Monday, September 26, 2011

The Tattooed Stanger (1950)


In the period of 1947-48 Universal-International took their cameras to the streets of New York City to make The Naked City, a semi-documentary policier about the hunt for the murderer of a young woman. In 1949, with what looks like a fistful of dollars (in reality, around $125k) RKO took a cast of unknowns, and using New York City exteriors and interiors produced the bargain basement The Tattooed Stranger. Like it’s predecessor, Tattooed’s real star is the city of New York, warts and all. In its pairing of a callow young homicide detective along with a wily pro, The Tattooed Stranger takes us into a NYC of precinct stations, hospital basements, vacant lots, tenements, a Bowery tattoo parlor and a dingy greasy spoon (liver and onions, 60 cents). Many of those locations were soon to be swept away by city planner Robert Moses and his mid century transformation of the cityscape that eliminated many of the older neighborhoods.

A young woman has been found dead in a parked car in Central Park. Her face blasted away by a shotgun. The only key to her identity is a globe and anchor military tattoo on her arm. A rookie detective (John Miles) is put on the case teamed up with a cynical and philosophical veteran (Walter Kinsella) who has seen it all. Working with clues provided by their crime lab, they venture throughout Manhattan, the Bronx and Brooklyn searching for the killer; all the while their prey is following them. Along the way they encounter shifty locals, who just “don’t want any trouble” in having to talk to cops. Seldom seen actors or semi professionals are used, like a harried and suspicious diner owner, or the slovenly tattoo artist in an ink-stained shirt gives a lived in grittiness to the proceedings. After a crisp 64 minutes of running time, Miles traps the murderer on the grounds of a company that makes cemetery monuments.

The film is entirely shot in daylight, but there is one scene where the use of noir chiaroscuro is as bold as can be found. When the detectives are at the hospital checking in on the murdered victim’s autopsy they are led on a chase into the bowels of the hospital. Among the darkened hallways, amid the pipes and machinery, they are chasing a deranged alcoholic who has been hired by the killer to mutilate the corpse so her identity can’t be traced by her tattooed arm. The alky, flickering in and out of the shadows, holding a knife, creates a sense of menace, fear and psychological imbalance that is missing from the rest of the film.

For the beetle-browed John Miles, this was to be his last role at the tender age of 27.  Among the other unknown lead actors, there is young actress, Patricia White, who portrays a sharp, fresh-faced and spunky botanist who is assisting the police with their clues. Later, as Patricia Barry, she had a very successful TV career, often in a much sexier persona than she exhibits here. Also, lurking in the background as a police lab technician, with only a few lines, is a young New York City actor by the name of Jack Lord, with his own distinguished career in TV ahead of him.

Audiences walking into a movie palace in 1950 for a double bill probably gave short shrift to the opening feature. Usually running between 60 to 75 minutes these B films were fillers, made for the late arriving crowd who didn’t mind missing the first 10-15 minutes, while they went to the snack bar and/or primped in front of the mirror in the restroom. As they jostled past others already seated, one’s mind was on the main feature of the night. People came to see Bogart, Davis, Grant and Heyburn, but in the meantime they had to wade through the last 45 minutes of films like The Tattooed Stranger.

It wasn’t until decades later, where in the leisure of one’s own home, people could watch these B films and wonder how some of these nuggets could have been bypassed, totally unnoticed, upon their first release.


 

Written by Bob

Monday, September 19, 2011

Murder Is My Beat (1955)

Edgar G. Ulmer, the very mention of the name congers up of the dark images of his first U.S hit, The Black Cat and the suffocating femme fatale Vera from his noir tour de force on a shoestring, Detour. Via personal rather than professional pitfalls, involving his affair with the wife of the nephew of Carl Leammle, Ulmer never reached the heights of his German/Austrian counterparts and former co-workers; Fred Zinneman, Billy Wilder, Robert Siodmak, and Fritz Lang, While resigned to work for the bulk of his Hollywood career for his personal transgressions within those studios collectively known as “poverty row,” Ulmer nevertheless carved out a niche for himself and remains in many noir camps revered for his mixed bag of films within the genre.

Occupying the grimy bottom of that bag is his final foray into noir Murder Is My Beat released by RPC in 1955. The stars are one time “party girl” Barbara Payton, the serviceable Paul Langton and the reliable Robert Shayne in a tale of murder, double blackmail, suicide, a cop gone bad and love conquering all.

