Monday, 19 November 2018

LE MAINS D'ORLAC (1960) Directed by Edmond T. Greville

This the French language version of  the 1960 French/English co-production THE HANDS OF ORLAC starring Mel Ferrer. In his documentary, MY JOURNEY THROUGH FRENCH CINEMA, Bernard Tavernier praises the work of director Edmond T. Greville. On the evidence of this and of the director's other English film, BEAT GIRL, this praise might well be misplaced, although, of course I have not seen any of his French films. This is a dull version of Maurice Renaud's novel, previously filmed with Conrad Veidt in the silent era and Colin Clive in the Thirties. Mel Ferrer just doesn't have the dramatic acting chops for the character of Orlac who believe a murderer's hands have replaced his own. The supporting cast is mainly English with Christopher Lee, Felix Aylmer, Donald Wolfit, Peter Reynolds and Donald Pleasance. Glamour is provided by Dany Carrel and Lucile Saint-Simon. Rating : **

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

BLAST OF SILENCE (1961) Directed by Allen Baron

BLAST OF SILENCE is a real curiosity. Made in 1961 on what looks like a miniscule budget it is very much a precursor to Jean-Pierre Melville's later masterpiece LE SAMURAI. A hired killer comes to town to kill a minor mob boss. Despite wishing to withdraw from the contract he fulfils the task but his reluctance makes him a target for those who ordered the hit because they now see him as unreliable. Director Allen Baron plays the lead despite not being much of an actor - the scenes where he has to interact with others in the cast are the least successful in the film - but he looks good, bearing a striking resemblance at times to early George C. Scott and middle period Robert De Niro. But in all other respects the film is admirable, visually very impressive. There is an excellent voice over narration by Lionel Stander, uncredited as he was blacklisted at the time. At its best the film is good enough to overlook its occasional minor flaws. It is a pity that Baron subsequent career was spent mainly directing episodes of television shows such as CHARLIE'S ANGELS. Rating : ***

Allen Baron

Friday, 20 April 2018

JIGSAW (1949) Directed by Fletcher Markle

 A real curiosity. Made by a group of film-makers with vaguely left wing politics and anti-fascist intentions this badly made, acted and scripted political noir is, frankly boring despite a good opening and a lively end. It drags dreadfully and nobody ever seems to be able to define what it is really about. The only fun is checking out the unbilled appearances by Dietrich, Fonda, Garfield and Merideth (among others). Sometimes good intentions are not enough.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD (1954) Directed by Richard Quine.

Leaving Andy Hardy and Judy Garland behind, in the early 50's Mickey Rooney set out to toughen his image with film like this one and Don Siegel's BABY FACE NELSON. Richard Quine had previously directed the excellent Film Noir, PUSHOVER, which gave Kim Novak her first starring role and here he directs Rooney as a poor slob who gets seriously screwed over by a beautiful woman who is in league with a couple of bank robbers (Kevin McCarthy and Jack Kelly) seriously in need of a getaway driver. As a fan of Film Noir I appreciated the uncompromising ending which doesn't offer the romantic get out that spoils so many films. It's an unpretentious movie but a really good one. Rating ***

Sunday, 8 April 2018

THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948) Directed by William Keighley.

Post WW2 Twentieth Century Fox produced a series of semi-documentary style thrillers that promoted the work of the F.B.I and the U.S. Secret Service. These included THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET, 13 RUE MADELEINE and THE STREET WITH NO NAME. The first two were directed by Henry Hathaway, while STREET WITH NO NAME was helmed by William Keighley whose name springs to mind as the co-director of the Errol Flynn ROBIN HOOD film. Lloyd Nolan appears as F.B.I man, Briggs (who first appeared in 92nd STREET) who picks a young agent (Stevens) to go undercover to entrap a notorious gangster (Widmark).  Mark Stevens was a useful, if somewhat inexpressive actor, who appeared in a few notable film noirs, was a sort of low-rent Dana Andrews (and I do not mean that disrespectfully) and gives his best performance hear. Lloyd Nolan is an actor that I admire more every time I see him, whether it be in his Michael Shayne private eye B-movies or as the ruthless gangster, Mickey Dwyer, in JOHNNY APOLLO, but here his involvement in minimal. For me, this is the best of the trio. Rating ***

Monday, 19 March 2018

HELL'S ISLAND (1955) Directed by Phil Karlson.

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Interesting B-Movie noir (in colour) written by Maxwell Shane with uncredited contributions by director Karlson and star Payne. All three have respectable film noir credits so it was relatively easy to construct a story out of genre clichés : take the basic premise from THE MALTESE FALCON, a self-serving femme fatale, a fat man villain in a wheelchair, a fallen hero and a voice over etc. etc. But Karlson was an effective director back in the 1950's and Payne worked well with him on several minor noir classics, so the whole thing moves along nicely without offering any real surprises but never getting boring. Rating **

Monday, 26 February 2018

THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T DIE (1942) Directed by Herbert Leeds.

Snappy little B-moves, one of a series with Lloyd Nolan as private eye Michael Shayne. It's an old dark house mystery with ghostly killers, disappearing bodies and screams in the night. Of course it is all smoke, mirrors and clichés but it works wonderfully thanks to the wise-cracking script and Nolan's performance. A good supporting cast includes Henry Wilcoxon and Francis Ford (former silent director/actor and brother of John Ford), At 1 hour 4 minutes it is hard to fault it. Rating ***