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Friday, October 24, 2014

Flat Crime Thrills On Wide Screens


Crime Wave Leads The Pack Of 1954 Thrillers

Two Toughies, Both From WB
Shot in latter months of 1952 (November/December), but held for January '54 release, this was among few (any?) full-frame Warner pics playing off in an otherwise 1.85 season. Titled Don't Cry, Baby, then The City Is Dark before and during production, the project was initially set for Bogart, as would be months-later The System, but HB was turning away everything Warners offered, so sour was he after years of servitude. Eventually labeled Crime Wave thus went on B schedule to be produced by Bryan Foy, who was seasoned at these. Directing Andre De Toth had two weeks and low budget (neg cost a piddling $377K, by far a WB lowest for its release year). Worldwide rentals of $880K meant profit; audiences could still trust Warner for bristling gang subjects. Gene Nelson was given the ex-con lead, a depart from dance work previously engaged; like Gene Kelly at MGM, there was desire on both actor and studio parts to widen range, result occasional detour to rugged subjects. Pace is quick; there wasn't time to dawdle, given  abbreviated scheduling. There's much location and night shooting, a big help. Crime Wave wasn't much regarded then, but Warner values it now, as witness HD streaming on their Archive Instant arm, plus DVD availability.

2 Comments:

Blogger Michael said...

The DVD is on a double set with Monogram's Decoy, which is one of their best noirs, with the otherwise little-known (and unfortunate) British actress Jean Gillie as a heartless femme fatale. The set is highly recommended.

11:57 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Craig Reardon points out some L.A. locations where "Crime Wave" was filmed in 1952:


Per "Crime Wave", I did buy the box set that's in (on DVD) and I think it's terrific. It does sort of come together like later hour-long TV shows on similar subjects, and yet still a cut above. Nelson's terrific in this uncharacteristic (for him) role. I enjoy recognizing sights, in glimpses, from my former neighborhood in Studio City, which sort of smears right into North Hollywood and Burbank to this day. There's one brief sequence with Nedrick Young in which you can easily see the main gate into Warners on Barham Blvd., albeit the lights are out. There's a BEAUTIFUL shot in shining B&W of Bob's Big Boy at night, which is now an official, protected State Historical Site on Riverside Drive in bordering Toluca Lake (yet another small town which virtually runs right into Burbank.) You can also see an old-fashioned--even for me, as I was born AFTER this movie was shot (reading here that that was in '52; I was hatched in April '53)--gas station that WAS still right across Riverside from Bob's when I first lived in Studio City. It became a cute little boutique store where a lady who ran it sold teas and other domestic goodies, before being razed (along with other businesses to the east of it) and, unless I'm mistaken, being replaced by a couple-of-blocks-long 'legit' theater, the Falcon Theater, which I have heard is owned and run by TV magnate Gary Marshall. Apart from the teasing delights of recognizing or almost-recognizing backgrounds caught locally, including in Burbank and Glendale, "Crime Wave" is a damn good movie. You can see Charles Buchinsky in it, and I almost typed "again", but this was evidently shot BEFORE "House of Wax", by the same cyclopean director! I also like the surprise ending and the delightful image of the copper fiddling with his match before lighting his cigarette, as 'planted' in several earlier scenes. It turned out to be a great part for Sterling Hayden, who's a welcome substitute to my thinking for Bogart, no matter how great Bogie was--simply because it's somebody else in a part Bogart could've aced, but...c'mon, already. I think he was right to start shunning shamus and bad guy parts at that point in his life and career.

2:55 PM  

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