review for Torrid Zone on AllMovie

Torrid Zone (1940)
by Craig Butler review

Anyone visiting the Torrid Zone better be prepared to duck -- not to avoid a stray bullet (though there are a few of those), but to protect himself from the onslaught of wisecracks that are tossed around with such abandon. As might be expected from a film that many consider to be a variation on The Front Page, the lines in Torrid come thick and fast -- and that's just the way it should be. What is unexpected for the period is how double the entendre is in many cases; one wonders how the strict censors of the periods let some of these slide by, but thank goodness they did. The salty, slangy, streetwise dialogue is a huge asset for Torrid; what other film could get a howl from the simple line "History repeats itself"? The effect comes all from the setup (and from Ann Sheridan's impeccable delivery), and the creators of Torrid know exactly how to make setups work. The screenplay and William Keighley's rapid-fire direction are vitally important, but so is the cast. James Cagney and Pat O'Brien are once again a team that works together like a well-oiled machine, with Cagney played his familiar pugnacious ladies' man routine and O'Brien delivering a tougher characterization than usual. The aforementioned Sheridan is sensational, demonstrating that her label as the "Oomph Girl" applies as much to her delivery of a tart wisecrack as to her stunning looks. Andy Devine is his usual bizarrely voiced self, and there's even a young George Reeves on hand. Some of Torrid doesn't hold up as well today, especially its depiction of Latin Americans, but most viewers will give in to its verve and forgive it its flaws.