While the debate still rages as to exactly what constitutes that thing called noir, the two most vocal camps are “it’s the story” and “its how the story is told.” Some overly zealous campers from the “how it’s told” camp have openly questioned the noiriness of Murder Is My Beat stating there’s nary an off-kilter, close-up, starkly contrasted frame in the whole of its abbreviated 77 minutes of running time. To them I say; you’re right!

On the other hand, those pitching their tents in the “it’s the story” camp will shout it’s got murder, in fact it’s got a couple murders; it’s got a double-crossing dame, it’s got blackmail, it’s got an urban setting (well sometimes), a cheating husband and a hard-boiled cop that goes soft. Plenty of elements to give it some noir cachet and if all that weren’t enough, it’s got Barbara Payton, the original walking, talking full sized noir windup doll in her last role.

The oft told story of debauchery and sin that came to signify the life of Ms. Payton is well known so I’ll not spend time to rehash it. That noted, it bears mentioning her physical condition in the film; the plainly visible paunch accentuated by the tight sweaters she wears, the beginning of a double chin and her almost moon-round face are tell tail signs of the grip alcohol had on her. Plainly her days as one of Hollywood’s favorite playthings with the likes of Bob Hope, John Ireland, Howard Hughes and even the equally reprehensible Tom Neal are long behind her. Also quickly fading into the distance were films with her playing opposite the likes of James Cagney, Gregory Peck, and Gary Cooper. Her most recent work was alongside the aforementioned Tom Neal and another of Hollywood’s “Bad Boys” the redoubtable Sonny Tufts. One could view her career as akin to pulling on a pair of shorts whose elastic has been stretched one too many times; up fast and down just as fast.

Had Ulmer been working within the ranks of a well-heeled studio, Murder Is My Beat may have amounted to something other than the strictly B production it is. Say you put Jane Greer, Robert Mitchum and William Bendix along with some location shooting and a half million dollar budget and you’d have something. Instead we get the three “stars” mentioned above, a couple of stock shots of the L.A. City Hall and Union Station along with a bunch of rear projection shots and some cardboard sets. Not too much to offer here in the way of filming with the one exception being the story itself.

Fortunately, we do have a decent story which begins with police Captain Bert Rawley (Shayne, who seems to be playing his long running Inspector Henderson role from TV’s Superman) catching up with wayward Homicide cop Ray Patrick (Langton). Rawley’s tracked down Ray and Eden Lane (Payton) who are holed up in a flea bag motel, or Ray as notes upon their arrival “We registered in the collection of dog kennels”. Busting into their room, Rawley finds Eden has taken a powder and left Ray holding the proverbial bag.


By virtue of their long working relationship somehow Ray is able to talk Rawley into giving him 24 hours to try and locate Eden and prove her innocence of the murder she’s recently been convicted of and sentenced for. Rawley grudgingly agrees but only as long as he and Ray work together to round up the recently disappeared Eden.

At this juncture the time honored noir flashback sequence begins with Ray called in to investigate the bludgeoning murder of Frank Deane. Deane was found by his neighbor with his face and fingerprints burned beyond recognition. As fate would have it, having being belted with a ceramic figurine, Deane landed face and hands first into his fireplace which resulted in them both being disfigured to the point that positive identification is impossible. Some quick questioning of the neighbor by Ray turns up the name of Eden, as the neighbor points out “…sounds like original sin” who works as a carney at a downtown bar.

Once at the bar Ray tries to shake down the bartender, the always entertaining Jay Alder, but comes away with a bunch of nothing except that Eden rooms with the gal who snaps photos in the joint the shapely Patsy Flint (Tracy Roberts). Trying to get information out of Pasty ends up more of the same “know nothing” answers as he got from the bartender so he drags her back to her room where he turns up a clue that Eden’s hightailed it north on a Greyhound bus.

Using all his cop savvy, Ray tracks Eden down to a remote and snow bound cabin owned by Deane. With the snow piling up the two have no alternative other than to ride out the storm in the company of one another. While the stay is purely plutonic, Ray begins to doubt the guilt of Eden once he begins to view her as a woman rather than merely another suspect. The fact that she freely admits hitting Deane and is willing to face the charges, which she believes are minor completely unaware her blow to the head, could have resulted in anything like murder.

