Monday, February 24, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Guilty Bystander

This 1950 cop movie is a diverting film with Zachary Scott playing the alcoholic Lt. Max Thursday. The movie was adapted from the crime novel of the same title by the fine duo of writers known as Wade Miller. Robert Wade was still living and reviewing books into the early 2000s for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He reviewed (favorably) my private eye novel The Blue Cheer published in 2007. Anyway, Max Thursday has quit the NYPD and works as a house dick between his drinking binges when his young son goes missing. Faye Emerson playing his ex brings him the bad news, and Max feels obligated to get sober and go find his son. The version of the film I watched was pretty bad quality with some of the scenes almost completely dark. Plus the sound quality was scratchy and inaudible in spots. At any rate, Scott turns in a gritty, earnest performance, and his crusty landlady played by Mary Borland is also good. I liked the film and just wish there was a better copy available for watching. I'd give it a solid 6.5 rating out of a possible 10. The Max Thursday private eye series by Wade Miller is also entertaining to read.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Side Street

This fine 1950 film noir also fits the bill as a police procedural. The cast pairs the charismatic Farley Granger and doe-eyed Cathy O'Donnell again after their earlier successful crime film "They Live By Night" (1948) which I also saw and liked (except the sound quality was so scratchy on the DVD I had). Farley plays a part-time mail deliveryman who sees an opportunity to swipe what he thinks is $200 but turns out to be 30 grand. O'Donnell plays his pregnant wife, and they really need the money like most young newlyweds do. After a change of heart, Granger decides to return the money which sounds like a simple matter except there are complications thwarting his intentions. According to Wikipedia, the film actually lost money which surprised me. I liked the camera work, especially the overhead shots of New York City. Granger plays a good desperate man determined to get out of his jam. The car chase scene is handled well. gives "Side Street" a strong 7.2/10.0 score, so the film still resonates with modern viewers.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Illegal Starring Edward G. Robinson

This 1955 crime film starring one of my favorite actors of the gritty genre, Edward G. Robinson, is an entertaining, watchable movie. Nina Foch, Jayne Mansfield (she does a good job in a serious role as a minor character), and Edward Platt (later the Chief on the TV sitcom Get Smart) also star in it. EGR plays a go-for-the-throat DA who mistakenly sends an innocent man to the gas chamber. He resigns his office in disgrace and decides to switch tables and become a sharpie defense attorney. The problem is EGR continues to use his sometimes questionably ethical tactics to win his cases, and this gets him in trouble with the local crime bosses. An interesting aside, EGR eloquently comments on his own art collection that he lent for the movie's set. The House Un-American Activities Committee hounding EGR forced him to star in the lesser movie roles such as this one. Nevertheless, he is always a real pro and gives this movie some style and depth. I saw it on the DVD sold by Warner Brothers.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Tuesday's Overlooked Films: Johnny Angel

This short 1945 film noir was directed by Edwin L. Marin and written by Frank Gruber and Steve Fisher, both writers whose works I have read and enjoyed. It stars George Raft, Claire Trevor, Signe Hasso, and Hoagy Carmichael. Marvin Miller is also good in his minor role. Raft, who I have never seen before in a previous film, plays a merchant marine captain coming into his homeport of New Orleans. I think he has the similar mannerisms and inflections to the actor Humphrey Bogart. Anyway, Raft's father, also a steamship captain, has been killed along with most of his crew. Raft decides to do a little detective work along with Carmichael as his cabbie/sidekick to get to the bottom of who murdered his father and why. The alluring photography alone is enough to like Johnny Angel (wasn't that a later song title?). We get to see the foggy, murky, and shadowy piers in The Big Easy during the 1940s (or maybe the Hollywood back lot version). The femme fatale Claire Trevor, always excellent, doesn't get a meaty enough role, probably not easy to do with such a short run time. The gorgeous Swedish actress Signe Hasso plays Raft's love interest. Hoagy who also plays and sings a number is always fun to watch in his roles. rates Johnny Angel with a low 6.6/10.0, and I'd quibble with that mark. My score goes to 7.5 just because I like the cast of performers and the noir photography.