Murder in the Clouds (1934) Poster

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Offbeat thriller concerning a blown up plane is a good way to spend an hour
dbborroughs9 October 2005
The plot of this film revolves around "3 Star" a show-offy pilot at an airport. 3 Star likes to drink and likes to gamble as well as show off. Even though he's been grounded because of his stunts, 3 Star is brought in to fly a very important scientist to deliver his new explosive to the government. 3 Star is waylaid before the flight and another pilot is substituted by the bad guys. When the plane explodes in mid air its a race to find the wreckage and the cylinder containing the explosive before the bad guys do.

This is a breezy 60 minutes thats more than likely to keep you interested to the end. Although the plot may sound clichéd the characters and their interactions are not. Every character is quirky, but in a non-clichéd sort of way. 3 Star's gambling is atypical Hollywood, I don't know when I ever saw a character who said that he had been locked up for two days for gambling. The romance is decidedly off center, though it is very real. There seems to be more going on than just witty repartee between Judy and 3 Star, and they seem to have a long history before the film started that you can feel (which is something I rarely sense even in better movies).

I liked this movie a great deal.Granted its not the best movie ever made, but as a breezy hour long thriller its worth taking the time out to try.
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Well-filmed aerobatic sequences
robinakaaly29 December 2010
The airline in the film flies Ford Trimotors. One in particular, an AT-4, is identified: NC5578. Full details of the history of this aircraft can be found in the Davis-Monthan Aviation Field Register. It was apparently exported to Ecuador in 1945; there is no further information after that.

Three Star flew a biplane, registration NC406N which would indicate it was a Travel Air D-4000. The company, founded in 1925, initially built a series of sporting and training open-cockpit biplanes, including the Model A, Model B, 2000, 3000 and 4000. It was forced into liquidation in 1929 and its assets were purchased by the Curtiss-Wright corporation, which continued to manufacture some of its designs.

The airline company's base is said to be Los Angeles, but it doesn't look like that today.

The main reasons for watching this film are the excellent flying and aerobatic sequences, and the extremely attractive Ann Dvorak who certainly knew how to act in this sort of film.
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A fun briskly paced B-film from the 30's
calvinnme15 May 2010
This is a 7 if compared with other hour-long B features of the day, not when compared with the A features of the same time period. There are plot holes big enough for ace pilot 3-star (Lyle Talbot) to fly his plane through, but that's OK, because the pace is brisk and the film is full of action. I won't list all of the questions that the characters - not to mention the screenplay writer - should have been asking, because I'd give too much away.

Suffice it to say that pilot Bob 'Three Star' Halsey gets himself grounded for hot-shotting in the air near the airport where he is based. His boss would love to fire him, but both the boss and Three Star know he's too good a pilot for him to lose him to another airline. Of course Halsey has a girl, Judy Wagner (Ann Dvorak), and Judy has a brother who is also a pilot based out of the airport. Up to now Judy has been having to share Bob with his love of the air, but along comes an espionage plot centering around an important invention needed by the military that is to be transported by the airline that soon changes everything.

There are some great aerial scenes here, and although the laws of reason - and sometimes physics as well as the limitations of human eyesight - are being violated left and right, it turns out to be fun although somewhat formulaic without being corny.
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A breezy little B-movie
MartinHafer22 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a rarity--a movie with Lyle Talbot where he is the leading man. While in A-pictures he was usually a supporting player, he did star in some lesser productions during the early years of his long career.

Talbot plays a man who is oddly nicknamed "Three Star" (why, I have no idea) and he's a hotshot young pilot working for a small airline. While he was supposed to transport government agents and a top scientist along with his recent invention, Talbot is unable to fly because he's beaten by a gang of ruffians. With another pilot at the helm, the ship is lost and it's feared the secret formula was either destroyed or stolen, so it's up to the intrepid Three Star to save the day.

In many ways, this film plays like a movie serial condensed into a short film. With plenty of action and some decent suspense, it's a pretty good time-passer and interesting due to its aerial scenes as well as fast-paced plot. Deep? Not exactly, but still fun nonetheless.
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Aero-Plane Action...
xerses1318 February 2013
Quicky 'B' picture (61") featuring now 2nd tier Stars of WARNER BROTHERS (W.B.). Lyle Talbot and Ann Dvorak were first rate Stars in the early days of the Sound-Era at the W.B. By 1934 they had fallen out of favor with Jack Warner, head of production at the Studio. Mr. Talbot because of his involvement with the Actors Labor movement. Ms. Dvorak because She felt over-used in trite material, complained too much and would not play casting-couch politics.

