Showing posts with label 1950's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950's. Show all posts

Friday, September 16, 2022

Noir Watch: Hit and Run (1957)


Watched:  09/15/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Hugo Haas

Eddie Muller may or may not have programmed this flick for Noir Alley, but he did host it.  I don't really know how Noir Alley selections work, to be honest.

But he seemed delighted to show a poverty row-adjacent film and talk about Hugo Haas, the producer, director and star of Hit and Run (1957), a self-made man in cinema who only made a handful of films, but did it on his own terms, including casting himself alongside Cleo Moore, one of the lesser known blonde bombshells of the mid-50's.  And there's probably a fascinating movie or prestige TV show about the shadow world of these films and their distribution in an era where the studios were still running the show and for everyone else, it was the collision of art and commerce and doing what you could afford to do.

Hit and Run plays mostly like a local theater production of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but like the local community theater producer had some ideas for revisions to juice it up a bit.  But, similarly, it features Cleo Moore as the blonde girl who, down on her luck, marries the most stable and financially sound guy in her world, even if he's older and they make a weird pair.  Rather than John Garfield wandering into the gas station, Vince Edwards (whom I like a lot, generally), is already employed there, so it's Moore who's the interloper breaking up a happy home.

This version leans (a) first into the idea that the blonde is not a willing participant in her romance with Edwards or his murderous scheme to take out her husband.  And (b) there's a previously unseen twin who appears to take the husband's place and stir things up.  Y'all, this is how you just keep plussing an idea.

Weirdly, both Moore and Edwards seem like they didn't get enough takes or just weren't that into it, and the energy level in this film, aside from Haas, is weirdly flat from beginning to end.  Which, in contrast to 1946's Postman, is weirdly odd.  But part of that is the ambiguity about what is really happening with Edwards and Moore - she seems to loathe him but melt in his arms when he forces himself on her - so what is she playing?  And Edwards is laconic and then suddenly is not.  It's weird.

There's some curious touches like a society for people to make fun of superstitions and the people who believe them, which seems mostly to be about drinking and shit-talking people you don't know, which may make me an honorary member.

And Chekhov's goldfish enter in the first act but don't really achieve any significance.  

It wasn't great, but I like all of the players - Cleo Moore has really grown on me - and was so weird as a parallax version of a well known film, I couldn't really look away.  But at film's end, I was probably more interested in the movie someone should make about Hugo Haas and Cleo Moore.




Saturday, July 30, 2022

Amazon Watch Party Watch: War of the Worlds (1953)




Watched:  07/29/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Director:  Byron Haskin

It's tough to beat this sci-fi classic.  And I write about it pretty often.  So I'll be brief.

Here.  Here.  Here.  and Here.  And part of why we even have a "mars" category here at The Signal Watch.  

I own a model of the Martian craft and of a Martian.  This movie is absolutely my jam.

Anyway, you can read prior posts about that, but it was indeed a lot of fun to watch the movie with other people, some of whom had seen it, and some not.  It's a high water mark of science fiction film for a reason, and I expect that won't diminish for some time.  

Even Spielberg seemed to only bounce up against this version with his 2005 version of the story.  But I think there's room for all the interpretations.  And all the movies (see:  Independence Day) that riff on it or rip it off.  

Anyway, it disappears from Amazon Prime Monday, so you have like a day or two to watch it for "free".

Friday, July 22, 2022

Ida Watch: While the City Sleeps (1956)




Watched:  07/20/2022
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  4th?  5th?
Director:  Fritz Lang

I've written this movie up multiple times.  I really like it, and I like it more every time I watch it.  

It's a newsroom film from mid-Century America, with shades of noir - but the cast in this movie is unreal and worth checking out, and it's the last, great Fritz Lang film.  

Here's who you have in the film:

Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, George Sanders, Rhonda Fleming, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, Sally Forrest and...  Ida Lupino.

I mean, it's worth the price of admission just for the cast and director, but I dig the hell out of this movie. 

It's a workplace dramady, a hard-nosed newspaper/ media film, a suspense-thriller and absolutely an ensemble piece.  It moves at a newspaper movie clip, and you have to pay a bit of attention to keep up.  But if you do - the workplace drama is phenomenal, and while a fascinating look at "juvenile delinquency" as seen through the lens of the 1950's - complete with blaming *comic books* for driving a young man to murder.  

