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

Thursday, November 3, 2016


TAILSPIN TOMMY (12 chapter Universal serial/1934). Director: Lew Landers.

Air enthusiast Tommy Tompkins (Maurice Murphy) of Littleville is given the nickname "Tailspin" by an aviatrix named Betty Lou Barnes (Patricia Farr). Proving his ability as a pilot, Tommy gets a job delivering mail by air, and distinguishes himself with his acts of bravery. Wade Taggart (John Davidson) runs a rival company and tries to wipe out Tommy with acts of sabotage. Finally, the young man comes to the attention of Hollywood, who casts him as -- what else? -- a pilot in their aerial adventure film " Midnight Patrol." Based on Hal Forrest's comic strip, this is a kind of creaky old serial but the flying scenes are still fairly exciting, and there are some good cliffhangers involving crashing aircraft, a well-done earthquake, a train hurtling toward a chasm where the bridge has collapsed, and Tommy being dragged behind a plane as he dangles from a rope. The serial temporarily becomes a bit weird with a sequence in which Tommy and Betty Lou find themselves in an old mansion where a mad scientist traps them in a room with electrical dynamos. Noah Beery Jr. [The Three Musketeers] plays Tommy's intellectually challenged friend Skeeter, and others in the cast include William Desmond, Grant Withers, Dennis Moore, and the never-young Walter Brennan in a bit.  Maurice Murphy makes a pleasantly boyish and enthusiastic Tailspin. He had been acting since the age of ten, and amassed 57 credits. Followed by Tailspin Tommy in the Great Air Mystery in which Murphy was replaced by Clark Williams.

Verdict: Not an especially memorable serial but it has points of interest. **1/2.

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