Needs 5 Ratings

Send 'em Back Half Dead (1933)

| Comedy


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Cast overview:
Nelson Keys ...
Hank Ruck
Polly Luce ...
Marie Ruck
Kenneth Kove ...
Roland Peabody
Andreas Malandrinos ...
Jack Harris


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1.37 : 1
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After that title, it's all downhill...
13 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

The title of this movie isn't very funny, but it's funnier than anything in the movie itself. "Send 'em Back Half Dead" is meant to be a parody of "Bring 'em Back Alive", the memoirs of Frank Buck. Originally from Texas, Buck spent most of the period from the 1920s until World War Two travelling to exotic locations, where he trapped wild animals (usually ferocious ones) which he then transported back to Europe and America and sold to menageries, circuses and zoos. He starred in a couple of movies, operated a wild-animal exhibit at the 1939 World's Fair (which he relocated afterwards to Massapequa, NY) and he worked as an animal wrangler in Hollywood. An amazing man, whose life ought to provide the basis for a fascinating movie.

This movie isn't it. "Send 'em Back Half Dead" is a lame comedy short, featuring an animal trapper named Hank Ruck (instead of Frank Buck, geddit?). Ruck is assisted (if that's the right word) by his dumb but pretty wife Marie. Here the movie seems to be parodying not Frank Buck but Martin Johnson, a filmmaker who explored Africa with his attractive wife Osa along for the trip.

This movie is a 'quota quickie', made on an incredibly tiny budget. I really have to wonder why the filmmakers decided to make a movie about a big-game hunter: even as a parody, that subject is inappropriate for a low-budget film. We see a couple of stock shots of wild animals, badly intercut between shots of the actors reacting to something off-camera. We're supposed to believe that the actors and the wild animals are together, but they obviously aren't. Also, several scenes depicting the windswept plains of the African veldt look like they were shot indoors on a dodgy soundstage in Elstree.

There are bad performances all round, but (by default) the least inept performances are given by Ben Welden and Andreas Malandrinos as a couple of oily Levantines. Welden was an American character actor who started his film career in England before moving to Hollywood, where he became the only actor ever to kill Elia Kazan onscreen (in 'City for Conquest'). Malandrinos had a long career in British films as a character actor, but I'll bet he left this rubbish off his list of credits. I'll rate this terrible movie one point out of 10.

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