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

Anna Lucasta (1949)

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A liberated young woman refuses to be the floozy her family wants her to be!
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US / 86 minutes / bw / Security, Columbia Dir: Irving Rapper Pr: Philip Yordan Scr: Arthur Laurents Story: Anna Lucasta (1944; play) by Philip Yordan Cine: Sol Polito Cast: Paulette Goddard, William Bishop, John Ireland, Oskar Homolka, Broderick Crawford, Will Geer, Gale Page, Mary Wickes, Whit Bissell, Lisa Golm, James Brown, Dennie Moore, Anthony Caruso.

Anna Lucasta - 0 opener

In the small town of Mayberry, Pennsylvania, ex-farmer Joe Lucasta (Homolka) rules his Polish–American family with a drunken fist—or tries to, anyway, his position of power having been largely usurped by his thuggish son-in-law Frank (Crawford), married to Joe’s daughter Stella (Wickes). Others in the household are Joe’s wife Theresa (Golm), his son Stanley (Bissell) and Stanley’s wife Katie (Page). Frank and his slavish follower Stanley are essentially layabouts and Stella’s a small-minded shrew. The most frequent line of dialogue employed by the family is “Aw, shuddup.”

Anna Lucasta - 7 Joe, in typically snarling mode

Joe (Oskar Homolka), in typically snarling mode.

The only sympathetic characters among the tribe are Katie, who seems an order of magnitude more intelligent than the others, and Continue reading

Seven Sinners (1936)

vt Doomed Cargo
UK / 69 minutes / bw / Gaumont–British Dir: Albert de Courville Scr: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder, L. du Garde Peach, Austin Melford Story: The Wrecker (1924 play) by Arnold Ridley and Bernard Merivale Cine: M. Greenbaum Cast: Edmund Lowe, Constance Cummings, Thomy Bourdelle, Henry Oscar, Felix Aylmer, Joyce Kennedy, O.B. Clarence, Mark Lester, Allan Jeayes, Anthony Holles, David Horne, Edwin Laurence, James Harcourt.

Seven Sinners 1936 - 0 opener

An entertaining comedy thriller in the same spirit as Hitchcock’s The Thirty-Nine Steps (1935), complete with a couple thrown together at the outset who spend proceedings bickering and bantering until, inevitably, they finally declare undying love. There’s even a shootout in a theater at the end, although in this instance it’s in a cinema rather than a music hall. During that shootout the audience are watching a supposed Gaumont newsreel (akin to the Pathé newsreels and Pathé Pictorials) recounting many of the events of the plot; Seven Sinners begins in a similar vein, almost in the style of a Pathé Pictorial, headlined CARNIVAL AT NICE.

American PI Edward “Ed” Harwood (Lowe) of the Tankerton agency is playing hooky in Nice at the time of the Carnival when he should be in Scotland helping Caryl Fenton of the Worldwide Insurance Co. of New York to sort out a case there. Dressed as the Devil, in keeping with the carnival spirit, Ed gets loaded and consequently Continue reading

Down Three Dark Streets (1954)

US / 86 minutes / bw / UA Dir: Arnold Laven Pr: Edward Small, Arthur Gardner, Jules V. Levy Scr: The Gordons, Bernard C. Schoenfeld Story: Case File: FBI (1953) by The Gordons Cine: Joseph Biroc Cast: Broderick Crawford, Ruth Roman, Martha Hyer, Marisa Pavan, Casey Adams (i.e., Max Showalter), Kenneth Tobey, Gene Reynolds, William Johnstone, Harlan Warde, Jay Adler, Claude Akins, Suzanne Alexander, Myra Marsh, Joe Bassett, Alexander Campbell, William Schallert, Charles Tannen, William Woodson, Dede Gainor.

Down Three Dark Streets - 0 opener

Presented in the same docudrama style as The NAKED CITY (1948) and its many imitators, complete with the hard-voiced narration (Woodson) and the implication that the story we’re being told is true history, not invention, this is the first movie to feature FBI Agent John “Rip” Ripley, the hero of several of The Gordons’ novels; the other (and fractionally more noirish) Ripley movie was EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (1962) dir Blake Edwards, in which Ripley was played by Glenn Ford.

