DARK STREETS OF CAIRO (1940, d. Leslie [László] Kardos)
There's a lot of misinformation around this Universal film. Recently, I saw a synopsis for a bootleg of this movie that read "an archaeological expedition is cursed after breaking into an ancient tomb," but this description bears absolutely no resemblance to what really goes on here. Another common thing that I have heard was that it was part of the "Shock!" or "Son of Shock!" packages (it was syndicated for TV by Screen Gems in the mid-1950s, but it wasn't included in "Shock!"). Some folks refer to this as a horror movie; yes, George Zucco does wear a fez throughout the movie, but it's mummy-free (though there are a couple empty ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, one of which has spy holes cut where the eyes should be). But it's no horror movie.
A US archaeological expedition led by Professor Wyndham (Wright Kramer) has unearthed the legendary "Seven Jewels of the Seventh Pharaoh." Before the expedition can sail back home with its loot, a sketchy dealer in Egyptian antiquities named Abbadi (George Zucco) orders his gang to steal the gems and substitute glass duplicates for the real things. Abbadi's gang is actually an underground organization called the Brotherhood of the Secret Defenders --- although never stated explicitly, it's suggested that the Secret Defenders are an Islamic nationalist group that target Western infidels who come to Egypt to dig up ancient cultural artifacts. As part of his scheme, Abbadi contacts Baron Stephens, a wealthy Swedish art collector, who comes to Cairo with his niece Ellen (top-billed Sigrid "The Siren of the Fjords" Gurie).
The protagonists of our tale are, unfortunately, two of Wyndham's archaeological assistants, Dennis Martin (Ralph Byrd) and Jerry Jones (Eddie Quillan). Byrd's Martin is not so bad, I guess, but Quillan's irritating, un-funny Ugly American "comic" relief is a huge liability in this picture --- I wouldn't say that the action screeches to halt whenever he's on screen, but I did impatiently await each of his scenes to be over so that we could move along to something far more interesting. Martin and Jones are plunged into the affair when they discover Wyndham's corpse; pith helmet-wearing Inspector Joachim (Rod la Rocque) brings Martin and Jones deeper into the investigation.
As late-night mellers go, DARK STREETS OF CAIRO is certainly a serviceable 59 minutes: counterfeit gems, a couple brawls, bodies dumped in the river, secret
passageways connected to ancient underground aqueducts, kidnappings, shootings, a professional knife thrower, and a car bomb. Some of the sets and atmospheres
are good 'n' baroque, just the way you want them to be in a 1940 Uni. Zucco, of course, is aces as the bad guy, and Joachim makes a good foil for
Zucco's Abbadi. So the set up is good, but it's just too bad that we need to put up with way too much of Quillan's tedious mugging and