These films star future President Ronald Reagan as Brass Bancroft, a flyer turned Secret Service Agent who battles alien smugglers, counterfeiters, thieves, and fifth columnist in these films from 1939-40.
From my experience of watching B films, these are about average. The films are not as good as the Nick Carter films for the same era. And despite being about a law enforcement officer, these really aren’t detective stories (except perhaps the third film). The strength of the franchise is really two fisted action and adventure.
As a historical curiosity, it’s interesting to see the future leader of the free world at work in his late 20s and looking his best. Reagan is great whenever he’s on screen exuding great charm and charisma.
The action sequences are pretty good in this one. While not up to the standards of our special effects driven world, the various chases, fistfights, and peril of these four films are fun to watch and there are some standout moments that are great for various reasons. The first film did a great job casting our villains as true menaces to decency when (in response to another Secret Service man trying to bust the plane mid-flight), the pilot opens a hatch in the plane that drops the Secret Service men as well as all the illegal aliens being smuggled right to Earth in a scene that’s very shocking. While the identity of the bad guy is not much of a secret in the third film despite the attempt at a veneer of mystery, the reveal of the “boss” is a beautiful work that’s just great to watch.
Also, viewers of the 1950s Superman TV show will recognize John Hamilton (who played Perry White) who appears in three of the four films as various authority figures.
On the downside, unlike Donald Meek’s character in the Nick Carter series, Eddie Foy Jr.’s comedic sidekick character Gabby Walters doesn’t really help the series and from a plot standpoint, it only made sense for him to be in the first film. While there are amusing moments where Foy’s charm shines, the character far too often is annoying, particularly in the last film.
The rest of the cast was mostly serviceable. Nothing amazing but nothing really bad either. The writing was dodgy at times. In the first movie, the film really took a long round about way of achieving its goal with the Secret Service going to great pains to have Bancroft convicted by a jury under his own name on a trumped up counterfeiting Charge so he could go undercover in prison rather than simply have him imprisoned under an assumed name. as would happen in the third film In the final film, the plot involved a secret fictional weapon which the filmmakers tried to demonstrate. Unfortunately they didn’t have the budget to do it effectively and the result is a somewhat confusing end.
It’s also worth commenting on as to the dearth of women in these features. Each film has one woman each in the main cast and except for Lya Lys in Murder in the Air none of them actually stand out.
Overall, the films are okay B-movies with some nice acting by Reagan and a few standout moments. But there’s a lot of this that’s also pretty forgettable even by B-movie standards.
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