Showing posts with label audrey totter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audrey totter. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Man or Gun (1958)

It's hard to describe what this movie is about without making it sound like a movie full of crazy people, but maybe that's the remarkable thing about this flick...  the movie actually makes the idea work.

Man or Gun (1958) finds a drifter coming to a rowdy frontier town - one who won't say who he is - who seems to have a seemingly supernatural power with a gun, leaving the townsfolk to ask "is it the man or the gun?"  And, of course, a whole lot of people get shot in that bloodless manner of a 1950's western.

The drifter no sooner arrives than stumbles upon (of course) a powerful family that rules and harasses the townfolk, making the tiny berg unsafe for women and children.  Powerful enough that one of them is wanted for $2000 and is still living publicly in the town - until he crosses paths with the drifter, that is.  The drifter won't give up his name, and comes to first be called "'Maybe' Smith", and falls under the watchful eye of Audrey Totter as Fran Dare (that, people, is a hell of a name).  Fran sees a chance to use the man or gun to push back against the dastardly Corleys.

I actually quite liked the movie for a small western that I'd not heard much about.  It's a story about superstition versus reality versus what you see with your own eyes.  And, in no small way, its about whether guns are any way to answer a dispute in a civilized world, even when you're trying to make a better world against others waving guns in your face.

Macdonald Smith does a good, straighfaced hero - even is he feels a bit long in the tooth for the role, and Audrey Totter is in top form as the woman running the local saloon who has a lot invested in the stranger.  Unlike FBI Girl, it felt like the director knew what he had in Totter and let her show her range a great bit more.

Anyway, not groundbreaking, but one of those movies you're a bit surprised how enjoyable it was when you really haven't heard anything about it before.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Noir Watch: FBI Girl (1951)

I'm going to spoil the ending, but there are two great things in this movie.
  • Lots of Audrey Totter
  • Raymond Burr in a moving speedboat shooting at Cesar Romero who is shooting back from a helicopter.  Heck.  Yes.
Oddly, the movie doesn't really live up to either (a) containing Audrey Totter nor (b) the exciting Burr/Romero sequence I've described.

In the post WWII-era FBI director J. Edgar Hoover did a fine job of getting Hollywood in line and making sure movies about the FBI almost invariably celebrated the DOJ as a machine so powerful that even when infiltrated or somehow compromised, the power of righteousness would prevail.  And, if you were a red-blooded movie exec looking to stay away from HUAC, you could do worse than promoting J. Edgar's little club.
nothing like what you see of Audrey Totter here ever happens in the movie

FBI Girl (1951) spends no small amount of energy establishing the flawless nature of the FBI's fingerprint department - something criminals and lawmen alike in mid-century crime fiction seemed to worry about.  I've never understood how the whole fingerprint mechanism worked before computers, and this movie does nothing to shed light on why it was even an issue for criminals (I mean, with a million prints on record, and requests coming in all the time, how do you even know where to start with a comparison?).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Noir Watch: Women's Prison (1955)

I think we're all friends here, and so it's in that spirit that I confess to a great love of the film Reform School Girls (1986).  It's high 80's cheese, completely self-aware, and has one of the most satisfying conclusions in cinema history.  If you haven't seen it, you likely believe it's some sort of pay cable late night hoo-hah, but it's a pretty straight up prison movie played for camp and some (intentionally) cheap thrills.

Man, someone was trying to sell a much racier movie than the one delivered.

Neither prison movies nor women's prison movies are something I seek out, and I was surprised that Eddie Muller had included a whole section on prison flicks in his book, Dark City.  I'm not going to argue with Muller over how or why prison films are considered part of the genre, so there you are.  And as this film was included in a set of "Bad Girls of Film Noir", I'm just going to deal.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Phyllis Thaxter (Superman: The Movie's Martha Kent) Merges with The Infinite

Actress Phyllis Thaxter, the actress who so wonderfully portrayed Martha Kent in Superman: The Movie, has passed at the age of 92.

She is preceded in death by actor Glen Ford who played Jonathan Kent, and Christopher Reeve, who played Superman.  However, Jeff East, who played a young Clark Kent is alive and well.

I have not seen much of Thaxter's work, but, oddly, last night I began watching Women's Prison with Ida Lupino and Audrey Totter, and the film's major character is played by none other than Phyllis Thaxter.  And she's really very good in what I'd seen so far.

Thaxter's portrayal of Martha Kent contained a stunning and instantly motherly quality that surpassed surprise at the strange manner in which she finds the boy, and his odd abilities, and cut straight to the need to love a little lost child when reason may have told her to do otherwise.  In the few lines and scenes she had in the movie, she and Richard Donner presented Martha Kent as a very real mother experiencing both the blessing and pain that comes with bringing a child into your life and then realizing you have to let him go.

Honestly, the wheat-field scene between East and Thaxter in the film was when I realized (way, way back in high school) what an extraordinary film Superman truly is.

Here, however, is that scene of discovery in a Kansas field.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Lady In The Lake (1947)

Released about 3 months after 1947's Dark Passage*, this movie also employs the first-person-perspective camera-work that somebody must have been wanting to play with at the time.  Where Dark Passage abandons the conceit fairly early in the movie, Lady in the Lake (1947) uses the trick more or less for the duration of the film except during a few, brief framing sequences during which Robert Montgomery, as Philip Marlowe, addresses the audience before merging with them in a spot of cinematic magic during which the audience is given a sort of thrill-ride like experience of seeing the film from Marlowe's perspective.

It's an oddball stunt, one easier to pull that the matinee jazz of 3D pictures or smell-o-vision, but Montgomery's direction definitely gives the effort a sort of "check this out!" quality, drawing attention to itself with awkward use of mirror shots that don't accomplish much but remind the audience that we're all watching a movie here - and, boy, isn't THAT cool...?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday Afternoon with Audrey Totter

Last January when I visited Jenifer in San Francisco for the Film Noir Fest, we took an afternoon and watched Tension (1949).  The film stars Richard Basehart (who the ladies cannot help but find dreamy), but it also features Audrey Totter in one of those roles that leaves an impression and makes you want to go back to the movie again and again.

I've now watched Tension a few times,  and I knew Ms. Totter from The Set-Up and a brief but excellent appearance in the classic The Postman Always Rings Twice.  Jenifer is a huge fan of Audrey Totter, and she's seen far more of her work than I have, so credit where it's due.

For a few reasons we've had Ms. Totter on the brain the past few days, especially as I had recently pushed The Lady in the Lake to the top of my Netflix queue, and I hope to discuss it next week.  Then the internet did what it does every once in a while and completely surprises you, and, anyway, we feel like celebrating with a couple more pictures of Ms. Totter.

Have a good Friday.  We'll check in later this weekend.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Noir Watch Extra: Tension

Between movies, we had a bit of downtime, and so Doug and I joined Jenifer at her swanky apartment where we watched a B-Noir, Tension (1949).

Before we get any further, I had never been less sympathetic to any noir character than I was to Richard Basehart as Warren Quimby, a man who has a dilemma at one point in the movie of picking between Audrey Totter and Cyd Charisse.  Go to hell, Basehart.

Tension probably has its roots in someone reading or seeing The Postman Always Rings Twice and the pot boiler melodramas of the era.  Postman had been adapted in 1946, and while there are limited similarities, you can see that the characters are sort of pushing around what the characters did when and why.  The movie also lifts from Superman comics and Charles Atlas ads, and so one must tip their hat to the writers and director for borrowing from the best.