Created By Raoul Whitfield
A series of short stories that appeared in Black Mask in 1932 related the adventures of DONALD FREE, a disgraced government agent forced to accept work at a particularly seedy private detective agency. The stories were to form the basis for a pretty successful movie, Private Detective 62, the next year, starring William Powell.
It was a good tight little film. The plot is obvious and creaky but William Powell is stylish and suave, something he was to perfect later in the Thin Man series. The direction by Curtiz is solid, with some good angle shots and some nice fluid camera work, avoiding the staged-look of a lot of other films from the time. I love the stair bit at the end.
It's hokey as hell, of course, and the whole thing's only a little over an hour long, but I thought it was a hoot; a very entertaining little crime film. Powell, of course, is always fun to watch, and Margaret Lindsay as "the babe" is easy enough on the eyes. And this being a pre-code show, some of the pulp grit seeps through, like a hophead called Whitey who's told at one point to lay off the "snow."
The film did well enough, I guess, and was said to have inspired Dashiel Hammett when he created his own eye/spy, Secret Agent X-9, for the comics.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.
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