Three Steps to the Gallows

I was able to fit in one more film yesterday, making it three films in one day. I randomly chose this 1953 British crime story on YouTube. This was titled “White Fire” in America.

It is the story of an American in London who tries to find his younger brother who works there. But, he finds out that his brother has been tried for murder, a murder he is innocent of, and he is going to be hanged unless big bro can solve the case.

The story though quickly becomes convoluted with so many people to keep track of, some of them are just names so it is hard to remember who is who unless you see their face. By the end I had given up trying to figure out how it all fit together, even when one character sums up the plot for the audience’s sake. I did watch this late at night though, so my concentration powers were a little dulled.

The acting was fine, nothing special, and it was good to see fifties London. At least four of the actors were American. I was reading somewhere that many American actors who couldn’t make it in America went to England in the fifties and were able to have a decent career there. The direction and cinematography were reasonable.

If the story was just a bit less complicated it could have been a lot better. The story that I could follow was quite engaging and fast-paced. There were some good action bits in it, mostly chases on foot, and a few fisticuffs.

Farewell, My Lovely was the best film of the day

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2018: 43

Jail Bait

There is little to do on a very hot and humid Japanese summer’s afternoon except watch a good B-grade crime film with an electric fan by your side, so I chose this Ed Wood-directed film.

The story is about a young man who gets in with the wrong crowd, panics during a bungled heist and offs a night watchman. From there he feels guilt and with the help of his world-famous plastic surgeon father, prepares to turn himself in. But, the mastermind behind the heist is out to get him because he thinks he will also go to the joint. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that it makes the film worth the watch, even if it was a tad predictable, and it involves a face change.

So for an Ed Wood film this has a pretty coherent story, nothing spectacular, but it is a decent tale. The acting though is very Eddy, some of the actors are quite wooden, although the main cast do a pretty good job.

There was a very bizarre comedy/dance act scene in the film, it seemed very random. It involved a real act, a blackface performer (one of the last) by the name of Cotton Watts, and well, it is best if you just watch the actual scene here.

There was this scene (screenshot below) where I was wondering why Eddy wanted to have this guy show off his ripped chest as he put on a shirt. Turns out he was Steve Reeves, a bodybuilder in the day and this was his second appearance on film. He would go on to a successful film career, especially in Italian peplum films. Unlike most other films he was in, his actual voice was used, he was dubbed in the others.

Just changin’ my shirt, and lookin’ good.

The fellow who played the plastic surgeon, a Britisher by the name of Herbert Rawlinson, died from cancer aged 67 the night after shooting finished. His character was originally intended for Bela Lugosi, but Herbert was a good choice.

The young man was played by Clancy Malone who was an aspiring actor, and who delivered Eddy’s groceries. This was his only film.

The Cotton Watts scene was not filmed by Eddy, rather it was footage taken from one of Cotton’s shows. From Wikipedia:

The inclusion of the footage in this film probably reflects the sensibilities of the intended audience. Jail Bait was primarily released in areas of the Deep South, where blackface still held a nostalgic appeal.

This is not essential watching, but I liked it. Watch it here why don’t you?

Date watched: July 14th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 41

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

This is a film that I chanced upon at my fave DVD rental place, and I decided I had to see because it is a well-known film, and it has The Kirkster.

It is based on an actual event that took place in Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881, and is considered to be the most famous gun fight of the American Wild West.

Burt Lancaster plated Wyatt Earp with The Kirkster as Doc Holliday, and also featured Lee Van Cleef, John Ireland, DeForest Kelley, and a very young Dennis Hopper.

The story mostly focussed on Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, and the simmering feud between them and the cowboy cattle-smuggling gangsters, and of course culminated in a shootout.

According to Wikipedia there were quite a lot of historical inaccuracies, including the gunfight itself which in the film was fought at medium range, but in reality was face-to-face. The actual fight lasted only thirty seconds, but in the film it was of course longer. There was also a love story between Wyatt and a lady gambler which was completely fabricated, probably to attract the female audience.

The highlight of this film was the story between Wyatt and Doc Holliday, both Burt and The Kirkster were fabs in their parts. Dennis Hopper too was great, even though his part was quite small. The rest of the cast held their own.

It is a two-hour film, which was perhaps a bit too long, but overall it was a standard but decent watch.

