Murder In The Clouds

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Murder In The Clouds : A throw-back to what movies once were.

Jul 7, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Dramatic Story, Fun to watch, Well made film for the time

Cons:none

The Bottom Line: For a black and white action movie from the 1930's, this film was very well done, and kept my attention throughout the duration. It is a recommended viewing choice.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

Before there were super computers and advanced editing equipment that now has become an important part of film-making, there were films that relied on the characters telling the story. This was also a time when the images on film merely served to support the story, and that action was used to create drama, rather than being the only basis of a story. It is generally accepted that the special effects that now exist are far superior to those that came out 50-70 years ago, but at the same time, it is also gratifying to see movies that came before the time of massive CGI filled scenes.

While I am a fan of a lot of older movies, I can't be called a throw-back, because when a movie like Spiderman-2 comes out, I am first in line to find out what new action scenes he has been thrown into. On the other hand, I am also not the type of movie fan to look down on movies from the past just because their special effects cannot hold up in today's society. Does it make Gone With The Wind any less spectacular just because there were not a ton of war-scenes filled with explosions? Does it make Casablanca any less historical just because it used only 5 sets, and the scenes involving planes flying could be done better by me in 5 minutes? The answer to these questions, and any other questions that involve looking down on movies from our past because of this is a big "no."

With the mind-set that I was not going to compare films I had seen recently with this film, I took a chance on watching Murder In The Clouds . The film came out back in 1934, and at 61 minutes, almost seems like something that could fit into a 1-hour television show on like HBO or Showtime. Of course it is black and white, and it has been released on DVD recently so that a new generation of film viewers could enjoy it. This was a great thing for me, because never having heard of the movie, I probably would not have been able to see it otherwise. The film was innovative in its approach to using footage, and I will touch later on how it ended up affecting a lot of movies that came after it.

Murder In The Clouds starred Lyle Talbot as Bob "Three Star" Halsey, a hot-shot pilot who we could compare to someone like Tom Cruise, from Top Gun. But instead of having a rough attitude, he is a good ol boy who is revolutionizing how planes are being flown. To put it bluntly, he is doing things with planes that had been nothing more than thoughts in someones imagination. His girlfriend Judy, is played by Ann Dvora, and she falls into the role of any woman actor of the time as a submissive, and always getting into trouble, leading lady. It was almost comedic to see this as an acceptable role at the time, and I could not help but think to myself that it would not play off in today's movies very well. The movie was directed by D. Ross Lederman, and I am thinking that he was given a lot of trust with this movie, because it ended up being a Christmas release when it came out.

The premise of the story, is that a scientist has created a new explosive mixture, and i must be transported to Washington as soon as possible. Bob and Judy's brother Tom (who has just started flying for the line), are tasked with the job of flying the scientist and his mixture on the trip. Unfortunately for everyone involved, it turns out that a foreign Government wants it just as bad, and Bob is attacked before the flight can happen. With the plane hijacked and his friend Tom on board, Halsey can only watch helplessly from the ground as the plane goes down in flames and the thieves escape by parachute. After racing to the scene of the crash, Judy is captured by the criminals, and now it is up to Bob and his co-pilot Wings (played by Gordon Westcott) to save the day.

From that point, we are treated to a lot of action-packed scenes, and a lot of aerial stunts that would end up being so well done, that they would be used in other films by First National Pictures. In fact, in watching the scenes, I had a sudden deja vu come over me, as if I had seen some of them before, but could not place it. After doing some research, I was able to find out about the re-use of the footage. With film costs being expensive back then, and not wanting to do more than one take, it became pretty obvious to me that this was a smart cost-saving plan. What it also funny, is that this type of thing is still done in movies, and more specifically in television shows like Jag. When the budget does not quite cover every cost, you have to do what you can, and if you have archived footage that was very well done, then why not use it.

Murder In the Clouds was a very enjoyable film for me. At only 61 minutes though, the time seemed to fly by really fast, and I was left wanting more. I guess that was a good thing though, because now I am on a 1930's movie kick. I highly recommend giving this film a try if it ever crosses your path, and you are interested in seeing some early stunts in the movies. The plot of villains, and a kidnapped girlfriend may seem common-place in today's movies, but they were treading new ground in the newer "talking" pictures, and I think this film is a good example of where movies were heading. So, if you are one of those people tired of the Summer blockbusters, take a step of the beaten path and give Murder In the Clouds a try.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Good for Groups

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