Review: Desperate

Desperate is a B-film from 1947. Anthony Mann Directs and helps with the original story. Of course Mann went on to A films soon after this and created some classics in the noir genre as well as some other Hollywood classics.  I recently reviewed Two O’Clock Courage from Mann which he made 2 years before Desperate and you can see his growth between those two films is petty huge. Though I liked Two O’Clock Courage, Desperate is darker, the story is better and the cinematography is way ahead. There are a couple of scenes in this film that are noir cinematography at its best. The first scene where Burr and his gang is torturing our hero is amazing. The last scene with the chase/gun fight on the stairwell is worth watching the whole film just to for this one.

Our story is a basic noir tale, but it is always worth seeing different takes on it all these years later. Our hero is played by Steve Brodie who has his own truck and is recently married to Audrey Long. He gets a call from a stranger for a last-minute trucking job. He had plans with his wife but can’t pass up the $50 this job will pay.

What he doesn’t know is this is a job where he will be hauling stolen goods for Raymond Burr and his gang of thieves. When he figures out he is on a robbery, he flashes his lights at a police officer. The officer is shot and soon dies by the hand of Burr’s little brother. Our hero pulls the truck away and Burr’s brother falls off the loading dock and is knocked out. Burr’s little brother is caught and charged with murder. Burr is soon on a rampage to free his little brother and frame our hero for the whole job, including the murder of the police officer. Our hero’s sole objective now is to get his wife to safety before Burr can find them. Will he succeed? Will he be able to save himself too? Will Burr and his gang get revenge?

This is a very good B-movie noir and well worth checking out. Fans of Mann will like this film and will want to seet his early work. As per usual Raymond Burr steals the show, this being only his 4th film and his first film noir. This maybe the reason Burr was cast for years to come as the ultimate heavy in film noir. His performance is worth watching this film for as well.

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Review: Two O’Clock Courage

Two O’Clock Courage is an early film noir from 1945 that isn’t as well-known as other films from the era, and probably deservedly so.  So why should you watch this short noir? Two reasons I think film noir junkies should search this one out is:

  1. This is an early film of future directing great Anthony Mann
  2. This is the first credited role of femme fatale great Jane Greer, under the name Bettejane Greer here.

Two O’Clock Courage starts out with our hero, played by Tom Conway, on the side of a street with blood trickling from his head. He stumbles out into the street and almost gets hit by a taxi. The taxi driver is played by Ann Rutherford and decides to help our hero. Conway has amnesia and Rutherford wants to take him to the hospital. When it comes over the radio that a murder has been committed and the description of the main suspect happens to be Conway. Soon the two travel through town trying to solve who Conway real is and if he is innocent of the murder.

This film is very short and has a fair plot, probably pretty original for a film in 1945 and one of the first films noir to use the amnesia device, a device that would be used often in the following years. This film uses humor to great effect as well, it is not over the top and flows nicely with the dark story. The chemistry between Rutherford and Conway is very good with Rutherford being the source of most of the comedic moments. She really did well as with quick one liners throughout the film and you can see why Conway is attracted to her.

You can also see Anthony Mann does very well with an obvious small budget and B movie actors. It is interesting to watch this and see glimpses of a director who would go on to make some great films. We also see one of film noir fans favorite actresses, Jane Greer, in only her second film and her first credited role. It is a small part, but you can already see the femme fatale roots that would launch her into legendary statues only two years later in Out of the Past.

Is this film a forgotten gem somehow missed by film noir fans? Probably not. I did like the way it balanced comedy and the dark noir story line very well. This is a decent film and will entertain you for the little over the hour you are watching it. If you are a huge Greer or Mann fan, it is worth seeking out for a viewing.

Movie Review: Raw Deal

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Raw Deal is a film noir from 1948, directed by Anthony Mann who has directed a number of noir films before he moved on to Westerns.

Raw Deal has a very good plot, which incorporates many different plot devices into an hour and twenty minutes of dynamite. The main plot is a prison break but there is also a love triangle and a revenge theme thrown in for good measure.

Dennis O’Keefe is our protagonist who is in prison for taking a rap for crime boss Rick Coyle played by Raymond Burr. The film starts out with him talking in the visiting room with his legal caseworker played by Marsha Hunt. As she leaves, Claire Trevor playing our protagonist’s girlfriend is waiting to visit. We see the attraction and jealousy that will push this love triangle. A prison escape is planned with Coyle’s help, but Coyle knows his friend will never make it, at least that is his plan. When our protagonist escapes, he doesn’t have anywhere to hide out, so he goes to his caseworker’s house. Soon our love triangle goes on a road trip, trying to get away from the police and meet up with our crime boss who owes our hero $50,000. What woman will win our hero’s heart? Will he get away? Will he get his $50,000?

