Saturday, November 30, 2019

Detective Kitty O'Day (1944) and The Adventures of Kitty O'Day (1945)

Kitty O'Day is a secretary to businessman Mr. Wentworth by day, and an avid detective reader by night. Her two lives end up converging when her boss is found dead, and her boyfriend ends up suspected of the murder. Kitty must work hard if she has to save her partner from suspicion, and find the real killer before anything else can happen...

Detective Kitty O'Day is a pretty decent whodunnit, but not without problems. Its lead heroine is a fun character to follow, although while she claims to be a detective, she stumbles upon more clues than actually finds any, which is a disappointment. She's a well realised lead, but lacks juuust that little bit of oomph she needed to really live up to the title.

The rest of the characters are amusing, from the beleagured boyfriend, to the grumpy policeman and his amiable henchman, the cold widow and her young toyboy.

Where the plot ends up disappointing is as a mystery. I feel there was a bit too much messing around and too little clue hunting. The leads spend more time being hassled by the cops or running away from them than sleuthing.

Because of this, we get to know the suspects very little, and so many bodies hit the floor that the solution to the mystery ends up being obvious. There are only two candidates left, and one of them has been the obvious red herring for the entire movie, leaving only one possible suspect.

When we finally get to the reveal of the motive, it's alright, but not that interesting. It's just gangland stuff rather than being a really juicy motive.

The pacing here is a bit shoddy, especially with the lengthy chase from the police! This eats up at least 10 minutes of an hour long movie, and while this setpiece was pretty funny, and entertains, it detracts from what we really wanna see.

For the most part, the direction here is alright, but exaggerated in places, and the fights aren't very good. Mobsters will get guns knocked out of their hands and then wait a full ten seconds before noticing.

Where it excels is in the rooftop chase! While it stretches credulity a bit, and it drags on a bit, the whole segment is very well filmed for the 1940s! Especially for  Monogram cheapie! If they were looking to draw attention in spite of their meagre/humble budget, they sure succeeded.

The acting here is pretty good. Jean Parker is a fun, if screechy at times, lead, while Peter Cookson is a likeable sidekick. Tim Ryan does well as the long-suffering police inspector Clancy, and Ed Gargan is fun as the goodhearted but dopey subordinate Mike.

As far as 1940s mysteries go, Detective Kitty O'Day is nothing special, but it's still a decent watch. You can easily see where a few bits of tinkering might've aided the movie into being something better than it ultimately was. Since it got a sequel only the very next year, I was looking forward to see how they'd iron out the kinks and improve on the previous entry's flaws!...

Detective enthusiast Kitty O'Day has a new job as a desk girl at an up-market hotel, together with her boyfriend Johnny. Things take a turn for the interesting en she recognises someone she thinks is a crook, and a murder ends up being committed in a room while she's on the phone with the victim. Kitty calls the police over, but when they arrive, the body's gone. No sooner than they leave, another body turns up, and another, and Kitty will have to solve this mystery if she doesn't want to end up in the jail cell herself...

As if by cosmic punishment, sequel The Adventures of Kitty O'Day is not only not better that the first movie, but actually worse! Oh, it's so much worse!

To start, Adventures shares every problem the first movie had, but not in the way you'd expect. You seen, not only does this movie share these same flaws, it shares a lot of them because it copies the same story beats from the first movie!

Name a plot point from Detective Kitty O'Day and you can be sure it turns up here. The couple keep stumbling upon bodies? Check. The police keep thinking they're the killers? Yep. Their boss is murdered? Again. There's a frosty widow with a boytoy, who threatens to fire Kitty after the girl's suspicions fall on her? Double/Triple check!

The plot is bad. There's no real investigation. Kitty just so happens to always be around when there's a new body, and she runs and screams more than digs up clues. The majority of the climax is taken up by a tedious police chase through the hotel, which ends when she accidentally stumbles upon the killer, through no real detective work of her own. And once again, the identity of the killer is obvious, because he's the only one left alive who could've committed it! I've said it before and I'll say it again, detectives who don't solve the case until after the intended victims are all dead suck!

The mystery just isn't that compelling either, and the motive is a pretty dull reason-Just a jewel robbery, and that's it. Hardly a really interesting motive! Just "That guy doesn't want me smuggling diamonds anymore, so I'll cap him one!". No-one even has a given motive until the killer is revealed, making it harder for us to follow any sort of mystery.

The acting suffers from a severe downgrade too. Jean Parker is strangely weak as Kitty. I've seen her in enough movies to know she's a fine actress, but here she's quite bad! Unconvincing, flailing, and screaming far too much! Peter Cookson is ok as johnny, and Ralph Sanford tries as Mac, but didn't impress me much. He doesn't get enough to do, and feels too much like a replacement. Tim Ryan is fine as Clancy, but his heart doesn't feel in it. I can't blame him! Shelton Brooks is pretty funny in his short role as African-American bellboy Jeff.

The characters are pretty dreary here. Kitty is a nosy busybody who does nothing but scream and cause/create panic,while = her boyfriend. Detective Clancy somehow has amnesia and Doesn't even recognise the duo at first. Since Ed Gargan didn't return for this sequel, he has a new sidekick, who's ok, but doesn't appear enough to make much of an impression. The worst thing for me was the explanation for Mike's departure, which felt mean-spirited.

There are some bight spots to this affair. The dialogue, for instance. "Why, certainly there was a corpse!" "It was dead too!"
"That's preposterous, no-one would dare commit a murder in this hotel without first notifying me!"
"Y'know Kitty, life with you is just one murder after another."
Other dialogue is pretty bad though, with million-word-a-minute moments that come across as incredibly stilted. Thankfully  at least ends with the funny exasperated delivery of "Inspector, are you foolish?"

A cheap sequel both in budget and in spirit, The Adventures of Kitty O'Day is one adventure you can feel free to miss out on, and be thankfully there was (technically) never a third entry! If this was the best they had to offer, it's for the best Kitty never became a long-running character. I do wish she's seen better treatment though, and become a 1940s icon right up there with Torchy Blane, Mexican Spitfire, and Blondie!...

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