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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1947 Blogathon! Review: Born to Kill

Born to Kill is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Robert Wise based on the book Deadlier than the Male by James Gunn.

This was a staring vehicle for Lawrence Tierney who came to prominence in Dillinger a few years earlier. The public ate up Tierney as the bad boy, all the women loved and all the men wanted to be, he’s just a little more bad than most. This also stars Claire Trevor as our femme fatale.

Born to Kill has almost every film noir trope you can think of, a crime of passion, loose women, murder, star-crossed lovers, unreliable characters, a private eye, black mail, friends loyal enough to kill for, crazy circumstances involving our main characters, not many truly good people and more.

This film starts with Helen played by Trevor getting out of court with her divorce finally official. She has been in Reno 6 weeks to get this done and now it is her last night in town. She goes home where she meets two women drinking in her rooming house. Laury Palmer played by Isabel Jewell, who lives next door to the rooming house and Mrs. Kraft played by Esther Howard who owns the rooming house. Palmer mentions she is using one man to make another man jealous as the girl talk continues. They are drinking beer and ask Helen to join them to celebrate her divorce. She declines and goes to the casino for one last night on the town. Helen is at the craps table when she sees Sam, played by Tierney, throwing the dice. We see the instant attraction between the two. Palmer and one of her dates runs into Helen at the craps table and Sam does not look happy. Palmer and her boyfriend go back to her place and run into a furious Sam.

Sam is the boyfriend Palmer is trying to make jealous and boy did she do a good job! Sam murders the two and in his getaway lets Palmer’s dog out. Helen comes along and sees the dog and brings him back to the house to find the two dead bodies. She doesn’t say anything and gets on the train to go back to San Francisco. Sam goes back to his place where his friend, played by Elisha Cook Jr., tells Sam to get on the next train to San Francisco. Soon Sam and Helen get on the train at the same time and our story gets more complex and interesting in San Francisco. We soon meet Helen’s sister played by Audrey Long and a hard-boiled private detective played by Walter Slezak for good measure.

So as you can see from my brief introduction to this movie that a lot of the film relies on a crazy amount of coincidences. That aside this is a very dark film with Sam being a man who women cannot resist and Helen being a woman that will do anything to get what she wants. This film had to really push the limits of what could be in a film in 1947. This is Robert Wise’s first film noir and he went on to make many more great ones. Strange to think of a director who could make such dark films is probably better known for his musicals later in his career.

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This is a very high level film noir and should be checked out by everybody who loves classic film. You could write a book on this film, but I’m going to stop writing now and let you go out and experience this film for yourself.

 

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