Sunday, September 22, 2019

X Marks the Spot (1942)

Private detective Eddie Delaney has only two days before his commission in Army Intelligence begins. Just as he's all set to go, his policeman father is shot by unknown gangsters, and Eddie finds himself on the hunt for a group of rubber racketeers. Things take a turn for the worse when a crime lord is killed, and the police suspect Eddie of being the killer, acting as a vigilante. Now the only one who can help him is the only 'witness' to the true culprit, Eddie's swing hostess sweetheart...

X Marks the Spot is a thoroughly entertaining crime picture. It starts off with a good introduction to its lead, then with a dash of intrigue. From then on we get an interesting plot about rubber bandits, which ends up taking an unexpected turn about a third of the way in, and the film becomes a murder-mystery! It handles these shifts quite well, feeling like a natural extension rather than an abrupt jerk.

At only 52 minutes in, X Marks might seem like it'd be a miniscule viewing experience, but it's anything but, due to its strong pacing. Only 22 minutes in, it felt like double that length had passed!

While the script is very good, it's not without problems. The first of these is that it isn't really made clear that Eddie's father is dead (if he is?). I mean, yeah, we see him get shot in the chest three times, but the film never says he's dead, and while Eddie looks serious after the event, he never looks 'My father just got shot and killed' serious, and has a good laugh about some things as the movie goes on, and has some fun romance. Nothing like the murder of a loved one to get those old romantic feelings flowing!

Despite these issues, the story to X Marks the Spot is still a worthwhile one, and you can tell through the care placed into some aspects, like the clues. To say any more would be a rank spoiler!

X Marks the Spot is more a crime than a comedy, but there are still quite a few amusing moments here. The dialogue is often funny, including the most colourful term to describe someone being hit on the head that the 1940s ever produced!

Eddie Delaney is a fun and well-rounded lead character, getting both light and heavy moments, and plenty of conflict, as well as many different people to interact with. It's fun seeing how he behaves with all these different people.

Policeman Bill Decker is an alright guy. He and Eddie have a good relationship, but it takes a backseat once he's accused of murder, and Decker not only immediately suspects the worst of Eddie, but we never see him in scenes where Eddie isn't also present (of which there are practically none).

Linda is nice, and proactive. She has good chemistry with Eddie, and you really believe the two love each other despite having only really known each other in person for a couple of days. The only part that stretches credulity is the immediate marriage at the end!

The mysterious villain's identity surprised me a lot. It came out of nowhere, but in a good way, feeling natural like all god whodunnits should.

And lastly, the rest of the cast are all nice and distinctive too. Billie is a bundle of fun,  For a supporting player with a clue to tell, Bonnie gets a bit of character early on. It's the kind of moment where it's not necessary for the plot, but you appreciate its inclusion anyway, because it informs their character. I appreciate that, especially for an otherwise minor player.

The acting is good all round here. Damian O'Flynn a good mix of serious and lighthearted, delivering a likeable performance in the process. The glamorous looking Helen Parrish is spunky and sweet, and Edna Mae is cute as Billie, getting some funny lines despite her small screentime. She and Parrish contrast well with each other. Dick Purcell does well as a grump, and we see a few other familiar faces, like Jack La Rue, and a briefly appearing Vince Barnett.

X Marks the Spot is plenty of fun. It packs a lot in its short runtime that makes it equal to longer movies of today, and well worth a watch...

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