Kid Glove Killer (1942)

Director:

Fred Zinnemann

Cinematography by

Paul Vogel
Crime lab expert Gordon McKay uses the latest forensic techniques to solve murders in a city plagued by political corruption and mob rackets.

First Feature for Fred Zinnemann

4 May 2013 | by wes-connors (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

Voters elect to “clean up crime” by electing Samuel S. Hinds (as Richard Daniels) mayor of a small city. Gangsters strike back immediately by murdering his district attorney. The homicide is investigated by forensics expert Van Heflin (as Gordon McKay) and his attractive assistant Marsha Hunt (as Jane Mitchell).

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She provides Mr. Heflin with most of his cigarettes. A likely couple, they say “match me” instead of “got a light?” Special prosecutor and crime-busting radio show host Lee Bowman (as Gerald “Jerry” Ladimer) is also on the hunt. In a “love triangle” subplot that adds tension later on, both men are attracted to Ms. Hunt…

As a car-hop, young Ava Gardner asks if anyone wants desert. Things heat up when the mayor is also murdered. In a “best supporting actor” role, sweating restaurant owner Eddie Quillan (as Eddie Wright) is accused. We know who the real killer is and who could be the next victim. This was a good feature length debut for director Fred Zinnemann. Before the car bomb, one of the characters says, “Wouldn’t it Be Nice” which has no connection to The Beach Boys’ song. However, the phrases “Don’t Worry Baby” and “I Get Around” fairly quickly follow. God only knows if Brian Wilson was jotting down song titles while watching.

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****** Kid Glove Killer (4/17/42) Fred Zinnemann ~ Van Heflin, Marsha Hunt, Lee Bowman, Eddie Quillan

B movie from an A director

6/10
Author: blanche-2 from United States
24 December 2006

Van Heflin is a forensics man trying to solve a couple of murders in “Kid Glove Killer,” a 1942 MGM film also starring Marsha Hunt and Lee Bowman. As in “The Grand Central Murder,” it’s Heflin’s performance that puts this film across, though this time he is aided by the lovely Marsha Hunt as his assistant, whom he calls “Mitchell.” Lee Bowman plays a crooked politician pretending to be a good guy, and as a result, he’s eager to see an innocent man put away for murder.

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He also is after the aforementioned Mitchell, who is waiting around for Heflin to make a move. Hunt’s role is somewhat dated (or maybe not) – she’s on her way to becoming a good forensics person, but says that the job is not for a woman and she wants to get married. Evidently that will put an end to her career.

Heflin was an interesting actor who could do character roles and leads. This film was made around the time of his breakthrough role in “Johnny Eager,” after which he hung up his B movie mantle and moved on to bigger things. He always brought wry humor and subtle characterizations to his roles as well as excellent timing. Lee Bowman was a mustached actor who looked like he came from the Warren William era. He’s solid but not terribly exciting. Hunt brings warmth and sparkle to her role.

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There was, in my opinion, a major problem with the plot having to do with Heflin testing to find particles in the hair of various suspects some time after the crime – wouldn’t the particles have come out when they washed their hair? You really end up thinking no one ever took a shower.

Nice beginning for Zinnemann, who would go on to direct some big features such as “High Noon.”

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Mind If I Vacuum Your Head?

7/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
19 March 2011

No need to recap the plot. It’s a slick, efficient little crime drama from a studio that didn’t much care for that B-movie genre (MGM). On one hand, there’s no mystery— we know the culprit from the outset; neither is there much atmosphere— it’s microscopes instead of dark streets and shadowy men; while the story itself is pretty shopworn— best friends on different sides of the law angling for the same girl. On the plus side, however, are the colorful characters and some nice touches.

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Note, for example, how rather unlikable Heflin’s criminologist is, always bossing poor Hunt around and slyly demeaning her—not the way a force for good is expected to act. But he’s all business even as her confused heart wavers. Hunt is perfect as the educated lab assistant, attractive and perky, without being annoying. And Bowman looks and acts like the charming fixer, even if his Jekyll and Hyde is something of a stretch.

The business with the cigarettes both defines the Heflin-Hunt relationship and adds character color. It’s an efficient touch that also has a surprisingly clever payoff. Then there’s that jumbo vacuum that sucks the hair off your head and may also be a lethal weapon not found at the local barbershop. All in all, it’s a fine cast and an ace director all of whom would soon go on to bigger and better things. Fortunately they left behind this slick little 70-minute diversion.

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Wasted talent

5/10
Author: samhill5215 from United States
2 October 2010

Here’s yet another of those pre-WWII silly attempts at serious film making. Given it’s relatively high rating and its headliners, Van Heflin and Marsha Hunt, I was expecting much more. Unfortunately I was highly disappointed. To begin with, the plot about forensic scientists Heflin and Hunt solving a high profile murder on what at least to me seems as extremely weak evidence is pretentious. Moreover it’s convenient when the murderer shows up to collect the evidence thereby sealing his guilt. If at least that part of it had been more believable! But the producers had to throw in sexual politics typical of the 40s: a woman scientist who just wants to get married despite the fact she has a master’s degree. With that as her paramount ambition she’s willing to settle for anyone, even someone she just met.
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How unfortunate! This could have been a much better film if the forensic evidence alone had been better. And it would have been even better if Heflin and Hunt had an adult instead of a contrived relationship. What a waste! The only bright spot was a brief, uncredited appearance by Ava Gardner as a car hop in her eighth film.

Not bad

Author: Robert J. Maxwell (rmax304823@yahoo.com) from Deming, New Mexico, USA
10 September 2002

Zinnemann’s first film is definitely a B feature. Any movie that has Van Heflin as the lead and Lee Bowman and Marsha Hunt in support has got to be a B. (Hunt was later to fall afoul of anti-communist forces in Hollywood and her career, such as it was, was over, despite her cutely upsloped nose.)

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It’s basically a police vs. racketeers story, but the police work is done behind the scenes in a lab called “Crime Laboratory” on the door. Everything Jack Webb does in “He Walked By Night,” Van Heflin does here, except that he is the chief focus of the movie rather than an occasionally consulted expert source. In fact, come to think of it, he does some pretty amazing things in that lab. I’ll bet HE wouldn’t have made a hash of the scientific evidence in the O. J. Simpson case! Bowman parades around as an ambitious racket buster but is in reality a sneaky murderer.

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You can tell because he has that kind of mustache. Exemplifying the Peter Principle, he finds his level of incompetence as an actor here. Van Heflin, on the other hand, turns in an interesting characterization, laconic and intense at the same time, keeping his assistant Hunt at a distance with his ironic smile and refusal to take her seriously. Heflin seems to me a largely underrated actor. He has considerable range, from modest and loving and a bit dull (“Shane”) to cynical and brutal (“They Came to Cordura”) and believable in any case.

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The movie spends as much time on the triangle involving Heflin, Hunt, and Bowman as it does on the crime theme itself, and not to its detriment. The script is evocative in its datedness. One can become a celebrity by being an effective radio speaker. Everybody smokes freely and uses paper matches. Women’s fashions look hideous. The black telephones have rotary dials. Heflin mixes some potions together and they bubble over with vapor from the dry ice in the container. (Heflin sets the ominously gurgling glass in front of Bowman and says, “Wait till I get the reagent.” “Bring two straws,” says Bowman.) Ava Gardner has a few lines as a carhop. Robert Blake is seen briefly as a dark-eyed boy leaning over into the front seat of a car.

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Zinnemann was a nervous wreck when the movie was first shown. It was a small audience consisting of Louis B. Mayer and his stooges. Before the film was finished, someone entered and whispered to Mayer and after a flurry of activity they rose and walked out of the showing. Zinnemann was certain his goose was cooked. But in fact Mayer had just received news that Carol Lombard had been killed in an airplane crash and, whatever feelings he might have had about Lombard, he could be certain that the event would impact on Clark Gable, Lombard’s loving husband and one of MGM’s biggest stars. The movie isn’t worth much analysis because there really isn’t much to it. But I kind of enjoyed it.

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Good “B” Movie

8/10
Author: fwdixon from United States
9 April 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Van Heflin is miscast (IMO) as a forensic criminologist trying to solve the murder of the anti-corruption mayor. Marsha Hunt is the love interest and his assistant. Lee Bowman plays the ambitious young attorney who helped get the mayor elected. As the film starts, the crime-busting mayor and DA had just gotten elected and the mayor is thanking Bowman. Cut to the next scene where Bowman secretly meets with crime kingpin and political fixer John Litel and arranges the murder of the DA. After the DA’s body is found, Heflin uses forensics to find the killer and Bowman is made a “Special Investigator” who also make fatuous crime busting appearances on the radio!

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But the mayor figures out that Bowman is crooked, call him into his office and tells him he plans to launch an investigation the very next day. Of course, he’s signed his own death warrant and Bowman plants a bomb in the mayor’s car that blows him to kingdom come the next morning. Beanery owner Eddie Quillen gets picked up for the murder and Bowman uses his influence to screw him even more. Meanwhile, Bowman is romancing Marsha Hunt and she foolishly keeps tipping him to everything that Van Heflin figures out. Pretty soon Heflin uncovers evidence of Bowman’s guilt and, of course, Hunt unwittingly tips him off. It all come to a head when Bowman goes gunning for Heflin at his laboratory. A pretty good fight ensues and Bowman is subdued and arrested. A sappy added on final scene has Heflin proposing (successfully of course) to Marsha Hunt.

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I really enjoyed this movie. The script is good, the pacing brisk and the acting, while certainly not Oscar worthy, was pretty darn good. Plenty of familiar 30s/40s character actors are on hand too. Anyhoo, Van Heflin, although he gives a journeyman performance, is hard for me to accept as a “good guy”. He always plays morally questionable characters much better. I feel the roles of Heflin and Bowman should have been switched. My “B” Movie Meter: 8* out of 10*

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Debut

30 October 2000 | by KuRt-33 (kurtaerden@yahoo.com) (Antwerp, Belgium) – See all my reviews

The category for this movie might be ‘mystery’, the plot however certainly isn’t. Within the first five minutes of the film you found out that Jerry is corrupt and you meet McKay, the man who’ll certainly solve the crime. This makes you wonder why the movie would be interesting.

Still, like most of Hitchcock’s features, it’s not what the movie is about, it’s what you do with the plot that makes the movie. Zinneman’s first is quite good for a debut: the film is sober but effective. The relation between McKay and his female assistant Mitchell is more interesting than 95% of the working relations you normally get to see. McKay’s forensic quest is quite interesting too.

Bear in mind that it’s a debut and watch a very nice film.

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Black Widow (1954)

Black Widow is a 1954 DeLuxe Color mystery film in CinemaScope, with elements of film noir, written, produced and directed by Nunnally Johnson and starring Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, and George Raft.

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Peter Denver (Van Heflin) is a renowned Broadway producer attending a party—hosted by the viciously haughty and celebrated actress Carlotta “Lottie” Marin (Ginger Rogers) and her quiet husband Brian Mullen (Reginald Gardiner)—when he meets Nancy “Nanny” Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner). Ordway is a seemingly naïve, 20-year-old, aspiring writer, who hopes to make it big in New York. She convinces a reluctant Denver to let her use his apartment to work during the day, while his wife, Iris (Gene Tierney), also a famous actress, is away, but with her permission.

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After the Denvers return from the airport and find Nancy hanging dead in their bathroom, a variety of people Ordway has recently met in New York begin to reveal deeper and darker connections with her. Lt. Bruce (George Raft), the detective assigned to the case, soon discovers that this apparent suicide was in fact a homicide and believes that Denver, quickly suspected of having an affair with Ordway, is the murderer. Denver evades arrest and seeks clues to discover the real murderer; the case becomes cluttered when he and Lt. Bruce independently realize that Ordway’s dealings in New York have not been as innocent as her superficial personality.

