Behind the Mask (1946)

US / 68 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Phil Karlson, possibly augmented on bad days by William Beaudine Pr: Joe Kaufmann Scr: George Callahan Story: Arthur Hoerl, based on characters created by Walter B. Gibson and stories in Shadow Magazine Cine: William Sickner Cast: Kane Richmond, Barbara Reed (i.e., Barbara Read), George Chandler, Dorothea Kent, Joseph Crehan, Pierre Watkin, Robert Shayne, June Clyde, James Cardwell, Marjorie Hoshelle, Joyce Compton, Ed Gargan, Lou Crosby, Bill Christy, Nancy Brinckman, Dewey Robinson, Jean Carlin, Laura Stevens.

Kane Richmond as Lamont and Barbara Read as Margo

In the second of Monogram’s three installments of Shadow chronicles—the first was The Shadow Returns (1946)—the “humor” has been allowed to swallow up entirely any elements of suspense that might have been there.

On the eve of the marriage between Lamont (Richmond) and his secretary, Margo (Read), someone impersonating The Shadow knocks off blackmailing journalist Jeff “Man About Town” Mann of the Daily Bulletin (Cardwell) and—for no apparent reason—a Continue reading

The Strange Mrs. Crane (1948)

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You can’t leave your past behind!
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vt Beyond Reasonable Doubt; vt Guilty Woman
US / 62 minutes / bw / John Sutherland Productions, Pathe, Eagle–Lion Dir: Sherman Scott (i.e., Sam Newfield) Pr: John Sutherland Scr: Al Martin Story: Frank Burt, Robert Libott Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Marjorie Lord, Robert Shayne, Pierre Watkin, James Seay, Ruthe Brady, Claire Whitney, Mary Gordon, Chester Clute, Dorothy Granger, Charles Williams, Emmett Vogan.

A cracker of a minor film noir that seems to have passed under just about everybody’s radar—mine included, until now.

Jenny Hadley (Lord) used to be in partnership with Floyd Durant (Shayne) in a blackmailing racket: she’d get into compromising positions with married men (like Comstock in Chicago who “fell so hard for her he wouldn’t even go to the police”) while Floyd did the rest. As you’d expect, it wasn’t just in their extortioning game that Jenny and Floyd were partnered.

Marjorie Lord as the very respectable Mrs. Crane . . . but in reality
a femme fatale.

Now, though, Jenny has left her life of crime—and Floyd—behind, and has become ultra-respectable Mrs. Gina Crane, wife of the much older lawyer Clinton Crane (Watkin), who’s the pundits’ favorite to triumph in the upcoming state gubernatorial race.

When Clinton wins his primary, Gina (as we’ll call her for convenience) reminds him of his promise to Continue reading

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

Cage of Evil (1960)

US / 71 minutes / bw / Zenith, UA Dir: Edward L. Cahn Pr: Robert E. Kent Scr: Orville H. Hampton Story: Orville H. Hampton, Alexander Richards Cine: Maury Gertsman Cast: Ronald Foster, Pat Blair, Harp McGuire, John Maxwell, Preston Hanson, Doug Henderson, Hugh Sanders, Helen Kleeb, Robert Shayne, Owen Bush, Jack Tesler, Howard McLeod, Gregg Martell.

The voiceover narration of Inspector Daniel “Dan” A. Melrose (Maxwell) of the LAPD announces at the start of this movie that he’s going to tell the tale of how a cop—one of the most promising to have served under him—went bad. That cop is Detective Scott “Scotty” Harper (Foster), sent with his partner, Detective Murray Kearns (McGuire), to investigate a robbery at Delmar & Co., Wholesale Jewelers—a robbery during which a man was slugged: fatally so, it later proves.

Cage of Evil 0 - opener

Before it has become evident that this was an outside job, that things were set up by a fake burglar-alarm maintenance man, Harper has started smacking around Continue reading