Saturday, December 26, 2015

DEADLY DUO (1962)


The first thing to notice about this film, released in early 1962, is the seemingly stock opening music with prominent xylophone. It may remind you of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon. This is the exact music used in parody skits of old movies. The production budget is not terribly embarrassing with enough location shooting and believable interior sets for realism. But it is an old premise of good and evil twins, played by Marcia Henderson. I was a little uncertain who the deadly duo was. One twin is a well behaved widow raising her young son. Not deadly. The blonde, conniving evil twin is married to Robert Lowry, the perennial bad guy who, in this film, looks particularly sleazy in a black blazer, open collar shirt with a white ascot. Drink in hand. Got it. This is the duo.

Good twin’s husband was killed in a racing accident. He was to be the heir to a mega industry’s throne. His mother, Irene Tedrow, is the CEO. She wants good twin’s little boy to be the future heir and feels he should be tailored in the States, by her side, and not in Acapulco. She and her attorney want struggling LA attorney, handsome Craig Hill, to bring him back. Close your eyes and Hill may turn into Bob Cummings. Their voice quality is shared. He is repulsed by the idea of buying her a grandson and refuses. We next see him checking in at a hotel. The 50k he will be paid reminded him how much he misses Acapulco. 



Naturally, good twin rejects the absurd idea and Hill is shown the door. But Hill and good twin hit it off on their second meeting. Hill has a natural rapport with her son. After getting off to a rocky start, they like each other. Henderson is believable as the good twin but her cliché acting and blonde wig as the bad twin does not come off as well. 

Lowry double-crosses good twin. Did not see that coming. He convinces her to take a restful day to herself so he can tamper with her car and lie to Hill that good twin has changed her mind and is willing to sign the papers to send her son back to Tedrow. A confused Hill blasts away to the house in his cool 1961 Thunderbird rental car. A scene that is repeated about four times in the film. The bad twin awaits in good twin’s brunette wig and signs the papers. Hill does not question her sudden change of heart but is visibly angry at her. And she has such a nice little boy.



Head-strong Tedrow, with her attorney in tow, fly to Mexico after the attorney’s phone conversation with Hill suggests there is a problem with accepting her offer. Upon arrival at the airport, they see Lowry tampering with good twin’s car. How this is possible I do not know, but it is incredible timing on their part. I am surprised they even recognize him. The local police are also aware of this (oh, come on!) and all three decide to fake good twin’s accident. Lowry and bad twin are confident they will inherit 500k from her sister’s will. With all parties present, good twin walks into the room. Bad twin is stunned. Lowry a tad queasy.

The ending is a contrived happy one as everyone is now pleased with each other. The boy can stay with mom and Hill loses 50k in a flash. His trustworthy handling of the affair, however, endears him to the attorney. Maybe “The Deadly In-Law” would have been a more accurate title.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

NAKED ALIBI (1954)


This Universal International Pictures release may give you the impression it is a sequel to either “Crime Wave” or “The Big Heat.” Two of its main stars play similar roles here. In short, we have seen this one before numerous times. You will need to overlook the typical sets, a dubbed vocal and erratic plot. As in “Crime Wave,” Sterling Hayden is once again a wooden police lieutenant. Unsympathetic. Strictly business. He is bent on pinning a policeman’s murder on Gene Barry. Sympathizers of Barry believe it is nothing more than police harassment. But “Dirty Hayden” has issues. He is caught on camera roughing up Barry. The photo is published. He is fired. But he is convinced Barry is no good. He sets out to find him on a dark and grimy Mexico studio set.

Barry, the gentle owner of a local bakery, also frequents Mexico on “business trips” to reconnect with bad girl and nightclub singer, Gloria Graham. The actress with the permanent fever-blistered upper lip. Barry is not the innocent flour thrower we were led to believe, however, leading a double life as a gangster. Graham gets roughed up by Barry, depending on his temperament, but nothing like her devastating scene in “The Big Heat.” Given Graham’s early roles she should have seen this coming. As the mundane script plays out, you get the distinct feeling Hayden has got a hold of something besides Graham. You may actually end up liking him. As for the title, Barry's alibi is the bakery. Once he is apprehended he reveals himself, so to speak, to be a gangster. Naked to the underworld. Perhaps.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

THE GANGSTER (1947)


One of the more stylish noir films, thanks to interesting camera points of view, this limited budget, King Bros. production might remind you of an early TV production. The whole movie appears to be one gigantic set. 

The title role of Shubunka (an original name if there ever was one) is played by Barry Sullivan in his breakout leading role. He is excellent as a small time numbers racketeer who arrogantly thinks he is unstoppable. His front for the racket is a ice cream shop owned by his partner, Akim Tamiroff. Soda jerk, Harry Morgan, offers the only light moments in the film as a man of the world who wants anyone within earshot to know how he treats a real lady. An expert on the subject with little evidence as proof. In hock up to his eyeballs is John Ireland, who frequents the shop pleading with Tamiroff to give him an advance. He eventually comes to blows (literally) with Tamiroff.  Ireland’s wife is played by Virginia Christine who is always pleading with him to come home for some mountain-grown coffee.

Sullivan’s infatuation with a nightclub singer, played by Belita (the real life ballerina and ice skater) takes a toll on his finances, buying her everything. Unknown to Sullivan, a rival is planning to muscle him out of business. The head muscle in this case, Sheldon Leonard. But Sullivan refuses to believe what a frightened Tamiroff tells him. Or that Belita is in on the takeover.



Sullivan’s riveting, rapid monologue in the last half is memorable. Truly told with bullet force. The low camera angle pointed toward the checkerboard ceiling makes him appear bigger than he is. It is a reality check for the viewer. Angrily he comes down on the shop cashier, Joan Lorring, in an effort to justify his lifestyle to all beneath him. Viewers soon realize that this cynical character is rather insecure and all his “accomplishments” are the result of tough talk and limited resources with no lasting impact.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

STOPOVER TOKYO (1957)


I have read that Robert Wagner was not pleased with this film. It shows. His low energy delivery makes you wonder if he understands his role. That of an intelligence agent. Mumbling his lines seemingly without moving his lips. Rarely more than a blank face. Not known for great acting chops, his good looks, wit and charm turned him into a first-rate celebrity.

Wagner’s equal-billed co-star is Joan Collins in this unexciting tale of Communist espionage, mundane conversation and an assassination plot. She’s an airline travel receptionist who cannot understand why Wagner is secretive and aloof. Neither that interested in one another any more than the audience is interested in finding out what happens next. Somehow, after only three days and as many conversations, she confesses her love for Wagner. Happens all the time to RJ. I expected Wagner to say, “Terrific” at least once. His favorite word as Alexander Mundy some eleven years later.



Reiko Oyama, in her only screen role, is cute as the daughter of Wagner’s Japan contact. He finds it difficult to tell her that her father will be gone a long time. He starts a bedtime story that in a subtle way may help explain her father’s murder. He never finishes the story. She falls asleep. Wagner is that boring.

The only real actor in this film is Edmond O’Brien. But his over-the-top performance is embarrassing to watch and his character never develops into anything threatening. One scene in particular, he is nearly a buffoon. Buffoons are rarely on the CIA’s most wanted list. Would love to know how he came to get this part or who was also considered. Still have to pay the bills, I guess.

If you were hoping for a fresh take on this final Mr. Moto novel you will be disappointed. Peter Lorre never got a casting call.