 If you're looking for how one keeps sex and shenanigans just off screen in a Hayes Code era movie, this one is a lulu.  And despite Rhonda Fleming performing calisthenics, Ida Lupino is the thing you'll keep your eyes on through the whole film. 

This was Jamie's first viewing, and she spoke up afterwards about how great Lupino's character and performance were as a nuanced character with her own agenda.  I'm in complete agreement.  Lupino takes what's on the page, which could have been words given to anyone, and absolutely elevates the role as smart, conniving, amoral and sexy as hell.

She also drinks champagne with a peach in it, and I need to look up what the actual hell is happening there.

Anyway - this is becoming one of my favorite films.  Just a good watch every time.




Saturday, June 25, 2022

Watch Party Watch: His Kind of Woman (1951)



Watched:  06/24/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Third?
Director:  John Farrow

In celebration of Jane Russel's 101st birthday and enduring foxiness, we watched His Kind of Woman (1951) for our Friday watch party.  

I was aware this movie was weird and goofy, coming out of the Howard Hughes-era RKO studio where things seemed more dictated by Hughes' whims and libido than proven formula,  But until you watch a movie with a bunch of other people and you're responsible for what you're all watching - that's when you go from "yeah, this is kind of wacky" to "wow, this movie is bonkers".  

I'm aware that classic film folks turn their nose up at this movie, but they are wrong.  This is a movie that has everything, and it makes me laugh consistently throughout.  If you want serious, dark film noir, keep walking, because this thing has songs, Mitchum just swinging his dick everywhere, Vincent Price showing the moxie he'd bring to his horror career, and Jane Russell just being as Jane Russell-y as all get out (that's decidedly a feature).  

I had forgotten Raymond Burr was our big bad, and that Charles McGraw had shown up as a heavy.  Anyway, I can't think of a lot against the movie except that the last ten minutes goes on for 25.  Like - there's just way too much climax in this movie and it doesn't include Russell, and that is math I can't get behind.

Anyway, here's to the birthday girl.  Here's hoping she's having a great time wherever she is out there.



Sunday, June 12, 2022

Noir Watch: The Killer is Loose (1956)




Watched:  06/10/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  Second
Director:   Budd Boetticher

This movie is here to put the lie to the 1950's being a more innocent time.  It's dark and brutal and feels like a gritty novella of the era (which should also tell you that if you think the 1950's were what you saw on TV re-runs, you're a remarkable idiot).  This film mostly made it past censors as near as I can tell because the antagonist as the Hays Office would have seen it gets shot to hell in the final reel.  But that's missing the drifting shades of gray of *everyone* in the movie, including and especially out lead cop.

I watched this one about seven years ago, and it's interesting to return to films I haven't seen much now that I know the actors and noir a bit better.  I have a better feel for Joseph Cotten, Wendell Corey, Rhonda Fleming*, Alan Hale Jr., and even Virginia Christine.  

Anyway - it's a good ticking time bomb of a movie.  Wendell Corey plays a bank employee who seems to be trying to thwart a robbery, but the cops figure out he's involved.  When they come for him, Joseph Cotten accidentally kills his wife.  Seeing Cotten's wife, Rhonda Fleming, at his trial, he vows revenge in the form of murdering Fleming.  

He escapes (via murder) an honor farm and he begins his pursuit.  Fleming and Cotten battle over what it means to be a cop's wife and what she's going through worrying about him constantly and what he feels is his duty.  In a curious turn for the era, the movie refuses to give us an answer if either of them are right.  But as a potential target, it really brings the debate to a boil.

Give this one a shot some time.  It's a quick watch, but gets the job done.  And you'll never look at Wendell Corey the same again.



*I mean, let us be honest - I tend to say "okay" if a movie has Rhonda Fleming, and this one does.  



Monday, April 11, 2022

Sci-Fi Watch: World Without End (1956)




Watched:  04/10/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Edward Bernds

From YouTubeTV:  

An astronaut (Hugh Marlowe) and his buddies land on 26th-century Earth and find men meek and women friendly

I mean, yes.  

