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

Thursday, September 20, 2018


John Wayne
THE HURRICANE EXPRESS (12 chapter Mascot serial/1932.). Directors: Armand Schaefer; J. P., McGowan.

Jim Baker (J. Farrell MacDonald), an engineer on the world's fastest train, the Hurricane Express, is killed when the express is deliberately sabotaged. Baker's son, Larry (John Wayne of McLintock!). is determined to uncover the identity of "The Wrecker," the mysterious figure who, with the help of his gang, is out to destroy the railroad for uncertain reasons. The suspects include Walter Gray (Lloyd Whitlock), who runs an airline; Howard Edwards (Tully Marshall), the head of the railroad; Frank Stratton (Edmund Breese), who escaped from jail after being falsely accused of robbing the railroad; Tom Jordan (Matthew Betz), a disgruntled former employee of the railroad; and others. Larry Baker teams up with Stratton's daughter, Gloria (Shirley Grey) to unmask the Wrecker and prove her father's alleged innocence. There's also a lot to do with a stolen gold shipment that everyone is fighting to recover. An interesting aspect of Hurricane Express is the way the villain uses highly detailed and convincing masks to pretend to be other people throughout the serial, not only confounding Larry, Gloria and the authorities, but confusing the audience at times as well. While this aspect is certainly suspect, it's amusing to note that the same "mask" business is currently used in the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movies made many decades later (and it is still quite improbable that these masks would actually fool anyone). The cliffhangers in this are nothing that special, but we've got a runaway box car, a plane that catches fire and crashes to earth, and Wayne is nearly crushed by a descending and very heavy airplane part at one point. In general, the movie lacks the slick polish of Republic's serials, but it's generally fast-paced and entertaining, with a dollop of suspense pertaining to the identity of the Wrecker. It's funny how many characters in the serial jump to conclusions about the mastermind's identity when everyone is clued in to the fact that he wears masks and nothing could be certain about anyone. John Wayne did several serials for Mascot in the thirties, and gives a competent and rather charismatic performance. Armand Schaefer also directed Wayne in the serial version of The Three Musketeers.

Verdict: One express you might want to catch if you like these old cliffhangers. ***. 


angelman66 said...

I wish Mr. Wayne hadn’t gotten pigeon holed in westerns, which I don’t enjoy as a rule. Because when I have seen him in other genres, such as the spy union in France with Joan Crawford, or adventure film such as High and The Mighty, I have enjoyed his performances. In the early 1930s here, he was quite handsome as well! Also, of course, loved his guest star performances on I Love Lucy!
- Chris

William said...

Who can forget those? Wayne was not a bad actor if he had the right role, and I think he won a deserved Oscar for "Sands of Iwo Jima." I am not a big western fan, either, although I often find myself enjoying one if the actors and story are intriguing enough. And there are the great westerns, like Wyler's "Big Country."