Step Down to Terror (1958)

US / 76 minutes / bw / Universal International Dir: Harry Keller Pr: Joseph Gershenson Scr: Mel Dinelli, Czenzi Ormonde, Chris Cooper (i.e., Sy Gomberg) Story: Gordon McDonell Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Colleen Miller, Charles Drake, Rod Taylor, Josephine Hutchinson, Jocelyn Brando, Alan Dexter, Rickey Kelman.

Alfred Hitchcock has been reported as saying that SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten, was his own personal favorite of all his movies. It’s safe to say that this remake—the first of two in the English language, the other (which I haven’t seen) being Strange Homecoming (1974 TVM) dir Lee H. Katzin, with Robert Culp, Glen Campbell and Tara Talboy—isn’t as good as Hitchcock’s version, but it does have some strengths; it’d be erroneous to dismiss it as just a lukewarm imitation.

After an absence of six years, Johnny Walters (Drake)—for some reason called Johnny Williams in the closing credits—returns to the small California town of his birth, Middletown, to stay with his widowed mom, Sarah Walters (Hutchinson), his widowed sister-in-law, Helen Walters (Miller), and Helen’s young son Doug (Kelman).

Charles Drake as Johnny.

At first Helen finds herself attracted to the genial, open-handed Johnny, but then odd things start happening to make her uneasy in his presence. Matters come to a head when Continue reading

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