Format: Noir Alley on TCM
Director: Richard Quine
Before the movie, Muller pointed out that this film sure feels like the same story they use in The Killers from 1964. If you asked me which to pick, I'd say to reach for The Killers, unless you have the option of the 1946 The Killers, which shares only some cosmetic similarities.
But, Drive a Crooked Road (1954) was better than I figured, but still not setting the world on fire. Starring Mickey Rooney as a lonely-hearts mechanic and would-be-race-car-driver, it hits all the beats of noir in a very small scale and is intended to give Rooney a new persona as far from Andy Hardy as possible.
It doesn't hurt that a young Kevin McCarthy plays a bank-robber who sets up Rooney to fall for his girl, the Rita Hayworth-ish Dianne Foster, and get him wrapped up into a bank robbery as the get away wheelman.
And, unlike most noir films, they do literally perform the action of the title and drive a crooked road to get away from a bank as we turn the corner into the third act.
Foster is... okay. She was clearly signed because she... looks good on film. But she never quite knocks it out of the park in the charisma department or has that ineffable quality that would have made a really solid femme fatale role one for the ages. She's not boring, and you get how Rooney's character can't believe how his fortunes have turned when she shows interest, but I can imagine the role in someone else's hands (Rhonda Fleming, honestly) and how much more they might have squeezed out of the part.
McCarthy and his pal played by Jack Kelly are a buyable counterpoint to Rooney's guileless driver.
What really struck me was the third act feeling like crime fiction of the era and earlier, with the quiet, doomed ending when I expected the usual Hayes-approved turn to escape and a happy life for our protagonist as his bad-girl turns good.
Anyway, a great installment for this week's Noir Alley.