Sunday, January 27, 2013

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 2

I missed opening night, because I was on a work trip. So I missed meeting Peggy Cummins. But I was back and ready to rock on Saturday, starting with a double-feature of Peggy Cummins in not-exactly-noir-but-certainly-noirish movies.

NIGHT OF THE DEMON (1957): A supernatural thriller from England, where a cult of demon-worshipers is causing quite a fuss. American paranormal psychiatrist Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) travels to England to chair a scientific conference primarily focused on debunking of the demon cult. On the flight, he meets (and does not get along with) Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins) who is going there because her father was the latest victim of the demon cult. Great atmosphere, great acting, cool story with a great ending. Kind of ruined by a really cheesy looking monster, which was added later against the director's (Jacques Tourneur's) wishes. It's not just that the monster was cheesy (the special effects are actually pretty okay for 1957), it's that the whole style was built around suspense and suggestion. Showing the monster throws suggestion out the window and ends up feeling like a cheap cop-out. But the rest of it was pretty awesome.

HELL DRIVERS (1957): A film that epitomizes grittiness. In fact, it's all about hauling gravel. Ex-con Tom (Stanley Baker) shows up looking for work at a trucking company. He quickly learns that the fellow truckers are a rowdy lot, led by Red (Patrick McGoohan.) His only friend is Gino (Herbert Lom), an Italian ex-pat who is working to make enough money to return to Italy with his girl--the company secretary Lucy (Peggy Cummins)--and start a family (whether she really wants to or not.) Well, Tom has some trouble fitting in, and it only gets worse he ends up labelled as "yellow" rather than getting involved in a massive brawl (that could have blown his cover and sent him back to jail.) So his only hope is to out-drive Red, expose the company's corruption, and win the girl. This was directed by Cy Enfield, who was an uncredited screenwriter on NIGHT OF THE DEMON and also directed the next movie TRY AND GET ME!, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The important thing to know is that he was blacklisted (his leftist politics are clearly on display here) and so had to ply his trade as an American ex-pat in England.

Then I had a long break. I went barhopping with my friend. Had a drink. Had dinner (and a couple of drinks) had a couple of after-dinner drinks, and was back and ready for the evening double-feature.

TRY AND GET ME! (aka SOUND OF FURY) (1951): The second of 4 films (so far) made about the Brooke Hart kidnapping and murder case (which happened right here in San Jose some 80 years ago--in the movie the town is changed to Santa Sierra.)  Howard Taylor (Frank Lovejoy) is a family man just trying to make a living. He falls in with Jerry Slocumb (a young Lloyd Bridges), who offers him more money than he can resist just to be a driver. A getaway driver, to be precise. They knock over a few gas stations, etc. Then they go after the big score--kidnapping and ransom. But it goes bad when Jerry kills the kidnappee and dumps him in the bay. Enter the newspaper element, as Gil Stanton (Richard Carlson) sensationalizes the whole thing. His friend, the scientist Dr. Simone (Renzo Cesana) warns him of inflaming public emotion, when reason is what should be used to treat the sickness of violence. That's right, this film is so freakin' cynical a physicist is the voice of conscience! There's nothing I can add to that. Perhaps the '50s were just a different time, when physicist's were seen as a paragon of virtue.

THE HOODLUM (1951): And finally, the endlessly bleak (and mercifully short) story of Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney, aka The Meanest Man in Movies, aka The Noir Monster.) In and out of jails for his whole young-adulthood, he's out once more on the the pleadings of his mother (Lisa Golm) to the parole board. Needing a job, he sets to work at his brother Johnny's (Edward Tierney, Lawrence's actual brother) gas station. And he immediately starts working on a new caper on the bank across the street. And he starts working on his brother's girl, Rosa (Allene Roberts.) He's basically not a nice guy. Not a redeeming characteristic in him anywhere. You know, a real noir guy.

And that was it for the day. Damn, it's good to be back in Noir City!

Total Running Time: 348
My Total Minutes: 311,691
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