Johnny Cool (1963)

US / 104 minutes / bw / Chrislaw, United Artists Dir & Pr: William Asher Scr: Joseph Landon Story: The Kingdom of Johnny Cool (1959) by John McPartland Cine: Sam Leavitt Cast: Henry Silva, Elizabeth Montgomery, Richard Anderson, Jim Backus, Joey Bishop, Brad Dexter, Wanda Hendrix, Hank Henry, Marc Lawrence, John McGiver, Gregory Morton, Mort Sahl, Telly Savalas, Joan Staley, Sammy Davis Jr., Katharine Bard, Steve Peck, Douglas Henderson, Frank Albertson, Mary Scott, Elisha Cook (i.e., Elisha Cook Jr), John Dierkes, Robert Armstrong, Michael Davis.

A deliberate evocation of the films noirs and gangster movies more usually associated with releases from two or three decades earlier, this adds glossy production values, a splendid score and plenty of star names. And yet, while highly watchable, it seems to lose much of those qualities—most obviously in the areas of direction and cinematography—that made its models so grittily absorbing.

Michael Davis as the young Giordano

In 1943 in Sicily, young Salvatore Giordano (Michael Davis) learns to kill as part of the Resistance fighting back against the fascists who killed his mother. Twenty years later, he’s a bandit chieftain, a Robin Hood figure with a huge price on his head . . . yet unlikely to be arrested because the local cops and politicians are on his side.

One day, though, as Giordano (Silva) attends a wedding, the authorities arrive in force and chase him off into the wild countryside. There they apparently put an end to the career of the great Salvatore Giordano.

Henry Silva as Johnny/Giordano

But no. Next we know he’s in chains in Rome, where Continue reading

Morton Thompson’s Not as a Stranger (1955)

vt Not as a Stranger
US / 136 minutes / bw / Kramer, UA Dir & Pr: Stanley Kramer Scr: Edna Anhalt, Edward Anhalt Story: Not as a Stranger (1954) by Morton Thompson Cine: Franz Planer Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra, Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Charles Bickford, Myron McCormick, Lon Chaney Jr., Jesse White, Harry Morgan, Lee Marvin, Virginia Christine, Whit Bissell, Jack Raine, Mae Clarke, William Vedder, John Dierkes, Jerry Paris, Juanita Moore.

Kramer’s first movie as a director has little noirish interest outside its cast, which is crowded out with major and minor contributors to the genre, such as Mitchum, Grahame, de Havilland, Sinatra, Crawford, Morgan, Marvin, Christine and a number of familiar faces among the extensive list of uncredited actors. Its source, Thompson’s novel, was a whopping medical drama exploring the same thematic territory that the UK author A.J. Cronin had mapped out a quarter of a century earlier in novels like The Citadel (1937).

Lucas “Luke” Marsh (Mitchum) is a medical student dedicated to the point of obsession in his studies at a big-city teaching hospital; unfortunately, his father Job (Chaney) has drunk all of Luke’s inheritance from his mother and, though Luke’s tutor Dr. Aarons (Crawford) and best pal Alfred “Al” Boone (Sinatra) lend him some money toward paying his fees, it’s only enough for the hospital bursar (Dierkes) to give him a 30-day extension before, unless he finds the rest, he’ll be expelled.

Not as a Stranger - Pic 1

Robert Mitchum as Luke Marsh with Gloria Grahame as the predatory widow Harriet Lang: “They always warn you about solitary drinking,” she purrs at him, “but they never tell you how to get people to stay up and drink with you.”

Shy Swedish–American nurse Kristina “Kris” Hedvigson (de Havilland) worships the ground Luke treads on; so far as he’s concerned, she’s just an older woman who’s kind enough to help him from time to time. (In fact, de Havilland was just a year or so older than the supposedly student-age Mitchum. Sinatra was actually older than de Havilland.) But, at a smorgasbord party that Kris throws, her friend Bruni (Christine) brags that Kris has extensive savings; soon, to the horror of Continue reading