Twenty-three years after his death at the age of 71, Neville Brand remains one of B moviedom's greatest heavies. From his standout performance in one of classic film noir's most popular titles, D.O.A. ‒ in which he played a psychotic killer ‒ to his subtly magnificent starring role in Tobe (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) Hooper's less-than-subtle horror outing Eaten Alive in 1976 ‒ in which he played a psychotic killer for a change (with a hungry pet crocodile, to boot!), Brand always left his mark. One year after his dynamic performance as the leader of the Riot in Cell Block 11, Brand found himself in a rare outing on the right side of the law for once in a miniscule Allied Artists production, Bobby Ware is Missing.
Young Bobby Ware (Kim Charmey, now a surgeon in California) comes from a two-parent household with two younger siblings. His pal, compulsive liar Mickey Goodwin (Thorpe Whiteman, now a dentist in California), hails from a dwelling where his disinterested workaholic father's housekeeper is the den mother. When idiot Mickey suggests the boys climb to the top of a quarryside due to be blasted with dynamite the following morning, foolish gullible Bobby goes along. Soon, the pair are stranded on an inaccessible ledge with a swift plummet to death on either side of them. It isn't long before Bobby's father and mother, George and Janet (Arthur Franz and Jean Willes) are frantic, awaiting news of their son's mysterious disappearance with Mickey's future nervous wreck of a dad, Max (Walter Reed).
Enter Neville Brand as an experienced police lieutenant named Andy Flynn (a name that former cowboy star Wild Bill Elliott sported in the first installment of the Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries, Dial Red O, which can be seen playing on a theater marquee in one scene ‒ coincidence?). Rounding up the troops and volunteers to go on a search and rescue mission into the foothills of the greater metropolitan Los Angeles area (well, Riverside, at the very least ‒ with a possible excursion to Bronson Canyon highly likely), Brand's duties are soon compromised when an unknown party delivers a note wrapped on a rock through a living room window (seriously) stating the missing boys have actually been kidnapped, and a mere $10k will ensure the boys are returned safe and sound so long as the police are not notified. Richard Crane (Rocky Jones, Space Ranger) and an uncredited William Schallert can be seen in small supporting roles as police officers.
The story, by Daniel B. Ullman (who also penned the first two Bill Elliott Detective Mysteries), axes most of the low-budget film's suspense factor by showing us what has happened to Bobby Ware and his un-eponymous partner (because Mickey is a little shithead) at the very beginning of the film. Fortunately, cinematographer Ellsworth Fredericks (Invasion of the Body Snatchers) knows how to frame a shot, while director Thomas Carr ‒ best known for directing TV westerns and the original Superman series ‒ keeps everything and everyone in-check. But most noteworthy of all is Neville Brand's outfit once he gets around to searching for the young boys: clad in a brown leather jacket and fedora, with the strap of a portable radiophone draped over his chest, Brand looks like the '50s B movie Indiana Jones, possibly patterned after Charlton Heston's starring role in Secret of the Incas (1954).
The Warner Archive Collection rescues this Missing film from an uncertain fate atop a long drop to oblivion in a Manufactured-on-Demand DVD-R that presents the rarely-seen flick in a beautiful transfer. Presented in matted widescreen, the barebones release of the motion picture quickie is a fun way to spend the better part of 70 minutes. And seriously, any chance to see Neville Brand as a good guy instead of a psychotic killer (even if he played them so bloody well!) must be taken.