The Lone Wolf Takes A Chance is another entry in the Lone Wolf series of B-movies that Turner Classic Movies pulled in to fill the serials slot in its pre-noon Saturday schedule.
It opens in fine, ridiculous form: a necklace slips off a jewelry store counter onto a cat, which Lone Wolf Michael Lanyard (Warren William) and Sidekick Jamison (Eric Blore) notice and follow to a bank door, where the anti-theft system catches them. It's a ridiculous situation just barely plausible to have happen, but it gets cleared up soon enough.
Lanyard and Inspector Crane (Thurston Hall) bet whether he can stay out of trouble for 24 hours, and the countdown starts to when he gets into that sort of trouble. Sure enough: the person staying in the hotel room opposite his invented a new super-burglar-proof railroad car for transporting engraving plates for money (remember when that was the Macguffin of Macguffins?) that's in all the newsreels that the plot-sensitive theaters are showing, and what do you know but the guy gets kidnapped? Some complications later and Lanyard is wanted for the kidnapping as well as for the killing of a detective sent to watch out for what kind of trouble Lanyard gets into.
I know any series has to have its conventions, and the evidence that Lanyard is responsible for the detective's death is reasonable (although the detective had to climb out on the ledge --- remember skyscrapers with ledges? --- and get shot from two angles to do it) but wouldn't you figure Crane to eventually accept that no, the Lone Wolf didn't do it?
There's some ingenious work here. For example, in escaping from the hotel Lanyard uses the dumbwaiter, but runs into police who're looking for just that sort of escape attempt. Later, it will not surprise you to learn, the inventor gets stuffed into the burglar-proof railroad car, and he's the only one with the combination. The Lone Wolf finds a clever method of getting it, although I'd think the technique could only work in B-movie detective stories. (Also, part of the burglar-proofing is that if tampering is suspected the car sprays poison gas in the vicinity. I realize poison gas was all good fun back before World War II, but is that really the wisest plan they could use?)
However, the movie isn't as generally fun as The Lone Wolf Keeps A Date, or even as oddball as the opening scenes. If it kept up with the level of coincidental loopiness implied by the cat-necklace thing it'd have been more enjoyable. Instead there's a lot of scenes of grey people arguing in train cars and, later, an abandoned house. There is a plane chase by biplane that's cool, though.
Trivia: Between 1850 and 1860 the United mint issued about $400 million in gold coins, around twice that coined before 1850 all the way back to 1793. Source: History of Money, Glyn Davies.
Currently Reading: The Pine Barrens, John McPhee.