Thursday, January 4, 2018

Crime on a Clipper

Gee whiz, I really want to recommend 1941's Desperate Cargo, because there were aspects to it I enjoyed enormously and it was a pleasant way to spend 62 minutes (IMDB lists it as 67 minutes, but I think that's because it's in the public domain and the surviving prints have some awkward jumps where a few moments are obviously missing.)

But it does have a flaw. It spends the first 40 minutes or so as what is essentially a romantic comedy. Ralph Byrd plays Tony Bronson, who is the new purser aboard a clipper plane that's about to fly from South America to Miami. Ann Howard plays Julie Duncan, half of a two-girl vaudeville act which can't afford a ticket on the clipper to get home. The two fall in love, but shenanigans ensue that get them mad at each other, with Tony convinced Julie was just using him to get free tickets on the plane.

In the meantime, a former pilot named Carter (played by Stanford Jolly) is planning on hijacking the plane and stealing a valuable cargo. Jolley was a perennial villain in Westerns, but plays a more modern crook with equal effectiveness.

Anyway, Byrd and the rest of the cast are likable and reasonably witty, so the first part of the film is reasonably entertaining as long as you remain patient while you wait for it to turn into the crime drama that the poster and title promise it will be.

That part is pretty good. The film essentially becomes a hostage drama with an interesting setting. I suspect that the interior of a clipper isn't presented with the least realism--I think that real clippers have less in the way of private cabins and more regular seating to accommodate more passengers than the half-dozen we see in the film. But the setting is a neat one, giving a mildly claustrophobic feel that adds to the tension.

Tony tries to come up with a plan to retake the ship after the crooks take over, but Julie is more proactive with an attempt to lay a Honey Trap on a bad guy who thinks she's pretty hot. To be fair to the bad guy, she is pretty nice to gaze upon. In the end, though, it's Tony who has to come up with a last-minute desperate plan to catch the crooks before they get to their destination and decide they don't want to leave any witnesses behind.

So Desperate Cargo boils down to about half-romantic comedy and half-crime drama. Even though I think the comedy part goes on too long, I did enjoy both halves, so I recommend the film with the proviso that you can't track me down and beat me up if you watch it and then feel that you've wasted 62 minutes of your life.

Here is is on YouTube, though if you have Amazon Prime, they have a print that is slightly better in quality.

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