Vaudeville stars Robert Woolsey and Bert Wheeler lead the way for The Film Detective’s next round of ten film restorations, which will be ready for collectors on DVD on Mar. 28.
Director Paul Sloane’s 1930 Pre-Code comedy, Half Shot at Sunrise, starring Wheeler and Woolsey, and also co-starring Wheeler’s often love-interest Dorothy Lee, plus George MacFarlane, Edna May Oliver and Leni Stengel (she would also join Wheeler and Woolsey the following year in Cracked Nuts).
The pair are in the army during World War I and want to have a “really good time” in Paris, so it is no holds barred as they go AWOL to enjoy the women of the city. While out having their fun, Wheeler meets Annette (Dorothy Lee) and Woolsey hooks up with the exotic Olga (Leni Stengel), who turn out to be their commanding Colonel’s daughter and mistress (George MacFarlane plays their CO) respectively.
Through a series of comic misfortunes the two end up carrying secret orders to the front and that eventually leads to a firing squad, but their Colonel has a change of heart (call that blackmail) and let’s them go.
Also on the Mar. 28 release calendar from The Film Detective is director William C. Thomas’ 1947 film noir/crime drama, Big Town After Dark, the third of four entries in the Big Town film series (1947–1948: Big Town, I Cover Big Town, Big Town After Dark and Big Town Scandal).
This short-lived film series was based on Daniel Mainwaring’s “Big Town” radio series and starred Phillip Reed (Bandit Queen, Song of the Thin Man, etc.) as a crusading newspaper editor and Hillary Brooke (The Fuller Brush Man, The Woman in Green, Lost Continent, etc. … as herself on The Abbott and Costello Show) as his ace reporter.
In this entry in the series, friction is brewing between Steve Wilson (Reed) and Lorelei Kilbourne (Brooke) as she has become a best-selling novelist and he has to get her back on the beat. He uses Susan Peabody, the niece of the paper’s owner (played by Ann Gillis), to make her jealous, but the young woman is actually up-to-her-neck in a gambling racket! The story is just too juicy for Lorelei to walk away from … she saves the day and Steve’s hide as well!
Another crime drama in the Mar. 28 release mix is director Jack Bernhard’s 1948 film adaptation of Whitman Chambers’ 1938 detective novel “Once too Often,” which reached the screen as Blonde Ice.
Interestingly, Chambers wrote a series of detective novels during the period and ended up in Hollywood writing scripts, which included the aforementioned Big Town After Dark (it’s a small world after all).
With Blonde Ice, a film noirish tale, Leslie Brooks plays a “black widow” by the name of Claire Cummings, who fancies herself a “society” reporter, but that’s just the excuse to mingle with the rich and famous. She seduces a wealthy man by the name of Carl Hanneman (played by John Holland), gets him to marry her … and then, when he gets wise to her ways, he commits suicide (blows his brains out)!
She is quickly on to her next mark, a rising political star (played by Michael Whalen), who falls for her and then discovers her duplicity (yep, he dies too) and, get this, she thinks nothing of diverting the blame to what might just be her only real friend in the world, Lee Burns (Robert Paige), who has a crush on her from their newspaper days together. She is just downright wicked!
Also to be counted among the Mar. 28 film restorations are five Westerns from The Film Detective … these are: Buffalo Stampede (aka: The Thundering Herd — 1934, a Zane Grey Western adventure starring Randolph Scott and Judith Allen, with a cast that includes Buster Crabbe, Noah Berry, Raymond Hatton, Harry Carey, Monte Blue and all around bad guy Barton MacLane); Come On, Cowboys (1937, a Three Mesquiteers Western, with Robert Livingston, Ray “Crash” Corrigan and Max Terhune); The Gambling Terror (also from 1937, starring Johnny Mack Brown and Iris Meredith); Colorado (1940, Roy Rogers rides with sidekick Gabby Hayes in this Civil War “Western” with Pauline Moore and Milburn Stone) and Brand of the Devil (1944, Texas Ranger Dave O’Brien battles rustlers by the name of “Devil’s Brand”).
Rounding out the films selections are Headline Crasher (1937, starring Frankie Darro) and director Roland West’s Pre-Code 1931 film adaptation of Walton Green’s novel, “Corsair, a Pirate in White Flannels,” which reached the screen as simply Corsair (Chester Morris and Thelma Todd star).