The Hurricane Express [Serial] (1932)

Genres - Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Whodunit  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The second of two projected John Wayne serials produced by genre expert Mascot Pictures, this film used the budget-saving device of having its master criminal wearing variously fiendish rubber masks, offering him the opportunity to resemble every red herring in the large cast. Known only as "The Wrecker" ("That's him, The Wrecker!" people continuously scream throughout the serial), the villain is attempting to sabotage the L. & R. Railroad in order to bolster a competing airline service. Wayne plays a commercial pilot whose father, the railroad's chief engineer (J. Farrell MacDonald), is murdered early on. Shirley Grey, as the daughter of a railroad man falsely accused of sabotage, is the damsel-in-distress (although, despite some poster art, she is never actually tied to the tracks), and Tully Marshall plays the president of the railroad. As Wayne had no drawing power whatsoever in 1932, Marshall, a veteran from the early silent era, was actually given star billing along with Conway Tearle, who portrayed the little seen company lawyer. The Hurricane Express survives in a truncated 70-minute feature version, a screening of which actually feels like watching an entire serial in one sitting. The serial was co-directed by J.P. McGowan, a veteran actor-director who had begun his long love affair with railroad themes directing his then-wife Helen Holmes in The Hazards of Helen (1915).

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Keywords

killing, barnstorming, corruption, disaster, investigation, murder, politician, railroad, revenge, sabotage