Classic movie site with rare images (no web grabs!), original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
grbrpix@aol.com
Search Index Here




Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Runt In The "Shock!" Litter


Long-Ago Late Show That Was Chinatown Squad (1935)

Screen Gems offered a package of so-called monster movies for TV syndication in 1957 that included most of the Frankenstein/Draculas, among others, that Universal made during the 30's and 40's, but there weren't enough bonifide horrors to fill out a needed fifty-two title group, result being fill-in with mysteries and mellers that held less fascination for Shock Theatre stay-uppers. Fifty-two was the magic number needed for a fresh late show per week, or two runs per annum in the event of double-featuring (and many stations did run the package in pairs). Chinatown Squad's presence in the Shock! group is likeliest basis for interest in it today, many having sat dutifully through Universal's programmer on long-ago tee-vee in hopes a Wolf Man or Mummy might follow. Those of us who've committed monsters to memory over past fifty years can better, if belatedly, appreciate the charm of modest thrillers where no issue beyond whodunit is addressed.




Chinatown Squad is by-numbers application of formula beloved by ones (presumably most in GPS attendance) who've rifled Universal graveyards and looking now for what's less familiar from that studio. Is Chinatown Squad rare? Well, I sure haven't seen it turn up in decades, at least since Screen Gems' lease ran out on the Uni spook-lot and Squad was dumped from MCA's subsequent re-grouping of the horrors. There's renewed interest in Squad-star Lyle Talbot thanks to daughter Margaret Talbot's The Entertainer, her bio and celebration of an actor called journeyman by most, but well beloved for plying a lifetime trade well, and never condescending to work he was given (Lyle lent dignity even to Ed Wood projects that used him).


Chinatown Squad's lead woman is Valerie Hobson, scarcely grown when before cameras in 1935, for near as I calculate, Val was all of seventeen at the time. What a contrast to actresses today playing ingénues into their forties! There is comedy relief with Andy Devine; for excess hours he put in at Universal, you'd think Andy kept a sleeping bag on the lot. Story credit goes to Dore Schary, Chinatown Squad an early accomplishment. We're never certain what all of narrative fuss is about. There's a murder, and former police dick Talbot thinks "Foo-Chow Communists" are in back of it, this logical enough in context of intrigues engaged on Universal's back lot, dressed nicely to evoke Chinatown by-ways. Dialogue is "smart" as in smart-aleck, the 30's a peak era for wisecracking. Chinatown Squad enjoyed happy advantage that Universal B's share, being economy-made, but never looking cheap. It's a fun 75 minutes, even sans monsters, to make one regret not giving Chinatown Squad a fairer shake on Shock Theatre.

3 Comments:

Blogger iarla said...

This from the New York Times review "Now that the silly season is here again, we shall have to get used to pictures like "Chinatown Squad," at the Mayfair. There are sliding panels, a lady in black, $70,000 and a mystic ring. And, of course, Chinese. They are wise and enigmatic and talk like this: "Your judgment is extremely conservative but none the less accurate, I thank you, most honorable Lacey." And comedy. Hugh O'Connell, as the lackwit detective of the Chinatown Squad, causes some of the latter in his ineffectual pursuit of the man who murdered the man who misuses the funds intended for the Chinese Communists. The photoplay doesn't make much sense even after Lyle Talbot has solved the mystery. Blame the silly season." Interesting to see Valerie Hobson in a rarer outing during her Universal stint. She became quite a big star in Britain, when she returned before the war, a sort of forerunner od Deborah Kerr, and gives a sterling, vivid performance in "The Rocking Horse Winner", quite the most frightening film she eve made - werewolves and Frankenstein's monster notwithstanding. She also
appeared in two of England's finest films - Leans version of "Great expectations" and "Kind hearts and Coronets". Later, she was hounded into undeserved seclusion when she unwittingly featured in Britain's greatest political sex scandal. Her greatest professional success was onstage, in the West End, when she starred in "The King and I" in 1953.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Screen Gems hadn't really run out of monsters when they threw in a few non-horror ringers in the first SHOCK THEATER package. They saved a few Universal goodies for SON OF SHOCK (BRIDE OF FRANKENSTIEN! HOUSE OF DRACULA!) a package of 20 films including many homegrown Columbia creepies as well.

Great plug for THE ENTERTAINER, a terrific read!

10:46 PM  
Blogger antoniod said...

Boston's WCVB CH-5 leased a revived version of the old "Shock" package, that likewise included many non-horror films, in the early 70s.

12:30 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

grbrpix@aol.com
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016