Once Eden’s convicted and sentenced, the still doubting Ray volunteers to ride along on the train with the police matron taking Eden to prison. During their ride north the sole excellent filmed sequence plays out. Ray’s torment and doubt is contrasted against shots of the speeding locomotive. Over the course of the minute or so, Ray’s wracked with questions of Eden’s guilt played against his growing non-platonic interest in her. The clackity-clack, clackity-clack, clackity-clack of the big engine’s wheels working in perfect concert with his churning mind brings on one real moment of tension to an otherwise drab film.

While on the train a string of convenient coincidences pop up. The first occurs when Eden spies what appears to be Frank Deane standing on a station platform as the train slowly passes by. This triggers Ray to put his job as a cop aside and act on his desire to aid Eden. Next, the train slows to 10 miles an hour allowing Ray and Eden of jump off at a point that just happens to be the home town of Patsy Flint. Later while driving around the town Ray spots Patsy walking down the street and for no apparent reason Ray visits a plant that makes ceramic figurines and sees the very same one used as the murder weapon. It’s a darn good thing all these “coincidences” occur as in one voice over Ray laments the fact that one man trying to solve a case is impossible for such a job requires the vast resources of the police department. As he earlier notes “Every Day I put behind us drawing nothing but blanks was a day put in the ash can and hauled to the city dump.” Shear poetry.

About this time is when Rawley shows up on the scene and we’re snapped back to the present. Now for all intents Ray’s doubled his police resources. Soon he and Rawley are on the trail of the shapely Ms. Flint and with a bit of illegal police work, such as unlawful entry into her hotel room and lack of a search warrant, Ray discovers a false bottom, in the suitcase that is, that’s full of dough. As the saying goes, “here’s where the plot thickens”. Without giving away the entire mystery, in short order, we soon find; the dead body of the blackmailing dame, the exposure of the double life of a prominent citizen and his scorned wife’s involvement in a combination blackmail/murder/suicide. All of which of course clears Eden of any wrong doing other than putting a small lump on the head of Deane. As far as her cutting out on Ray at the motel, she’d gone to turn herself in to the warden at the prison so everything’s Jake in her corner.

In the final analysis, Ulmer gets a pass for committing the final crime in the film and its one fatal flaw. One in which perhaps even those of the “it’s the story” camp will take umbrage with. Mainly that of giving us the corny happy ending as Ray and Eden head for the marriage license bureau with Captain Rawley in tow as the best man. Maybe it was the limited resources Ulmer had to work with. Maybe it was the knowledge his European cronies had to make it big while he languished and he was simply trying to put a happy spin on a bitter little world. Whatever the reason, I’d have preferred something with Ray just having the knowledge Eden was in the clear and let it go at that. Then again I don’t get the big bucks to direct Hollywood feature films. Then come to think of it, neither did Ulmer.

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Written by Raven

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chicago Calling (1951)


Bill Cannon (embodied—not played—by Dan Duryea) is a sad sack of buffalo chips—even by film noir standards. His relatable plight makes Chicago Calling (1953) something more than your standard noir.

The film is, arguably, not a bona fide noir. Its main goal is to emulate the neo-realist movement of post-war Italian cinema. Director/co-writer John Reinhardt has no interest in crafting a routine tale of crime and punishment. Everything that happens in Chicago Calling could reasonably occur in your life or mine—were the chips to fall as miserably as they do for the feckless Cannon. 

A struggling alcoholic, Cannon is a once-gifted photographer whose boozing and lack of self-confidence have sent him on a long, slow slide to oblivion. He lives in a shabby Bunker Hill apartment with his long-suffering wife, Mary (Mary Anderson) and their daughter Nancy (Melinda Plowman).

The film starts at the end of a personal tether. Mary has had enough of her husband’s excuses, weakness and lack of resolve. She is leaving him, with Nancy in tow, and going cross-country to her mother’s. Bill is blind-sided by this decision, and tries vaguely to keep wife and child from going. Mary has heard these feeble promises of reform twice too often. There’s no changing her mind. She still loves Bill, but he’s beyond her personal pale.

Bill is in a haze—he’s clearly reached rock bottom with this terrible turn of events. His fight to win back his family, while buried alive under the rubble of his bad decisions, is among the bravest struggles ever to face a film noir anti-hero.

Any actor but Dan Duryea wouldn’t have worked in the role of Bill Cannon. No other actor could so perfectly convey desperation, flop-sweat and lack of personal resolve. His ability to personify the sad sack persona of Bill Cannon, to the nth degree, is the solvency of Chicago Calling.


