Thursday, May 11, 2017

Gee Whiz, Flying is DANGEROUS!

Read/Watch 'em In Order #80

Nick Carter pre-dates Sherlock Holmes by 2 years, first appearing in the dime novel The New York Weekly in 1886. His career as a private eye was incredibly successful, with over 1000 dime novel appearances, followed by pulp magazine stories, an 11-year run on radio and over 100 appearances in comic books. In the 1960s, he was reinvented as a James Bond-esque clone in a men's adventure paperback series.

So it's a little surprising that Nick's foray into B-movies lasted only three films made in 1939 and 1940.

Walter Pidgeon plays a laid-back but capable Nick in all three films. The first was Nick Carter, Master Detective, In this one, spies are somehow making off with blueprints out of a high-security airplane factory. Every worker in the factor is required to change clothes when they go in, they walk through a shower-bath before getting their original clothes back at the end of their shift. So how anyone gets blueprints out is baffling.

Nick makes no claims to have a talent for deductive reasoning. His methodology is pretty much suspect everyone, then apologize afterwards to whomever he was wrong about. But he is a keen observer and soon spots the probably method the enemy spies are using to sneak information out of the factory.

Along the way, Nick meets a strange little beekeeper named Bartholomew (Donald Meek), who fancies himself a great detective, jumping wildly between being in the way and being useful. Meek obviously have fun in this role and would end up fulfilling the role of comedic sidekick throughout the series.

The fun of the movie is highlighted by action set-pieces involving airplanes. There's an attempt to
steal plans from an airplane when the pilot fakes engine trouble as an excuse to land near a car-full of armed confederates. But Nick is on board and, with the help of the aforementioned nurse (who flies well enough to take over for the traitorous pilot), manages to fight off the bad guys long enough to make a getaway with the plans.

The climax is even more fun. Director Jacques Tourneur makes effective use of aerial photography and miniatures to give us an exciting sequence in which Nick, in a small plane and armed with a tommy gun, makes strafing runs on the cargo ship in which the enemy spies are escaping with stolen plans and a hostage.

Nick wraps up the case involving planes, but it won't be long before he's on a case involving sunken ships. We'll take a look at those soon.

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