Moontide (1942)

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Ida Lupino and Jean Gabin (and Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell!) in a strange piece of borderline noirishness!
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US / 95 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang (uncredited) Pr: Mark Hellinger Scr: John O’Hara, Nunnally Johnson (uncredited) Story: Moon Tide (1940) by Willard Robertson Cine: Charles Clarke, Lucien Ballard (uncredited) Cast: Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains, Jerome Cowan, Helene Reynolds, Ralph Byrd, William Halligan, Victor Sen Yung, Chester Gan, Robin Raymond, Arthur Aylesworth, Arthur Hohl, John Kelly, Ralph Dunn, Tully Marshall, Vera Lewis, Tom Dugan.

On Amazon.co.uk a commenter called Now Zoltan (I assume that’s not his real name) has complained that I omitted this movie, which he regards as quintessential to the genre (“a cornerstone noir, one of my favourites”), from my A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. He also complained about a typo as if it were an error of fact, which I thought was a bit unfair: 675,000 words of information-dense text? Of course you can expect a few typos—though hopefully not very many!

Anyway, I checked my entry for this movie in my personal catalogue and saw that I’d given it the NSH (noirish) rather than the NOIR classification. Since it stars Lupino, Gabin and Rains, three of my all-time favorite actors, and since Fritz Lang was involved, in the ordinary way I’d have bent over backward to include it in the book—i.e., to persuade myself it was sufficiently noir that it oughter go in.

An enigma on the back of a conundrum, and puzzling too.

It had been yonks since last I’d watched the movie, and to be honest I could remember little about it, so I decided to give it another whirl to see if I could work out why I’d decided to omit it. Here goes.

Jean Gabin as Bobo.

Bobo (Gabin) is a longshoreman, and ostensibly a good one, but he has a penchant for hard drinking. Tonight in the saloon called The Red Dot he’s well and truly hammered, to the dismay of his sidekick Tiny (Mitchell), who wants to Continue reading

Phantom of Chinatown (1940)

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“My name is Wong. James Lee Wong.”
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US / 62 minutes / bw / Monarch Dir: Phil Rosen Pr: Paul Malvern Scr: Joseph West Story: Ralph Bettinson Based on: characters created by Hugh Wiley in 12 stories published 1934–38 in Collier’s Magazine Cine: Fred Jackman Jr Cast: Keye Luke, Lotus Long, Grant Withers, Charles Miller, Huntley Gordon, Virginia Carpenter, John H. Dilson, Paul McVey, John Holland, Dick Terry, Robert Kellard, William Castello, Lee Tung Foo.

Not long after his return from a field trip to Mongolia, Dr. John Benton (Miller)—clearly labeled “Cyrus Benton” in a newspaper that we see—is giving a lecture at San Francisco’s Southern University about his expedition and the discovery he made in the Gobi Desert of the long-lost tomb of a powerful Ming emperor. He illustrates the lecture with the movie footage taken during the trip by photographer Charlie Frasier (Dilson), the very same guy as who’s now operating the projector for the lecture. Sitting in the front row are two further members of the expedition, Benton’s daughter Louise (Carpenter) and the pilot Tommy Dean (Kellard); the two are evidently sweet on each other. Helping the archaeologist is his secretary, Win Len (Long).

Tommy (Robert Kellard) and Louise (Virginia Carpenter), so much in love.

But one member of the expedition didn’t return, Benton explains to his audience. The backup pilot, Mason (Holland), was lost during a wild dust-storm and, although the party hunted for him, in the end they had to abandon the search.

Frasier (John H. Dilson) films everything.

Suddenly Benton grabs his throat and collapses. Soon the homicide cop Captain Sam Street (Withers) and his sidekick Detective Grady (McVey) are on the scene, but it looks as if Continue reading

Paris After Dark (1943)

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Love, death, betrayal and sacrifice in occupied Paris!
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US / 85 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Léonide Moguy Pr: André Daven Scr: Harold Buchman Story: Georges Kessel Cine: Lucien Andriot Cast: George Sanders, Philip Dorn, Brenda Marshall, Madeleine LeBeau, Marcel Dalio, Robert Lewis, Henry Rowland, Gene Gary, Curt Bois, Michael Visaroff, Ann Codee, Jean Del Val, Raymond Roe, John Wengraf.

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Paris is under Nazi occupation. Renowned surgeon Dr. André Marbel (Sanders) and his principal nurse, Yvonne Blanchard (Marshall), née Benoit, are secretly the leaders of an underground movement dedicated to disseminating anti-Nazi propaganda in the form of posters and tracts, especially targeting the workers in the nearby Beaumont car factory, repurposed by the Nazis to build tanks and armored cars. The effort is not without its dangers, as we discover in the movie’s opening moments, when young Victor Durand (Gary) is gunned down summarily by a German soldier for the crime of flyposting.