Duryea’s Bill Cannon lacks basic survival skills in a hard urban world. The constant movement of the city bewilders him. He isn’t a villain, he isn’t a saint—he just is. This is the finest moment of his film career—the spotlight is exclusively on him, and he pushes past easy gestures and stock reactions to forge a performance that lingers in the viewer’s mind, long after the film has ended.

As I viewed this film, I kept thinking of his character in the 1941 Warner Brothers A-pic, The Little Foxes. His spineless, shifty Leo Hubbard seems the spiritual forefather to Bill Cannon. We’re given only fleeting glimpses of Bill’s past. It appears that he was once a whiz-kid—perhaps one who coasted too long on his promise, rather than on physical achievements.

That cockiness is long gone from Cannon’s arsenal by the time we meet him. He can’t find a job—let alone keep one—and is a nuisance even to his friends. His only ally is his dog, left behind by wife and child.

Bill numbly walks the streets of Bunker Hill. Like other independent L.A. noir productions (Joseph Losey’s M, et al), Chicago Calling makes the most of location shooting in the seediest sectors of the City of Angels. These long-demolished low-income neighborhoods live on via these films.

Bill uses an icon of Bunker Hill in his daily travels—a long, steep flight of cement stairs. These are to film noir what the stairway in Laurel and Hardy’s short, The Music Box, are to classic comedy. Each flight is a symbol of man’s struggle: one used to inspire comedy, the other to convey tragedy.

Those long, steep stairs, which memorably serve in a fight scene in Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me, Deadly, have removed plenty of Bill’s shoe leather over the years. He and the dog aimlessly wander the downtrodden streets of Los Angeles, in search of some answer to his confused, half-formed plea of mercy.

Chicago Calling turns decidedly noir in these haunting moments. What might have been a straight-laced Hollywood account of a loser turning his life around becomes a drifting, episodic tone poem of poverty and despair.

Bill Cannon does redeem himself, in his own hapless way. He must grovel to achieve this faint salvation. He gets news that his daughter has been seriously injured, in transit. Her life hangs in the balance at a Chicago hospital. News is imminent via his home telephone. Said phone is on the disconnect list, due to non-payment of a large bill.

Cannon’s personal crisis is a dusk-to-dawn struggle to raise the money to pay the damned bill so he can receive that phone call. He opens himself up to anyone and anything that can help him.

In the course of this dark night of the soul, he meets Bobby (Gordon Gebert), one of those 1950s movie kids who seem wise beyond their years. Bobby innocently indicts Bill in a minor-league crime, in an attempt to help him.

Despite this disaster, Bill and Bobby bond. Bill is no hero, but he recognizes a fellow outcast. By reaching out to Bobby, Bill is given a form of hope, as the events of his life grow increasingly bleaker.

Chicago Calling has ambitions to transcend genre and budget boundaries. Thank heavens it was an independent project. Had this film been made by, say, MGM’s B-movie unit, heavy moralizing and an “uplifting” message would have gelded it completely. Director Reinhardt, as said, seems clearly inspired by the gritty efforts of Vittorio de Sica and Luchino Visconti. Echoes of Bicycle Thieves and Open City permeate this film.

Bill Cannon suffers in a way that most noir figures don’t. His problems and personal pain are achingly real. He goes through hell for the wont of 53 dollars, According to the inflation calculator at dollartimes.com, that’s the equivalent of $435.07 in 2011 dollars. To anyone in need, then or now, that’s a hefty chunk of change. Bill can’t solve his problems with a .45 and a quick wit. He is left to face his worst fears, at ground level. Director of photography Robert de Grasse is the tacit co-star of Chicago Calling. His unflinching vistas of the downside of L.A. life are moving and atmospheric. Particularly choice are the film’s nighttime sequences. They capture the groggy crawl of a city that can’t afford to sleep, no matter how weary it may be. Despite its half-hearted happy ending—which doesn’t convince us for a moment, given Cannon’s past track record—Chicago Calling is among the most despairing, relentless entries in the film noir cycle. Because it lacks fedoras, femmes fatale and gleaming gats, this film has been overlooked and under-estimated. Thanks to the recent Warner Archive DVD-R, Reinhardt’s bleak view of a life hanging by a thread can reach across six decades and remind us how little life—and human nature—has changed.


