Indestructible Man (1956)

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Is he insane, or is he just dead?
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US / 71 minutes / bw / CGK, Allied Artists Dir & Pr: Jack Pollexfen Scr: Vy Russell, Sue Bradford Cine: John Russell Jr Cast: Lon Chaney (i.e., Lon Chaney Jr), Casey Adams (i.e., Max Showalter), Marion Carr (i.e., Marian Carr), Ross Elliott, Stuart Randall, Kenneth Terrell, Robert Foulk, Marjorie Stapp, Rita Green, Robert Shayne, Roy Engle (i.e., Roy Engel), Peggy Maley, Madge Cleveland, Marvin Press, Joe Flynn, Eddie Marr.

To all intents and purposes, this is a fairly good second-tier film noir in the mold of The NAKED CITY (1948)—we keep expecting Max Showalter’s voiceover to inform us that “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them”—with the single exception that it has a daft scientific/technological premise, thanks to the presence of an idealistic maverick scientist who, in his quest of a cure for cancer, manages instead to resuscitate the dead.

First of all, the noirish setup:

After an armored-car robbery gone wrong, Charles “Butcher” Benton (Chaney) awaits execution on the morrow in the gas chamber at San Quentin. Visiting him is his shyster lawyer, Paul Lowe (Elliott), and it’s clear at once that they don’t enjoy an ordinary lawyer–client relationship.

Lowe (Ross Elliott) visits the Butcher (Lon Chaney Jr) in San Quentin.

Lowe tells the Butcher that he might as well tell him where the $600,000 proceeds of the robbery are hidden, because the Butcher’s not going to be able to spend the loot when he’s dead. But the condemned man is having none of that. He knows that his confederates in the holdup, Joe Marcelli (Terrell) and Squeamy Ellis (Press), squealed on him, which is why he is here, and he knows that Lowe betrayed him in the guise of defending him.

Joe Marcelli (Kenneth Terrell, left) and Squeamy Ellis (Marvin Press) hear on the radio the news of the Butcher’s death.

Butcher: “I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that none of you three crumbs are going to spend it.”
Lowe: “What about Eva? Don’t you owe her something? You tell me where the money is, I’ll see she gets your share.”
Butcher: “I’ve got a different idea. I’m going to kill you and Squeamy and Joe. Then I’ll take care of Eva myself.”
Lowe: “You thick-headed ape—you’re going to die tomorrow.”
Butcher: “Remember what I said. I’m gonna get ya—all three of ya.”
Lowe: “Even for you, Butcher, that’d be quite a trick. So long, dead man.”
Butcher (to Lowe’s retreating back): “Remember what I said. I’m gonna kill ya. All three of ya.”

In real life you’d laugh off a threat like that one in a debonair fashion, which is what Lowe tries to do; but in this class of movie you know 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

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