Motion Picture Daily (Jan-Mar 1952)

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6 Motion Picture daily Monday, February 18, 1952 Motion Picture Daily Feature Reviews ''The Treasure of Lost Canyon'' (Unii-ersaI-I)!tcniational) OUT OF Robert Louis Stevenson's story, "Treasure of Franchard," pro- ducer Leonard Goldstein has fashioned a satisfying piece of family enter- tainment. The adventure, about an orphaned boy and a fabulous treasure, is in color by Technicolor with a cast headed by William Powell, Rosemary De Camp and Tommy Ivo. Powell plavs an eccentric country gentleman and Jack of all trades. A home- less, taciturn youngster crosses his path, and Powell, with the agreement of his 'wife, :Miss DeCamp, decides to adopt the lad. Quite a history preceded the boy, including a stint with a trio of phony medicine peddlers, who taught him the refined art of stealing. One day on an outing the boy comes across a hidden tunnel and mside discovers 'a fabulous treasure. Suddenly rich, Powell goes out on a grand spree. The boy, however, takes a previous statement of Powell's that money corrupts literally and forthwith dumps the treasure deep into a waterfall. To further aggravate matters, his carelessness causes Powell's house to catch fire. The screenplay, by Brainerd Duffiield and Emerson Crocker, has Henry Hull play the slv villain whose selfish manipulations caused the boy to go through a series of hardships. By the finale it is established that the boy was actually the son of Powell's brother. . . The ending is a happy one and one of the factors leading to it is the re- trieving of the treasure from its watery grave. Others in the cast are Charles Drake and Julia Adams, neighbors of Powell. The latter is always pleasant to watch and he turns in an engaging performance. Ted Tetzlaff directed. Running time, 81 >4 minutes. General audience classification. For March rpTpacp Mandel Herbstman ''Road Agenf (RKO Pictures) nTlM HOLT'S usually large-sized Western-film audience will particularly A applaud his "Road Agent" production, for its rapid action, brisk gunplay and better than usual tale, well directed, and produced with satisfaction, by Lesley Selander and Herman Schlom, respectively. Norman Houston wrote the story, which makes Holt and his pal, Richard Martin, a pair of "Robin Hoods" who save the cattlemen of Trail City from Mauritz Hugo, a wily cattle buyer who has purchased surrounding lands in order to place prohibi- tive tolls on all roads over which the cattlemen must drive their herds on their way to market. Tim and Martin hold up Hugo to get back what they feel is an overcharge on the toll. Inadvertently, they take all of Hugo's money, which runs into many thousands. They turn it over to the harried cattlemen to pay the tolls, thus actually returning the money to Hugo while doing a service to the cattle- men. Hugo's hold on the town later is broken when he moves outside the law to keep the cattlemen from getting to market and is nabbed in the process by Tim, Martin and the sheriff. The story moves swiftly and logically at all times, building to a gun-blazmg climax when the two Robin Hoods are cornered in a mountain cabin by Hugo and his men. It breaks with tradition when Holt goes into a clinch with Noreeu Nash, daughter of one of the cattlemen, at the fadeout. Others in the cast are: Dorothy Patrick, Bob Wilks, Tom Tyler, Guy Ed- ward Hearn, William Tannen, Sam Flint, Forbest Murray and Stan Blystone. Running time, 60 minutes. General audience classification. Release date, not set. "The Small Back Room'' {Archer-Snader) WITH Britain-at-war as background, this film endeavors to demonstrate that a man faced with severe physical and emotional problems can lick his situation if he develops the inner strength to do so. But the premise is met unsatisfactorily because of a strange mixture of story lines which get hopelessly tangled. David Farrar j/lays a British scientist busy on secret projects. The strain of war is heightened by a psyhical disability which doctors meet by pre- prescribing drugs. Sometimes they help and then again they do not whereas Farrar finds antidote and comfort in straight Scotch. Thus, the contest is between the drugs, which are authorized, and the liquor which is not. It is Kathleen Byron, Farrar's romance, who does most to keep him away from the liquor and a growing program of self-pity. They quarrel and he goes for the Scotch. Meanwhile, the Germans have been dropping a mysterious bomb on Eng- land. Farrar gets the assignment of disassembling it for study. In carrying off the task successfully, he also finds himself and licks his emotional diffi- culties. The film is based on a novel by Nigel Balchin and a script by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who also produced and directed. It is an unsatisfying mixture of various story elements, including mystery, psychiatry and suspense. Very good is the long sequence on the lonely beach when Far- rar neutralizes the bomb. This outdoes by far the rest of the film with its unexpected shift into a "Lost Weekend" routine. What happens is all part of the same film, but portions are so loosely joined that the relationship be- comes strained. The principals are competent and are thoroughly believable when