I have no idea how I recorded this movie, but I did.  I'm guessing by accident.  I put it on to see what it was, and - while not good or great - there's a bit of The Time Machine and what we'll all know from Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes to this movie.  

Some astronauts return to Earth only to find they didn't just pass through space, they passed through time - a few hundred years.  On the surface, they find giant spiders and brutish troglodytes, and as they meet a race of subterranean people who seem much more like the people they left, they find that there was a nuclear war at some point.  While safe in their underground city, the men have turned weak and fearful, and the women - hot and mini-skirted.   And disappointed in their men.  So of course they like Rod Taylor popping his shirt off and bringing the gun show.  

Anyway, it's mostly curious in that it seems like Hollywood did watch the movie and said "we could do this better".  And they were not wrong.  Just twelve years later, Planet of the Apes - with Rod Serling and the original novel behind it - doesn't just turn the opportunity into a sex fantasy/ reinforcement of our exceptionalism as mid-Century Americans.  


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Brit Noir Watch: Cast a Dark Shadow (1955)




Watched:  02/28/2022
Format:  Noir Alley TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Lewis Gilbert

Apparently Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) received poor notices and didn't set the box office on fire upon its release, and I can see how in the mid-50's this thriller would disappear into the background of so much in the way of crime films, mystery, murder and mayhem.  

But I dug it.  

Starring Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood, it feels like it never shakes off its roots as a stageplay, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.   The limited number of sets and lack of spectacle keeps the focus on just story and character - which all of the players manage well with their performances and under Gilbert's direction.  

Bogarde plays a young man of the working classes who has found himself married to a much older woman whom he decides to bump off for the money.  It's a bit of an elaborate scheme, both what he plans to do to accomplish the lady's demise and what needs to happen after.  But, that accomplished, he sets out to find another older lady to help him get some cash.  

Here, he meets Lockwood, and she's worldly and wise in a way no other woman has been.  But she's also not that much older (and looks like Margaret Lockwood), and has her own mind about things.  

Bogarde settles in a bit until yet another older woman shows up and seems like easy enough pickings.  

Bogarde and Lockwood are individually fantastic in the film, and together it's a fascinating bit of chemistry.  Lockwood's working class girl who married well enough is a great role, and my guess is it's so different (and she's shockingly old at 39 here) from what was happening on screen elsewhere, audiences may have been thrown off.  But she's terrific.  Bogarde gets to go full raving nutter by film's end, and you get to see his range over the course of the film from glances and moments of pause to talking to empty chairs and banging on them with canes.  It's something else.

It's not a movie that will change your life, but it's a terrific, taught thriller.  Check it out.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Noir Watch: Side Street (1950)




Watched:  02/13/2022
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade: 1950's
Director:  Anthony Mann


For people familiar with New York or New Yorkers, I'd think this movie would be a kick.  It's filmed partially/ mostly on-location in NYC circa 1950, and they don't skimp on showing the city, including some nifty aerial photography I hear was done from a blimp.

Side Street (1950) is a dead on example of film noir.  Our central figure (Farley Granger!) is in a kind-of-bad-way to begin with, makes a decision to try something he knows is maybe a bad idea (bad risk/ reward calculation), and - indeed - things get out of control.  And there's a good looking woman in a great dress who is nothing but trouble thrown in for requisite contrast to the safe harbor of the idealized domestic situation.

I'm a big fan of They Live By Night, a different movie about our stars Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell as young lovers in a jam.  I'd suggest both films, but I'd watch this one second.  There's nothing wrong with it at all, it just didn't hit me as hard as They Live By Night, which is like a bowling ball and I'm a pin hanging out by my lonesome on the alley.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Sorta Noir Watch: Over-Exposed (1956)





Watched:  01/24/2022
Format:  TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Director:  Lewis Seiler

Eddie sometimes plays fast and loose with what he'll bring to Noir Alley, and Over-Exposed (1956) is definitely on the outer limits of Noir Alley.  I mean, it basically follows a story that could appear in many-a-noir as a morality play, but driven by a woman instead of a man, and it doesn't end in a hail of bullets for our protagonist.  

