Sunday, December 8, 2013

THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)

Paramount Pictures, 81m 17s


In his first featured role, Alan Ladd portrays Philip Raven, a hard-boiled contract killer. Introduced in a fleabag rooming house in San Francisco, Raven reveals a fondness for stray cats, who survive much the way he does. That fondness, however, absolutely does not extend to humans. He shows a quick temper when he backhands the maid Annie (Pamela Blake), but demonstrates a more calculated manner when completing that day's major assignment:  the elimination of chemist Albert Baker (Frank Ferguson), who had become a threat to the anti-American activities of LA-based Nitro Chemical Corporation. With a no-choice second killing, Raven takes out Baker's secretary (Bernadene Hayes) in a prototypical film noir murder, suggested by the sound of a lifeless body hitting the floor after Raven fires his weapon through a closed kitchen door. Mission accomplished, Raven is paid for his services via marked tens from Nitro executive Willard Gates (Laird Cregar), who promptly reports the money stolen, thus causing Raven to seek revenge. Meanwhile, elegant blonde night club entertainer Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) is recruited to spy on Gates, and her fiancé Michael Crane (Robert Preston) is the lawman in pursuit of Raven.

Philip Raven (Alan Ladd) is ready to become THIS GUN FOR HIRE

An adaptation of Graham Greene's 1936 novel A GUN FOR SALE, co-written for the screen by Albert Maltz and W.R. Burnett, THIS GUN FOR HIRE is one of the early noir films that mapped out the territory of an emerging American film movement. The Raven character in many ways is the definition of the classic alienated noir protagonist, a complete outcast who lives by a moral code that makes sense to him. "I'm my own police," he observes. His tough-cookie moments are plentiful:  he rancorously shoves Gates's adjutant Tommy (Marc Lawrence) down a basement staircase (noir staircases tend to be dangerous), at one point prepares to shoot Graham in the back, and later in self-preservation mode, kills a cop.

Branded with a troubled past, Raven was among the first of many dispassionate loners to surface during the WWII-noir era, a time when many returning US vets would find adjustment to civilian life difficult. A Freudian angle is used to explain Raven’s temperament; he endured vicious beatings from the aunt who raised him. One particularly nasty incident left the young Raven with a badly deformed left wrist emblematic of deep psychological scars; notice Raven shows a certain kinship with a young girl (Virita Campbell) restricted by leg braces who asks for his help. The film's other cripple is far less sympathetic. Nitro president Alvin Brewster (Tully Marshall) is the devil in a wheelchair, a man selling out his country. The crippled male would become a common noir trope (i.e. DOUBLE INDEMNITY [1944], THE BIG SLEEP [1946], GILDA [1946], THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI [1947]). Wheelchairs, crutches and canes imply that the men dependent on them are effectively impotent.

So, what, or who, is to blame for all of these hobbled men? Frequently, a woman is responsible, such as Raven's cruel aunt. In THIS GUN FOR HIRE's crucial noir moment of fate, Raven takes a train seat next to the femme fatale who will finalize his condemnation. The danger associated with the noir female, well embodied here by Lake, is suggested during her first musical interlude (dubbed by Martha Mears), when Graham sings, "next moment, instead of her heart, the ace of spades is there." This somewhat comical performance might be overlooked as harmless fun, and of course the female club singer would become a tiresome Hollywood trope; it is a chore to name a significant amount of important film noirs that do not feature a female character who is a night club performer of some sort. But Graham is no ordinary entertainer—she's working as an informant for Senator Burnett (Roger Imhof), and while forced to stick close to Raven, she cleverly leads police to him with her monogrammed playing cards. Raven is not alone in his fascination with Graham—like Raven and so many other male noir characters, the cultivated man Gates has what proves to be a fatal weakness for complex women like Graham (Gates hires her for his Neptune Club, but obviously is more interested in wining and dining her). Graham closes the film with one of the greatest "WTF" lines in cinema history. After Raven takes his final breath, she responds with, "Oh Michael, my darling, hold me!" THIS GUN FOR HIRE makes a strong appeal to the viewer's sense of patriotism, and the necessity of human sacrifice for the greater good. Graham really is speaking to the audience when she says, "This war is everybody's business, yours too."

