Review: Flaxy Martin

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Flaxy Martin is directed by Richard L. Bare, not exactly a well known director. He looks to mostly have done educational short films and graduated to television with only a couple of feature films along the way. This story comes from David Lang who mostly wrote screenplays for television westerns. This is not exactly a dream team for film noir.

That being said, this is a pretty damn good little film noir! Flaxy Martin is maybe one of the best overlooked femme fatales I have come across. She is beautiful and is playing both sides to get herself what she wants. Virginia Mayo plays Flaxy very well, with a hint of a grin every time things work out like she planned.

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Flaxy is dating the brilliant lawyer Walter Colby, played by Zachary Scott. Colby is a good guy that believes in the law. He is an honest man, but is under the thumb of gangster,
Hap Richie, played by Douglas Kennedy. Unbeknownst to Colby, Flaxy is secretly dating Hap too.

Colby gets one of Hap’s goons off for murder when an eye witness shows up with an alibi for the goon. Colby finds out after he gets the killer off that the eye witness was paid by Hap to lie. When the eye witness is killed to keep her quiet, the evidence points towards Flaxy. Colby decides to take the rap for the murder to save his girl and feels he can defend himself and win. Colby gets double crossed when an eye witness sees Colby with the dead girl the night of the murder(another paid eye witness from Hap).

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Will Colby figure out he got double crossed by Flaxy? Will Flaxy double cross both of her guys and get away with some cash and a new life? Will Hap come out on top by framing both of them?

As  Virginia Mayo plays the ultimate blond femme fatale bombshell, Dorothy Malone plays the opposite, a brunette good girl. Colby must choose between both of these ladies in more then one way.

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The highlight of this film for classic noir fans is Elisha Cook Jr., who plays a pivotal role as one of Hap’s thugs. I can’t believe his name didn’t even make it on the poster, but any fan of Cook will enjoy another fun performance.

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This classic film noir may not have the big names behind the camera, but the faces we see on screen make this film worth watching. This is a bit of a hidden gem, worth checking out. The story isn’t the greatest, but Mayo is great as the title character and should be discussed more often when the subject of femme fatales come up. Scott is solid as ever and Cook is always worth watching.

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Review: The Unfaithful

The Unfaithful is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman. The writing team on this film is the real story here. We have David Goodis teaming up with James Gunn for the screenplay. This is loosely based on the novel, The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham. Yes, that’s right, this is based on the same material as The Letter starring Bette Davis,which came out just 7 years earlier. Maugham was not given a writing credit for this film and the setting is moved from a rubber plantation to the urban setting of Los Angeles.

This film revolves around Ann Sheridan, who plays Chris Hunter. Chris is married to Bob Hunter, played by Zachary Scott, who is a war veteran and is now a business man in the housing business. He is out-of-town as our film starts, showing Chris on the phone with Bob as they make plans for the next morning when Bob comes home from Portland. Chris tells Bob she will be going to a divorce party for Bob’s cousin, Paula, played by Eve Arden. The party highlights Paula being proud of her new-found freedom, and everybody seems to be having a great time. Chris heads home in the middle of the night and as she opens her front door a shadowy character grabs her and shoves her in the house. As the viewer we witness the struggle through curtained windows and cannot tell exactly what is happening. Bob flies home and is confused when his wife is not at the airport to meet him. He calls home and soon grabs a taxi to rush to his house. He finds the police are there as well as his friend and lawyer, played by Lew Ayres. The dead body still sits on the floor of the home as the investigation continues. Chris is obviously distressed as she tells her story of self-defense. As our story continues we learn more about the victim and why he may have been there. Was this self-defense? Will Chris and Bob’s marriage survive this?

It seemed to me that this film is more than a mystery noir, but a real look at Post-War marriage. This shows a woman who was living by herself for two years while her husband was in the Pacific. The question this film asks is, can what happens in those two years be forgivable? Should the couple even tell each other what happened in those two years? Can a good marriage survive anything? We see one divorce at the beginning of the film showing a strong woman willing to go on in life by herself. I took Eve Arden’s character as a strong feminist, especially for the 1940’s, I would be interested in learning if the writers intended this or if she was to be perceived as something else.

