Mademoiselle Fifi (1944)

US / 69 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Robert Wise Pr: Val Lewton Scr: Josef Mischel, Peter Ruric Story: “Mademoiselle Fifi” (1882) and “Boule de Suif” (1880) by Guy de Maupassant Cine: Harry Wild Cast: Simone Simon, John Emery, Kurt Kreuger, Alan Napier, Helen Freeman, Jason Robards (i.e., Jason Robards Sr.), Norma Varden, Romaine Callender, Fay Helm, Edmund Glover, Charles Waldron, Alan Ward, Lillian Bronson, Mayo Newhall, Violette Wilson.

I’d seen a brief description somewhere of this movie that made me think it might be an intriguing piece of historical borderline noir. That didn’t prove to be the case, although there’s a certain amount of noirishness late in the proceedings—enough, anyway, to satisfy this site’s notoriously lax standards.

It’s 1870, and France is under occupation by the Prussians. Far too many of the French are collaborating with the occupiers, and Father Moran (Waldron), the elderly priest of the little town of Cleresville, refuses to ring the church bell until a Frenchman has the guts to strike back against the invaders.

Simone Simon as Elisabeth.

This pisses off the local garrison, notably Lt. von Eyrick (Kreuger), nicknamed Mademoiselle Fifi by his fellow officers because of his habit of saying “Fi, fi donc” to express impatience. (The French phrase doesn’t translate easily, except as “Fie, fie, then”—not exactly yer colloquial.)

Cut to Rouen, where a coach is about to leave for Dieppe, with Cleresville as one of its stops. Aboard are a mixed bag of Continue reading

They All Come Out (1939)

US / 69 minutes / bw / Loew’s, MGM Dir: Jacques Tourneur Pr: Jack Chertok Scr: John C. Higgins Cine: Clyde DeVinna, Paul C. Vogel Cast: Rita Johnson, Tom Neal, Bernard Nedell, Edward Gargan, John Gallaudet, Addison Richards, Frank M. Thomas, George Tobias, Ann Shoemaker, Charles Lane, Fay Helm, Paul Fix.

As the opening credits say, They All Come Out is

Dedicated to
THE UNITED STATES
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
whose coöperation made this picture possible.

That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Thanks to an encounter with lovely Kitty Carson (Johnson), hobo Joe Cameron (Neal) gets himself a job at last . . . as getaway driver for a gang of bank robbers: Continue reading

Midnight Intruder (1938)

US / 67 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Arthur Lubin Scr: George Waggner, Lester Cole Story: Synthetic Gentleman (1934) by Channing Pollock Cine: Milton Krasner Cast: Louis Hayward, Eric Linden, J.C. Nugent, Barbara Read, Irving Bacon, Robert Greig, Pierre Watkin, Sheila Bromley, Paul Everton, Nana Bryant, Joe Crehan, Selmer Jackson, Jan Duggan, Polly Bailey, Aileen Carlyle, Guy Usher, Fay Helm, Eric Wilton, Matty Fain.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 0 opener

Near-grifters Barry Gilbert (Hayward) and his elderly chum Doc Norton (Nugent), having been cleaned out at the races, hitch a ride to Belmont, New York State, where Barry’s convinced he can get a job, even if it’s only flipping burgers—after all, he’s had jobs before, as a journalist, an actor, a . . . The pair get a lift in the back of a truck, but when the driver turns off they have to climb out—in the middle of both the night and a rainstorm. The dialogue says they’re in Westchester; a bit of documentary evidence onscreen suggests Pleasantville. They creep up to a deserted house, break in, and prepare for a night of comfort before hitting the road again.

Midnight Intruder 1938 - 1 Barry begins to get used to the luxury lifeBarry (Louis Hayward) begins to get used to the life of luxury.

But just then Continue reading