Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


CHICK CARTER, DETECTIVE 15 chapter Universal serial (1946). Directed by Derwin Abrahams.

Lt. Chick Carter ( Lyle Talbot) gets involved when a famous blue diamond disappears from a nightclub. Singer Sherry (Julie Gibson) hid the diamond in a fake snowball she used in a [rather sadistic] song number and which she marked with her lipstick, but she lobbed it at the wrong person. Others involved in the story include reporter Rusty Farrell (Douglas Fowler), photographer "Spud" (Eddie Acuff), mysterious cigarette girl Ellen (Pamela Blake), villains Mack (Jack Ingram) and Vasky (Leonard Penn), a nasty little guy known as the Creeper (Frankie Darro), and shady nightclub characters Joe (Charles King) and Nick (George Meeker). Private eye Dan Rankin (Robert Elliott) is killed off in chapter three's cliffhanger, and the serial is as much about finding out whoever was responsible for his death as it is in finding where the blue diamond is. This serial might have made an acceptable feature film, but stretched out over 15 episodes and with completely prosaic cliffhangers and neither a dynamic hero nor master villain -- and direction devoid of panache -- it emerges as rather dull stuff. Talbot was usually cast as a villain in these things -- portly, potato-faced and double-chinned, he makes an unlikely action hero. Maybe that's why Chick Carter [a character in pulp magazines] comes off like a supporting player in his own serial, with much of the running time given to Rusty and Spud. Spud is the one who's usually in danger in the cliffhangers, and indeed Eddie Acuff comes off much more like the star of the movie than Talbot does. Acuff is an acquired taste but he's not bad at the comedy relief stuff. Nice theme music.

Verdict: Not a very memorable serial. *1/2.

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