The Unseen (1945)

vt Her Heart in Her Throat; vt Fear
US / 80 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Lewis Allen Assoc Pr: John Houseman Scr: Hagar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, Ken Englund Story: Midnight House (1942; vt Her Heart in Her Throat) by Ethel Lina White Cine: John F. Seitz Cast: Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall, Phyllis Brooks, Isobel Elsom, Norman Lloyd, Mikhail Rasumny, Elisabeth Risdon, Tom Tully, Nona Griffith, Richard Lyon, Mary Field, Sarah Padden.

In the small New England town of New Bristol, the imposing pile at 11 Crescent Drive was boarded up twelve years ago after its owner, Commodore Tygarth, died. Now his much younger widow (Elsom), is planning to open “The Commodore’s Folly” and put it on the market.

Sarah Padden as Alberta.

One rainy night an old woman, Alberta (Padden), sees a light moving behind the boards. Pausing to investigate, she drops a watch—a treasured gift from her mother. Before she can find it on the ground, a man rushes out of the house and pursues her into nearby Salem Alley, where he strangles her. Little does he know he’s been observed . . .

Next day Continue reading

snapshot: The Lady who Dared (1931)

vt The Devil’s Playground

US / 57 minutes / bw / First National, Vitaphone Dir: William Beaudine Scr: Forrest Halsey, Kathryn Scola Story: Kenneth J. Saunders Cine: Tony Gaudio Cast: Billie Dove, Sidney Blackmer, Conway Tearle, Judith Vosselli, Cosmo Kyrle Bellew, Ivan Simpson, Lloyd Ingraham, Mathilde Comont.

Billie Dove as Margaret.

Charlie Townsend (Blackmer), US Vice-Consul to an unidentified South American country, takes his lovely wife Margaret (Dove) for granted, deserting her at every turn in favor of his duties. He doesn’t notice that, when internationally renowned big-game hunter Jack Norton (Tearle) arrives in town, there’s immediate electricity between Margaret and the newcomer.

Sidney Blackmer as Charlie.

Also in town is a top US Treasury Department agent, Farrell (Ingraham), who’s keen to Continue reading

snapshot: Date Bait (1960)

US / 72 minutes / bw / Marathon, Filmgroup Dir & Pr: O’Dale Ireland Scr: Robert Slaven, Ethelmae Wilson Page Story: O’Dale Ireland, Robert Slaven, Ethelmae Wilson Page Cine: Larry Raimond Cast: Gary Clarke, Marla Ryan, Richard Gering, Carol Dawne, Jon Lindon, Gabe De Lutri (i.e., John Garwood), Michael Bachus, Mildred Miller, Steve Ihnat.

A rock’n’roll exploitationer that’s light on the exploitation—unless the sight of baby doll pajamas floats your boat—and indeed on the rock’n’roll (despite Reggie Perkins singing the title song, “Date Bait,” and Johnny Faire singing “Purple Pleated Bermuda’s” [sic]), yet works rather well as a minor, borderline film noir.

Teenagers Danny Logan (Clarke) and Sue Randall (Ryan) are so in love you can practically hear them squeak when they walk. They hang out and dance at the burger’n’jive joint Sanchio Pancho’s (I know, but that seems to be the intended spelling), which is where all the cool kids in this particular Continue reading

snapshot: Berlin Correspondent (1942)

US / 70 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Eugene Forde Pr: Bryan Foy Scr: Steve Fisher, Jack Andrews Cine: Virgil Miller Cast: Virginia Gilmore, Dana Andrews, Mona Maris, Martin Kosleck, Sig Ruman, Kurt Katch, Erwin Kalser, Torben Meyer, William Edmunds, Hans Schumm, Leonard Mudie, Hans von Morhart, Curt Furberg, Henry Rowland, Christian Rub, Walter Sande.

Dana Andrews as Bill.

November 1941, and US radio journalist Bill Roberts (Andrews) broadcasts regular reports home from Berlin. Despite being heavily scrutinized by the Nazi censors, these contain coded messages telling the truth about how (badly) things are faring in Germany, and revealing Nazi plans. At the New York Chronicle Bill’s colleague Red (Sande) interprets the codes and writes the stories, to the perplexity of the Gestapo.

Erwin Kalser as Rudolf Hauen.

