Friday, January 27, 2012

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 7

Thursday night is Bad Girls night at Noir City. A few sips of Tough Dame Cabernet at the free wine tasting, and I was ready to go.

NAKED ALIBI (1954): The girl is Gloria Grahame, but we're getting ahead of ourselves. The story is about Al Willis (Gene Barry) and police chief Joe Conroy (Sterling Hayden). We open with upstanding local citizen (and popular baker) Al getting roughed up a bit by some cops at the station. Eventually he's let go, but not before threatening to kill them. And unluckily enough for Al, the cops do end up dead. That's a shame, because Conroy is sure Al did it, even though he has no evidence. Even when Conroy is caught on camera roughing Al up a bit (and subsequently fired), he still tails Al. It's driving Al nuts. So much so that he leaves his wife and kids just to get a little rest in Border City. And then things change. Turns out there's a girl there, Marianna (Gloria Grahame) who Al knows. In fact, he knows her well enough that he slaps her to make her kiss him. Maybe Al isn't such the innocent family man after all? But just because he has a girl on the side in a different city doesn't mean he's a killer, does it? I do love the amoral, morphing definitions of hero and villain, which genuinely surprised me (possibly because I brought too much of a modern "don't trust the police" ethos to it).

But I have one niggling comment--Marianna isn't really a "bad girl." She's more of a victim. Sure, she sings in a club and has an affair with a married man, but she didn't know he was married. And her loyalties changed but only after she realized what kind of a man Al was.

PICKUP (1951): Okay, in this one the bad girl (Beverly Michaels as Betty) is really a bad girl. Writer/direct Hugo Haas stars as Jan 'Hunky' Horak. He's an old widower, managing an isolated railroad station. His wife passed away a couple years ago, and his only friend is a literature-spouting tramp he calls, The Professor (Howard Chamberlain). As an aside, may I just say that the world needs more bibliophilistic hobos. He used to have two-friend, The Professor and Rover, his dog. But Rover just passed away, so Hunky goes to town to buy a puppy and ends up bringing home a total bitch. She proceeds to seduce him, marry him, and then take him for all he's got (um... $7,300). This is actually a pretty enjoyable piece of noir candy. Hunky is endearing for all his sad-sack foibles. Betty is perfect as the sassy gold-digger (and worse), and The Professor...well, he's my favorite.

Total Running Time: 164 minutes
My Total Minutes: 262,717
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