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Thursday, October 08, 2015

That Super-Man Is In Again


Man At Large (1941) Pits G. Reeves Against Saboteurs

A Fox B celebrated by few fortunates who have seen it, Man At Large shouldn't go missing in our era of plenty. Other and more obscure Fox programmers have turned up via On-Demand DVD, but so far not this one. Man At Large did play television at one time, generously from the late 50's after first reaching airwaves, and into the 60/70's where it joined others of similar genre as part of a "Mystery/Suspense" package offered by TV packager NTA. Man At Large was also fondly recalled by Don Miller in his indispensable B Movies book, the author referring to it as a best of low-budget Hitchcock homages. Man At Large began shooting on a same June 1941 day as John Ford's How Green Was My Valley, the latter tabbed for prestige playdates and eventual Academy recognition, while humble Man At Large made do with support placement befitting its category. But would modern viewership be as eager to watch all-too familiar How Green again? Ford's classic is sold on Blu-Ray, and streams everywhere, but try finding Man At Large ... I couldn't locate modern appraisals even at IMDB.


The story is typical of actioners leading up to WWII; an escaped Nazi airman, not unlike ones in two-years-later Northern Pursuit, spearheading would-be conquest as our G-Men give chase. Much of fun is in the pace, a rapid 70 minutes that seems less, and with engaging cast top-lined by young George Reeves, doing work here to make us regret his missing brass ring of feature stardom. But then if he had clicked, we'd have no definitive Superman. You'd not beat Man At Large for timing in any case, its arrival keyed to war clouds darkening (released September 1941), and plenty of subsequent play after Germany became our declared enemy. We can never know sock like Man At Large delivered in first-run, then-emotions set on hot with more and more ticket-buyers in uniform, or headed to enlist. Silly though Man At Large may seem today, it was call to arms and reassurance for millions in anxiety over a conflict which outcome was anything but certain. Fox was among most sure-footed at making programmers look lush, thanks to sharp-as-pin camerawork, re-use of standing sets from A's, and trim of fat from narrative always on the go. Man At Large is a rarity that should go back in circulation.

3 Comments:

Blogger Bill O said...

Mark Sandrich promlsed Reeves a star build-up once Reeves returned from the war. Sandrich died before it could happen. Reeves' career path strewn with Kryptonlte.

7:38 AM  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

Glad to see you're enthusiastic about this elusive programmer. I've yet to catch up with it. But as someone who likes both George Reeves and Marjorie Weaver, I've wanted to for years. You're so right about the sheen Fox put on most of their B's. Warners was good at it too. Check out their "Spy Ship"(1942), which neatly fuses plot elements of an early Bette Davis film, "Fog Over Frisco", with wartime espionage thrills. George Reeves isn't in that one. But Irene Manning is unexpectedly terrific in it. Reeves spent time as a contractee for both Warners and Fox. And though his Superman hasn't ever been on my radar (never saw it as a kid), I've always been impressed by his work as a big screen up and comer in the early 40's. Of course he was handsome - to an extreme degree. But to that add personable, plucky and effortlessly accomplished. With an easy comic flair that's on nice display in "Always a Bride" and "Father is a Prince" (both 1940). I've always connected him with William Lundigan, Richard Denning and Richard Greene. All genial, dashing and uber-photogenic contemporaries of his. And as with Reeves,their careers were interrupted at critical points by wartime military service and they were never able to regain big screen momentum afterwards. Luckily, all four did at least enjoy substantial success on TV in the 50's. I really like the teaming of Reeves and Dennis Morgan as brothers in Warners' action-packed "Tear Gas Squad"(1940). They have great chemistry together. It's only a briskly entertaining little B, but when Reeves gets killed early on, he's already made such a winning impression that we genuinely miss him. "Thunder in the Pines"(1948) is a Poverty Row buddy adventure/comedy. But the happy teaming of Reeves and Ralph Byrd invests the whole thing with major league snap, crackle and pop. This one's available on DVD in its original glorious sepiatone too. A must for Reeves fans.

8:50 AM  
Blogger Bill O said...

Reeves got a glimpse of the future when he did support ln The Good Humor Man '50,concernlng Superman's comlc book rival Capt. Marvel.

6:19 PM  

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