Friday, January 03, 2014
***Out In The 1950s B-Film Noir Night- William Berke’s Sky Liner
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Sky Liner, starring Richard Travis, directed by William Berke, 1949
It is an old saw now that not all classic film noir, not all B-film noir efforts either, are equal. Take the three (including this one) B- reviews that I have recently undertaken on the 1940s-1950s film director William Berke. His Roaring City was passable quick look at second-rate private detectives starved for serious femmes and serious plot-lines and his Treasure of Monte Christo stretched suspension of disbelief to the limit with his modern day swash-buckler and now, Sky Liner, falls somewhere in between. Here’s why.
Of course the late 1940s-1950s were a great age of red scare, Cold War, red under every bed, your mommy is a commie, turn her in, cautionary tale films about the need to be ever vigilant against the latest foreign menace. And of course that menace included agents, paid or ideologically-driven, working to get information for that other side. And others willing, more than willing, to buy and sell that information to suit their own political or personal needs. Of course the buying and selling of sensitive information that might hurt the American government required an ever vigilant law enforcement arm, the FBI, to snuff out such evil doings. And that is the framework underlying this film.
Most of the action, if one can call it that, takes place on a transcontinental airplane flight from New York City to Los Angeles. (Howard Hughes’ TWA of course.) A flight done in propeller-driven airplane days so there is plenty of time for the plot to unfold. An American federal law enforcement agent, okay, okay FBI, has been following a certain secretary of nefarious political sympathies to an important State Department official (shades of Alger Hiss et. al) to find out what she is reporting to her confederates. That trail leads to the flight where a number of “red herring” characters are also on board to add “suspense” to the plot. Along the way the secretary’s confederate (acting as her now deceased boss, yes, some rough stuff was necessary) is murdered, the plane is set down for an emergency landing, and the confederate murderer/information buyer is subsequently apprehended.
All in a day’s work for your average 1950s federal agent. Get this though said agent for his efforts also gets a date with a foxy little stewardess (oops, flight attendant). Apparently somebody could not resist that twist in order to pay homage to Hollywood’s insatiable desire to plot every film with the classic boy meets girl formula. In any case definitely the middle one of the three- film trifecta directed by William Berke.