Busses Roar is a slight propaganda film. It doesn’t fully commit to any of its subplots, not even the patriotism. With the exception of the establishing the villainous Japanese, German and the gangster at the opening and the flag-waving speech at the end, it’s not too heavy on it.
Most of the film’s almost an hour runtime takes place in a bus terminal. The gangster (Rex Williams, who isn’t any good, but isn’t as bad as the film’s worst) has to take a bus to deliver a bomb to some oil fields. There’s the whole range of bus passengers to put in danger, but the actual bus in crisis sequence is hurried. Director Lederman does a lot better establishing all the characters.
Most of that action is Julie Bishop trying to get someone to buy her a ticket. Her character is the smartest part of George Bilson and Anthony Coldeway’s script, just because they can introduce so many supporting cast members through her storyline.
Ignoring its overtly bigoted elements, the film has some decent performances and moments. For example, the storyline with newlyweds Harry Lewis and Elisabeth Fraser isn’t bad at all.
The most hilariously awful performance is probably Peter Whitney as the German spy.
Richard Travis gets top-billing–and is Bishop’s eventual love interest–and he manages to be both weak as a leading man, but somewhat likable.
Unfortunately the big action finale is ineptly and cheaply executed; the bus depot scenes look perfectly good.
Roar it doesn’t. More like gurgle.
Directed by D. Ross Lederman; screenplay by George Bilson and Anthony Coldeway, based on a story by Coldeway; director of photography, James Van Trees; edited by James Gibbon; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Richard Travis (Sergeant Ryan), Julie Bishop (Reba Richards), Charles Drake (Eddie Sloan), Eleanor Parker (Norma), Elisabeth Fraser (Betty), Richard Fraser (Dick Remick), Peter Whitney (Frederick Hoff), Frank Wilcox (Detective Quinn), Willie Best (Sunshine), Rex Williams (Jerry Silva), Harry Lewis (Danny), Bill Kennedy (The Moocher), George Meeker (Nick Stoddard), Vera Lewis (Mrs. Dipper), Harry C. Bradley (Henry Dipper), Lottie Williams (First Old Maid), Leah Baird (Second Old Maid) and Chester Gan (Yamanito).