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Written by Frank M. Young



Monday, September 05, 2011

His Kind of Woman (1951)

They were two of a kind ! ...and bound to meet, but neither of them knew what such a meeting would mean! - Original tagline. 

Loitering uncertainly near the hinterlands of film noir is the Howard Hughes produced, John Farrow/Richard Fleischer directed film His Kind of Woman. The pedigree of the film destined it for greatness: seasoned directors, smoldering stars, and a stable of gritty noir screenwriters, all financed by the large bankroll of a playboy genius. His Kind of Woman just may be the greatest noir film that never was. What RKO delivered to theaters was a bloated, schizophrenic film - a Frankenstein’s monster of beautifully crafted noir spliced together with a smattering of scenes from several genres. Is the film noir? Yes, undeniably. However, it is also an ensemble melodrama, a Hollywood satire, and a battle of the sexes comedy, mixed thoroughly with a dash of slapstick. So what went wrong? It may be ungracious to lay the blame entirely at the feet of Hughes (after all, what better match for a noir film than a producer controlled by a dark obsessive nature?), but his incessant tinkering and additions are what ultimately doomed the film.

His Kind of Woman was a perfect fit for production company RKO. Though the company had been in financial flux for years, it produced and distributed a heap of films that were successes both critically and commercially in a number of genres. Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, William Wyler, Laurel and Hardy, and Walt Disney all had ties with RKO before Howard Hughes gained control of it in 1948, but noir was a house special by that point. The pre-Hughes RKO had released some of the finest films noir we know today: Born to Kill, Murder My Sweet, The Woman in the Window, Stranger on the Third Floor, Out of the Past, Desperate, The Stranger, and Crossfire. His Kind of Woman wasn’t the first or last film noir that Hughes would meddle with, turning out less than stellar results (see also: The Racket and The Las Vegas Story) but the genre would survive in spite of him. Consider the following films, released under RKO during Hughes’ reign: The Narrow Margin, Clash by Night, Cry Danger, The Big Steal, The Set Up, The Hitch-Hiker, Sudden Fear, On Dangerous Ground, Armored Car Robbery, and Beware, My Lovely. This hindsight makes it all the more sad that His Kind of Woman doesn’t quite fit in with the other great films being made alongside it.

In His Kind of Woman, Mitchum plays Dan Milner, a down on his luck gambler lured to exotic Morro’s Lodge by a cadre of shady characters and the promise of $50,000. On the way to Mexico, he meets millionaire chanteuse Lenore Brent, played by Russell. In actuality, she’s a gold digger (with a heart to match) hoping to snag fellow Lodge guest, Hollywood actor Mark Cardigan (Vincent Price). The film stalls in its Mexican locale, with Milner and Russell rubbing elbows with supporting cast players while Milner, and the audience, try to unravel the reason we’ve all traveled so far. When Milner overhears suspicious plans between two resorts guests, Krafft and Thompson (John Mylong and Charles McGraw), his curiosity is deferred by another stack of cash. Milner is eventually reinvigorated by the arrival of undercover immigration agent Bill Lusk (Tim Holt), who lets Milner know deported gangster Nick Ferraro (Raymond Burr) is behind the scheme and that Krafft is actually a plastic surgeon! Ferraro’s plan is to kidnap Milner, kill him, rearrange his face, and waltz across the border using Milner’s identity. It’s an interesting plot, but gets shelved for too long while Milner is dragged into the useless side stories revolving around the supporting cast of Morro’s Lodge guests. By the time the film gets back on track with the shockingly brutal climax between Milner and Ferraro, the whos, whats, and whys of the plot are almost distant memories.

The plot may be farfetched, but it works in Hollywood, and even in the realistic world of film noir (we’ve seen plastic surgery before in Dark Passage and an even stranger premise in Decoy). Here, it gets lost in the morass of superfluous genres. The biggest detriment to the film was Hughes’ inability to edit himself. Director John Farrow finished the film, but unhappy with the result, Hughes brought in Richard Fleischer to reshoot much of it, recast villain Nick Ferraro, and neatly inserted himself into the screenwriting process. In the end result, you can pick out Hughes’ contributions with near certainty: useless subplots, not one but two dashing aviators, and the endless scenes involving Vincent Price’s character, whom Hughes fell in love with. Yet a patient film lover can pluck out the noir diamond in rough. There are many faultless elements in the film, from cast to cinematography, that tell us His Kind of Woman was carefully crafted and not carelessly churned out of the Hollywood mill.

