The Devil is Driving (1932)

BENJAMIN STOLOFF

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB

USA, 1932. . Screenplay by , adaptation by , , from an original story by . Cinematography by . Produced by .

Exciting crime drama that begins when pays a visit to his mechanic brother-in-law , telling him he is out of work which Gleeson is only happy to give him, hiring him at his garage. What Lowe doesn’t know is that the workplace is a front for a ring of thieves who have been stealing cars and stripping them for resale, eluding the cops who chase the stolen vehicles up the building’s winding ramp before the car slips into a hidden storage space, where it is quickly repainted and taken apart.

Oblivious to this, Lowe starts up a romantic relationship with the lady of dubious morality who lives in the penthouse (played by , with whom he enjoys some terrific banter in their meet-cute), but when his pint-sized nephew () barely survives a hit and run and it’s followed by a close family member dying in a suspiciously convenient car accident, our hero begins to look into things and very soon smells a rat.

The execution of this plot, an early ancestor of Fast and Furious adventures, is brought to thrilling life by Benjamin Stoloff’s magnificent direction, keeping the pace at a high-octane level from beginning to end and comes up with some clever twists with which to have key moments of the plot play out: a gangster character who doesn’t speak is conveniently used towards a skilful manipulation in the climax, and the repeated motif of the long, spiral ramp in the auto shop’s building becomes the site of a very explosive conflict in the film’s exciting final moments.

It doesn’t quite find the heart and soul of the archetypes it is exploiting, but it finds their pulse, and that alone guarantees great entertainment.

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