No Escape

Having watched two film-noir flicks recently I though one more would be a good idea, so I found this on YouTube.

The story tells of a woman who thinks she may have moidered someone (by accident), a down-and-out musician who at first tries to extort money out of her, and her boyfriend, who is a cop but obviously a dirty one. Things happen and by the end the woman and the musician fall in love with each other, and the bad cop turns out to be the actual murderer.

Pretty standard stuff, and neither good nor bad. Mostly I enjoy these kinds of film because it is a good look into how life was before computers, smartphones, people saying “awesome” (a word I flatly refuse to actually speak) at everything, and reality TV. Still, you can’t call yourself a film buff if you don’t watch a wide variety of flicks.

At the end of the film the down-and-out musician gets to sing his new song “No Escape”, and it is heard by a film executive who offers to buy the song, thus ending the film with smiles all round. Awesome!

I can’t really recommend it, watch a Humphrey film instead, but at the end after a chuckle at the silliness of it all I was satisfied.

Date watched: September 17th
Score: 5.5/10
Film count 2019: 27

Take One False Step

It was good to watch an old-timey film again, so I chose another last night. This was a completely random choice on YouTube.

The opening credits started the film off with shots of people stepping into various bad incidents or situations (stepping into open manholes, stepping onto a bar of soap outside the shower, going up steps to the wedding altar, etc), played to some upbeat music, so it seemed like a comedy. It turned out to be a thriller though, a passable one.

Cops on the case.

Shelley Winters played an old flame of a successful college professor, and both get mixed up in a murder mystery (her murder, or so it seemed) with the professor trying to clear his good name while having to deal with a potential rabies infection.

It has a simple plot with no extra machinations piled on that today’s films would do. It all plays out as we would expect it to which makes the little twist at the end all the more twisty.

The acting was quite standard. The actors, apart from Shelley, all had decent but not stellar careers. The lead role was played by William Powell who looked awfully fancy in this 1922 silent film called When Knighthood Was in Flower

At first I found it hard to get into watching this, but once the plot picked up I found it to be watchable. It was interesting to see 1949 Los Angeles and San Francisco though. At one point in the film the main actor refers to his rental car as a “drive yourself” which I found odd. It turns out this was probably referring to the American Driveurself Association, which seems to have been how you rented a car in the U.S. back in the day.

You can find much better films to watch from the 1940’s/50’s, but I found it quite watchable.

Date watched: September 15th
Score: 6/10
Film count 2019: 26

Fourteen Hours

This is a 1951 film noir drama about a young chap who wants to jump from the 15th floor of a hotel because life sucks, and the cop who tries to talk him off the ledge.

I had not heard of most of the actors, although upon researching this film I found that they were all significant film and TV actors in the day and beyond, just not up there with The Kirkster or Elizabeth Taylor or whatnot. Grace Kelly made her film debut in this with a minor role.

The young chap was played by Richard Basehart who would go onto play Wilton Knight of Knight Rider fame, although he was killed off in the pilot episode. His voice lived on though in the intro…

The cop was played by a fellow named Paul Douglas who had a decent career in radio, TV, and film but nothing as significant as Knight Rider. He died aged 52.

Barbara Bel Geddes played the fiance of the young chap. She had a role in Vertigo, and was Miss Ellie Ewing in Dallas.

Debra Paget played a sympathetic onlooker on the street (everyone else was waiting for the young chap to jump, including a bunch of comedy relief taxi drivers who placed bets on when he would jump). She would go on to play Elvis’ love interest in his film debut in Love Me Tender. She is also the only main cast member who is still alive, she is 86 now. Elvis apparently took a liking to her…

From Wikipedia: During production of Love Me Tender (1956), Elvis Presley became smitten with Paget, who in 1997 claimed the singer even proposed marriage. At the time, however, the media reported that she was romantically linked with Howard Hughes and nothing came of this. A 1956 article quoted Paget’s comments about Hughes:

I was in love with Howard for two years, and I don’t care who knows it… I was never alone with him in the whole two years. Mother was always with us… I haven’t seen Howard for a long time now, because I’m a one-man woman, and I’ve got to have a one-woman man… But I’ll always remember Howard with fondness.

Agnes Moorehead played the young chap’s mother. She appeared in Citizen Kane (her first film) and had a very long and successful career. She played Samantha’s mother in the TV series Bewitched, she was fab in that.

The film itself was decent. It moved a long at a good pace and despite mostly taking place on a hotel ledge or in the hotel room it worked well. The acting was pretty good on the whole. It was nominated for an Academy Award, but did not win anything (An American in Paris won best picture).

Events for the film were closely based on an actual event in New York in 1938 which had a tragic ending. According to Wikipedia the film too was going to have a tragic ending, but due to the daughter of the Fox president killing herself by jumping from the roof of the Fox West Coast Building, the ending was changed (two endings were filmed). As in the film the cop tried for fourteen hours to talk the man down, and was almost successful until a photographer interfered (read the Wiki article).

This is not an essential film to watch, but I found it to be a decent watch.

Date watched: September 14th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2019: 25

Wicked Woman

This 1953 low-budget film is about a tall blonde bad girl that rides into town on a bus from somewhere, gets a job at a bar, falls in love with the married owner, plots to run away to Mexico with him but her plan which involves fraud goes awry, and at the end of the film she is on another bus for Kansas to carry on her wickedness elsewhere.

The actress playing said blonde pretty much makes the whole film. Her name was Beverly Michaels and she played bad girls in a few films, but this one is her most well-known film. She was good at it too.

Also in the film as the bar owner was Richard Egan who was a familiar face. He had roles in many film and television roles.

