THE SAINT STRIKES BACK (1939) it was time to open another new DVD set received this week! This time it was Forgotten Noir & Crime: Vol. 4 from VCI Entertainment, an assortment of low-budget films with interesting casts. The actors in this nine-film collection include Dennis O’Keefe, Jane Nigh, Florence Rice, Reed Hadley, Myrna Dell, Don Castle, Steve Brodie, June Vincent, John Dehner, and Hugh Beaumont.
Due to time constraints I chose SKY LINER, which runs a mere 49 minutes. According to IMDb the film was originally 61 minutes; there was a slight continuity issue, as passengers were suddenly aware of a potential criminal on board, and I also suspect the backgrounds of some characters may have been whittled down, but otherwise the story ran quite smoothly despite the editing.
Richard Travis (THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER, TRUCK BUSTERS) plays FBI Agent Steve Blair, who's on a westbound Trans World Airlines flight keeping an eye on Amy Winthrop (Rochelle Hudson). Winthrop, who works at the State Department, is suspected of espionage.
Matters grow considerably more complicated when Winthrop's partner in crime turns up dead in the washroom (which from a modern standpoint is interesting because it's big enough for several people to use at the same time). Blair's not only got to find the murderer, there's also a murderer involved in a completely unrelated crime on board!
Earlier tonight I happened to mention a "B" film directed by John Farrow, SORORITY HOUSE (1939). It turns out that Pamela Blake, who stars in this film as Carol, the perky, capable stewardess, was one of the stars of SORORITY HOUSE, then acting under her real name, Adele Pearce. She used the Pearce name until 1941. Pamela Blake passed away in 2009, at the age of 94.
Incidentally, both Blake and leading man Richard Travis appear in other titles in VCI's Forgotten Noir sets.
The SKY LINER cast also includes Steven Geray, Michael Whalen, and Ralph Peters.
According to IMDb, Bess Flowers played a mother in the movie. How did I miss her?! Perhaps she was the parent of the little girl on the plane. I'll be putting the DVD back in tomorrow morning to find out if she was one of the passengers and update this post if I spot her. Bess, with her 800-plus film credits, seems to turn up everywhere. And her IMDb page isn't even complete, as I found her in a movie a few weeks ago which is not listed among her credits. (Update: I spotted her! She's at the left edge of the screen in a few shots, in a nonspeaking role as the mother of the little girl on the plane.)
SKY LINER is a fun little movie which among other things gives us a peek at cross-country airline travel in the late '40s, and the climax features some great shots at what I believe is Long Beach Airport. (It could also be Burbank Airport, which is referenced in the film; that might explain the pedestrian tunnel to the field which I don't recognize from Long Beach.)
There's plenty of stock footage -- according to comments at IMDb, if you look carefully two different planes are used as the "Sky Liner" -- but they tend to add rather than subtract from the interest. In particular, there's a nice sequence where the plane makes an unscheduled landing at a fogbound military airport which does a nice job mixing the stock footage with the actors in the cockpit.
SKY LINER was directed by William Berke for Lippert Pictures.
This isn't classic movie making, but my fellow "B" movie fans will probably find it as diverting as I did. Kudos to VCI for making available obscurities such as SKY LINER.