This is a very good little film worth watching for film noir fans. Though all three leads are well done, I have to say Raymond Burr is the stand out in this film for me. The scene where he throws a flaming liquid onto a female night club goer is one of the most vicious scenes I’ve seen in a while. Does this scene foretell his characters own fate?

Review: Side Street

Side Street is a film noir from 1949, directed by Anthony Mann based on a story and a screenplay by Sydney Boehm.  This stars Farley Granger as our protagonist and Cathy O’Donnell as his pregnant wife.

This story is confusing and full of plot holes but a fun noir to watch.  This film starts with a women blackmailing some important business man.  A guy behind a door has a gun to make sure this goes down like it is supposed to.  We then find this girl floating in the water, dead!  Granger is working as a part-time mail carrier(because a full-time mail carrier would be too honest to do this?)  He delivers mail to a lawyer’s office and finds a sign which says “out for 15 minutes and will be back soon”.  Granger finds the door is accidentally left unlocked.  He goes in the office and tries to open a filling cabinet, it is locked.  So he leaves, sees an ax for firefighting and brings it back to open the cabinet.  He grabs a file, puts into his bag, not looking at it, and takes off.  Now a voice over for the film is telling us our mail carrier has 50 cents in his pocket and would or wouldn’t you in that situation steal a few hundred dollars? There ends up being $30,000 in the file. This is where you have to start suspending your rational thinking!  Why would a lawyer with $30,000 in his office not lock the door?  But that is not the biggest questions here! How or why does Garager know that in the second drawer down, the last file in the cabinet has any money in it at all?  He grabs it without looking in the file and without looking in any other drawer or file?  Why does he think there is a few hundred dollars in it and not more, or any for that matter?  Anyway he dumps the file, goes to his parent-in-laws where him and his wife now live, because they have lost everything in a failed business and are starting over.  His wife is pregnant and due anytime now.  He gives her some cash and says she can now get a real doctor and a room at the hospital to have her baby.  He tells her, he got a new job up north and a pay advance and has to leave right away to start work.  He gives the cash to a friend telling him it is a present for his wife and needs to hide it with him so she doesn’t find it.  So as the plot thickens our hero has the police, a lawyer and some murdering blackmailers all looking for him while he runs through the streets of New York City to give the money back to its rightful owner and figure out the mystery on his own.

So this synopsis is just part of the suspend disbelief you need to enjoy this film.  If you do I think you will enjoy the ride.  It is stylishly filmed and even though you don’t always know quite what is going on and why, it is a fun watch.  We also get a few cameo appearances worth seeing.  Jean Hagen plays a lounge singer, who is our closest thing to a femme fatale in this film. Charles McGraw plays a small part as a deep voiced hard-nosed cop.  Also Paul Kelly as our police captain is very good.

I think most film noir fans will find this film enjoyable, I did.  Sometimes life doesn’t make sense so why should a classic film noir?

Review: T-Men

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T-Men is a B-movie film noir from 1947.  It’s told in a documentary-drama style story.  This movie is directed by Anthony Mann and showcased his talent.  It is filmed in a low light, classic film noir style that looks amazing.  Mann directed a few more film noir B movies and then moved on to westerns and eventually full on Hollywood historic epics.  Even though T-Men was a fairly low-budget film it got nominated for an Academy Award for Sound.  The movie was written by John C. Higgins and Virginia Kellogg both of which wrote many crime films in their career.

Dennis O’Keefe plays our main hero and undercover T-man.  He definitely had a good presence is this role and did many B-movies including a few more film-noirs, he also did a lot of television work, including having his own show for a while.   Wallace Ford plays The Schemer and that describes the character well.  He is always looking for an angle and scheming for his next score. Ford played the most interesting character in the film, in my opinion.  Alfred Ryder plays O’Keefe’s undercover partner and comes across as an average every-man that may be in over his head.

I could not find anything about the story behind this movie.  It plays as a true case from the Secret Service, but I can not find if it really is.  Anybody out there shed some light on this?  If these bad guys were real, they where both incredibly brutal and smart.

This story is about two T-men or I.R.S. Agents sent undercover to break up a counterfeit ring.  The ring seems to be based in Los Angles, but anytime anybody gets close to the root of the group it leads to a dead-end.  They trace some counterfeit stamps in Detroit that are from the same group.  Are hero’s are sent to Detroit to infiltrate the ring from there.  This is where are adventure takes off.

This movie isn’t the most interesting story or have many twists and turns to it, but if it is a true story that would make sense.  I would not put this noir in my top ten, but it is worth viewing for hardcore film noir fans.

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