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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Long Awaited Comedies Arrive On DVD

The Sprocket Vault Releases 18 Charley Chase Talkies

Back in footie pajamas and recount of rose-hued collecting youth when I got first look at a talking Charley Chase. The short was Hasty Marriage, an 8mm print acquired from Blackhawk for $16.98 in 1971. This is still my favorite Chase, a choice driven by sentiment, but how resistible is any comedy shot on site in Culver City and revolved around street cars long lost to history? So has been sound-era Charley unfortunately, other than glimpses where TCM used him for a filler. We've had the silents, plenty as tendered by several DVD labels, but all that he did after was buried deep, excepting those for Columbia toward the end of Chase's life. Now comes rescue from want via The Sprocket Vault, that laughing place a recent source of When Comedy Was King, The Mysterious Airman, and Go Johnny Go!, each a winner in terms of quality and content. Charley Chase: At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume One 1930-31 is a two-disc collection of eighteen subjects, hand-picked to represent Chase at his talkie best. I've not seen much of what is here, or it's been so long that I've forgotten. In any case, there is sense of watching all for a first time, thanks to clarity an improvement on prints past, the whole of 18 featuring audio commentary by historian Richard M. Roberts and extras by way of poster and still galleries. There is even a Spanish-language version of The Pip From Pittsburg called La Senorita De Chicago which I didn't know existed, let alone ever saw a frame of.

Here's a distinct advantage of the 1930-31 group: They are for most part underscored by delightful Hal Roach themes we all came up with as accompany to Our Gang and Laurel-Hardy. I could watch, more so listen, to these films over and again even if casts stood stock still and said nothing. Of all things to cherish about Roach comedies, it is tune accompany I love best. Their music is overlay of joy to the lot. Charley Chase enhanced that by adding song to many of his shorts, and these are sprinkled through the discs' eighteen. Added value to the Chase Collection is fact that it is as much a Thelma Todd Collection, for she is in many of selections here. Thelma still works a magic after eighty years gone, a beauty for which we need make no allowance for time or fashions changed. Having her along is like getting double value from each of these comedies. We've seen a lot of gold veins tapped from humor's past, most thanks to effort of fans who were raised on vintage stuff. Those of us on receiving ends of these labors of love should support these and share them. Continued release of the Chase group (and there are many more CC comedies) will be determined by response to this first DVD. Let's get behind the Sprocket Vault's worthy work and make a long-run series of Charley Chase with talk (and music).

Monday, January 29, 2018

Hot Stuff On 40's Tap

Careful --- You Too Might Faint!

Talk all we like about popular and big hit films, but none lit fires like a latest sex thrill spread like grass fire among populace shocked, but curious, to what latest fence was down in exploitation. Much of this stuff was recycled from heaven knows what had run before, but slap on a fresh title and ... off to races we go. Who'd complain to management of having already seen trash like this? Folks entered and left with collars turned up in any event. Sex pics were like peas under a shell at midways --- suckers knew they were being ripped off, and sure enough they were. You had to be at least 21 to see Sex Maniac in San Francisco, but there was bonus of a stage show. Was it burlesque dancing? The "Capitol Follies" venue suggests so. It took two drive-ins to contain crowds for No Greater Sin, outdoors an assist to anonymous view. 56,000 saw it during one Pittsburgh week? Could be, even as they stood in elements because no room was left for cars. I like "Many Will Faint, Don't Come Alone!" In event the movie got boring (a likelihood), you could walk around the lot and watch people pass out (note that the faint risk is mentioned four times in this ad). Birth of baby footage had been known to give men the vapors, so warnings were apt. Sissies stay home! Was No Greater Sin being oversold? I wouldn't know, having not seen it. Records show a 1941 production, with Leon Ames, Luana Walters, Tris Coffin, others recognizable, so bottom wasn't altogether scraped. A DVD can he had, if you must. Appropriately, it's from Alpha.

Friday, January 26, 2018

What Keaton Shorts Work Best?

