Friday, August 12, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Gypsy Wildcat (1944) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

GYPSY WILDCAT (1944) is the second of the three films in the Maria Montez and Jon Hall Collection which was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I previously reviewed the set's WHITE SAVAGE (1943), which I found to be great fun; still to be reviewed is SUDAN (1945). All three films were originally released by Universal Pictures.

This time around Montez plays Carla, a gorgeous gypsy girl. She comes to the aid of a stranger named Michael (Hall) after he discovers a body and is ultimately accused of murder by Baron Tovar (Douglass Dumbrille).  

The Baron spots a necklace on Carla which gives him reason to believe she's the long-lost heiress to the dead man's estate, which Tovar has claimed for his own. Getting rid of Michael not only deflects blame but removes competition for Carla's hand in marriage -- and the estate which comes with her.

There's a lot of back and forth battling with Michael and the gypsies (including Peter Coe, Leo Carrillo, and Gale Sondergaard) on one side and Tovar and his men (including Harry Cording) on the other. Eventually, of course, we arrive at the expected happy ending.

I'm currently reading THE QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR: MARIA MONTEZ IN HOLLYWOOD by Tom Zimmerman, and he refers to Montez and Hall's six films together as the "Neverland films," which is a good description. They're all highly entertaining escapist fantasies which were badly needed during World War II. These films were perfectly designed to enable audiences to forget their cares for a brief time, and indeed, they still offer a wonderful diversion from today's world.

GYPSY WILDCAT may not be quite as good as the three previous Montez-Hall films I've reviewed, which also include ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942) and ALI BABA AND THE 40 THIEVES (1944), but it was still quite enjoyable. The role of a fiery gypsy dancing girl was perfect for the flamboyant Montez, who does a fine job in a part which seems tailored for her. Hall is always a stalwart hero -- though I must admit I wasn't taken with his mustache.

Like the other films, GYPSY WILDCAT is a spectacular-looking fantasy, filmed in stunning Technicolor by George Robinson and W. Howard Greene. Much of the film was shot outdoors; I think some of it may have possibly have been at Iverson Ranch, but I couldn't place the other locations.

The screenplay of this 77-minute film was written by James P. Hogan, Gene Lewis, and James M. Cain. I love that Cain, the novelist behind works such as DOUBLE INDEMNITY, THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, and MILDRED PIERCE, also worked on writing the script for this gypsy adventure fantasy.

Director Roy William Neill also worked on multiple films in Universal's SHERLOCK HOLMES series, and in fact "Dr. Watson" from that series, Nigel Bruce, appears here as the High Sheriff.

It was a particularly nice coincidence to discover Leo Carrillo in the cast, having written about him a few days ago, and it was likewise fun to see Gale Sondergaard, just a few days after reviewing her in ENTER ARSENE LUPIN (1944). She's quite enjoyable here as a good-natured fortune teller.

If the movie has a weak link, it's Peter Coe as Carla's jealous childhood love. I read that the role was originally slated for Turhan Bey, who would have been excellent.

Montez's colorful, eye-catching costumes by Vera West are also worth mentioning. Most of the wardrobe is designed in bright colors, but late in the movie she wears a black negligee with a design which is absolutely eye-popping. To some extent this is a movie which could even be enjoyed with the sound off, as Montez looks so amazing. Little surprise that her biographer chose the title THE QUEEN OF TECHNICOLOR.

GYPSY WILDCAT is a gorgeous Blu-ray print with excellent sound. The extras for this title are the trailer and a commentary track by David Del Valle.

I'm so appreciative that Kino Lorber has made all of Montez and Hall's films available on Blu-ray! This set ranks as one of my favorite releases of the year.

Look for a review of SUDAN, the final film in this set, coming soon. I also plan to review the sixth Montez and Hall film, COBRA WOMAN (1944), which was released a couple of years ago.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.


Blogger dfordoom said...

I haven't watched this one yet but I have watched the other two movies in that boxed set and they are indeed lots of fun. I still think Siren of Atlantis is Montez's best movie but all her movies are worth seeing.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'm glad you've been enjoying this set also! I'm not familiar with SIREN OF ATLANTIS and will look for it.

Best wishes,

6:43 PM  

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