Tag Archives: Boomerang

Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941, William Witney and John English), Chapter 8: Boomerang

Boomerang is the best chapter of Captain Marvel yet. Not because of Captain Marvel action–there’s some, but it’s perfunctory–rather it’s the plotting. Boomerang springboards off something in the previous chapter (unrelated to the cliffhanger), sort of narratively hopping over something. That something being the predictable, tedious, though visually interesting cliffhanger resolution. Boomerang then assumes a traditional three act structure, which the serial hasn’t been doing to this point. It’s kind of strange, but also excellent.

The good guys have a plan, they learn something, they execute their plan, things go wrong, resolution, second resolution. It’s exciting, but without any big effects sequences. Frank Coghlan Jr. only says the magic word to get out of immediate trouble. It’s a thankless role for Tom Tyler. He gets to have a little fun–albeit cruel fun–and fun is long overdo. It makes him more sympathetic, even though his part is still a mess.

Coghlan’s amateur sleuths–William ‘Billy’ Benedict and Louise Currie–both get some decent moments. Their characters have to interact in a way the actors get to define the characters. They’re not solely around to be functional in Boomerang. They get to show personality.

Good supporting work from George Pembroke this chapter too.

It’s not really a bridging chapter because it never resolves its opening problem. Coghlan and company thought they’d discovered something big, only for its veracity to get delayed… presumably until next chapter. Boomerang’s something though. It’s breathtaking in its pragmatism.

CREDITS

Directed by John English and William Witney; screenplay by Ronald Davidson, Norman S. Hall, Arch Heath, Joseph F. Poland, and Sol Shor, based on the comic book by C.C. Beck and Bill Parker; director of photography, William Nobles; edited by William P. Thompson and Edward Todd; music by Cy Feuer; released by Republic Pictures.

Starring Frank Coghlan Jr. (Billy Batson), Tom Tyler (Captain Marvel), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Whitey Murphy), Louise Currie (Betty Wallace), Kenne Duncan (Barnett), Robert Strange (John Malcolm), Harry Worth (Prof. Luther Bentley), John Davidson (Tal Chotali), and George Pembroke (Dr. Stephen Lang).


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Boomerang! (1947, Elia Kazan)

Boomerang! is a mess. The first half of the film is a misfired docudrama, the second half (or so) is a fantastic courtroom drama. Richard Murphy’s script is such a plotting disaster not even beautifully written scenes and wonderful performances can make up for its problems.

And director Kazan doesn’t help. He embraces the docudrama aspect, having amateurs act alongside regular actors… sometimes even treating them interchangeably. The amateurs are awful, often due to how Kazen directs them.

Worse, Murphy’s only able to make the courtroom stuff work because he’s been intentionally hiding things from the viewer. It’s a terrible, terrible move; if he’d played the story out sequentially instead of keeping so much for reveals, Boomerang! wouldn’t be some lame docudrama, but a complex story about greed, morality and decency.

The first half has a great performance from Lee J. Cobb. Even in the film’s weakest moments, Cobb can do great work. It’s sometimes heartbreaking. The second half has top-billed Dana Andrews, who also has some heartbreaking scenes. He and wife Jane Wyatt’s quiet moments together are wondrous. Boomerang! disappoints because it fails all its actors. Kazan and Murphy could have made something special but aimed low instead.

Also excellent is Sam Levene as a reporter. He bridges the two halves of the picture, along with a political subplot–the country club reform party has taken over from the machine–and is the film’s glue. Or should be.

Great photography from Norbert Brodine too.

Boomerang! just doesn’t work.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Elia Kazan; screenplay by Richard Murphy, based on an article by Fulton Oursler; director of photography, Nobert Brodine; edited by Harmon Jones; music by David Buttolph; produced by Louis De Rochemont; released by 20th Century Fox.

Starring Dana Andrews (Henry L. Harvey), Jane Wyatt (Madge Harvey), Lee J. Cobb (Chief Robinson), Cara Williams (Irene Nelson), Arthur Kennedy (John Waldron), Sam Levene (Dave Woods), Taylor Holmes (T.M. Wade), Robert Keith (Mac McCreery), Ed Begley (Paul Harris) and Philip Coolidge (Jim Crossman).


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