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Yvonne (Brenda Marshall).

We assume at first that André and Yvonne must be lovers, but not so: they’re fond friends, no more. Yvonne lives at home with her mother (Codee), her father Lucien (Del Val) and her kid brother Georges (Roe), who works in the Beaumont factory. Yvonne’s husband Jean (Dorn) was a pillar of the Resistance until his capture and imprisonment three years ago. Now he’s among a hundred sick and broken men being released from the labor camp, to be replaced—although this is not yet public knowledge—by five hundred healthy men from the Beaumont plant.

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Jean (Philip Dorn), just one of many sick and broken camp prisoners on the train home to Paris.

The Benoits are delighted by Jean’s return, Yvonne especially, but soon she and her family discover that Jean has changed drastically, thanks to torture and abuse. He now believes that Nazi triumph is inevitable and that the best way forward is to collaborate with the fascist scheisskopfs and just hope to be left in peace to live as well as one can. When he Continue reading

Youth Aflame (1944)

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Well, maybe getting a bit overheated . . . but in a thoroughly wholesome way!
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vt Hoodlum Girls
US / 61 minutes / bw / Jay-Dee-Kay, Continental Dir & Scr: Elmer Clifton Pr: J.D. Kendis Story: Helen Kiely Cine: Jack Greenhalgh Cast: Joy Reese, Warren Burr, Kay Morley, Michael Owen, Rod Rogers, Edwin Brian, Julie Duncan, Sheila Roberts, Edward Cassidy, Mary Arden, Duke Johnson, Johnny Duncan.

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I confess it was the variant title that sold me on this one.

Stuffy bank guard Mr. White (Cassidy), a widower, is single-handedly raising two daughters of a dangerous age. The younger, Katy (Reese), is prim, righteous and self-righteous; she and the equally wholesome all-American head boy of her high school, Frank Monaghan (Burr), have their cute little hearts set on each other. The older White girl, Laura (Morley), is the wild one; she has her heart set on small-time punk Al Simpson (Owen), who encourages her to drink alcohol in nightclubs:

Al: “Laura’s free and . . . well, just old enough for me.”

Today Al calls by to pick up Laura for a date and sees Mr. White cleaning one of his collection of guns. He tells Laura that, if she really loves him, she’ll steal the gun for him. Later in the movie, Al and his slimy sidekick Harry Ketchall (Brian)—who, in an important subplot, has a hankering after Katy and a Trumpean way of expressing it—will use the gun in an attempted mugging.

But back to the present. Soon after Al and Laura have left the White kitchen, teenage-liaison cop Amy Clark (Arden) arrives in it. She’s concerned that teenagers are going astray not just because of parental disinterest but through the lack of suitable social facilities. A local businessman has offered the use of an empty store should the kids want to set up a jive club; to set the joint a-jumpin’ they could even have a milk bar!

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Amy Clark (Mary Arden) wants to expand the local yoof’s access to milk bars.

The wholesome Katy thinks this is a fabulous idea. The wholesome Frank thinks this is a fabulous idea. Their wholesome pal Lester (Rogers), a self-styled intellectual who serves as a sort of walking encyclopedia, thinks this is a fabulous idea. The unwholesome Al and Laura have left by now, but we can guess they’d probably think this is an idea that sucks major-league, milk bar or no milk bar . . . although, as we see in due course, Laura sees in it the opportunity to tell Dad she’s off to knock back the nourishing milk at the jive club when really she’s sneaking away to Continue reading

Argyle Secrets, The (1948)

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A journo on the run after a double homicide! A femme fatale to (maybe) die for! My, whatever next?
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US / 64 minutes / bw / Film Classics Dir & Scr: Cyril Endfield (i.e., Cy Endfield) Pr: Alan H. Posner, Sam X. Abarbanel Story: The Argyle Album (1945 radio play in the CBS series Suspense) by Cy Endfield Cine: Mack Stengler Cast: William Gargan, Marjorie Lord, Ralph Byrd, Jack Reitzen, John Banner, Barbara Billingsley, Alex Fraser, Peter Brocco, George Anderson, Mickey Simpson, Alvin Hammer, Carole Donne, Mary Tarcai, Robert Kellard, Kenneth Greenwald, Herbert Rawlinson.

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Impressionistic or what?

