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

Murder in the Blue Room (1944)

US / 60 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Leslie Goodwins Assoc Pr: Frank Gross Scr: I.A.L. Diamond, Stanley Davis Story: Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932 screenplay) by Erich Philippi Cine: George Robinson Cast: Anne Gwynne, Donald Cook, John Litel, Grace McDonald, Betty Kean, June Preisser, Regis Toomey, Nella Walker, Andrew Tombes, Ian Wolfe, Emmett Vogan, Bill MacWilliams (i.e., Bill Williams), Frank Marlowe.

The third Hollywood remake of a German movie, Geheimnis des Blauen Zimmers (1932), its two predecessors being Secret of the Blue Room (1933) and The Missing Guest (1938); I haven’t seen the latter.

This time the story—including its mystery elements—has been reworked quite extensively to make the movie something akin to a musical comedy.

The Three Jazzybelles: left to right, June Preisser as Jerry, Betty Kean as Betty, and Grace McDonald as Peggy.

The remake was initially meant as a Ritz Brothers vehicle, but fortunately that fell through. In their place we have The Three Jazzybelles (geddit?), a seemingly nonce team-up of Grace McDonald, Betty Kean and June Preisser. This trio offer enough fun and talent that I had a quick look around to see if there were perhaps more Three Jazzybelles movies. Continue reading

Nightmare (1942)

US / 81 minutes / bw / Universal Dir: Tim Whelan Pr & Scr: Dwight Taylor Story: Philip MacDonald Cine: George Barnes Cast: Diana Barrymore, Brian Donlevy, Henry Daniell, Eustace Wyatt, Arthur Shields, Gavin Muir, Stanley Logan, Ian Wolfe, Hans Conried, John Abbott, David Clyde, Harold de Becker, Ivan Simpson, Keith Hitchcock, Lydia Bilbrook, Pax Walker.

Nightmare 1942 - 0 opener

Gambler Dan Shane (Donlevy), homeless while waiting in London during the Blitz for the chance to take a boat home to sign up for the US armed forces, opportunistically enters the servants’ quarters of a house in Crescent Gardens that he believes to be empty, and purloins a couple of eggs for a meal.

But the house isn’t empty. Suddenly he’s confronted by the occupant, pretty young Leslie Stafford (Barrymore), who makes him a deal: if he’ll somehow remove the just-discovered body of her murdered husband, Captain Edgar Stafford (Daniell), from the house, she’ll Continue reading

Foreign Correspondent (1940)

US / 120 minutes / bw / Wanger, UA Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Pr: Walter Wanger Scr: Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton, Robert Benchley (plus several others uncredited) Story: Personal History (1935 memoir) by Vincent Sheean Cine: Rudolph Maté Special production effects: William Cameron Menzies Cast: Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, Herbert Marshall, George Sanders, Albert Basserman (i.e., Albert Bassermann), Robert Benchley, Edmund Gwenn, Eduardo Ciannelli, Harry Davenport, Martin Kosleck, Frances Carson, Edward Conrad, Ian Wolfe, Samuel Adams, Charles Wagenheim.

On the eve of war in Europe, Powers (Davenport), editor of the New York Morning Globe, is weary of the lackluster reports emanating from London and his correspondent there, Stebbins (Benchley). He demands that one of the paper’s crime reporters, Johnny Jones (McCrea), be sent to Europe to dig up dirt. First, though, he gives Johnny a posher moniker—”Huntley Haverstock”—and introduces him to one of the people he should interview once he’s in London, Stephen Fisher (Marshall), leader of the Universal Peace Party, which is seeking even at this late stage to avert the outbreak of hostilities.

Once in London, Johnny meets Stebbins and, on his way to a peace meeting at the Savoy Hotel that Powers has told him to cover, opportunistically shares a cab with Dutch diplomat Van Meer (Basserman), a key figure in the peace movement who’s scheduled to address the meeting. They arrive together but, when it comes to Van Meer’s turn to speak, Fisher, as the meeting’s chairman, announces that Van Meer has had to cancel his appearance because of urgent duties elsewhere. Though puzzled, Johnny soon forgets the matter because the substitute speaker is Fisher’s daughter Carol (Day), whom Johnny met in the foyer beforehand and for whom he has fallen hard.

His next assignment is to Amsterdam. As he waits outside the hall, he sees Van Meer approaching; however, the man is assassinated by a supposed press photographer (Wagenheim), who flees. Johnny gives chase, commandeering a car in which it proves that Carol’s a passenger, the driver being her friend, another journalist, Scott ffolliott (Sanders). They follow the getaway car out into the countryside, where it seems to disappear. Convinced the assassin and his accomplice have hidden in a nearby windmill, Johnny sends Carol and Scott for the cops, himself creeping into the structure and discovering that the plotters have secreted the heavily drugged Van Meer there; the man whom Johnny saw shot down was an impersonator (Adams). Johnny slips away from the windmill but, by the time he brings help, the bad guys have disappeared, taking Van Meer with them and leaving only a fake tramp (Kosleck), who claims the mill has been deserted all day.

Foreign Correspondent - 1 Johnny creeps into the windmill

Johnny (Joel McCrea) creeps into the windmill . . .

Foreign Correspondent - 2 He finds the drugged Van Meer there

. . . and finds the drugged Van Meer (Albert Bassermann) there.

Foreign Correspondent - 3 Johnny clings to the outside of the millJohnny (Joel McCrea) clings to the outside of the mill as he evades detection by the bad hats.

Back in Amsterdam, two men claiming to be cops call on Johnny in his room at the Hotel Europe. Smelling a rat, he climbs along Continue reading