Thursday, August 23, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Eyes of the Underworld (1942)

This week I took a short jaunt out of town, and while I was away I watched a handful of lesser-known movies. Reviews of my vacation viewing will be appearing here over the next couple of days.

First up: Richard Dix and Wendy Barrie starring in EYES OF THE UNDERWORLD (1942), available at this writing on YouTube. It's a fast-paced "B" movie from Universal Pictures.

Dix plays Richard Bryan, the popular police chief of Lawndale. (Lawndale's location is never made clear, but the film may have been referring to the city in Los Angeles County.) Although Chief Bryan has been a success for three years, he harbors a troubling secret which causes him to push away his devoted secretary Betty (Barrie), who's in love with him, and announce his resignation.

Edward Jason (Don Porter) arrives in town, investigating a car theft ring. Not even Chief Bryan knows about Jason, who has concerns that some in local law enforcement may be part of the ring. What's more, Jason quickly falls for Betty himself.

The film moves quickly, with a 61-minute running time, satisfactorily resolving both the crime and Chief Bryan's problems.

Dix's Bryan is a widower, and there's a nice "makeshift family" circle depicted including his son Mickey (Billy Lee), his faithful driver Benny (Lon Chaney), and Betty. Barrie makes the most of her role, playing a warm-hearted and spunky gal. Her best moment is a funny scene in which she shatters a figurine to show her exasperation with Bryan.

Porter has a substantial role and is engaging enough that one feels a bit sorry about his unrequited crush on Barrie, as she's only got eyes for Dix.

As a side note, there's some interesting historical context worked into the opening montage -- the cars stolen have particular value due to the dearth of rubber for tires since there's now a war on. The movie was released about 10 months after Pearl Harbor.

There's a good supporting cast including Lloyd Corrigan, Joseph Crehan, Wade Boteler, and Marc Lawrence. The movie was directed by Roy William Neill and filmed by George Robinson.

The YouTube print I watched was soft but quite watchable. Anyone interested should make haste to see it, as things have a way of coming and going on YouTube.

EYES OF THE UNDERWORLD is nothing special, but it's a pleasant hour thanks to the appealing lead actors and brisk storytelling.


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