Saturday, December 26, 2020

Underwater with the Maltese Falcon

A lot of the movies I blog about here are recorded off of TCM and available on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive. Every now and then, I see one that's coming up on TCM and watch it so I can blog about it because of the upcoming airing. That's the case with Mara Maru, which will be on TCM early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM (or overnight tonight if you're out in the Pacific time zone).

Errol Flynn plays Gregory Mason, who at the start of the movie is doing some undersea welding on the hull of his boat docked somewhere around Manila or whatever port handles the cargo for Manila. He's called topside because there's some news about his business partner Andy Callahan (Richard Webb). He's drunk in a bar, but has been blabbering on about some alleged treasure.

Andy is in an estranged marriage with Stella (Ruth Roman), who doesn't want to be in the Philippines and wants to return home to Americal Andy and Gregory only being here because they served in World War II together when the Philippines was still a US possession and think that there are still good business opportunities in the now-independent country.

And then Gregory gets summoned to the house of one Brock Benedict, who we know is a Bad Guy in part because of the pompous name like Brock Benedict and in part because the role is played by Raymond Burr before he played Perry Mason on TV and started becoming a good guy. Brock knows that Gregory and Andy were on a PT boat together during the war, and that they survived the boat's sinking by the Japanese. Brock and Andy have learned that one of the passengers they were evacuating was carrying some sort of treasure, the buried treasure that Andy was raving about in the bar. Brock would like Gregory to help him find it.

Not that Gregory has much choice, what with a man like Brock funding the salvage operation. It doesn't help that Andy gets killed with the murder carried out in such a way as to frame Gregory. Stella decides she's going to stay behind to get her share of the buried treasure, although it wouldn't be stupid to wonder whether or not she and Gregory are going to fall in love by the end of the story and whether that emotion is sincere on the part of either or the both of them.

Of course, with Andy dead, Gregory is the only one who knows the precise location of that PT boat's sinking. He also has the good sense to realize that Brock means no good, and is planning to double-cross Gregory once the location of the PT boat is revealed. So Gregory decides he's going to give a false location at first to see how Brock and Stella will respond. Eventually they get to the real location, and it turns out that there actually is a treasure. But who will get away with it? And will anybody get away considering that there's a typhoon approaching?

While I was watching Mara Maru, I couldn't help but think of The Maltese Falcon, since the broad idea between the two stories has a lot in common. Not that this is anywhere near the Humphrey Bogart movie. It was made right near the end of Errol Flynn's time at Warner Bros., and he had aged quite a bit over the previous few years. A lot of people consider it one of Flynn's worst movies from his Warner Bros. days (some of his final movies might well be much worse), although to be honest, I didn't think it was anywhere near that bad. It's formulaic and by-the-numbers with an absolutely silly ending, but none of that is Flynn's fault. There's a lot better with Flynn out there, but if you want to be entertained for an hour and a half, you'll get that from Mara Maru.

Mara Maru does seem to have received a DVD release from the Warner Archive, but for whatever reason it's only showing up at Amazon but not the TCM Shop.

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