The Christmas Caper (1952 TVM)

US / 26 minutes / bw / Showcase, CBS Dir: Erle C. Kenton Pr: Hal Roach Jr, Carroll Case Scr: Arthur Orloff Cine: Norbert Brodine Cast: Reed Hadley, Lloyd Corrigan, John L. Coogan (i.e., Jackie Coogan), Alan Dexter, John Phillips, Willie Best, Louis Lettieri, Jeri Lou James, Paul Keast, Argentina Brunetti, Frances Drew, William Fawcett.

Produced at the Hal Roach studios and (alas) sponsored by tobacco giant Philip Morris Inc., Racket Squad ran for a total of 98 episodes between 1951 and 1953. (The Christmas Caper, series 3 episode 15, was first aired on December 25 1952.) As its series hero, Captain John Braddock (Reed Hadley), explained at the outset of each episode,

What you are about to see is a real-life story taken from the files of the police racket and bunko squad, the business protective associations and similar sources all over the country. It is intended to expose the confidence game, the carefully worked-out frauds by which confidence men take more money each year from the American public than the bank robbers and thugs with their violence.

Reed Hadley as Captain John Braddock.

In this particular instance:

Tonight I’m going to tell you a story that’s a little different from the ones you’ve been seeing. It exposes a racket just as the others have done, and it’s a nasty racket that takes hard-earned money from honest people and puts it into the pockets of thieves. But still it’s a different story, first because it’s a Christmas story and second because it put me on a spot I never want to be put on again: I had to arrest Santa Claus . . .

In a poor quarter of the large city where Braddock’s Racket Squad operates, elderly Charlie Dooley (Corrigan) lives alone with his dog Monster. Alone? Well, not so much. All the kids Continue reading


Christmas Story (1956 TVM)

US / 26 minutes / bw / ZIV Dir: Herbert L. Strock Pr: Vernon E. Clark Scr: Donald A. Brinkley Cine: Monroe Askins Cast: Broderick Crawford, William Leicester, Jeanne Baird, Michelle Ducasse, Morgan Jones, Elmore Vincent, Billy Wayne, Art Gilmore (voiceover).

When this was first aired in 1956 it came not during the Christmas period, as one might have expected, but on June 25. It was Season 1, Episode 39 of a successful series, Highway Patrol, that ran for four seasons (1955–9) and a grand total of 156 episodes. The star throughout was Broderick Crawford as Dan Mathews, head of the Highway Patrol in an unnamed state that looked uncommonly like California—not surprisingly, since the series was instigated at the suggestion of the California Highway Patrol, which is acknowledged in the opening credits and served as technical consultant for the first two seasons.

Broderick Crawford as Captain Dan Mathews of the Highway Patrol.

You can get the flavor of the series from the introductory narrative, spoken by Art Gilmore:

Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the State Police, State Troopers, the Militia, the Rangers . . . or the Highway Patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws.

Of course, in real life the Highway Patrol is concerned with things like Continue reading

o/t: The Beautiful Refugees of Casablanca

***Over at Silver Screenings, Ruth recently posted a splendid piece about an aspect of Casablanca that I’d never really thought about. She has kindly permitted me to reblog it here.

Silver Screenings

The beautiful people of Rick’s Cafe. Image: The Source

Look at the people in the above photo.

These are actors portraying refugees in a fashionable nightclub in French Morocco during WWII. This photo was taken in Soundstage 7-8 at Warner Bros. Studio in California.

Look at how these actors are dressed. These are refugees of Means; they are not poor. If they were poor, they would be mired in war, not sipping cocktails in Rick’s Café Américain.

Even so, these folks are stuck in the Moroccan desert, pawning jewellery and making sordid deals with local officials for a seat on The Plane to Lisbon (i.e. The Plane to Freedom). When this plane flies overhead, activity ceases while people gaze at it longingly:

Watching the plane to Lisbon. Image: The World

The film Casablanca (1942) – written in a hurry, filmed in a hurry, released in a hurry – explores the…

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By Whose Hand? (1932)

Killer on a train!

US / 65 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Isadore Bernstein, Stephen Roe Story: Harry Adler Cine: Teddy Tetzlaff Cast: Ben Lyon, Barbara Weeks, Kenneth Thomson, Ethel Kenyon, William V. Mong, Dolores Rey (i.e., Dolores Ray), Nat Pendleton, Tom Dugan, Dwight Frye, William Halligan, Helene Millard, Lorin Baker, Oscar Smith, Tom McGuire, DeWitt Jennings, Buddy Roosevelt, Polly Walters.

Through the 1930s and 1940s, the bottom half of the cinema bill was thronged with—was almost defined by, if you ignored the oaters—comedy-crime movies like this one. Some of them were pretty good and are fondly remembered. Others, like the godawful BOSTON BLACKIE series starring the godawful Chester Morris—through all of which your correspondent has glumly sat—were, well, you heard it here first: godawful.

By Whose Hand?, which has the probably illusory feel of being a pilot for an unmade series starring ace journalist Jimmy Hawley, Continue reading

A Woman’s Vengeance (1948)

Beware of stormy weather!

US / 96 minutes / bw / Universal–International Dir & Pr: Zoltan Korda Scr: Aldous Huxley Story: “The Gioconda Smile” (1921 in Mortal Coils) by Aldous Huxley Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Charles Boyer, Ann Blyth, Jessica Tandy, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Mildred Natwick, Cecil Humphreys, Hugh French, Rachel Kempson, Valerie Cardew, Carl Harbord, John Williams, Leland Hodgson, Ola Lorraine, Harry Cording.

