Thursday, January 28, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Blind Adventure (1933)

I've been curious to try out BLIND ADVENTURE (1933), which was shown on Turner Classic Movies last November as one of Leonard Maltin's Neglected Classics.

Shortly after the movie aired on TCM, it also had a nice write-up by Dan Stumpf at Mystery File.

I caught up with my TCM recording this week and BLIND ADVENTURE is indeed a fun little movie.  As other reviewers have noted, it won't set the world on fire, but it's got great foggy London atmosphere and a delightful trio of spy ring busting leads in Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, and Roland Young.

Armstrong plays Richard Bruce, a wealthy American visiting London for the first time.  He feels so out of place at his staid hotel that he's more comfortable eating in his room while talking to the maid (Beryl Mercer), who coaches him on proper upper-crust behavior, such as dressing for dinner.

Richard decides to go for a walk after dinner but promptly gets lost in thick fog.  He knocks on the door of a mansion and when no one answers, he lets himself inside, hoping to get help finding his way back to his hotel, only to encounter...a corpse!

Richard runs outside, rounds up help...and returns to find no dead body, but a house filled with a seemingly normal family, headed by the Major (Henry Stephenson).

The confused Richard also meets Rose (Mack, THE MILKY WAY), who has just arrived from Canada to stay with the family, who are relatives she's never previously met.  Richard and Rose overhear the Major and others in another room discussing what to do with them, and alarmed, the twosome are about to make a quick getaway...only to encounter the "un-dead" corpse, Jim Steele (Ralph Bellamy).

Steele claims to be working for Scotland Yard and asks Richard and Rose to take a cigarette case with a secret message to his superior (John Miljan).  Richard and Rose then escape to the roof but are having a hard time figuring out how to get to the street when they encounter a friendly Cockney cat burglar (Young), who's happy to lend them a hand.

Believe it or not that's probably just the first 25% of the 65-minute movie!  It gets quite convoluted and I confess that I was more than a bit confused at times; the British/Cockney accents on a somewhat rough 1933 soundtrack probably didn't help my understanding.  Yet somehow, the moments where I lost the thread of the plot didn't matter too much.

What I really enjoyed, beyond the story, was the interplay of the three leads.  Young makes every movie he's in better, and he seems to be having a grand time in an atypical -- and imaginatively created -- role as the burglar.  I especially got a kick out of a scene where he sternly prevents a coffee cart owner (Forrester Harvey) from charging his new friends usurious prices.

Mack is delightful as spunky young Rose, who charms both Richard and the burglar.  The nice chemistry of the actors and the foggy setting, which made the movie perfect viewing for an unusually cold and windy Southern California evening, made the movie a fun watch.  It just doesn't get any "movie studio better" than our characters stopping by a coffee cart for a warm drink in the middle of a strange and foggy night.

BLIND ADVENTURE was directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack and written by his wife, Ruth Rose, with an uncredited assist on dialogue from Robert Benchley.

It was filmed by Henry Gerrard.  The supporting cast includes Laura Hope Crews, Tyrell Davis, Phyllis Barry, Marjorie Gateson, and Ivan F. Simpson.

This is the kind of obscure RKO movie which would have been perfect for a Warner Archive DVD release in years past, but with the Warner Archive's current focus on Blu-rays, I am wondering if their days of DVD releases of interesting minor films are over.  I suppose we'll know for sure as the year goes on.

For now, watch for BLIND ADVENTURE to return to Turner Classic Movies.  Those who enjoy this sort of movie will find it a diverting hour.


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