Ellen Graham (Veronica Lake) on the run with Philip Raven (Alan Ladd)

Rather oddly with hindsight, Lake shared top billing with the incredibly bland Preston, who brings an annoying textbook-acting quality to each scene in which he is featured. Stranger still, director Frank Tuttle had given thought to casting Preston to play the Raven character. Lake and Ladd worked well together and became Paramount's most bankable couple, paired in two other noir classics:  THE GLASS KEY (1942) and THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946). They also appeared in STAR SPANGLED RHYTHM (1942), DUFFY’S TAVERN (1945), VARIETY GIRL (1947), and SAIGON (1948), all Paramount productions.

Studio and LA location footage are blended well by cinematographer John F. Seitz, who went on to lens some of the most well-regarded of all noir films, including the great DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), THE BIG CLOCK (1948), NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948), SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950) and APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951, with Ladd). Tuttle also helmed other noir films, i.e. SUSPENSE (1946), HELL ON FRISCO BAY (1955, again starring Ladd), and A CRY IN THE NIGHT (1956).

THIS GUN FOR HIRE is available on a no-frills DVD as part of the Universal Noir Collection. It was remade in 1957 as SHORT CUT TO HELL, the only film James Cagney directed. A made-for-television version was broadcast in 1991, with Robert Wagner cast as Raven.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

DESPERATE (1947)

RKO Radio Pictures, 73m 11s


WWII veteran Stephen Randall (Steve Brodie) is happily married to Anne (Audrey Long); so much so that a 4-month anniversary demands celebrating. The couple's plans for the evening take a detour when Reynolds (William Challee) pledges $50 for Randall's immediate attention as a truck driver. It turns out Randall has been recruited for a warehouse robbery masterminded by Walt Radak (Raymond Burr). When Randall is able to alert police while the crime is in progress, an ensuing shootout claims the life of a cop, and Radak's little brother Al (Larry Nunn) is left behind—deservedly— to take the murder rap. Soon Randall and his pregnant wife find themselves on the run. Sleazy PI Pete Lavitch (Douglas Fowley) is enlisted by Radak to track down the Randalls, and Detective Lieutenant Louie Ferrari (Jason Robards Sr.) also becomes connected.

Stephen Randall (Steve Brodie) and wife Anne (Audrey Long) in DESPERATE

In the tradition of Fritz Lang's M, the film noir DESPERATE follows the movements of a man wanted by both police and criminals. As often is the case of the "wrong man" noir, unfortunate occurrences have a cascading effect. For instance, a used car dealer (Cy Kendall) reneges on his deal with Randall, who in an act of desperation steals the vehicle he had restored to working order. After the clunker dies, the couple-on-the-run accepts a ride from a pleasant man who just happens to be the local sheriff (Dick Elliott). When the sheriff's car crashes, suddenly the hapless couple is off in another stolen ride.

In a further convention of the noir form, the traditional family struggles to find its place. When a man on a train comments that the Randalls behave like honeymooners, the man's shrewish wife replies "They'll soon get over that." That statement applies well to the Randalls, who find themselves in one unenviable situation after another. A turning point takes place at a Minnesota farm, the antithesis of the tumultuous urban scene, where Aunt Klara (Ilka Grüning) insists the Randalls be married more officially than they had been. The upbeat conclusion emphasizes a new beginning for the featured couple, made possible through the elimination of the evil family represented by the Radak brothers.

Walt Radak (Raymond Burr) belongs behind bars in DESPERATE

DESPERATE is strikingly stylish noir, rich in sinister atmosphere, perhaps highlighted by a climactic stairway shootout. Cinematographer George E. Diskant stresses an appropriately hazy environment when focused on Walt Radak and his cohorts, particularly when the unsavory thugs mercilessly beat down Randall. Diskant's skill set was put to good use in other noteworthy noir stories, including THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, THE RACKET, ON DANGEROUS GROUND, and THE NARROW MARGIN, to name just several.

1947 was an exceptional film noir year for the principals. Director Anthony Mann also helmed two other terrific examples of the genre:  RAILROADED! and T-MEN. Brodie appeared in CROSSFIRE and OUT OF THE PAST, and Audrey Long starred in BORN TO KILL.

