Wiretapper (1955)

US / 86 minutes / bw / Great Commission, Continental Dir: Dick Ross Scr: John O’Dea Story: Why I Quit Syndicated Crime (1951 autobiography) by James A. Vaus Jr. Cine: Ralph Woolsey Cast: Bill Williams, Georgia Lee, Douglas Kennedy, Richard Benedict, Stanley Clements, Paul Picerni, Ric Roman, Steve Conte, Phil Tead, Howard Wendell, Melinda Plowman, Dorothy Kennedy, Art Gilmore, Barbara Hudson, Evangeline Carmichael, Howard Wendell, Billy Graham.

Wiretapper 1955 - 0 opener

Although this movie is a biopic (and despite the intrusive moralizing), it stands also as quite a good noir: its central character—not so much a bad man as a weak one who’s a captive of his ingenuity—wades into the noir quicksand and discovers it’s far less easy than he thought to escape from it. The movie even begins with the noirish message that “For understandable reasons certain names and events have been altered to protect the lives and careers of actual persons.”

It’s toward the end of WWII and improbably pretty young Alice Park (Lee) is being kept alive by regular letters from her absent beau, a genius electrical engineer who’s working all over the country on assignments for the military; it must be because his service to the country is so invaluable that he seems never to be granted a furlough. In fact, as we immediately discover, the reason Jim hasn’t been coming home is that Continue reading

Company You Keep, The (2013)

US / 122 minutes / color (with brief bw in the form of archive and faux-archive footage) / Voltage, Wildwood, Brightlight, Kingsgate, TCYK, Sony Dir: Robert Redford Pr: Nicolas Chartier, Robert Redford, Bill Holderman Scr: Lem Dobbs Story: The Company You Keep (2003) by Neil Gordon Cine: Adriano Goldman Cast: Robert Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Julie Christie, Susan Sarandon, Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper, Terrence Howard, Stanley Tucci, Richard Jenkins, Anna Kendrick, Brendan Gleeson, Brit Marling, Sam Elliott, Stephen Root, Jacqueline Evancho, Gabrielle Rose.

Decades ago, during the horrific height of the Vietnam War, the Weathermen, or Weather Underground, were at the cutting edge of domestic protest against it; they were classified by the authorities as terrorists, although later judgement of their activities tends to be kinder. According to the backstory of this movie, one of their crimes was a bank robbery in which a security guard was shot dead; the perpetrators have been on the run ever since.

The movie starts with the arrest by the FBI of one of those perpetrators, Sharon Solarz (Sarandon), now the respected pillar-of-the-community mother of teenage kids; she has in fact been on her way to NYC to give herself up, but the FBI, having caught wind of this through wiretaps, decided to seek kudos by pre-empting her. Her friend from the old radical days, Billy Cusimano (Root), tries to enlist public-spirited lawyer Jim Grant (Redford) for her defense, but he declines, pleading that, recently widowed, he has to focus on rearing his 11-year-old daughter, Isobel “Izzy” (Evancho).

Izzy (Jacqueline Evancho) and her Uncle Daniel (Chris Cooper) confronted by the FBI.

Into the picture stumbles brattish local journalist Ben Shepard (LaBeouf) of the Albany Sun–Times, eager to make a name for himself. He manages to dig out evidence that “Jim Grant” is in fact Nick Sloan, wanted by the FBI as Continue reading