Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939)

“They’re after something now that’s going to break us if they get it.”

Synopsis:
Detective Nick Carter (Walter Pidgeon) investigates espionage at the Radex Airplane Factory while courting a lovely female nurse (Rita Johnson) and dealing with an admiring amateur sleuth (Donald Meek).

Genres:

Review:
After acquiring the rights to adapt all 1,100 stories featuring famed fictional detective Nick Carter, MGM ended up producing just three “Nick Carter films” — all of which were based on original plots. This first entry in the “trilogy”, competently directed by Jacques Tourneur, features a debonair young Walter Pidgeon in the title role: he’s both a ladies’ man (he immediately captures the interest of Rita Johnson’s character) and a no-nonsense man-of-action, capable of drawing a gun on the enemy at a moment’s notice. Less impressive (though some disagree) is Donald Meek as “Bartholomew the Bee Man”, whose bumbling characterization is clearly meant to serve as a comedic foil, but instead is merely an unnecessary distraction. At less than an hour long, Nick Carter moves quickly, and features several exciting actions sequences; with that said, it’s really only “must see” viewing for fans of B-grade detective flicks, and/or those curious to see Pidgeon in one of his earliest roles.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Walter Pidgeon in his first leading role as Nick Carter
    Nick Carter Pidgeon
  • A fast-paced, entertaining screenplay
    Nick Carter Screenplay

Must See?
No, but it’s worth a look if you stumble upon it.

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2 Responses to “Nick Carter, Master Detective (1939)”

  1. I am very interested in this film. Being a huge Tourneur fan, this is high on my list!

  2. First viewing. I’ll have to go to bat for this one as a must.

    Here’s why:

    Though director Tourneur had made quite a few films at this point, this is arguably a breakthrough work. It features a number of Tourneur’s signature marks – notably the atmospheric tension we would later see in ‘Cat People’, ‘I Walked With a Zombie’, ‘Out of the Past’ and others.

    As well, it’s an expert exercise in film/script construction. It’s so short yet, there’s so much going on here, there’s no time to be off your toes; and it’s handled so efficiently (esp. the exciting conclusion) that it feels like a full-length feature.

    Granted, at root, it’s little but a ‘Giff me ze negatiffs’ movie. Still, it’s exploited dynamically as such, is gripping, and is ultimately a satisfying film experience.

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