DESPERATE is part of Warner Home Video's 4-disc Film Noir Classic Collection: Volume Five.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

BLAST OF SILENCE (1961)

An overlooked film noir entry, BLAST OF SILENCE deserves more recognition. My review of the Criterion Collection DVD release from 2008:  BLAST OF SILENCE


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LOOPHOLE (1954)

Allied Artists Pictures, 79m 56s


Film noir criminals are not always the notorious gangster types. Frequently they are unremarkable personalities; working-class stiffs who view themselves as unfairly condemned to society's oppressed underbelly. Often they come to the erroneous conclusion that a heist of some kind will provide a way out.

Herman Tate (Don Beddoe, HOODLUM EMPIRE, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER) is the type of noir character referenced above. In the hope of securing the long-term attention of blonde bombshell Vera (Mary Beth Hughes, INNER SANCTUM), the milquetoast Tate devises a plan to pose as a bank examiner and rob a teller's drawer of nearly $50,000. The man caught short is Mike Donovan (Barry Sullivan), who not only must cope with being completely discredited, but also endure the old-school approach of bulldog investigator Gus Slavin (Charles McGraw), a cynical ex-cop determined to recover the missing funds so his bonding company does not have to cover the national bank's loss. LOOPHOLE illustrates how quickly our lives can be turned upside down, and how difficult it can be to make things right again.

Gus Slavin (Charles McGraw) is difficult to discourage in LOOPHOLE

Forty-something at the time of filming, top-billed Sullivan (THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, CAUSE FOR ALARM!) cannot pass for a 35-year-old, but delivers an otherwise convincing performance in this "wrong man" noir film. Donovan's heart-of-gold wife is portrayed by Dorothy Malone, the book store babe from THE BIG SLEEP. The gravel-voiced McGraw (THE THREAT, SIDE STREET) is well-cast as the omnipresent force determined to make life hellish for Donovan. Slavin is a relic, a dirty badge iconic of a maturing noir movement. By the mid ‘50s, the investigator who had quit the police force in disgust was less moral and less reliable than he was depicted in the ‘40s. Slavin's instincts are dead wrong, and he is too stubborn to consider alternative viewpoints. This character anticipates similarly flawed protagonists who would emerge (and ultimately sink) in KISS ME DEADLY and TOUCH OF EVIL.

Directed by Harold D. Schuster, LOOPHOLE is set in LA and utilizes a fair amount of location footage. The flat compositions of cinematographer William A. Sickner (KIDNAPPED, CRY VENGEANCE) were the order of the day at this point in noir history. Screenwriter Warren Douglas (CRY VENGEANCE, FINGER MAN) relies a bit much on coincidence, but the end result is entertaining enough, even if the film's title is never put to use.

The DVD available via the Warner Archive is framed at 1.78:1 and looks good.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

PUSHOVER (1954)


The tense stakeout noir PUSHOVER deposits Fred MacMurray in the middle of the same minefield of temptations he navigated without success a decade earlier in DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Each film features a duplicitous blonde who embodies both sexual and monetary desires, as well as a no-nonsense authority figure with excellent instincts. MacMurray is pitch-perfect in his practiced performance, looking increasingly distraught as things get overly complicated.

In an early scene that sets up the remaining narrative, LA police detective Paul Sheridan (MacMurray) recalls his parents fought constantly over irresolvable money problems. He vowed never to be caught short of cash, thus equivocating financial freedom with a lifetime of happiness. It’s a telling expositional sequence, especially given the presence of MacMurray, already noted for playing characters whose sleazy inner workings are concealed behind a façade of straight-laced righteousness in DOUBLE INDEMNITY and THE CAINE MUTINY. In this outing, MacMurray’s cop gets romantically involved with a moll named Lona McLane (Kim Novak in her official screen debut). Sheridan hopes to nail down the whereabouts of McLane’s bank-robbing beau Harry Wheeler (Paul Richards). Predictably enough, McLane suggests she and Sheridan make off with Wheeler’s satchel full of stolen loot. At first uninterested, it isn’t long before Sheridan’s base instincts kick in. We instantly know how things will turn out, just as we know alcohol will somehow get the best of Paddy Dolan (Allen Nourse), who is one slip-up away from losing his pension, yet cannot resist the magnetic pull of a nearby pub while on duty. Director Richard Quine never allows predictability to detract from the suspense, though, as the mise-en-scène gradually caves in on Sheridan with fatalistic precision. Most of the key sequences are engulfed in darkness and shadows captured skillfully by director of photography Lester White (WOMEN'S PRISON, 5 AGAINST THE HOUSE).

Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) and Lona McLane (Kim Novak) keep it on the down low

Problematically for Sheridan, he is assigned to a surveillance team dedicated to keeping tabs on McLane. While he remains focused on his secret lover, his stakeout partner Rick McAllister (Phil Carey) takes a voyeuristic interest in McLane’s neighbor Ann Stewart (Dorothy Malone). This arrangement firmly establishes basic noir oppositions: the working-girl brunette vs. the kept blonde, the honest cop vs. the corrupt cop. PUSHOVER concludes by cancelling out the negative components of those equations:  the “bad couple” is deleted, and the “good couple” walks away from the scene, with the “good” man reinstated as altruistic protector of woman. Police Lt. Carl Eckstrom (E.G. Marshall), the film’s highest ranking authority figure, makes it official by overseeing the resolution, reminiscent of the way Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) presides over the closure of DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) in a real fix

PUSHOVER is available as part of Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics II 5-disc DVD set.

Friday, September 27, 2013

THE THREAT (1949)

RKO Radio Pictures, 65m 59s


When Arnold “Red” Kluger (Charles McGraw, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, THE NARROW MARGIN) breaks out of Folsom State Prison, LA police immediately go into high-alert mode. Particularly concerned are Detective Ray Williams (Michael O'Shea, VIOLENCE, THE UNDERWORLD STORY) and D.A. Barker MacDonald (Frank Conroy, THE NAKED CITY, LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE), the two Kluger blames for his abbreviated time in the joint. With the less than genteel assistance of Nick (Anthony Caruso) and Lefty (Frank Richards), Kluger captures Williams and MacDonald, as well as Carol (Virginia Grey, HIGHWAY 301, CRIME OF PASSION), the ex he suspects ratted him out.

Nobody is safe when Kluger (Charles McGraw) escapes in THE THREAT

This is psycho-noir at its toughest, featuring a vicious protagonist whose mean streak only gets worse as time passes. Kluger resorts to violence intuitively and without any notion of self-restraint, routinely dishing out impatient slaps whenever he gets the wrong answer. He orders MacDonald to be tortured with pliers, repeatedly manhandles Carol's slight frame, and, most chillingly, attempts to crack open the skull of the defenseless Williams. Kluger even fires repeatedly on an empty chamber at a target who clearly is down for the count. Perhaps Quentin Tarantino had Kluger in mind when Freddy (Tim Roth) cannot stop pulling the trigger at Vic (Michael Madsen) in RESERVOIR DOGS.

THE THREAT was received well by critics and led to a 7-year deal with RKO for McGraw. Director Felix E. Feist helmed the equally gritty THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE starring Lawrence Tierney in the badass role. Feist stages suspense quite effectively, especially when a moving truck causes a motorcycle cop to become suspicious. The Iverson Movie Ranch serves nicely as the desert setting for the final act, where the sweat on the characters is emphasized by notable noir cinematographer Harry J. Wild (MURDER, MY SWEET, CORNERED, THE WOMAN ON THE BEACH, PITFALL, WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER, THE LAS VEGAS STORY).

That distinctly noir moment of recognition has arrived for Kluger (Charles McGraw)

THE THREAT is available via the Warner Archive and demands placement in any serious film noir collection.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

SHOCK (1946)

Twentieth Century-Fox, 70m 6s


One of the best one-word film noir titles, SHOCK opens in San Francisco, where Janet Stewart (Anabel Shaw, HIGH TIDE, GUN CRAZY) plans to reunite with her husband Paul (Frank Latimore, THE RAZOR'S EDGE, 13 RUE MADELEINE), who was a POW for two years. Before Paul returns, Janet's attention is called to the neighboring apartment in which a man and his wife are having a heated discussion. The man grabs a candlestick and silences his wife. Horrified to have witnessed murder, Janet is unresponsive when her husband arrives on the scene. A well-meaning physician (Selmer Jackson) recommends local psychiatrist Dr. Richard Cross (Vincent Price, LAURA, LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN), who unsurprisingly happens to be the wife killer. Cross quickly deduces the probable cause of Janet's condition, and recommends that she be carted out to his isolated sanitarium.

