Tuesday, June 9, 2020
Murder in the Clouds (1934)
Bob ‘Three Star’ Halsey (Lyle Talbot) is the ace pilot at Trans America Air Lines. He’s the source of constant exasperation to the airline boss Lackey. He drinks too much, gambles too much and gets into too many fights but there’s nothing Lackey can do about it - Three Star is just too good a pilot to fire.
Three Star’s girlfriend is Judy (Ann Dvorak), one of the airline’s stewardesses (yes I know we’re supposed to call them flight attendants these days but in 1934 they were stewardesses). Judy would marry Three Star in a minute if she could convince herself he would make a reliable husband but since she can’t convince herself of any such thing she’s waiting for a miracle that will turn him into husband material. One of the other pilots, George Wexley (Gordon Westcott), is kinda sweet on Judy as well.
That flight could be a flight to disaster. The scientist is carrying a cylinder of the new explosive and it’s obvious that bad guys, probably in cahoots with foreign spies, will stop at nothing to get it. There’s going to be murder and mayhem and Judy will get caught in the middle. And Three Star will do anything to save his girl.
Lyle Talbot, always a wonderfully entertaining actor, is perfectly cast as the brave but irresponsible Three Star. Talbot has the charisma to pull off a rôle like this without any trouble at all. Ann Dvorak is also very good as the good-natured but slightly cynical Judy. There was always just a slight edge of hysteria to Dvorak’s performances but that’s what made her an interesting actress. You always think she might be about to cry, or scream, or kiss someone, or shoot someone. Judy is more than just the love interest for the hero, as she gets to prove she can be pretty resourceful as well.
OK, the plot is at best workmanlike and there isn’t much of a mystery but the characters are engaging. We want things to work out between Three Star and Judy because they’re likeable and we believe in them. There’s a spy thriller element but the canister of explosive is really just a McGuffin. What matters is that there’s something that the bad guys are prepared to kill for.
Alpha Video’s DVD is pretty good. The transfer is very acceptable indeed.
Murder in the Clouds is just plenty of good clean fun. Highly recommended.