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Ordway had recently stayed with an artist roommate, whose deceived brother she evidently agreed to marry, while also staying for some time with her uncle. A series of flashbacks reveal that, all along the way, Ordway was craftily piecing together a scheme that would help her climb the social ladder and, later, conceal the identity of an apparent secret lover, while falsely implicating Denver; this mysterious romance is confirmed by an autopsy, which reveals that Ordway was pregnant at the time of her death. Everyone Ordway knew is suddenly a suspect in the murder case, including Lottie Marin and Brian Mullen, who live in the same apartment building as the Denvers.

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In the end, Mullen, who can no longer keep quiet to his friend Peter Denver, reveals that he was Ordway’s secret lover, although he swears that he didn’t kill her. Having bugged Mullen’s apartment, Lt. Bruce barges in, charging Mullen with the homicide. Finally Marin admits she in fact strangled Ordway for having the affair with her husband, and set up the killing to look like a suicide.

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Tightly constructed, beautifully filmed, straight up high society suspense

17 August 2011 | by secondtake (United States) – See all my reviews

Black Widow (1954)

An early full color Cinemascope drama, loaded with starts, and written by a high powered but somewhat forgotten stage and screen writer of the 40s and 50s, Nunnally Johnson. And this is one of a handful of films he directed, too. It’s really quite a fully blossomed drama, and it grows with complexity as it goes. And it’s packed with stars. The leading man has always impressed me even though he’s not the handsome or powerful sort that usually commands the first credits, Van Heflin. he’s really amazing, subtle and perfectly sophisticated and well meaning and (eventually) tortured.

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His wife is played with usual cool cheerfulness by Gene Tierney, and their neighbor and friend is a haughty and ridiculous (perfectly so) Ginger Rogers. Rogers takes her role to the hilt, both in arrogance and frivolity and later in emotional breakdown.

What ensues is not just highbrow Broadway theater culture, but eventually a criminal (or psychologically suspenseful) tidal wave sweeps over the relatively lightweight beginnings, and the effect is kind of remarkable in its own way. I mean, it’s so completely theatrical and melodramatic, and yet it really works as an interpersonal and heartfelt (and probing) drama, too. The writing is smart, nuanced, and it plays the line of being exactly what it is–meaning that it’s about the very world that Johnson lives in.

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The cop in this case is George Raft, always a little stiff and stiff again here, but he does his job. The seductress who is the center of all these talents is Peggy Ann Garner. Who is she? Well, after several years of being a successful child actress, and except for a small role in an obscure 1951 Fred Zinnemann film as an adult, Garner was a television actress (including some t.v. movies) bouncing from one series to another. Then, at the end of her career, she had small roles in three more features. And in many ways, she’s the weak link here–she’s supposed to be sleeping her way to success in the theater world, and yet there’s something not quite right about her in this role. I suppose I underestimate middle aged rich men.

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The plot this girl weaves for those around her is elaborate and devilish. And when it goes wrong for her, it really goes wrong for our main man Heflin. At the point the film is very much like Hitchcock film, with the apparently innocent man accused of a crime. Unlike Hitchcock, Johnson uses flashbacks at key points near the end., which do their job but also have a way of deflating the suspense.

See for yourself!

Fading stars breathe life into artificial murder mystery set on Broadway

8/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
6 October 2003

No matter how pretentious the cocktail party, never escape by asking another wallflower out for dinner. That was theatrical producer Van Heflin’s mistake when, on the terrace of Broadway diva Ginger Rogers’ apartment, he took pity on hopeful young writer Peggy Ann Garner. Just a few months later, she was found hanged in the bathroom of his apartment.

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It was all very innocent, though. While his wife, another star on the Rialto (Gene Tierney), was away tending to her ailing mother, Heflin let Garner use his place as a daytime office so she could write in quiet comfort. (Well, not so quiet: She listens to `The Dance of the Seven Veils’ from Salome incessantly and fixates on a line from the opera: `The mystery of love is stronger than the mystery of death.’) But when it turns out not only that she was pregnant but that she was murdered, the police sensibly enough find in Heflin their prime suspect.

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Black Widow, written and directed by Nunnally Johnson, assembles an impressive array of Hollywood luminaries across whose resumés long shadows were beginning to creep. Along with Rogers, Tierney and Heflin, there’s George Raft as a police detective, Otto Krueger as Garner’s actor uncle and Reginald Gardiner as Rogers’ whipped spouse. It’s an ensemble-cast, 40s-high-style mystery movie, made about a decade too late but not too much the worse for that (even allowing for its color and Cinemascope).

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Heflin’s technically the center of the movie – the patsy racing around to prove his innocence. But the meatier parts go to the women, except for Tierney, all but wasted in the recessive role of the elegant but dutiful wife. Garner makes her abrupt exit early in the movie, but returns in startlingly revisionist flashbacks. And, as the grande dame (named `Carlotta,’ perhaps in homage to another grande dame of the stage, Marie Dressler’s Carlotta Vance in Dinner at Eight?), Rogers strides around in big-ticket outfits and fakes a highfalutin drama-queen accent. For most of the movie it seems like ill-fitting role for the essentially proletarian Rogers, but it’s shrewdly written, and near the end she shows her true colors, becoming, briefly, sensational.

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Like Repeat Performance and All About Eve, Black Widow uncoils in a high-strung, back-stabbing theatrical milieu that’s now all but vanished – all the money and the glamour have moved west. (Not to put too fine a point on it, but the tiny part of a struggling Greenwich Village actor is taken by television producer Aaron Spelling, now one of the richest men in Hollywood.) The movie cheats a little by withholding information essential to our reading of the characters, but it’s a forgivable feint; the characters are all `types’ anyhow. There is, however, one baffling omission – there’s not a single widow in the plot.

The Sellout (1952)

Director:

Gerald Mayer

Haven D. Allridge is the editor-in-chief of the News-Intelligencer newspaper in St. Howard, a town where he and his family have lived all their lives. Peggy, Randy and Marcia Staunton – Haven’s married daughter, her husband, and their child – now live about thirty miles away in Bridgewood County, which is adjacent to the St. Howard town limits. Randy is the county prosecutor. Haven learns first hand the corruption of the county sheriff, K.C. Burke, and his associates when, in an innocent enough move in picking up an acquaintance, Wilfred Jackson, at a bus stop located within the county and lightly bumping but not damaging a county sign with his car in the process, Haven and Wilfred are hauled into jail, where they spend the night before appearing before the county judge the next morning. Beaten up by prisoners with who they shared the cell, Wilfred, who has no money and pleads not guilty to the charge of soliciting rides on the highway, is held at a labor camp for trial in thirty days…

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The meaning of ethics

23 October 2011 | by blanche-2 (United States) – See all my reviews

Walter Pidgeon, John Hodiak, Tomas Gomez, Audrey Totter, Cameron Mitchell, Karl Malden and Everett Sloan all star in “The Sellout,” a 1952 film. Pidgeon plays a well-respected newsman, Haven Allridge, who runs afoul of a corrupt sheriff (Gomez). Despite the fact that he and his department have been using violence and other illegal tactics unopposed because people are afraid, Allridge decides to take him down. He uses the power of the press to bring the matter to everyone’s attention, and soon an indictment is called for. Since Allridge’s son-in-law (Mitchell) works for the court, a special prosecutor (Hodiak) is brought in. Unfortunately, when it comes time for the indictment proceedings, everyone seems to have forgotten what they said previously.

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This is an okay movie, although predictable, with good performances. It does point out that ethics aren’t just for people who have nothing to lose, when it’s easy. True ethics are for the tough times, when one is faced with huge losses.

Good cast.

Enviable cast doesn’t ignite four-square crusade against corruption

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
18 January 2003

An enviable cast of noir veterans (John Hodiak, Audrey Totter, Walter Pidgeon, Thomas Gomez, Everett Sloane, and Karl Malden) tackling an all-American storyline – a newspaper crusades against municipal corruption – promises something above the ordinary. But The Sellout’s promise, like cold fusion’s, proves an inflated one; the movie never quite ignites.

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An editor from a mid-sized city (Pidgeon), visiting his daughter’s family in a neighboring county, drives into a speed trap. He’s thrown into jail, subjected to a prisoners’ kangaroo court, and fined the entire contents of his wallet. Once back, he launches a crusade against this hijacking of the law, lining up witnesses and publishing blistering editorials against Gomez, the sheriff, and county boss Sloane. Then, abruptly, he leaves town and the campaign ceases.

A prosecutor from the state capital (Hodiak) is sent to investigate; upon arrival, he’s ambushed by a B-girl and shantoozie (Totter) who works at the machine’s headquarters, a road house called Amboy’s. Her philosophy of life is eloquent: (`Who makes plans? You do the best you can – Sometimes you wish things turned out differently.’) But she grows sweet on him and warns him off. With the help of honest cop Malden, Hodiak tries to get to the bottom of the editor’s silence, but everywhere encounters a stone wall. It turns out that the corruption runs very close to home….

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Probably the biggest shortcoming of The Sellout is relegating Totter to a sub-plot that fizzles out too early; she lends the movie whatever quirky subversiveness it shows. For the most part, however, it’s four-square – there’s little visual excitement – and a little too self-important. Though crowded with incident, it ends up just plodding along. It’s also rooted in a now (one hopes) vanished America where out in the boondocks, away from the bright lights of civilization, lurked pockets of unexpected peril. The billboards marking the city limits might have well warned: Beyond here lie monsters.

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No Stool Pidgeon

6/10
Author: wes-connors from Los Angeles
1 October 2011

Idealistic and respected newspaper editor Walter Pidgeon (as Haven D. Allridge) is accosted by corrupt sheriff Thomas Gomez (as Kellwin “Casey” Burke) in a nearby town and treated poorly in jail. Vowing to “skin this tin badge off that sloppy shirt of yours if it’s the last thing I do,” Mr. Pidgeon wants his newspaper to help blast the nasty Sheriff out of office. Then, suddenly, he becomes “The Sellout” and stops his exposé. Following a likely murder, state attorney John Hodiak (as Charles “Chick” Johnson) and detective Karl Malden (as Buck Maxwell) attempt to prosecute the case, but find Pidgeon uncooperative. The transition of leading men is awkward, but this is an engaging little drama, with a nice supporting cast.

****** The Sellout (5/30/52) Gerald Mayer ~ John Hodiak, Walter Pidgeon, Karl Malden, Thomas Gomez

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Losing Momentum

6/10
Author: dougdoepke from Claremont, USA
27 July 2009

1951, the Kefauver congressional committee on organized crime and corruption is making headlines, and MGM under new head Dore Schary is trying to make that famously big-budget studio relevant to news of the day. The trouble is that the so-called Tiffany of studios just doesn’t have the same feel for gritty material as a Warner Bros. or an RKO. Too bad this film doesn’t sustain the harrowing feel of the first 15 minutes, when prominent editor Allridge (Pidgeon) is brutalized after a minor traffic infraction by corrupt Sheriff Burke (Gomez). Allridge’s ordeal has the feel of a “sudden nightmare” to it, as if he’s been abruptly forced into a savage new world where the old civilized rules no longer apply. It’s a backwater county run by the sheriff like a private fiefdom and a jailhouse where inmates rule once the cell door slams shut. I like the way we’re shown the difficulties state prosecutor Johnson (Hodiak) encounters in trying to rid the county of Burke and his outlaw regime.

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Still and all, the longer the movie lasts, the more momentum it loses, ending with a final 20 minutes of plodding courtroom procedure. There’s still some suspense in the air (why did Allridge skip town), but the initial energy has long since dissipated. At least part of the problem lies with uninspired direction that can’t sustain the early sense of tension and evil. Too bad noir maestros like Phil Karlson or Anthony Mann weren’t running the show. Those reviewers contrasting this film with Karlson’s similar Phenix City Story are right on target. Nonetheless, the movie does have its moments, along with a vibrant turn from the under- rated Audrey Totter who never seemed to get the recognition her talent deserved.

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Final film of Richard Cramer, whose career started back in the days of silent films.

