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August 29, 2008

Cinematic Denver: Julie Bishop

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Torture Ship
Victor Halperin - 1939
Alpha Video Region 1 DVD

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Action in the North Atlantic
Lloyd Bacon - 1943
Warner Brothers Region 1 DVD

Today we sail into the Denver sunset with featured actress Julie Bishop in two films with nautical themes. Julie Bishop was born as Jacqueline Wells, and appeared in films under both names. Her bigger roles were primarily in B films in the Thirties as Wells. Presumably as Bishop, with smaller roles in bigger studio productions she got a bigger paycheck. In either case, I had to review her filmography to realize I had seen Wells/Bishop in more films than I had realized. If anything, Julie Bishop, as she was best known professionally, proved that one can be a featured player in three decades worth of films, and still be easily forgotten.

Torture Ship was "suggested" by a story by Jack London. Not having read the story, "A Thousand Cuts" myself, I can't vouch for how much was London and how much was Poverty Row madness. Irving Pichel serves as an actor here, portraying a doctor who tries to modify criminal behavior through surgery. Lyle Talbot is the nephew, who has gone from being an Annapolis grad to being captain on Talbot's runaway yacht that serves as his laboratory. Wells is an escaped criminal, one of several recruited by Pichel to serve as a guinea pig. Wells claims to be innocent of her crimes, and Talbot believes her. This film acts as an argument for contemporary films where the innocent girl fakes almost everyone at the end by being truly evil. But Torture Ship was made in a gentler time for Hollywood, when the brunette with too much lipstick was to be trusted over the brassy blonde hussy.

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Torture Ship has one nicely photographed moment of one of the killers checking out scalpals, with the camera looking through the glass casing, and the criminal lit from below. Otherwise, there's not much to either to story or the story telling. There's no torture either, except for the psychological kind when the criminals start getting nervous about the bad doctor performing operations on them. This is the kind of movie they use to show on network television on Saturday afternoons or very late at night, and as such probably would have looked better on a smaller screen.

Meanwhile, in Action in the North Atlantic, Bishop gets a little bit of action, approximately ten minutes in a two hour film. The saga of the Merchant Marines in World War II, Bishop is the low rent chanteuse that Humphrey Bogart seems to have promptly married after decking the jerk who gabbed during her singing. One song, a brief meeting with skipper Raymond Massey who gives the newlyweds his blessing before taking Bogart to his next mission. The film was written by future blacklistee John Howard Lawson about the combine efforts to help out our allies, the Russians. There are a few good moments of action that are probably attributable to montage masters Don Siegel and John Leicester as well as Warner house director Lloyd Bacon. There's not enough of Julie Bishop to create much of impression other than that she seemed to be the contract player called on when a love interest was needed, but the role was too small for the likes of Virginia Mayo or Ann Sheridan.

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Posted by peter at August 29, 2008 12:33 AM