Wildcat Bus (1940) DVD Review: As Outdated as Public Transportation Itself

Prior to the days of Big Oil coyly destroying America’s public transportation system in favor of urging everyone to buy huge gas-guzzling cars, there existed a different kind of criminal to the owners and operators of bus travel. Wildcat Bus tells of such activity, though its sense of direction could do with some navigation control. We begin with the carefree inheritor of old money (Charles Lang) having everything he owns but his car and his chauffeur/best friend (the great Paul Guilfoyle) being taken away from him by the powers that be, who declare him incompetent and incapable for some unknown reason other than the fact he’s lazy.

Forced to go out and look for a job (the horror), our hero and his sidekick apply for jobs at a local bus company. Not only is said company owned by the lovely Fay Wray, but it has also been targeted by a local gang of hoods intent on sabotaging and forcing Wray’s vehicles to crash until they are forced to sell out. Honestly, there are better dishonest ways of making money, guys. But that’s beside the point. It’s also apparently the best idea the backers of this RKO Radio Picture could muster, hiring the talents of one Lou Lusty – who never penned another feature film, for your information – to jot this 64-minute B Dept. quickie down.

Starting out as a screwball comedy, Wildcat Bus takes a detour soon into drama its eternally short runtime as Lang starts working with the bad guys and his pal Guilfoyle becomes devotes to Wray. Then, later, Lang and Wray hook up for a lengthy montage superimposed over stock footage of San Francisco, wherein the tail becomes something of a romantic comedy. Naturally, Lusty Lou can’t keep his script contained on that one boring element for very long, either, and the title swiftly becomes a crime drama. Either way you write it or cut it, however, Wildcat Bus still comes through as a less-than-interesting photoplay from 1940.

Co-starring in this oddly-built Bus are Don Costello as a bad guy (naturally), Paul McGrath, Joe Sawyer, Roland Drew, Oscar O’Shea, and Frank Shannon. Monogram Studios mistress Minerva Urecal and Charlie Chan’s Number One Son Keye Luke have uncredited roles as some of Lang’s illegal passengers in one of the film’s many lighthearted moments. Warner Archive pulls this rustic vehicle out of the garage for a new exhibition on DVD-R in a nice transfer with no special features whatsoever.

Worth a look just so you can prove to yourself public transportation used to be a big thing in this country.

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Luigi Bastardo

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