In this drama, an idealistic newspaper editor tries to launch a public crusade against a corrupt sheriff. The editor ends up kidnapped, but fortunately, the states attorney continues with the cause. The sheriff is brought to trial, but none of the witnesses are willing to speak against him.
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Dead End (1937 )

Directed by William Wyler
Cinematography Gregg Toland

Dead End is a 1937 crime drama film directed by William Wyler. It is an adaptation of the Sidney Kingsley 1935 Broadway play of the same name. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Joel McCrea, and Sylvia Sidney. It is notable as being the first film appearance of the Dead End Kids.

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Dead End was filmed from May 3 through July 8, 1937.

Robert Osborne, film historian, stated that Joel McCrea had a tough time working with Humphrey Bogart, especially during the scene “…on the rooftop, guns ready, and standing very close to each other. During the filming of that scene, McCrea kept flinching and the director William Wyler had to keep doing more takes. Finally, Wyler pulled McCrea aside, and he asked him what was wrong. McCrea, embarrassed to tell him, explained that Bogart kept spitting in his face when he was speaking. Not exactly what Wyler was expecting to hear or to be the problem. Happens with actors more than you can imagine.

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Great visual beauties, direction, acting. A so-and-so story.

7 November 2002 | by pzanardo (pzanardo@math.unipd.it) (Padova, Italy) – See all my reviews

The main credit of “Dead End” lies in the stunning visual beauties. The studio reproduction of a New York slum is really magnificent, worth of other major achievements of the same kind, like, say, the set of “Rear Window”. A true joy for the eyes. The work of the camera and William Wyler’s direction are outstanding, as well. And, of course, the job of the cast is great. Bogart, still in the role of the villain, McCrea and Sylvia Sidney are excellent, and save their rather straightforward characters and lines. In my opinion, the best one is Claire Trevor, in the small part of the lost girl. I normally dislike kids on the screen, but I must concede that here they give great performances, playing the gang of street-boys.

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The story is conventional, with a noble message, but few and predictable twists. The script is often clumsy and preachy. Luckily enough, the director gives a quick pace to the narration and inserts a number of humoristic touches. There’s a main flaw in the plot: I think that, even in the States of the 1930s, a common citizen couldn’t freely shoot a gangster.

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Anyway, I’ve found in the screen-play an interesting and modern theme, namely the psychological ambiguity of some characters, whom even the all-knowing viewer cannot fully understand. For instance, Claire Trevor is apparently the cliche disgraced girl, the innocent victim of poverty, lack of opportunities, social injustice. To end as a prostitute is her unavoidable doom… But, when her former boy-friend Bogie gives some money to help her, she makes the horribly vulgar request of “twenty more bucks”… with a grimace worth of a hardened prostitute (great stuff by Trevor!). So we see that, after all, perhaps that girl is not so innocent as she pretends to be… And what about Drina’s brother, the leader of the street-boys?

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The audience is perfectly aware that, in spite of his whining, weeping self-apologies (when he’s in dire straits), the boy is a REAL criminal. We see that he deliberately harms people, steals, brutally thrashes the rich kid, wants to slash his gang-mate. And he just mocks his affectionate sister and his friend McCrea when, in tears, he cries that he’s good, that he didn’t intend to harm, and all that. So, are we supposed to feel sympathy for this hideous boy? Interesting ambiguity, which creates a fine artistic effect… perhaps beyond the actual intentions of the writer Lillian Hellman.

All in all, we may forgive the defects of the movie. it is worth seeing “Dead End”, enjoying the beauty of the set and the work of director and actors.

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Well Done — and a superb cameo

8/10
Author: felixoscar from New York, USA
4 December 2004

Considering all the talent involved, it was hardly surprising to find this a first rate movie. Didn’t you want to slap Bogart around … well, that is actually what compelled me to make this entry. Among the handful of superlative cameo (say 2 to 8 minutes in length)performances I have seen in my 40 plus years of movie-going, Dead End features one of them.

Marjorie Main, almost as unlikely a film character (think Ma Kettle!) as one could imagine, turned in what I consider a masterpiece. Read that she repeated her stage role, and wow, that slap, that dialog and that role. Bravo!

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The film turned out to be Bogart’s most significant film since “The Petrified Forest.”

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
17 January 2009

It offers a vivid portrait of people caught up in a continual fight to somehow satisfy themselves despite the oppressive environment that seemed to quiet their every attempt…

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Joel McCrea is a frustrated architect who dreams of tearing down the slums and Sylvia Sidney portrays a shopgirl struggling for identity and meaning in her life, a life made even more complicated by having to look after her brother (Billy Halop). The boy idolizes the decadent Bogart, an excessive admiration shared by the rest of the Dead End Kids, here recreating their original Broadway roles with noisy good humor…

Opposing these idealists is their real threat, Bogart, an assassin named Baby Face Martin… Bogart is impolitely rejected by a mother (Marjorie Main) who hates him and an ex-girl friend (Claire Trevor) who leaves him bitter and disillusioned when he discovers that she has become a hooker…

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Rebuked by those he had been sentimental enough to want to visit, he rapidly reverts to represent beforehand and plans a kidnapping in order to rescue something from the consumed affair…

“Dead End” remains one of Bogart’s best films, where the actor proves that he is capable of handling difficult material with considerable skill…

Still powerful

10/10
Author: preppy-3 from United States
17 August 2004

Excellent drama of the New York tenements of 1937 where the rich people live along the same street as the poor people. Movie focuses on two young lovers (Sylvia Sydney, Joel McCrea), killer Baby Face Martin (Humphrey Bogart) and the Dead End Kids (later to become the Bowery Boys).

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From the incredible opening shot it basically focuses on the kids–it shows the harrowing lives the kids have to live through and how Sydney and McCrea try to keep them good while Bogart teaches them how to rob and kill. Pretty graphic for its day and still strong. Excellent performances by all, especially Bogart, Sydney and Billy Halop (as one of the kids). Also Marjorie Main, Claire Trevor and Ward Bond shine in supporting roles.

This had huge censorship problems–it was adapted from a play and was HEAVILY cut (the language was MUCH stronger in the play and when the kids went swimming they weren’t wearing bathing suits!) and Warner Bros. had to fight to keep it strong. Aside from a nice, moral ending this is pretty gritty. A must-see and seeing Bogart, Sydney and McCrea so young is amusing.

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Bullets or Ballots (1936)

Director:

William Keighley

Cinematography by

Hal Mohr

Bullets or Ballots is a 1936 gangster film starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell, Barton MacLane and Humphrey Bogart. Robinson plays a police detective who infiltrates a crime gang. This is the first of several films featuring both Robinson and Bogart.

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Robinson Ties In With the Mugs!

12 September 2006 | by (bsmith5552@rogers.com) (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) – See all my reviews

“Bullets or Ballots” was affected by the new motion picture Production Code introduced in 1934. The Code stipulated, among other things, that gangsters could no longer be glorified in films as had been done with “Little Caesar” (1930) and “The Public Enemy” (1931). That meant that Warners resident gangsters Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney had to come over to the right side of the law.

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Cagney had done so in 1935 with “G-Men” but in 1936 was embroiled in a contract dispute with Warners and had left the lot. That left Robinson. You can just hear the brain trusts at Warners saying, “Let’s put Eddie Robinson in a new crime picture only this time we’ll have him go undercover so that he can ACT like a gangster while satisfying the Code by really working on the side of the law”. “Bullets or Ballots” was the result.

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Gangster Al Kruger (Barton MacLane) is a new order of corporate type gangster that shuns the old violent ways of the 20s. He is controlled by unseen bosses well placed in the business community. His second in command Nick “Bugs” Fenner is of the old school. When crusading newspaper reporter Ward Bryant (Henry O’Neill) is murdered by Fenner, it sets off a cry for justice. Police Captain McLaren is appointed Special Commissioner charged with cleaning up the rackets.

Detective Johnny Blake (Robinson) is a down on his luck policeman who has been exiled to an outer precinct. One day he learns that McLaren has fired him as part of his cleanup. But as we learn, Blake is really working undercover informing McLaren of the mob’s plans. Blake then joins up with Kruger and rises quickly through the ranks. Fenner, meanwhile doesn’t trust Blake and the two compete against each other.

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As the result of the crime crackdown, the mob’s earnings have dropped. Blake suggests that they move into the numbers racket which was being run successfully on a small scale by Blake’s girlfriend Lee Morgan (Joan Blondell) with the aid her pick-up man Herman (Frank McHugh) and Harlem contact Nellie (Louise Beavers).

With the success of the numbers game, Fenner sees that Kruger has gone soft and is neglecting the mob’s other businesses. Fenner murders Kruger and vies with Blake to take over. Blake succeeds and continues to inform McLaren of the mob’s intentions. Fenner decides on a showdown and…………….

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Robinson, who was a well educated and classically trained actor wanted to get away from gangster roles and did so whenever he could. But in spite of that, he will always be best remembered for these types of roles. Barton MacLane for once doesn’t play the brutish gangster. He plays Kruger as a businessman and not a thug. Bogey on the other hand, had just made his mark in “The Petrified Forest” (1936) and was typecast for the most part as a gangster for the next five years. Joan Blondell is wasted in her superficial role as Robinson’s love interest and McHugh is just along for comedy relief.

Still, “Bullets or Ballots” remains one of the all-time gangster classics.

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William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh efficiency…

7/10
Author: Righty-Sock (robertfrangie@hotmail.com) from Mexico
12 April 2005

Following his brutal portrayal in “The Petrified Forest,” Bogart became a much more articulate and calculating killer in “Bullets or Ballots,” a gangster thriller starring Edward G. Robinson as a crusading crime-buster, modeled after true-life cop Johnny Broderick, known as “the toughest cop on Broadway,” who pretended to be thrown off the police force in order to infiltrate Bogart’s gang and get the evidence to bring him to justice…

Bogart revealed no emotion whatever as he goes about his gun-happy chores of shooting a respected newspaperman as well as his partner-in-crime, Barton MacLane, in his characteristic double-cross…

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The exciting finale found both Bogart and Robinson in a blazing showdown, an unusual ending for this period in film history, but one which Robinson had fought hard to retain…

William Keighley directed the film with a firm and fresh efficiency…

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Robinson Ties In With the Mugs!

7/10
Author: (bsmith5552@rogers.com) from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
12 September 2006

“Bullets or Ballots” was affected by the new motion picture Production Code introduced in 1934. The Code stipulated, among other things, that gangsters could no longer be glorified in films as had been done with “Little Caesar” (1930) and “The Public Enemy” (1931). That meant that Warners resident gangsters Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney had to come over to the right side of the law.

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Cagney had done so in 1935 with “G-Men” but in 1936 was embroiled in a contract dispute with Warners and had left the lot. That left Robinson. You can just hear the brain trusts at Warners saying, “Let’s put Eddie Robinson in a new crime picture only this time we’ll have him go undercover so that he can ACT like a gangster while satisfying the Code by really working on the side of the law”. “Bullets or Ballots” was the result.

Gangster Al Kruger (Barton MacLane) is a new order of corporate type gangster that shuns the old violent ways of the 20s. He is controlled by unseen bosses well placed in the business community. His second in command Nick “Bugs” Fenner is of the old school. When crusading newspaper reporter Ward Bryant (Henry O’Neill) is murdered by Fenner, it sets off a cry for justice. Police Captain McLaren is appointed Special Commissioner charged with cleaning up the rackets.

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Detective Johnny Blake (Robinson) is a down on his luck policeman who has been exiled to an outer precinct. One day he learns that McLaren has fired him as part of his cleanup. But as we learn, Blake is really working undercover informing McLaren of the mob’s plans. Blake then joins up with Kruger and rises quickly through the ranks. Fenner, meanwhile doesn’t trust Blake and the two compete against each other.

As the result of the crime crackdown, the mob’s earnings have dropped. Blake suggests that they move into the numbers racket which was being run successfully on a small scale by Blake’s girlfriend Lee Morgan (Joan Blondell) with the aid her pick-up man Herman (Frank McHugh) and Harlem contact Nellie (Louise Beavers).