The other thing that stood out to me is another great performance from Ann Sheridan. She really is hard to read in this film as our loyalty to her shifts from the poor victim to murderer and back again a number of times. In the end do we really learn the truth? Is she just another evil femme fatale or is she the victim of circumstance?

This film is a must see for fans of Ann Sheridan and would make for an interesting double feature with The Letter from 1940. I have not seen The Letter in a while, so I will not try to comment of the similarities and differences at this time.

Review: The Mask of Dimitrios

The Mask of Dimitrios is a film noir from 1944 with the dynamic noir duo of  Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. This is the first feature film of director Jean Negulesco. Negulesco was slated to direct the Maltese Falcon in 1941, but was soon replaced by John Huston. He finally got his big break with this film and went on to a great career as a director in Hollywood. He also teamed up with Lorre and Greenstreet for a few more films. This is also the first film of Zachary Scott. This movie is based on the book A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler.

Our story starts with a dead body washing up on shore in Turkey. This body is identified to be Dimitrios Makropoulos,a slick criminal that Colonel Haki has taken special interest in. Haki is played by Kurt Katch in this film. Colonel Haki in this film is the same character played by Orson Welles in Journey Into Fear a year earlier. I reviewed Journey Into Fear here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/26/review-journey-into-fear/

Haki tells Cornelius Leyden, played by Lorre, a time line of Dimitrios’ crimes and past locations. Leyden is an author of detective stories and is intrigued by Dimitrios’ story and decides to further investigate him for a future book. As Leyden starts his investigation at the records office in Greece we soon see Mr. Peters…or is it Mr. Peterson? played by Greenstreet following Leyden. They soon meet on a train as Mr. Peters tells Leyden where to stay at his next stop. This film also uses flashback scenes to tell Dimitrios’ story as Leyden learns more and more about him. The mystery grows as we learn more about Dimitrios’ past. Will we find the connection between Mr. Peters and Dimitrios? Will we find out how Dimitrios died and why? Will Leyden get the story he wants for his next book?

This film has a pretty interesting story and hooks you as you want to learn more. I have to say though, my favorite parts of this film are the scenes of simple conversation between the two leads. Greenstreet and Lorre are two great actors and how they deliver their lines and interact with each other are some of the best I have ever seen. I can see why they where teamed up for 9 films together.

Zachary Scott is also very good as the title character, playing a smart charming criminal and spy.

The Mask of Dinitrios is a film noir I never really heard about until TCM’s Summer of Darkness. I liked the two leads in the Maltese Falcon and other films and was intrigued. This was a big hit when it was released in 1944 and not sure why it is not talked about more these days. This film is amazing and worth seeing for any classic film lover. If you are a fan of any of the three leads, and who isn’t?, you will love this film.

Favorite Tidbit: The character Dimitrios Makropoulos is inspired by Basil Zaharoff, a Greek-born arms dealer who became one of the richest man in the world and was known as “merchant of death” and “mystery man of Europe.”

Review: Danger Signal

Danger Signal is a classic film noir from 1945 starring Faye Emerson as our femme fatale, or is she?  With Zachary Scott as our protagonist.   Robert Florey directs and looks to have directed not only some crime dramas and film noirs, but a bunch of movies from different genres.

This is a simple plot and well executed.  We have Zachary Scott’s character jumping out of a married women’s bedroom window as the police are at the front door.  He gets away and the authorities think it is suicide.  He gets a few bucks out of her purse on the way out.  We then go to Emerson’s character as a secretary for a doctor, she seems happy, but is looking for love.  She soon finds it in Scott the new stranger in town.  The romance seems to blossom and they are soon engaged.  Soon Emerson’s little sister comes to town on the train, played by Mona Freeman.  The little sister is going to get $25,000 when she marries and soon we see Scott’s character leaning towards the younger sister.  Emerson becomes suspicions of this and wants to kill Scott.  Will she succeed or will our lead marry the younger sister and live off the $25000 until its gone?

