(1949)3Nathan SouthernDirector Andre de Toth's nail-biter Slattery's Hurricane entertains the audience consistently for all of its 83 minutes. Scripter Herman Wouk reveals a keen instinct for incorporating and utilizing sharp melodramatic hooks -- from Will Slattery's (Richard Widmark) exposure of his "candy-bar magnate" boss's sub-rosa gig as a narcotics smuggler to the loss of one engine as he brings his aircraft in from the titular gust. Moreover, Wouk delivers those hooks from the realm of the trite with slick, hip, and inventive dialogue that Widmark and his co-stars serve up like old masters.
But this picture suffers from a lapse in tone: as Wouk sets up the first two acts, Slattery reveals no emotional commitment to girlfriend/co-worker Dolores Greaves (Veronica Lake), and delivers more than one plea for Aggie (Linda Darnell), his wartime buddy's spouse. The picture sets up Slattery's desire, in its first act, for the devotion of Aggie, and the filmmakers have the audience rooting for him. Tonally, the picture goes awry. How is it possible to have Will assert to Aggie, "I've got you in my system and I'll never get you out," twice over, and end the picture by having that character rush to Dolores's arms apologetically -- without sinking viewers' hearts? (We want to see Widmark and Darnell together.) De Toth and Wouk's establishment of Slattery -- a slightly conniving and amoral backstabber, with a mercurial temper -- as a nonetheless sympathetic figure and a generally nice guy is a thoroughly gutsy and fascinating move, and it works. But the filmmakers should have Will follow through on his desires. Dolores is obviously meant to "redeem" Will in some way during the third act, but Wouk and De Toth fail to convey this redemption adequately. The problem may lie partially with Lake -- she is so cold, shrewish, and grating throughout the picture that, by the tail of the second act, when Dolores collapses and gets shuttled to the hospital, we could care less. Slattery cannot seriously anticipate happiness with this tart, with her irritating smirk and "knowing eyes." (Darnell radiates many times the appeal that Lake does here.)
De Toth conceived this screen vehicle as something of a bounce-back for then-wife Lake following her Paramount rejection. It was a misstep -- the "peek-a-boo blonde" doesn't pass muster as a "nice girl." Fortunately, the small pleasures that the film affords help compensate for its tonal flaws. In addition to the aforementioned dramatic strengths, Hurricane gets a boost from De Toth's smooth incorporation of stock Florida hurricane footage into the picture, and majestic special effects during the final 15 minutes of Slattery's "flight."
Ex-navy pilot Slattery (Richard Widmark) works for a dope-smuggling ring. When he's not in the air, Slattery is making time with Dolores (Veronica Lake), the somewhat put-upon secretary of the ring's leader. Only upon meeting Aggie (Linda Darnell), the wife of his old navy buddy Hobson (John Russell), does Slattery entertain thoughts of changing his ways. As the film's title indicates, Slattery redeems himself during an outsized hurricane. Based on a story by Herman Wouk, Slattery's Hurricane was largely shot on location in Florida. The film represented a comeback attempt by Veronica Lake, who was then married to director Andre de Toth.