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With the success of the numbers game, Fenner sees that Kruger has gone soft and is neglecting the mob’s other businesses. Fenner murders Kruger and vies with Blake to take over. Blake succeeds and continues to inform McLaren of the mob’s intentions. Fenner decides on a showdown and…………….

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Robinson, who was a well educated and classically trained actor wanted to get away from gangster roles and did so whenever he could. But in spite of that, he will always be best remembered for these types of roles. Barton MacLane for once doesn’t play the brutish gangster. He plays Kruger as a businessman and not a thug. Bogey on the other hand, had just made his mark in “The Petrified Forest” (1936) and was typecast for the most part as a gangster for the next five years. Joan Blondell is wasted in her superficial role as Robinson’s love interest and McHugh is just along for comedy relief.

Still, “Bullets or Ballots” remains one of the all-time gangster classics.

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BULLETS OR BALLOTS (William Keighley, 1936) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
14 April 2008

This is one of the few gangster classics from that genre’s golden era and featuring its iconic stars which was never available in my neck of the woods until it surfaced on DVD. It was also the first of five films teaming (or rather pitting one against the other) Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart; the former was the real star and he was already starting to branch out from gangster roles – the latter was still a supporting actor (having just had his big break with THE PETRIFIED FOREST [1936]) and five more years would pass till he achieved his long-deserved stardom (nevertheless, in spite of the lack of range offered by the scripts for these type of roles, Bogie always made an impression at it).

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By this time, the Hays Code had come down on Hollywood for their glorification of the gangster; Warners had pulled a clever switch with “G” MEN (1935), where these same crimes were presented from the viewpoint of law enforcement officers (that film had also been helmed by this film’s director, William Keighley, and starred another of the great genre actors, James Cagney). In this case, the narrative allowed Robinson as an undercover cop to still be involved in the criminal activity, and rise through the ranks as always, without taking active part in them: however, censorship of the time still dictated that his character had to die at the end (unless it was a way of showing the risk inherent in such police work).

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Interestingly, Keighley would return to a similar situation – this time revolving around the F.B.I. – many years later with the noir THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948), which I’ve just watched as part of my ongoing tribute to Richard Widmark; having mentioned the noir, while I admire the vitality and raw power of the gangster films, their limited plot lines rather prevents them from having the same pull of the fatalistic thrillers often involving tortuous plots and where the protagonists – apart from the dark city streets – could be as much a private detective as the next man, but always gullible and at the mercy of a femme fatale…

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To go back to BULLETS OR BALLOTS, the film is typically fast-moving – it’s not just the action that crackles but the dialogue as well – and, while some of the edge of the very earliest gangster pictures, has been lost by way of repetition (and the standards of the Code), it’s still a satisfactory and highly entertaining entry. For the record, two of the very best efforts in this influential genre were still a couple of years away – namely ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) and THE ROARING TWENTIES (1939), both with Cagney as an anti-hero and Bogie ever the irredeemable and duplicitous mobster. Here, alongside the two stars, are Joan Blondell as Robinson’s on-off girl on whom Bogart has his eyes as well (interestingly, she’s got her own particular racket going!), Barton MacLane as the big boss whom Bogart is forever trying to oust (again, a role he would often play) and Frank McHugh providing the comic relief (ditto).

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very satisfying Warner police drama

7/10
Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
20 July 2006
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Okay, I’ll admit that MOST of the Warner Brothers films of the 1930s starring actors like Cagney, Bogart and Edward G. Robinson were predictable and formulaic. But, they were also very entertaining and the public loved them. I happen to be a real fan of the films but know that they aren’t exactly “high art” or always 100% believable! Well, this is such a film, as you really need to suspend disbelief and just sit back and enjoy–and boy, did I enjoy this dandy film.

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Robinson played a tough as nails detective who used to be a force to be reckoned with in the police department, but in recent years instead of smashing organized crime, he’s been reassigned to more mundane activities. And, he’s got REAL ATTITUDE, as when hoods see him on the street, he’s likely to slug them if they don’t show him “proper respect”. At the same time, the grand jury is outraged by the proliferation of organized crime, so they appoint a new Police Commissioner. However, unexpectedly, this new Commissioner unexpectedly fires Robinson instead of having him return to his old mob-fighting ways! Now at this point, considering who Robinson’s character was, it seemed obvious that his being fired was NOT “strictly on the level”. Where this goes and how the movie wraps everything up, I’ll leave to you.

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The acting is fun and exactly what you’d expect from an old gangster picture. The combination of Robinson, Barton MacLane and Bogart as the leads is exceptional and is sure to please, though I must admit that MacLane’s character, at times, seems a bit stupid and gullible–he wasn’t the best written character in the film.

Edward G. Robinson played GOOD & EVIL GUY!

10/10
Author: whpratt1 from United States
18 August 2004

Enjoyed viewing is great film directed by William Keighley, it has a great cast of Veteran Classic actors.

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Keighley produced another great film,”Street With No Name”,’48. Edward G. Robinson,(Detective John Blake),”The Red House,”’47, was trying to be a good cop and keep the city from being taken over by the hoods. Joan Blondell,(Lee Morgan),”Big Daddy,”’65 has a big crush on Blake and also has a Numbers Racket going on in town that the hoods become interested in obtaining. Barton MacLane (Al Kruger),”Captain Scarface”,’53 is one of the big shot gangsters and tries to get John Blake to change sides and join the bad guys. Humphrey Bogart,(Nick Bugs Fenner), “Dead End”,’37, looks very young and just starting out in his acting career, does not trust John Blake and is a trigger happy gangster who will stop at nothing to become the Number 1 HOOD! If you love old gangster films with great actors, this is the film for YOU!

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Beating Those Criminals to a Pulp

7/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
16 May 2006

Edward G. Robinson stars in yet another classic gangster film from the folks who did them best at Warner Brothers. This time his character of John Blake is based on real life NYPD detective John Broderick.

Back in the day you would not have given much chance for Broderick to grow old and die in bed. Yet in 1966 that’s what he did do. Back in the day too many of New York’s noted underworld figures felt his knuckles in various parts of the anatomy.

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Broderick was independent, fearless, and honest, the last being a rather rare commodity in the days of and just after Prohibition. Good thing he retired before the Miranda decision. He didn’t think that hoodlums had any civil rights.

Because Broderick was so open and known to all undercover work was impossible. But in Bullets or Ballots Robinson is kicked off the force for excessive brutality and joins the hoods he’s been beating on.

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But it’s all an act. It’s a deal worked out by Broderick and the Police Commissioner so he can go undercover and get the goods on the numbers racket. The ostensible heads, Barton MacLane and Humphrey Bogart and the respectable types they’re fronting for.

Though the ending is melodramatic, Bullets or Ballots holds up pretty well today. And who knows, Broderick’s real life might yet rate a good biographical picture today.

Illegal (1955 )

Director:

Lewis Allen

Cinematography by

J. Peverell Marley

After an overly aggressive district attorney unknowingly sends an innocent man to the chair, he resigns, turns to drinking, and acquires a criminal clientèle.

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Almost Forgotten Noir   *****

2 May 2009 | by jpdoherty (Ireland) – See all my reviews

A remake of Warner’s “The Mouthpiece” (1932) “Illegal” is a substantial half forgotten Noir! Directed for Warners in 1955 by Englishman Lewis Allen it stars Edward G. Robinson as a highly accomplished prosecuting attorney who becomes disillusioned when he learns that the man he was responsible for sending to the electric chair (a young DeForest Kelly) has finally been exonerated and found to be innocent after all. With his reputation now in tatters he hits the bottle ending up on skid row. But he slowly picks himself up from the gutter becomes a defence lawyer and a “fixer” for racketeer Albert Dekker. Robinson is terrific in it! His screen presence – with that soft spoken matter of fact acting style

    • is altogether appealing. This, after “Key Largo” (1948) was his first.

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picture for the studio since his contract ended with them in 1942. And while not being an overly auspicious return it wasn’t a bad one either. Others in the cast are Nina Foch, Hugh Marlowe and making her debut , as Dekker’s moll, the voluptuous Jayne Mansfield with the dubious moniker Angel O’Hara (Dekker auditioning her as she plays the piano glibly declares to Robinson “interesting girl – lives and breaths music!”). A fairly engaging movie, nicely written and sharply photographed in monochrome by Perverell Marley. The studio’s legendary composer Max Steiner provides an attractive score which gives the movie an agreeable pace.

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“Illegal” is the second feature on this excellent DVD that also features RKO’s enjoyable Mitchum Noir “The Big Steal” (1949). A splendid package this fine double bill comes with trailers and commentaries for both movies plus a featurette. Interestingly the commentary on “Illegal” is spoken by the film’s leading lady Nina Foch (she pronounces it Fash) who informs us that she now teaches film directing at USC. Not bad for an 84 year old! Also Robinson is interviewed on set by the ill-fated Gig Young where we learn that Robinson loaned some of his prized and valuable paintings from his famous art collection to the studio for use in the picture. They can readily be seen in the movie in Dekker’s palatial apartment.

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Classic line from “Illegal” – when Robinson warns Dekker not to blame him if the court case goes wrong – Dekker responds “I don’t blame people – I bury ’em”!

Production

During filming Robinson lent his considerable contemporary art collection to the production company. These include some impressionist works by Gauguin, Degas, Duran, and Gladys Lloyd, all of which appear in the film. Because Robinson was also the target of investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee this movie was of a lower budget and caliber than his earlier films.

The film offered a rare serious performance by the future sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield, who went on to star in hits like: The Girl Can’t Help It (1956) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957).

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Critical response.

Film critic Bosley Crowther compared the film to The Asphalt Jungle but thought it was not as good. He wrote, “For one thing, the story of Illegal invades the higher echelons of crime, with a fast-thinking, double-dealing lawyer as the principal character … The fact that this hard-bitten lawyer is played by Edward G. Robinson in his old vein of stinging sarcasm is a clue to what you may expect. But more than this and more than the climate of sordid deceit that is achieved is the fact that Illegal tries to blueprint The Asphalt Jungle’s Marilyn Monroe. You may remember that Miss Monroe’s first screen role was in the latter. She spoke not a word but she went right to work as an adornment in the apartment of the criminal counselor. Well, in Illegal Jayne Mansfield plays precisely the same sort of role in the apartment of Albert Dekker, the big poobah of crime. Miss Mansfield, we might add, is the beauty who is imitating Miss Monroe in a feeble imitation of Once In a Lifetime on the Broadway stage.”

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A Clever Man and a Wrong Move

24 October 2011 | by rpvanderlinden (Toronto, Canada) – See all my reviews

“Illegal” is an intelligent and nimble little crackerjack of a crime thriller starring Edward G. Robinson as a D.A who’s maybe a little too smart – and smart-assed – for his own good. He’s ruthless because his job requires him to be. He wins cases. That’s what he’s paid for. He’s quick of wit and tongue. He’s ambitious, canny and – technically, at least – in compliance with the law. He’s, at heart, a good man, and he’s in the public eye, but he’s not universally well-liked. One day, he sends the wrong man to the chair. And he comes undone.

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This sets in motion a plot that winds and twists without becoming outlandish. The picture, which doesn’t strike me as a “noir”, moves at a nice clip, each of the broad spectrum of characters is painted with a defining brush stroke, and the dialogue is efficient and snappy. It’s the kind of movie that hooks you and hooks you good. It did me.

“Illegal” is, above all, an Edward G. Robinson picture. It doesn’t seem like a star vehicle. Robinson shares the screen with everyone, yet he is such a forceful presence and creates such a complex and complicated character, sympathetic yet warped, you search him out in every scene.

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You want to watch him. He’s magnetic. I’m becoming a real Edward G. Robinson fan on the strength of his 40’s and 50’s films alone, some of them comic reminders of his earlier gangster persona. He’s as good in this movie as he is in “Scarlet Street”, which I saw recently for the first time and which, well… kinda sorta blew my mind. I’ve lived a little and can recognize the truths that some of these lively, well-written B-movies shine a light on.

