fast-moving, low-budget 30’s crime programmer, with large role for Snub Pollard, 27 December 2004
Regis Toomey was one of the most reliable leading men of early 1930’s Poverty Row, and he continued to appear in films and television well into the 1960’s. His friendly persona always made him sympathetic, even when playing an ex-con, and he was convincing in any number of different roles and situations. Here he is paired with the great former silent comedian Snub Pollard, in what must be one of his largest roles of the sound era (along with his roles as sidekick to Tex Ritter), as a pickpocket/safe cracker. Directed by journeyman Al Herman, who helmed many films I’ve enjoyed over the years (Phantom of 42nd Street, and the serials The Clutching Hand, and The Black Coin), for Sam Katzman’s Victory Pictures, BARS OF HATE (an irrelevant title if there ever was one–there is someone behind bars, but he is only mentioned and never seen, although his situation motivates the plot) is the model poverty row action film: it starts out in high gear and keeps moving throughout. This formula still works today–I recently saw CELLULAR with a full theater, and crowd completely ate up a similar combination of non-stop action tempered with light comedy. The films begins with a montage of faces yelling out “stop” and “get him” after Snub Pollard steals a woman’s pocketbook. Simultaneously, Regis Toomey is speeding and starts to evade a policeman who puts on his siren and follows on a motorcycle. Snub breaks from those attempting to restrain him, Regis cuts down an alley, and soon enough the two men are together. It turns out that the pocketbook contains something that various criminals are after, so when Toomey and Pollard find the girl to give her the purse, the crooks are also after her… and the next forty minutes are spent with one chase and escape after another, much of it filmed on the streets of Los Angeles. Fuzzy Knight does a nice job as a bumbling crook assigned to watch Snub Pollard, and Sheila Terry (best known to many for the two westerns she made with John Wayne in 1934) is a perky female lead. While rather loose and spontaneous in structure and feel, this film moves along at a quick pace and never really lets up from the first scene. It’s almost a model of how to make a poverty row action film– if it had more stunts and less dialogue from the leading man, it could be a Richard Talmadge film! I especially liked seeing Snub Pollard being given such a large and significant role. One of the joys of watching 1930s movies is never knowing exactly when Snub will show up in a scene, more often than not it seems unbilled! His many fans should seek this film out. The print I saw was in excellent shape also…it had a lot of splices in the last three or four minutes, but looked like it was shot yesterday.