Sensation Hunters (1945)

The price of rebellion!

vt Club Paradise
US / 62 minutes / bw / Monogram, Associated Artists Dir: Christy Cabanne Pr: Joseph Kaufman Scr: Dennis Cooper Story: John Faxon Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick, Eddie Quillan, Constance Worth, Isabel Jewell, Wanda McKay, Nestor Paiva, Byron Foulger, Vince Barnett, Minerva Urecal, Janet Shaw, Maurice Murphy, Billy Nelson, John Hamilton, The Rubenettes, The Johnson Brothers.

Every now and then Poverty Row studio Monogram got it just right and produced a splendid minor noir, and this was one of those times. Despite the coincidence of title, it bears no relation to the earlier Sensation Hunters (1933) dir Charles Vidor, with Arline Judge, Marion Burns and Preston Foster, a far inferior movie that I plan to cover here next week.

In the opening moments we see a man arrive at a darkened frontage and ring the doorbell. A negligée-clad woman appears at a balcony overhead, and summons him upstairs. Moments later, three shots ring out . . .

The rest of the movie is one long flashback leading us up to this scene. We’re soon pretty sure who the woman was (will be?), but who was the man? And who shot whom? And why? Continue reading


Crime Over London (1936)

Thrills in store!

UK / 63 minutes / bw / Anglo–American, Criterion Dir: Alfred Zeisler Pr: Marcel Hellman Scr: Norman Alexander, Harold French Story: probably Punks Kommt aus Amerika (1929) by Louis de Wohl Cine: Victor Armenise Cast: Joseph Cawthorn, Bruce Lister, Rène Ray, Paul Cavanagh, Basil Sydney, Margot Grahame, David Burns, Edmon Ryan, John Darrow, Danny Green, Googie Withers.

Oxford Street’s department store Selfridges, dressed up as Sherwoods.

A movie that’s littered with noirish tropes and dialogue, plus some noirish cinematography, yet for the most part doesn’t have much of a noirish feel. It nevertheless has lot to interest us, both as a period piece—there are some truly evocative London street scenes—and for some of its cast.

Years ago gangster Eddie “Joker” Finnigan (Sydney) sought career advancement in New York, but now things are getting too hot for him in the States and so he’s come back to London, bringing some of his gang members with him. Although those goons are eager to start pulling off a few heists, Joker insists they bide their time, instead opening up a gambling joint where hostesses Pearl (Grahame) and Miss Dupres (Withers), plus floorwalker Sniffy (Burns), entice the gullible into losing money on the cards.

David Burns as Sniffy.

Googie Withers as Miss Dupres.

Pearl is Joker’s moll, but it’s his sidekick Jim (Darrow) who stokes her fires. The feeling’s mutual, and the two plot secretly and rather clumsily to Continue reading

Murder by Rope (1936)

A killer in their midst!

UK / 63 minutes / bw / Ambassador Film Productions, British & Dominions Film Corporation Dir: George Pearson Scr: Ralph Neale Story: Ralph Neale Cine: Ernest Palmer Cast: D.A. Clarke-Smith, Sunday Wilshin, Wilfred Hyde-White (i.e., Wilfrid Hyde-White), Dorothy Hamilton, Constance Godridge, Guy Belmore, Daphne Courtney, Ronald Read, Alban Conway, Philip Hewland, William Collins.

A movie of two halves—or, rather, a movie of a first one-quarter and a subsequent three-quarters. The opening quarter comprises an extended setup for the main narrative; where Murder by Rope has a problem is that this setup—which has a sort of Edgar Wallace oddity about it—is considerably more intriguing than the rest.

Which is not to say that the movie as a whole doesn’t offer rewards, especially since its closing scenes—after forty minutes of what might best be thought of as country-house-romantic-comedy-with-free-added-murders—once again return to an Edgar Wallace-style eccentricity. Also to enjoy is the spectacle of a Wilfrid Hyde-White young enough to be a plausible romantic hero.

First, that setup.

When the murderer Burford (uncredited) is sentenced to death at the Old Bailey by Justice Sir Henry Paxton (Hewland), the prisoner in the dock disconcerts the court by simply laughing derisively. The secret of why he did so goes with him to the gallows.