Janet (Anabel Shaw) under the very questionable care of Dr. Cross (Vincent Price)

As John Stanley asserts in the Fox Film Noir DVD's audio commentary track, that Janet and Dr. Cross should become acquainted is best explained as fate, not coincidence. Cross is the classic noir protagonist, haunted by an inescapable past. He has done something terribly wrong that cannot be undone, and sooner or later, he's got to pay. Where did he go wrong? Devotion to the wrong woman leads to deceit, murder, more deceit, and more murder. Nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari, THE AMAZING MR. X) is the spider woman who compels Cross to consistently do the exact opposite of the right thing.

Janet (Anabel Shaw) is kept in a vegetative state

Director Alfred L. Werker (HE WALKED BY NIGHT) gets a lot out of the 20th Century Fox backlot where SHOCK was filmed. The noir atmosphere is evident in the early going, with a surreal dream sequence that confirms Janet was unstable before witnessing murder. The Cross lodge appears as much a prison as his sanitarium, with low ceilings nicely accentuated by camera placement. Co-cinematographer Joe MacDonald's formidable noir credentials would expand with THE DARK CORNER, CALL NORTHSIDE 777, THE STREET WITH NO NAME, PANIC IN THE STREETS and PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET. Screenwriter Eugene Ling went on to co-write other noir films of interest, including BEHIND LOCKED DOORS, PORT OF NEW YORK and SCANDAL SHEET.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

THE PRICE OF FEAR (1956)

Universal Pictures, 79m 26s


Especially when there is an opportunity for wrongdoing to go unnoticed, people tend to make immoral decisions. This is probably generally true in the real world, and particularly true in the film noir. At least in the noir universe, poor judgment calls of the past almost always have a way of catching up with people.
 
A dog displays more loyalty than a hit-and-run driver in THE PRICE OF FEAR

In a plot structure that has served Hollywood well, fate brings characters who don't know each other together. Dave Barrett (TARZAN veteran Lex Barker) learns he suddenly has a new business partner in known gangster Frankie Edare (Warren Stevens, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, FORBIDDEN PLANET). After threatening the former partner (Tim Sullivan) who sold out, Barrett finds himself being followed. Meanwhile, after living it up at the Domino Club, successful investment counselor Jessica Warren (Merle Oberon, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, BERLIN EXPRESS) mows down a man (Ken Terrell) with her convertible. In a rather unlikely coincidence, Barrett becomes the hit-and-run suspect after he opportunistically borrows Warren's car. If that series of events were not problematic enough, the ex-partner Barrett threatened earlier that night is shot to death. Barrett’s friend Pete Carroll (Charles Drake, HARVEY, WINCHESTER '73) is on the case, but Barrett does some investigating of his own that draws him closer to Warren.

Directed by Abner Biberman, who would go on to direct episodes of numerous television shows including THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE VIRGINIAN, and IRONSIDE, this is a "wrong man" style film noir, with the protagonist forced to untangle himself from a network of confusing elements. Money or alcohol is the driving force behind all issues that arise; in one of the truest noir moments, a woman (Mary Field) admits that the right amount of money more than makes up for the loss of her recently departed husband (Stafford Repp). Irving Glassberg's cinematography favors low and sometimes oblique camera angles that are commonplace in noir visuals, and sometimes objects in the frame are positioned to appear larger or more significant than the protagonists. The good woman Nina Ferranti (Gia Scala) is distinguished visually from the evil Warren woman by their difference in necklines.
 
A telephone takes on added significance in THE PRICE OF FEAR

Wooden performances by the two leads detract from an otherwise enjoyable, well-paced film. The source material is in outstanding condition; I did not notice a single flaw. It is part of the Women in Danger:  1950s Thrillers 4-disc DVD set available at shop.tcm.com.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946)

Paramount Pictures, 115m 54s


One of the dominant themes of the film noir is the lack of fulfillment from the traditional marriage. As this film's title implies, there is nothing good about the featured marriage in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS. It's a sexless marriage based on murder, deceit, and greed.

