Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 5
Cornered (1945) - full review!
Deadline at Dawn (1946) - the only film directed by Harold Clurman is a curious murder mystery that ends rather abruptly (per the deadline), and improbably. Based on a novel by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich), the screenplay was written by Clifford Odets. The drama’s terrific cast also features quite a number of familiar character actors in uncredited roles. Bill Williams plays a somewhat dimwitted naive sailor that needs to make a 6 AM bus to get back from leave, but his memory of the previous night’s events are so sketchy that he believes it’s possible he murdered a woman (Lola Lane) whose $1,400 he finds in his pocket. Susan Hayward plays a dime-a-dancer that (reluctantly, at first) agrees to help him try to find out what really happened. Paul Lukas plays a cabdriver that soon joins them, and it’s learned that the dead woman was a blackmailer. Joseph Calleia plays the murdered woman’s gangster brother while Osa Massen, Jerome Cowan and Constance Worth play victims, and obviously suspects; Marvin Miller plays another possible perpetrator, a blind pianist. Joe Sawyer plays an ex-ballplayer drunk that was friends with the deceased. Among the uncredited actors that appear are Al Bridge, William Challee, Ralph Dunn, Dick Elliott, Edward Gargan, Emory Parnell, Jason Robards Sr. and (reportedly) Byron Foulger.
Desperate (1947) - Anthony Mann directs this average noir featuring Steve Brodie, as Steve Randall, and his wife Anne (Audrey Long) on the run from racketeer Walt Radak (Raymond Burr) and thugs (William Challee and Freddie Steele, primarily), and even the police. Harry Essex wrote the screenplay and Martin Rackin provided the additional dialogue for the Mann-Dorothy Atlas story. With a beautiful, young (and, as he learns later, pregnant) wife, ex-G.I.-trucker – and apparently ‘desperate’ for money – Brodie is lured into taking a high paying job without knowing or suspecting that his truck is needed for a fur heist by Radak’s gang (this is just the first of the many bad decisions he makes throughout the drama). During the robbery, Steve tips a police officer – who’s killed during the ensuing shootout – and Radak’s kid brother Al (Larry Nunn, uncredited) is shot and apprehended for the crime. Steve is beaten by Radak’s thugs and told to confess in order to free Al else they’ll harm his wife. But Brodie escapes and he and Anne flee together, especially since Radak anonymously tips the police that Steve was part of their gang, from small town to small town, while Radak tracks him using a private eye (Douglas Fowley). When Steve and Anne briefly settle at her Aunt & Uncle’s house (Ilka Grüning and Paul E. Burns), he turns himself in to a police detective (Jason Robards Sr.), who releases him in order to use the couple as bait to catch the racketeers. Dick Elliott and Cy Kendall are among those who appear uncredited.
Armored Car Robbery (1950) - Richard Fleischer (Design for Death (1947)) directed this taut noir scripted by Earl Felton and Gerald Drayson Adams from a story by Robert Leeds and Robert Angus. It features Charles McGraw as Police Lieutenant Jim Cordell and William Talman as Dave Purvis, the daring and smooth mastermind behind the titled crime. Adele Jergens plays a two-timing stripper named Yvonne LeDoux: Purvis’ gal is also the wife of ‘Benny’ McBride (Douglas Fowley), who joins Purvis and two others – Steve Brodie as Al Mapes and Gene Evans as ‘Ace’ Foster – in the heist. It takes place outside of a baseball stadium; Cordell’s partner (James Flavin) is shot and dies later at the hospital, so he’s assigned a new partner, rookie Danny Ryan (Don McGuire). McBride is shot too, but the crooks manage to get through a roadblock to their hideout where Purvis ends up killing the already injured McBride anyway. The police track the criminals to the docks where Foster is shot; Mapes escapes in the boat while Purvis slips away with the yet-to-be-divided-up loot. Police work enables Cordell and Ryan to find and then monitor Ms. LeDoux. When Mapes finds her too, the police apprehend him, pressuring him and then using his identity – Ryan pretends to be Mapes with LeDoux – to eventually get to Purvis.
