Review: The Garment Jungle

The Garment Jungle is a classic film noir from 1957 mostly directed by Robert Aldrich, who did not get a credit for his work, and was completed by Vincent Sherman. This was also Sherman’s first directing credit in 5 years do to his name being on the gray list.

The stand out performance from Lee J. Cobb here is not surprising. He plays the owner of a garment manufacturer in the garment district in New York. Though this film came out the same year as Cobb’s most famous performance in 12 Angry Men, I could not help but notice some similarities to his performance in Thieves’ Highway. In both films he plays a man in charger and tries to keep the working man down. He is way more corrupt in Thieves’ Highway, and in The Garment Jungle he turns a blind eye to what is going on. Both films take a look at workers rights. Here is my review of Thieves’ Highway:

These two films would make an interesting double feature, looking at a similar problem in two different industries on opposite coasts.

This film starts out with an argument between two partners, Cobb and his partner are discussing what the workers should be paid. Cobb is against the union and his partner is for it. His partner walks away and gets in the elevator. The elevator fails and his partner falls to his death. Cobb’s son, played by Kerwin Mathews, comes back to town and wants to work with his father. When a confrontation between a union organizer, played by Robert Loggia and Cobb happens in front of Mathews on the factory floor, it gets Mathews thinking. Mathews goes to Loggia where he meets the union organizer’s beautiful wife played by Gia Scala. The three work together to break the mob, which is behind trying to keep the company union free and hired by Cobb for protection. The situation escalates and soon turns violent. Will the mob break the union or will the union break the mob? Will Cobb finally look at employees rights or will he continue to support the mob? Who will survive and who will die in this war between the two?

Richard Boone plays the mob boss Cobb has partnered with and Wesley Addy plays the head thug for the mob. Both are great in their evil ways.

Besides Cobb’s performance, Robert Loggia’s performance is well worth checking out. The dynamic between him and his wife are very interesting. Even though he is a good man trying to do what is right, he has his dark side. I really got a vibe that he beats his wife even though he was madly in love with her.

His wife played by Gia Scala is also very good in this. Scala had a short career and looks to have had a hard life with bouts of depression and turned to drugs. This eventually ended her life at a very young age.

The Garment Jungle is a good classic film noir worth checking out. It is an interesting time capsule of the union movement in the 1950’s. It is especially interesting to look at the clothing industry then and compare it to how it works now.

Review: Kiss Me Deadly

Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer!  What’s not to like?  This is actually the 5th time Hammer was made into a film.  As a child of the 1980’s, Mike Hammer has always been Stacy Keach, but this classic version of him by Ralph Meeker is pretty great.  I have not read any of the books, but after watching this I will have a few on my “To Read” list.  This film is directed by Robert Aldrich, he also produced and had complete control over the production and had nobody to answer to.  This freed him up to do some new things, you will see this in some interesting angles and shots throughout the film.  All these years later and they still feel different and fresh.

If you are unaware of Mike Hammer, Ben Mankiewicz put it this way:  This is a Mike Hammer mystery, it is different then a Sherlock Holmes or Sam Spade mystery.  Where they use their smarts, Mike Hammer uses brute force, His last name Hammer is appropriate.  I am paraphrasing Ben, but you get the idea.

The plot of this is very strange and hard to follow.  I think Hammer’s secretary, Velda, played by Maxine Cooper, put it best. ” First, you find a little thread, the little thread leads you to a string, and the string leads you to a rope, and from the rope you hang by the neck.”  That quote pretty much sums up the plot of this.

This film starts out with Hammer driving his convertible along a lonely road and picks up a girl in distress.  They get through a police road block and soon Hammer finds himself knocked unconscious and the girl is basically tortured to death.  The unknown assailants put both of them in Hammer’s car and roll them off a cliff.  Miraculously Hammer survives the crash and spends 3 days in the hospital.  Back at his office he starts an investigation into why they killed the unknown girl and who she was.  We get one name which leads to a different name that leads to a different name.

This is a fun ride, even if we don’t always know where we are going.  This also has one of the most unusual endings of any classic film noir.  I think this movie is like Hammer himself, don’t over think it and just use brute force to get through this film and enjoy the journey.

This is a fun, good, classic film noir who everybody should see.  It has some twists and turns, but they don’t shock as much as some other noir.  This may be because we can’t see around those turns to see the twists coming like we are used to.

Favorite Tidbit:  I found this brief case had more than a passing resemblance to the one in Pulp Fiction and I wasn’t the only one. When asked if this was an influence, Quentin Tarantino says the similarities between his brief case and this one are accidental, but he liked this theory.