Tag Archives: Sam Katzman

Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 10: A Double-Cross Backfires

Brenda Starr is rallying in its last third–A Double-Cross Backfires is a solid serial chapter. Sure, Joan Woodbury gets interviewing and kidnapped duty, but there’s some good action and some actual suspense.

The chapter opens in Marion Burns’s house–rigged for her psychic scam–and no one except Burns can find their way through it. Lots of curtains, false walls, all sorts of stuff. Perfect location for a thrilling shootout, even if Fox’s direction is boring.

And Burns is rather good. She’s underutilized, but at least she’s underutilized in a supporting role as opposed to Woodbury, who’s underutilized in the ostensible lead part.

The action scene has Kane Richmond chasing a bad guy’s cab and then climbing a roof to duke it out with him. Again, not great direction from Fox, but good enough to get it through. Richmond’s still a condescending jackass overall, however.

Maybe the most salient factor in the rallying is Ernie Adams. He’s a stoolie who all of a sudden has a bunch more to do. Adams knows how to act a scene where the director isn’t going to give him anything. He’s a delight.

So, Backfires doesn’t.

I just wish Brenda Starr had this level of energy and inventiveness (and the strong supporting cast–not the tiresome cops and newspaper sidekicks) throughout.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 9: Dark Magic

Dark Magic fully introduces Marion Burns’s psychic character. She showed up at the end of last chapter, but she really didn’t get much to do outside her act. The act, which has everyone panicked this chapter, involves her accusing bad guy Jack Ingram of murder. Then all the lights go out and she, her assistant (Wheeler Oakman in disguise) and Ingram all disappear.

It’s not entirely clear how those events warrant a police investigation, but Kane Richmond sure is going to try to make them.

The chapter opens with him dismissing Joan Woodbury as usual, but maybe for the first time since he agreed they’d share information. They don’t. He strong-arms her for information or just tries to get her fired.

Newspaper editor Frank Jaquet doesn’t back Woodbury up at all. Though, to be fair, it’s not clear she’s a particularly good reporter. Brenda Starr, Reporter is noticeably lacking any evidence of Woodbury’s journalistic skills. Her investigating skills aren’t terrible, though she does get suckered here.

Burns is the best performance in Brenda Starr so far. She’s sick of being lackey to Oakman and Ernie Adams; she (rightly) doesn’t trust them. Leads to some desperate measures, which Fox doesn’t direct well, but Burns still manages the scenes.

As Brenda Starr captures go, it’s not terrible. Syd Saylor’s amusing this time, William ‘Billy’ Benedict’s restained, Burns’s awesome. It’s all right.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 8: Killer at Large

Yes, there’s a Killer at Large, but there are lots of them. The entire gang out bad guys is loose. Brenda Starr’s has all bad ideas when it comes to titling.

And, you know, scenes. There’s a scene between lowlifes Ernie Adams and Wheeler Oakman and the conversation repeats itself. It’s almost surreal, the exposition starting again immediately once Oakman finishes with the initial delivery. Maybe if Adams were getting Oakman to confirm what he’s saying, but he’s not.

In addition to Adams and Oakman gabbing, there’s another scenes with Frank Meeker and his gang. None of the criminals seem particularly motivated, which is kind of fine; the less time thinking about Brenda Starr, the better.

Woodbury starts the episode a damsel in distress. She ends it going to a night club with the rest of the cast. They’re not sitting together, but screenwriters Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton really want to get everyone together.

Not for narrative purposes, unfortunately, just time wasting ones.

The chapter doesn’t even try with a cliffhanger though. Cliffhangers aren’t Brenda Starr’s thing.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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Brenda Starr, Reporter (1945, Wallace Fox), Chapter 7: Hideout of Terror

There’s a hideout in Hideout of Terror, but there’s no actual terror in that hideout.

Most of the chapter is kidnapped Joan Woodbury being traded between kidnappers. First it’s Jack Ingram, then he gets nabbed by Wheeler Oakman. Ingram gets most of the chapter’s action–he’s got to leave Woodbury in the Hideout to get orders from boss George Meeker–followed by doofuses Syd Saylor and Joe Devlin.

Though Saylor proves a lot smarter than Devlin, which isn’t a surprise. They’re trying to find Woodbury, but only know her car is missing. Eventually main copper Kane Richmond gets involved but he’s no more effective than anyone else. The purpose of Hideout is to stall long enough for Woodbury to get to her mark for the cliffhanger.

Eventually there a shootouts and fisticuffs and chase scenes and an abandoned mine (where Woodbury needs to get). But Woodbury gets almost no lines in the chapter and, even when she’s in the action being pursued, the chapter follows the pursuers.

Makes one forget why the serial’s called Brenda Starr, given how little Woodbury actually gets to do. But if it weren’t called Brenda Starr, it’d just be Bland Columbia Serial, so maybe not.

CREDITS

Directed by Wallace Fox; screenplay by Ande Lamb and George H. Plympton, based on the comic strip by Dale Messick; director of photography, Ira H. Morgan; edited by Charles Henkel Jr.; music by Edward J. Kay; produced by Sam Katzman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Joan Woodbury (Brenda Starr), Kane Richmond (Lt. Larry Farrell), Syd Saylor (Chuck Allen), George Meeker (Frank Smith), Wheeler Oakman (Heller), Cay Forester (Vera Harvey), Marion Burns (Zelda), Lottie Harrison (Abretha), Ernie Adams (Charlie), Jack Ingram (Kruger), Anthony Warde (Muller), John Merton (Joe Schultz), William ‘Billy’ Benedict (Pesky), and Joe Devlin (Sgt. Tim Brown).


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