This one starts with a clip joint getting knocked over, and Cleo Moore - desperate for work - meeting the aging photographer who took a picture of her as she headed to jail.  They hit it off and she decides to pick up the trade.  She makes her way to NYC where she struggles off camera for some amount of time before finding success, especially as one of the girls in a sparkly one-piece bathing suit who takes photos in nightclubs.  This leads to the fanciest club in town, while she ignores Richard Crenna, a newspaperman who seems like an honest joe.  But, man, does he want her to want to throw all of her dreams and security out the window so she can become his little woman.

Of course bad things happen and her meteoric rise as a person who points cameras at people falls apart.  Something something photo blackmail racket (don't blackmail people, kids).

This looks very good for what feels like a dopey B picture, mostly existing to show off Cleo Moore in bathing suits and clingy gowns.  But there's enough story there for it not to feel cheap.  And Cleo Moore is all right.  She's good in things I've seen her in, even if she's never exactly bowling me over.  

If you're like me and only know sun-beaten older Richard Crenna, the squeaky voiced kid on the screen is almost unrecognizable.  But he's all right!  

It's a cheesecake picture that's kinda short on cheesecake, but that's ok.  Cleo Moore is just fine doing her own acting thing.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Watch Party Watch: The Brain From Planet Arous (1957)




Watched:  01/14/2022
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Firstish
Director:  Nathan Hertz

I'll tell this story again here, so...

The year is about 1978 or 79.  For reasons I cannot remember, my mom has to keep me busy while she deals with something else in the house.  I am about 3 or 4.  My mom does something she never does:  she puts me in my folks' room and turns on the TV and says "look at that til I get back".  I am left alone with a black and white movie on the TV.

The movie is well underway, I don't understand what's happening and then this shit appears on screen:


I lose it.  Giant floating menacing brains with glowing eyes are not something I yet take for granted.  

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Noir Watch: 711 Ocean Drive (1950)




Watched:  01/16/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Joseph M. Newman

Part of the "law and order"/ "crime doesn't pay" flavor of films that can get lumped in with noir, I'd seen 711 Ocean Drive (1950) listed for a while and figured I should get to it.  

It's.... fine.  A mix of "technology plus crime!" that is sometimes done well, but usually ends up with a bit of a hokey angle, plus the story of how easy it is to become an LA crime lord because you know how to patch through a phone call is... well, it's a set up.  

Starring the actor who always makes me think "well, shit, if that guy could become a lead in movies, why didn't I try?", Edmond O'Brien, the movie follows his phone-company technician who believes anyone who falls in love or who isn't trying to get ahead through whatever's at hand is an idiot (a real charmer, this character), O'Brien is presented by his bookie to a wire service/ gambling empresario.  He hooks them up with the magic of RADIO in a scheme I utterly never understood - as it seemed not illegal - but facilitated a lot of illegal bookmaking.  

I dunno.  There's a lot going on here and you'll either watch the picture or you won't.  But it is intensely plot heavy as O'Brien manages to take over ALL CRIME IN CALIFORNIA and then a syndicate moves in and he joins up.  Mostly because he wants to get with one of the Syndicate guy's wife, played by notable actor Joanne Dru (Red River, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon).  

The film's big set piece is the access they had to Hoover Dam (then called Boulder Dam) and filmed Edmond O'Brien sweating his ass off running all over the damned thing trying to avoid police.  It's a reminder that I would very much like to one day tour the dam myself.  It seems keen.  But the movie makes the interesting choice to just cast the rangers at the Dam as themselves, so suddenly in minute 70 you're getting cops giving wildly wooden performances.  

The movie has some weirdly good cinematography, courtesy Franz Planer.  They made the most of the on-location work at the dam, but there's also plenty of interesting stuff in a gas works and just in how some sequences were thoughtfully framed or lit.  

I didn't hate the movie, but it's not threatening to knock any of my top 10 favorites out of place.  Joanne Dru is the best one in the movie, so much so that it can feel like she was imported from a different movie.  Edmond O'Brien is never bad, but he is always Edmond O'Brien.  I don't know what 711 Ocean Drive is, but I guess it's the house he lives in after becoming a crime boss.  

