Oh wow was this one a doozy! And by that I mean it was horribly tedious. Hometown Story (or apparently the proper name Home Town Story), was a small MGM film that has since lapsed into the public domain and is easily accessible if you know where to look. Unfortunately, the time it takes in finding it doesn’t equal the amount of runtime the film has as it barely comes in at an hour! The film would be great to watch with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 guys because this film is melodramatic and laughably bad.
It tells the story of failed politician Blake Washburn (Jeffrey Lynn) and his defeated return to his hometown. Once there he reconnects with the poor girl he’s waited seven years to marry (Marjorie Reynolds), and starts writing inflammatory newspaper columns about the man he believes wronged him, John MacFarland (Donald Crisp).
For a film that clocks in at an hour and one minutes, it feels like a long time. I’m not sure how much of the badness can be attributed to the fact this film is in the public domain, but the music was laughably ridiculous. It plays like soap opera music, never matches the sequence, and when it does it beats you over the head with what it means in the context of the scene. Case in point is every time Blake’s annoying adorable sister Katie (Melinda Plowman) is on-screen the movie plays a version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” or “Rockabye Baby.” See, she’s so cute she’ll make your teeth fall out!
Marilyn only has about two scenes as the secretary (again), Iris, who says everyone’s name and gets hit on by Slim Haskins (Alan Hale Jr.). The movie was so broke, or Marilyn was just so low on the totem pole at this time, that she was responsible for her own wardrobe and wears the same sweater you see her in in All About Eve! She’s goregous but there’s nothing for her to do, making this the painful epitome of her “secretary” roles in my book.
The cast is pretty forgettable, Lynn tries to be the tough guy actor and gets into fights over the slightest thing. I swear at one point a guy came up to say “hey” and Blake punches him in the face. Well maybe not but it felt like he was always getting offended over something. Marilyn look-alike Reynolds made me assume Marilyn had a bigger role but the actress turned around and proved me wrong. She’s…good I guess but really she just nags Blake and cries at the end.
Oh the end, one cannot ignore the ending of this stinker and again it makes me wish the MST3K guys did this film. Of course it’s because of the adorable Katie that Blake…does something. She of course gets stuck in a mine shaft. Yes you read that right…stuck in a mineshaft! There’s screaming children and the National Guard comes out, Katie is pulled out but apparently she’s only got 2 hours to live unless some surgery’s performed. Mind you she’s the healthiest looking person to be stuck in a mineshaft and mind you the mine doesn’t collapse, it caves in and is covered to the top with dirt! Katie is buried alive for at least 30 minutes and isn’t mangled or anything. And 2 hours can pass to perform what surgery mind you, what the hell does she need? Does she have internal bleeding or something? Some guy looks at her and makes the call that she’s gonna die in two hours. It shouldn’t bother me this much because by this point the movie only had like 4 minutes left (yes this is all resolved in four minutes) but come on the stupid kid had it coming for going into the shaft in the first place!
Hometown Story (yes I’m defying IMDB) is stupid, plain and simple. It’s fun to watch with your friends but it’s more a short film ala MST3K (last plug for them I swear) that they would get a kick out of. Seeing this for Marilyn is pointless but if you want to you can probably find her two scenes on YouTube.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.