For Hicksflicks.com, March 20, 2015

Familiar character actor/tough guy Brian Donlevy gets top billing but the rapid-fire, 63-minute “High Tension” (1936, b/w) is stolen by the even more energetic Glenda Farrell at every turn, as she demonstrates her talent for brassy farce in this romantic comedy tethered to a cross country-cum-deep sea adventure.

A lost and unjustly forgotten B-level comedy-drama, the aptly titled “High Tension” gets new life in its DVD debut on the Fox Cinema Archives label, the manufacture-on-demand arm of 20th Century Fox’s home video division. And it’s a delightful shakeup of rom-com conventions.


Brian Donlevy, Glenda Farrell; note that the film's working title, 'Trouble Makers,' is on the photo instead of the final title, 'High Tension'

Donlevy drinks and brawls his way through his travels as he lays telephone wire across the country and checks underwater cables in Hawaii, and Farrell is his on-again, off-again love interest, a magazine fiction writer who capitalizes on and exaggerates Donlevy’s experiences.

Their love-hate battles make the Bickersons seem like amateurs.

The film also seems to be a celebration of the industrial age (circa 1936), and in particular the accelerated speed of communication and travel.

Wonder what the filmmakers would make of iPhones and jet airliners.


Things come to a head for Donlevy and Farrell when he prepares to propose, only to fly into a jealous rage upon discovering that she has taken an assignment to write a magazine series about a hunky boxer (Joe Sawyer, who would also go on to a long character-actor career as mugs and thugs).

Cue the breakaway furniture, including a grand piano, which makes for an odd weapon of choice.

Yes, it’s hokey in places but “High Tension” is funny enough to get away with it. Donlevy and Farrell have chemistry — and Farrell in particular has the comic chops to put it over.

Keep an eye out for Ward Bond and Hattie McDaniel in supporting bits.