Plot: A bank was robbed in the middle of a parade, leaving the teller dead and the police desperate for answers. Even though lawman Gahagan (Tom Kennedy) and a group of his lodge buddies were in the area, the heist has baffled the authorities. But ever curious reporter Torchy Blane (Lola Lane) is on the case and with seventy thousand dollars in the take, there are bound to be some clues. Torchy follows the trail and pieces together that the stolen cash will need be exchanged, otherwise it will be simple for the police to track the bills. Soon enough, Torchy, her boyfriend Steve (Paul Kelly), Gahagan and his lodge crew, and perhaps the thief are bound for Panama, where Torchy is convinced the hand off will be made. But is she right as usual or has her nose for news mislead her this time and taken them all on a wild goose chase?

Entertainment Value: This fifth volume of Torchy Blane’s adventures marks a severe departure on several fronts, not the least of which is the replacement of Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane in the lead roles. The end result is just not on par with the previous movies and that’s a shame, as there are some bright spots here that could have led to a much more effective picture. The narrative is fine, with a light murder mystery and some broad humor, though this one seems a little more mean spirited, rather than light and brisk. I also like that Torchy has some grand moments, including a parachute jump, but this Panama adventure is more fizzle than spark. The focus veers off of Torchy too often and the problem is magnified because the shift to following the prominent male characters is a poor one. Paul Kelly and Larry Williams are good performers, but the material hampers their efforts and in the end, the Torchy scenes prove to be the best elements of this one. I still found some laughs in this sequel, but it was clear a lot of bad decisions were made and thankfully, Farrell and MacLane soon returned, so the mistake was at least a short lived one.

Although Lola Lane is a talented performer, she was an odd choice to take over as Torchy and not just because she’s a brunette. After all, the series has made a lot of noise about Torchy’s blonde locks, but Lane just doesn’t fit the role as well as Glenda Farrell, who shined in the first four installments. I think she handles the rapid fire banter well enough, but it just isn’t the same, a very good performance, but she just can’t keep pace with Farrell’s watermark. This is due in part to the script, which plays Torchy almost as a helpless damsel, which is not in line with Torchy’s development. So perhaps it is the material, not Lane that should shoulder the blame here. And while Lane’s banter is on point, the romantic banter between she and Paul Kelly doesn’t work, which again, means a crucial element in the formula is off base. Again, Kelly is a competent thespian, but he and Lane lack the chemistry shown by Farrell and Barton MacLane, so it just contributes to the overall “generic brand” feel of this sequel. The cast also includes Tom Kennedy, Betty Compson, and Hugh O’Connell.

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