The Herald’s veteran Washington correspondent Allen Pierce (Anderson) has been staying in an NYC hotel while preparing to spill the goods in the paper about the mysterious Argyle Album (“album” as in “dossier”). No one except Pierce and his secretary, Elizabeth Court (Billingsley), know what the Argyle Album actually is—no one but them and the bad guys, that is.

Pierce is admitted to hospital, where he’s tended by Dr. Van Selbin (Rawlinson). The city’s journos are, naturally, avid for an interview with him, but the only person he’ll see is Herald reporter Harry Mitchell (Gargan). He shows Harry a photocopy of the cover of the Argyle Album, but then suddenly falls ill and dies. Harry lets his photographer, “Pinky” Pincus (Hammer), into the room to guard the corpse and then Continue reading

Fig Leaf for Eve, A (1944)

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Her “exotic dancing” led her to ignominy and then to a fortune—but can she keep the latter?
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vt Desirable Lady; vt Flaming Girls; vt Hollywood Nights; vt Not Enough Clothes; vt Reckless Youth; vt Room for Love; vt Strips and Blondes
US / 69 minutes / bw / Carry Westen, Monogram Dir: Donald Brodie Pr: J. Richard Westen Scr: Elizabeth Hayter Story: Harry O. Hoyt Cine: Marcel Le Picard Cast: Jan Wiley, Phil Warren, Eddie Dunn, Janet Scott, Emmett Vogan, Betty Blythe, Edward Keane, Marilyn McConnell, Dick Rush, Selika Pettiford, Cheerio Meredith, Eleanor Freeman.

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You’d guess from the string of subtitles that this was an exploitationer, and in a way I suppose it is—or as near to an exploitationer as the Production Code would allow in 1944. It’s implied that the central character is an exotic dancer, but the clientele of the NYC club where she dances, the Club Cézanne (oooh, a French painter! how provocative! how highbrow!), seems made up to a great extent of Continue reading

Ninth Guest, The (1934)

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The ninth guest is . . . death!
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US / 67 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: R. William Neill Scr: Garnett Weston Story: The Invisible Host (1930) by Gwen Bristow and Bruce Manning, and The Ninth Guest (1930 play) by Owen Davis Cine: Benjamin Kline Cast: Donald Cook, Genevieve Tobin, Hardie Albright, Edward Ellis, Edwin Maxwell, Vincent Barnett, Helen Flint, Samuel Hinds, Nella Walker, Sidney Bracey.

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Using a public phone, an anonymous caller sends a telegram to each of eight individuals inviting them to a “small party” in their honor to be held next Saturday at 10pm at the Manville Penthouse. Who are the eight?

  • Dr. Murray Reid (Hinds), the ethically flexible dean of Raeburn University, who has just, on the instruction of corrupt politician
  • Tim Cronin (Ellis), dismissed a junior member of staff,
  • Henry Abbott (Albright), for being too damn’ radical. Cronin, aided by his beautiful lover, the sharp-witted shyster
  • Sylvia Inglesby (Flint), has just engineered the electoral downfall of rival
  • Jason Osgood (Maxwell) of the Good Government League by exposing his candidate, Burke (uncredited), as a thirty-years-ago felon.

The Ninth Guest - 2 fit into text if poss

  • Mrs. Margaret Chisholm (Walker) is a hypocritical society dame whose yea or nay can determine acceptance or rejection by the parasitic set, while
  • Jean Trent (Tobin) is a lovely and successful but somewhat shallow actress whose childhood sweetheart, author and journalist
  • James “Jim” Daley (Cook), saw through her some while ago but still loves her dearly.

And each of them, as we’ll discover, is guilty of . . . something!

The Ninth Guest - 1 Iffy academic Reid

Iffy academic Dr. Murray Reid (Samuel Hinds).

The eight invited guests—the ninth guest, as we’re soon enough told, is Death!—sure enough turn up at the penthouse at the appointed hour, finding it luxurious and well supplied for the promised party with one obvious exception: there’s no sign of Continue reading

Anna Lucasta (1949)

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A liberated young woman refuses to be the floozy her family wants her to be!
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US / 86 minutes / bw / Security, Columbia Dir: Irving Rapper Pr: Philip Yordan Scr: Arthur Laurents Story: Anna Lucasta (1944; play) by Philip Yordan Cine: Sol Polito Cast: Paulette Goddard, William Bishop, John Ireland, Oskar Homolka, Broderick Crawford, Will Geer, Gale Page, Mary Wickes, Whit Bissell, Lisa Golm, James Brown, Dennie Moore, Anthony Caruso.

