Saturday, September 10, 2016
DARK CITY (1950)
Do not let a couple of A-list actors fool you. Hal B. Wallis produced a B-movie. With the likes of Don DeFore, Harry Morgan, who again plays a slightly brain-impaired character, and always fun to watch, Jack Webb, with his cutting delivery of snide comments, it could be none other. Add Dean Jagger, Ed Begley and Wallis’ favorite, Lizabeth Scott, you have a very competent cast. Charlton Heston in his screen debut barely holds his own. Still, he stands out from all the rest with a rugged, chiseled handsomeness the others do not possess. He delivers a foot-in-the-door performance. There are some typically awkward B-movie segue edits of actor’s faces or action that do not match the previous frame. And in a casual driving scene in Vegas, they used an obvious stand-in driver for Heston. Guess it was too risky for him.
The item of note is the huge contrast between the acting of Jagger, the police detective, and Heston, a small time bookie with partners, Morgan, Webb and Begley. Jagger’s whole face is animated with vocals that rise and fall with emotion. He is genuine and believable. Heston, on the other hand, is able to move his mouth. An acting style better suited for some future heroic projects. Heston seems to have been asked to overdub his dialogue at times, being louder and clearer than a co-star, even though he is turned away from the camera.
Studio musician, Trudy Stevens, has her work cut out for her dubbing Lizabeth Scott’s three and a half songs. Unless you enjoy seeing Scott or hearing the chosen songs, you should skip right through these. Her introductory scene and first rehearsal is all that is needed to establish her character. If the lyrics pertained to the plot or another character, this could almost qualify as a musical. But who would watch a musical starring Charlton Heston?
Oh, the synopsis. Needing money after being shut down by the police, Heston and his hustlers fleece out-of-towner DeFore out of five grand that is not his during a rigged card game. DeFore is so distraught he hangs himself and his protective big brother sets out to kill each hustler one by one. Note the giant emerald ring that keeps getting into tight camera shots. The ring of a psychopath. Heston meets DeFore’s wife, Viveca Lindfors, and they nearly become an item. But the only thing Heston wants is the identify of her disturbed brother-in-law. Heston gets a dealer’s job in Vegas to elude death and be the decoy Jagger can follow. Heston and Scott do not board a studio prop plane but remain in Vegas under assumed happiness. Trudy Stevens tagging along to sing for Scott.