Monday, January 24, 2011
The Video Shelf: THE DRUMS OF JEOPARDY
After reviewing the book, I found my DVD copy of the 1931 version (from Alpha), and gave it a viewing.
In some ways, it's better than the novel. Karlov (now a scientist) is present from the beginning, as a good, jovial man who snaps when his daughter commits suicide after being seduced and abandoned by Gregor Petroff, who gives her a family heirloom, a necklace called "The Drums of Jeopardy" that has four drums instead of two, and now they're rubies rather than emeralds. Karlov goes after the Petroffs, but is exiled to Siberia as they close ranks and refuse to reveal which one of them was responsible (Karlov doesn't know it's Gregor).
After the revolution, the Petroffs flee Russia for Paris, and then New York, being stalked all the time by Karlov and his associates. And one of them, Prince Nicholas Petroff, stumbles into Kitty Conover's apartment...
Rather brief at just over an hour long, it's still good fun. Warner Oland, in his pre-Fu Manchu days, is impressive as Karlov. Kitty, who's no longer a reporter but seems to be independently wealthy, lives in a fabulous art deco penthouse rather than the rundown tenement of the novel. That's OK...the set is flippin' gorgeous. Instead of a wealthy godfather, she's got a crotchety aunt. The Petroffs have more dimension, and there's actually a sense of tragedy this time as Karlov is less a thug and more of a good person who's been severely wronged...and the Petroffs, at least some of them, deserve what Karlov dishes out. Especially the sniveling Gregor.
The cast also includes Mischa Auer (who did a lot of villain roles before segueing into comedy) and Clara Blandick (Auntie Em from THE WIZARD OF OZ), and June Collyer is effective as the headstrong Kitty. It's fast-moving with plenty of serial-style thrills, including speeded-up fights and an underground chamber flooding with water. Fairly good fun.
(And I've been busy this month! My muse is working overtime. Haven't really been trying to post more often, just have been feeling the urge.)