The Electric House and Keaton Prints Getting Better All The Time

Buster Keaton goes a route followed by other comics who’d spoof household labor-save devices, in this case a residence wired to spare owners even getting off a chair. Now that electricity was part of virtually all homes, anything seemed possible. Buster would always be a proponent of squirrelly convenience, his personal electric train table server built in the 50’s much like one he conceived for this long-before two reeler. He also spent idle hours as Metro gagman (post-major stardom) building gadgets for amusement of office visitors like Lucille Ball, who’d later recall his ingenuity. The Electric House then, is hobbyist as well as filmmaking Keaton, who I’ll bet constructed, or at least took hand, in the short’s every device. At least one laid him low, an escalator on which BK fell and snapped an ankle. Witnesses could actually hear the break, as I almost do whenever I re-see and cringe at the mishap. There might lay disadvantage of learning how these shorts were made.

We got The Electric House among festival Keatons unspooled at Greensboro’s lost and legendary Janus Theatre, prints courtesy of Raymond Rohauer, who flew in for part of the month-long spree. At that time (1973), just seeing The Electric House was a major event. The only home-use Keaton two-reelers were Cops, Balloonatic, a Griggs-Moviedrome The Haunted House, which quality the seller rated only “fair.” Any beyond these might be had from galaxy-away South America (a dealer named Enrique Bouchard, who also offered Keaton grail feature The Three Ages). I balked at ordering on doubt that nothing so far off could make its way to NC --- how then, by mule train over the Andes? Just to see a Keaton outside handful Blackhawk or Griggs sold was excitement plenty, so it mattered less how the print looked. In fact, it enhanced the thrill to look at something you knew (or was told) had been rescued within nick of time. To the devil then was due --- had it not been for Rohauer, we’d have lots less of Keaton.

Revisit to Keaton usually stop at four to five shorts for me over two or three days I'll devote. There can be, after all, too much of even best things. Each time raises a new question, such as how many of these could you play to the uninitiated? Decision comes down less to merit than how well each short has survived. A number are missing sections, gaps filled by explanatory titles. The usual we’re lucky to have them at all is fine for Keaton loyalists, who will indeed take and treasure any footage they can get of Buster, but is it reasonable to expect newcomers to embrace Convict 13 or Daydreams in the current shape they’re in? Maybe programmers need a guide list of ones of the group that are safe for general consumption. I could offhand suggest Neighbors, The Goat, and certainly most famous of the lot, Cops. As to others, it would need thorough review, of which half might click without allowances made, a difference between general and archival interest. As search continues for truant footage, one or more of the total of nineteen could hop from second column to first, should luck bring further upgrades.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

When It Flies --- Someone Dies

Where Bela Lugosi Gives Shaving Lotion A Bad Name

Thank you, Bob Furmanek, for making your gorgeous 35mm print available to Kino for this Blu-ray transfer. What rapture comes of an intact PRC logo! It's time we recognize how lowest budget could be redeemed just by casting Bela --- he and Erich von Stroheim may have been alone at rescue of hopeless enterprise. Even Karloff was no match for Lugosi where it came to salvage work like this. I think it was BL's total commitment that made the difference; so far as he was concerned, a week on Devil Bat was as time spent doing Ninotchka with Garbo. Devil Bat was just a shorter drive from home. I admire Lugosi not playing down even to debasing material. Not that Devil Bat is that. He's on camera lots, which is as much as we could ask of any Lugosi starrer, frustration with later stuff deriving from fact he's not there enough, or heaven forbid, he doesn't speak, as with The Black Sleep. How necessary was Devil Bat being made cheap? Observe the ad at left, a New Orleans first-run, with seats selling for literal nickels and dimes. Bela's Devil Bat home is one I'd covet, all sliding panels and bubbling beakers in his mad lab. What a rig like that could do for my basement, with maybe killer bats to ward off peddlers and solicitors. When prospective victims say Good Night, BL replies Goodbye to meaningful effect, a deathless refrain throughout Devil Bat. Question is who'll be doused with shaving lotion that draws DB to vulnerable throats, a device increasingly merry as 68 minutes roll and it gets apparent that Bela will be a final victim of his own machinations. Creations had consistent way of turning on creators in cheapies. Lead lady Suzanne Kaaren later retired to crumbling edifice of husband Sidney Blackmer's family mansion in Salisbury, NC, where we went to visit in 1980, myself armed with Devil Bat stills and lobby cards. She remembered the show fondly and spoke well of Lugosi. At that time, Devil Bat was PD-copied to miserable effect for what TV runs there were; great to access it finally on Blu-Ray.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

When Karloff Played To Multitudes

Holy Andromeda --- The Invisible Ray (1936) Was Once Brand New!

