Monday, January 08, 2007

K-9 Cop Smashes City's Toughest Mob!

From the "Why The Hell Does Turner Classic Movies Never Air This One?" Department. It looks completely ridiculous, but I'd burn this one to DVD-R in a second if TCM would ever run it. It was released by United Artists in 1961, so I presume it must be in TCM's library. The casting of top-billed star James Brown must have been a no-brainer for UA, considering Brown was best-known for starring opposite one of Hollywood's most famous canines for several years on the long-running TV series THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN. So when it came time to cast POLICE DOG STORY, someone must have said, "Well, hell, what's the RIN TIN TIN guy up to these days?"

Director Edward L. Cahn and writer Orville H. Hampton worked together on an amazing 19 pictures from 1958 to 1962. That's right--19 films in 4 years. Cahn actually directed a startling 35 movies during that span, which is an astonishing figure no matter how bad several of them turned out. With titles like INVISIBLE INVADERS, RIOT IN JUVENILE PRISON, THREE CAME TO KILL and THE FOUR SKULLS OF JONATHAN DRAKE, you know Cahn and Hampton weren't trying to win any Oscars. They were just trying to get film in the can and their paychecks to the bank.

Many of their 19 films together are actually very watchable low-budget potboilers, such as HONG KONG CONFIDENTIAL, a fine example of a crisp, lean programmer with a professional, if not big-name, cast (like Gene Barry and Allison Hayes) and sturdy construction. Obviously made quickly and efficiently--despite the setting, there's no location shooting, and everything appears to have been filmed in one take (Barry even blows a line at one point)--HONG KONG CONFIDENTIAL doesn't wear out its welcome, especially at 69 minutes. I was lucky enough to tape this B-pic the one time TCM aired it--during a month-long Cahn tribute, if you can believe it.

Barry (TV's BAT MASTERSON at the time) plays American undercover agent Casey Reed, whose cover is as a singer in a Hong Kong nightclub called Frisco Joe's. His assignment is to rescue Abdul, the Crown Prince of Themen, a country of great strategic importance to both the Americans and the Soviets. The Communists have kidnapped Abdul to force his father, the King, to sign a treaty ensuring them missile base rights to the country. Teaming up with British Intelligence agent John Blanchard (Michael Pate, who doesn't use an English accent), Casey infiltrates the Macao gold-smuggling operation of slinky Elena Martine (Hayes), who may or may not be involved with the young prince's abduction, but, with time running out, she's Reed's only shot. Keep your eyes peeled for it--and other Cahn/Hampton collaborations--on future TCM schedules.

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