MURDER IN THE CLOUDS (1934) is another of those Aerial Adventures all the studios cranked out, with RKO leading the pack. This time a new 'secret explosive' must be shipped by air too our Government. What is needed is crack pilot 'Three-Star' Lyle Talbot. '3'Star is waylaid by enemy agents, the explosive stolen and Judy Wagner's (Dvorak) Brother is killed along with the Government Agents. Have no fear, with the help of Wings Mahoney (George Cooper) taking time off from 'comedy relief' both the explosive and Judy are rescued. The Villains meeting their just rewards.

Talbot's '3'Star is the typical overbearing ASS that was passed off as a 'hero' in that era. All of his irresponsible actions are forgotten and glossed over in the last reel. Dvorak only needs to look good and hit her mark, which She has no problem in doing. The Villains, Gordon 'Weasel' Westcott and ever dependable Russell Hicks are particularly ruthless. The murder of the Agents and Judy's Brother is merciless and as cold-blooded as you can imagine, told in flash-back. The film shows up on TCM and can be picked up either through or at your local flee-market. Where I got my copy.
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Awesome WB Aviation Action B Film!
verbusen27 March 2018
I caught this on Turner Classic Movies USA, I think they ran it on a Saturday like a matinee. I really enjoyed it from the action WB type logo reminded me of the Looney Tunes WB intro from the same time as well as their Westerns! From the first scene you realize that although this is a shorter "B" film, it is not a poverty row film such as from a Monograph studio with cartoon pictures or painted city-scape title cards, this is using really cool real planes from the 1930s straight from the intro. For that reason alone plane buffs should really like this film as it takes you inside a Ford Tri-Motor and there are some great shots of late 1920s Travel Air Speedwings biplanes that really dance in the air! Those biplanes were the same models used in the legendary films Wings, and The Dawn Patrol! Trivia, the plane on the boss's desk is the next generation of passenger planes, I am guessing a Boeing 247 which looks a lot more modern than the Fords used in the film. Fans of Lyle Talbot from his days with low budget sci-fi like Plan 9 From Outer Space will be surprised, I thought he was really entertaining in a lead role here. Ann Dvorak is also a good leading lady even though this is a B film, so I can't see why people would hate this so much unless they are not old film fans. No stereotype black characters (like in a lot of B films) also helps the film maintain interest in the present day. According to it's Wikipedia page the aerial shots were done by aviation film cameraman pioneer Elmer Dyer and you can tell they are different than the standard models used in many B films back then. The wiki page also said footage from this film was spliced and used in two other films (so it must be decent). All in all, it was a great watch, I even liked the comic relief! As B movies from the 1930s go, I rate Murder in the Clouds an excellent 8 of 10.
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Well made or poorly scripted?
JohnHowardReid17 August 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Director: D. ROSS LEDERMAN. Story and screenplay: Roy Chanslor, Dore Schary. Photography: Warren Lynch. Aerial photography: Elmer Dyer. Film editor: Thomas Pratt. Art director: Jack Holden. Costumes: Orry- Kelly. Music played by The Vitaphone Orchestra, conducted by Leo F. Forbstein. Associate producer: Sam Bischoff.

Copyright 3 December 1934 by First National Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Rialto: 25 December 1934. Australian release: 25 February 1935. 7 reels. 61 minutes.

SYNOPSIS: An aviator and his girl friend battle spies who have sabotaged a plane carrying a new type of explosive.

COMMENT: Not a murder mystery, but a straight thriller, routinely if competently directed. However, it's unusual to find a little "B" picture decked out with such impressive aerial photography. And not stock shots either. All the aerial footage was obviously shot especially for this production.