E.G. Robinson in legal thriller that’s better than its parts, thanks to director Lewis Allen

7/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
11 August 2002

Illegal puts Edward G. Robinson through more perils than Pauline ever suffered. A tenacious District Attorney on his way to the governor’s mansion, he resigns when a man he had sent to the electric chair proves innocent. But the civil practice he hopes to undertake goes bust, and he takes to the bottle (a plot development which goes nowhere).

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Down and out, he defends a fellow inmate he encounters in a holding cell, and decides to apply his legal acumen to becoming a sharp, high-priced criminal attorney. To get off a guilty client, he grandstands in court by downing a bottle of poison placed in evidence, only to rush off to have his stomach pumped. (This particular ploy was originated by George Brent in 1940’s The Man Who Talked Too Much.) He’s such a brilliant mouthpiece he comes to the attention of civic crime boss Albert Dekker, whose blandishments he tries to resist.

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Meanwhile, back at the D.A.’s office, he’s left behind his protégé Nina Foch (looking matronly), whom he had taken under his wing when her father, an old mentor of his, passed away. Though he harbors romantic feelings for her, he gives his blessing when she announces her marriage to a young, ambitious lawyer, Hugh Marlowe. But a series of leaks from the office concerning Dekker’s activities brings suspicion on all three. Ultimately, Robinson finds himself defending Foch for murder, during which Jayne Mansfield, Dekker’s mistress, sashays to the witness stand in a wasp-waisted black outfit, replete with picture hat…..

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The fast and too complicated plot takes a few pointless and baffling turns. Though on the talky side, there’s a high quotient of gunplay. Still, it’s absorbing. Robinson, still in his early-50s string of B-pictures owing to his guilt-by-association in the wake of the anti-Communist crusade, holds everything together with his bag of old tricks. And credit must go also to director Lewis Allen, who somehow brought a distinctiveness to several of his films which otherwise might have passed unnoticed: Desert Fury, Chicago Deadline, Suddenly. It’s hard to point out just how, but he brought some of it to Illegal, too.

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Solid E.G. Robinson Performance

8/10
Author: gordonl56 from Canada
7 December 2014
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

ILLEGAL – 1955

Illegal is the second remake of the 1932 film, THE MOUTHPIECE. Here, Warner’s lets W.R. Burnett (The Asphalt Jungle)punch up the story and move it up to the 50’s.

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Edward G. Robinson plays a slick D.A. who wins far more cases than he loses. He wins a big one and decides it is time to run for higher office. This idea goes south when the man he sent to the chair, turns out to be innocent. Robinson resigns and takes to the bottle in a big way.

One day, after spending a night in the drunk tank, Robinson helps a man, Jay Adler, beat a murder beef. He decides to dry out and open up a civil practice. He is soon in demand with all the wrong people. Mobster, Albert Dekker hires him to get various mob types off.

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Nina Foch, a friend from his D.A. days is not amused with Robinson’s working for the “dark side”. The new D.A. Edward Platt, is sure that Robinson must have a source inside the D.A.s office. Platt is sure that the source is Miss Foch. Actually, it is Foch’s husband, Hugh Marlowe. Marlowe got in deep with the mob over a large gambling debt. He is paying the debt off by feeding Dekker info on cases.

This arrangement soon ends when wife Foch learns the truth. She ends up shooting hubby Marlowe when he tries to silence her. D.A. Platt, believes that Foch had murdered Marlowe to stop “him” from informing on Foch. She is charged with murder.

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Robinson quickly steps up and takes her case. Needless to say no one believes a word that Foch says. Robinson digs around and comes up with a witness to Dekker and Marlowe being in cahoots. Dekker is not the least bit amused with this, and sends a hit-man to deep six Robinson. Robinson survives the attack and presents his witness, Jayne Mansfield. Mansfield coughs up more than enough evidence to get Foch off and mobster Dekker in deep trouble.

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A quite watchable film noir with Robinson as usual, giving a reliable performance. Foch, Marlowe and Dekker are also good. The hourglass figured Mansfield, in her first billed role, seems to spend all her limited screen time leaning her upper-works into the camera.

The director here, Lewis Allen is in good form as well. His other film noir include, SUDDENLY, DESERT FURY, A BULLET FOR JOEY, APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER and CHICAGO DEADLINE. The sharp looking film was shot by veteran cinematographer, Pev Marley. The two time, Oscar nominated Marley’s work, includes, THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS, LIFE WITH FATHER, PRIDE OF THE MARINES, DRUMBEAT and KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE.

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ILLEGAL (Lewis Allen, 1955) ***

7/10
Author: MARIO GAUCI (marrod@melita.com) from Naxxar, Malta
4 July 2008

Due to his brush with HUAC, Edward G. Robinson’s career suffered throughout the 1950s; I hadn’t watched that much of his work from this period myself – but have now managed to catch two (coincidentally, both semi-noirs made for the same director) in one day.

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Though actually the second one, this was the superior effort: in fact, I found it to be quite an underrated genre outing – whose courtroom milieu supplies an added treat; for the record, it was the third screen version of a popular play of the 1920s (the others were THE MOUTHPIECE [1932], the best-regarded one, and THE MAN WHO TALKED TOO MUCH [1940]). Robinson is perfectly in his element here as a crusading D.A. who hits the skids after he sends an innocent man (STAR TREK’s DeForrest Kelley!) to the electric chair – trying to pick up the pieces as a common civil lawyer, he falls in with a powerful gangster but is ultimately redeemed (in both senses of the word). At this point, the actor must have relished such a meaty part – particularly one that so vividly recalled some of his earlier vintage work (but most of all BULLETS OR BALLOTS [1936], a Robinson vehicle I watched for the first time only recently and greatly enjoyed, and which also sees him playing on either side of the law).

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The play was here adapted for the screen by two notable scriptwriters, W.R. Burnett (author of LITTLE CAESAR [1930], which had made the star’s name in the first place) and James R. Webb. The supporting cast is also well chosen: Nina Foch as Robinson’s diligent assistant and surrogate daughter, who stays on with the D.A.’s office once the hero is disgraced; Hugh Marlowe as another Robinson aide who loves and subsequently marries Foch; Ellen Corby, one more member of Robinson’s staff but who devotedly sticks with her boss; Albert Dekker as the gangster figure; and a debuting Jayne Mansfield as Dekker’s ‘talented’ moll (her role reminded me of Marilyn Monroe’s celebrated bit in THE ASPHALT JUNGLE [1950], coincidentally drawn from another popular W.R. Burnett novel).

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Eventually, the mole in the D.A.’s office – suspected to be Foch due to her ties with Robinson – is discovered to be Marlowe who, when confronted by Foch, she ends up killing him in self-defense; Robinson defies his boss by taking up her case (protecting himself by secreting evidence that would point the finger at Dekker in the event that something happens to him). Though the film is an atypical noir and contains just one action sequence, Robinson’s unconventional courtroom tactics are at least as entertaining and arresting: knocking out a burly witness to a brawl so as to prove his unreliability; drinking a dose of slow-acting poison himself in order to smash the new D.A.’s case against his client (an associate of Dekker’s); at the end turning up in court mortally wounded to acquit Foch. By the way, a handful of paintings from Robinson’s personal renowned art collection are passed off as Dekker’s in the film!

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Warners’ exemplary DVD – issued as a double-feature, as part of their “Film Noir Collection Vol. 4”, with Don Siegel’s even better THE BIG STEAL (1949) featuring the great team of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer – contains the trailer, an Audio Commentary (an extra I used to lap up in the past but haven’t listened to one in a long time – chiefly due to time constraints and a huge backlog of films!) as well as two featurettes. One discusses the film proper (all-too briefly) and the other a vintage TV piece in black-and-white, hosted by the ubiquitous Gig Young, about courtroomers produced by Warners (with clips from the Oscar-winning THE LIFE OF EMILE ZOLA [1937] and two ‘brand-new’ efforts – Otto Preminger’s THE COURT-MARTIAL OF BILLY MITCHELL [1955], which I haven’t watched, and, of course, ILLEGAL itself with even a brief contribution from Edward G. Robinson).

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You Can’t Get Away with Murder (1939)

Director:

Lewis Seiler

Cinematography by

Sol Polito

You Can’t Get Away with Murder is a 1939 crime drama starring Humphrey Bogart and Gale Page. The film was directed by Lewis Seiler and features “Dead End Kid” leader Billy Halop. The movie is one of Bogart’s studio B pictures filmed before his famous breakthrough in High Sierra two years later.

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“Who said anything about crime, this is a business.”

11 January 2006 | by classicsoncall (Florida, New York) – See all my reviews

Billy Halop led the Dead End Kids in three other films that paired them up with Humphrey Bogart – “Dead End” which gave the gang their name, “Crime School”, and the memorable “Angels With Dirty Faces”. Here, Halop co-stars as the conflicted Johnny Stone, a nineteen year old impressionable young man who looks up to petty hood Frank Wilson (Bogey). It’s a fairly typical Warner Brothers era film, taking a dim view of crime and poverty, and makes you stay till the very end to find out whether Johnny can win out over his conscience.

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Bogart’s character is a vile sort, though he takes Johnny under his wing he’s really all for himself. When a botched pawn shop robbery results in the murder of the owner, Wilson plants Johnny’s gun at the scene. But Johnny’s gun was “borrowed” from his sister’s boyfriend, cop Fred Burke (Harvey Stephens), so now Burke is framed for the robbery and the murder. Winding up in Sing Sing prison for an unrelated caper, Johnny spends his entire time agonizing over whether to rat out Wilson or do the right thing.

There’s a great cast of Warner’s B stock players on hand to move the story along. Henry Travers is “Pop” the prison librarian who tries to help Johnny see things straight. Pop’s in for life though we don’t get to know what his crime was. When introduced to Johnny, the P.K. can’t even remember his real name – “Pop will do, I’ll never need another name” – one of the first serious hints to Johnny that maybe a life of crime isn’t such a good thing.

Joe Sawyer, George E. Stone and Harold Huber are all on hand as prison inmates, with Toad (Stone) regularly making book on whether death row inmates will be executed. Huber’s Scappa is totally unrecognizable compared to his roles in the Charlie Chan films of the same era. The one big surprise in the movie, and you’ll recognize his voice before you even see him, is Eddie “Rochester” Anderson in an uncredited role as inmate Sam. He provides a touch of comic relief every time he visits Pop in the library for a new dessert recipe.

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I always get a kick out of these early films for the perspective they give on the value of money. Wilson gets five gallons of gas for ninety cents, while Fred Burke plans on buying a house in Boston with his promotion that carries three hundred dollars a month – Oh for the good old days!

Though “You Can’t Get Away With Murder” winds up being fairly formulaic, it’s still a decent film with a lot of screen time for Halop, and Bogie building up a head of steam for his gangster sizzler “High Sierra”. With only a couple of viewer comments to it’s credit in this forum, the movie deserves a wider audience, especially if you’re a fan of the principal players.

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Bogart plays Frank Wilson, the leader of a gang of local toughs who frames his former buddy Johnnie Stone in a robbery gone bad. When both men wind up in prison, Wilson pays the price with his life. Bogart had remained on this monotonous course, playing small-time thieves, for most of his 1930s career, but reuniting with Raoul Walsh in the following year’s They Drive by Night would kick his conventional career into high gear.

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Soulful, well-acted gangster/prison combo from the mean streets of the Warner Bros.’ lot. Warner Bros.’ Archive Collection, the M.O.D. (manufactured on demand) service that puts out hard-to-find, library, and cult titles, has released You Can’t Get Away With Murder, the 1939 action meller based on a play by real-life Sing Sing Penitentiary Warden Lewis E. Lawes, starring Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, the Dead End Kids‘ Billy Halop, John Litel, and Henry Travers. Not as well known as some of Bogie’s other gangster pics from this period (probably because he’s really only a supporting player here to the excellent Billy Halop), You Can’t Get Away With Murder‘s title doesn’t leave a lot of room for speculation as to where all the criminals are going to wind up at the end of the movie, but as with so many of these Warner urban efforts from this period, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and pleasantly reflective from time to time. An original trailer is included in this super-sharp remastered edition.

