Thursday, October 27, 2016

Shakedown (1950) "Ace In The Hole" meets "Nightcrawler"

Directed by Joseph Pevney. Written by Nat Dallinger (story), Martin Goldsmith, Alfred Lewis Levitt and Don Martin (story). Cinematography by Irving Glassberg. It was a UI release.

The film Stars Howard Duff as Jack Early, Brian Donlevy as Nick Palmer, Peggy Dow as Ellen Bennett, Lawrence Tierney as Colton, Bruce Bennett as David Glover, Anne Vernon as Lita Palmer, Charles Sherlock as Sam, Rock Hudson as Ted, the Night Club Doorman, Peggie Castle as Hat Check Girl, and Joseph Pevney as Keller the Reporter.

The San Francisco Bay Area tale begins with a shadowy figure running across a waterfront railyard. He got three wiseguys on his ass. He runs across tracks and around the end of a boxcar. He drops off a camera on the coupler of the boxcar then speeds off.

The three goons close in. At the edge of the bay, they catch up to the man they are chasing. They grab him but not before he tosses a camera identical to the one he dropped off at the boxcar, into the drink. The wiseguys still beat the shit out of him and leave him lying unconscious across a street railway track with a steam switcher locomotive chuffing down towards him. He regains his senses and drags himself out of the way. Recovered even more, he walks over to the boxcar and retrieves the real camera. All this happens within the first two minutes. The screencaps below from an avi file show the deterioration of the film. It looks like a animated graphic novel or black and white pencil drawing.


running with decoy camera San Francisco Bay Bridge in bg.

Dummy camera in the drink

left on the tracks

Got the shot
Shakedown is a hardboiled photojournalist story, reminiscent somewhat of both No Questions Asked (1951), and Jean-Pierre Melville's Two Men In Manhattan (1959).

Howard Duff plays a savvy photographer Jack Early, who is obsessed and desperately trying to break into the big time. He's not interested in just selling pictures, he wants a newspaper job. He gets some sympathy and a serious come on from a blonde female employee Ellen Bennett (Peggy Dow), who invites him to dinner at her place.

Jack (Duff) and Ellen  (Dow)

Ellen plays it hot and cold when Jack makes some feeble moves on her. She's engaged she tells him to Dentist in Portland, and tells Jack that he better leave. Shot out of the saddle Jack makes some small talk at the door, he then leans forward to kiss Ellen she raises her lips, but Jack does the unexpected kissing her on the forehead as he leaves. A slightly disappointed Ellen leans up against the door.

Hopping into a cab Jack lucks into another story as they follow a wildly careening car to its plunge into San Francisco Bay. Jack gets another exclusive picture of the victim who he has leaning out of the car window for a picture. He does the same at a fire where he stops a woman from jumping out of the burning building in order to get the pic. Jack is basically a jackass. Jack's only bump in the road in Newspaper Editor David Glover (Bruce Bennett).

Glover (Bennett) and Early (Duff)
So the paper hires him and he gets a big break when he convinces a "Dapper Dan" mobster, Nick Palmer (Donlevy) to let him take his picture. Nick takes a shine to Jack and invites him over for dinner the next day. Nick gives Jack a tip about a rival gang's upcoming bank job, Nick will pay Jack a $1000 down to take a picture of the robbers and another $1000 after the picture is published.  The bank job is being executed by a goon named Colton, (Lawrence Tierney) he runs his operation out of a bowling alley. Jack is there at the bank to take pictures. He gives the newspaper the one where the gang's faces aren't easily identified. but he goes to Colton with the really damning photo and demands part of the take to keep quiet. Colton gives in. Jack while all this is going down gets the hots for Nita, Palmer's wife. Everything starts to escalate as you'd expect into a typical Noirsville spiral.

Palmer (Donlevy)

Colton (Tierney)
Howard Duff is great in this, it's so far, his best roll, that I've seen, Lawrence Tierney also geta high marks for his performance as the hood Colton with Brian Donlevy also putting in a nice turn as Nick Palmer.


follow that car

nice composition over two shoulders

callous capture

Shakedown sorely needs a restoration. Again the fuzzy screencaps are from a multigenerational AVI file, but even  as is an 8/10.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hell Bound (1957) Tail Fin Noir

Here is a great review Hell Bound from fellow noir aficionada Jessica_Rabbit69. I thank Ms. Rabbit for pointing out this little gem of a noir from Bel-Air Productions (sounds like the name of dive hotel on Bunker Hill), watching this film was a real hoot.

