Friday, June 22, 2018

Murder in the Clouds

Some months back, I recorded Murder in the Clouds, not knowing whether it was on DVD or not. It turns out that Alpha Video has put out a bare-bones DVD of the movie, so I'm OK doing a full-length review of it.

Lyle Talbot plays "Three Star" Halsey, a pilot based out of Los Angeles and the best pilot the airline has. It's a good thing for him that he's that good, because as with Clark Gable's character in Test Pilot, he likes to live it up, to the mild annoyance of his co-pilot Tom (Robert Light) and Tom's sister Judy (Ann Dvorak), a stewardess who is the object of Three Star's attention. It's to the point that his boss is always worried that it's going to interfere with his work for the airline.

And, as it happens, the airline has a very good reason to worry about Three Star, because the government comes a-calling with an important job. Some scientist has developed a formula for a new explosive that's supposedly going to change the face of war. (I assume it's not a nuclear bomb. This was 1934.) The scientist is going to take it to Washington, and they need the best pilot money can buy to make certain the plane gets there safely. That means Three Star and Tom.

But we find out that there's a fifth columnist working for the airline. Two of them, in fact. The boss's executive assistant Taggart (Russell Hicks) and pilot Wexley (Gordon Westcott) are both in on a plan to sabotage the flight and then get the explosive and take it to Mexico. (The scientist assures everybody beforehand that the explosive is kept in a safe container that is presumably crash-proof.) When Three Star goes to the local bar to blow off some steam before the big flight, Taggart sends some men there to rough him up forcing him to miss the flight and Wexley to take his place.

The plane predictably gets blown out of the sky, and it's a desperate race for the good guys to find the explosive, giving Three Star a chance to redeem himself. Judy is worried about her brother, so she wants to go to the crash site. And the bad guys are preparing a way to get that container out of the country.

Murder in the Clouds isn't a great movie, but it's the sort of movie that shows why I tend to think Warner Bros. had the best B movies. It's fast, light, and endlessly entertaining in its 61 minutes despite all the plot holes that ought to strain credulity. Fans of old planes will also like the vintage aircraft.

If Murder in the Clouds were a Warner Archive release, I'd be bemoaning the high price of the DVD. But it's Alpha Video, so the price isn't bad either. I think that anybody who likes 1930s movies is going to enjoy this one.

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