In this article, we will be looking at the FOX Cinema Archives Manufacture On Demand title Kidnapped (1938). This MOD title looked in pristine condition, most likely due to the fact that the original source material was not seen very often. At least after one viewing, I am pretty positive I will not be seeing it again.
Kidnapped is based on a Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped: The Adventures Of David Balfour. The story involves the 1700’s revolution of Scotland wanting to be recognized as a sovereign nation by England. A proud Scottish activist named Alan Breck (Warner Baxter) is wanted by the British government as a traitor. An interweaving story involves young David Balfour (Freddie Bartholomew) traveling to Scotland to claim his rightful heir as head of the Balfour estate. Unfortunately, his scheming uncle Ebenezer (Miles Mander) plots his imminent kidnapping and demise. When the kidnapping falls flat, Ebenezer attempts to collect on the bounty placed on the head of Alan Breck.
The movie, as a whole, falls flat. The accents of the actors come and go. None more so than with Alan Breck. Mr. Breck is supposed to be Scottish, yet he somehow falls in and out of Scottish, English, and American accents. I was expecting so much more of this film, especially when I discovered the supporting cast, which reads as a whos-who of character actors: John Carradine, Reginald Owen, and Nigel Bruce. The only saving grace was the acting of young Freddie Bartholomew. Freddie outshines every veteran actor in the film, and steals every scene he is in.
The director of Kidnapped (Alfred Werker) would go on the very next year to direct what many critics claim to be the best of the Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes). Coincidentally, it was also the second film in which Werker worked with Nigel Bruce, who is most well known for playing Sherlock Holmes sidekick, Dr. Watson.
Overall, Kidnapped is an average film that isn’t sure what it wants to be. There are a number of similarities between Kidnapped and the Robin Hood legend. And if you want to see a period piece with exciting adventure, I would recommend The Adventures of Robin Hood, which was released in 1938 as well, but in glorious Technicolor as compared to the drab black-and-white used for Kidnapped.