Anna Lucasta - 0 opener

In the small town of Mayberry, Pennsylvania, ex-farmer Joe Lucasta (Homolka) rules his Polish–American family with a drunken fist—or tries to, anyway, his position of power having been largely usurped by his thuggish son-in-law Frank (Crawford), married to Joe’s daughter Stella (Wickes). Others in the household are Joe’s wife Theresa (Golm), his son Stanley (Bissell) and Stanley’s wife Katie (Page). Frank and his slavish follower Stanley are essentially layabouts and Stella’s a small-minded shrew. The most frequent line of dialogue employed by the family is “Aw, shuddup.”

Anna Lucasta - 7 Joe, in typically snarling mode

Joe (Oskar Homolka), in typically snarling mode.

The only sympathetic characters among the tribe are Katie, who seems an order of magnitude more intelligent than the others, and Continue reading

Wild Ones on Wheels (1962)

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Wild like broccoli is, like, wild, man!
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US / 83 minutes / bw / Charles Bros., Emerson Dir & Pr: Rudolph Cusumano Scr: Eugene Pollock, Joseph Thomas Cine: Ray Dennis Steckler Cast: Francine York, Edmund Tontini, Robert Blair, Jonathon Karle (i.e., Jonathan Karle), Diana George, Sydney L. Mason, Mike Cannon (i.e., Mike Kannon), Joseph Thomas, Ray Dennis Steckler, Louise Norris.

Wild Ones on Wheels - 0 opener

Duke Walker (Mason) has been in the pen for 12 years for his part in a truck heist that netted $240,000. The money has never been recovered, and the word is that Duke’s the only one who knows where it’s hidden.

Wild Ones on Wheels - 2 Hazel's brother Tom

Hazel’s brother Don (Joseph Thomas) — can he be trusted?

Duke’s very much younger wife Hazel (York) has waited for him all these years, working with her crippled brother Don (Thomas, who also co-scripted) in his diner. Just these past few months, however, she’s been canoodling with their lodger, Bill James (Blair). This may be why it has seemingly never occurred to her that it might be kind to do the ordinary thing and go pick Duke up at the prison gate; instead, they simply wait for him to arrive under his own steam. Since the diner’s on the edge of the Mojave Desert but otherwise in the middle of nowhere, he has to get there by hitchhiking.

Wild Ones on Wheels - 1 Hazel and Bill get friendly

Hazel (Francine York) and Bill (Robert Blair) get friendly.

If Hazel and Don seem lukewarm about the release of Duke, others are eagerly anticipating it. For a couple of years of his involuntary vacation Duke shared a cell with a crook by the name of Continue reading

Rogues Gallery (1944)

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The sassy crime reporter, her sidekick photographer
. . . and murder! Have we been here before?
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vt Here We Go Again
US / 57 minutes / bw / American Productions, PRC Dir: Albert Herman Pr: Donald C. McKean, Albert Herman Scr: John T. Neville Cine: Ira Morgan Cast: Frank Jenks, Robin Raymond, H.B. Warner, Ray Walker, Davison Clark, Bob Homans, Frank McGlynn, Pat Gleason, Edward Keane, Earle Dewey, Milton Kibbee, Gene Stutenoth, George Kirby, Norval Mitchell, John Valentine, Jack Raymond, Parker Gee.

Rogues Gallery - 0

One of the countless comedy mysteries that were churned out as B-movies in the 1930s and 1940s, this features a familiar pair of protagonists: the smartass reporter and her photographer sidekick.

Reporter Patsy Clark (Robin Raymond) and photographer Eddie Jones (Jenks)—not Eddie Parker, as sometimes listed—work for the Daily Express. Just to avoid confusion, this isn’t the London Daily Express but a newspaper—a newspaper seemingly somewhere in California, presumably not too far from the PRC lot. Their editor, Gentry (Keane), sends them out to cover the story of a new invention devised by one Professor Reynolds (Warner) under the auspices of the Emerson Foundation, whose head is John Foster (Clark). Even though Foster’s nephew Jimmie (Walker) is a journalist, Foster and his companions on the Emerson Foundation board don’t much hold with the breed, and so Foster’s butler Duckworth (Kirby) throws Patsy and Eddie out on their ears when they try to get in for an interview.

Rogues Gallery - 1 Patsy and Eddie try to put a bold face on their latest failure

Patsy (Robin Raymond) and Eddie (Frank Jenks) try to put a bold face on their latest failure. That thing on Patsy’s head is a hat, and it’s apparently glued there.

Their next attempt is to go to the Emerson Foundation labs hoping to Continue reading