Chester Morris had a great run playing safecracker-turned-detective Boston Blackie for Columbia Pictures from 1941 to 1949.
For many of those years, Morris was also putting out films for Pine-Thomas Productions, which made "B" movies released by Paramount. Morris alternated making one or two Pine-Thomas movies for every Boston Blackie film. WRECKING CREW was one of Morris's early Pine-Thomas movies, released between BOSTON BLACKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD (1942) and AFTER MIDNIGHT WITH BOSTON BLACKIE (1943).
The Pine-Thomas films generally starred mix-and-match combinations of Morris, Richard Arlen, Jean Parker, and Nancy Kelly; in the case of WRECKING CREW, the stars are Morris, Arlen, and Parker.
Arlen plays Matt Carney, the head of a wrecking crew demolishing an old hotel. Morris is Duke, a wrecking ball expert. Matt and Duke wrangle over Peggy (Parker), a despondent woman Duke pulls out of the river and gets a job with the company. Peggy is strongly attracted to Duke, but feels she should commit to the more reliable Matt.
Morris and Parker are appealing, and the cast has some solid pros, including Esther Dale as the company owner and Joe Sawyer as a crew member. The movie is reasonably entertaining, but it's very clearly low-budget stuff.
WRECKING CREW is not a film for people who don't like heights -- even with obvious back projections, some of the scenes made me shudder. It's the perfect film to go on a double bill with STEEL AGAINST THE SKY (1941), a Warner Bros. programmer with Lloyd Nolan, Alexis Smith, and Craig Stevens. Modern-day OSHA inspectors would be horrified by the conditions depicted in both movies, as well as the devil-may-care attitudes of some of the workers.
Evelyn Brent plays the widow of a crew member (Alexander Granach) killed in an accident. Brent was a silent film star whose roles in the '30s and '40s ranged from appearing as William Powell's leading lady in HIGH PRESSURE (1942) to starring in Westerns with Kermit Maynard and Hopalong Cassidy to playing leads and supporting roles in a variety of "B" movies, as well as the Jack Holt serial HOLT OF THE SECRET SERVICE (1941).
WRECKING CREW was directed by Frank McDonald. It runs 72 minutes.
Like other Pine-Thomas Productions, WRECKING CREW fell into the public domain. It's available on DVD in a soft, fuzzy print with variable sound from Alpha Video. As a fan of Parker and especially Morris, I was glad to have the chance to see the film at all, but only those interested in the cast are likely to want to see the movie in this condition.
The DVD can be rented from ClassicFlix.
WRECKING CREW is also available on YouTube.
Previous Pine-Thomas films reviewed here are POWER DIVE (1941), which starred Arlen and Parker, NO HANDS ON THE CLOCK (1941) starring Morris and Parker, and DOUBLE EXPOSURE (1944), teaming Morris with Nancy Kelly.