Review: Caged

This is a film noir from 1950, directed by John Cromwell, but the real story is who wrote this and how.

This is another great noir written by Virginia Kellogg who also was on the writing team for White Heat and T-Men(both have been reviewed earlier on this site).  This one is interesting because Kellogg actually pulled some strings to incarcerate herself in a woman’s prison to write a book.  She then made this book into a screenplay for this film.  Everything in the book is stuff that really happened while she was in prison, so I imagine most of this movie’s plot lines are actually based on fact, though the story is fictional.

Eleanor Parker plays our main protagonist who is put in prison for being involved in a gas station robbery with her husband.  She is only 19 and her husband was killed in the robbery attempt, to top things off, she is pregnant!  She is a pretty normal girl, somewhat innocent if you will.  She probably shouldn’t be in prison for being an accomplice to an attempted robbery of only $40.

Agnes Moorhead plays the warden who is trying to make things better for the women.  She is the bright spot in a dark situation.

Hope Emerson plays one hell of an evil guard in this film.  She was Parker’s nemesis throughout the movie.

Parker meets an assortment of criminals while in stir.  Most befriend her and she learns a lot about the criminal ways while doing her time.  This quote sums it up:

“For that forty bucks I heisted I sure got myself an education.”

This really is a movie about the problems with our prison system, most, if not all these problems have not gone away in the 65 years since this film was made. If you are a fan of Orange Is the New Black you should check this film out to see how things have evolved very little in the past 6 decades.  This film should be seen by everybody, noir fan or not.  It is an amazing piece of cinema. Parker really does an outstanding job and you can see why she was nominated for an Academy Award for this performance.

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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.

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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