I have really been enjoying the B-movies that Warner
Archives has been bringing to DVD. I
loved the Nick
Carter series, had a great time with The
Bowery Boys, and
laughed through the Mexican
They have really been releasing more hits than missesâ€¦ but there
few films that are less than stellar.
Case in point the Fast Triple Feature:
Fast Company, Fast and Loose,
and Fast and Furious. These
husband and wife detective films have a
lot of the right elements, but there are too many missteps to make them
With the success of the Thin Man series staring William
Powell and Myrna Loy as the husband and wife high-society sleuths Nick
Charles, it's only natural that imitators would pop up.
The three films in this collection revolve
around Joel Sloane and his wife Garda, a pair of rare book dealers who
always short on cash even though they live in a sumptuous apartment in New York City. Every time they turn around they seem to be
stepping into a murder mystery and it's up to the pair to find the
since the police are always barking up the wrong tree.
(1938): In this first adventure we're
introduced to the Joel (Melvyn Douglas) and Garda (Florence Rice)
discover Joel's passion for books and mysteries and Garda's love of
for clothes, even when they don't have any money for them.
Joel sells rare books out of his office, or
at least he tries to. The only way
they're able to make any sales is when Garda flirts with the customers. Luckily Joel has a deal with an insurance
companyâ€¦ he gets 10% of the value of any stolen books that he can
they don't have to pay out a claim.
That's the only way the keep body and soul together.
When a rival dealer, Otto Brockler (George Zucco) is
murdered Joel gets curious. He's
suspected that Otto was a fence for stolen books (there was apparently
market in expensive books during the Great Depression) for years but
the proof. Could it have been a deal
gone wrong, or did the kid that Otto framed for theft five years ago,
Morgan (Shepperd Strudwick) get his revenge after getting out of jail? Joel leaves his wife at home and starts to
turn on the charm with Otto's attractive secretary Julia Thorne (Claire
to find out.
I love detective shows with a lot of witty banter and a
light and breezy style which is what this film is trying for. Unfortunately it misses the mark.
The banter is not clever or humorous in the
least, and the whole plot seems to drag from the beginning. The story is convoluted and full of holes
(the police arrest a man because he is found with $5000 of the murdered
money, but they never explain how they determined that the cash was
victim) too. To make matters worse, the
two leads (who are separate more than they are together for some
reason) have absolutely no chemistry on screen.
Melvyn Douglas seems more natural when talking to Claire Dodd
did with Florence Rice. That made what
was supposed to be fun moments with the couple feel awkward and forced. All in all, this was a misfire.
Fast and Loose
(1939): The murders involving rare books
continue in the second film in the series, but with a cast change. After their stilted performance in the first
installment the powers that be decided to replace Douglas and Rice with
actors: Robert Montgomery and Rosalind
It looks like Joel is finally going to make a big sale.
He's buying a part of a Shakespeare
manuscript for his client, Christopher Oates, from a wealthy collector
fallen on hard times, Nick Torrent. When
Torrent turns up dead and the manuscript disappears, Joel ends up on
of suspects for the crime. Add to that a
mysterious first edition copy of Paradise Lost and a body count that
growing and this should have been a better mystery than it was.
This is the best film in the series, mainly due to the
presence of Montgomery and Russell. They
shine on screen and make the best of the poor script that they have to
with. The story is very convoluted and
filled with red herrings and twist, a lot of which don't really make
you think about it afterwards. The
cast seems like they're just going through the motions too.
Fast and Furious
(1939): Once again, two new actors
chosen to play Joel and Garda Sloane for their final outing. This time it's Franchot Tone and Ann Southern
who step into the lead roles.
Garda wants a vacation so Joel decides to take her to the
shoreâ€¦ where there's a beauty contest that he's going to judge (after
Mike Stevens, the organizer, $5000).
When they arrive however, Mike's boss turns up dead and Stevens
prime suspect. If Joel ever wants to see
his money again, he'll just have to clear his friend's name.
After the solid job that Montgomery and Russell did in the
middle film, I was a bit surprised and disappointed that they were
replaced. While the new leads aren't a
good as the previous pair, they do an adequate job.
Though it shouldn't make much difference,
they distance the Sloanes from the book trade this time and that helps
lot. The constant literary references in
the previous two films always sounded forced and they aren't missed.
The film was directed by Busby Berkley and while there
aren't any of the big production numbers that he's known for, he does
adequate job. The problem, once again,
is the script. All three films were
penned by Harry Kurnitz, who would go on to bigger and better things
a couple of the Thin Man films which obviously inspired him, but these
first screenplays and they're clunky and awkward. The dialog isn't
witty as it should be, and the mysteries are convoluted and messy. I never really got caught up in either the
mysteries or the fun atmosphere of the films and it's a bit surprising
three were made.
All three films (running a little more than an hour each)
arrive on a single DVD-R in a keepcase.
The mono audio track is very good. The
dialog is clean and clear and the
background noise is minimal at worst.
Fans will be pleased.
Warner Archives did a great job with this disc. I
was a little worried when I discovered that
there were three films on one DVD, but these are so short that there
any compression artifacts worth noting.
The image was clean and the detail was very good.
These films looked excellent.
In addition to the three movies there are trailers to each
film which are great. They make the
movies look more action-packed than they are, but that's the point,
I like the Thin Man movies and I was expecting to have a
decent time with these three films with the Nick and Nora imitators,
could never get into any of the movies.
They seemed to drag and the dialog was too forced to be funny. The mysteries were average at best, and too
convoluted and confusing at worst. You
know that a series is in trouble when they change the lead actor three
over the course of three movies. While
these aren't horrible films and I don't regret watching them, I doubt
be rewatching them any time soon. If
you're curious, make this a rental.