The Watch List For 9/26/12
PRIVATE HELL 36 (1954) --- Points of interest: Don Siegel directed, Ida Lupino produced/stars, Steve Cochran is co-male lead. Otherwise, the story took a while to get going. Steve is a turned-crook cop, Howard Duff his conscience-ridden partner. Siegel said Cochran stayed lit much of the time, cast fellows joining him in spiked coffee-breaking. Maybe Steve felt he'd done enough of these to finish one halfway in the bag --- he's more accomplished that way than others at 100%. Remarkable how many cheap noirs were made on a lick & promise, begun with scripts one third prepped, fraying tempers and disorganization from there. Still, there are individual scenes, quite a few, written and played effectively. Everyone's life is a mess, Dean Jagger and his pipe sole stabilizing influence. Steve and Ida are convincingly damaged people, their romance punctuated by accusation and hard slaps to the face, a noir ritual and maybe one not uncommonly played in real lives during the up-tight 50's.
Siegel knew his way around sudden bursts of violence and was good at build-up to body blows we feel for investment in frayed characters. When guns are drawn, look out. I counted four cast members who'd work for him again in 1956's Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, so obviously, they had Don's phone number. Ida Lupino and Collier Young raised Hell for their independent Filmmakers company, which went south for error of trying to distribute Private same 36 in addition to producing. Siegel and Ida hit it off at first, fell out later. She was trying to keep a marriage with co-star Howard Duff together. Maybe they were doing the slap-and-kiss routine at home. Things wouldn't work out, and according to Siegel, neither did the film. Private Hell 36 is a honey so long as expectations stay modest. Nice to have it on Blu-Ray and presented in 1.85 widescreen.
THREE HOURS TO KILL (1954) --- Dana Andrews rides into town to get even for a botched hanging, hemp scar on his neck reflecting bitter mood. The 50's were when adult westerns really got going. Everybody wanted the next High Noon. Andrews was good in whatever he did --- talk about a star being a whole reason to watch. There's also a mystery killer abroad, fair enough to get through a first viewing if not repeat ones. Shooting outdoors and in color was adequate to pull 50's westerns across, these plus a meaningful name above titles distinguished them from horseflesh rode gratis at home.
CAPTAIN KIDD (1945) --- Charles Laughton approaches comedy for 1945 Captain Kidd-ing that he would surrender to altogether when the character met Abbott and Costello seven years later. CL was better on sly setting than outright burlesque, and here he has a vet crew willing to stand down and let the rascal have his head. Tissue narrative gives way to Laughton lunacy as he systematically offs his own crew, logic of this elusive but welcome withal as it's Chuck with an upper hand we want. Randolph Scott isn't named Stolid Hero, but that's the role he got. I'll bet Laughton arrived on-set each morn bearing slips of paper with ideas to juice up the day's shoot, and who were producers to deny him? This Captain Kidd would surely not have been made short of CL enlisting. TCM played it --- quality was OK.
I'LL WAIT FOR YOU --- (1941) --- You know it's a Metro B when Robert Sterling is the flashy gangster working at behest of Reed Hadley, fleeing cop Paul Kelly into the rural embrace of Marsha Hunt. Her farm folk redeem Bob in furtherance of MGM country-good, city-less so doctrine as expressed in much of their output. It's well-known that Metro's low-budgets were everyone else's big spending, so I'll Wait For You doesn't short-change. The further reformation of a basically likeable crook was dog-eared from silents, but useful to road-test talent and get return on character faces drawing weekly pay.
LAW OF THE
Law Of The Badlands has Shayne cashiered from the Army, tried for murder (innocent, natch), and landing with Custer at the Little Big Horn, all in a lightning stroke of twenty minutes. Crowd footage and the massacre finish from They Died With Their Boots On lent Law Of The Badlands grandeur impossible to achieve on customary two-reel budgets. Maybe patrons liked a potted western with their movie show every now and again. There had to be some reason for this group lasting over seven years. Warners would re-cycle action bumps in TV series to come, thus James Garner, Ty Hardin, etc. mimicking appearance and moves of players departed from the lot, but still performing via vintage derring-do.