The Laughing Murderer (uncredited) smirks as his death sentence is handed down . . .

. . . which makes Judge Paxton (Philip Hewland) vewy cwoss.

Some while later, Scotland Yard receives a letter that’s apparently from the dead man. As the Yard’s Major Walker (uncredited) says Continue reading

Jennifer (1953)

Is the truth about a young woman’s disappearance being covered up? Ida Lupino thinks maybe so . . .

US / 73 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Joel Newton Pr: Berman Swarttz Scr: Richard Dorso, Bernard Girard Story: Virginia Myers Cine: James Wong Howe Cast: Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, Robert Nichols, Mary Shipp, Ned Glass, Kitty McHugh, Russ Conway, Lorna Thayer, Matt Dennis.

Thirtysomething secretary Agnes Langley (Lupino) eagerly accepts a job as caretaker of the old Gale estate outside Montecito, somewhere within striking distance of Santa Barbara, Southern California.

Ida Lupino as Agnes.

According to Lorna Gale (Shipp), the family member who shows Agnes round the mansion and interviews her for the post, the previous caretaker, Lorna’s cousin, Jennifer Brown, simply upped and disappeared one day. Agnes isn’t Continue reading

Bergère d’Ivry, La (1913)

Passions run high in rural France!

France / 29 minutes / bw / Société Française des Films Éclair Dir: Maurice Tourneur Story: La Bergère d’Ivry (1839 play) by Gabriel de Lurieu and Michel Delaporte? Cast: Renée Sylvaire, Paulette Noizeux, Henry Roussel, Albert Decoeur.

An early outing from noted director Maurice Tourneur—it may be his oldest surviving work—La Bergère d’Ivry is loosely based on a true story that’s well known in France.

In 1827 19-year-old orphan Aimée Millot was a shepherdess—in fact a goatherd—in Ivry-sur-Seine, then a rural region but now a suburb of Paris. According to the accounts she was both beautiful and maidenly, and who is to say the accounts were Continue reading

Judgment Deferred (1952)

When the legal system fails, let a court of down-and-outs decide!

UK / 84 minutes / bw / Associated British-Pathé Dir & Pr: John Baxter Scr: Geoffrey Orme, Walter Meade Story: screenplay for Doss House (1933) by C.G.H. Ayres Cine: Arthur Grant Cast: Hugh Sinclair, Helen Shingler, Abraham Sofaer, Leslie Dwyer, Joan Collins, Elwyn Brook Jones, Harry Locke, Marcel Poncin, Wilfrid Walter, Martin Benson, Bransby Williams, M. Martin Harvey, Harry Welchman, Maire O’Neill, Fred Griffiths, Harold Goodwin, Bud Flanagan, Edmundo Ros and His Latin American Orchestra.

A tale that shares elements with M (1931) dir Fritz Lang (remade by Joseph Losey in 1951 as M) and with Margery Allingham’s novel Tiger in the Smoke (1952), filmed as TIGER IN THE SMOKE (1956) dir Roy Baker, and owes a very great deal to the movie Doss House (1933), which was directed by John Baxter himself and whose scripter, C.G.H. Ayres, is acknowledged in the opening credits of Judgment Deferred. The narrative’s embellished with a few comic interludes (mercifully few) and some musical numbers, including a cameo by Bud Flanagan and a couple of songs from Edmundo Ros; Continue reading

Love Bound (1932)

A beautiful and ruthless extortionist — does she have a heart?

vt Murder on the High Seas
US / 61 minutes / bw / Peerless, Hollywood Film Exchange Dir: Robert F. Hill Pr: Al Herman Scr: Robert F. Hill, George Plympton Story: J. Gilbert Cine: E. Fox Walker Cast: Jack Mulhall, Natalie Moorhead, Clara Kimball Young, Edmund Breese, Tom Rickets (i.e., Tom Ricketts), Alice Day, Bill Mong, Montague Love, Dick Alexander, Roy D’Arcy, Lynton Brent, Gordon De Main, Sidney Bracey.

Attractive singer Verna Wilson (Moorhead) has just taken rich elderly magnate John Randolph (Love) to court to the tune of $100,000 for seducing her with false promises, and Randolph’s wife of thirty years, Jane (Young), is preparing to leave him because of his supposed infidelity and her abhorrence of scandal. But their son Dick (Mulhall) believes his father is innocent of impropriety and that Verna is a serial blackmailer who’s pulled off this sort of stunt before.

