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The Spy Ring 1938
Description: Two American-army officers are working on a fresh kind of machine-gun for anti-aircraft warfare, when one of them is murdered. The another vows to receive the spies that are after the invention and avenge his friend's death.
Released: 08 Jan 1938 Director: Joseph H. Lewis Writers: Francis Van Wyck Mason (story "The Enemy's Goal"), George Waggner (screenplay) Actors: William Hall, Jane Wyman, Esther Ralston, Robert Warwick Genres: Adventure, Crime, Drama
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The Spy Ring Reviews:

While the cheery presence of Jane Wyman in the female leading role might attract interest in this B movie that saw her loaned out from Warner Brothers to Universal, it is the performance of veteran silent actress Esther Ralston as a memorable terrible woman that is the stand-out in an otherwise forgettable film. The primary storyline deals with opponent agents out to receive the goods on fresh units weapons, with Ralston as one of the villains who uses her feminine wiles to create a connection with the boys in charge of the creation of this anti-aircraft weapon. Much of this hour long movie either takes zone either at an units base dance or on the polo fields, leaving tiny time for much feature concerning the major mission of the plot. William Hall is a rather dull leading hero, with Ben Alexander cast as his partner who ends up murdered after Ralston gets from him what she needs. This leads to a hostage case with Ralston and her cohorts holding Hall and Wyman at gunpoint with predictable results. Wyman seems to be pidgeon-holed into the typecast cheery young lady role that would dominate her career during the late 1930's into the mid 1940's, only changed into a dramatic direction by her surprise casting in "The Lost Weekend" which set the course for the remainder of her career and made her a real actress rather than just a studio contract player. Her role here does her no justice, and another than Ralston, the remainder of the cast seems to be just going through their paces anyway.


This is actually a very obscure movie which is only somewhat interesting. It is meant to be a spy storyline with a tiny polo thrown in. The spy intrigue angle is only made somewhat interesting and the polo is difficult to watch with such an old grainy film. The acting is generally poor, William Hall has type of a creepy toothy smile that makes him look silly in this role. The studio was just trying Hall out as a leading boy and apparently he failed because he was relegated to minor roles for the most part after this film. Some of the helping actors are quite good, though, and Jane Wyman comes across quite well in a tiny role with no true dialog to work with. The original storyline by F.V.W. Mason is quite a bit more interesting than this watchable but not particularly suggested film.


1938's "The Spy Ring" was one of the handful of non category games included in Universal's SHOCK! pack of classic horror movies issued to tv in the late 50's. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a tiny 'B' detail about a spy ring would garner tiny attention in such a distinguished format, but this one fails to entertain on even the most modest scale, clearly deserving its relative obscurity. Top billing went to tiny known William Hall, strictly a bit user who quickly returned to same afterwards, as the Units captain whose buddy has designed a fresh trigger mechanism that should support revolutionize anti-aircraft defense. The mate is quickly murdered in his Washington DC apartment by an pretty blonde (Esther Ralston) working for a spy ring based in California, so our character travels out West to ferret out the villains by (get this!) testing polo! Difficult to believe, but once the ponies come on, the spy items gets buried, and the viewer winds up feeling like a horse's a--. About the kindest thing one can tell is it's better than 1941's "A Risky Game." Fetching teenager Jane Wyman gets second billing in the lesser female role of the ingenue, and another familiar faces contain Robert Warwick, Leon Ames, Egon Brecher, and burly Glenn Strange, in a silent thug part. This was the only time in her career that former silent screen beauty Esther Ralston was billed under the name Jane Carleton (two years away from retirement), and there are musical cues from both "Dracula's Daughter" and "The Invisible Ray." Cult director Joseph H. Lewis did go on to do a pair of category games in 1941, Monogram's "Invisible Ghost" (Bela Lugosi) and Universal's "The Angry Doctor of Store Street" (Lionel Atwill).



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