Friday, October 8, 2010

The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt (1939)

The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt is a lightweight spy thriller played mostly for laughs. It’s really a sort of screwball comedy with spies.

Michael Lanyard was a notorious safe-cracker who used to go by the name of The Lone Wolf but he’s long since reformed. His past comes back to haunt him when a spy ring kidnaps him and tries to frame him for stealing top-secret weapons plans from a safe in the War Department.

Lanyard isn’t all that easy to get the better of though and when they try the same stunt again he switches the plans on them. The spies make various attempts to retrieve the plans while Lanyard not only has to try to foil their plans, he also has to keep one step ahead of the police.

The plot isn’t exactly inspired and the twists are fairly predictable. Since it’s being played mainly as a comedy that doesn’t matter too much. Unfortunately the script doesn’t really have too much sparkle to it. But it does boast an interesting cast.

Warren William plays the Lone Wolf and while he’s always watchable one can’t help thinking that this sort of essentially comic role was a reprehensible waste of his unique talents. The really interesting casting choices are the two main female roles, two actresses who had not yet found their niche in Hollywood and are playing roles that are very unexpected.

Firstly we have Ida Lupino as the hero’s ditzy blonde girlfriend, and she’s there to provide most of the comic relief. Whatever misgivings she may have had when she read the script it has to be admitted that Lupino approaches the part with her usual commitment and energy. And somehow or other she just about carries it off. In fact she’s probably the best thing about this movie.

Secondly, and even more surprisingly, we have Rita Hayworth as a heavy! She’s the number two in the enemy spy ring but she gets to do most of the dirty work, using a mixture of threats and seduction. She handles the seductive aspects fairly well but being threatened with violence by Rita Hayworth isn’t particularly scary. It’s a bizarre piece of miscasting and she never comes to terms with the part.

So far it must sound as if I really disliked this movie but while it reaches no great heights it’s still harmless entertainment. It’s strictly B-movie stuff but if you can accept it for what it is then it’s reasonably enjoyable. And Lupino is fun.

1 comment:

  1. For a B film this one definitely has an overqualified supporting cast, if only in retrospect, but Lupino and Hayworth both contribute generously to its entertainment value. I even liked the little girl and wouldn't have minded had Columbia kept her for the subsequent series.