Jan 6, 2008

Born to Be Wild (1938)

Throughout the year, postings such this one will be devoted to "matinee idylls", reviewing Saturday afternoon matinee fodder, from serials to quickie second features. This offers me a great excuse to watch all these Alpha DVDs that I have collected in the cheapo bins. While their quality is often suspect, I salute this company for singlehandedly making "B" movies from the days of thrills and laughter available to the general public. Yes, many of their PD offerings have been staples in previous video releases, but Alpha has dug even deeper, bringing a wealth of wonderful surprises for the nostalgia lover.

Born to be Wild is a nice way to spend 64 minutes, in this caper of two truckers (Ralph Byrd, best known for playing Dick Tracy, and Ward Bond) who race against time to carry a truckload of dynamite to a dam which had been closed down by a land baron who is squeezing the townsfolk out of their properties. The intrepid duo is constantly intercepted by gangsters, resulting in some fun escapism. Doris Weston also tags along for the obligatory love interest. While at first, this seems like a familiar programmer, until one realizes that it was written by author Nathanael West (best known for the novel The Day of the Locust). Before his untimely death in 1940, he was paying the bills by penning B films for Republic and RKO (namely, the well-remembered Five Came Back). This movie is unusual for its (yes!) musical numbers, as the two tough guys sing "Danger Ahead" (cute) in an early scene. (Perhaps it was intended a spoof on macho action pictures.) Director Joseph Kane is best known for helming countless westerns for Republic, and kept quite busy until the 1970's, making his swan song with the oater, Smoke in the Wind, featuring John Ashley and Walter Brennan. (Anyone have a copy of this?)

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