Trains, planes, and two Waynes
Movie Lover: old movie fan
-- June, 25, 2008
The HURRICANE EXPRESS is one of the best of the creaky old Mascot serials, thanks to a great cast and a great gimmick. A young John Wayne is aces as an airline pilot whose train engineer father is killed in a wreak arranged by a mystery saboteur known as the Wreaker. The gimmick is that the Wreaker can don masks to assume the appearance of a number of other characters. Several actors, including John Wayne, are given the opportunity to do "fiend turns" as the Wreaker, while the viewer is kept guessing.
Suspects include crabbed old Tully Marshall as the ruthless manager of the railroad, Conway Tearle as his ambitious underling, Lloyd Whitlock as the slimy head of a rival airline, and Matthew Betz and Edmund Breese as disgruntled former employees nursing justifiable grudges against Marshall. Pretty Shirley Grey is the heroine torn between trying to protect her father, Breese, and her growing love for Wayne. Grand old character actor J. Farrell MacDonald is very likable in his early bit as Wayne's ill-fated father. Ernie Adams, Charles King, and Glenn Strange are among the wreaker's henchmen.
Wayne handles most of his own stunts and is outstanding in the fight scenes, lifting henchmen over his head and tossing them about. He also does an impressive jump from a motorcycle to a train. The cliffhangers, though, are ordinary and none stand out. What one remembers are the Twilight Zoneish moments when characters confront their dopplegangers, the best of which is when the good John Wayne chases the evil John Wayne about the railyard.
Probably John Wayne's best early vehicle and a treat for serial fans.