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Teen punk Johnny Stone (Billy Halop) wants nothing to do with his pretty sister Madge’s (Gale Page) fiancé, Fred Burke (Harvey Stephens). Good guy Fred, a private security agent, wants to marry Madge and take her to Boston where his boss has promised him a promotion and a raise. Fred’s even willing to get surly Johnny a job there, too. But Johnny ain’t havin’ none of that, see; he thinks Fred is just shining him on to keep Madge sweet, and no hard-working goody-two shoes is going to make a mug outta him. To Johnny’s way of thinking, local gangster Frank Wilson (Humphrey Bogart) has it all figured out. Having never served a day in jail, smooth, vicious criminal Frank feeds Johnny’s anti-social beliefs (beliefs that Madge forgives, considering that’s all Johnny ever experienced in the slums), eventually taking him under his wing one night to help him stick up a gas station.

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Now Johnny’s got a fistful of cash and a new suit the “easy” way, and Madge is terrified at what will happen to her baby brother. But Johnny’s got the fever, see, and he’s going with Frank all the way. The only problem is, Frank isn’t just a thief, he’s a killer, too, and when Frank zaps a pawn shop owner, he plants Fred’s gun―which Johnny stole and which Frank took away from the kid―on the body. Fred’s arrested for murder, and then convicted, and Johnny’s conscience begins to bother him, particularly when he sees how devastated Madge is at losing her husband. When Frank and Johnny are busted for the gas station stick-up, they wind up in the same prison where Fred is brought for execution, so now Johnny only has a few months to decide whether or not he’s gonna squeal on Frank…with Frank trying to decide when’s the best time to off his unsteady, dangerous pupil in crime.

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It’s been years since I last saw You Can’t Get Away With Murder (I’ll bet the last time was on Bill Kennedy at the Movies!), but I was surprised at how much of it came back to me, and how well it played today, despite less-than-glowing reviews (then and now). Anyone who grew up on these Warner Bros. crime mellers will immediately recognize the conventions of their house style: the quick, fast cutting (accompanied by the blaring, dramatic music cues); the then-up to date colloquialisms and slang; the evocative chiaroscuro lighting, the grimy, realistic sets; the threat of sudden violence simmering below the surface of a topical, punchy social subject (the threat to slum teens from charismatic gangsterism here). No one did these kinds of movies better than Warner Bros. (just as nobody did better musicals at the time than M-G-M, nor horror pictures better than Universal, nor comedies better than Paramount), and while You Can’t Get Away With Murder is rarely if at all mentioned as a notable Bogart picture―let alone an important example of the gangster or prison genre―it’s consistently entertaining in that assured, ultra-professional (and perhaps just a tad “anonymous”) studio/factory way of filmmaking from this period.

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Journeyman director (and that’s not an insult in my book) Lewis Seiler had already twice worked with Warner Bros.’ new acquisition, The Dead End Kids, in Crime School and Hell’s Kitchen…right before Warners dropped their option (either reported hijinks on the lot or nervousness about their sustained popularity, as I’ve read it). So Seiler was attuned to working with the talented Billy Halop (as were co-stars Bogart and Gale Page, who also starred with the Broadway sensations in separate projects, including Crime School and the classic Angles With Dirty Faces). Based on a play co-written by former Sing Sing Penitentiary Warden Lewis E. Lawes (he apparently was famous enough for his picture to featured in the movie’s trailer), You Can’t Get Away With Murder‘s team of scripters, Robert Buckner (Yankee Doodle Dandy, Santa Fe Trail, Dodge City, Knute Rockne, All-American), Don Ryan (Smart Blonde, Devil’s Island), and Kenneth Gamet (the Nancy Drew series, Wake of the Red Witch, Flying Leathernecks)―and any other anonymous scribes not credited in the end―stay true to the Warner crime meller formula here, juicing up its ripped-from-the-headlines story with bursts of violence and snappy dialogue, throwing out some Depression-era populist grumblings about Wall Street as well as some sociological “nature/nurture” musings before dispatching the guilty with Production Code-approved Old Testament morality.

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Indeed, the Code may have been firmly in place by 1939, but the screenwriters of these studio efforts could always find some way to slip in something racy, such as department store worker Madge’s friend, Peg (Gertrude Short), alluding to her boss’ pick-up line at the Underwear Department: “I told him, ‘There ain’t nothing you can tell me about B.V.D.s'” (you could also have a lot of fun in a term paper making a case for the veiled push-me/pull-you homosexual triangle that the scripters ever-so-slightly hint at with Bogie, Halop and Henry Travers). The rest of You Can’t Get Away With Murder sticks pretty closely to Warner’s formula for this time, from the occasional heavy-handed symbolism for the female viewers watching (shopgirl Madge works in the luggage department…and wants to escape to anywhere, yearning for the suburban good life that Fred can give her), to then-popular sociological “nurture” excuses about criminal behavior patterns that the liberal Warner Bros. frequently embraced in these crime mellers (Madge defends Johnny gravitating towards Frank because all he’s ever known in his life is “poverty, cheapness, and gangs”). But this is 1930s liberalism, not today’s brand, and Johnny’s sneering rejection of working hard to get ahead and the ethos of “try, try again”-ism, is going to land his ass in trouble fast.

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Bogie’s cocksure gangster Frank is set-up to be admired by the audience just as Robinson’s Little Caesar and Cagney’s Public Enemy were at the beginning of the decade (with his top billing, we expect Bogie to run this show). He’s the new kind of “smart hood,” apparently, who sees crime as a business first, with government statistics about likelihood of getting caught, and likelihood of getting convicted, used to convince Johnny that crime indeed does pay if you bet on the percentages. He pays his taxes to throw the Feds off his scent, and his “all it takes is brains and nerve” motto puts the emphasis first on strategy and cunning (which he shows when in a flash, he plants Fred’s gun on the murdered pawn store owner’s body, simultaneously letting himself off the hook and fingering Fred, who Frank swore he would get even with for slapping the gangster). And just for good measure, he throws in a moral justification equivalency about Wall Street bankers “having their hands in everyone’s pockets,” to seal the deal with pissed-off Depression audiences. Yet almost immediately, the scripters take Bogie’s seemingly Robin Hood-ish populist gangster and show him up for his true colors: a vicious, amoral killer who will hound and ride Johnny to keep his secret safe…and then polish him, too, when it’s expedient.

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When You Can’t Get Away With Murder switches allegiance to Johnny, the movie because quite reflective and soulful…for a Warner’s gangster/prison “B,” with a genuine amount of suspense―both cinematic and moral―generated as we watch Johnny gradually lose his nut trying to justify his silence that will kill the wrongfully accused Fred in the electric chair. There are numerous scenes with Halop where the moral implications of his silence are debated, and pushed, and thrown back at his confessors, with director Seiler going in tight on Halop as he struggles with his impossible dilemma: rat out Bogie and become an accessory to murder (dead either by a “stream of electric juice” or a shiv from Bogie), or let Fred fry for a murder he didn’t commit…and live with the guilt that he destroyed not only Fred, but his sister’s life, too. A big surprise for me was how well Halop comes over in these scenes. It’s an intense portrayal of anguished indecision and moral vacillation and it’s surprisingly varied, technically.

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As for Bogie, he’s excellent, as well, playing a gangster yet again who shows absolutely no remorse for the killing he’s done…or the killings he’s planning (he appeared four times as a gangster in 1939 alone…and he certainly wasn’t happy about it at this point in his career). You Can’t Get Away With Murder was one of seven films Bogart had in release for 1939 (another gripe he had: his sausage-grinder shooting schedules), when Warners was throwing him as a supporting player into anything they had on their production roster, including his only (improbable) ventures into the Western and horror genre―The Oklahoma Kid and The Return of Doctor X―that same year, too.

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It would take another two years of slogging through B-supporting roles before he landed the one-two leading man punch of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon in 1941, permanently elevating him into Hollywood’s top star ranks. That’s when the Bogie we now know best came into being―the wounded, cynical, romantic anti-hero hiding his idealism deep down inside himself―but I must say I have a fondness, too, for the earlier Bogie of films like You Can’t Get Away With Murder, where his clipped, nasty shorthand for the violent, amoral killers he portrayed matched up perfectly with the frameworks of the fast-paced, exciting B-programmers routinely churned out by Warners.

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Final Thoughts:
Typical slam-bang Warner Bros. gangster/prison meller…but with a decidedly reflective, moody undercurrent. Humphrey Bogart may be top-billed, but his usual skill at portraying an amoral psychotic killer takes a supporting player backseat to Dead End Kid Billy Halop’s excellent portrayal of a punk kid tortured by a life-and-death decision. “B” moviemaking at its most efficient…and effective. I’m highly recommending You Can’t Get Away With Murder.

Female on the Beach (1955)

Directed by Joseph Pevney
Cinematography Charles Lang

Lynn Markham moves into her late husband’s beach house…the morning after former tenant Eloise Crandall fell (or was pushed) from the cliff. To her annoyance, Lynn finds both her real estate agent and Drummond Hall, her muscular beachcomber neighbor, making themselves quite at home. Lynn soon has no doubts of what her scheming neighbors are up to, but she finds Drummond’s physical charms hard to resist. And she still doesn’t know what really happened to Eloise.

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Crawford strikes again!

22 September 2002 | by hipthorntonSee all my reviews

Freudian references aside,this well-mounted melodrama about a rich widow mixed up with a shady beach bum is definitely Crawford at her best. No simpering weak-kneed sister,this film noir-type story is a direct slap in the face to the Hollywood in the 50’s who insisted on casting aging leading men with absurdly young leading ladies.The notion that older women need love and affection was considered almost absurd. Tennessee Williams territory!This film brought it smack dab in the face.Natalie Schaefer and Cecil Kellaway are fun as card sharks after Crawford’s money.Jeff chandler is stolid as the beach bum.Judith Evelyn is touching as Eloise Crandall in the flashbacks. Jan Sterling is good as somewhat snaky realtor.Charles Drake is good as beach cop,t

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Plot..

Lynn Markham (Crawford) visits a beach house that once belonged to her dead husband. There, she meets real estate agent Amy Rawlinson (Jan Sterling) and Drummond “Drummy” Hall (Chandler), an attractive beach bum who wanders in and out of the house as though he owned it.

Lynn learns the house was once rented to Eloise Crandall (Judith Evelyn), an older woman whose cause of death (suicide, accident, or murder) remains undetermined. Lynn later discovers “Drummy” is the accomplice of card sharps Osgood and Queenie Sorenson (Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer), and that he heartlessly pursued Crandall in order to set her up for card games with the Sorensons. Lynn’s physical attraction to Drummy is overpowering and she marries him. Events on their honeymoon lead Lynn to believe he murdered Eloise. It transpires, however, that Amy Rawlinson killed Crandall because she wanted Drummy for herself.

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Reviews

Film critic Bosley Crowther gave the film a mixed review, writing, “Their progress is rendered no more fetching by the inanities of a hackneyed script and the artificiality and pretentiousness of Miss Crawford’s acting style. At the end, the guilty party is revealed in a ridiculous way. Jan Sterling, Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer are the supporting players you may remotely suspect.

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Shortly before the film was made, Joan Crawford was dating the president of Universal Pictures, who offered her the role. She also was given her choice of leading man, and she selected Jeff Chandler.
According to Natalie Schafer, halfway through filming she was invited by Joan Crawford to her house for a small dinner party, but had to decline as she already had plans. When Schafer arrived onto the set the next morning, she found that her trailer had been physically moved almost to the parking lot of Universal.
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Crawford plays Crawford in self-referential cautionary tale

8/10
Author: bmacv from Western New York
7 August 2002

Few case studies of Hollywood stardom rival Joan Crawford’s in their curiosity. A certified star from the time of last silent movies and the first talkies, she fell from favor more than once only to be restored in ever newer incarnations, largely through the boundless reservoirs of her will.

