Monday, May 25, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Public Defender (1931) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Richard Dix is an actor who is slowly growing on me with repeated exposure to his work. He's terrific as THE PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Dix plays Pike Winslow, a seemingly indolent playboy who has returned from Europe to discover that the father (Emmett King) of his childhood friend Barbara (Shirley Grey) has been framed for bank embezzlement.

Not to fear, a mysterious character known as "The Reckoner" is making the rounds of the homes of the other bank executives, stealing only their important papers and leaving behind a calling card which says "The Reckoner."

No one will be surprised to learn that Pike himself is the Reckoner, a character who could have helped inspire Batman, who came along later in the decade. The Reckoner is aided by the brains of "the Professor" (Boris Karloff), who examines the papers to build the case to clear Barbara's father, and the brawn of his chauffeur "Doc" (Paul Hurst).

Barbara is in love with Pike but fears he thinks she's still a child, not realizing the strings he's pulling on her behalf behind the scenes.

Dix has some wonderful romantic hero moments, such as when Pike accompanies Barbara as everything in her family home is auctioned off. Anytime she seems particularly attached to a piece of furniture, Pike gives a signal to the Professor, who bids on the item. Later Pike takes Barbara and her aunt (Nella Walker) to an apartment a "friend" wants to lease to them for the next year -- and do they have a surprise when they walk in the door. Blissful sigh!

I found this quick little 69-minute film highly enjoyable, and it certainly increased my interest in seeing even more films starring Richard Dix.

THE PUBLIC DEFENDER was directed by J. Walter Ruben and filmed by Edward Cronjager. The cast also includes Alan Roscoe as Inspector O'Neill, Edmund Breese as an old friend who suspects the Reckoner's identity, and Robert Emmet O'Connor as a detective. Watch closely for Rochelle Hudson as a telephone operator.

For more on this film, including quite a bit of interesting background info, please visit Cliff's review at Immortal Ephemera. He also sees the similarities with Batman and notes that the Professor could easily have inspired Alfred.

Update: There's more background on the movie in an informative 2013 post at Mentor's Camper.

THE PUBLIC DEFENDER DVD looks just fine, especially considering its age. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.


Blogger Jerry E said...

Sounds like a most enjoyable film, Laura. Of course, Dix was riding the crest of the wave in 1931, having just come off the Oscar-winning "CIMARRON". His star gradually waned as the 1930s faded but, although minor films, his series for Columbia 1944-47 "THE WHISTLER" was a great finish for an illustrious film career. These terrific little movies are just now being made available as part of the Sony Choice Collection and are heartily recommended!

9:14 AM  
OpenID vienna said...

Thanks for info on this film which I have never heard of. Must get it.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jerry and Vienna, I thought this was such a fun movie! My husband didn't get to watch it with me and after I told him about it he watched it tonight and liked it too.

Jerry, I haven't seen any Whistler movies, am interested based on your comments and by Toby's post at The Hannibal 8. Thanks!

Best wishes,

11:40 PM  

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