Review: Shield for Murder

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Shield for Murder is a film noir from 1954 starring and co-directed by Edmond O’Brien. The other director is Howard W. Koch, his first film in the director’s chair. This film is based on the book by the same name, written by William P. McGivern.

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Edmond O’Brien plays Barney, a crooked cop with a temper. The film starts with him following a man holding money for a local bookie. Barney drags him into the alley and shoots him. then Barney takes $25,000 off of him, and shoots a few bullets into the air. This was to make it look like Barney shot the dead man trying to escape arrest. Unbeknownst to Barney, a man in a second story apartment witnessed the whole crime. The witness is deaf and dumb to add an extra twist.

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Barney’s girlfriend, Patty is played by Marla English. John Agar plays a young detective who looks up to Barney, but suspects something is wrong about the shooting involving Barney.

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Will Barney get away with stealing $25,000 and murder? Will the local bookie track him down and teach the crooked cop a lesson?

Edmond O’Brien’s Barney is the most brutal and evil protagonist I have ever seen in a classic film noir. He only shows mercy or any kind of remorse once in the whole film.

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This is a very good B-film noir. This is worth watching just for Edmond O’Brien’s performance. The interesting thing about Barney is that he has very little to no likable qualities. I don’t know if I would call him an anti-hero, but more of a villain who is the main character. Watch for the scene where Barney is eating spaghetti with a girl he has picked up at the bar for one of the most violent scenes I have ever witnessed in a classic film noir.

 

 

 

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Review: A Cry in the Night

A Cry in the Night is a film noir from 1956 directed by Frank Tuttle. The three stars are:

Edmond O’Brien playing a detective and father

Natalie Wood playing O’Brien’s daughter

though the poster says the third star is Brian Donlevy, playing the detective in charge of the case, the real third star of this film is Raymond Burr playing a psychopath.

This story starts out with Wood and her boyfriend, played by Richard Anderson, up at “Lover’s Loop” parked in his car. They are discussing their future together when the boyfriend notices a man in the trees watching them. He goes to investigate and a scuffle ensues. Burr hits the boyfriend with his lunch box. The boyfriend goes down and Wood comes over to see how he is doing. She thinks he is dead and Burr carries her away and steals the car. When the police find the boyfriend, they think he is drunk and throw him in the tank. A doctor at the police headquarters discovers him and brings him into Donlevy’s office to tell his story. When Donlevy finds out Wood is the girl kidnapped, he goes to O’Brien’s house to inform him of the situation. This scene is interesting as O’Brien plays a fun-loving husband and father, drinking a beer and talking to his wife. When he is informed of his daughter’s kidnapping, he instantly turns into a hard-boiled detective.

The story takes place over the course of one night with a pretty straight forward plot. Burr is a pretty interesting character here as a mentally disturbed man who lives with his overbearing mother. Natalie Wood also stands out playing a teenager in trouble, but in the 1950’s she may have been the best at that.

This is a very good film noir worth checking out. It is a hidden gem and if you are a film noir fan you will find it very entertaining.

Favorite Tidbit: This film was from Jaguar Productions, a small movie production company that only lasted a few years. It was established by Alan Ladd. You can hear his voice in the beginning of the film in an uncredited voice over.

Re-Watching the Classics: D.O.A.

220px-DOA1950 ” I want to report a murder.”

“Sit down. Where was this murder committed?”

“San Francisco, last night.”

“Who was murdered?”

” I was.”

Maybe the greatest opening dialog in noir history.  D.O.A. is a classic film noir from 1950 directed by Rudolph Maté who was a director and cinematographer for many great noir films through out his career.  Edmond O’Brien plays our protagonist Frank Bigalow who runs across many characters in this film, from a needy girl friend to a blonde at the end of the bar, to shady business men and a few doctors, police and a thug or two. DOA+trio The story is a simple one but an original one. Frank has to get away and goes to San Francisco on a small vacation.  He arrives at his hotel and joins a group of salesmen for a fun night on the town.  He gets a call from his girlfriend/secretary about somebody trying to get a hold of him.  He doesn’t recognize the name and figures it’s nothing.  After his night out he wakes up in the morning not feeling well.  He goes to the doctor and finds he has been poisoned.  There is no cure and he has only a day or two to live.  He uses his time left to hunt down who murdered him and why. This is such an interesting plot device that it has been remade and reworked a number of times.  The film was remade twice, once as Color Me Dead in 1969(I have not seen this) and D.O.A. in 1988(I have seen this, but it has been years, I hope to re-watch it and review it later).  The “I’ve been murdered and only have x amount of time to find the killer” plot has been done in such movies as Crank and to a certain extent in Zift as well. Though this plot has been redone in one form or another many times, this original movie is still the best of the bunch.   This is a film who classic film buffs as well as film noir fans will both find satisfying.  It’s a fun ride and if you think about it, what would you do, if you found out you only have a few days to live?

Re-Watching the Classics: White Heat

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White Heat is a classic and should be watched by any film nut. This is directed by Raoul Walsh who did several noir films.  We have James Cagney at his best as psychopath Cody Jarrett.  Our top billed femme fatale is Virginia Mayo who uses her beauty gets men to do whatever she wants.

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Well let’s be honest, our protagonists true femme fatale isn’t his beautiful wife, it’s his mom, played by Margaret Wycherly.  He will do anything for her, from robbing trains, to killing cohorts, to going to jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

This story starts with a train robbery, and it does not go as planned.  The heat is on and to get out of it Jarrett admits to a lesser crime that took place up north.  If he did that crime, he couldn’t have done the much worse train robbery.  Jarrett goes to jail, but the police are on to him.  They send Hank Fallon in undercover as the hood by the name of Vic Pardo.  This character is played by Edmond O’Brien, our good guy hero?  Pardo quickly be-friends Jarrett and they soon plan an escape.  In the mean time his wife is siding with his number two-man, Big Ed Somers, played by Steve Cochran.  They conspire to kill Ma Jarrett and soon do.

Will Jarrett and his pals escape prison?  Will he have his revenge on those that took his mom away from him?  Will the gang be able to overcome their differences and pull off another heist?  Will they figure out Pardo is really Fallon?

This movie is a must see for any film noir fan, Cagney fan or movie fan in general.  “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” maybe only #18 on the top 100 lines in movie history by the American Film Institute, but lets face it, this is the best line in film noir history if not all of film history.

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If you have not seen this yet, go do it right now!  Those that have, what did you think of this film?

Favorite Tidbit:  The relationship between Jarrett and his mom are based on real life bank robbers, Ma Baker and her boys.