Grand Central Murder (1942)

US / 74 minutes / bw / MGM Dir: S. Sylvan Simon Pr: B.F. Zeidman Scr: Peter Ruric Story: Grand Central Murder (1939) by Sue MacVeigh Cine: George Folsey Cast: Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Samuel S. Hinds, Sam Levene, Connie Gilchrist, Mark Daniels, Horace McNally (i.e., Stephen McNally), Tom Conway, Betty Wells, George Lynn, Roman Bohnen, Millard Mitchell, Tom Dugan

Mida King (Dane), showgirl star of a string of Broadway hits, is a relentless gold digger: she lures men, milks them dry, then dumps them. One of the luckless men, Turk (McNally), refused to be dumped, and so Mida framed him for murder and watched him get sent up the river.

Patricia Dane as Mida King

But now, en route to New York for a reopening of his trial, Turk escapes the train on which he was being transported and, from the gloomy depths of Grand Central Station, phones Mida’s dressing room at the Harmony Theater on Broadway and informs her sweetly that he’s on his way to kill her.

Virginia Grey as Sue Custer and Van Heflin as Rocky Custer

Not unnaturally sent into a panic, Mida runs out on the second act of her current show and heads for Grand Central and the private railcar owned by her current fiancé, rich smoothie David V. Henderson (Daniels). Not so very long later, David and the longtime fiancée he dumped in Mida’s favor, Constance Furness (Parker), discover Mida’s corpse naked in the bathroom of the railcar.

But the railcar was locked from within.

And even the medical examiner can’t initially establish how Mida was killed.

 

Inspector Gunther (Levene) is soon on the job, and Continue reading

Homicide for Three (1948)

vt An Interrupted Honeymoon; vt Whispers in the Dark
US / 60 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: George Blair Assoc Pr: Stephen Auer Scr: Bradbury Foote, Albert DeMond Story: A Puzzle for Puppets (1944) by Patrick Quentin Cine: John MacBurnie Cast: Audrey Long, Warren Douglas, Grant Withers, Lloyd Corrigan, Stephanie Bachelor, George Lynn, Tala Birell, Benny Baker, Joseph Crehan, Sid Tomack, Dick Elliott, Eddie Dunn, John Newland, Billy Curtis, Patsy Moran.

It’s a very long time since last I read Patrick Quentin’s A Puzzle for Puppets (1944), but as I recall it was a perfectly respectable little mystery novel. Unfortunately the geniuses at Republic chose to adapt it as a comedy mystery. The result is something that’s undoubtedly (mildly) entertaining throughout but that hardly satisfies someone in need of a Quentin/Duluths fix.

A year ago Peter (Douglas) and Iris Duluth (Long) married, but Peter was called off to naval service before they could spend their wedding night together. Now he’s been given a 36-hour furlough and the Duluths are combing LA for a hotel room for consummation purposes—a room that’s hard to find because there’s a convention in town.

Audrey Long as Iris Duluth.

They finally get a billet at the ultra-swanky Sherwood Hotel because a guest there, Mrs. Rose (Bachelor), better known in the circus world as Madame Collette, lends them Continue reading

Bushwhackers, The (1952)

vt The Rebel
US / 69 minutes / bw / Realart Dir: Rod Amateau Pr: Larry Finley Scr: Thomas S. Gries, Rod Amateau Cine: Joseph F. Biroc Cast: John Ireland, Wayne Morris, Lawrence Tierney, Dorothy Malone, Lon Chaney (i.e., Lon Chaney Jr), Myrna Dell, Frank Marlowe, Bill Holmes, Jack Elam, Bob Wood, Charles Trowbridge, Norman Leavitt, Stuart Randall, George Lynn, Gordon Wynne (i.e., Gordon Wynn), Gabriel Conrad, Eddie Parks.

Bushwhackers - 0 opener

Noir Westerns are a somewhat rare breed, although not as rare as perhaps one might at first assume: The OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943), PURSUED (1947), BLOOD ON THE MOON (1948), The TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (1948), RIMFIRE (1949), SPECIAL AGENT (1949), COLORADO TERRITORY (1949), The CAPTURE (1950), MAN IN THE SHADOW (1957), The BADLANDERS (1958) and NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959) are examples from the “classic” era, while RED ROCK WEST (1992) is notable among the more recent offerings in the subgenre. The Bushwhackers, although very much a borderline piece of noir, is obviously of considerable genre interest—not just because it has a noirish cast to die for but also because it’s full of noirish memes: corruption of the local law authorities, a ruthless local kingpin who will stop at nothing, an equally ruthless femme fatale, a plucky newspaper editor who finally speaks truth to power, a craven cop, a hero who seeks to avoid violence but is eventually driven to it . . . The list could go on.

Jefferson “Jeff” Waring (Ireland) swears to himself at the end of the Civil War that “I’ll never raise a gun against a man again.” Disgusted by the ongoing struggle in the South, he heads west, finally finding himself in butt-end-of-nowhere small town Independence, Missouri, where he’s “adopted” by Continue reading

Criminals Within (1943)

US / 67 minutes / bw / PRC Dir: Joseph Lewis (i.e., Joseph H. Lewis) Pr: E.B. Derr Scr: Edward Bennett Story: Arthur Hoerl Cine: Arthur Martinelli Cast: Eric Linden, Ben Alexander, Don Curtis, Ann Doran, Constance Worth, Dudley Dickerson, Bernice Pilot, I. Stanford Jolley, George Lynn, Robert Frazer, Boyd Irwin, Dennis Moore.

Professor Carroll (Lynn) is one of a number of scientists working on a new high explosive for Military Intelligence. When he’s murdered, attention turns to his brother Greg (Linden), a trickster corporal at Army base Camp Madison. The base appears to be riddled with spies, among them Alma Barton (Worth), who runs the commissary and who sneaks messages out to Fifth Columnists via crooked cobbler Carl Flegler (Jolley) in the trick heel of one of her shoes. (Although it’s nowhere stated which country the spies work for, by implication they’re Nazis.)

A list of the names and addresses of the scientists who’ve been working on the explosive goes missing from the office of Captain Bryant (Frazer), and Greg’s put in the guardhouse on suspicion of having stolen it; he breaks out and, when Bryant’s found dead, it’s assumed Greg’s the killer. With the help of his good buddy Sergeant Paul (Alexander), Greg escapes the base, finds Alma murdered, hooks up with reporter Linda (Doran), exposes the nest of vipers, dodges death and bullets, and discovers his “good buddy” isn’t everything he seems.

Director Lewis would of course go on to helm some of noir’s classics, like MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945), GUN CRAZY 1949), CRY OF THE HUNTED (1953) and The BIG COMBO (1955). This is a barebones production with a clumsy script and some mediocre acting, and it seems Lewis’s heart wasn’t really in it (there have even been suggestions that, despite the screen credit, he did not in fact direct it — that it was a different Joseph Lewis). Dickerson and Pilot play, respectively, Camp Madison’s gofer Sam Dillingham and Linda’s housemaid Mamie, Sam’s girlfriend; in the offensive stereotyping Hollywood then thought was comical, they’re portrayed as simple-minded but good-hearted buffoons. Linden’s fairly good and Doran turns in a highly appealing performance, while Worth’s sizzle is timeless. In one odd scripting moment, Linda refers to Greg as “about six feet tall” when it’s perfectly obvious to all that Greg/Linden is actually quite slight.

The movie was made in 1941 but held back for two years, presumably—as with a few others of its era—for fear of offending any Nazi sympathizers in the audience.

On Amazon.com: Criminals Within