Dennis O'Brien & "Professor" Schickler

Created by Herbert Margolis and Louis Morheim

"I rent out boats and do anything that means long odds and short hours. My sideline's trouble."

-- O'Brien explains his occupation in Roaring City

"When you deal with these dames --
you're in the DANGER ZONE!"

-- tagline from Danger Zone

All things considered, easy-going DENNIS O'BRIEN (played by Hugh Beaumont) would probably rather be renting out boats from his shop on San Francisco's Pier 23 at fifty bucks a pop. Unfortunately, that doesn't quite keep the boats afloat, so he moonlights as a "troubleshooter" to make ends meet in three episodic B-flicks from 1951. The down side is that, as a makeshift private eye, he has a shocking propensity for getting knocked unconscious and being framed for murder; variations on that theme being repeated Danger Zone, Roaring City and Pier 23.

Many suspect that the three films are actually recycled episodes of a failed television show; each "film" containing two separate half-hour episodes slapped together and pawned off as feature films to unsuspecting theatre owners. Lending creedence to the TV theory is the fact that all three films made their debuts within a few weeks of each other, suggesting they were already in the can. My guess is that the filmmakers were betting heavily on Beaumont, who had just wrapped up playing Brett Halliday's freewheeling private eye Michael Shayne in several films. They probably figured on striking while the iron was hot, rushing the films out while Beaumont still had some credibility playing a detective.

Certainly, O'Brien works a wonderfully diverse group of cases. In Danger Zone, he's hired to buy a specific saxophone case at an auction, while in his second advenure in that film he's charged with escorting a young woman to a party on a yacht. In Roaring City, he's suckered into placing a bid on a rigged prize fight, and is hired to pose as the husband of a wealthy socialite, while in the final film, Pier 23, he's called upon to protect a professional wrestler and convince a convict not to attempt escaping from Alcatraz. But invariably, O'Brien is played for a patsy, and usually ends up getting sapped and -- just for good measure -- accused of murder.

But for Hugh Beaumont, the actor, it was good training. He would go on to TV stardom a few years later as the ultimate paternal patsy, Ward Cleaver, in Leave It to Beaver.

FILMS

  • DANGER ZONE.. Buy the DVD
    (aka "Pier of Peril")
    (1951, Spartan Productions)
    Premiere: April 20, 1951
    Based on the stories by Herbert Margolis and Louis Morheim
    Screenplay by Julian Harmon
    Produced and directed by William Berke
    Starring Hugh Beaumont as DENNIS O'BRIEN
    Also starring Edward Brophy, Richard Travis, Pamela Blake, Tom NealVirginia Dale, Ralph Sanford, Paula Drew

  • ROARING CITY
    (1951, Spartan Productions)
    Premiere: May 4, 1951
    Based on the stories by Herbert Margolis and Louis Morheim
    Screenplay by Julian Harmon
    Produced and directed by William Berke
    Starring Hugh Beaumont as DENNIS O'BRIEN
    Also starring Greg McClure, Edward Brophy, Richard Travis, Joan Valerie, Wanda McKay, Rebel Randall, William Tannen, Anthony Warde, Abner Biberman, Stanley Price

  • PIER 23.. Buy the DVD
    (aka "Flesh and Leather")
    (1951, Spartan Productions)
    Premiere: May 11, 1951
    Based on the stories by Herbert Margolis and Louis Morheim
    Screenplay by Julian Harmon and Victor West
    Produced and directed by William Berke
    Starring Hugh Beaumont as DENNIS O'BRIEN
    Also starring Edward Brophy, Richard Travis, Ann Savage, Margia Dean, Mike Mazurki, David Bruce, Richard Greenleaf

DVDS

This budget priced collection rounds up eight moldy oldies, including both Danger Zone and Pier 23.

Report respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.


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