Kent's Sucker Money, released by Invincible Pictures (which went out of business three years later), sets its mood immediately. Following the sound of a gong, a bizarrely-dressed person of indeterminate sexual origin pulls back a curtain in a psychic's parlor to introduce the opening credits. (To paraphrase Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, the gaudier the credits, the cheaper the movie.) In case audiences didn't know what they were in for, the capitalization-challenged subtitle reads:
an expose of the
a True Life Photoplay
Yeah, if "True Life" means "Utterly Bogus." But I'm not looking for realism with movies like this -- I mean, that's what I'm trying to escape on a daily, nay, hourly basis. And when I'm craving 60 minutes of strange entertainment with at least one good actor -- in this case, Mischa Auer -- a picture like Sucker Money does the trick.
A group of grifters led by Swami Yomurda ("Yo murder" -- get it?!) is infiltrated by actor-turned-cub reporter Jimmy Reeves. Yomurda and his cohorts (I think that's a hip-hop band my daughter listens to) are currently trying to fleece businessman John Walton. Walton's daughter, Clare, falls in love with Jimmy, whose real identity is soon found out. While Reeves is subsequently held captive, Yomurda kidnaps and hypnotizes Clare and holds her for ransom. You don't need to be a psychic to know happiness will eventually prevail.
|You think this is a crime -- you should see the|
price of a theater ticket these days.
|Yomurda giving Clare the ol' "you are|
getting sleepy" routine, which never worked
for me when I was dating.
|"You haven't lived 'til you've seen|
my crystal balls."
Although an indie production, Sucker Money was shot at Republic Studios, kind of the M-G-M of Poverty Row, so it probably looks a cut above Willis Kent's more outre releases. Still, you
|Efficiency at work: six people crammed into |
|Gunned down by cops at the film's |
climax, Auer pops his eyes one last time.
|Just call her Bullseye Busch.|
Earl McCarthy, as Jimmy Reeves, is the leading man type typical of '30s Poverty Row: young, wavy hair, prettier than the women, possessing the masculinity of a mint parfait. He actually appears more comfortable in scenes with the older Mae Busch than with his supposed leading lady Phyllis Barrington. (Busch responds to his mock-flirting ways with, "Don't get gay with me, fresh guy!" Um...) It's not surprising that his character used to be an actor, since he doesn't look like anything but. With his limited emotional range, it's doubtful McCarthy would have made it to the majors. It didn't matter; before the year was out, he was dead of a heart attack at age 26. Maybe if he'd spent more time infiltrating doctors instead of sham soothsayers...
Willis Kent's final drama, Confessions of a Vice Baron, was released in 1940. His CV goes blank until 1950. Then, over the next eight years his output was limited to stag movies featuring strippers with names like Justa Dream, Satalyte and Patti Waggin. (What, no Moaner Lisa?) These movies, like many of his '30s shockers, would run in urban grindhouses under different titles for years afterward, making a mint for him and his distributors. Had a psychic told Kent that his movies would one day be widely available
to everyone everywhere online for free, he'd have felt like the sucker.