Bill has been getting his information at a philatelical shop from elderly Rudolf Hauen (Kalser), who has picked it up over the supper table from Continue reading

My Blood Runs Cold (1965)

|
As well it might!
|

US / 104 minutes / bw / William Conrad Productions, Warner Bros.–First National Dir & Pr: William Conrad Scr: John Mantley Story: John Meredyth Lucas Cine: Sam Leavitt Cast: Troy Donahue, Joey Heatherton, Barry Sullivan, Nicolas Coster, Jeanette Nolan, Russell Thorson, Jean Paul King, Ben Wright, Shirley Mitchell, Howard McNear, Howard Wendell, John Holland, John McCook, Linda Meiklejohn.

Julie Merriday (Heatherton), headstrong daughter of the richest and most powerful man in the area, is speeding along the road one day with boyfriend Harry Lindsay (Coster) when she nearly kills motorcyclist Ben Gunther (Donahue). After being pulled out of the ditch, Ben recognizes her as Barbara, his long-lost love—really long-lost, because Barbara Merriday died a century ago giving birth to the child ancestral to the current Merriday brood.

Julie’s father Julian (Sullivan) is brutally possessive and controlling. At first he welcomes the idea that Continue reading

Jennifer (1953)

|
Is the truth about a young woman’s disappearance being covered up? Ida Lupino thinks maybe so . . .
|

US / 73 minutes / bw / Monogram Dir: Joel Newton Pr: Berman Swarttz Scr: Richard Dorso, Bernard Girard Story: Virginia Myers Cine: James Wong Howe Cast: Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, Robert Nichols, Mary Shipp, Ned Glass, Kitty McHugh, Russ Conway, Lorna Thayer, Matt Dennis.

Thirtysomething secretary Agnes Langley (Lupino) eagerly accepts a job as caretaker of the old Gale estate outside Montecito, somewhere within striking distance of Santa Barbara, Southern California.

Ida Lupino as Agnes.

According to Lorna Gale (Shipp), the family member who shows Agnes round the mansion and interviews her for the post, the previous caretaker, Lorna’s cousin, Jennifer Brown, simply upped and disappeared one day. Agnes isn’t Continue reading

Fly-by-Night (1942)

|
On the run for a murder he didn’t commit!
|

vt Dangerous Holiday
US / 72 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Robert Siodmak Pr: Sol C. Siegel Scr: Jay Dratler, F. Hugh Herbert Story: Ben Roberts, Sidney Sheldon Cine: John Seitz Cast: Richard Carlson, Nancy Kelly, Albert Basserman, Miles Mander, Walter Kingsford, Martin Kosleck, Marion Martin, Oscar O’Shea, Mary Gordon, Edward Gargan, Clem Bevans, Arthur Loft, Michael Morris, Cy Kendall, Nestor Paiva, John Butler.

An escapade conceived very much in the style of Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps (1935), with which movie it shares a number of plot points. Again we have a hero who has to go on the run because suspected of murdering a man who has sought his aid, and again our hero ropes in an unwilling woman as accomplice (with romance as inevitable, further down the line, as in a Hallmark Christmas movie), and again there’s an espionage conspiracy to be foiled.

To say that Siodmak, whose second Hollywood movie this was, was no Hitchcock is the obvious trite comment, and a foolish one—as foolish as saying, equally truthfully, that Hitchcock was no Siodmak. The two directors each had his own strengths, and this one plays to Siodmak’s. The comedy and tension are very well integrated—that I laughed aloud several times didn’t mean I wasn’t on the edge of my seat at others—but what stood out most for me, in terms of the direction, was Continue reading

Night to Remember, A (1942)

|
Loretta Young and Brian Aherne crack a murder case and some not very good jokes!
|

vt Number Thirteen Gay Street; vt The Frightened Stiff
US / 88 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Richard Wallace Pr: Samuel Bischoff Scr: Richard Flournoy, Jack Henley Story: The Frightened Stiff (1942) by Kelley Roos Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Loretta Young, Brian Aherne, Jeff Donnell, William Wright, Sidney Toler, Gale Sondergaard, Donald MacBride, Lee Patrick, Don Costello, Richard Gaines, Blanche Yurka, James Burke, Harry Harvey, Cy Kendall, George Lloyd, George Chandler.

