Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Back in the nineties when Bill Shute and I were sending each other humongous boxes of everything from videotapes to books on loan in order to expand our horizons without the aid of hallucinogens and get some freebee entertainment, Bill was more'n apt to slip into the crate a few low budget Frankie Darro films for my viewing pleasure. I gotta admit that I was not familiar with the perennially youthful Darro until I caught him acting with Gene Autrey in THE PHANTOM EMPIRE serial on MATINEE AT THE BIJOU back in '80, but my father was more'n apt to tell me just what a popular guy he was in thirties features and serials both of the zilch grade and the high quality variety. And yes, father and I would frequently watch the various poverty row features that Darro would act in, he in fact telling me about how he wasn't one of those kids who could afford to see every chapter of the BURN 'EM UP BARNES serial so the kids who did see it would have to act it out for him! However, recently my father admitted to me that he really didn't care for Darro because the once-famous star used to do a lotta crying and whining in his films, and if there's anything my father hates is when a man whimpers! He never liked Michael Landon for exactly the same reason, and to this day I wonder why dad never kicked me outta the house flat on my keester like you'd'a though he would given that I've spent a hefty portion of my life doing the whine and moan game myself!

As you'd surmise this DVD-R double billing of Frankie Darro/Kane Richmond really does send me back to the days, not of the thirties when these films were being released, but the nineties when Bill would shoot 'em my way and I'd watch 'em during the ten-to-eleven PM hours while everyone else was feeling superior to me watching NORTHERN EXPOSURE and NYPD BLUE. And hey, you can bet that I was getting more bang for my buck watching stuff like this than the crapezoid programming that's been thrusted at us for nigh on three or so decades awlready! YOUNG DYNAMITE features Darro as the young brother of a state trooper (played by former BOYFRIENDS co-star David Sharpe) whose sister is engaged to a corporal in the troopers played by Richmond. When a load of gold is stolen by thugs working for a "respectable" smelter its the state troopers to the rescue, along with Darro who naturally has to get in on the game being such a youth-identifiable character 'n all. YOUNG DYNAMITE also features this weird old wheelchair-ridden guy, an Eyetalian needle salesman who likes to mooch free meals off of the family, and a strange ending that you'll probably wanna re-play a few times just so's you get everything straight in your brain!

The print of THE DEVIL DIAMOND that follows is of better quality even though it was also shot, for poverty rower Ambassador-Conn Pictures no less, in the same year of 1937, but we're only concerned with trash aesthetic quality and nothing technowhiz now, are we? This un's yet another strangie featuring Darro as a prizefighter wannabe who's being used by a buncha hoods as a front for the heisting of a rare diamond that's gonna be cut and sold separately by some investors. Richmond plays a cop working undercover as an author and hot on the trail, and while we're at it none other than one of my favorite actors, one Byron Folger, pops up as a dumb Swede in those pre-Polish joke days when the Scandies were the ones who were getting all of the hard knocks. It's a good 'un too, with lotsa comedy relief and a good fight scene just when you think you're gonna nod off due to the less dramatic parts. This one woulda looked perfect on your fave UHF station some muggy August night, especially filled with local used car commercials and of course rather sticky armpits that make your pit hair intertwine...ouch!

Bill got his copy from Grapevine video, who I used to buy old OUR GANG silents offa back '91 way. They're linked up on the left in case you're interested in this and other rarities they offer, and I must admit that they do their best even if some of the films they sell look as if they survived not only the bombing of Dresden but at least three days in an Occupy Wall Street enclave. I recommend 'em for anybody who not only misses these on-target low-budget features, but the world and the ideals from whence they sprang and which we will probably never see the likes of again. 

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