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Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another Death Ray Put To Constructive Use


Air Hawks (1935) Do Battle With Mad Science

Fleet boss Ralph Bellamy has to score that mail contract despite wrecking of his planes by death-ray wielding Edward van Sloan, acting at behest of Douglass Dumbrille. Many scenes played for dark house and sci-fi values, notching up interest in a workmanlike Columbia "B." Van Sloan, lately killing vampires and mummies, is low lit and screwy for nice off-casting, Bellamy a same sort of duty-first figure patented elsewhere by Pat O'Brien; one pilot bears doom stamp from a first moment we see him with wife and adorable child (Marianne Edwards, who did some Our Gangs). Comedy folk Elise Cavanna and Billy West get brief look-ins. Columbia B's generally amuse me less than similar product from others, but Air Hawks is exception, leg up being vintage plane stuff and settled fascination for death rays. Standing out too is Wiley Post as himself, taking the stick for a cross-country flight to save Bellamy's line. Post cuts an arresting figure with eye patch and barely got out lines; he'd crack up fatally within months with Will Rogers. Air Hawks earned $172K in domestic rentals, probably gracious plenty to put such a cheapie in profit.

1 Comments:

Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer explains a possible origin of death rays:


The "death ray" has been a staple of science since Nicola Tesla published a summary in 1918 of his experiments to date. Tesla, the mystically-minded inventor, had developed the alternating current system of electrical transmission still used today. Much of what he did was not understood at the time, but he may have developed the precursors of what would become known as the laser and the particle beam accelerator. Either could have been the basis for the death ray he mentioned, though he described only its effects. Much later, during World War II, he offered a particle beam accelerator to the U.S. government for defense. It used a stream of ionized air to accelerate tungsten pellets with tremendous force and range. He claimed that it could destroy enemy planes three hundred miles away--assuming, of course, that there was way of targeting them at that distance. Undoubtedly, he had that problem solved as well, though not in any way that made sense to the authorities then. Edward van Sloan's approach would seem to be much less ambitious, though perhaps more practical, even as Marconi's method of wireless telegraphy more practical than Tesla's vast Wardenclyffe project for world-wide communication. Its funding was cut off before it ever became operational, and there is speculation to this day as to how it would have worked.

Daniel

9:19 PM  

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