Alcohol complicates the relationship between Martha and Walter in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

The noir narrative often develops from a key past event that a character or characters cannot extricate themselves from, and such is the case here. As a small-town problem child in 1928, Martha Ivers bumps off her domineering aunt (Judith Anderson, REBECCA, LAURA). The cruel Ivers matriarch earns her fate with ease after callously beating her niece's beloved cat. The death is witnessed by young Walter O'Neil, whose father (Roman Bohnen) eyes the Ivers family fortune that Martha stands to inherit. That set-up leads to the adulthood union of Martha (Barbara Stanwyck, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SORRY, WRONG NUMBER) and Walter (Kirk Douglas in his feature film debut). As fate would have it, Martha's childhood friend Sam Masterson (Van Heflin, THE PROWLER, PATTERNS) inadvertently returns 18 years later to an Iverstown that has blossomed under the leadership of Martha and Walter. The other person present at the Ivers estate the day Mrs. Ivers died, Sam presents a confusing element to the town's most prominent couple.

In the course of viewing THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, a downbeat conclusion feels inevitable. The air is thick with the possibility of blackmail along the way, as the town's top employer Martha and her alcoholic husband have to figure out what exactly Sam has up his sleeve. While the drifter Sam is in town, a further complication emerges in the form of Toni Marachek (Lizabeth Scott, DEAD RECKONING, TOO LATE FOR TEARS), another person with a troubled past.

Toni has some explaining to do to Sam in THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS

The narrative really clicks as directed by Lewis Milestone (ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT, OCEAN'S ELEVEN), particularly when scenes involve some combination of Douglas, Heflin, and Stanwyck, who makes a terrific cold-hearted dame. Scenes limited to Scott and Heflin drag and feel like a failed attempt to create some Bacall/Bogart style sexual tension. The screenplay was written by Robert Rossen, who would direct BODY AND SOUL the following year. Victor Milner (THE LADY EVE, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, DARK CITY) handled the cinematography. Assistant director Robert Aldrich later would direct the noir classic KISS ME DEADLY. Blake Edwards appears in an uncredited role.

Note: This film fell into the public domain and has been the subject of a great many inferior home video versions. The Paramount DVD is acceptable, but the source material is marred by significant scratches and surely would benefit from some attentive restorative work.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948)

Today I happened upon this review I wrote of SORRY, WRONG NUMBER after watching it for the first time in 2006. Whether you are new to the genre or a longtime fan, this is one of the definitive noir films of its era and well worth your time. Here is a link to the review:




Wednesday, August 28, 2013

HIGH TIDE (1947) and CHICAGO CALLING (1951)

NOIR CITY 5
Music Box Theatre (Chicago, IL)
Monday, August 26th, 2013


For reasons that escape me, I have failed to attend any of the great NOIR CITY presentations of recent years. I vowed this year would be different, and made it for an entertaining two features last night, both directed by John Reinhardt. The Film Noir Foundation's Alan Rode was present to introduce each film.

Lee Tracy and Don Castle face HIGH TIDE

HIGH TIDE (1947) was a special treat to see resurrected in 35mm thanks to the combined efforts of The Film Noir Foundation, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and The British Film Institute. The 74-minute B-picture opens at the scene of an automobile accident, where Hugh Fresney (Lee Tracy, BOMBSHELL) and Tim Slade (Don Castle) appear to be doomed. Most of the remaining film unfolds via flashback, and we learn that Slade was brought in by the hard-nosed news editor Fresney as a little protection against a mobster (Anthony Warde) Fresney has been investigating. Things get awkward quickly since Fresney’s boss has a wife (Julie Bishop, SANDS OF IWO JIMA) anxious to resume her past romance with Slade. What transpires only can be described as one of the nastiest double-crosses the wonderful world of noir has to offer. Let’s hope this worthy little Monogram Pictures title eventually finds its way onto DVD.


The other presentation, CHICAGO CALLING (1951), already is available for purchase at the Warner Archive (CHICAGO CALLING DVD). The lone Arrowhead Pictures production, this 75-minute docudrama is typical of early '50s noir, filmed on location. William Cannon (Dan Duryea, SCARLET STREET, WINCHESTER '73) is a photographer turned drunk, and his wife Mary (Mary Anderson, LIFEBOAT) has had it. She packs her bags and leaves town with the couple’s young daughter Nancy (Melinda Plowman). After getting some tough news, Cannon realizes he must come up with some cash quickly to keep his phone from getting disconnected. He finds some unlikely help from a boy named Bobby (Gordon Gebert). This is a memorable story of redemption, tragedy, and a hard-earned second chance. In non bitch-slapping mode, this may be Duryea at his most sympathetic. According to Rode, Duryea agreed to take the part without salary other than profit sharing (which never materialized).

Dan Duryea is fit to be tied in CHICAGO CALLING