“If we just make it a rule to pinch this bird on sight, look at the footwork we’d save.”
“Look at the fun you’d miss, Dickens.” — Warren William as The Lone Wolf in reply.
In my previous entry I had said that The Lone Wolf Keeps a Date was silly. A fun-loving, good silly, where we laugh along with the characters, but silly nonetheless. The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance opens by ratcheting that up yet another notch before settling down and (mostly) turning into an action packed race between our heroes, the villains and our favorite flatfoots.
At the open of The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance a jeweler sets down a valuable pearl necklace to answer his phone but the baubles slip from where he’s laid them and fall around the neck of a black cat who scrambles out of the store and onto the streets. Who would you imagine just happen to be taking stroll in the area at that time but our old pal, Michael Lanyard (Warren William), aka The Lone Wolf, and his trusty man Friday, Jamison (Eric Blore).
Both men’s eyes bulge as the bejeweled kitty races past them and they are soon on a slow approach with arms outstretched and tandem calls of here kitty, kitty and the like. The cat smartly dodges these two seeming maniacs and scrambles up the side of a building. Lanyard and Jamison give chase but alarms soon sound and a security gate drops as it turns out they had followed the unlucky cat into a bank vestibule.
Sirens wail and soon enough Inspector Crane (Thurston Hall) and Dickens (Fred Kelsey) are on the scene delighted to discover Lanyard and his assistant served up to them behind the bars of the bank. Lanyard tries to explain his story about the cat and the necklace which sounds as ridiculous to Crane as it looked to us, meanwhile the jeweler has discovered his missing goods and run out into the streets looking for help. As the bank security man raises the gate the black cat appears into view, the necklace is returned and Lanyard has squeaked out of another tough spot.
None of this really matters in The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance. The over the top opening has likely weeded out and turned away anyone new to the series at this point, but things are about to get serious.
As a characteristically cocky Lanyard and Jamison are about to leave the scene, Inspector Crane mentions that they’ll surely have reason to pick up Lanyard again very soon. Lanyard doubts this but the Inspector then makes what is perhaps his most accurate observation about The Lone Wolf of all-time: “You can’t mind your own business. Never could.” A wager is arranged. The Inspector–and Dickens bet Lanyard–and Jamison that they can’t stay out of trouble for 24 hours. Two months salary are the stakes.
Lanyard and Jamison depart though immediately sense heavy-footed Dickens on their trail. “Pull your tummy in,” Lanyard says in a sing-song voice to Dickens as the childlike detective tries his best to duck out of sight. To save the Inspector and Dickens any further trouble Lanyard tells them he can be found on the 9th floor of the Bradshaw Hotel.
That’s when the real trouble begins.
Our bad guys have lured inventor Johnny Baker (Lloyd Brides, very early) to the 9th floor of the Bradshaw to meet with his girlfriend, the movie star Gloria Foster (June Story). Suspecting Gloria’s wire to him a bit too polite, Johnny has brought along a former private detective, Wallace (Regis Toomey), for protection. Sure enough it’s a trap and while Johnny is taken captive Wallace escapes onto the ledge of the building.
There he comes upon Lanyard, shaving, and begs entry, but Lanyard smells dirty work from the Inspector and Dickens and doesn’t want to lose their bet so refuses to allow him in the window. Gun shots are fired and Lanyard looks to see Wallace fall nine stories to his death–the ring from Lanyard’s window shade wrapped around his finger for the police to find below.
The Inspector and Dickens assume Lanyard has already lost the bet, they’ve just got to catch him. Lanyard, after witnessing the murder, discovers the fake wire from Gloria and spots Johnny being worked over. He has to escape the building, now swarmed with cops including Crane and Dickens, and get to the bottom of this crime to not only win the bet but keep his freedom.
Among the heavies is a former Warren William co-star from way back, Henry Wilcoxon, as Frank Jordan. Wilcoxon was best known for his parts in Cecil B. DeMille films including Mark Antony to Warren’s Caesar in Cleopatra (1934).
Why do the villains need Johnny?
He’s invented a safe that while not impenetrable does upon being cracked emit a poison gas which will lay waste to any would-be criminals. Newsreel footage celebrates the new invention which is being put to the test transporting engraving plates by rail to the new Federal Currency Branch in San Francisco. All of our characters on board this train soon enough in one of the more exiting portions of The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance.
But the exciting adventure has a bit of anticlimactic finale as Lanyard is forced to crack the safe and the method he discovers for doing so is one that anybody could have replicated. He just had benefit of having the idea first.
The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance is the fourth and final Lone Wolf entry directed by Sidney Salkow who was discussed in more detail in my entry for his first, The Lone Wolf Strikes. Our four regulars are at the forefront of The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance. Don Beddoe is back again, this time in a more expanded role as Sheriff Haggerty, the local law enforcement who dresses down the Inspector at one point. Walter Kingsford is the duplicitous Doctor Tupman and Evalyn Knapp is on board to be a June Storey lookalike.
The first few minutes of The Lone Wolf Takes a Chance may be a bit much for all but the most diehard William-Blore fans, while Lanyard’s heroics at the end are not exactly the result of genius deduction. In between the movie races and contains all of the elements which makes the series so enjoyable for fans: action, humor and a couple of surprises.