Some cling to notion that Universal horror during the 30's were B pictures. Here is proof to fallacy of that. B's didn't get Roxy openings. Management there sized up worthiness of product before any booking. Your show had to fill 5,886 seats, continuous through the day. The Invisible Ray was dying gasp of Universal's first chiller cycle. It began a turn, if tentative, toward science-fiction, a genre fresher to films than at newsstands where such pulps and mags proliferated. Trouble was limit of then-fx to show space travel and takeover of Earth by Martians. Lurid print covers were lots better at that. The Invisible Ray would be more a chamber piece, unknown worlds viewed at distance through Boris Karloff's telescope. He develops a death touch through unwise experiments, that the basis for shivers. The Roxy applied science too with ticket policy, admission a quarter until 1:00, then thirty-five cents till six. All of Broadway knew matinees were a toughest sell. A poor daytime could erase gains from the night before. "Roxyettes" and lavish stage performance made ducats seem a bargain, especially for tourists wowed by Roxy-lush as contrast to Bijous back home. New Yorkers who bargain shopped for movies could wait for The Invisible Ray to show up in boroughs or second run a few months later, doubled with another pic, smaller change the top to get in. Advertising worked against that to make first-runs a must, as in I want to see The Invisible Ray now, so I'll pay more. Ads like here are reminder that everything old, eighty plus in this instance, was once new and exciting and welcomed to a biggest temple of dreams.

Many Thanks to Scott MacQueen for steering me to this vintage ad.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Great War's Greatest Telling

How It Was Every Night at Broadway's Astor Theatre --- and For 96 Weeks

The Big Parade (1925) Puts Metro On The Map

Watch this and wonder how stardom got away so suddenly from John Gilbert, who'd have hit after resounding hit in late silent days, then come crashing to earth once talkies made him passé. Gilbert's may be a best performance of the whole voiceless era, being understated, dynamic where called for, a romancer after believable fashion of ordinary guys who'd be watching. Gilbert had rare capacity for coming down to earth when parts called for him to do so. Shave the mustache and he'd be you or me (Burt Reynolds managed a same thing much later). The secret may have been frankly ordinary looks the man had when bereft of dash or sash. You'd not be amiss confusing him with the Lion's Club chairman next door, this of course enabling Gilbert to play a range of characters wider than lead men elsewhere with more glamour to shed whenever conventional parts called.

The Big Parade was a smash that passed into legend; horse-backed police and bus drivers remembered well the 96 weeks it ran to capacity attendance on Broadway ... certainly Metro bookkeepers kept its record business among treasured souvenirs. The thing began more as a programmer, but was upticked to a super-special by Irving Thalberg once he saw potential for a hit after legit What Price Glory? example. Director King Vidor and star Gilbert got the fever too. By the time Big was done parading, all down to soldier extras knew it would do historic biz. War performed well so long as scale was large. Each of studios that could afford it seemed to be aboard with big-scale battle enactment. WWI was going on ten years' past and maybe wounds had healed sufficient to regard the scrap on entertainment terms. Agonies of war would herein be revealed, but only after first-half's serve of comedy enough to fill out any three of service knockabouts done by, for instance, Paramount, with their Wallace Beery-Raymond Hatton group.

In fact, it was laughter that propelled much of repeat march to Parade boxoffices. Audiences loved, and sent friends back to see, doughboy hijinks wherein newcomer Karl Dane made impression enough to spin off an entire series of comedies with diminutive George K. Arthur. Metro would even retread The Big Parade to extent of Buster Keaton and Doughboys, a hit feeding off good will from the bigger attraction. A simple scene of John Gilbert teaching French girl Renee Adoree to chew gum became one of those precious moments recalled into old age by filmgoers. The Big Parade's mood swing in its second half was what lent stature. We'd gotten to know these boisterous boys and so felt impact greater for their being hurled into combat. Random death is captured in long shot marching where we see casualties drop at a distance. It's all so casual and still has capacity to shock. Profanity comes thick and unexpected, goddamn this-and-that of trench warfare once we're past point of no return. Gilbert's shell-hole scene with a wounded German goes minutes without a cut, like crouching down among them. Maybe it's as well we had laughs coming in, as these battles can still put one through a wringer.

