Newest Reviews
Picture Stories
Another Round
Tape, The
Man Who Sold His Skin, The
No Man of God
Oliver Sacks: His Own Life
Scenes with Beans
Quiet Place Part II, A
Prisoners of the Ghostland
Duel to the Death
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands
Yakuza Princess
Djinn, The
New Order
Original Cast Album: Company
Martyrs Lane
Paper Tigers, The
Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, The
ParaPod: A Very British Ghost Hunt, The
Collini Case, The
Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Snake Girl and the Silver-Haired Witch, The
Plan A
When I'm a Moth
Tigers Are Not Afraid
Misha and the Wolves
Yellow Cat
Newest Articles
On the Right Track: Best of British Transport Films Vol. 2
The Guns of Nutty Joan: Johnny Guitar on Blu-ray
Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray
Enjoy the Silents: Early Universal Vol. 1 on Blu-ray
Masterful: The Servant on Blu-ray
70s Sitcom Dads: Bless This House and Father Dear Father on Blu-ray
Going Under: Deep Cover on Blu-ray
Child's Play: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol. 3 on DVD
Poetry and Motion: Great Noises That Fill the Air on DVD
Too Much to Bear: Prophecy on Blu-ray
Truth Kills: Blow Out on Blu-ray
A Monument to All the Bullshit in the World: 1970s Disaster Movies
Take Care with Peanuts: Interview with Melissa Menta (SVP of Marketing)
Silent is Golden: Futtocks End... and Other Short Stories on Blu-ray
Winner on Losers: West 11 on Blu-ray
Freewheelin' - Bob Dylan: Odds and Ends on Digital
Never Sleep: The Night of the Hunter on Blu-ray
Sherlock vs Ripper: Murder by Decree on Blu-ray
That Ol' Black Magic: Encounter of the Spooky Kind on Blu-ray
She's Evil! She's Brilliant! Basic Instinct on Blu-ray
Hong Kong Dreamin': World of Wong Kar Wai on Blu-ray
Buckle Your Swash: The Devil-Ship Pirates on Blu-ray
Way of the Exploding Fist: One Armed Boxer on Blu-ray
A Lot of Growing Up to Do: Fast Times at Ridgemont High on Blu-ray
Oh My Godard: Masculin Feminin on Blu-ray
  Horn Blows at Midnight, The Trumpet Trouble
Year: 1945
Director: Raoul Walsh
Stars: Jack Benny, Alexis Smith, Dolores Moran, Allyn Joslyn, Reginald Gardiner, Guy Kibbee, John Alexander, Franklin Pangborn, Margaret Dumont, Robert Blake, Ethel Griffies, Paul Harvey, Mike Mazurki, Truman Bradley, Jack Norton
Genre: Comedy, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: It's time for the Paradise Coffee radio programme, but the last minute rehearsals could be going better when the third trumpet player (Jack Benny) keeps sounding notes out of tune. He is apologetic, but nursing a grudge that he's playing third trumpet at all, though once the show starts he becomes caught up in the announcer's narration telling the audience that this coffee is sure to make you go to sleep peacefully. But the trumpeter manages that without a cup, and soon is slumbering, dreaming of Heaven circa 1945-6...

If you've heard of The Horn Blows at Midnight, it would probably be because you were familiar with the comedy of its star, Jack Benny, for whom the movie's failure was a dependable running joke on both his hit radio show and his equally popular television show follow-up. Every so often there someone would remind Benny of what a flop this was to take him down a peg or two, and it always got a big laugh, but the results were that the source was denigrated as a mere punchline, and if anyone sought it out it would be due to simple curiosity about its supposed lack of quality. Naturally, of such material are cult movies made.

The truth of it was, this wasn't a complete turkey, it was just deeply silly. It contained a few decent laughs, but mostly it bore the marks of a project nobody had really thought through, coming at the end of the Second World War and having a plot which involved the ostensible hero trying to destroy the planet. What the trumpeter's dream concerns is an angel, Athanael (Benny), who is plucked out of the heavenly orchestra where he was playing trumpet, naturally, and offered the chance of a promotion if he can succeed in blowing his horn exactly at the stroke of midnight tonight on Earth, midnight New York time that is. Any sooner or later, and it's just not going to work.

Why do the divine beings want to destroy our world? We're all too wicked, apparently, and past saving, so the best thing to do is wipe us out, which seems a little harsh for a daft comedy, but then there was a lot about this which appeared misjudged, as if the script was a few drafts away from making sense. What you did get, and what probably saved this, were a host of forties Hollywood character actors which made it watchable, so every so often Margaret Dumont of the Marx Brothers movies would show up or Franklin Pangborn of the Preston Sturges favourites did a turn or serial heavy Mike Mazurki loomed into the frame or... you get the idea, these professionals could wring the laughs out of even a subpar screenplay.

Except the screenplay had some interesting notions, and by interesting I mean things that you wouldn't find many others trying. Fitting awkwardly into the strain of supernatural movies which arrived during the war years and after when the afterlife was on everyone's minds, The Horn Blows at Midnight may have messed up its concept, but at times it was so wacky that many would find it irresistible. Scenes of Benny being fired from a cannon, hanging off tall buildings (more than once) or most famously negotiating a huge coffee pot prop, complete with sugar and cream for the grand finale were pretty crazy even for a screwball comedy, and you could well understand why its reputation not as a dull boring waste of time but as a bomb of ludicrous proportions actually quite suited its nutty ambitions. The question remained why we were backing Athanael when he wants to eliminate us from the universe, as did one about what kind of coffee sends you to sleep, but it was memorable, even weirdly daring, give it that. Music by Franz Waxman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


This review has been viewed 2814 time(s).

As a member you could Rate this film


Raoul Walsh  (1887 - 1980)

American director with a talent for crime thrillers. Originally an actor (he played John Wilkes Booth in Birth of a Nation) his biggest silent movie successes were The Thief of Bagdad and What Price Glory? He lost an eye while directing In Old Arizona, but went on to steady work helming a variety of films throughout the thirties, including The Bowery and Artists and Models.

After directing The Roaring Twenties, Walsh really hit his stride in the forties: They Drive By Night, High Sierra, Gentleman Jim, The Strawberry Blonde, Desperate Journey, Objective Burma!, Colorado Territory and the gangster classic White Heat were all highlights. Come the fifties, films included A Lion is in the Streets and The Naked and the Dead, but the quality dipped, although he continued working into the sixties. He also directed the infamous Jack Benny film The Horn Blows at Midnight (which isn't that bad!).

Review Comments (0)

Untitled 1

Forgotten your details? Enter email address in Username box and click Reminder. Your details will be emailed to you.

Latest Poll
Which star probably has psychic powers?
Laurence Fishburne
Nicolas Cage
Anya Taylor-Joy
Patrick Stewart
Sissy Spacek
Michelle Yeoh
Aubrey Plaza
Tom Cruise
Beatrice Dalle
Michael Ironside

Recent Visitors
Graeme Clark
Darren Jones
Jason Cook
Enoch Sneed
Andrew Pragasam
  Desbris M
  Paul Tuersley
  Chris Garbutt


Last Updated: