Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hanging out with the B's

I’ve been hanging out on Youtube late at night watching B film noirs that have pretty much fallen through the cracks and winding up in public domain, thus the quality of these little pebbles leave much to be desired. So here are some quick takes on what I have been watching.

Inner Sanctum. 1948.

Very low budget programmer that takes its title from the popular radio series of the 1940’s but from what I can tell really has nothing in common with the show. This little germ runs a fast 62 minutes and looks like it was shot in someone’s backyard. The cast is full of mostly forgotten souls like Charles Russell and Mary Beth Hughes. Told in flashback by a creepy Fritz Leiber as a Dr. Valonius to a dark sultry nasty brunette as they ride a fast moving train. The movie is about Russell who accidentally kills his finance at a train station, and high tails it out of there during a bad rain storm that washes out most of the roads and bridges. He’s picked up walking on a non-washed out road by Billy House, (movie buffs will recognize him as the checkers hustler in The Stranger) who brings him to a boarding house run by Nana Bryant. Also living there is a pouty tart played by Mary Beth and the wonderful Lee Patrick (so how bad can this movie be with Lee in it you are probably asking yourselves) with a pain in the ass pre-teen son who just happened to see Russell do the crime. This is a nasty little thing directed by Lew Landers who did tons of early television shows and plenty of programmers and B’s.  

The Burglar. 1957.

A low life little jewelry heist film that starred Dan Duryea, good as always and a young starlet named Jayne Mansfield who did this film in 1955 but the release for some reason was held up two years, and Jayne in 1957 was on her way to stardoom (yes I mean stardoom) after the success of the brightly colored frantic “The Girl Can’t Help It.”  Here she plays the daughter of a guy who “adopted” Duryea and who Duryea promised to always look after his little girl which he does, but there are some uncomfortable almost incestuous flecks floating around the bare light bulbs and crummy hotel rooms. I shouldn’t be surprised by this as the screenplay was written by David Goodis who based it on his novel and Goodis sure knows good about the underbelly of life. The opening is clever and inviting, as Duryea sits in a movie theatre watching a newsreel about a fake spiritualist who inherits a lot of money, which hatches a plan of heist in his head. Jayne along with a scary Mickey  Shaughnessy  and a sad sack Peter Capell help Duryea to pull off the heist that of course goes bad. There is nice on location work at a long gone Atlantic City including a chase climax that takes place in The Steel Pier. Directed by Paul Wendkos who is mostly known for his television work and also look for the wicked Martha Vickers who is most known as the little sister in “The Big Sleep” who tried to sit in Bogie’s lap when he was standing up.

The Captive City. 1952.

This was directed by Robert Wise, so I was expecting a better film than what this turned out to be. I think much of the problem with this dinky movie has to do with the ordinary script, which is about a small town being taken over by “the mob”, and how one honest Newspaper journalist tries to expose the corruption.  Even in 1952 it felt way familiar and predictable and was done much better in Phil Karlson’s Blistering “The Phoenix City Story” actually done 3 years later. I also blame the dull cast headed by the dullest of dull actors John Forsythe as the combative journalist.  The opening though is good. A speeding car with Forsythe and his wife in it are being chased by another car, and Forsythe turns into a small town police station where he asks for a police escort to the capitol where he is due to testify against the mob. As he and his wife wait he dictates the movie into a tape recorder and the rest of the film is told in flashback. There is nice location work here also, but for me it just didn’t add up to much. 

Witness To Murder. 1954.

Made in the same year as the great “Rear Window” this is a cheap little B movie that starred Barbara Stanwyck who witnesses a black and white murder one night from her bedroom window. Of course no one believes her, which seemed strange to me, but we wouldn’t have a movie if they did, and she is soon trying to trap the killer herself and winds up for a time in the loony bin for all her trouble. Stanwyck of course is watchable and good even though she was coming to the end of her major Hollywood career, but she would soon make her mark in tv so lets not feel too bad for her. The police detective played by a doubting Gary Merrill falls for her and does his best to protect her from mainly herself. The villain of the piece is George Sanders who plays a former Nazi (never mind how he was able to live and function in America) and is also fun to watch. Directed by Roy Rowland who did lots of programmers at MGM and with superb noir cinematography by the great John Alton who shot a lot of it on location in L.A. There is also some nice 50’s decor and clothes. Look for Juanita Moore who is billed as “Negress - Mental Patient” who drives the other patients nuts with her singing.

For You I die. 1947.

They don’t come any cheaper than this little B turd about a nice guy convict with only one year to go in prison before he is free who is forced to make a break for it with a mean convict. The nice convict is played by Paul Langton who was a familiar face in 100’s of movies and tv shows but whose name nobody could remember. He’s told by the mean convict to go to some dump of a diner out in the woods somewhere where he’s to tell his sweetheart Hope who waitresses there  that he is on the way to get her. Hope is played by Cathy Downs who played Clementine in Ford’s  “My Darling Clementine”  just the year before, and in spite of this still wound up in this film that looks like it was filmed in my armpit. The owner of the dump who is kind and lovable to everyone including Paul is played by Marian Kerby who only did 3 films and adds a nice touch of sentimental realism to the role. There is also of course a floozy waitress who wants Paul in the worst way, but Paul only has eyes for Hope and Hope is also taken with him. There is a sort of a dark past to Hope but the film ends on a hopeful note.  Also in the cast is a very annoying Mischa Auer who had a hand in the production which most likely explains why he was also in the cast, and Roman Bohnen who did lots of movies and plays the alcoholic cook. The cinematography, what we can see of it, since this print is dreadful was by the fine William H. Clothier who did many films for John Ford and was directed by John Reinhardt a hack who is unknown to me.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Site Meter