Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Truck Busters (1943)

A couple weeks ago I was perusing the Warner Archive listings during a sale and came across TRUCK BUSTERS. How could a "B" movie fan such as myself resist a title like that?!

TRUCK BUSTERS clocks in at just 58 minutes. It tells the story of a violent trucking war, with brothers Casey (Richard Travis) and Jimmy (Charles Lang) leading independent truckers against Tony Bonetti (Don Costello) and his syndicate. The syndicate members include one of my favorite character actors, Frank Ferguson.

It's a quick, entertaining little movie, though it verges toward silliness in a couple spots, when subpar acting meets up with a lightweight script. Ruth Ford, who plays Jimmy's wife Pearl, is no better an actress in this than she was in CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE (1945), which I saw earlier this year; her reaction to upsetting news is curiously unemotional. I suppose it's in the movie's favor that the weak spots are amusing rather than dull.

I also found the ending abrupt; in the final scene, Casey is suddenly a man in uniform. Obviously many men left their businesses to serve during the war, but in context it seemed a bit odd that the switch was made with no explanation whatsoever, given the movie's total focus on Casey battling to build his trucking business.

On the plus side, I got a real kick out of watching Virginia Christine in her very first film. It was a treat to see the future "Mrs. Olson" so young! Christine brings some real spark to the part of Eadie, a sarcastic, impatient truck stop waitress who clashes with Casey, only to end up falling for him. For me it was worth watching the film if only to catch her at the start of her film career.

Incidentally, Eadie's house in this movie is on the same Warner Bros. backlot street which was later part of one of the funniest movie bloopers I've ever seen, described in my post on THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET (1949).

TRUCK BUSTERS leading man Richard Travis played Bert, the reporter who courts Bette Davis, in the preceding year's THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1942). Travis, an adequate but somewhat bland actor, worked steadily in "B's"; in addition to TRUCK BUSTERS, his movies had fun titles such as THE POSTMAN DIDN'T RING (1942), ESCAPE FROM CRIME (1942), BUSSES ROAR (1942), SPY TRAIN (1943), and THE LAST RIDE (1944). I'd especially like to see BUSSES ROAR and THE LAST RIDE, as they costarred the up-and-coming young Eleanor Parker.

The TRUCK BUSTERS cast includes Richard Fraser, Robert Middlemass, Michael Ames, Frank Wilcox, Rex Williams, Monte Blue, Jean Ames, and Peggy Diggins.

TRUCK BUSTERS was directed by Warner Bros. "B" specialist B. Reeves Eason. Eason also directed a number of Technicolor patriotic shorts for Warner Bros. during WWII; I wrote about SOLDIERS IN WHITE (1942) and MEN OF THE SKY (1942) back in 2007.

TRUCK BUSTERS is available in a nice print from the Warner Archive.


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