Monday, June 28, 2010

A Couple of Lousy B's

Recently I watched two B movies that are part of a series called “forgotten Noir” and these two duds should find a hole to fall into and be forgotten forever. Both are part of one of those double bill dvds that occasionally appear that usually feature B programmers and 2nd feature movies. The first one “Portland Expose” begins with a documentary style voice over telling us how wonderful Portland was until corruption and vice took over their fair city. We next see Edward Binns and his Wife Virginia Gregg getting ready to open their newly bought tavern, and are being pitched big time by some guy to put in pin ball games to liven up the place and hey he might be able to make 20.00 a night on them. Binns lights up when he hears this and takes one on. Soon he’s being pressured and roughed by a another group of gangsters who want to take over the business of supplying pin ball machines along with the taking over of the unions and other fun things like prostitution. At first Binns refuses, but with the threat of acid being thrown and violence promised to his family including his nitwit teenage daughter and annoying young son he backs down and agrees to go along with the gang. One of the thugs is a pedophile (now this was somewhat risky back in 1957) played by a young Frank Gorshin before he took off doing imitations of Kirk Douglas and other show biz types. Gorshin who can’t keep his hands off young things, tries to rape Binns daughter and that’s when things start to get nasty and Binns decides to go undercover for the good guys and get the dirt on the crooks. He walks around with a very large recorder under his shirt (is that a recorder under your shirt or are you just happy to see me) which is one of the more ridiculous touches in this badly done programmer. One of the more subtle subtexts of the film is how the sordidness and cheap thrills that are offered up to Binns start to appeal to him; some of the B-girls really turn him on. There are also a few nice character actor stints, especially swell was the little known Lea Penman who plays a somewhat overweight high class (for this movie anyway) call girl Madame and her entrance in high heels and cheap fur wrap walking down an airport runway is a delight. The problem with the film is the direction by Harold D. Schuster who made such gems as Queer Cargo, (now that’s one that I would love to see), South to Karanga, The Postman Didn't Ring and many other forgotten little B’s. His direction is sluggish and cheap with badly executed action scenes along with the lousy script doesn’t help either. There is only one good scene (besides Ms. Penman’s already mentioned entrance) and that is the killing of Gorshin in which he is thrown under a freight train (the look of glee on his killer’s face as the train passes over his body is chilling). Also the cast is less than stellar with Edward Binns and Virginia Gregg doing yawn work. There is some nice Portland location photography but otherwise this is a big disappointment, and besides it’s not even Noir. The other cheap flick on the disc is really no better, and no noir. I guess you could say that the plot of this 1954 film “They Were So Young” in which a model agency in Rio de Janeiro is actually a front for a white-slavery ring that kidnaps European women and sells them on the South American sex market was quite risque, adventurous and way ahead of it’s time. That may be true, but again this film is so inept and badly directed that I finally could care less. With a silly plot that’s all over the place and a low budget cast that features Raymond Burr (any film that he’s in you just know that he is going to be the villain) and the aging pretty boy hunk B movie actor Scott Brady who was the brother of bad boy actor Lawrence Tierney. This was a German made production with many of the German actors dubbed and if you're quick you can spot in a small part Gert Frobe as the captain of a riverboat pleasure club- bordello. I will say that the clothes that the models parade around in order to temp the rich paying customers to try their wares were terrific, and unbelievably Michael Wilson and Dalton Trumbo both worked on the script and were uncredited because of the blacklist. Judging by this film they got off easy not having their names attached to this garbage. The characters and the actors who play them are made of cardboard and the lousy direction is by Kurt Neumann who is probably best known for directing the original “The Fly” in 1958, but some of his other titles peak my interest such as My Pal, the King, Wide Open Faces, Brooklyn Orchid and Two Mugs from Brooklyn. A couple of not so entertaining B movies that are easily skipped.

I've included some photos of the very beautiful Scott Brady.


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