|Chester Morris as Boston Blackie|
Among the series we're looking at this week are Boston Blackie; the similar Lone Wolf series; Jungle Jim/Johnny Weissmuller; Philo Vance; Mr. Moto; and the Whistler, not to mention Dr. Mabuse from Germany. Philo Vance started out as a top-drawer series starring William Powell, but degenerated into a cheaper series for PRC. The Whistler movies all starred Richard Dix in a variety of roles and were based on the old radio program. Boston Blackie and the Lone Wolf starred, respectively, Chester Morris and Warren William, but later entries, not really a part of the main series, starred other actors. Dr. Mabuse began life in a series of films by Fritz Lang, dating back to the silent period, but these, too, degenerated into ersatz spy movies by the sixties. Johnny Weissmuller played Jungle Jim in a slew of features (and later a TV series) until the studio temporarily lost the rights to the character and he simply played himself in the last four films in the series.
Many of these movies employed the same elements: gun-toting femme fatales; hoods with grudges; and most ubiquitous, police detectives who were always at odds with the (anti) heroes, thinking they were really crooks underneath no matter how many genuine bad guys they helped put away. As well, the cops were always much dumber than the heroes. A lot of directors who became famous later on, such as William Castle, cut their teeth on these "B" movies. Sometimes the choice of sidekick was key in making an entertaining series. For instance, for my money Eric Blore as the Lone Wolf's "Jamison" is far superior to George E. Stone's "Runt" in the Boston Blackie series.
* Of course the Andy Hardy movies were "A" movies aside from the very last.