BRASS BANCROFT OF THE SECRET SERVICE: MYSTERIES COLLECTION
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Back in 1939, on the even of America’s involvement of World War II, Warner Bros. pictures developed a series of patriotic films starring a relative newcomer known as Ronald Reagan. More than 40 years before he would be protected by the Secret Service, future President would portray Lt. “Brass” Bancroft, a Secret Service agent who went on dangerous missions in a series of short B-movies. Warner Archive has released four of these films – “Secret Service of the Air,” “Code of the Secret Service,” “Smashing the Money Ring” and “Murder In the Air” – for the first time on DVD.
WHAT I LIKED
Regardless of your political bent, it’s hard to not appreciate Ronald Reagan as an actor. Back in the 80s, a lot of people remembered his films. Not so much now that we’re more than 20 years after he vacated the Oval Office. People today identify Reagan as a politician more than they ever do as an actor, but his career of almost 30 years was really quite impressive.
For as old as these movies are (more than 70 years for all four of them), it’s neat to watch Reagan in action and see his on-screen charisma, and it’s also clear why he was a movie star. Before this, I had only seen one Ronald Reagan film, which was “Desperate Journey,” an old Errol Flynn flick from the “Errol Flynn Adventures” DVD set. The guy had charm, and he carries these short, hour-long B-films.
What makes these movies work is that they are, in fact, throw-away films that were set to support a larger feature. They weren’t out to change the world. They weren’t out to make fine art. They existed to entertain an audience for an hour before the main feature started. And in this respect, they are a heck of a lot of fun. Action-packed (as much as you can for the late 1930s, that is) and filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, these are fun and fluffy stories that still entertain today.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Not a whole lot, really. The Brass Bancroft films have the foibles of the day, including some pacing issues, sound issues, set issues and an obvious low budget, but looking at them almost three-quarters of a century later, that just adds to their charm.
While there are no special features of the individual movies in this collection, it offers four individual films, which is a nice slice of American history in the films.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of 30s-era b-movie action and anyone who wants to see Ronald Reagan before long before he was president.