cast: Raymond Griffith (the dude), Betty Compson (Molly), Tom Santschi (Callahan), Bert Woodruff (the bride's father), Fred Kelsey (a gang member).


"San Francisco's Underworld"

We immediately think "dirty," "crime-ridden," "dangerous."

A "dive" named "The Bucket of Blood," which, according to a title is "where the venturesome visitor pays dearly for his curiosity."

Pays?? In blood, maybe? In sorrow?

Inside we see a typical drab, underlit den tucked away in a basement, an assortment of "seedy" types sitting around small tables, the air filled with smoke. At the top of the short set of steps leading to the door is a tour guide with four or five nattily dressed "curiosity seekers." "This is the toughest dive in the city," the tour guide tells them. Then he points to a young girl with her back turned to the group. She is doing something at a table with small whiffs of smoke rising from it. As he points to the girl, the tour guide says, "Queen of the Counterfeiters." The girl, whose name is Molly (played by Betty Compson), turns, looks condescendingly on the group, and returns to her work. The "tourists," disturbed by what they see, have had enough. They pay the manager of the dive for their right to see the place and leave. As the tour guide turns to go out the door, he puts a hand behind his back into which the manager places some of the money.

Back to the girl. We now see her from the front and realize she is not making counterfeit money - she is making waffles! "Come and get it," she shouts. Wham! It all becomes clear! This isn't the "toughest dive in the city." This is a bunch of con-artists out to make a buck by giving the people what they want, with the help of some local tour guides.

Suddenly, the tour guide appears at the door again. "Got a dude who wants to see a Chinese joint!" he shouts. At that, everyone in the place springs into action. Furniture is moved out and the Chinese accoutrements are moved in. Clothes are change to Chinese garb, opium pipes are lit, beds are placed in a corner, and everyone gets into position.

The tour guide comes in first. Then we see a shadow - the shadow apparently of a well-to-do client as evidenced by the dress. Then, the "dude" (Raymond Griffith) appears - top hat, cane, tuxedo, long coat, mustache - debonair, refined, but obviously somewhat unsure of himself in a place such as this. The manager appears - now Chinese, of course. Five dollars to get in. The first "hit." Next a "wild man" runs up to the dude - nervous, jittery, rubbing his hands, unable to stop moving. The manager warns that the man needs ten dollars to buy "hop" or me may kill someone. The dude, afraid, quickly hands over $10. Then it's $20 to meet the Queen of Chinatown (Compson again) . . . and it continues - one thing after another to "gyp" the gullible dude out of his money. The biggest "hit" comes when they set up a fake murder and make the dude think he did it. It will cost him $500 for someone to take the "rap" for him, which he quickly hands over.

Because much of the humor in this opening sequence is dependent on some of the surprises the viewer has in store, no more will be said about it. Nevertheless, what has been outlined so far is only the beginning!

The next scene is a boat dock. An elderly gentleman is showing off a very expensive diamond necklace that he has just bought as a wedding gift for his daughter to anyone who will look at it. Unfortunately, one of Molly's gang is there and runs back to tell the rest of the gang about his discovery.

From there we are taken to a hotel lobby where Molly and some of her gang are staked out. A bellboy comes through the lobby paging "Mr. Clark." A man answers the page - a man with a top hat and cane. Molly stares in amazement. It is the dude who had identified himself at the dive as "Mr. Dusenberry." (We learned before the close of the opening sequence that the dude is a crook, too). Molly approaches him and questions why he answered a page for a "Mr. Clark." "I answer all names," he says. "One never knows what it may lead to."

Molly then suggests that she could use a man of his talents in her gang, but the "dude" refuses, saying he never forms partnerships with women because it "gets one into trouble."

Another bellboy comes through the lobby paging "Mr. Callahan." The dude answers this one, too. He is soon taken to the old man who was showing off the necklace earlier at the dock. "It's here," the old man whispers to him. "Come tonight and see it - the wedding's tomorrow." Then he leaves. From the look on his face, it is apparent that the dude doesn't have a clue what the old man is talking about.

Later, while Molly and the "dude" are talking, in walks a rather large, stern looking man. We soon learn that this is "Callahan," the same Callahan who was being paged earlier. He is a detective, and he immediately spots Molly. He is well-acquainted with her and is suspicious of why she would be in the hotel lobby. "Why don't you go straight?" he asks her. Molly, of course, acts very innocent and hurt that he would suggest she was there for anything dishonest. After he leaves, Molly immediately gets back to business and asks the "dude" if he got the old man's name. No, he didn't. At that moment, one of the gang comes up, whispers something in her ear, and they both leave the "dude" standing there.

The gang arranges a small automobile accident between their car and the old man's as a means of learning his name and address.

The wedding reception at the old man's house - the home is full of guests, and he's still showing off the necklace everyone. The maid comes in to serve hors d'oeuvres - it's Molly. Somehow she has gotten on the "inside" to carry out the heist.

Callahan and two fellow detectives arrive. They have been charged with guarding the necklace. When Callahan discovers Molly there, she assures him that she had taken the maid's job in an effort to "go straight." Callahan believes her and departs, leaving the two detectives the guard the necklace which has been put in a small safe inside a cabinet in the library.

