Black Dragons (1942)

I’m actually not terribly familiar with real B movies, i.e. films produced by the “B” units of the major Hollywood studios and the Poverty Row producers churning out double bill fillers. I know a bit of the history, quite a few titles, but haven’t actually seen many of the films themselves. I suspect TVS—where I saw today’s film this morning—and their public domain film showings may help me rectify that to some degree. Anyway, I’ve read something somewhere about the classical B film permitting a degree of what might be called experimentation, in that it might cover subject matter that an A film wouldn’t cover, or do it in a way that an A film wouldn’t do. And, to be sure, I can’t imagine one of the majors doing a bit of wartime propaganda in quite the same way that Monogram did here: released just three months after the Pearl Harbour attacks, Black Dragons gives us a story of American industrialists conspiring to undermine home of the free but they’re gradually being murdered by a mysterious foreigner, who is a Nazi surgeon hired by the Japanese to transform a number of their agents into these American businessmen and who gets thrown into a Japanese prison for his efforts, but then he escapes and so he hunts them down for revenge. The only thing more bizarre than this plot is the final shot of an American flag flapping, as if the Americans (rather than this disgruntled Nazi on a personal vengeance trip) had actually done anything to stop these Japanese infiltrators. Actually, no: stranger still is that Bela Lugosi (by this time well-established on the downhill slide) as the good doctor is probably the best thing about the film, which probably tells you everything you need to know about it.

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