Like I said, this is a pretty simple plot with not a lot of twists and turns, but a bit of a surprise ending.  This doesn’t look like an overly popular film noir, but is worth watching for big noir fans or fans of Scott and Emerson.

Review: Shadow on the Wall

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Shadow on the Wall is a film noir from 1950 with star Ann Sothern.  Sothern was at the end of her MGM contract and this was the second to last movie she did for them.  She was around 40 and was considered over the hill in those days.  Of course Sothern would prove MGM wrong and go on to success on television and even nominated for an Oscar in her last performance at the age of 78.

This film is based on a story by Hannah Lees and Lawrence Bachmann called Death in the Doll’s House.

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It looks like both the movie and the book are hard to come by.  I was lucky enough to catch the film on TCM.

The story has Zachary Scott playing loving father and husband coming home from 6 weeks on the road working.  He soon discovers his wife is having an affair.  The twist is she is having an affair with her own sister’s fiance!  Scott hints at the affair in front of his sister-in-law played by Sothern and then confronts his wife.  His wife knocks Scott out in the confrontation thinking she has killed her husband.  At this time sister-in-law Sothern comes back to the home, her sister asks for her help thinking her husband is dead.  A fight ensues and Sothern kills her sister, all while the brother-in-law and husband of the dead sister is unconscious.  Scott takes the fall for the murder and Sothern goes free.  The only problem is the young daughter of 6 played by Gigi Perreau may have witnessed the whole thing!  Perreau goes to a children’s hospital for psychiatric help.  Now Sothern has to stop her niece from remembering what really happened.

I know a little confusing but it is a web of an interesting story.  The other interesting part of this noir is our main star and character is actually the killer and we know it the whole time.  We just don’t know if she is going to get away with it or not, and if she does how is she going to do it?  Another murder? or two?

John McIntire and Nancy Davis play great roles as the doctors trying to help the young daughter and also feel Scott is innocent and they are trying to figure out who the guilty party is.  Nancy Davis maybe better known as Nancy Reagan, yes that Nancy Reagan, a role from the future First Lady.

This is a very good film noir with some interesting plot choices. Like the troubled child and our main character being a murderer.  This is worth finding for noir fans as well of fans of Ann Sothern.

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Nancy Davis(Nancy Reagan) in Shadow on the Wall

Review: Whiplash

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“I’m not exactly beautiful, but I am available.  I’m kind to my mother and I make very good spaghetti”.

“Sorry I don’t like spaghetti.”

That is a couple of lines of dialog in Whiplash, and there are a few more gems in this little known noir.

This is directed by Lewis Seiler who looks to have directed quite a few films throughout his career though this is the only one I’ve seen.

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This movie starts out with our hero played by Dane Clark in a boxing bout in New York City and getting beat pretty handily.  He has an inner dialog with himself asking why is he here?  What is he doing?  He just wants to be back home in California on the beach.  In film noir fashion we flashback to a better time in California,with our hero painting a beach scene.  He soon finds out one of his paintings has been sold and he thinks the buyer has been ripped off.  Our hero doesn’t feel he has enough talent for his paintings to be sold.  He hunts down the buyer and soon falls in love with her.  Our buyer is also our femme fatale, Laurie, played by Alexis Smith.  They fall in love and all is great, until Laurie turns up missing and our hero’s only clue is the painting she bought of his is being sent to a doctor in New York City.  Our hero packs up and goes to New York to find his lost love.

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When in New York we discover a plethora of new characters. Including Laurie’s husband, an ex-fighter who is now a promoter played by Zachary Scott.  An alcoholic doctor played by Jeffrey Lynn. We also get some comic relief from fellow artist played by Eve Arden (from Grease fame).

This film has some more of noir’s favorite sport, boxing, we have a love triangle between our hero, our femme fatale and a fallen hero doing anything he can to get back to the top.  This film has not been viewed a lot and maybe a little undervalued.  I found this film to be pretty good.  With only 200 votes on IMDb and a current rating of 6.4 it is a little underrated.

This film will be enjoyed by film noir fans and boxing fans alike.  Worth a viewing if you get a chance.