Nightmare in the Sun (1965)

US / 79 minutes / color / Afilmco, Zodiac Dir & Pr: Marc Lawrence Scr: Ted Thomas, Fanya Lawrence Story: Marc Lawrence, George Fass Cine: Stanley Cortez Cast: John Derek, Aldo Ray, Arthur O’Connell, Ursula Andress, Sammy Davis Jr., Allyn Joslyn, Keenan Wynn, George Tobias, John Marley, Lurene Tuttle, Robert Duvall, Richard Jaeckel, Chick Chandler, Bill Challee (i.e., William Challee), Michael Petit (i.e., Michel Petit), James Waters, John Sebastian.

An oddball but interesting piece of rural noir that has languished in obscurity for a long while. There was a VHS release a couple of decades ago, but it seems to have had a very restricted distribution. Even so, it seems to be the only extant source for the movie.

It’d be nice to describe the obscurity as undeserved, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. If you go into the movie expecting it to obey the normal rules of narrative then you’re likely to be disappointed: judged in that context it’s fairly mediocre. If you’re happy simply to let Nightmare in the Sun take you wherever it chooses, then you may find it a more enjoyable viewing experience—if such a minor movie deserves such a pompous term. And it does, of course, have a pretty noteworthy cast.

John Derek as Steve

Thanks to a lift given him by a deaf trucker (Davis, in what must surely be the smallest role of his career), a hitchhiker called Steve (Derek) arrives in the small town of Calab, otherwise known as the butt end of nowhere. The friendly gas station proprietor, Hogan (Marley), informs him that the local sheriff don’t like him no hoboes, and advises him to get out of town while the going’s good.

Ursula Andress as Marsha

Steve is soon picked up by Marsha Wilson (Andress, whose marriage to Derek was by this time effectively over), ostentatiously unfaithful much younger wife of local bigshot and boozer Sam Wilson (O’Connell). She takes Steve back to the ranch and, enlisting the help of a swimming pool, seduces him with startling ease, bearing in mind how much he Continue reading

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

Lady Scarface (1941)

US / 66 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Frank Woodruff Pr: Cliff Reid Scr: Arnaud D’Usseau, Richard Collins Cine: Nicholas Musuraca Cast: Dennis O’Keefe, Judith Anderson, Frances Neal, Mildred Coles, Eric Blore, Marc Lawrence, Damian O’Flynn, Andrew Tombes, Marion Martin, Rand Brooks, Arthur Shields, Lee Bonnell, Harry Burns, Horace MacMahon, Huntley Gordon.

All that the cops have learned about the Slade Gang is that its leader is a guy called Slade. Little do they know that Slade isn’t a man, as they assume, but a ruthless dame (Anderson) . . . a ruthless dame with a scar on her face.

Judith Anderson as Slade.

When the gang travel from their home turf, New York, to pull off a heist at the Pierce company in Chicago, knocking off James A. Pierce (Gordon) in the process, Chicago cop Lieutenant Bill Mason (O’Keefe) is sent to New York to Continue reading

Convicted (1938)

US / 59 minutes / bw / Central, Columbia Dir: Leon Barsha Pr: Kenneth J. Bishop Scr: Edgar Edwards Story: “Face Work” (1936 Black Mask; vt “Angel Face”) by Cornell Woolrich Cine: George Meehan Cast: Charles Quigley, Rita Hayworth, Marc Lawrence, George McKay, Doreen MacGregor, Bill Irving, Eddie Laughton, Edgar Edwards, Phyllis Clare, Bob Rideout, Michael Heppell, Noel Cusack, Grant MacDonald, Don Douglas.

Convicted 1938 - 0 opener

Nightclub dancer Jerry Wheeler (Hayworth), billed as Mistress of the Rhumba (which of course Hayworth was!), is told by Mary Allen (MacGregor), fiancée of Jerry’s kid brother Chick (Edwards), that Chick is about to run away with the floozy Ruby Rose (Clare). Jerry goes to Ruby’s apartment and confronts her—unsuccessfully, of course, because Ruby has no heart of gold. It’s in this sequence that some of the movie’s best snappy lines are traded, such as Continue reading

Black Hand, The: True Story of a Recent Occurrence in the Italian Quarter of New York (1906)

US / c650ft (11 minutes) / bw / American Mutoscope & Biograph Dir: Wallace McCutcheon Pr: Francis J. Marion Cine: G.W. Bitzer Cast: Anthony O’Sullivan, Robert G. Vignola.

Supposedly based on a real case that took place in NYC, this is often cited as the earliest surviving gangster movie. There are no cast credits, though two of the actors have been identified.

Two Italian gangsters (O’Sullivan, Vignola), whose main occupation seems to be sitting around playing cards and getting schnockered, concoct a note to a local butcher, Angelo:

Black Hand - The threatening letter

The note.

Angelo doesn’t have the money so, a while later, Continue reading