The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date is the most far-fetched of the Warren William entries in the series to date. Almost every action of consequence will make you shake your head because it’d be beyond belief in the real world. The overall tone would best be described as–silly. But boy, do I enjoy this one!
Perhaps it is the lightness, but The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date is a blast from start to finish with Warren William, Eric Blore and Fred Kelsey seeming to have a ton of fun in every scene. In my case the mood was contagious. Watching The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date a few times this week I was surprised to find myself giggling along every time.
My favorite scene is at the very open of the movie which actually kicks off not with a murder but the arrival of The Lone Wolf (William) at a shop in Havana after hours. He knocks on the door, a concerned look wrinkling his face until he eyes the shopkeeper coming to answer, at which time Lone Wolf Lanyard looks a bit too happy if anything.
Lanyard carries a valise and an air of mystery about him as he greets Manuel (Alberto Morin), the shopkeeper. Manuel heads behind his counter to open a hidden safe out of which he retrieves a small box that he sits on the counter before Lanyard. Lanyard is excited commenting upon how “round and blue” the item in the case is. “Beautifully distorted,” he adds. We haven’t been shown what’s inside as of yet.
Has the Lone Wolf slipped? The shady transaction reeks of a jewel job, his old favorite. But no, like his previous ichthyology interest in The Lone Wolf Strikes, Lanyard is just keeping himself distracted from his old ways through yet another hobby, this time putting his all into a stamp collection.
It’s a rare inverted stamp which Lanyard needs to complete his Cuban collection (“Everything depends on the Cuban collection!”). He hands Manuel a check, the amount of which pleasantly surprises the stamp dealer, and the perfectly legitimate transaction is complete. Lanyard departs the shop, boards his waiting horse and buggy, and leaves the scene.
Just as Lanyard disappears from view the glass shatters in an upstairs window. It seems he’s just been at a murder scene when, again, no, his faithful companion Jamison (Eric Blore) comes rushing out of the building carrying a hat filled with cash as about a dozen locals chase him from behind.
Jamison catches up with Lanyard’s buggy and boards stating “Proceed with alacrity, my good man,” to the driver.
It seems Jamison has taken advantage of the locals with a set of loaded dice. As they chase he wonders how they’ll outrun them, to which Lanyard replies, “Very simple,” before tossing Jamison’s winnings back at the men who cool in their tracks to collect their cash.
“Jamison, how many times must I remind you that we are honest citizens now. Larceny, petty or large, all that is behind us.”
Perhaps it’s his past as The Lone Wolf, but trouble always seems to find Michael Lanyard. Lanyard once again bumps into a pretty girl (Frances Robinson, pictured with William above) and he and Jamison are soon drawn into a web of crime and murder.
The girl, Pat, shares a flight on the sea plane from Havana back to Florida, but doesn’t speak to Lanyard during the trip. Trouble finds her as soon as they’re back in the States and after coming to her rescue, and taking a crack in the jaw for his trouble, Lanyard soon has the girl explaining her problem to him.
That explanation is the basis for Lanyard’s case in The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date: Pat’s boyfriend, Scotty (Bruce Bennett), owns a boat he charters out for fishing trips. His most recent customer asked him to drop off a package in the mail to Havana. Upon returning from the mailbox Scotty discovered his client had been murdered and the police are waiting to take him in. Pat had been in Havana, where Lanyard first ran into her, to retrieve the package with hopes of eventually clearing Scotty of any wrongdoing. She claims not to know what’s inside the package so Lanyard has her open it up and they discover that it’s stuffed with cash.
Lanyard has Jamison count out the money, “over there, where I can watch you.” Turns out to be a hundred thousand bucks.
Lanyard heads to his hotel intending to stash the money in the hotel safe when sirens wail and a group of motorcycle police escort a car into the hotel area. Out of the car pop the Inspector (Thurston Hall) and Dickens (Fred Kelsey), each with a handkerchief in hand to wipe the sweat off their brow because, you know, Florida is hot.
Their escort is the local police captain, Moon (Jed Prouty), who is at least as dimwitted as our pal Dickens. Don’t get me wrong, Moon adds to the fun, but you start to feel a little for the Inspector because we really have one too many dimwits on hand in this go around of The Lone Wolf.
The villains of The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date are never really kept from us. The main members of the nefarious group are Chimp (Edward Gargan), Mr. Lee (Lester Matthews), and Big Joe Brady (Don Beddoe). There isn’t very much mystery beyond wondering how exactly Lanyard is going to manage to clear everything up including, as usual, his own implication in the local crime by the Inspector and Dickens.
Our old friend Don Beddoe, who you may remember preceded Thurston Hall as top cop versus The Lone Wolf back in The Lone Wolf Strikes before taking on a bit as the coroner in The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady, is the most hard boiled aspect to The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date. Big Joe’s evildoing, aided surely by Beddoe’s overall appearance, brought to my own mind many a typical Albert Dekker character.
Besides the first scene another favorite comes later in the picture once again by way of Lanyard’s stamp collection. By this point the collection has come into Big Joe’s possession, as has Lanyard. Sniffing a way out of a precarious spot by way of the stamps, Lanyard creates such a stir over his collection that the bad guys think he’s a bit crazy. Mr Lee smirks at him while Chimp pokes fun and Big Joe burns up, meanwhile Warren William’s eyes are bulging and his hair is all over the place as he comes apart completely whining about missing a stamp convention that he’s been preparing for over the past three years.
PS: There is no stamp convention.
Unfortunately The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date doesn’t have a very pretty ending. Where the beginning of the picture felt even a little smart, the final scene is if anything, chaotic. Perhaps you’ll find yourself getting caught up in the action of speeding boats and cars racing towards the inevitable confrontation between the Lone Wolf, Jamison, the police, and the bad guys.
Their boat racing top speed with their destination coming into sight, Pat cries out to Jamison, “What do we do?”
“Land!” Jamison shouts.
“Then what?” asks Pat.
“Run!” cries Jamison.
And so they do as a slow and clumsy chase breaks out on the way to clearing everything up.
The Lone Wolf seems at times so obsessed by regaining his stamp collection that we can almost see Warren William winking at us. Again, silly stuff. He and Jamison are both way over the top in The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date, but the men work so well together that it works.
As I’ve said, The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date is a personal favorite though at the same time I’d never be surprised by someone saying they thought it was the worst of the bunch.
It comes down to this: if you’re beginning to get a kick out of Lanyard and Jamison from their past few adventures, then The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date should be a fun exclamation point on those journeys thus far.