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Thursday, September 18, 2014

Lorre Lands at 20th


Spies Steal Secrets in Crack-Up (1936)

Not all Fox Cinema Archive releases are botched transfers of Cinemascope or vintage Technicolor backlog. Some, like today's Crack-Up, are plenty satisfactory and worth the dip, especially on sale terms like one Amazon is having now, Crack-Up and others of the 20th line going for $14.49 as opposed to $19.98 retail. They haven't shied from B's off their shelves --- there's even Jane Withers and the Jones Family offered, though neither of these have Peter Lorre in first Fox flowering. Crack-Up was the German exotic's initial bid for screen normalcy, his parts previous leaning so sinister as to make crowds wonder if Lorre himself was tainted by M's unwholesome strain. For Crack-Up, we'd get him both ways, as jester and fiend, the first a disguise for the second. Either way Pete's creepy, his brain damage put-on all too convincing for a first act, so much so that we're relieved to see him emerge as spy ring leader who freely executes those who fail foreign power he serves. And pray what nationality does Crack-Up Lorre represent? On basis on Teutonic accent and heel-clicking among subordinates, it's got to be Germany, already in Hollywood crosshairs as opponent we'll eventually face.


Crack-Up fell among B's out of 20th, its negative cost a lean $224K, in line with others of budget class. Samuel G. Engel would start as credited producer here, from which would follow others of modest goal. For Lorre too, Crack-Up was a test run. Could his odd appeal be domesticated? Success at that would come with Mr. Moto, which Lorre acknowledged was done "to get the flavor of M out of the cinema palate of the American fan." He'd be well paid for Crack-Up: four weeks guaranteed at $2500 per, plus first billing. People were curious about Lorre and wanted to see more of him. After all, there was no player remotely like this on our shores. Crack-Up would also focus on enhance of Brian Donlevy, but to what end? As lead man material, he came off shifty and seldom to be trusted. That would be case here, Donlevy seeming to confirm with each part that he'd work best as a heavy. Crack-Up runs seventy minutes, concerns itself with a secret propeller design stolen in service to one foreign power, diverted then to another, J. Carroll Naish in service to that. Confusion might result from inattention, though the end has a curious pathos. Fox B's were unpredictable, some outstanding of the type. Crack-Up clicks for being fast, fun, and Lorre-centric, along with bonus of a DVD that looks good as this does.


So the still above, taken on presumed location ... the dapper gent who's seated, clad in arresting Southwest garb, is none other than silent era stylist Rex Ingram, who earlier gave us The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse, The Magician, Mare Nostrum, more 20's classics (I could almost mistake him for Tom Conway). The elegantly dressed lady is Mrs. Ingram, Alice Terry, once co-star to Valentino and a stellar silent name in her own right. Fox's still caption says they've come to visit "friend of year's standing" Peter Lorre, at left. Had Lorre made acquaintance during extended late 20's period when the Ingrams were making films in Europe? That's Crack-Up director Malcolm St. Clair in fedora behind Alice. He'd been a veteran at comedy (w/Keaton), many features for Paramount, including early talkie The Canary Murder Case, and was now starting off a second wind for Fox in their B unit. The group, including Brian Donlevy at right, "spent much time reminiscing," according to studio caption.

1 Comments:

Blogger James Corry said...

GLAD to hear that this film looks good! I was/am SO damn disgusted at what Fox (or whoever it is) has done with their "Cinema Archives" program I was honestly wondering if anybody was actually in charge at all....I really thought we'd see a lot of the Fox catalogue of CinemaScope pix. in their proper aspect-ratios (and sound)if only in SD. Brother was I WRONG!......Of course maybe somebody just hit the wrong button and did this title correctly.....

Brad

6:09 PM  

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