Saturday, December 31, 2011

Movie: The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance

The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance
Based on characters created by Louis Joseph Vance

Quite a wild ride, this installment of The Lone Wolf series. At times it felt like someone had taken a few Three Stooges shorts and spliced them together, replaced Moe, Larry and Curly with The Lone Wolf, aka Michael Lanyard, and his valet Jamieson, and tossed in some mystery elements. Which is not a criticism, mind you. As wacky and chaotic as this one was I actually liked it quite a bit.

Things get underway with a great comic scene involving a cat, a necklace and our pair of protagonists. It has little bearing on what follows but that's alright. Before long a kidnapping is tossed into the mix and there's a murder right outside Lanyard's apartment. There's a little more to the latter crime than what I've said but I won't spoil it by elaborating. In any event, circumstances combine to point the finger at Lanyard for the murder and he takes it upon himself to do some detecting in order to save his neck.

Turns out it all has to do with a gang of baddies who are trying to get their hands on some engraving plates used to print money. Hence the kidnapping of an inventor who came up with a high-security train car to ship the plates. Lanyard and Jamieson find themselves on the train but the bad guys succeed in convincing the police that they're upstanding citizens, to Lanyard's detriment.

After our heroes narrowly escape the police the action moves to an old dark house where the criminals have holed up and things take a decidedly Stooge-like turn. The crooks slip off yet again and this time Lanyard must charter a private plane to chase down the train and finally bring them to justice.

Of the three Lone Wolf movies I've seen thus far I'd venture to say that this was the most overtly comical of the bunch. It contains a lot of gags that would qualify as just plain slapstick and yet there's still an element of suspense to the proceedings, right in the midst of all the silliness. Look for Lloyd Bridges as the inventor, in one of his earliest movie roles.

For another perspective on this one, try this article at TCM's site. As it notes, this was the fifth of nine Lone Wolf movies for star Warren William, who previously played such roles as Philo Vance and Perry Mason.

Here's what the New York Times reviewer had to say about it back in the day.

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