Friday, January 22, 2016

MIDNIGHT SHADOW (1939)


Recently Turner Classic Movies showed this all black cast oddity and my curiosity pushed me to check it out. I have seen very few black cast films from the classic era with Edgar Ulmer's MOON OVER HARLEM from the same year being the only example that springs to mind. I assume all such productions are as threadbare and brief as these two. Both are clearly working with extremely low budgets and a very little time to get the script onto film. I suspect that often a second take of a flubbed scene was just not possible and the actor's best try was what ended up going to the editing room. I'm sure money was not allocated to do much more than pay the technicians and cast, strike a few cheaply made prints and purchase postage to ship them to the theaters that catered to the minority audience. I guess if costs were low enough it was easy to turn a profit.


Here's the plot synopsis from IMDB - " In a quiet, all-black Oklahoma community live the Wilsons, whose pretty daughter Margaret is courted by awkward Buster and suave stage mentalist Prince Alihabad. On one busy night, Mr. Wilson shows his valuables to Alihabad, who plans to elope with Margaret; a mysterious man hangs around while another burglarizes the house; and someone murders Mr. Wilson! Will the killer be caught by the police, or by bumbling correspondence-school detective Junior Lingley?"

I'd love to be able to call this little effort a hidden gem that has now escaped being lost to history, but unfortunately it is not. In fact, it's a pretty bad film on almost every level. The shoestring budget is evident in every scene. The entire 54 minute story plays out on about three sets that get redressed to serve as a few different locals. The actors are mostly terrible with a few good moments shining through when the talent of the performers was able to overcome the production hurdles of a quickly shot movie. The direction is basic and unimaginative, rarely adding much energy to the proceedings. The story is so silly and obvious as to be pointless and I have to confess that by the end I was not sure that the story had even been wrapped up at all. What is worse is I didn't care. I'm glad I saw this little rarity but past the novelty of a peek inside a small sub-genre of classic film there isn't much to recommend. Of course, if you're interested I can't stop you! Here it is on YouTube. 


1 comment:

Nick Rentz said...

I think the only all colored cast movie I've seen is Son of Ingagi. It was short, cheap, and lame.