This then, was the big picture that qualified King Vidor for biggest pictures over a thirty year period to come. He'd been directing a long while before Parade, but from here he'd join a short list of men who could be trusted to paint large murals. Northwest Passage, Duel In The Sun, War and Peace, and finally, Solomon and Sheba, would look back upon The Big Parade and distinction Vidor brought to bear, but was he as committed to these? Vidor epics that followed The Big Parade were purest Hollywood, but then, so was The Big Parade, beyond what reality KV could wring from supervisory clutches. Thalberg fortunately trusted Vidor enough to allow scorched earth in battle scenes and Gilbert's character leaving a leg behind in France, these honesties what a huge public would respond to and reward in terms of attendance. The Big Parade may have got a greatest word-of-mouth among any of silent specials, its repute enough to warrant a reissue with sound in late 1931. Now it comes our way through Blu-Ray offices of WB, and from a recovered negative closest of any to what crowds saw in first-run.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Western Specialty For a 50's Leading Man

Guy Madison Is The Hard Man (1957)

Guy Madison had hit big as Wild Bill Hickok on television. Could he topline a feature for theatres? That question was asked and answered using other cowboys off the tube: the Jims Garner and Arness, Fess Parker, others. They'd represent a second-tier of western leads, reliable support on bills where saddled-up Jim Stewart or John Wayne rode in front. Outdoor subjects done cheap enough were almost assured of profit; with a name of Madison's value, modest as it was, expense could be met. Columbia had an "old Arizona" town constructed years before in Tucson, familiar from heaven knows how many of their oaters, and that's where The Hard Man was lensed. Independent-producing "Romson" had been set up by Guy Madison and Helen Ainsworth, the latter an actress turned agent who partnered with Madison for three Romson pics Columbia distributed, these being The 27th Day (sci-fi) and Reprisal! in addition to The Hard Man. As humble westerns go, The Hard Man isn't bad. Variety liked it, and would boost Madison; indies generally found open arms among a trade that needed product. Columbia dealt for many such westerns and often as not bought negatives outright from suppliers following completion of agreed-upon films. Such parting gesture helped ventures like Romson to get out from under finance debt, hopefully take a profit, and move on to a next deal. In Ronsom's case, that would be with Steve Broidy at Allied Artists, where Guy Madison would star in the following year's Bullwhip.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Columbia Writes The Book Of Noir

Dead Reckoning (1947) Another Bogart Flash Back

Why Say It's Explosive? Isn't Dynamite Always Explosive?

A flashbacking crime thriller that Humphrey Bogart literally phones in. I can't recall more of his time and dialogue spent holding a receiver. He's calling after fate of a war buddy who jumps their train on route to receive a Congressional Medal Of Honor. Most of setting is a Louisiana town, as in deep south, which accent Bogie mocks as he speaks to a telephone operator. I'm told an actor's true test is in how real they make a phone scene play; a few got (Academy) rewarded for excelling at it: Louise Rainier, Edmond O'Brien. You wonder why Bogart does his imitative drawl because no one else in Dead Reckoning speaks remotely southern. I was surprised a third of the way in to realize it took place way down there.

Dead Reckoning was a loan-out done just before Bogart re-upped with Warners. It's actually better than some of what he'd been in lately for the home lot. Initiates to noir could watch this and imagine it's a glossary of genre tics: the flashback structure, narration throughout (HB's), the femme fatale ... every trope and then some to make Dead Reckoning seem a parody of a not-yet declared style. Bogart speaks in sports metaphors, being "thrown for a loss," "pitching high and wide," etc. I sometimes blunder into same at Greenbriar, not because I like or know the sport, but merely from watching too many movies like Dead Reckoning. Bogart's character is also just out of the service and not quite weaned off combat. I felt like a fight, he says, well before provocation gets underway. Helpmates against villainy offer surplus grenades that Bogie knows should go to Army Ordinance, but he'll use them all the same to subdue civilian opposition.

Bogart wanted Lauren Bacall for the bad girl part, but Warner said no (they would loan William Prince as the doomed buddy), so Columbia borrowed Lizabeth Scott from Hal Wallis. Scott said Bogart was polite and cooperative, but that she overheard him say "Isn't this a stupid way to make a living?" to no one in particular. Was his a general statement on acting, or Bogart merely commenting on this silly movie? Bogie's real love interest is the doomed buddy. He'll let Liz take the fall rather than see a pal go un-avenged. Besides, women aren't to be trusted. HB's a lot like Popeye in one of those cartoons where the sailor and Bluto have sworn off dames. There's even a part where Bogie goes down a laundry list about "The Trouble With Women." Speaking of that, how many times have we seen dead bodies disposed of by putting them in laundry hampers or down chutes? You'd think cops would eventually start looking in these places first.

