Sunday, February 07, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Air Patrol (1962)

AIR PATROL (1962) is my kind of movie, an L.A. police procedural showcasing early '60s Los Angeles in beautiful black and white CinemaScope.

Fox Cinema Archives is unfortunately known for sometimes putting out films in incorrect aspect ratios or suboptimal prints, but they have a winner with the AIR PATROL DVD, which looks terrific.

Even better, AIR PATROL stars personable Robert Dix, the lookalike son of Richard Dix, who had passed away in 1949. Robert spent part of the '50s at MGM, appearing in small roles in films such as FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), and he worked in TV and movies until his final screen appearance in LIVE AND LET DIE (1973). (IMDb says that Richard Dix was the favorite actor of Roger Moore's mother, which naturally causes me to wonder if there's a connection with Robert appearing in a Moore Bond film. Anyone know?) Robert Dix wrote a memoir published in 2014, OUT OF HOLLYWOOD.

The "by the book," cut-and-dry AIR PATROL makes no pretense at being great art and will not be to every viewer's taste, but those who share my enjoyment of Jack Webb procedurals or films like the Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries will probably like this one too.

Dour Willard Parker plays Lt. Vern Taylor, who's investigating a major art heist in which the culprit escaped by helicopter.

He's assisted by Sgt. Bob Castle (Dix), who's usually assigned to Air Patrol due to his military experience flying choppers. Bob really wants to work robbery detail, however, so he's happy to be included on the team searching for the missing painting. He uses his skills as a pilot to investigate chopper services at outlying airports and later to tail the suspect when he makes off with ransom money for the painting.

Possible suspects include the painting's owner, Arthur Murcott (John Holland), who heavily invested his savings in the painting and might be looking to score insurance money; Murcott's secretary Mona (Merry Anders), who is initially rude to the inquisitive police; and aging actor Millard Nolan (Douglass Dumbrille), who had intended to buy the painting until his wealthy estranged wife cut off his line of credit.

Merry Anders is someone I've enjoyed for years thanks to her multiple appearances on my favorite TV show, MAVERICK, and Dumbrille has a nice late-career role as the art-collecting actor. The cast also includes Russ Bender, George Eldredge, Ivan Bonar, Jack Younger, and Stacey Winters.

There's some great location work, with the exchange of money for the painting taking place in the box seats section of the Hollywood Bowl.

Later, the villain gets off the Hollywood Freeway and drives for an extended period through the watery L.A. riverbed, before he finally runs out of room, trapped by the Sepulveda Dam! It's an imaginative set piece which gives the movie a little "something extra."

AIR PATROL was directed by Maury Dexter and filmed by John M. Nickolaus Jr. It runs 70 minutes; the IMDb running time, currently listed at 62 minutes, is incorrect.

I rented AIR PATROL from ClassicFlix.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

It's fascinating to read that this obscure one-time co-feature is being put out in the proper 'Scope ratio, after Fox let so many of its bigger movies go out in those appalling pan and scan editions. Either this means that there is just no rhyme or reason to how they do it, or, more hopefully, that they have at last taken all the criticism to heart and will do it right from now on (and hopefully go back and correct some of the earlier bad releases).

Well, I guess we'll see as time goes on.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

This sounds like my kind of movie too, Laura! I am guessing this is one of those great little Regalscope movies that were released through Fox (must check that properly).

11:20 PM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Actually, I can't confirm my guess about Regalscope. It appears to have been a Fox production.

11:27 PM  
Blogger john k said...

After Lippert wound up the RegalScope imprint they formed an outfit called
Associated Producers (API) more or less doing the same thing as the RegalScope's
churning out low budget B flicks released through Fox.
Maury Dexter a close associate of Lippert Senior helmed the lion's share of these
little epics.
I totally agree with Blake that it's great they have taken the trouble,this time
round at least, to release the film in the correct ratio.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Thanks for the background there, John on the Regalscope/Fox connection and beyond.

9:38 AM  

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