Egan and Michaels

And another familiar face with an even more familiar voice was Percy Helton.

The film itself was decent and didn’t get boring. The last 15 minutes was very well done with the tension building up, but the ending was a bit of a cop-out as I was expecting the two fraudsters to go to the joint, but it was instead all neatly and happily ended with just the bad blonde moping out of town to carry on her bad ways somewhere else. But really, that is how it should have ended.

A pretty decent watch overall.

Date watched: November 22nd
Score: 6.6/10
Film count 2018: 74

The Inner Circle

This is a 1946 film-noir mystery starring a bunch of mostly unknown actors, except for William Frawley who appeared in a few well-known TV shows back in the fifties and sixties.

The story was about the moider of a gossip radio announcer (they didn’t call them DJ’s back then it seems), and a rather intricate plot in which the leading blond has appears to be covering up the murder when in fact she is actually trying to cover-up the fact that her sister involved in the murder (but innocent of course) which is not a good thing as their father is a congressman, so she first gets herself the job of secretary for a detective who just happened to be looking for one, then she gets the detective to investigate the crime and while doing so she hits him over the head at the scene of the yet-unreported crime. A fuzz chief arrives and immediately suspects the detective but the blond comes along and gives a convincing story to the fuzz chief that in fact the crime was perpetrated by a mysterious woman in black, but it was actually the blond with a mourning dress on because she was pretending to be the moider victim’s grieving wife, when in fact he was not married as the fuzz chief noted. From there the story goes on all sorts of tangents and soon we have a cast of potential moiderers.

“I didn’t moider nobody!”

It was all told in a jovial and humourous manner with plenty of one-liners and sassy jokes from the witty blond, who was the highlight of the cast. This is not Bogart level stuff, but it was nonetheless quite entertaining with decent acting. Unfortunately the quality of this film on YouTube was pretty bad.

The ending though was a bit weird and second rate. To find the moiderer the detective came up with a plan. He got all of the principal players to go to the scene of the crime where a live radio broadcast was already set up. An announcer starts the broadcast explaining that the moider will be solved by the detective, and each of the people involved in the crime will be reading from a script of the actual events. So they all go through the script and the detective gets the moiderer to unwittingly reveal himself. The moiderer though was not the character that the story had up to that point suspected, so that at least was good.

But, apart from the unconventional and rather contrived ending, this was a quite fun way to spend 57 minutes.

Date watched: November 10th
Score: 6.5/10
Film count 2018: 72

The Brasher Doubloon

This is a 1947 crime film and is based on a Raymond Chandler story called “The High Window” (also the film’s title on release in the U.K.).

It is a B-grade film starring George Montgomery, who had a reasonable career, but worked mostly in low budget films. He was though an excellent wood craftsman and opened his own successful furniture business, so that is nice. He retired from acting in 1972.

At first the film felt rather B-grade, and George was definitely not A-grade leading-man material. But, I quickly warmed to both the B-gradiness as well as George’s take on Philip Marlowe, which The Bogart would of course have done better. But George did all right. It was light-hearted for most of the film with little violence although there was some black and white blood in one scene, a thug with a funny eye, and a good amount of sleuthing,.

“You laughing at my hat, bud?”

The cinematography was pretty decent, and the all-important crime-noir lighting was also worthy. For a B-grade film is was really well-done.

The Brasher Doubloon if you are wondering was a rare and expensive coin that the story revolves around. There is also blackmail, a gangster, a damsel, a crotchety old lady, three dead bodies, and plenty of other characters and plot twists in the story to keep you on your toes. I really must read a Raymond Chandler book sometime.

George and the damsel.

Favourite line:
Mrs. Elizabeth Murdock: There you are and I hope you’re worth it. To tell you the truth, I was expecting an older man – more intelligent looking.
Philip Marlowe: I’m wearing a disguise.

An enjoyable 72 minutes. You can watch it here.

Date watched: July 13th
Score: 7.5/10
Film count 2018: 40

Sunset Murder Case

I felt like watching an old noir film last night, so I chose this 1938 crime story on YouTube.

Not sure what is going on with the film title in this poster

The story was muddled, but basically it was about a showgirl that had returned from Europe where she was the toast of the town. But her father, a police dude was moidered while investigating the murder of a woman on Sunset strip. She wanted to get revenge on the rat that did it, so with the help of her police beau and another cop, she cooked up a plan to find the killer by posing as a singer in a nightclub where she suspected the crims were hanging out. There was also a reporter involved, a blonde bimbo (played by the excellently named “Sugar Kane”), and several other characters which really made following it all quite confusing. There were no car chases, although there was a nutty crash where a guy pushed a car in the path of another slow-moving car which then promptly fell over onto it’s side, seriously injuring the dame inside…cars in those days were death-traps.

There were plenty of fedora hats.

The main actor was Sally Rand who back in the day was well-known as a dancer who specialised in a dance routine with a giant bubble-ball. She was also known for her “fan dance”.

Doin’ the Bubble

So of course the director or Sally herself just had to include her doing her thing in the film. But, for some reason the whole bubble dance routine was completely silent, so I skipped over most of it (it lasted a while). She sang a couple of tunes later on, which I also skipped over.

The story as I said was muddled and confusing, I gave up trying to figure out who was whom, and what the heck was happening, and just waited for it to finish. At only 59 minutes long I was glad I didn’t have to wait long.

The final scene wrapped up the climactic ending in less than a minute, I guess they ran out of money, or film.

The acting, directing, and cinematography was all very B-grade stuff, I can’t think of anything going for it.

Date watched: June 24th
Score: 2/10
Film count 2018: 37