Angel in Exile (1948)

vt Dark Violence
US / 86 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Allan Dwan, Philip Ford Scr: Charles Larson Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Carroll, Adele Mara, Thomas Gomez, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Grant Withers, Howland Chamberlin, Art Smith, Paul Fix, Tom Powers, Ian Wolfe, Elsa Lorraine Zepeda, Mary Currier.

Adele Mara as Raquel Chavez.

The movie sets out its stall early, declaring right there in the opening credits that

This is the story of a miracle. To those who do not believe in miracles, we can offer no explanation. We can only point out that the man to whom this one occurred . . . . didn’t believe in miracles either . . .

Like me, he probably didn’t know either why the first ellipsis was there. Whatever the truth about that, the stress on the “miracle” aspect of the plot—here and in most of the rare reviews—is probably why I overlooked Angel in Exile when drawing up the entry list for my Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: the movie isn’t a film noir, but it has sufficient noirish interest to have qualified it for inclusion in that book.

Spring 1939 in California, and Charlie Dakin (Carroll) is released after five years in stir for his part in a heist that netted a million dollars’ worth of gold dust. He’s met at the gate by Ernie Coons (Smith), his partner in the heist, who’s been keeping the loot safe all through Charlie’s enforced absence. Ernie reckons the two of them can now split the proceeds; trouble is, the other two participants in the heist, Max Giorgio (MacLane) and Carl Spitz (Fix), have a different idea.

John Carroll as Charlie (left) and Art Smith as Ernie.

Ernie’s cunning plan for laundering the gold is to buy for a song an abandoned mine in the Arizona mountains, stow the dust there, then pretend to dig it up. It’s a good plan, too, until Max and Carl turn up. Another problem is that a local land-management officer, J.H. Higgins (Chamberlin), swiftly guesses what’s going on and demands to be cut in as well.

A further complication is the involvement of the inhabitants of a local village Continue reading

Too Late for Tears (1949)

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Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
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vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.

I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.

And it felt like coming home.

Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading

Phantom Speaks, The (1945)

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What possessed him to commit murder?
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US / 69 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: John English Pr: Donald H. Brown Scr: John K. Butler Cine: William Bradford Cast: Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers, Charlotte Wynters, Jonathan Hale, Pierre Watkin, Marian Martin (i.e., Marion Martin), Garry Owen, Ralf Harolde, Doreen McCann, Joseph Granby, Bob Alden, Charles Sullivan.

The Phantom Speaks - closer

It begins, as so many stories do, in a park. Frankie Teal (Harolde) is there, having come in response to a note from his mistress:

“Frankie:
Harvey out of town. Meet me in the park at noon. Usual place. Important.
Betty.”

But the person who meets Frankie isn’t Betty at all: it’s Harvey Bogardus (Powers), Betty’s husband and a ruthless self-made man. He Continue reading