Hot Pepper (1933) Review

Proof That It’s Pre-Code:

  • You’ll see London, you’ll see France, you’ll see plenty of can-can dancers’ underpants.
  • Apparently, you can’t toss illegal immigrants out of your house and/or the country if they’re naked.
  • The word ‘jackass’ is used as an insult. Unfortunately, no actor was harmed in the making of this film.
  • “I saw her possibilities.” “I’m sure that’s not all of her you saw.” “And here’s hoping I see more and more!”
  • “I’m not feeling myself tonight.” “Don’t worry, I’ll take care of that later.”
  • There’s a hint of sweet, sweet miscegenation at the end.

With the sheer amount and some bad luck, I’m personally no stranger to accidentally skipping to the sequel. I originally went from the first Pirates of the Caribbean straight to At World’s End, which was sort of like leaving a friend’s dignified tea party and coming back later to find Burning Man being recreated in their den.

Now I have the unfortunate luck of coming into a in the third and final part. Worse, I have may have stumbled onto the weirdest ‘series’ of films ever conceived. Following the films What Price Glory?– a silent comedy war film famous for it’s actors use of profanity to the shock of lip readers everywhere– and its sequel, The Cock-Eyed World, we now follow the two protagonists, Quirt and Flagg, out of the war zone and into bootlegging.

Quirt and Flagg are based on the classical model of the comedy duo that was popular at the time: big tall dumb guy, short wisecracking smart guy. We’ve seen many variations on this schtick before– Abbott and Costello come immediately to mind– and a few since– hello David Spade and Chris Farley.

Wise guy, hot girl, dumb guy. Hee-larious.

And if I tell you the schtick can get tiresome, I hope you’ll believe me. Hot Pepper doesn’t contain a spark of joy or wit. The wiseguy, Quirt, is an unlikeable mug, bouncing from con to con with a bag of fake badges at his disposal. The Pre-Code films are replete with anti-heroes and thieves who behave in much of the same manner, but the way that Quirt treats Flagg and every woman he comes across is abominable. Charming rogues are supposed to be charming, dammit.

Flagg, on the other hand, is thicker than a brick. In one instance, he is chasing Quirt in a car. They’re both pulled over by the cops, and Quirt says that Flagg has his wallet. Oh, and Quirt says Flagg is his name. All Flagg can do is get frustrated beyond speech and arrested. Is anyone really this stupid?

I’m not sure. There’s a lot of stupid people in this film, and this is my segue to Lupe Velez. You may remember her from my brief mention back here, but she is once again an unintelligible fiery Latino woman who shifts gears between violently angry and coy at the drop of a hat. She gets spanked at one point; I think that was the extent of her character development.

Wait, she does get smacked on the ass a couple of more times. That's great character development!

Speaking of women, there’s a female scammer named Hortense, which is a name I greatly miss. We’re also treated to a five minute sequence of nothing but an extended scene of a group of women performing the Can-can. There are lots of legs, lots of garters, and not much else. While this may have been considered risque or even erotic to the audiences of the 1930’s, here it’s just so damned boring.

Dull, dull, dull. The characters as presented are ugly, the direction ignoble, and nothing of any note or social meaning can be derived.

One scene (and just one scene) piqued my curosity for its direction. Velez is on the booze boat that she’d stowed away on from South America, and she’s threatening the crew with a knife if any of them come close to her. The movie then cuts to a series of close-ups of the crew’s faces. First a two shot, then one of just one man, looking deathly serious.

This man's face is more interesting than the rest of the movie.

Keep in mind that this is interrupted not two seconds later by Flagg coming in, disarming her, and performing the aforementioned spanking on her. In a comedy, even one that’s about some bad marines being silly in the world of booze, where does a shot like this belong?

Maybe it’s disjointed appearance is a comment on the film’s episodic structure. Maybe it’s attesting to the complete uselessness of the characters that none of them manage this level of empathy in the entire film.

Or maybe it’s just a callback to the previous Quirt and Flagg adventures. God, I know I’m going to end up watching them at some point. I do really hate myself.


Danny lives outside Tokyo, Japan, with his lovely wife, adorable daughter, and two yappy dogs. He blogs bi-weekly at, a website dedicated to Hollywood films from 1930 to 1934, and can be found on Twitter @PreCodeDotCom.

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