There’s a very famous movie called A Night to Remember. Directed by Roy Ward Baker in 1958, with a screenplay by Eric Ambler, it stars Kenneth More with Geoffrey Bayldon, Honor Blackman, Anthony Bushell, John Cairney, Sean Connery, Kenneth Griffith, Andrew Keir, Frank Lawton, David McCallum, Alec McCowen, Laurence Naismith, Russell Napier, Harold Siddons, Jack Watling and a horde of others, and is regarded as the best extant movie tracing the final hours of the “unsinkable” Titanic, which sank in April 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

This is not that movie.

Nor is it the inauguration of a comedy-crime series to rival the THIN MAN, although there are sufficient resemblances in the setup to make one speculate that this was the intention; here, though, Continue reading

Night of Evil (1962)

|
A moron’s act of violence initiates a years-long cycle of tragedy!
|

US / 83 minutes / bw / Galbreath, Astor, Sutton Dir & Pr: Richard Galbreath Scr: Louis Perino Story: Lou Perry (i.e., Louis Perino) Cine: David Holmes Cast: Lisa Gaye, William Campbell, Lynn Bernay (i.e., Lynette Bernay), Burtt Harris, Sammy Mannis, Earl Wilson, Remo Pisani, George Diestel, Don De Leo, Joe Garri, Patricia Dahling, Eric Anthony Pregent, Gary Gage, Carlton Kadell, Maurice Copeland, Barbara Bricker, David Dunstone.

A Z-movie that punches very far above its weight in most respects, this somehow transcends its hackneyed trope of a young woman spiralling inexorably downward into degradation.

Its introduction doesn’t inspire much confidence that this might be the case, consisting as it does of the cliché of a po-faced narrator (Wilson) telling us earnestly that the movie’s contents are, despite the promises of sensationalism that lured us into the cinema, both serious and high-minded:

The picture you are about to witness is based on newspaper and court records. It is a true story. To protect the innocent, some of the names, places and incidents have been changed.

It all began in the fall of 1957 . . .

Dixie Ann Dikes (Gaye), approaching 17 and living with foster parents Cora and Edgar Watkins (both uncredited), has a nice young boyfriend in Kent Fitzroy (uncredited).

Lisa Gaye as Dixie.

However, football jock Johnny (Harris) believes that, as the star of their high school team, he’s entitled to first dibs on the pretty girls. Continue reading

Mysterious Doctor, The (1943)

|
How did the Headless Man choose his victims?
|

US / 57 minutes / bw / Warner–First National Dir: Ben Stoloff Scr: Richard Weil Cine: Henry Sharp Cast: John Loder, Eleanor Parker, Bruce Lester, Lester Matthews, Forrester Harvey, Matt Willis, Frank Mayo, Phyllis Barry, David Clyde, Clyde Cook, Harold De Becker, Crauford Kent, Leo White.

One foggy night in darkest Cornwall a peddler (De Becker), terrified by local legends of the Headless Man—the ghost of tin miner Black Morgan, who lost his head in a dispute over the ownership of the Wickham Mine—conquers his fears enough to give a lift to a stranger, Dr. Frederick Holmes (Matthews), ostensibly on a walking tour of the English Southwest. (And a very rapid if rather aimless walker, be it noted: we later discover he was in Camborne, in Dorset, the night before, and St. Ives, in Cornwall, the night before that!)

Holmes hitches a lift from the peddler (Harold De Becker).

The peddler drops Holmes off at the Running Horse Inn in the village of Morgan’s Head. There the stranger discovers that the publican, Simon Tewkesbury (Mayo), wears a hangman-style leather hood at all times because, years ago, a stick of dynamite went off in his face. (The hood is going to play an important, albeit outlandishly implausible, part in the plot later on.)

 The foreboding figure of barman Simon Tewkesbury (Frank Mayo).

Holmes also discovers that the locals are suspicious of and resentful of visitors—

Simon: “Us folks in Morgan’s Head don’t like to be laughed at, Dr. ’Olmes. Especially by strangers we don’t.”

—unless said strangers buy drinks all round, a trick taught to Holmes by village tosspot Hugh Penrhyn (Harvey). Those drinks are our first sign that this movie, though set in England, was a US product: the beers come Continue reading