Any threat the movie received from actual organized crime about the secrets of criminal ways supposedly revealed in the film that would have required the production required police protection seems... well, it seems made up.  But I guess if you hire cops to hang around and then say "so hot, we needed people legally allowed to shoot people to protect it", that's a pretty good PR hook.  

Anyway, stay away from telephone switching equipment.  That way lies crime and personal doom.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Courtroom Watch: Witness for the Prosecution (1957)




Watched:  01/10/2022
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Billy Wilder

Look, I refuse to talk about the contents of this film.  Go into it knowing nothing as Jamie and I did, and you won't be sorry.  

Here's something fun - I've had this movie on my DVR for years, one way or another.  I've been meaning to watch it, and somehow it just never made it to be the next thing I watched.  Which is crazy.  But every once in a while I'd be reminded of the talent in the movie, all of whom I like, and after a recent convo with Laura, thought "man, I just need to watch this at long last."  And then TCM played it around Christmas and I recorded it again!

Directed by Billy Wilder from an Agatha Christie play.  Starring Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Elsa Lanchester, Una O'Connor, and the always impossibly old Ian Wolfe.  

It's basically a murder mystery starting with a suspect (Power) being brought to Laughton, a barrister, so he can defend him when he gets arrested.  Marlene Dietrich plays Powers' wife.  

There's 10,000 words to write about Dietrich, but plenty of others have already done it.  So, go find them. She earned them.  

But, also, delight in Lanchester and O'Connor in a film together again, where, once again, they share no scenes.


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Noir Watch: The Lineup (1958)




Watched:  11/16/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  Second or third
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Don Siegel

I had seen The Lineup (1958) years ago, and remembered it was crazy and Eli Wallach was fantastic, but not much else.   It was part of a set of DVD's I was watching in quick secession, and I just didn't get back to it.  Which is too bad, it's a cool crime movie.

Bay Area residents will want to watch it just to see the locations in 1958, some of which are long gone, but most of which are still standing (something Austin would find horrifying.  We knock everything down, willy-nilly.).  As a police procedural in the years after The Naked City, the city itself is more than a backdrop, its geography and environs are crucial and inform everything, from the hook of the plot to the finale car chase.  

Meanwhile, the cast is kind of interesting.  There's the aforementioned Eli Wallach, but he doesn't enter the movie til the 1/3rd mark, along with Robert Keith (who I just learned is the father of Brian Keith) as a pair of heavies/ hit-men in from Miami.  A baby-faced Richard Jaeckel plays their driver hired on by The Man - the mastermind pulling the strings.  Raymond Bailey (Mr. Drysdale from The Beverly Hillbillies) a manager of the San Francisco Opera who is involved in the case and Emile Meyer who seems like he's always a cop plays one of the lead detectives.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Noir Watch: 5 Steps to Danger (1956)




Watched:  11/10/2021
Format:  Noir Alley
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Henry S. Keslar

There's both too much and not enough going on this post-war roadtrip noir - that is barely a noir.  But it does star Sterling Hayden as a guy in a hat, and Ruth Roman as a dame in trouble who pulls Hayden in over his head.  

I hesitate to get into this plot-dense noir with a synopsis, because the plot isn't exactly nonsense, but how they go about it is a mess.   But the basic gist is that Hayden's car breaks down en route from LA to Texas somewhere, and Ruth Roman offers him a ride if he can help her split the drive to Santa Fe so they can keep moving.  

A mysterious nurse approached Hayden in a roadside stop and says they've been following Ruth Roman as she's an escaped mental patient or some such, but for some reason, they're just watching her? But, basically, it's a sinister spy story of former Nazis in the US (one played by Colonel Klink) trying to get ahold of some info Roman came into possession of whilst in Germany trying to get her brother out of East Germany (I think).  People keep trying to convince Hayden Roman is crazy - but she clearly isn't.  So.

Anyway, Hayden probably hated this script.  His character is kind of boring and always right about everything (which is not where Hayden shines), and Roman is fine, but a little dull here.  As is the movie.  