Backfire (1950) - Vincent Sherman directed this convoluted story – by Larry Marcus, who collaborated on the screenplay with Ben Roberts and Ivan Goff (Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)) - told almost entirely using flashback sequences. Bob Corey (Gordon MacRae) tries to unravel the mystery surrounding the disappearance of his friend Steve Connolly (Edmond O’Brien) with the help of a nurse, Julie Benson (Virginia Mayo, who's sadly not much more than window dressing until the end of this one) and his mortician friend Ben Arno (Dane Clark). The three men were Army buddies, with Corey and Connolly planning to buy a postwar ranch. But Corey’s war injuries, which required 13 surgeries to repair, inhibits it and Connolly’s sordid past leads him back into dealing with shady characters – gamblers Solly Blayne (Richard Rober) and the mysterious Lou Walsh – for money, resulting in several murders and a love triangle; Viveca Lindfors plays Lysa Radoff. Ed Begley plays police Captain Garcia. MacRae’s wife Sheila has a minor role. Others that also appear include Monte Blue, Ida Moore and John Ridgely (briefly); John Dehner and Charles Lane are uncredited.
Dial 1119 (1950) - in lieu of “dial 911” (perhaps the titled number used to be dialed for emergencies, as the story suggests). Gerald Mayer directed this crime drama, written by Hugh King and Don McGuire (Tootsie (1982)); John Monks Jr. wrote the screenplay. Marshall Thompson plays insane asylum escapee Gunther Wyckoff, who three years earlier was convicted of a murder in Terminal City but was ‘saved’ from the electric chair by Dr. Faron (Sam Levene). Upon his escape, he returns to Terminal City seeking the doctor, but finds himself waiting in a second story bar overlooking the entrance to Faron’s office. After killing the bartender (William Conrad) that recognizes his mug shot in the bar’s TV news-story and had just dialed 1119, Wyckoff takes its five remaining patrons hostage. He then phones his old nemesis, Police Captain Keiver (Richard Rober), giving him just 25 minutes until 9 PM to deliver Dr. Faron there, or else he’ll kill everyone inside: Virginia Field plays barfly Freddy; Andrea King is Helen, courted for a tryst by the much older married man Earl (Leon Ames); Keefe Brasselle plays the busboy, whose wife is at the hospital about to deliver a baby, and James Bell plays just ‘retired’ newspaperman ‘Harry’ Barnes. Frank Cady appears uncredited as a man on the street interviewee of a television announcer (Dick Simmons) whose broadcasts Wyckoff monitors during the ordeal. Barbara Billingsley also appears very briefly as a news editor’s secretary as does Paul Picerni, who plays a police detective-interpreter.
The Phenix City Story (1955) - is about an Alabama town in which the purveyors of vice ruled a small community for decades, using violence to protect their trade and profits, bribed police and threatened those that would disrupt their corrupt businesses. It begins with a prologue by broadcast journalist Clete Roberts, who interviews many of the real persons of Phenix City, setting the stage for the dramatization that follows, which was directed by Phil Karlson. Dan Mainwaring and Crane Wilbur wrote the screenplay. John McIntire plays Albert Patterson, a lawyer born and raised in the town that – inspired by events that occur after his son, also a lawyer, John (Richard Kiley) returns from postwar Germany – eventually gets fed up enough to run for State Attorney General, to clean up the mess. As the prologue describes, it’s Albert Patterson’s murder that finally leads to a series of trials (not depicted in the drama) in which his son John prosecutes the guilty. Kathryn Grant plays a card dealer that works on the inside for the Pattersons to help them gather evidence against Rhett Tanner (Edward Andrews) and his thugs, including John Larch as Clem Wilson. James Edwards plays Zeke Ward, whose child is killed and tossed on the Pattersons’ lawn as a warning to John, his wife and family.
Crime in the Streets (1956) - examines the young, aimless, angry and, in some cases, fatherless urban youth who rumble in the streets, struggle to fit in, and/or just want to get even for their lousy lot in life. Directed by Donald (better known as Don) Siegel and written by Reginald Rose (12 Angry Men (1957)), the drama features James Whitmore as Ben Wagner, a social worker from his own troubled past that tries to get through to the gang’s tough leader, Frankie Dane (John Cassavetes), before he takes things too far by committing murder. Sal Mineo plays Angelo 'Baby' Gioia, who wants desperately to shake the moniker given to him by his store owner father (Will Kuvula). Future director Mark Rydell (On Golden Pond (1981)) plays easily influenced, and perhaps mentally deficient sociopath Lou Macklin, who will do anything Frankie asks without question. Virginia Gregg plays Frankie’s harried, too tired, overworked and mostly absent mother, whose limited attentions are spent on her younger boy (from a different father), 10 year old Richie (Peter Votrian). Malcolm Atterbury plays the Dane’s upstairs neighbor, Mr. McAllister, the target of much of Frankie’s hatred.