Friday 26 June 2020

Movie Review: Slattery's Hurricane (1949)

A drama, thriller and romance, Slattery's Hurricane packs plenty of incident into a short running length, but adheres to obvious and superficial tones.

With a hurricane rapidly approaching Miami, retired Navy man Will Slattery (Richard Widmark) steals a plane and flies towards the storm. In flashback, he recalls recent events with regret.

Both Slattery and his girlfriend Dolores (Veronica Lake) are employed by chocolate importing tycoon R.J. Milne (Walter Kingsford), Slattery as a pilot and Dolores as a secretary, and they both turn a blind eye to their employer's drug-running side-business. Slattery bumps into his old buddy Hobson (John Russell), who now flies for the Navy's weather monitoring service. Slattery quickly rekindles a passion for Hobson's wife Aggie (Linda Darnell), who was Slattery's old flame.

By pursuing a torrid affair with Aggie Slattery betrays both Hobson and Dolores, and his life is further complicated when he gets inadvertently involved in a drug run. The Navy reconnects with Slattery to right an old wrong, and as Dolores slips away from him, he recommits to fixing his life.

Filmed with the cooperation of the Navy and the Weather Bureau, Slattery's Hurricane wraps a gritty story of illicit romance, betrayal, crime and atonement around a salute to the men flying dangerous missions to track hurricane trajectories. Despite a running length of just 83 minutes, many scenes feature actors bouncing inside fake cockpits and airplanes flying through clouds. Director Andre DeToth adopts a direct, no-nonsense approach to storytelling, colouring the characters with blunt crayons, breathlessly bringing the Herman Wouk story to life with rapidfire intensity but minimal depth.

As a result, only Slattery emerges as a somewhat rounded individual, and even he borders on incredulous. Richard Widmark is in fine uncompromising form portraying Slattery as an egocentric man with several chips on his shoulder. He is sore at the Navy for ignoring his heroics and never emotionally recovered from Aggie abandoning him (after he repeatedly ignored her). And so Slattery's me-first mentality is impressively dismissive of both Dolores and Hobson as he selfishlessly maneuvers to win back Aggie. His late-in-the-day attempts at redemption are sudden and seemingly inconsistent with his core.

The other major characters barely rise above cursory. Dolores is plain, Veronica Lake (also Mrs. DeToth at the time) missing her trademark hairdo and unable to reignite her career. She was shortchanged once the script ran afoul of the Production Code, DeToth forced to punt a subplot about Dolores' ailment. Aggie and Hobson remain empty vessels for Slattery to take advantage of, and the villains are barely defined.

Despite the shortcomings Slattery's Hurricane boasts undeniably engaging fury, the stormy rains and winds combining with Slattery's bulldozer attitude to create incessant forward momentum. The duration is brief, but the passion palpable.

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