Bogart's final blow-off for Scott is a brazen steal from what he handed Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon. It had only been five years --- had viewership forgotten? Again a desperate woman shoots a man who's behind the wheel of a speeding car, the quickest way to an end title noir knows. Jane Greer would do as much for Mitchum in Out Of The Past a following year, and Barbara Stanwyck used a cigarette lighter to put across similar point for Richard Rober in a few season's later The File On Thelma Jordan. These are tropes beloved of noir and why I watch certain of them over and again. Did Bogart read the scripted speech to Liz and hold his nose? Maybe part of that "stupid living" aside was awareness he was repeat-dialing a gag done before, and better. Bogie was forty-seven and aging out of thrillers fast, that obvious on a man looking ten years past calendar age. Was he wearing a hairpiece this early? I had thought it was donned first around Dark Passage, but his (or someone's) hair in Dead Reckoning looks too luxuriant to be true.

This above still I've had since college shows Bogart and Lizabeth Scott entering the "Dixie Restaurant" where they're greeted by Grady Sutton. He's an ideal host for menus and honey-drippin' hospitality, but was cut from the final print (I can practically hear his dialogue, and regret its absence). This wider view of the Dixie is also absent from Dead Reckoning. What we get is Bogart/Scott close at their table and no other diners or staff visible, other than a waiter Bogie tells to scram. I see a thing like this and wonder how many dollars went to waste staging all that, let alone paying Grady Sutton. I'll bet the credit list of movies he worked on, but wouldn't be seen in, was long as ones we know him from. A fully-dressed set, spoken parts, tables filled with extras --- what was final expense? Dead Reckoning was an important Columbia picture, but it was still a Columbia picture, and Harry Cohn surely blanched at dollars spent so cavalierly. For what info is worth, Dead Reckoning earned a hotsy $2.3 million in domestic rentals, a biggest hit for Columbia that year behind The Jolson Story, Gilda, and Bandits Of Sherwood Forest.

Bogart's later Santana group for Columbia could have used some of production lavished on Dead Reckoning, result of latter being in-house Columbia as opposed to the Santanas where half or more of budget was borrowed by Bogart's indie concern to make them happen. With star salary factored in, plus Columbia's distribution fee off the top, the Santanas had to think thin or lose money. Dead Reckoning, coming before these, is a handsome show and welcome break from sameness at Burbank. Columbia TV sales would be enhanced by this and over half-dozen other titles they could salt syndicated packages with once the Bogart cult kicked in. I've been soft for Dead Reckoning since age fourteen. That was the year Bogart made landfall as a for-life favorite, and even though we had few of his WB classics to warm NC late nights, there was at least those of Columbia extraction, plus post-wars done on free lance basis. I've written before on glories of Tokyo Joe, In A Lonely Place, and The Caine Mutiny. Dead Reckoning streams in HD at Apple I-Tunes, a ravishing sight after years of translucent blacks and milky whites.

Monday, January 15, 2018

A Short and Sweet Surprise

Two-Fisted Carnival Boat (1932) Is Good Early RKO

A talker that I suspect was like many silents, being he-man stuff of wood-chopping, runaway trains, and dynamite to the dam. Latter is jammed by logs and Bill Boyd must blow 'em sky high to salvage north wood he commands. Carnival Boat only part-time serves its title, more of length spent among tall trees and challenge to fell them. This was a TCM find, way better than bulk of RKO-Pathe before shed of half that label and its absurdly crowing rooster atop a logo globe. Pathe survived as busy lot for rent to Selznick and others who had no studio of their own, then a site for much television. Wm. K. Everson wrote that Carnival Boat used stock footage from voiceless 20's to flesh out action, a lot of which is whole-hog excitement like serial chapters glued together to fill an hour. William Boyd is familiar "Bill" in credits, presumed pal to boys who liked him since actioning he did for DeMille and pre-talkie others. Boyd shows humor, virility, easy charm, that would later make him mentor to callow cowboys and youth watching, as definitive a stand-in for dad or big brother as any kid could want. It took westerns and continuing Hopalong Cassidy to confer immortality on Boyd. Economical as it was (negative cost:$217K), Carnival Boat still lost money during Depression-doped 1932 when dimes was hardest won. It's well worth TCM sit or place aboard the DVR.

