Saturday, January 30, 2016

NEW ORLEANS AFTER DARK (1958)


Poor Stacy Harris, the stalwart B-movie actor, trying to hold this shoestring budgeted film together while being surrounded by amateurs. Perhaps to give a jolt to realism, a few “actors” are actual police officers. The police captain is a real police captain, Louis Sirgo, with no acting experience. He holds his own pretty well but the family scenes are shaky, mostly do to poor directing and mundane script. Their first family scene awkwardly plays out similar to those teenage etiquette films of the era.

The film opens on a sleazy section of Bourbon Street as an “exotic” dancer is called into the lounge owner’s office. He is angry at all the needle marks in her arm and arranges to have her stowed away in a motel to detox. It is a short night for her. Finding the murderer is a job for professionals. Detective Harris and Captain Sirgo will have to do. Sirgo, being the proper spouse and parent, dutifully calls home frequently to apologize for the constant developments in the case and postponing the family fishing trip. It does not get any more real than that!

To continue the film’s awkwardness, the motel manager, helping describe a visitor that night, with eyes looking up in deep thought, says he can still hear those heels clicking. Cowboy boots. Pant legs rolled down over them. That is some kind of hearing. He should be a spy or something. They find cowboy boots, but attached to the wrong man.

We are taken to another nightclub where dixieland music is playing. The people around the bar apparently are not aware of this because most are tapping their fingers on the bar counter to rhythm from a different club. As I say, the whole production is full of amateurs. In the same scene, one camera may have sharp focus on Harris, while the actor he is interrogating has a soft focus. Looking like old stock footage. Most interior scenes are covered by a single area microphone.

The lounge owner, known affectionately as “The Boss,” is fronting his heroin business as a tobacco exporter. Destroying hundreds of clients, one way or the other. By now, we discover the late cow-booted killer as simply a hired gun. Harris and Sirgo, as well-known local cops, go “undercover” as dishonest sailors. Everyone recognizes them immediately. Even Clark Kent wore spectacles and we know how effective those were. But thanks to their training, they manage to turn the tables on the thugs. They eventually tail the boss to his warehouse where the policemen arrest him after bullets are exchanged. No shots fired. They just exchanged bullets. Believe that, if you want. This movie makes a good case for holding off the “reality” themed television shows for at least another thirty years.

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