the film allows them to be. Running time, 90 minutes. Adult audience classification. Release date, not set. "The Belle of New York" {M-G-M) THE springboard for this latest and lavish M-G-M musical is the gaslight era when waiters sang, women were shy, men both bold and gallant, and Currier and Ives illustrated the scenery and also were part of it. Fred Astaire and Vera-Ellen are the co-stars, singing and dancing an array of tunes by Llarry Warren and Johnny Mercer. When the stars are on their agile pins, "The Belle of New York" gets away from its lethargic and dull story, takes on verve and life and is some- thing of a delight to watch. There is, for instance, Astaire doing an inimit- able and vastly entertaining routine on top of the arch in Washington Square; Vera-Ellen doing a perfectly charming song-and-dance number when the story calls for her to try her hand at the jemme fatale business; another in which both of them bring to life a series of Currier and Ives prints which follow the seasons of the year; and a fourth in which they sing and dance in and around a horse car. But the story which has the irresponsible Astaire pursue the mission worker and the romantic booby traps which block their path to romantic bliss is doleful and dull. In fact, it merely bridges and sets the stage for their routines. No niatter how it is approached, any discussion of this musical must get back to those musical numbers which are so good that all else is completely outdis- tanced. Astaire, of course, continues to be quite wonderful but never far behind, if indeed she is, is the graceful and personable Vera-Ellen. They make a team which is on the wonderful side of the ledger. The attraction is based, according to the credits, on a play by Hugh Morton and adapted for its current purpose by Chester Erskine. Robert O'Brien and Irving Elinson wrote the screenplay, but the production departments that count in this effort are the individuals like Robert Alton who staged and directed the musical numbers; Warren and Mercer who wrote a pleasant, but undistinguished, score; Cedric Gibbons and Jack Martin Smith, the art directors; Robert Planck who handled the Technicolor camera and, by all odds, Warren Newcombe and Irving G. Ries who accomplished interesting effects in trick photography. Arthur Freed produced and Charles Walters directed. Others in the cast include Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn and Alice Pearce. Running time, 82 minutes. General audience classification. Release date, February, 1952. Red Kann "Colorado Sundown" {Republic) REX ALLEN employs his prowess and skill against a brother-sister com- bination out to gain control of rich timberlands by pretending the trees are infested with bark beetles. The villains are Fred Graham and June Vin- cent who have been willed one-third of a huge estate. Sharing the other two- thirds of the property are Slim Pickens and pretty Mary Ellen Kay. The villains first kill a forest ranger and then put a long-lost brother to work in the guise of the ranger. In this fraudulent disguise he condemns trees and makes the ranchers sell out at a ridiculously low price. Among other activities of the villains is the habit of giving their opponents poisonous tea. The screenplay by Eric Taylor and William Lively has more plot involve- m.ents than is customary in the average Western. There is, however, the normal amount of gunplay and hard riding. For a time Allen finds himself in hot water, especially when he is accused of the murder of one of the "tea" victims. By the finale everything is cleared up in true Western tradition. On band with an occasional song are the Republic Rhythm Riders. Edward J. White was associate producer and William Witney directed. Running time, 67 minutes. General audience classification. Release date, Feb. 8. M. Herbstman "The Magic Garden" (Swan Film-Mayer-Kingsley) SIMPLICITY, charm and a nice balance in good humor recommend this film for art theatre audiences. "The Magic Garden" is a folk tale about a group of Afrikaans who live in doubtful splendor in a suburb of Johannes- burg. Produced and directed by Donald Swanson in South Africa with a non- professional Negro cast, it does not have the polish of a fully-rounded pro- fessional attraction, yet this turns out to be one of its major assets. The simple story deals with the theft of 40 pounds from a church to which the money eventually returns but not before it touches and alters the lives of those with whom it establishes contact. A poor widow and her children are aided, a young couple finds marriage, a greedy money-lender and an avaricious storekeeper are taught a lesson and the thief is caught by the law. Throughout is heard the captivating music of Willard Cele, who plays a wood instrument known as a pennywhistle, and solos and chorals by the players in their tribal dialects and in English. It is not without possibility that some Negro groups here may be offended by the naivete and simple childishness attributed generally to the cast. They may take the position that emphasis on backwardness and superstitution, regardless of how accurately they agree with the facts, is a reflection on the whole race. Running time, 63 minutes. General audience classification. Release date, not set.