Sunday, July 08, 2018

Tonight's Movie: The Chaser (1938) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Dennis O'Keefe stars as an ambulance-chasing crooked attorney in THE CHASER (1938), just released on DVD by the Warner Archive.

O'Keefe plays Tom Brandon, who habitually shows up at accident scenes and helps those involved sue "deep pockets" over fake injuries. He's aided and abetted by an alcoholic doctor (Lewis Stone) and the not-too-smart "Floppy Phil" (Nat Pendleton).

Ann Morriss plays Dorothy, a young woman hired by District Attorney Calhoun (Henry O'Neill) to work undercover and expose Brandon's racket. Things get complicated when Dorothy falls for Brandon despite knowing the worst about his character.

This film is a remake of a Lee Tracy-Madge Evans title I've not yet seen, THE NUISANCE (1933). Unfortunately, it's a disappointment. I'm not sure why MGM thought it would be entertaining to watch O'Keefe be a jerk for most of the movie, even if he starts on the path to redemption at the eleventh hour. It's simply not much fun.

As I've written before, I like O'Keefe tremendously; he made a number of very good or excellent films starting in the late '40s. A tribute I wrote a couple years ago may be found here.

Unfortunately, O'Keefe's earliest roles, after graduating from years of extra and bit parts to "B" leads, were unpleasant characters in less-than-scintillating movies such as BURN 'EM UP O'CONNOR (1939) and THE KID FROM TEXAS (1939).

THE CHASER is more of the same; though O'Keefe is supported by a strong cast of character actors, it's a pretty long 75 minutes.

The personable, confident Morriss is the best thing about the film. She married the movie's director, Edwin L. Marin, in 1940; Marin was 20 years her senior but sadly was only 52 when he passed away in 1951. Morriss, who had not acted for a decade at the time of his passing, resumed her career in 1952 and acted until 1960.

Ironically I just rewatched another of Marin's films this weekend which is far better, TALL IN THE SADDLE (1944) starring John Wayne.

THE CHASER was filmed by Charles Lawton Jr.

The print is nothing special, on the soft side but acceptable. 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 or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger berigan said...

Wow, never heard of this film, don't think I can recall it being on TCM, will have to check it out.
Laura, I too have become a big fan of Dennis O'Keefe, but for 2 films I didn't see you mention. They are basically the same film, old plays by Wilson Collison , Up in Mabel's Room (1944) and Getting Gertie's Garter (1945) (I see he also wrote the Maisie stories, The Mad Miss Manton, and There's Always a Woman) Both were directed by Alan Dwan even! If you can suspend your disbelief mechanism for The Rock films, then you have to do the same thing for these silly plots. I have no idea why these films are so completely forgotten . I guess since they were Edward Small films. I think one ran on TCM, the other I found elsewhere.
I bet the casts found the "predicaments" he was in , ridiculous, but they knew the dialog was quite witty, and just went with it, and no doubt had a great time.
Who knew Dennis O'Keefe was so adept at physical comedy too?

11:07 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for your feedback, glad I could call the movie to your attention!

While I don't have UP IN MABEL'S ROOM, I have a TCM copy of GETTING GERTIE'S GARTER which I haven't watched yet. I'll look forward to checking it out -- and keep an eye out for the other title.

Best wishes,

3:51 PM  

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