The Film Detective begins the month of August (Aug. 1) with five new film restorations lined up for the collectible DVD marketplace.
We begin with director Christy Cabanne’s 1933 (pre-code) “Poverty Row” crime drama, The World Gone Mad. A young Pat O’Brien stars as a New York City beat reporter, with a nose for the street (meaning that he has contacts on both sides of the proverbial tracks), who tumbles to a stock swindle scheme being run by Christopher Bruno (Louis Calhern) when the DA (Wallis Clark) is bumped off just as he was about to start an investigation.
A mob hit on the DA sparks his interest and that eventually leads to Bruno and his hitman, Ramon (J. Carrol Naish). But before we can get to the final payoff, there’s a new crusading DA (Neil Hamilton) on the case (who uses modern crime-fighting methods) and O’Brien gets to spend some time in bed with Bruno’s moll (remember, this is pre-code), Carlotta, who just happens to be played by Evelyn Brent.
Next up is director William McGann’s post-Civil War cattle saga, American Empire, starring Richard Dix and Preston Foster as business partners who abandon the riverboat trade to start a cattle empire — hello Texas!
In a breezy 82 minutes this indie production (from Harry Sherman) — with a seven year theatrical distribution deal through United Artists beginning in 1942 — sees Dix and Foster build their Texas cattle empire, from stolen cattle seized from Dominique Beauchard (Leo Carrillo) over his inability to pay his freight bill. He will cross their paths several times during the film’s many twists and trns, meanwhile Preston Foster falls in love and eventually marries Richard Dix’s sister, played by Frances Gifford.
From nothing to empire, which eventually pushes Foster’s character to his emotional limit, especially after his actions contribute to the death of his son. Just when all seems lost, he comes to his senses, patches things up with both his partner and his wife and comes to the aid of his neighbors — which he detests — and has a final showdown with Beauchard.
Whew, that’s quite the saga for a film with this short of a running time … imagine if Giant, a similar Texas oil saga, was released with this an 80-something minute running time and you would end up with the equivalent of American Empire.
Rounding out the Aug. 1 film restorations heading to DVD from The Film Detective are Paradise Island (1930, an early sound film starring Marceline Day), the 1932 film release of Three Broadway Girls (aka: The Greeks Had a Word for It), starring Joan Blondell, Ina Claire and Madge Evans and The Wrong Road (1937, teaming Richard Cromwell with Helen Mack).