The stable of actors in His Kind of Woman is somewhat of a noir dream. Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Charles McGraw, Raymond Burr, Vincent Price, and John Mylong carry with them the experience, grittiness, and sex appeal to pull the film off. Unfortunately, the cast became bloated with a number of supporting actors (Hughes pet Mamie Van Doren supposedly beautifies the background; can you spot her?) that advance the runtime of the film, but not the action. Time spent with bit players Jim Backus and Marjorie Reynolds would have been best served developing the underutilized McGraw and thoroughly creepy Mylong.

Mitchum is the typical noir anti-hero, albeit a little watered down. Milner is a professional gambler, yet he eschews bourbon for milk and ginger ale. He can take a beating and handle a Luger, yet he shows a softer side to help out a couple of struggling newlyweds at Morro’s Lodge. Despite this, Mitchum is the same tall, dark, and sardonic underdog that we like to see, sauntering lazily through the lodge, or gazing half-lidded at Jane Russell. He’s at his best throughout the film, especially sharing scenes with Burr. Recasting Burr as Ferraro is the best “bad” decision Hughes made during the filming. Had the comedy and melodrama been cut and the climax between Ferraro and Milner come a half hour earlier, His Kind of Woman would be a darling among noir lovers. The clash between shirtless, sweaty Mitchum and chillingly sadistic Burr is so disturbing and provocative one wonders how it escaped censors.


Vincent Price, though he is talented here, is ill-used. Hughes fixated on the Cardigan character and padded Price’s role with comedy, action, and romance, much to the detriment of the film, which is such a shame because he’s fantastic! Watch Price during the scene where Cardigan is shamelessly screening his own film to the entire resort: he writhes and simpers in his seat, demurring the accolades he thinks he is receiving from his audience. The problem is the insistent shoehorning of Cardigan into the film - going so far as to maddeningly portray him as hero alongside Mitchum. In one scene Price is the Errol Flynn-like Hollywood actor butting heads with his agent and wistfully longing to be a real swashbuckling hero. In another, he’s the male third of a love triangle trading quips about love and marriage with wife Marjorie Reynolds and mistress Jane Russell. One almost wishes that Hughes had contrived a Mark Cardigan series of light comedies to produce and left him out of His Kind of Woman. Indeed, you could chop out Price’s entire contribution to the film with no ill effects. He adds almost nothing to the working plot, and what little he does to advance the story could (and should) have been handled by Mitchum.

Russell was one of Hughes’ most famous muses - it’s telling and touching that when jumping ship at RKO in 1955, two of the things Hughes took with him was a sack of cash and Jane Russell’s contract. Perhaps at first Hughes was most attracted to Russell’s two most famous assets, but he unearthed a Hollywood talent. As Lenore in His Kind of Woman, she is the femme fatale with the heart of gold, able to stand up to Mitchum with both her stature and ability to deliver the necessary repartee. Louella Parsons called them “the hottest combination to ever hit the screen,” and it’s a pity we don’t see Lenore take a more pivotal role in the film. When Cardigan locks her in the closet near the end of the film it is almost as if Hughes found a way to get rid of Russell in order to make room for more Mark Cardigan screen time.

The noir scenes are as beautiful as noir gets, shot by cinematographer Harry J. Wild, who had already been behind the camera for several noir films including Murder My Sweet, The Big Steal, Pitfall, and Nocturne. Wild’s shadowy scenes are striking; the line of demarcation between the beautifully lit noir scenes and the run of the mill scenes is clear, making it more of a pleasure when Mitchum and McGraw amble into rooms slashed with moonlight. The set designer deserves some credit for heavy lifting here: the mid-century design of Morro’s Lodge seems to be built for a talented cinematographer. Low ceilings and gaping louvered blinds lend a sense of urgency to Milner’s plight the script doesn’t seem eager to impart.

It’s hard to justify a film that begins with a boxcar diner scene reminiscent of The Killers, and ends with Vincent Price sinking a boat filled with Mexican policemen, but His Kind of Woman isn’t terrible. It might not even be bad. Certainly we have an instance where the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts. His Kind of Woman is often looked down upon as not being real noir among genre fans (there’s ridiculous comedy, and a lot of it), yet the heart of the film - the best of it - is real noir. Like an insect trapped in amber, it’s surrounded by the trappings of Hollywood… an interesting artifact of the genre worth studying.

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Written by Nauga
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