Natalie Moorhead as Verna.

He’s right.

Abetted by cheap gigolo type Juan de Leon (D’Arcy) and crooked lawyer Howell (Mong), Verna has made quite a career out of Continue reading

Fly-by-Night (1942)

On the run for a murder he didn’t commit!

vt Dangerous Holiday
US / 72 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Robert Siodmak Pr: Sol C. Siegel Scr: Jay Dratler, F. Hugh Herbert Story: Ben Roberts, Sidney Sheldon Cine: John Seitz Cast: Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, Albert Basserman, Miles Mander, Walter Kingsford, Martin Kosleck, Marion Martin, Oscar O’Shea, Mary Gordon, Edward Gargan, Clem Bevans, Arthur Loft, Michael Morris, Cy Kendall, Nestor Paiva, John Butler.

An escapade conceived very much in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), with which movie it shares a number of plot points. Again we have a hero who has to go on the run because suspected of murdering a man who has sought his aid, and again our hero ropes in an unwilling woman as accomplice (with romance as inevitable, further down the line, as in a Hallmark Christmas movie), and again there’s an espionage conspiracy to be foiled.

To say that Siodmak, whose second Hollywood movie this was, was no Hitchcock is the obvious trite comment, and a foolish one—as foolish as saying, equally truthfully, that Hitchcock was no Siodmak. The two directors each had his own strengths, and this one plays to Siodmak’s. The comedy and tension are very well integrated—that I laughed aloud several times didn’t mean I wasn’t on the edge of my seat at others—but what stood out most for me, in terms of the direction, was Continue reading

A Portrait of Murder (1955 TVM)

“What a terrible way for a beautiful dame like that to die.”

vt Laura
US / 43 minutes / bw / CBS Dir: John Brahm Pr: Otto Lang Scr: Mel Dinelli Story: Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary Cine: Lloyd Ahern Cast: George Sanders, Dana Wynter, Robert Stack, Scott Forbes, Johnny Washbrook, Gloria Clark, Gordon Wynne, Robert Williams, Harry Carter.

Done as an episode of The 20th Century–Fox Hour, this is not so much a remake of Otto Preminger’s classic Laura (1944), which featured Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and Dorothy Adams, as a re-adaptation of Caspary’s novel for the screen. There’s a visible (and visual) awareness of Preminger’s version, but really this is its own entity. Much of the Continue reading

Crown v. Stevens (1936)

“Ten million people in London, and it had to be you.”

UK / 66 minutes / bw / Warner Bros. First National Dir: Michael Powell Scr: Brock Williams Story: Third Time Unlucky (1935) by Laurence Meynell Cine: Basil Emmott Cast: Beatrix Thomson, Patric Knowles, Glennis Lorimer, Reginald Purdell, Allan Jeayes, Frederick Piper, Googie Withers, Mabel Poulton, Billy Watts, Davina Craig, Morris Harvey, Bernard Miles.

The title might make us assume this is a courtroom drama, but in fact this quota quickie—an important stop along the road for director Michael Powell’s early career—is a distinctly noirish piece. In one specific respect it appears to be echoed in Raoul Walsh’s THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940), which had George Raft, Ann Sheridan, Humphrey Bogart and the immortal Ida Lupino as its stars.

Molly (Glennis Lorimer) and Chris (Patric Knowles) make a good team.

There are no comparable stars here, with the exceptions of Patric Knowles—who would soon go on to have a prominent Hollywood career, sometimes playing opposite his friend Errol Flynn—and of course Googie Withers (in a small role), plus Glennis Lorimer, whose short acting career (she died far too early) is eclipsed by the fact that she served as the young woman in the mocked-up version of Thomas Gainsborough’s portrait of Sarah Siddons used as an opening-credits logo by Gainsborough Studios.

Mamie (Mabel Poulton) dances close to Chris . . .

. . . but Joe Andrews (Billy Watts) is her true partner.

Naive paint-company clerk Chris Jansen (Knowles) believes himself in love with floozy Mamie (Poulton), and borrows an engagement ring on approval from Continue reading