Tag Archives: Bruce Lester

British Intelligence (1940, Terry O. Morse)

It should be obvious British Intelligence is based on a play, so much of it takes place in a single house, but director Morse and screenwriter Lee Katz open it up enough it never does. Actually, even though it’s a low budget picture, their expansive approach even obscures the concentration around the one setting.

Intelligence is an early World War II propaganda picture; even though it’s set during World War I, all the ramblings from the Germans or against them are clearly about Hitler. Sometimes Morse can make it work, other times not.

Most of the film is Boris Karloff and Margaret Lindsay conspiring against the English. They’re German spies thrown together and mildly distrustful of each other–whenever Intelligence runs out of scenes, another double agent is revealed to perturb the plot a little.

Karloff is fantastic. Lindsay’s performance, however, is a wee broad. She concentrates on likable instead of believable and has conflicting chemistry with a couple male costars. Sure, Intelligence has to confuse to keep the viewer guessing but it shouldn’t be at the expense of an actor.

Almost no one else in the cast makes an impression. Bruce Lester pops up at the beginning and end to romance Lindsay–Intelligence even starts with him as the protagonist, the shift being a big reason it never feels like a play adaptation–and he’s weak. Holmes Herbert is good though.

Morse and his crew do all right considering they’re cutting in recycled war footage.

Intelligence‘s watchable but disposable.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Terry O. Morse; screenplay by Lee Katz, based on a play by Anthony Paul Kelly; director of photography, Sidney Hickox; edited by Thomas Pratt; music by Heinz Roemheld; produced by Bryan Foy; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Margaret Lindsay (Helene von Lorbeer), Boris Karloff (Valdar), Holmes Herbert (Arthur Bennett), Leonard Mudie (James Yeats), Bruce Lester (Frank Bennett), Lester Matthews (Henry Thompson), Winifred Harris (Mrs. Maude Bennett), Austin Fairman (George Bennett), Louise Brien (Miss Risdon) and Clarence Derwent (The milkman).


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The Mysterious Doctor (1943, Benjamin Stoloff)

Apparently, the last time I saw The Mysterious Doctor (in 2001), I didn’t think much of it, rating it at one and a half. It’s a little low, since the film transcends propaganda, which many 1940s propaganda films did, but The Mysterious Doctor does it in interesting ways. Its mood isn’t the usual for a propaganda film. Instead of an espionage thriller or a war film, it’s a ghost story. The first time I saw the film, I compared it–as many do–to a Universal monster movie of the same era. It’s actually not. If it emulates any form, it’s a Val Lewton film. While the setting–a small English village–and the frequent fog might suggest the Universal films, The Mysterious Doctor spends a lot of time on bit characters, something the Universal films had long since stopped doing by 1942. There’s also something else… humor. The Mysterious Doctor has some gags and funny lines; there’s a definite emphasis on amusing the audience.

The film’s pace has a lot to do with its success. It runs under an hour and probably has a present action of three or four days yet, there are subplots and, until the awkwardly staged finale, some rather good performances. Warner used to use their “B” pictures to groom actors for the “A” films and, in Mysterious Doctor, it’s pretty obvious who they were grooming–Eleanor Parker. Though she doesn’t show up until ten or twelve minutes into the film (with a fifty-seven minute picture, that delay is considerable), once she does, she’s the film’s protagonist, with a rather forceful performance. She’s got some good scenes and she gives one particularly great speech, chastising the terrified men of the village. John Loder’s perfectly sturdy–until the end, when most things are falling apart anyway–and their two performances make up for the weaker ones… particularly Bruce Lester, who isn’t terrible, but he’s flimsy.

Technically speaking, Stoloff’s is decent, more impressive when he’s not doing the thriller aspects of the film. I can’t remember if the script’s predictable–I remembered one of the major twists a few minutes into the film and it seems pretty obvious, so it probably is an unsurprising experience, which is fine. It’s a nice package.

2.5/4★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Benjamin Stoloff; written by Richard Weil; director of photography, Henry Sharp; edited by Clarence Koster; released by Warner Bros.

Starring John Loder (Sir Henry Leland), Eleanor Parker (Letty Carstairs), Bruce Lester (Lt. Christopher ‘Kit’ Hilton), Lester Matthew (Dr. Frederick Holmes), Forrester Harvey (Hugh Penhryn) and Matt Willis (Bart Redmond).


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THIS FILM IS ALSO DISCUSSED IN SUM UP | ELEANOR PARKER, PART 1: DREAM FACTORY.