Review: Roadblock

Roadblock is a film noir from 1951 directed by Harold Daniels. This film stars noir regular Charles McGraw with a bunch of noir roles coming before this film and maybe his high mark in the noir genre coming one year later with Narrow Margin. This also stars Joan Dixon as our femme fatale. She is a gold digger who doesn’t believe in love, but knows she wants riches.

The story start out with a sting on a man who has stolen some money. McGraw is an insurance fraud investigator and takes his job seriously. He stays honest and doesn’t bend the rules at his job. After successfully recovering a large amount of money for the insurance company, he gets on a train to head home. This is where he meets Dixon and falls madly in love. She says he doesn’t have the money or income to interest her. After running into her again while investigating another case he figures the only way to her heart is by stealing a large amount of money. While he do that to win the love of our femme fatale? Will he get away with it? If he does it will it be enough for her to “fall in love” with him?

This is a short film that is borrowing from a lot of the films that came before it. This doesn’t have anything that we have not seen from noir films of the 1940’s. This being said, it is still an entertaining short film. At only 73 minutes long it is well worth your time to check it.

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?

Re-watching the Classics: The Narrow Margin

Poster - Narrow Margin, The_01

The Narrow Margin is directed by film noir great Richard Fleischer.  Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard were nominated for an Academy Award for best writing.  Even though this was an Oscar nominee it is very much a B-movie taking only 13 days to film.  The film stars the queen of the B movie noir Marie Windsor.  The hardboiled detective is played wonderfully by Charles McGraw.  His gravelly voice and great one liners makes for one cool character.

A line from the film as our hero describes what kind of dish our femme fatale is before he meets her: ” Sixty-cent special. Cheap, flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy”

This is also Jacqueline White’s last movie, she got married and moved to Wyoming with her husband after this film.  It was her most successful film.  Hard to say where her career would have gone if she stuck it out a little longer.

The story starts when our femme fatale is being escorted by two L.A. detectives back to L.A. to testify against the mob.  One of our detectives is shot and killed protecting our witness.  Now our hero has to out smart an unknown number of mob hitmen while protecting our femme fatale that he doesn’t really like, on a train with very few places to hide.

Favorite Tidbit:  This film was actually made in 1950 but Howard Hughes who owned the studio at the time heard good things about it and wanted to view it before its release.  He forgot about it while it sat in his projector room for over a year.  The other story of the delay is Hughes liked it so much he wanted to change it from a B-movie to an A-Movie and putting Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell in it.

The Narrow Margin was remade in 1990, I haven’t seen the remake since it came out.  I’ve watched the original many times in the last few years.  I will have to re-look at the remake and compare it to the original at a later date.

This is a classic that should be seen by any film noir fan!  If you haven’t seen it in awhile go watch it right now!