Friday, July 15, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Behind the Headlines (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I'm enthusiastic about many Warner Archive releases, but I have a particular soft spot for their sets of series films and hard-to-find "B" movies.

Collections like George O'Brien Westerns or the Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries have been big favorites of mine.

I'm currently enthused about a terrific new collection of 4 Lee Tracy RKO "B" films, just released from the Warner Archive.

I've previously only seen one film in the set, CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), a comedy which I reviewed in 2013 and found something of an unsung gem. I'll be taking a fresh look at CRASHING HOLLYWOOD in the near future.

Tonight I watched my first film from the set, BEHIND THE HEADLINES (1937), in which Tracy plays Eddie Haines, a radio reporter who regularly spars with his ex-girlfriend, a reporter named Mary (Diana Gibson).

Mary gets a scoop on a story about a gold shipment being sent to Fort Knox, but she ends up kidnapped by bad guys who have an elaborate plan to steal the gold. However, the resourceful Mary finds multiple ways to tip off Eddie and the authorities as to where she's being held, and the race is on to rescue Mary and the gold.

BEHIND THE HEADLINES isn't great, but after a slow start it picks up speed, and it has some unique elements which make it a fun 58 minutes.

For instance, who would ever expect mild-mannered Donald Meek to be playing a ruthless criminal mastermind? Being more used to seeing him in roles such as "bee man" Bartholomew in the Nick Carter Mysteries, it was startling to find him playing such a character, and intriguingly, he's rather convincing!

The use of gas during an armored truck robbery made me think of CRISS CROSS (1949) a dozen years later.

The robbers eventually hole up in a huge cave, where Mary finds a creative way to use a radio stashed in her car to get help.

I was previously unfamiliar with leading lady Diana Gibson, who was only in films from 1935 to 1939. She plays the role with the requisite spunk, though I can't say she made a particular impression. Tracy starts off loud and obnoxious, in typical Tracy mode, but his character becomes more appealing as he deals with Mary's disappearance.

Paul Guilfoyle, who was seemingly in every other RKO "B" film of the era, is in this one, and the cast also includes Tom Kennedy, Phillip Huston, Doodles Weaver, Selmer Jackson, and Lee Phelps.

BEHIND THE HEADLINES was directed by Richard Rosson and filmed by Russell Metty.

The print was fine, especially considering it's a relatively obscure "B" film. BEHIND THE HEADLINES shares a DVD with CRIMINAL LAWYER in this two-disc set. There are no extras.

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Donald Meek as a criminal mastermind. Have to see this!

12:27 AM  

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