Perhaps surprisingly, bearing in mind the authorship of its screenplay—and bearing in mind its dialogue’s predilection for wandering off into little philosophical digressions—this is a movie where it’s probably best to leave one’s brain at the door. Experienced in the moment, so to speak, it’s hugely impressive, with some sterling performances, dramatic visuals and moments of great emotional power, all underscored (if you’ll pardon the pun) by a typically tidal orchestral soundtrack by Miklos Rosza. Yet, under the most perfunctory analysis, parts of it don’t really make sense and/or are quite clumsy.

Ann Blyth as Doris Mead.

There’s a strong suspicion at large that bon vivant and art connoisseur Henry Maurier (Boyer) married his wife Emily (Kempson) solely for her fortune. It’s a suspicion that the man’s own behavior doesn’t support, even though it appears he has a habit of pursuing other women and is currently enmeshed in a longstanding affair with Doris Mead (Blyth), a mere slip of a girl who—she’s just 18—could easily be his daughter, or even granddaughter.

Charles Boyer as Henry Maurier.

The one woman at whom he seems never to have made a pass is, perhaps surprisingly, Janet Spence (Tandy), whom Henry took under his wing when Continue reading

Reblog: Looking Back at Gun Crazy

***B Noir Detour, written by Salome Wilde, is one of my favorite blogs on the intertubes. She’s recently published an excellent piece on one of the greatest of noirs, and has kindly given me permission to reblog it here.

B Noir Detour

1950’s Gun Crazy (Deadly is the Female) was hardly seen upon release, ignored by critics, and entirely ahead of its time. It’s full of wonderful cinematographic flourishes, wildly creative mise-en-scene, and wicked sexually — especially its link between sex and violence. It’s Bonnie and Clyde meets Detour, yet neither of those. Whatever it is, my hearty applause goes to Joseph H. Lewis, a director whose The Big Combo is another favorite, an equally unique and visually stunning film.

Image result for gun crazy dvd

I recently bought the DVD, complete with commentary track by author Glenn Erickson, and I was amazed to find I’d actually never seen the film at all! (Such “holy crap, I was sure I knew this movie” moments are priceless, if embarrassing.) I watched it straight through, and then I watched it again with Erickson’s voiceover, in which he shares background information on the cast and crew; information about the…

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o/t: leisure reading during November

A reasonable cluster of books read this month, especially since one of them (Night Film) is really quite long and a couple of the others are longish, and especially since the Philcon weekend, my birthday and Thanksgiving between them disrupted life quite a lot. Oh, and there was an abandonment as well. (In line with my general policy, the abandoned book isn’t listed here.)

I can’t decide whether the pick of the bunch was Night Film or Syndrome E – both were memorably good – while a couple of the others were splendid as well. All in all, then, a pretty satisfying month’s leisure reading.

As always, the links lead to my often hasty Goodreads notes.


The Strange Mrs. Crane (1948)

You can’t leave your past behind!

vt Beyond Reasonable Doubt; vt Guilty Woman
US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Productions, Pathe, Eagle–Lion Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Al Martin Story: Frank Burt, Robert Libott Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Marjorie Lord, Robert Shayne, Pierre Watkin, James Seay, Ruthe Brady, Claire Whitney, Mary Gordon, Chester Clute, Dorothy Granger, Charles Williams, Emmett Vogan.

A cracker of a minor film noir that seems to have passed under just about everybody’s radar—mine included, until now.

Jenny Hadley (Lord) used to be in partnership with Floyd Durant (Shayne) in a blackmailing racket: she’d get into compromising positions with married men (like Comstock in Chicago who “fell so hard for her he wouldn’t even go to the police”) while Floyd did the rest. As you’d expect, it wasn’t just in their extortioning game that Jenny and Floyd were partnered.

Marjorie Lord as the very respectable Mrs. Crane . . . but in reality
a femme fatale.

Now, though, Jenny has left her life of crime—and Floyd—behind, and has become ultra-respectable Mrs. Gina Crane, wife of the much older lawyer Clinton Crane (Watkin), who’s the pundits’ favorite to triumph in the upcoming state gubernatorial race.

When Clinton wins his primary, Gina (as we’ll call her for convenience) reminds him of his promise to Continue reading

o/t: why oh why?

I woke up this morning to discover that a rather obscure short I included on the site a couple of years ago has suddenly started to garner hits.

Why oh why could this be?

It’s because The Candidate (2010) has Meghan Markle in it, that’s why. Puzzle solved.

The Candidate 2010 - 1 G's secertary Kat opens Tucker's invitation

And congratulations to the happy couple.


o/t: Creeping Crawlers goes into new edition

Shadow Publishing tells me that its Creeping Crawlers, the 2015 Allen Ashley-edited anthology that includes my story “Little Helpers” alongside a shedload of far better stuff, is going into a second edition, and with a new cover, this time by Peter Coleborn:

Creeping Crawlers, Edited by Allen Ashley

You can find out a bit more about the book by clicking on the image.

Peter Tennant, in his story-by-story review of the book for Black Static, was kind enough to say:

John Grant’s ‘Little Helpers’ is a pure delight, as two knights with a penchant for pillage and slaughter find that they may have bit off more than they can chew. Told with tongue firmly in cheek, it’s a sly, amusing tale in which you never doubt the author has something nasty up his sleeve for his protagonists, and waiting for their comeuppance is a pleasure.

No accounting for taste, eh? Meanwhile, at Rising Shadow, “Seregil of Rhiminee” said of the book as a whole:

Creeping Crawlers is an intriguing and unique anthology filled with depth, style and originality. If you enjoy reading well written speculative fiction, I strongly urge you to read this anthology, because it’s one of the best speculative fiction anthologies of the year.