Saturday, February 9, 2019
Noir Watch: The Burglar (1957)
format: Amazon Prime Streaming
I recently read the David Goodis novel, which Goodis himself adapted as a screenplay for The Burglar (1957). Surprise: the book is better. An existential noir thriller that *really* piles on Goodis' weirdness with women, the book is singularly bleak piece of fiction that, honestly, would probably not work terribly well as a film (the ending would be, also, logistically unfilmable in 1957*).
The movie hits a lot of the same beats and maintains the motivations of the book, but it's just not as well fleshed out, and they clearly were worried about the audience getting lost along the way so they're more concrete in trying to state the vague mess of issues plaguing Duryea's titular burglar.
Jayne Mansfield is about as far from the Gladden on the novel as one could get in personality and build, but it does shake up the mix a bit and puts a point on the creeping sexual stress as the story shows up on the screen - it's simply different from the frail, skinny girl of the novel.
There's some terrific imagery and cinematography in the film, and pitch perfect noir-esque build of sweaty claustrophobia once the game is revealed, all of which is mind-boggling, as this was the director's first time out (Paul Wendkos, who went on to make Gidget movies!), and a DP who, really, doesn't show much on his filmography to show how he got to this point.
Honestly, I think they cut too much from the book to give the other burglars any real personality or show why Duryea's character is so wound up, but it's still basically intact, and as a B picture, it's got some good stuff going for it.
*it involves a lot of stuff of people swimming in the choppy Atlantic. Sort of.