|Directed by||Charles Vidor|
Dale Jordan is first accepted by the aristocratic first-cabin passengers on a south-bound Panama-Pacific liner until they discover she is a member of a troupe of cabaret girls led by Trixie Snell en route for the Bull Ring Cabaret in Panama City. This makes no difference to Tom Baylor, San Blas mining engineer, who presents her with a bracelet upon their arrival in Panama. Tom departs for his mining location in the jungle and Dale is taken in tow by hard-boiled but good-hearted Jerry Royal, an old timer with Trixie’s crew. Dale takes up with millionaire Jimmy Crosby who promises to get a divorce from his wife in the states, but is unable to and commits suicide by crashing his plane. Jerry and Dale go from one dive to the other in an effort to get enough money to go home. They land in The Cobra, one of the lowest dives in Panama, and Jerry is knifed in a saloon brawl.
Texas Guinan in Panama
Sensation Hunters is a pre-code melodrama set in the tropics of the Panama Canal Zone. The action mostly centers around Trixie’s Bull Pit a kind of upscale dive owned by Juanita Hansen who is Texas Guinan like character for the low brows.
Two women are going to work there, good time girl Arline Judge and newcomer Marian Nixon. The girls are kind of on the menu there as well and millionaire aviator Kenneth McKenna. He might be the answer to Nixon’s prayers, but it doesn’t work out that way.
Preston Foster who I usually enjoy is completely wasted in a role that only calls for him to be a shoulder that Nixon cries on. The whole story despite its trash setting is an old fashioned Victorian melodrama not likely to be revived
Great film — and probably the first about Howard Hughes
Author: mgconlan from United States
19 February 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an extraordinary movie, one of those quirky little gems that flourished in the days of the studio system and indicates that even an independent studio like Monogram could sometimes achieve high quality. The script is intelligent and — at least until Kenneth MacKenna’s character gets into his airplane when he’s drunk and we KNOW what’s going to happen to him — it avoids the most obvious movie clichés. (BTW, MacKenna’s character — a rich man who builds and test-flies his own airplanes — is clearly based on Howard Hughes and this is probably the first movie ever made in which a Hughes avatar appears.) Vidor’s direction anticipates film noir in general and his own “Gilda,” 13 years later, in particular and makes this story of degradation in the Panama cabaret scene live. The acting is appropriate and low-keyed and even the two songs are unusually good. Monogram is a little-regarded company and DID make a lot of lousy films — mostly after it was reorganized in 1937 — but in the first phase of its existence it produced some of the best indies in Hollywood: this one, “The Thirteenth Guest” (a thriller with Ginger Rogers based on a book by the author of “Scarface”), “The Phantom Broadcast” and the underrated first sound version of “Jane Eyre” with Virginia Bruce (who totally out-acts Joan Fontaine) and Colin Clive.