FBI Agent Zack Stewart (Tobey) is assigned the case of renegade hoodlum Joe Walpo (Bassett) after Walpo’s latest killing, the shooting of a gas jockey, Ben (Schallert), who recognized him. Stewart is already working on the case of Vince Angelino (Reynolds), an ordinary joe who managed unwittingly to get involved with a gang of car thieves and is now terrified of possible repercussions should he tell what he knows. When young, recently widowed fashion designer Katherine “Kate” Martell (Roman) phones the FBI to tell them she’s just had a threatening phonecall—in an electronically disguised voice—from an extortionist demanding Continue reading

Secret Six, The (1931)

US / 83 minutes / bw / George Hill–Cosmopolitan, MGM Dir & Pr: George Hill Scr: Frances Marion Cine: Harold Wenstrom Cast: Wallace Beery, Lewis Stone, John Mack Brown, Jean Harlow, Marjorie Rambeau, Paul Hurst, Clark Gable, Ralph Bellamy, John Miljan, DeWitt Jennings, Murray Kinnell, Fletcher Norton, Louis Natheaux, Frank McGlynn, Theodore von Eltz, Oscar Rudolph.

It’s the Prohibition era in the city of Centro. Meat worker Louis/Louie “Slaughterhouse” Scorpio (Beery) is tempted by his friends Johnny Franks (Bellamy) and Nick “The Gouger” Mizoski (Hurst) to join them in a minor crime for bootlegger and shyster Richard “Newt” Newton (Stone). Soon Scorpio is a regular fixture in the gang. When an attempt to start muscling in on the turf of bootlegger Smiling Joe Colimo (Miljan) turns into a gunfight between Newton’s men and a bunch of Colimo’s thugs, led by Eddie (Natheaux), Franks unwittingly shoots dead Colimo’s baby-faced kid brother Ivan (Rudolph) and, when Colimo comes seeking revenge, blames Scorpio. Colimo’s goons go after Scorpio, but he’s not seriously injured and, intuiting that Franks set him up, murders him. Newton, seeing promise in Scorpio’s brutality and stupidity, gets him acquitted of the crime and sets him up as a front man.

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Reporters Hank Rogers (John Mack Brown, right) & Carl Luckner (Clark Gable) phone in stories of Franks’s death.

Scorpio manages to have The Gouger elected mayor of Centro, then has his henchman “Dummy” Metz (Kinnell)—so nicknamed because he’s a mute—murder Colimo and a couple of his sidekicks using Scorpio’s very own rod; Scorpio does, however, recruit Colimo’s enforcer Eddie to his cause.

Secret Six - Anne [Jean Harlow]

Jean Harlow as the floozy-with-a-heart-of-gold Anne Courtland.

All this while two rival journalists, Carl Luckner (Gable) and Hank Rogers (Brown), have been circling Scorpio’s mob. Scorpio has persuaded floozy Anne Courtland (Harlow) into using her feminine wiles to persuade Hank to Continue reading

Morton Thompson’s Not as a Stranger (1955)

vt Not as a Stranger
US / 136 minutes / bw / Kramer, UA Dir & Pr: Stanley Kramer Scr: Edna Anhalt, Edward Anhalt Story: Not as a Stranger (1954) by Morton Thompson Cine: Franz Planer Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Charles Bickford, Myron McCormick, Lon Chaney Jr., Jesse White, Harry Morgan, Lee Marvin, Virginia Christine, Whit Bissell, Jack Raine, Mae Clarke, William Vedder, John Dierkes, Jerry Paris, Juanita Moore.

Kramer’s first movie as a director has little noirish interest outside its cast, which is crowded out with major and minor contributors to the genre, such as Mitchum, Grahame, de Havilland, Sinatra, Crawford, Morgan, Marvin, Christine and a number of familiar faces among the extensive list of uncredited actors. Its source, Thompson’s novel, was a whopping medical drama exploring the same thematic territory that the UK author A.J. Cronin had mapped out a quarter of a century earlier in novels like The Citadel (1937).

Lucas “Luke” Marsh (Mitchum) is a medical student dedicated to the point of obsession in his studies at a big-city teaching hospital; unfortunately, his father Job (Chaney) has drunk all of Luke’s inheritance from his mother and, though Luke’s tutor Dr. Aarons (Crawford) and best pal Alfred “Al” Boone (Sinatra) lend him some money toward paying his fees, it’s only enough for the hospital bursar (Dierkes) to give him a 30-day extension before, unless he finds the rest, he’ll be expelled.

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Robert Mitchum as Luke Marsh with Gloria Grahame as the predatory widow Harriet Lang: “They always warn you about solitary drinking,” she purrs at him, “but they never tell you how to get people to stay up and drink with you.”

Shy Swedish–American nurse Kristina “Kris” Hedvigson (de Havilland) worships the ground Luke treads on; so far as he’s concerned, she’s just an older woman who’s kind enough to help him from time to time. (In fact, de Havilland was just a year or so older than the supposedly student-age Mitchum. Sinatra was actually older than de Havilland.) But, at a smorgasbord party that Kris throws, her friend Bruni (Christine) brags that Kris has extensive savings; soon, to the horror of Continue reading