Date watched: December 2nd
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 137

The Fast and the Furious

This is a 1955 film produced by Roger Corman, starring (and directed by) John Ireland, and Dorothy Malone.

The story involves John Ireland’s character kidnapping a woman who was on her way a race on the border with Mexico, where he hoped to get over the border to avoid being arrested for the murder of a truck driver, which he of course was not guilty of. The pair fall in love during the race, and all works out reasonably well in the end.

The story gets a bit boring after a while, but the acting by the lead actors was pretty good for a budget film, so they held it together. There was plenty of hairy racing action which was filmed on Monteray Race track. Roger Corman himself drove a Jaguar in the racing scenes.

One scene fascinated me. The NZ flag (or at least a bad copy of one)can be seen prominently in the background, and I was trying to figure out why. I guessed in the end that it was not put there on purpose, it just happened to be there in the shot. There were other flags next to it as well, including the Fijian flag!

From Wikipedia: Producer Neal H. Moritz and Universal Pictures licensed the title for 2001’s The Fast and the Furious. Moritz had difficulty choosing between proposed titles Racer X, Redline, Race Wars, and Street Wars, and was inspired by a documentary on American International Pictures that included Corman’s film. Moritz was able to trade the use of some stock footage to Corman for use of the title.

It was made for $50,000, but made $250,000, so Roger did alright out of it. After this film he decided to go into directing as well.

Roger is 91 now, and is still producing films with his latest being Death Race 2050 (2017).

This is not essential watching, but at only 73 minutes long it was not too bad.

Date watched: November 27th
Score: 5/10
Film count 2017: 135

The Mob

This is a 1952 film noir crime which I found on YouTube. The uploader had titled it “Charles Bronson/Broderick Crawford Mob”.

It turns out though that this was one of The Bronson’s first film appearances, and he had only one short scene where he spoke just one line. He was also uncredited.


The Bronson, left, next to Broderick Crawford.

The rest of the cast though were pretty good, especially Broderick Crawford (a very prolific actor, mostly B-grade stuff) as a hard-nosed cop who goes undercover to bust up a New York waterfront crime ring. Ernest Borgnine had a role as a union thug, he was aces of course.

The cop had to find out who the mysterious leader of the crime ring was, and to do so he had to become a longshoresman and talk tough to get noticed, and get involved in some hard-boiled action.

For the day this film was probably a bit more violent than usual, there were a few shootings, and a gnarly fist fight between the cop and The Borg’s right-hand man.

Most of the actors in this film were at least 40, including the lead actor playing the cop, something you would not see in an action film today… except anything with Arnie and Stallones.

As I have mentioned in other reviews, these old films are great because they don’t rely on the F-bomb or other cussing to spice up the dialogue, it is just simple no-nonsense tough talk with rough, but not blood-and-guts, action. Yep, those were the days.

This is more of a B-grade film, but still an enjoyable one.

Date watched: November 25th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2017: 134

The Card

This is a 1954 film starring Alec Guinness, and follows his character “Denry” as he goes from rags to riches.

The story is rather simple, and just follows Denry from one situation to the next, as he figures out how to make money and woo the ladies. It is a light comedy, which Alec does very well, he was quite a good comic actor it seems.

Petula Clark plays one of his love interests. Another actress, Glynis Johns, was great as dance instructor who loves to spend rich men’s money.

This is not essential watching, but at the very least it is interesting to see a young Alec Guinness do comedy.

Date watched: October 26th
Score: 7/10
Film count 2017: 121

The Promoter must be an alternative title.

Turn the Key Softly

This is a 1953 British film about three women released from prison at the same time, and follows them on their first few days back in society.

Joan Collins plays a sassy and street-wise character who has trouble not slipping back into crime, but is trying to go straight by marrying a chap who promised to marry her before she went to prison. Yvonne Mitchell plays a woman who was nicked for burglary after getting involved with a dashing fellow who was also a career criminal. And Kathleen Harrison (she died in 1995 aged 103) played a poor granny caught by the Bill for petty theft, and who adored her pet dog “Johnny”. Their stories are intertwined, with each woman having a different outcome at the end.

The acting is superb by all, and the story is told honestly and without melodrama, very British one might say.

Not much else to say really except that this was a very pleasant surprise of a film to find on YouTube.

Date watched: October 17th
Score: 9/10
Film count 2017: 115

The poster does not really do the film justice, at all.