Friday, January 12, 2018

William Castle's Flying Leap At The Boxoffice

Zotz! Is Kiddie Lure For Summer '62

Never knew William Castle was a coin enthusiast, but arrive he did to Evansville, Ill. opening of Zotz! with a collection valued at $42,000 (so Bill claimed). The Evansville Drive-In, with parking space for 700 cars, got first-run on Zotz!. We could wonder if it was really worth Bill's time to fly in for that, but then, aspirations were simpler in 1962, or perhaps he understood that where bally went, there was no such thing as minor engagements. Castle had learned how small rocks could form a pile, as Indiana wind might blow far the word of a drive-in lot filled to capacity that August weekend. His precise ETA, 9:58 on Saturday morning, came with invitation to all Evansville for meet/greet. Was there risk in announcing that he would disembark with that $42,000 coin collection? Whatever doubts Castle had about peers in the industry, he at least could trust his fans. It would be a busy weekend, Bill "staying over" to ride in the Sesquicentennial parade. Did not know what this meant until online refresher. Turns out it indicates a one hundred and fifty year landmark, as in Evansville's 150th year. At first, I thought it had something to do with a Sasquatch, but would William Castle be in town to recognize someone else's Bigfoot movie?

Good News, Evansville. Bill's Staying Over!
The Evansville Drive-In gave away "lucky Zotz! coins" that night, presumably not from Bill's private collection. Turns out the Zotz! giveaway was hard plastic, but "bronze-looking," with a hole at center top so you could use it for a bracelet or pendent. To own one was to qualify as a "Zotznick," for which I assume there was onscreen explanation. The coin figures into the movie because Tom Poston finds one with magical power that enables him to, among other things, fly. Assuming Castle stayed overnight, we could figure him sharing space in the booth and personally handing out the souvenir as patrons drove in. Bill's success came of personal outreach to his public. I've read how he'd breeze into towns, pick up a phone book, and start calling one-and-all to come see his show. Castle might have been President had he turned a same initiative toward politics. The fact he could indulge a collecting hobby that ran up value of $40K demonstrates just how well House On Haunted Hill, 13 Ghosts, and Homicidal had done. Distributing Columbia would not have stayed in bed so long with the producer were he not in steady profit. To the Evansville's Drive-In bill, note Mothra playing in support, also a first-run. That's two fairly high-profile genre releases from Columbia seeing initial play outdoors. Had Castle hoped for hardtop hospitality for his newest? Zotz! is available on DVD.

More Castle Conquests at Greenbriar Archive: Macabre, Hollywood Story, and The Night Walker.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Prize Sucker Powell Is How I Least Like Him

Pitfall (1948) Is Deep Fall Into Middle-Class Trap

Breadwinning Dick Powell expresses rut fatigue and that paints a target on his back for balance of this noir where fun is second to despair we know won't be relieved. Ordinary Joes on status quo chalkwalks always got it in the neck after WWII when men-folk were expected to hunker down and keep lawns mowed. We're supposed to figure Dick has disaster coming for step out of line with tempting Lizabeth Scott. I always knew men couldn't get laid for free in Code pix, but Pitfall doles out punishment to make us all stay zipped. Powell as fall guy was never a favored stance; he's too good with toss-offs and one-upping to make us like the dumbbell's plummet he takes here. Pitfall gets cultist boost precisely because it skewers postwar conformance, but that's less recipe for fun than resign to middle-class life being hell on bleak earth, then or now. Do moderns who admire Pitfall also enjoy it?

Pitfall was done independently, money being tight, and that shows. Filming was virtual tour of L.A.; we'd rather stay out of doors than suffocate on cramped sets. A best performance is Raymond Burr's, his a queasy line in heavies that made memorable a lot of thrillers that wouldn't have been so otherwise. Andre De Toth directed and co-wrote; he said later that Dick Powell snookered him into megging for free, but De Toth didn't care. He seems to have made the picture his way; maybe there was little enough at stake for no one to care. Powell produced, his radar pointed to whatever could maximize return, acting having become mere means toward that end. United Artists would release; they'd had a slew of similars to sell around a same time. How then, to tell apart Cover-Up, Jigsaw, Impact, and Pitfall, all bearing UA logo? Pie could be split but so many ways: Pitfall brought back $1.3 million, which suggests it got profit. Anyway, Powell kept making his home-brew, one of which, Cry Danger!, would improve on Pitfall.
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