Saturday, July 18, 2015

SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955)


Check this film out on the next go around on TCM to discover this twisty script. During the first thirty minutes you might think this is a Kraft television drama as 95% of the film takes place on a diner set. You will probably be hooked by then anyway, but past this point the story line slowly unfolds. A story not about the Life of Pie, but centering around a common theme during this period. National security. This slow-burn film has an interesting mix of characters participating in a “who do you trust” world. Condense this down to 50 minutes and you would have one of the better hour-long Twilight Zone episodes. 

There is Lee Marvin, a character who swings from lecherous slob to comical buddy in his attempt to be seen as every diner’s short-order cook. If Marvin seemed to be under appreciated he did not go unnoticed. He is quite versatile here, handling a dual role. His weight-lifting routine with Keenan Wynn, the sarcastic eatery owner, is delightfully full of witty banter as each try to out manly each other. Throw in smokey-voiced tenor, Frank Lovejoy, who has a few trade secrets himself. Throw in naive waitress, Terry Moore, and you have a reason to show up at the diner. Her performance seems a bit overblown but as the lone female in the film, justification may be in order. Whit Bissell is in most films during this era, it would seem. Here, as the D-Day buddy of Wynn’s character. 

Enjoy this good script, top acting, and a couple of twists along the way in this rather unconventionally titled film. The movie surely got lost in the cracks on its opening weekend, but all should be proud of their efforts, nonetheless. Do we witness the backstory to Jerry Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo (Len Lesser)?