December 22nd, 2009

THE CROOKED CIRCLE (1932) **

A secret society of hooded criminals known as The Crooked Circle meets in a dank basement where they plan their devious acts.  Meanwhile The Sphinx Club; a group of amateur sleuths, make a pact to bring The Crooked Circle to justice.  When they put one of the Circle’s members behind bars, the evil clan declares war on the fledgling detectives.

 

Although the idea of a club of detectives trying to crack down on an underground society of criminals has potential, The Crooked Circle squanders it’s initial premise rather quickly.  The biggest problem is that none of The Sphinx Club members really become memorable characters.  The lone exception is the psychic swami dude.  He’s pretty cool but all the other guys are more or less interchangeable.

 

Director H. Bruce Humberstone films The Crooked Circle’s secret meetings with lots of creepy atmosphere but is unable to give the rest of the film the same kind of kick.  After a decent first act, the flick devolves into a ho-hum Old Dark House mystery.  You also have to contend with painfully unfunny comic relief; led by the ever-so annoying Zazu Pitts.  She plays the dumb housekeeper that whines like Olive Oyl and gets on your damn nerves super fast.  You’ll wish The Crooked Circle made her their first victim.

 

Humberstone later went on to helm several Charlie Chan mysteries.

DRUMS OF AFRICA (1941) **

A group of vacationers go on an expedition to Africa so a chick (Sheila Darcy) can be reunited with her missionary brother (Charles Middleton).  Along the way they encounter a heap of stock footage of elephants, tigers, leopards, and monkeys.  Eventually, she meets up with her bro and predictably falls in love with his hunky assistant (Buster Crabbe) who is looking for a cure to a mysterious jungle malady.  After the explorers go on a sightseeing trip to the “City of the Dead”, they return with the deadly disease.  Of course, only Dr. Studly has what it takes to cure them.

 

Drums of Africa is your average run of the mill no frills 1940’s jungle picture.  Nothing more; nothing less.  It’s heavily padded with stock footage, flashbacks of stock footage, and (you guessed it) more stock footage.  Seriously, this movie is only an hour long but I swear that half of it is nothing but stock footage.  I don’t know; I was kinda in the mood for this sort of thing so it didn’t bother me too bad.  If anything, Drums of Africa gives you the cheap thrill of seeing mortal enemies Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless playing on the same side for once.  That’s a small consolation prize I know but in a creaky jungle movie like this one; you take what you can get.

 

AKA:  Jungle Man.