Monday, May 3, 2010

Kate Plus Ten (1938)

I'm starting a week of films that are based on the work of Edgar Wallace and his son Bryan Edgar Wallace. Edgar Wallace is best known as having written King Kong. Both were prolific writers of mysteries of various sorts, usually of the sort that ended up in dark and shadowy places in London or the English countryside. While their stories were turned into films going all the way back to at least the 1930's, they were really churned out in a series of films turned out in Germany in the 1950's,60's and early 70's. Four of the films I'm talking about this week come from England in the 30's and 40's with only one coming from the German series.

First up Kate Plus Ten

Inspector Pemberton is called to a Lord's house in order to investigate a missing cigarette case. There he meets the Lord's secretary named Kate, who the Lord's daughter thinks stole the case. Smitten, Pemberton ponders how he can meet her again, only to find out that she is actually Kate Westhanger, the leader of a band of thieves. Going around to her hide out Pemeberton attempts to "woo" the girl and get her to go straight. However when that fails he challenges her to a contest, promising to prevent whatever the job is she is working on. Thus begins a game of cat and mouse as Pemberton and Kate crack wise while trying very hard to win their bet.

Atypical Edgar Wallace based film in that its actually a romantic comedy/mystery more than a straight mystery. The repartee between the leads is very good and often on par with the best American films and had anyone had the inclination this might have turned into a neat little British Thin Man series.

To be honest he mystery itself is much too complicated for a 75 minute movie a fact which wasn't helped since the print I saw was a tiny bit choppy in spots and was clearly missing a few minutes. Certainly there are simply too many characters wandering around, with most of Kate's ten man gang fading into the background. The result of too much plot and too many characters is that the film as a whole bogs down at times. The film is never bad, it just doesn't remain at the same level as the romantic rivalry, which as I've said is at least the equal to the Nick and Nora Charles clashes in the Thin Man films.

The flaws ultimately are minor since this is a really good film. This was never supposed to be high art, just breezy entertainment and on that level it succeeds wonderfully (I should know I've seen this three or four times since I picked it up). Its the perfect thing to be part of a rainy night on the couch watching movies. It would actually make a nice double or triple feature with the Gaunt Stranger or any of the other Wallace adaptations I'm reviewing this week.

Currently available from Sinister Cinema.

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