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And if there is an era that defines the Crawford that we remember most vividly, it’s the decade-plus, from her Oscar-winning turn as Mildred Pierce in 1945 through her last `really top’ movie, The Story of Esther Costello in 1957. In her valiant assault, as she moved into middle age, against time’s winged chariot, she had vehicles built around her that helped define the canons of camp but retain a fascination that transcends camp. This dozen or so includes: Humoresque, Flamingo Road, her second Possessed, The Damned Don’t Cry, Harriet Craig, This Woman Is Dangerous, Sudden Fear, Torch Song, Queen Bee and Autumn Leaves. Though we may howl at some of them (or at parts of them, for they range from rather good to quite dreadful), we’re always aware – at times discomfitingly so – of the human drama that underlies and links them all: the Joan Crawford story.

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In Female on the Beach, she plays a recent widow taking up residence in the coastal California home her wealthy husband owned. Her arrival proves ill-starred, for a broken railing on its deck marks the spot where its previous tenant – another woman battling age and isolation – plunged to her death. Did she jump or fall – or was she pushed? It unfolds that she had fallen prey to a youngish beach bum (Jeff Chandler) operated by a pair of older con-artists (Cecil Kellaway and Natalie Schafer); Crawford is targeted as their next mark.

Obsessively guarding her privacy, however, she proves to be a tough nut to crack. Her too familiar realtor (Jan Sterling) is swiftly shown the door when she makes the mistake of taking Crawford for granted. And Chandler, turning up unbidden in Crawford’s kitchen one morning, encounters that same rough hide; asked how she likes her coffee, she icily replies `Alone.’

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But tanned muscles and prematurely grey temples do not count for nothing in affluent oceanside communities, so Chandler slowly wins over the armored Crawford. But the course of true love never did run smooth, as the Bard of Avon warns us. Crawford just happens to find the dead woman’s indiscreet diary (it’s hidden away behind a loose brick in the fireplace!), a sad yarn of being cheated in card games and bilked for loans by the larcenous old couple while being strung along by Chandler.

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No fool she, Crawford hands the gigolo his walking papers. But then she sinks into a sump of liquor and self-loathing, staggering around waiting the phone to ring like a torch-carrier out of a Dorothy Parker story. Finally, of course, Chandler does call and, better yet, wants to marry her! But fate has a few final cards to deal, including an uninstalled fuel pump Crawford had bought for Chandler’s boat….

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That staple of genre cinema, the woman-in-jeopardy thriller, generally features dithery, hysterical young things as straw victims. Crawford in jeopardy, by contrast, turns all the conventions upside down. The coquettish bulldozer she has constructed of herself at this menopausal juncture in her life, with her face as fiercely painted as a Kabuki mask, seems designed to repel – to crush – any threats. (Of course, like most such postures of domination and intimidation, It’s a construct of fear – her fears of falling short as a serious actress, as a mother, as a woman; fears of aging and no longer being able to lure her directors and costars between the sheets; fears of not mastering her own unachievable goals.) The facade of control and self-sufficiency proves all the more arresting when it comes under siege from the cumbersome twists and turns of these situations held over from nineteenth-century melodrama.

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Hence, Female on the Beach and its ilk. An indomitable woman of a certain age flies solo into the perils of mid-life, only to triumph against all odds. That was the life Crawford was living at mid-century, the life reflected in these films, by turns appalling and transfixing. Not since the Brothers Grimm has such a string of cautionary tales been issued.

hane Estes  (June 2010)

Rating:   of 5

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When it comes to Joan Crawford I tend to be more of a biased critic because I’m an obsessed gay fan, but I’ll say if it’s a bad film or not, and Crawford has definitely made a few stinkers. Female on the Beach, despite some bad reviews at the time and the fact that a lot of critics today shrug this film off as camp, is a good film; classic 50’s Crawford and one of my personal favorites. It’s definitely in my top 10. Everyone I’ve shown this film to has enjoyed it immensely, full of suspense and laughing the whole way.

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Production details surrounding this picture are few and far between, but from what I’ve read Crawford had a lot of control over this film, complete with cast and script approval, and she did like the picture after it was finished. Interestingly, I read somewhere that this film was a gift for Crawford from the president of Universal Studios (Milton Rackmil) whom she was dating at the time.

I am a huge fan of film noir, and Female on the Beach is the epitome of this genre in the mid 1950’s. All the elements are there: dark, shadowy camera work, the femme fatal and the homme fatal, the crime at the beginning of the film and the details given later in flashbacks, theme of murder, etc. The classic period of film noir is in the 1940’s, but it persisted into the 1950’s and as it evolved it developed characteristics that are sometimes interpreted today as camp, especially toward the end of the period, which is usually agreed upon as 1957 with the release of Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (with Marlene Dietrich as a fortune teller!). I could see how the old-fashioned 50’s acting style could be taken by some people today as campy, but I think this is a highly entertaining film noir. A great example of the genre. A Joan Crawford beach film noir comedy! Three genres in one!

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Joan looks great in this film. Her aging hard-edged noir looks go great with the dark themes presented here. I think she looks better in this than she did in Queen Bee, which came out later that same year. The story is simple so I won’t give away too much. Lonely rich widow (Joan Crawford) falls for shady but ridiculously sexy beach gigolo (Jeff Chandler) with a psycho ex-girlfriend (Jan Sterling). Natalie Schafer reunites with Crawford for the first time since Reunion in France (1942), this time playing a cheating and gambling card-shark aristocrat-wannabe instead of a Nazi’s wife, but nevertheless it somehow comes off as the same character she always plays: Mrs. Howell.

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The film is full of hilarious one-liners. Some of my favorites are “I wouldn’t have you if you were hung with diamonds upside-down,” and “I’d like to ask you to stay and have a drink, but I’m afraid you might accept.” Another good one is when Chandler makes himself at home in Crawford’s kitchen and he asks her, “How do you like your coffee?” to which she replies with a cold, “Alone.” But my favorite line from the film has to be when Crawford says to Sterling, “I have a nasty imagination, and I’d like to be left alone with it.

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Dial M for Murder (1954)

In London, wealthy Margot Mary Wendice had a brief love affair with the American writer Mark Halliday while her husband and professional tennis player Tony Wendice was on a tennis tour. Tony quits playing to dedicate to his wife and finds a regular job. She decides to give him a second chance for their marriage. When Mark arrives from America to visit the couple, Margot tells him that she had destroyed all his letters but one that was stolen. Subsequently she was blackmailed, but she had never retrieved the stolen letter. Tony arrives home, claims that he needs to work and asks Margot to go with Mark to the theater. Meanwhile Tony calls Captain Lesgate (aka Charles Alexander Swann who studied with him at college) and blackmails him to murder his wife, so that he can inherit her fortune. But there is no perfect crime, and things do not work as planned.

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The perfect film for the perfect murder…

After earning an Academy award nomination for her performance in John Ford’s 1953 tale of romance and adventure, “Mogambo”, the beautiful actress Grace Kelly proved that she was way more than just a pretty face and that there was real talent behind her image. However, what truly took her career to new levels were three now classic films she made directed by the legendary Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Under his direction, Kelly made an integral part of the Master’s films, becoming the perfect embodiment of Hitchcock’s idea of a female protagonist. While Kelly debuted two years earlier in the classic Western “High Noon”, one could say that it was Hitchcock who really introduced the beauty and talent of Grace Kelly to the world. “Dial M for Murder” was the first of Hitchcock’s films with Kelly, and a movie where once again the Master returns to a familiar theme: the perfect murder.

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The movie is the story of Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), a former tennis player married to the beautiful and wealthy Margot (Grace Kelly) and living in an nice apartment in London. Life is good for Tony, until he discovers that his wife is cheating on him with an old flame of her, famous crime novel writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). After that discovery, Tony spends a whole years plotting the perfect way to murder his wife in order to inherit her money, carefully planning every detail of the crime. When Mark visits London again, Tony finds the perfect chance to set his plan in motion, and as planned, he recruits Charles Swann (Anthony Dawson) to kill his wife. However, bad luck and a sudden change of events will test Tony’s plan’s infallibility as, just as Mark points out, human action can originate flaws even in the most perfectly devised plan.

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Like most Hitchcock’s films, “Dial M for Murder” was an adaptation of another art-form, this time a popular play by Frederick Knott. As Knott was also the writer of the screenplay, the movie remains extremely faithful to the play, although of course, not without its differences. Knott’s script is wonderfully constructed, as like in the play, the dialog is witty and simply captivating, with many twists and turns that spiced up the complex plot and keep it from being boring or tiresome. An interesting feature of the movie is that oddly, there are no black and white morality in the characters, and it’s easy not only to sympathize with Margot (despite she being cheating on her husband) but also to sympathize with Tony (despite he wanting to kill his wife), as the characters are wonderfully developed with very detailed personalities.

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It seems that Hitchcock’s knows that the dialog is the highlight of the play, as he deliberately focuses on his actors and uses an elegant camera-work to frame the whole movie inside the apartment. The movie literally is shot entirely in one single room (only two other sets are used, and only briefly), but Hitchcock’s classy way of using the camera allow a highly dynamic flow that never lets the movie be tiresome. This is also very helpful as Hitchcock just lets his characters keep speaking, carefully describing actions and events (when other directors would use flashbacks) in a similar way to a what the real play would be. While this approach could easily get boring, Hitchcock’s use of colors and overall visual imagery simply creates the perfect medium to allow Knott’s dialog to shine.

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Without disrespecting John Ford or Fred Zinnemann, I think that it was Hitchcock who finally could allow Kelly’s talent to shine beyond her physical beauty. Grace Kelly makes her character shine with her subtle and restrained performance, specially showing her skill in the second half of the film. While often Kelly receives top honors in this movie, it is actually Ray Milland who makes the whole movie work with his suave and charming “villian”. Milland’s performance is simply terrific, making his character nice enough to win the sympathies of the audience, yet still frighteningly intelligent as the mastermind of the plot. John Williams appears as the Inspector in charge to solve the complex puzzle, and delivers a classic performance as the Enlgish gentleman decided to find the final answer. Only Robert Cummings seems miscast as Mark Halliday, although a lot of his weak performance could be blamed to Milland, Kelly and Williams overshadowing him with their excellent work.

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In many ways, “Dial M for Murder” shares many things with “Rope”, as not only the two films are based on successful plays, they are also about committing the perfect murder and oddly, they are both “experiments”: while “Rope” was conceived as a “movie in one take”, “Dial M for Murder” was done as 3-D movie. Sadly, the interest in 3-D was dying when the film was released, so few theaters carried the movie complete with the gimmick; a real shame, as Hitchcock’s use of the technology, unlike most 3-D films of its time, was conceived as a way to enhance the claustrophobia of the Wendices’ apartment instead of using it to merely shock the audience with “stuff coming out of the screen” (as seen in for example, “House of Wax”). While not too fond of the gimmick, Hitchcock truly gave it a good and intelligent (albeit subtle) use to it.

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“Dial M for Murder” is probably less celebrated than the Master’s most famous movies, the fact that it came out the same years as “Rear Window” (again with Grace Kelly) may have had something to do with it too. While a subtler and more restrained tale of suspense, this is still the Master at his best, as the movie proves that when he was at the top of his game, no other director was comparable to him. 9/10

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One of Hitchcock’s best thrillers.

9/10
Author: Charles Saint-Pierre from Montreal, Canada
15 September 1999

1954 was a big year for Grace Kelly. She played in Hitchcock’s classic “Rear window” and she won an Oscar for best actress in “The country girl” and most people tend to forget that she starred in yet another classic, “Dial M for murder”. Starring Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, and Robert Cummings, it is simply one of Hitchcock’s finest movies of all-time. In fact, I would consider it to be my second favorite Hitchcock movie ever, my first being “Psycho” (although I haven’t seen “Rear window” yet).

