Kent's Sucker Money, released by Invincible Pictures (which went out of business three years later), sets its mood immediately. Following the sound of a gong, a bizarrely-dressed person of indeterminate sexual origin pulls back a curtain in a psychic's parlor to introduce the opening credits. In case audiences didn't know what they were in for, the capitalization-challenged subtitle reads:
an expose of the
a True Life Photoplay
Yeah, if "True Life" means "Utterly Bogus." But I'm not looking for realism with movies like this -- I mean, that's what I'm trying to escape on a daily, nay, hourly basis. And when I'm craving 60 minutes of strange entertainment with at least one good actor -- in this case, Mischa Auer -- a picture like Sucker Money does the trick.
A group of grifters led by Swami Yomurda ("Yo murder" -- get it?!) is infiltrated by actor-turned-cub reporter Jimmy Reeves. Yomurda and his cohorts (I think that's a hip-hop band my daughter listens to) are currently trying to fleece businessman John Walton. Walton's daughter, Clare, falls in love with Jimmy, whose real identity is soon found out. While Reeves is subsequently held captive, Yomurda kidnaps and hypnotizes Clare and holds her for ransom. You don't need to be a psychic to know happiness will eventually prevail.
|You think this is a crime -- you should see the|
price of a theater ticket these days.
|Yomurda giving Clare the ol' "you are|
getting sleepy" routine, which never worked
for me when I was dating.
|"You haven't lived 'til you've seen|
my crystal balls."
Although an indie production, Sucker Money was shot at Republic Studios, kind of the M-G-M of Poverty Row, so it probably looks a cut above Willis Kent's more outre releases. Still, you
|Efficiency at work: six people crammed into |
While all this would take most people out of the story, it makes me feel that I'm actually there, watching how a movie with a budget probably hovering in the low five figures, actually got made. (Co-director Davenport was the widow of silent screen star Wallace Reid, whose 1923 death due to morphine addiction made headlines. Davenport spent the next ten years writing, directing or starring in low-budget "warning" pictures, often under the name Mrs. Wallace Reid. Nothing like cashing in on a tragedy.)
|Gunned down by cops at the film's |
climax, Auer pops his eyes one last time.
Willis Kent's final drama, Confessions of a Vice Baron, was released in 1940. His CV goes blank until 1950. Then, over the next eight years his output was limited to stag movies featuring strippers with names like Justa Dream, Satalyte and Patti Waggin. (What, no Moaner Lisa?) These movies, like many of his '30s shockers, would run in urban grindhouses under different titles for years afterward, making a mint for him and his distributors. Had a psychic told Kent that his movies would one day be widely available to everyone everywhere online for free, he'd have felt like the sucker.