Unfortunately, "Murder in the Clouds" is far less stunning on the ground than in the air. Not that the players don't try their damnedest to make it all succeed. The problems all lie in the script. It's such a wearily routine, totally tinpot affair, that it's very hard to believe that famous writers of the caliber of either Roy Chanslor (Final Edition, Front Page Woman, Johnny Guitar, Cat Ballou) or Dore Schary (Boys Town, Act One) had any hands whatever in its composition. Maybe they were just kidding around and assumed that the movie would be played for laughs rather than thrills!
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Great aviation sequences save twisted plot.
mark.waltz22 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This slightly boring espionage thriller is short on both length and thrills but saved by several flying sequences where the murder of a scientist on his way to Washington D.C. is shown in flashback and later a chase sequence involving the good guys and the villains. The plot is as twisted as crash wreckage and the performance by leading hero Lyle Talbot so ineffectual that you long for either James Cagney or even George Brent in the lead. The unique looking Ann Dvorak is both feisty and sweet as the stewardess heroine girlfriend, but the lack of chemistry between the two is obvious. With the technical achievements overwhelming the acting and the script, I have to mark this as a disappointment.
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Snappy Little Aerial Stunt Caper
zardoz-1312 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Spectacular aerial flying sequences shot by aerial lenser Elmer Dyer distinguish "Tarzan's Revenge" director D. Ross Lederman's criminal conspiracy caper "Murder in the Clouds," a Warner Brothers' B-movie toplining Lyle Talbot and Ann Dvorak. Clocking in at 61 nimble minutes, "Murder in the Clouds" will keep you entertained from fade-in to fadeout. Talbot is cast as blustery "Top Gun" type pilot 'Three Star' Bob Halsey who loves to perform daredevil aerial maneuvers that alarm his desk-bound boss at Trans-America Lines, Lackey (Charles Wilson of "Satan Met a Lady"), but who cannot fire him because he is such an impressive aviator. These reckless stunts worry Halsey's stewardess girlfriend Judy Wagner (Ann Dvorak of "Scarface") who keeps putting off marriage. Lederman and scenarists Dore Schary (later a top executive at MGM who championed social consciousness in films like "Bad Day at Black Rock"), and novelist Roy Chanslor, best known for his western novels "The Ballad of Cat Ballou" and "Johnny Guitar," focus on a case of industrial espionage. A scientist, Clement Williams (Edward McWade of "Arsenic and Old Lace"), has created a new kind of explosive, and a U.S. Government official, Brownell (Henry O'Neill of "), requests that Lackey furnish transportation for Williams to Washington on what Brownell stresses is a top-secret mission. What Lackey doesn't know is that office worker Jason (Arthur Pierson) informs the chief villain Taggart (Russell Hicks) about the flight. Naturally, Lackey assigns 'Three Star' to fly Brownell to Washington, while a group of unscrupulous villains led by urban Taggart want to get their hands on it, too. Taggart sends an accomplice to a local bar where 'Three Star' loves to get drunk. This time our pompous hero claims that he will only be drinking cream soda. Instead, 'Three Star' gets suckered into a bar brawl, and George Wexley (Gordon Westcott) volunteers to take over the flight without anybody warning Lackey about the change in pilots. Writing any more about the sophisticated set-up that enables Wexley to put the secret formula in Taggart's hands would spoil this snappy, fast-paced effort. "Murder in the Clouds" is a lot of fun.
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B movie
blanche-220 July 2010
A Mickey Finn saves Lyle Talbot from "Murder in the Clouds" in this 1934 B movie from Warner Brothers. Talbot plays a daring pilot named 3-Star, who is capable of great stunts in the air. His boss chooses him to transport a secret weapon; but the situation is manipulated so that his harmless drink is spiked, and two other men go up in his place, one of whom is the brother of his girlfriend (Ann Dvorak).

Not very realistic but some really fun aerial scenes and a good cast. The film moves quickly and isn't overly long. I remember Lyle Talbot from his TV days when I was growing up, and I love seeing him in these early films. He lived to be 94 years old, which is pretty impressive. A long and prolific career.

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Poor Action
Michael_Elliott27 February 2008
Murder in the Clouds (1934)

* 1/2 (out of 4)

Bob "Three Star" Halsey (Lyle Talbot) is suspended due to his dangerous stunts as a pilot but he's given a second chance when the government needs to transport a scientist carrying explosive material. Three Star gets jumped in a bar so that he misses the flight and the bad guys blow the plane up in order to get the material. This film has some of the biggest plot holes I've ever seen but the screenplay tries to explain them, which leads to one of the dumbest stories ever. There's one terrific bar fight but that's about all this film has going for it as Talbot is pretty poor here as is the supporting players.
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