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

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Harold Lloyd Jr. 
THE FLAMING URGE (1953). Writer/director: Harold Ericson.

Tom Smith (Harold Lloyd Jr. of Frankenstein's Daughter) moves from town to town because he's always losing jobs by running off to watch fires. The latest town has less fires than usual, so Tom gets a job at a department store, where he is befriended by the owner, Chalmers (Jonathan Hale) --  who also likes to chase fires --and even gets a girlfriend, Charlotte (Cathy Downs of The Amazing Colossal Man). Just as life looks good, a firebug runs amok and the obvious suspect is Tom. The Flaming Urge is a very light-hearted look at the very serious subjects of arson and pyromania, but the cost in lives (although apparently no one ever dies!)  and property is completely glossed over by the superficial screenplay, and most of the movie plays like a comedy. An asset is the casting of Lloyd Jr., a talented and appealing actor with handsome and sensitive looks who makes the most of his rather bizarre role; this is one of the few if only times he was seen to advantage in the movies. Hale is fine but the picture is nearly stolen by Byron Foulger [The Master Key] as Mr. Pender, Tom's fussy supervisor at the store. Even Pierre Watkin shows up as Charlotte's father, and he is typically competent if unremarkable. The movie was filmed in Monroe, Michigan, and unlike a lot of movies made outside Hollywood, is perfectly professional if low-budget. Writer/director Ericson only made this one movie while Lloyd went on to make several more before dying tragically young of a stroke. The movie is seen by some as a "coded gay" film because of the title (reminding one of "flaming queen") and because Lloyd Jr. was gay in real life, but it might be reading too much into things to see his interest in fire as being a metaphor for homosexuality, yet. .. the movie is psychologically dubious in many ways. One of Harold Lloyd Sr.'s films was Fireman Save My Child.

Verdict: Offbeat with a fine lead performance. **1/2.

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