Cast & Crew
Unable to bear another night of endless bickering among her family members, factory worker Julie Rogers storms out of her parents' house and takes her friend Helen to the Black Cat nightclub, which is owned by Julie's trumpet-playing sweetheart, Ray Lawson. There, Julie meets Danny Burke, a handsome but mysterious idler and, bored with Ray, immediately falls in love with him. Julie goes home later that night and is further repulsed by the behavior of her brother Fred, who is drunk and belligerent. Returning to the Black Cat, Julie once again finds Danny and accompanies him to the infamous Paradise Club. Julie's father disapproves of Danny and tries to convince her to date Ray, until the day Ray and Julie are arrested in a gambling house raid. Ray is sentenced to thirty days in jail, but Julie is bailed out by her father, who then throws her out of the house. Desperate to find Danny, Julie returns to the Paradise Club, where she is told by Irene, the club's owner and Danny's former girl friend, that Danny has left town. Realizing that Julie has no place to stay, Irene sends her to see a woman named Mae, who provides her with a room and a job as a dancer at the Paradise Club. While Julie settles into her new life--a world filled with alcohol, cigarettes and scanty dancing costumes--Irene secretly meets with Danny, and helps him out of his financial woes by introducing him to gangster Lew Davis. One month after the gambling raid, Ray, having just been released from jail, finds Julie working at the Paradise Club and tells her that he disapproves of her new life. Despite warnings from Mae, Julie continues to dance at the nightclub and carry a torch for Danny. Danny, meanwhile, runs into trouble with Lew, who gives him twenty-four hours to come up with money he stole from a recent gangster job. Danny emerges from hiding long enough ask Julie for help, and when she gives him the money to pay Lew, he disappears. Ray tries to lead Julie away from the seedy Paradise Club with an offer to join his band on a concert tour, but she rejects him, insisting that she is not good enough. Still in love with Danny, Julie is shocked to discover that he is now seeing Helen. Julie's jealousy explodes when Danny drops by and asks to borrow more money. After Danny tells her that he is dating Helen, Julie laughs at his audacity and reaches for her gun. In the ensuing struggle, both she and Danny are killed.
Monty F. Collins
Joseph I. Kane
William H. Wilmarth
Poverty Row Theatre Collection on DVD
I guess the main question about this DVD is if it includes any Monogram buried treasures akin to PRC's Detour and Eagle-Lion's T-Men or, conversely, if it would be nothing but schlock. The result is something in between. There is definitely no buried treasure to be had, but the inventory goes something like this: one interesting genre-blender, one competent programmer, one groaner.
Let's get the groaner out of the way first. Private Snuffy Smith, based on the Barney Google and Snuffy Smith comic strip, is about as bad as comedies get. Maybe it's redundant to call this movie cartoonish, considering its source material, but this tale of Great Smoky Mountains hillbillies makes the Ma and Pa Kettle series seem sophisticated and witty by comparison. Bud Duncan, who plays the bulbous-nosed title character, seems to have less comic flair than Dick Cheney, and this moonshiner avoiding a revenuer (Edgar Kennedy), joining the army and then finding that - gadzooks! - his sergeant is the revenuer, is just a drag that can't get over soon enough. Kennedy and his "slow burn" are both favorites of mine, but I don't think the perpetually flustered actor should ever be the most restrained thing in a movie. It's hard to believe director Cline made this just after the W.C. Fields picture Never Give a Sucker an Even Break. It's even harder to believe it spawned a sequel.
Next, there's Detective Kitty O'Day, the movie of the three that is probably most representative of a poverty row studio's output. Since the advent of film, a big part of B-movies has been knocking off hit formulas. That's what this comic thriller does. With Jean Parker as a meddlesome secretary who investigates the murder of her boss, the premise resembles previous series like the Torchy Blane and Maisie movies. Not surprisingly, Beaudine directed two of the Torchy movies starring tough cookie Glenda Farrell. There's nothing at all special here, and everything is by-the-numbers, from the Irish detectives to the pampered rich widow. But Parker (Little Women) plays the part to the hilt, and this is certainly on a par with the studio B-movies it mimics.
That leaves Club Paradise, which doesn't rate a full-fledged recommendation but is a very unusual mix of bleak film noir and musical. Young heroine Julie (Doris Merrick) begins the story working in a factory and living with her stressed-out extended family. But she's kicked out of the house after she and musician boyfriend Ray (Eddie Quillan) get snared in a raid in an illegal gambling club. With the broke boyfriend off to jail for 30 days because he can't pay his fine, Julie turns her attention to Danny (Robert Lowery), a shady hunk who helps her land on her feet - he gets her a job as a dancer at the titular club - but turns out to be bad news. Lowery, who played Batman in the abysmal, cut-rate 1949 Batman and Robin serial, is hardly Dan Duryea as a noir cad, but the movie's women are more interesting, especially Mae (Isabell Jewel), the club's past-her-prime singer, who warns Julie that "When you get stuck on a guy you leave yourself wide open for punishment."
While dance numbers provide occasional levity, Julie finds little solace in flitting between the two men in her life. Smitten Ray is around to offer himself whenever Danny disappears without telling Julie where he's gone, but she just can't get rid of her itch for Danny. In the most stunning development, Julie sleeps with a thug to settle Danny's debts to him, an act that sends her on a path to despair. Punishment, indeed.
Club Paradise surely isn't the coherent, brooding noir it might have been, but it's the cream of the Poverty Row Theater DVD, and it surely makes you wonder how it might have been with Robert Siodmak (Phantom Lady) directing Ella Raines and Duryea in it. Unlike the other two movies on the disc, the supporting cast in Club Paradise includes many familiar faces, from Quillan (The Grapes of Wrath) and Jewel (The Seventh Victim) to Preston Sturges regular Dewey Robinson and Vince Barnett (Scarface). All three movies, which have presumably long ago slipped into the public domain, are marred by missing frames and many splices. The DVD includes a disclaimer warning about the splices, and explaining that the transfer is from the best available sources. If you grew up on old movies on UHF TV, the experience will actually be a little nostalgic.
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by Paul Sherman
Poverty Row Theatre Collection on DVD
The working titles of this film were The Purple Hour, Main Street Girl, and Party Girl. The print of the film at LC bears the title Club Paradise. Although two songs were heard in the viewed print, their titles have not been determined. Hollywood Reporter production charts add Maurice Murphy and Hella Crossley to the cast, but their appearance in the completed film has not been confirmed. A April 23, 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item announced that Jane Weeks was being tested for the film's lead, but her appearance in the final film is doubtful.