Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nick Carter Master Detective (1939)


“Look, I'm not a storybook detective with, uh, a highball glass in one hand and, uh, a Chinese proverb in another, nor can I tell you from the ashes of a man's cigar that he, uh, had kippered herring for breakfast and hit his grandmother over the head with an axe. I'm just a New York flatfoot, the product of the McGonigle School.”


            In the 1930s and 1940s detective stories were all the rage. Movie studios could not get enough of making detective films. If you follow my blog or look at what my favorite classic film and two of my favorite movie characters are you will know who my favorite detective is. I like how some detective films were comedic but serious at the same time. I have yet to see a detective film that has bored me. The latest detective film I have seen is Nick Carter Master Detective starring Walter Pidgeon in the title role.
            A new plane is being tested. A man named Robert Chalmers has his taxi drive near a plan to stop it as it is about to take off. He says he is the new superintendent of Radex Airlines. Another man on the plane named Keller has created a new airplane that will revolutionize air travel. The pilot makes like the plane has malfunctioned and lands the plane where some people are waiting for Keller’s plane. Robert shoots the pilot and runs for the briefcase. The flight attendant Lou Farnsby (Rita Johnson) is a WASP. She manages to get the plan off the ground.
            Robert is really detective Nick Carter. He has been sent to keep an eye on Keller. The President of Radex, Hiram Streeter, is upset about the pilot because he had been a good guy up to that day and that others have been turned before. Nick takes a tour of the airplane factory. The planes and plans are kept under lock and key and many precautions are taken but still plans are getting out. Nick is suspicious of Lou. He has her taken off flying duty so he can keep an eye on her.
            Nick was sitting in the factory’s doctor’s office when a guy comes in with a hurt head. The doctor told him to go home. As he walks out a man approaches him and asks if he got the blueprints out. Someone tells the foreman that the blueprints for the X-42 have been stolen. Keller comes over the blueprints someone had out his prints in the floor to roll around they were not put away.  
            The test flight of the plane ended in a crash and killed the pilot. They find the bolts that were supposed to hold it together have been sawed through. That night Lou sees Nick going through Keller’s toolbox looking for his saw. She is suspicious of Nick. Nick is suspicious of Keller because he was in a hurry to get out of the room when he started to be accused. Nick sends the blade to be tested for steel. The tests come back, there was steel on the blade. He goes to question Keller but finds the man dead in his car. The death looks like he was strangled. He sees footprints on the floor of the car. The shoe looks like a high heal. Nick questions Lou the next day. She tells him she was with him and with friends, and with Keller, and drove around with him for a while. He knows she is concealing something. Lou tells Nick she knows about him looking around in Keller’s toolbox.
            Another guy goes to see the doctor. The doctor has Lou walk out. The guy is not really hurt he gets up and takes planes out of his pocket. The doctor locks the door and takes a picture of the plans. Lou goes to Nick. He tells her to keep an eye on the doctor. Nick gets the guy who stole the plans and takes him to the police. The police find the picture negatives in the guy’s bandages.
            Nick makes it impossible for the doctor to get out. The doctor was one step ahead of Nick by having someone take Lou hostage. Nick has to choose between taking the doctor to prison and saving Lou.
            And since you are the ever so smart movie watcher I am sure you know that Nick manages to get the girl.
            Nick Carter Master Detective was a good mystery. I liked Walter Pidgeon as the title detective. Pidgeon is not the smooth Nick Charles played by William Powell or Perry Mason played by Warner William and that was a nice change. He is what I would picture a not hardened/not charming and goofy detective would be like. I liked seeing him in a trench coat and a fedora solving crimes. Rita Johnson was good but she was no Nora Charles or Garda Sloane. Nick Carter Master Detective is enjoyable and clever. I watched the film through TCM some time ago. It is available on DVD in a set of other Nick Carter films. If the film airs on TCM again get it a try, especially if you like detective/mystery films.