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Margot (Grace Kelly) is married to Tony Wendice (Ray Milland), an ex-tennis player. However, she has been seeing another man named Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Mark writes crime stories. The two of them think that Tony doesn’t know about their relationship but they’re wrong; Tony has known about this relationship for one year and seems to have had enough of it. So when Mark, who lives in New-York, comes to London to see Margot, Tony wants to go out with Mark and his wife. But the night of the event, Tony is unable to go. So he tells Margot to take Mark out and to have a good time. The only problem is that Tony doesn’t really have something that’s keeping him from going out with Margot and Mark. He has another plan, the plan being to blackmail one of his old college friends that has become a small time crook into murdering his wife.

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What follows this is pure entertainment at its best. As usual, Hitchcock masterfully directs this movie and has the right actors to do the job. Ray Milland and Grace Kelly deliver very good performances and surprisingly enough, Robert Cummings does a rather good job in his role of Mark Halliday, the American crime novel writer who accidentally stumbles on the answer. But it is John Williams who steals the show with his great performance as Inspector Hubbard, the detective who holds the key to the whole mistery. He is simply excellent and pretty funny when he is supposed to be. Another of his great performances is in “Witness for the prosecution” where he played Brogan Moore, Charles Laughton’s very good friend and seconding lawyer in the case. As for “Dial M for murder”, well it’s one of those movies that anyone should see at pretty much any cost.

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Superior Hitchcock with an exquisite Grace Kelly

9/10
Author: Dennis Littrell from United States
21 July 2002

This is a fine example of the kind of mystery that little old ladies from Pasadena (or Russell Square) adore. Perhaps Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) starring Cary Grant might be comparable in its gentile and bloodless ability to glue us to the screen. This is certainly one of Hitchcock’s best, but most of the credit must go to a devilishly clever play written by Frederick Knott from which the movie was adapted. (He also wrote Wait Until Dark (1967) starring Audrey Hepburn.) Hitchcock does a good job in not tinkering unnecessarily with the material. He also has the exquisitely beautiful Grace Kelly to play the part of Margot Wendice. Ray Milland plays, with a kind of high-toned Brit panache, her diabolical husband, Tony Wendice, a one-time tennis star who married mostly for security. John Williams is the prim and proper Chief Inspector Hubbard. He lends to the part a bit of Sherlock Holmesian flair.

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One especially liked his taking a moment to comb his mustache after the case is solved. Robert Cummings, unfortunately plays Margot’s American boyfriend as inventively as a sawhorse. For those of you who might have blinked, Hitchcock makes his traditional appearance in the photo on the wall from Tony Wendice’s undergraduate days. The fulcrum of the plot is the latchkey. It is the clue that (literally) unlocks the mystery. There is a modernized redoing of this movie called A Perfect Murder (1998) starring Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow in which a similar business with latchkeys is employed. I am not very good with clues so it was only after seeing that movie and Dial M for Murder for the second time that I finally understood what happened.

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Follow the latchkey! Of course I was too distracted by Grace Kelly to fully appreciate such intricacies. I found myself struck with the ironic notion that anyone, even a cuckolded husband, might want to kill Grace Kelly or that a jury might find her guilty of anything! She remains in my psyche America’s fairytale princess who quit Hollywood at the height of her popularity after only five years and eleven movies to become a real princess by marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco. Something was lost there, and something was gained. She was in essence the original Jackie Kennedy Onassis. I think, however, that the old saw about the man who marries for money, earning it, might apply to American princesses as well. At any rate, Grace Kelly’s cool and sublime bearing was on fine display here.

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Hitchcock cloths her in discreet nightgowns and snug (but certainly not clinging) dresses that show off her delicate figure and her exquisite arms and hint oh so coyly at her subtle sexuality. She was 25-years-old, stunningly beautiful, and in full confidence of her ability as an actress. She had just finished starring opposite James Stewart in another splendid Hitchcock one-room mystery, Rear Window (1954), and was about to make The Country Girl (1954) with Bing Crosby for which she would win an Oscar for Best Actress. So see this for Grace Kelly who makes Gwyneth Paltrow (whom I adore) look downright gawky, and for Ray Milland whose urbane scheming seems a layer or two of hell removed from Michael Douglas’s evil manipulations. By the way, the “original theatrical trailer” preceding these Warner Brothers Classic videos is what we used to call the “Coming Attractions”–that is, clips directly from the movie and a promo. You might want to fast forward to the movie itself.

The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Cinematography Arthur J. Ornitz

The Anderson Tapes is a Technicolor 1971 American crime film in Panavision directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Sean Connery and featuring Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, and comedian Alan King. The screenplay was written by Frank Pierson, based upon a best-selling 1970 novel of the same name by Lawrence Sanders. The film is scored by Quincy Jones and marks the feature film debut of Christopher Walken.

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It was the first major film to focus on the pervasiveness of electronic surveillance, from security cameras in public places to hidden recording devices.  Following the Watergate scandal a few years later, covert surveillance, and who is listening, became the themes of several 1970s films such as The Conversation and The Parallax View.

The Anderson Tapes was filmed on location in New York City, on Fifth Avenue, at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Rikers Island Prison, the Port Authority Bus Terminal, Luxor Health Club and on the Lower East Side. Interiors scenes were filmed at Hi Brown Studio[4] and ABC-Pathé Studio, both in New York City. The production was on a tight budget, and filming was completed in the short period of six weeks, from mid-August to October 16, 1970. The film was the first for producer Robert M. Weitman as an independent producer.

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Columbia Pictures was not happy with the planned ending of the film, in which Connery escaped to be pursued by police helicopters, fearing that it would hurt sales to television, which generally required that bad deeds not go unpunished.

Great little gem, sadly forgotten

20 September 2004 | by MovieAddict2016 (UK) – See all my reviews

Sean Connery plays a jail bird who’s let out and decides to pull another heist with the help of a team of experienced crooks; little does he know the cops are monitoring everything.

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What’s so unique about this film by Sidney Lumet, in superb form as director, is that heist films rarely mount the tension by showing us the cops’ side — here it’s like a ticking time bomb, we’re just waiting for Connery and his crew to be arrested and we know that they don’t know that the cops know (err…) and the result is pretty tense.

No fault found in the acting: Connery and a very young Christopher Walken (in his film debut) are great, particularly Walken who shows extensive range very early on. After seeing this I was reminded of his recent role in the “Stepford Wives” remake and had to wonder why he’s resorting to such trash, because he’s just as talented (almost, anyway) as De Niro and Pacino and the difference is he wasted a lot of this during the ’80s and ’90s by taking on small bits in horrible films. I mean, in 2003 he starred in KANGAROO JACK. C’mon!

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Overall THE ANDERSON TAPES is a tense and unique crime thriller that, although very “70s-ish” is entertaining, if a bit outdated in terms of technology. I’m sure it will be remade some day, there’s a lot of potential, however I doubt it’ll ever come close to the original.

4/5

The Man Who Was There! As weird as realism can get.

Author: manuel-pestalozzi from Zurich, Switzerland
7 August 2003
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Forget about the tapes and the surveillance business, they are not the main issue here. At best they are used as a smoke screen to hide the real purpose of this movie: To show us what extents human stupidity can reach.

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For Sidney Lumet this must have been the dress rehearsal for the more famous Dog Day Afternoon. Most of it is shot in a realistic style. But there is more to it, the absurdity of it all is pushed much further and converts realism into surrealism. This is the story of Anderson, a guy who gets out of prison after having served a long spell behind bars. Before he leaves he makes a short speech in which he declaims his philosophy. The essence of it: Everybody steals and therefore everybody has a right to steal. He steps into freedom, gets directly to his former lover’s elegant apartment house off Central Park, looks around a bit and instantly makes the big decision concerning his future life: He will burglarise all apartments in this house in one big sweep and live on what the fence will pay him for the loot for the rest of his life.

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Anderson seems to be a direct descendant of the Coen Brother’s Ed Crane in The Man Who Wasn’t There. And Sean Connery gives a performance as convincing as Billy Bob Thornton. Anderson made a decision – period. He will bear all the consequences, however bloody they will get. And, funny enough, there are people who think the idiotic scheme might be a success. Anderson has authority and leader qualities; he gets financial backing from an oddball son of a big time mobster and can form a team of more oddballs for the burglary (including a very young Christopher Walken). So eventually Anderson drives up to the apartment house with a huge removal truck (remember: this is not filmed in the style of a comedy!).

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I do not want to give away the whole story. Only this much: The viewer sees people on both sides of the law engaged in heavy duty physical exertion. You can laugh and at the same time feel sorry for the poor fellows. The whole enterprise ends in utter disaster for the burglars. Towards the end of the story there is much police present on the street around the apartment house. You can observe ambulance personnel relaxedly unfolding bed linen for their stretchers in front of the Guggenheim. Then some of the gangsters try to make a getaway in a car. The engine roars and the car crashes and overturns after a few yards. This is all filmed very undramatically from a distance, in a matter of fact way, without musical soundtrack. It could almost be a documentary.

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The low key style of the movie heightens the absurdity of the story, strengthens the message and make The Anderson Tapes a memorable experience. There is a very good electronic musical score by Quincy Jones which to my ears still sounds modern, funky and futuristic.

A Bold And Audacious Caper

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
16 May 2009

The Anderson Tapes occupies a great place in the career of Sean Connery, it is one of the films he likes best in his career. And with good reason, it was the first film for which he both drew good reviews and clicked with the public not playing James Bond. Connery could finally be taken seriously as an actor, not just an international sex symbol.

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The film itself draws from elements found in The Asphalt Jungle and The Desperate Hours. There’s no planner character in this film, Connery himself is both the planner and enforcer in the crew he’s put together for a job. But he does need a backer and that’s where organized crime boss Alan King comes in.

Connery is a Duke Anderson, a con just recently released from prison and he’s got some attitudes similar to that other Connery character from Family Business has Jesse McMullen. Not surprising since both films were directed by Sidney Lumet. Like McMullen he feels that stealing is the most honorable profession going if you’re not a hypocrite since all successful people engage in some kind of crookedness. And since he’s done the full ten year bit with no parole and no strings attached to him, there isn’t anything that the criminal justice system can do to him.

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When he sees how well former girl friend Dyan Cannon is doing as someone’s kept woman in a very ritzy apartment on New York’s Upper East Side, Connery conceives a plan to take down the whole building. And bit by bit he assembles his crew.

Young Christopher Walken gets his first big screen role of notice as a young convict released with Connery from the joint. Another con released at the same time is Stan Gottlieb who’s spent most of his life in stir and is thoroughly institutionalized. With his character, Lumet makes a powerful statement about institutional acclamation, in Gottlieb’s case, it’s an act of cruelty almost to let him out in society, he knows no other way of life.

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Since there’s a lot of merchandise to move from these rich folk’s apartments, Connery needs someone along who knows the value and how to get the best value when fencing. Martin Balsam who’s an antique dealer and fence on the side gets brought in on the job itself. Balsam has one of the earliest post Stonewall portrayals of a gay man and while sadly he does conform to stereotype, still it’s a fine piece of work. And he’s crushing out on Connery big time.

Alan King makes an unusual condition on Connery. He wants the crew to take along mob hood Val Avery on the job and arrange for his demise on same. Avery is something of a loose cannon, the powers that be want him eliminated without their fingerprints on it. When Avery arrives you can see why he’s such a liability. He’s an out and out racist and drivers Garrett Morris and Dick Williams would gladly do it for nothing.

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Connery and his crew take the entire exclusive apartment building hostage, just like the family in The Desperate Hours. And the film itself has an Asphalt Jungle feel to it, both in the planning stage and in how it all turns out.

The title comes from the fact that several government agencies are actually taping this whole proceeding from many different angles, the FBI, the IRS, Immigration, etc. But since it’s all quite illegal, none of them can really step in to put a halt to the criminal enterprise. It’s a nice touch, but quite superfluous, the film works beautifully as a straight out caper film.

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Sean Connery and the rest of the cast play this thing to perfection. Two of the best performances are from a pair of little old ladies, the shocked Margaret Hamilton and feisty Judith Lowry who just loves being taken hostage and robbed, it’s the most excitement she’s had in years.

As for Connery he could finally put James Bond to rest, after just one more film. His next role, 007 in Diamonds Are Forever.