Angel in Exile (1948)

vt Dark Violence
US / 86 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: Allan Dwan, Philip Ford Scr: Charles Larson Cine: Reggie Lanning Cast: John Carroll, Adele Mara, Thomas Gomez, Barton MacLane, Alfonso Bedoya, Grant Withers, Howland Chamberlin, Art Smith, Paul Fix, Tom Powers, Ian Wolfe, Elsa Lorraine Zepeda, Mary Currier.

Adele Mara as Raquel Chavez.

The movie sets out its stall early, declaring right there in the opening credits that

This is the story of a miracle. To those who do not believe in miracles, we can offer no explanation. We can only point out that the man to whom this one occurred . . . . didn’t believe in miracles either . . .

Like me, he probably didn’t know either why the first ellipsis was there. Whatever the truth about that, the stress on the “miracle” aspect of the plot—here and in most of the rare reviews—is probably why I overlooked Angel in Exile when drawing up the entry list for my Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: the movie isn’t a film noir, but it has sufficient noirish interest to have qualified it for inclusion in that book.

Spring 1939 in California, and Charlie Dakin (Carroll) is released after five years in stir for his part in a heist that netted a million dollars’ worth of gold dust. He’s met at the gate by Ernie Coons (Smith), his partner in the heist, who’s been keeping the loot safe all through Charlie’s enforced absence. Ernie reckons the two of them can now split the proceeds; trouble is, the other two participants in the heist, Max Giorgio (MacLane) and Carl Spitz (Fix), have a different idea.

John Carroll as Charlie (left) and Art Smith as Ernie.

Ernie’s cunning plan for laundering the gold is to buy for a song an abandoned mine in the Arizona mountains, stow the dust there, then pretend to dig it up. It’s a good plan, too, until Max and Carl turn up. Another problem is that a local land-management officer, J.H. Higgins (Chamberlin), swiftly guesses what’s going on and demands to be cut in as well.

A further complication is the involvement of the inhabitants of a local village Continue reading

Too Late for Tears (1949)

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Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
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vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.

I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.

And it felt like coming home.

Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading

Black Widow (1954)

US / 95 minutes / color / TCF Dir & Pr & Scr: Nunnally Johnson Story: Black Widow (1952; vt Fatal Woman) by Patrick Quentin Cine: Charles G. Clarke Cast: Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger, Cathleen Nesbitt, Skip Homeier, Hilda Simms, Mabel Albertson, Harry Carter.

Black Widow 1954 - 0 great use of CinemaScope

A review of this movie that I read a little while ago at the The Passing Tramp blog made me go and look up my film noir encyclopedia to see why I’d left it out. I can see that the decision to do so was a conscious one: I give the movie enough of a mention in the entry on The BLACK WIDOW (1951) to remind me that I watched it and decided (rightly) that its noirish interest was too borderline for me to grant it any more of my precious printed space. Here, though, where the space is limitless . . .

Black Widow 1954 - 1 the encounter at Lottie's party

Peter (Van Heflin) encounters Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner) at a neighbor’s party.

Peter Denver (Heflin)—for some reason Johnson changed the name of author Quentin’s series character Peter Duluth—is a successful Broadway producer; his wife Iris (Tierney) is a celebrated Broadway star. Unfortunately she has to go off to New Orleans for a few weeks to tend to her sick mom. At the airport she makes him swear that he’ll go that night to the party being thrown by Lottie Marin (Rogers), their upstairs neighbor and the star of Peter’s latest hit production, Star Rising. Peter obeys the letter of Iris’s law; seconds after arriving at the party, though, Continue reading