June 11, 2018  (Web Review)

Stingaree

Kino, 77 min., not rated, DVD: $19.99, Blu-ray: $29.99

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

William Wellman directs this lighthearted 1934 adventure set in 1874 Australia starring Richard Dix as highwayman and bandit Stingaree, a romantic rogue of an outlaw who is more talent scout than thief. After he kidnaps and assumes the identity of a visiting British composer, Stingaree falls for Hilda (Irene Dunne), a servant with a beautiful singing voice, and he arranges for her to audition for the real composer. Stingaree is based on the stories of E.W. Hornung, creator of Raffles, and it plays like a Cisco Kid adventure relocated to 19th-century Australia and mixed with wily capers, outlaw romance, and musical performances. Dix is perfectly capable as Stingaree, a darkly handsome outlaw in the Robin Hood mold, who has a loyal sidekick (Andy Devine), a playful manner, and a romantic streak, but he lacks the swashbuckling charisma to really create a memorable character. Dunne, who was a talented singer as well as one of the top actresses of the 1930s, performs a number of songs here as Hilda. There’s not much to the story but Wellman deftly drives the film at a snappy pace in a comic key and Devine and Una O’Conner, who plays tart-tongued maid loyal to Hilda, help out with comic relief. An enjoyable but minor film for fans of early Hollywood romantic comedies and adventures. Long considered lost, the film was recently rediscovered and makes its home video debut on DVD and Blu-ray in a new 2K restoration. Extras include audio commentary by the director’s son, William Wellman Jr. A strong optional purchase. (S. Axmaker)