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

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Evelyn Brent and Jack Holt

HOLT OF THE SECRET SERVICE (15 chapter Columbia serial/1941). Director: James W. Horne.

Jack Holt of the Secret Service (Jack Holt) is assigned to getting back some valuable plates stolen by counterfeiters, so to that end he pretends to be gangster Nick Farrell, and takes along agent Kay Drew (Evelyn Brent of Daughter of Shanghai) to pretend to be Farrell's wife. The most unusual feature of this serial is that the two leads are not typically "young and pretty" but are both middle-aged -- Holt, who'd been acting since silent movies, was 54 [and looks much older] and Brent was 43. Still, their performances are top-notch for this type of material, so their casting can not be faulted. Holt has a lot of gravelly presence as the secret service man, and Brent is saucy and thoroughly convincing both as agent and moll. Of the supporting cast, Tristram Coffin makes the best impression as a member of the counterfeit gang, and Stanley Blystone is effective as Garrity. The other henchmen and comparatively colorless leaders are all satisfactory if not especially memorable. After much rushing around with different factions trying to get their hands on those plates, the last few chapters take place on an island where the bad guys try to rile up the natives to their own ends, and thieves fall out. There are a few lively fight scenes and some more-than-decent cliffhangers. Holt of the Secret Service is entertaining, but not outstanding.

Verdict: Solid, enthusiastic lead performers never hurt. **1/2.

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