I did not love it.  I couldn't figure out why the CIA wasn't taking an active hand in the proceedings as so much was at stake and they were watching everything.  None of the movie's story really had much of a reason for happening.  I dunno.  I've seen worse, but this one was just kind of not my thing.  Except it's a ripoff in many ways of The 39 Steps, which I've only seen as a play, and I liked that.. so.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Noir Watch: Hell on Frisco Bay (1955)




Watched:  11/04/2021
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Frank Tuttle

This was not at all what I was expecting.  It feels almost like a rough draft of something like Heat, where we see both sides of the cop and criminal coin.  It's a smidge longer as a result, has some complicated character stuff going on, and is shot in color, which is... very strange, honestly, for the type of movie it is.

But I also want to watch the movie with Jenifer or Tammy so they'll tell me what all of the San Francisco locations are.  This is VERY San Francisco.  You expect them to sit down and eat a bowl of Rice-a-Roni.

The story is pretty good, but the cast is pretty stellar.  Alan Ladd is an ex-cop released from prison for a manslaughter charge that he believes was a set-up.  He's been in San Quentin for five years, and despite his wife's desire to get back together, he's been refusing her while in prison and is still, for whatever reason, mad that she saw someone else while he ignored her for five years.*  The wife is played by Joanne Dru (Red River), and you're gonna think Ladd is a moron for ignoring her, especially when she performs as a songbird in a nightclub.  

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Halloween Watch Party: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)




Watched:  10/29/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Jack Arnold

My goal for the Hallow-Scream Watch Parties was to watch some of the classic monster films with folks who hadn't seen them.  And:  mission accomplished.  

I think Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) is a fantastic movie.  I've also seen it, like, 15 times, so I don't mind talking over it, giving it some light ribbing, and generally making it fun for people who might not otherwise watch the film.  

Anyway - I think it was more or less a success this year, so I'll look into it next year, too.  We didn't watch some classics like The Invisible Man, which absolutely demand a viewing.  And maybe Hammer?  I mean, people need to see Cushing and Lee fighting on a table.

But Creatch is a good one to end on.  It's really good, but feels a lot more like modern film.  Or, at least for those of us born 20 years after it came out, we have some perspective on what this was pointing to.  Especially as many of us are more than familiar with B-film.  And, man, it's such a pretty and well-designed film.  

Monday, October 11, 2021

Graham/ Kinda-Noir Watch: The Glass Wall (1953)




Watched:  10/09/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Maxwell Shane

I dunno if this is actually Film Noir.  It sure didn't feel like it, but Eddie showed it and brought Dana Delaney along, so who am I to argue?

The Glass Wall (1953) was a contemporary issue movie in 1953, but one that echoes in the events of today.  A Hungarian WWII camp survivor and resistance fighter has stowed away on a ship and arrived in New York.  But with no papers, he's set to be turned away and returned to Europe where he is fairly certain he will be killed.

Any of this ringing a bell?

He's stowed away under the notion that if he can find an American he saved and hid for days in a haystack, that man will support his entry to the US.  But all he knows is a first name and that he plays the coronet.  So - he makes good his escape, pursued by the law, walking through the streets of New York.

Also starring Gloria Grahame in a surprisingly small role for her at the time.  But after Bold and the Beautiful, Grahame knew she'd been good in earthier roles like in Crossfire, and so appears as a factory worker, down on her luck and knocked around by life.  (She also steals the coat of an impossibly young Kathleen Freeman, who makes a federal case out of it eve though she gets her coat back).   

Less familiar will be the stripper with a heart of hold, played by Robin Raymond - a very Americanized Hungarian transplant living with her less-adjusted mother and deeply American brother (Joe Turkel!*).  It's a great part of the film I hadn't seen coming, and rather than platitudes and Gloria Grahame looking amazing as a shop-worn girl who needs a pal - typical movie stuff - it's a look at the multiple angles of the immigrants here in the US.  And, man, in one of those shining moments of film, it feels *true*.  

In this era of dismissing the UN as useless, it's also a time capsule of what the UN was supposed to be, and what it represented to the world in the wake of the atrocities and devastation of WWII.  And as quickly as it's established, we can see how useless an empty UN is - maybe something not intended in the way you can see it now, but certainly how it was meant at the time.

