Leigh Harline

The Brighton Strangler (1945, Max Nosseck)

While a lot of The Brighton Strangler meanders, there are some rather effective moments in the film. It's a B picture, with John Loder as an actor suffering from amnesia who imagines himself his latest role–a murderer. The film's set in London, with blackouts and air raids–not to mention service people–all part of the setting and story.

Loder has a difficult part; he needs to be both menacing and sympathetic. Unfortunately, the film doesn't really want to deal with the question of responsibility and hurries through the third act to get the film to a nicely tied conclusion. Also unfortunately… this nicely tied conclusion ties to the inept opening. So the film opens and closes on its weakest points.

The middle section of the film has amnesiac Loder inserting himself into servicewoman June Duprez's life, with only her beau–an earnest but bland Michael St. Angel–suspecting.

Director Nosseck occasionally does wonders even on the low budget. The entire London bombing sequence is phenomenal and clearly the most expensive thing in the film. Except it's only a few minutes and the film really could have used some expense during Loder's vacation in Brighton. He goes from hotel to house to street–the street scenes aren't terrible, but Nosseck doesn't use establishing shots; there's no sense of scale.

Duprez is appealing, Miles Mander and Gilbert Emery are both good in small parts. Loder goes overboard, but it's the script. It doesn't know how to handle him.

Strangler's occasionally boring, but it's got its moments.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Max Nosseck; written by Nosseck, Arnold Phillips and Hugh Gray; director of photography, J. Roy Hunt; edited by Les Millbrook; music by Leigh Harline; produced by Herman Schlom; released by RKO Radio Pictures.

Starring John Loder (Reginald Parker), June Duprez (April Manby Carson), Michael St. Angel (Lt. Bob Carson), Miles Mander (Chief Inspector W.R. Allison), Rose Hobart (Dorothy Kent), Gilbert Emery (Dr. Manby), Rex Evans (Leslie Shelton), Matthew Boulton (Inspector Graham), Olaf Hytten (Banks, the valet), Lydia Bilbrook (Mrs. Manby) and Ian Wolfe (Lord Mayor Herman Brandon R. Clive).


Blondie (1938, Frank R. Strayer)

When I was in middle school, I read most of the comic strips in the newspaper, Blondie being one of them. I remember seeing, in the TV listings around the same time (probably a little later), some station running a bunch of Blondie movies at five o’clock in the morning. I missed taping them, but they’ve since shown up on DVD (some of them–I guess the series has twenty-seven entries). This first film, which I wasn’t expecting much from, is actually fairly good. There are a number of problems, the most damaging being the kid. First–as a relatively modern reader of the Blondie strip, I wasn’t aware of its classical content–is the name: Baby Dumpling. I’m not sure I ever got over it, but the silliness dulled as the movie went on. However, the kid playing the kid, Larry Simms, comes off like a little shithead, not an adorable troublemaker.

The film’s at its best when it’s out of the house and doing comic strip-sized gags. There are a number of three panel gags in the film–until the last act, most of the film is these gags, actually–and they work well for the most part. When in the house, Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake are less successful together then they are alone. For whatever reason, doing the comic strip gags doesn’t work with the two of them. When the film’s acting like its own animal, they’re all right. Lake isn’t particularly good, though he’s a decent physical comedy actor (which is why the scenes with him alone work better) and Singleton ranges in quality too, best when she’s putting up with him, which is the Blondie character’s defining trait. The film’s best scene is a quiet one, when they both check in on the baby. Watching the film, even today, one is participating in the concept–the adaptation of the Blondie comic strip, which has its own set of rules, rules a regular film does not have–and the baby checking scene really breaks free of the concept. It gives the characters real character, as opposed to the two dimensional adaptation.

The best performance in the film is Gene Lockhart, who plays a captain of industry obsessed with tinkering. In a film with so many mediocre performances, Lockhart immediately stands out as giving an excellent performance. I kept waiting for him to come back around.

As for the writing and directing… well, the writing’s all right. It’s certainly not as innocuous as I expected and I did laugh a few times. The director, Frank R. Strayer, is adequate. He’s better outside than in, but the film doesn’t offer many of those opportunities.

I wasn’t expecting much from Blondie (in fact, I was expecting to turn it off), but it’s a nice enough way to spend seventy minutes.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Frank R. Strayer; screenplay by Richard Flournoy, based on the comic strip by Chic Young; director of photography, Henry Freulich; edited by Gene Havlick; music by Leigh Harline and Ben Oakland; produced by Frank Sparks and Robert Sparks; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Penny Singleton (Blondie), Arthur Lake (Dagwood Bumstead), Larry Simms (Baby Dumpling), Gene Lockhart (C.P. Hazlip), Ann Doran (Elsie Hazlip) and Jonathan Hale (J.C. Dithers).


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