Sensation Hunters is a 1933 American Pre-Code B-movie directed by Charles Vidor and released by Monogram Pictures.
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.
Numb “shocker” from the Pre-Code era
A gaggle of seasoned showgirls board a luxury liner bound for jobs in Panama and the “newbie” among them falls for one of the passengers but it’s a rocky road to love for a good girl stranded in the tropics…
SENSATION HUNTERS isn’t as cheap as later Monogram features but the only “sensation” I saw was in the film’s provocative poster -unless, of course, you’re wild about clichés. The eclectic cast was the selling point for me and I wasn’t disappointed; sassy Arline Judge (the lady in red on the poster) as a wise-cracking, thrice-married cabaret entertainer (“a sailor’s delight”) was the nominal star but she played second fiddle to the heroine (the boring Marion Burns) and was no less of a firecracker off-screen, having been married eight times. Cocaine addiction ruined the career of silent screen serial queen Juanita Hansen and according to “Hollywood Babylon”, she later got religion and went on cross-country bible-thumping tours denouncing drugs. She must have gotten over that because here she is in this as a blowzy “Texas Guinan”- type and, like fellow Mack Sennett bathing beauty Marie Prevost, she’d packed on a few pounds by the time talkies took over. There’s even a couple of cheesy song & dance routines as Preston Foster, Kenneth MacKenna, and Walter Brennan (as a stuttering waiter) look on agog. Directed by Charles Vidor who’d later become a house director for Columbia, the little studio that could.
Arline Judge Gets Her Dream Role!!
Author: kidboots from Australia
6 May 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If Arline Judge hadn’t been so matrimonially minded she would have made a first class comedienne. Initially compared to Clara Bow, she was one of the new crop of youngsters who were introduced in “Are These Our Children”. She played the gin and jazz mad teenager who puts Eric Linden on the wrong road but when she lightened up her heavy vamping she proved up to the mark as a wise cracking secretary to Ricardo Cortez in “Is My Face Red?”. By the time she found her dream role as smart talking Jerry in “Sensation Hunters” she was already on marriage No. 1 and her career quickly reverted to second place as she doggedly looked for Mr. Right!!
A better name for this movie would have been “Panama Hijinks” – there were no “sensation hunters” in this movie and in spite of the lurid, racy poster no nudity or salaciousness either. Aristocratic Dale Jordan (Marion Burns) is part of an all girl troupe sailing down to Panama – her room-mate on the voyage is sassy Jerry (Judge, in a role she was born to play) who shows her the ropes. Burns carries the romantic plot of the movie along with Preston Foster as Tom, a stuffy mining engineer but Judge provides the wise cracks and the fun – “Love’s a high class name for hooey”, “she’s a sailor’s delight” etc. Established at a Panama cabaret Dale proves a singing sensation but behind the scenes the girls are ruled by the indomitable Trixie who forces them to hustle the customers for drinks as well as pick their pockets.
Tom decides he can’t bear to watch Dale work in such a seedy environment but his place is soon taken by Jimmy (Kenneth MacKenna, a husband of Kay Francis) a happy go lucky blue blood who is desperate to marry. When she is kicked out of the troupe for intervening between a battling Trixie and a drunken chorus girl – suddenly Jimmy is not so keen, but wait, he isn’t a bad guy!!! It seems he is already married – to a money grubbing leech who will not give him a divorce. He is distraught and can only see one way out!!
The film seems to step on the gas after this – down to their last dime, Dale and Jerry get a job at yet another low down dive where Jerry is caught in the cross fire of a shoot out. Dale then takes their hard earned savings which were going to show them a new life and arranges for Jerry to have the best medical care available – she is short with the bill by $30 and, desperate, is almost forced to resort to the world’s oldest profession…..
Doing all that she could with the role of Trixie Snell was one time serial queen and Mack Sennett bathing beauty Juanita Hansen whose career was derailed in the early 1920s due to drug addiction. To her credit she was probably the first star to go public about her drug problems but of course after that no studio would touch her. And unfortunately the “cure” didn’t take so the 1920s found her in and out of court, usually impressing the judge with her sorrowful demeanour. “Sensation Hunters” came along when she felt her troubles were behind her and she could look forward to getting back to movie work but unfortunately she made no impression on the studio bosses because despite of the reasonably sized role it proved to be her last film.