Molly slips outside to tell a couple of her gang that she has seen the necklace and how easy the heist will be. Once back inside, the doorbell rings. In walks the dude, this time identifying himself as "Mr. Tuttle." Molly immediately berates him and accuses him of trying to get the necklace before she does. Of course, he claims to know nothing of what she is talking about, and the viewer is left wondering if he is telling the truth.

In walks the old man, who, for some unknown reason, thinks the dude is a famous detective who has come to help guard the necklace. He takes the dude to the safe and shows the treasure to him, but, the scrutinizing of the two detectives makes the dude very uncomfortable, so he gives it back to the old man and leaves the room.

Later, when the detectives are outside checking the grounds, he gets his chance to open the safe. In the midst of all of the guests, the old man tells the dude, "Hey, some of these folks won't believe you are the greatest detective on earth." He hits upon an idea and tells the old man to hide his watch while he goes into the library. He will then return and find the watch.

Of course, while he's in the library, he's working on the safe, but he doesn't have enough time to complete his task before being called back to the guests. This happens two or three times, each interruption coming before he can finish breaking into the safe. In his last effort, he gets the safe open, but, just as he is about to grab the necklace, the old man calls him back. While he's busy entertaining the guests, Molly slips in and takes the necklace from the open safe.

The dude is successful in dazzling the crowd, however, with his ability to find the watch each time. Knowing that he needs just one more chance to get back in the library and he can have the necklace, he asks that they hide the watch one final time. While he's out of the room, the old man sees Molly walking through. In an effort to "stump" the dude, he asks Molly to hold the watch. Molly takes it but slips out the room afraid she will be discovered with the necklace.

While this is going on, the dude finds that someone had beat him to the necklace. He knows it was Molly and, angered, he runs into the room where the guest are and shouts, "Where is that maid?!" Of course, the guests think he has once again determined where the watch is and applaud him!

Molly heads for the front door, but, just as she opens it, she sees the detectives about to come in. The dude is in close pursuit behind her, and realizing she may get caught with the necklace by the detectives, she quickly gives it to the dude. In walk the detectives, and, while Molly and the dude stand side by side looking very innocent, the old man bursts in announcing that someone has stolen the necklace.

Through a game of searching each other, the dude manages to retain possession the necklace by putting it in one of the detective's pockets while he, himself, is being searched and then picking the detective's pocket when the search is compleed. Just when it appears he has successfully regained the necklace, the dog lifts if from his pocket and runs to the bride-to-be with the jewel case in his mouth. The dude quickly assumes the role of the "greatest detective on earth" again, and the necklace is returned to the safe.

4 a.m. The dude and Molly come out of their separate rooms upstairs at the same time, both with identical intentions. They agree that they must work together. Just as they begin to slip downstairs, they see Callahan and the two detectives capture the two men from Molly's gang who were supposed to be waiting outside. They apparently became impatient and decided to do the job themselves. Callahan takes them to the police station.

Molly and the dude continue their quest. By using the dog to "decoy" the detectives from the library, the dude manages to get the safe and carry it back upstairs.

As he is climbing the stairs, the phone ring. The dude grabs it to keep the detectives from hearing the bell. It is Callahan. Thinking he is talking to one of the detectives, he says the two crooks have "squealed" and named Molly and the dude as accomplices. He's headed right over to "nab" them, too.

The dude rushes to Molly's room with the news, and they begin arguing about who should take the necklace. Meanwhile, the detectives learn of the theft. In the room, Molly and the dude come to an agreement, discover their attraction for one another and kiss. While they are still embracing, one of the detectives looks through the keyhole. All he can see is someone's hand holding the open case with the necklace in it. They burst in the door. Quick thinking! - the dude pushes Molly back, holds her firmly by the arms and demands that she tell him who helped her get that safe upstairs. The detectives, of course, think the "world's greatest detective" has beat them to the capture. They go downstairs, return the safe and the necklace, and the dude volunteers to take the girl to headquarters. He asks the detectives to hold her while he goes to get his hat and coat. He returns and leaves with Molly in tow. Once outside, the dude shows Molly the necklace - he retrieved it from the safe when he went back to get his hat and coat!

Callahan then bursts on the scene wanting to know where the maid and the "dude" are. Very smugly, the two detectives tell of the events and point out that "the little detective" has taken her to headquarters.

Callahan is furious with his two subordinates, and this sets off a car chase with Callahan, the detectives and several policemen in hot pursuit of Molly and the dude who are headed toward Mexico. If only they can reach the border in time!

The police call ahead to the towns along the way, and dozens of motorcycle cops join in the chase which winds around twisting mountain roads and through small towns. Lots happens along the way including what is probably the fastest change of a flat tire in history, being cut off from the cops by a freight train, throwing the cops off the trail with a "bridge out" sign and more. In the end, we see the loveable twosome drive into the desert among the sagebrush and cacti, safely across the border. All the Callahan and the police can do is turn around, unsuccessful in their attempt to retrieve the necklace and bring the crooks to justice.

Click here to see the "Paths to Paradise" Commentary and What Others Said About the Film

copyright 1999 by Tim Lussier. All rights reserved.

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