Friday, January 29, 2010

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 7

A night of Frisco Noir, the Castro was packed and let's get straight to the movies.

First up was RED LIGHT, a tale of vengeance starring the heaviest heavy ever--God. Also starring Raymond Burr as Nick Cherney, in jail for embezzlement. He stole from freight magnate Johnny Torno (George Raft), who loves nothing and nobody more than his army chaplain brother Jess (Arthur Franz). Nick sees in a newsreel that Jess is coming home after 5 years at war, and getting a hero's welcome in San Francisco. So he decides to hurt Johnny as much as possible by hiring about-to-be-released Rocky (Harry Morgan, credited as Henry Morgan) to kill Jess. Yup, it's the movie for everyone who has ever wanted to see young Perry Mason hire young Col. Potter to kill a priest. Anyway, Rocky does it, and as Johnny hold dying Jess in his arms, he whispers something about the killer's identity being written in the Bible. Turns out, that's not the family Bible but the Gideon Bible, and by the time Johnny realizes that it's been taken by a later guest. So Johnny goes on a quest to track it down, Nick and Rocky chase him to get to it first, but ultimately vengeance belongs to the Lord. Overtly religious, but still fun, and the last heavy-handed "open 24 hours" scene cracked me up. Best line: "The meek shall inherit the earth--six feet of it"

And then the entire free world is at stake in WALK A CROOKED MILE. In a sleepy California town of Lakeview, which sprouted up during WWII, nuclear scientists build the future. Trouble is, there's a security leak, so FBI agent O'hara (Dennis O'keefe) and Scotland Yard inspector "Scotty" Grayson (Louis Hayward) team up and follow the trail to that den of commies, San Francisco, where they run into Krebs (Raymond Burr again, this time sporting a goatee straight out of the mirror universe). There's a plot about math, stolen equations smuggled out on a handkerchief in the laundry, etc. Really, as a scientist myself it's a bit silly (perhaps it was different at the time, but the math isn't the part worth stealing, the actual nuclear material is) and sometimes way to dry (a pivotal scene has a team of scientists passing an equation around and praising the inventor). But when it gets to the guts--the commies and the good guys throwing punches and/or bullets--it cooks pretty well. Oh yeah, and a little advice to the FBI, when you compare a traitor to Benedict Arnold, don't do it in front of your British colleague. Was I the only one who thought that was awkward?

Running Time: 174 minutes
My Total Minutes: 168,441

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