budget time-passer and that's about it.
A fireman goes undercover to catch a gang of professional arsonists.
I wish the movie had some memorable feature, something to distinguish it from other crime features of the period. But it doesn't. The undercover plot is borrowed from a hundred scarier crime dramas of the time. Lead actors Gwynne and Lowery are certainly capable performers, much better than the predictable material. Still, I wonder about Brophy (Pete). He's faintly comical, a colorful character right out of Damon Runyon. The trouble is he seems out of place in a serious movie like this. I guess it's left to the archly villainous Douglas Fowley to project needed menace. All in all, the movie's a Lippert production, which probably accounts for the various cost-cutters (cheap sets, absence of big fires to menace hero), plus a general lack of imagination. My advice is you've probably seen it before, so skip it, unless you're a fan of Lowery or Gwynne.
This is about a fireman who investigates an arson ring. The lead is played appealingly by Robert Lowery. It's very well cast: Anne Gwynne is the schoolteacher he falls for. Edward Brophy is both initially amusing and then intense as an arsonist. Maude Eburne is fun as Gwynne's saucy granny. And the second female lead -- this is not funny; it's scary -- gets smacked in the face by two of the characters. (She is played by the petulantly pretty Marcia Mae Jones.) Unknown programmers like this tend to be disappointing. "Arson, Inc." is the reverse: One comes to it with low expectations and it packs quite a wallop.
|Plot summary||Ratings||External reviews|
|Plot keywords||Main details||Your user reviews|
|Your vote history|