Star Vittorio Gassman is exactly what the film needed - a handsome face that could look desperate.  The film wasn't shot entirely on backlots.  There's some real footage of Gassman on the streets of 1953 NYC including Times Square.  It's chaotic and dark, lit with neon.  As Gassman looks for his friend, the loneliness and alienation are stunning.  

The movie also features Ann Robinson from War of the Worlds and a handful of character actors, as well as real jazz musicians like Jack Teagarden and Shorty Rogers.  

The movie isn't great, but I have a feeling - because of it's period messages reverberating to today - I'll remember it.  




*ah, you know him from Blade Runner and The Shining.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Halloween Price Watch: House of Wax (1953)




Watched:  10/04/2021
Format:  Amazon
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1950's
Director:  AndrĂ© De Toth

I knew I'd seen this one again in recent years, and here's that post from 2012.  The one thing I'd walk back from that post is - yeah, this is necessary viewing.  I dig it.  You should watch it.

The movie has a terrific cast, great sets, really good make-up and costuming.  It feels high budget (I genuinely don't know if the listed $1 million budget was high or not.  I see Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that same year, was $2.3 million, for comparison, and that movie looks super expensive.).  But, House of Wax made that budget back twenty-times over, including a couple of re-releases, one in the 70's.

The movie was also originally in 3D, and one day, maybe Alamo Drafthouse will show this in 3D.  That would be great.  I mean:  it's got an extended paddle-ball sequence that demands to be seen in 3D.  

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Noir Watch: Hell Bound (1957)




Watched:  09/30/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  William J. Hole  Jr. (what a name)

Confession - I sort of 3/4ths watched Hell Bound (1957).  I watched it from beginning to end, but was checking email and whatnot.  

It's a low-budget/ poverty-rowish crime caper, complete with post-Naked City heavy-handed voice-over in a bizarre film-within-a-film conceit.  It's a heist picture, and I genuinely wish I'd paid more attention (and will rewatch at some point), as this one does a surprisingly good job of setting up "here's how the heist will go" and "here's how none of those carefully planned steps worked out" as the characters pursue their own vices and agendas.  Classic heist stuff.

In some ways, heist pictures and books speak to me as a Project Manager.  It's a funky angle, but there's always a plan you're supposed to be sticking to, and then the job becomes about wrangling cats and dealing with unforeseen complications.  You can plan, but God laughs, etc...

You're mostly not going to know the talent.  There's a "that guy" I think I know from Dark Passage, but everyone else was a bit of a mystery.  The movie does give a role to Miss January 1957, and she's good!  She went on to a long career (and married one of Ozzie Nelson's kids for a while).  

Mostly - it's got some great street-level photography of Los Angeles, some of it probably shot guerilla style.  But especially the back 1/3rd has some memorable stuff as our lead antagonist runs like hell through industrial ports and junk yard (seeing the stacked street cars waiting to be scrapped is a punishing image).  

Anyway - I'll definitely rewatch at some point.   



Saturday, September 25, 2021

Mixed-Feelings Watch: Man on a Tightrope (1953)




Watched:  09/23/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Elia Kazan

I'm somewhat shocked I'd never heard of this movie before.  But, that's what TCM is all about - pulling out movies from the library and saying "here you go.  This one's solid.  Folks used to know how to make a movie, huh?"  

Brought to TCM on a night in which Dana Delaney co-hosted (with Eddie Muller) a slate of films featuring screen legend Gloria Grahame, Delaney came ready to talk.  

Look - I have some mixed feelings on this one.  It's a terrific movie.  I believe in the conceit of the film, and I think Muller explained it as well as you could, so I'm in a hard-agree mode.  As much as I generally agree that Kazan is an amazing director, the guy named names during HUAC that did a lot of damage.  

So, when a movie is about the iron grip of post WWII Soviet-style governance in Czechoslovakia, and how it pushes an a-political head of a circus to consider his options...  well, I tend to agree with anyone who wasn't a fan of Stalinism or the authoritarian/ police-state governance employed in Eastern Europe.  This movie could easily spin up a TL;DR post or a full college thesis, but... I'll be merciful.