"Jessica_Rabbit69 » Thu Oct 6 2016 IMDb

At 69 minutes, this low-renter is a taut little crime caper that doesn’t overstay its welcome. Director William J. Hole worked almost exclusively in television, Hell Bound was his only Noir. He doesn’t bother with existentialist doom and gloom lurking in the shadows, moral ambiguity and obsession. He goes straight for violence, cynicism and a perfect heist.

Smoking title
The cinematography by Carl Guthrie is very good, though it is lacking the typical light and shadow play. The film is mostly fully lit, however, the movie lives off many wonderful exterior scenes of bleak industrial sites. The film is worth watching alone for the last scene of a chase through the desolate Los Angeles trolley graveyard, one of the most creative shooting locations I have seen.

John Russell plays utterly ruthless Jordan, the mastermind of a surplus narcotics heist worth $2 million from a cargo ship. He’ll supply a bogus seaman found adrift as the sole “survivor” of a fishing boat accident, a fake health inspector called in to check up on him and a phony nurse, Russell’s girlfriend.

Jordan (Russell)

Jordan (Russell), and Health Inspector Fay (Adams)

The junkie Stanley , lt.  (George E. Mather)
Russell just needs backing from crime boss Harry Quantro (Frank Fenton) who is willing to stake the heist under the condition that his girlfriend Paula (Playboy Playmate of January 1957 June Blair!) plays the nurse who will get the drugs off the ship. One needs insurance after all. The plan goes to pieces of course when Paula genuinely falls in love with unwitting ambulance driver Stuart Whitman.

Paula, (June Blair)

The Noir cycle was coming to an end, and this is a late-entry B Noir that packs a punch or two. Wonderfully pulpy and seedy, it has everything a proper B Noir should have. Sexy dames, suggestive situations, good dialogue, harsh violence and a soundtrack by Les Baxter.

However it was 1957, and though Hell Bound was still Noir in the classic style, crime movies were heading towards a different direction. There is almost a bit of exploitation in the gleeful depiction of brutal violence here. The violence in the movie doesn’t shy away from ugliness. Jordan runs down a witness with his car, beats one of his cronies in the heist to a pulp, and also beats up Paula before he knives her.

Compared to other heist movies like Asphalt Jungle and The Killing, Hell Bound forgoes the sentimentality of earlier Noirs. Its entire philosophy is different. Very human down-and-out characters who are only looking for a way out are nowhere to be found here. No existential dreamers whose longing for a better life spurs them on and who have the audiences’ sympathies all the way. Hell Bound is way too mean-spirited for that. A robbery is strictly business.

Russell had the very original idea of filming an “infomercial” about his perfect crime to get the financial backing from Quantro he needs, but his real-life heist is anything but. It isn’t that one fateful mistake that ruins the perfect crime here, frankly Russell’s entire execution of the plan was a wreck from the get-go and could only end one way. His failure isn’t a case of “I did something wrong once”. His recruits include a junkie, a neurotic unbalanced health inspector on the verge of a breakdown and a dame who goes soft. It isn’t fate that trips him up, it’s simply miscalculation which make the heist go south. Fool-proof plans are never that.

Very hunky John Russell (before he became the upright lawman of the West) is the epitome of cool here. Absolutely amoral, ice-cold, vicious and sadistic, he could be straight out of a Tarantino movie. Unflinchingly, he kills everybody who stands in his way and in the end he dies the way he lived.

June Blair makes for a great and very luscious Paula. She’s as pure as the driven slush. As a phony nurse, she doesn’t really know the ins and outs of her supposed profession, but that shouldn't pose any difficulties. She knows she has her own qualifications for the job. “There isn’t any part of the anatomy I don’t know, even with my eyes closed”, she coos. Kicking off her shoes means it’s action time for some lucky guy.

The only jarring note in an otherwise nifty little caper is that Paula survives the knife attack and gets her happy ending. She really shouldn't have, it goes against the Noir code, but it's a minor flaw in an otherwise very entertaining film."

The "infomercial" must have cost Jordan (Russel) quite a bit of moola it has very high production values, besides it lays out the whole crime to all his movie cast and crew, and lets don't forget his narrator who minutely details all the action on the screen, Jordan would have had to commit a mass execution of everyone involved to keep anyone from talking, it's chuckle worthy when you think about it .

Paula (Blair) is very hot to trot with with almost anybody wearing pants. Her "boyfriend" Harry the money man for the job even remarks, at the heist meeting, to Jordan "Paula, like she has two heads on her shoulders, one of them for just thinking....." It's left to your imagination what she does with her "other" head. Later when the meeting is over, naughty Paula asks Jordan to help her put on her shoes, when he obliges she flips the recliner up so it suggests that he has a view up her skirt. Later when Paula has Jordan cornered in an apartment, she moves in for the kill only to find that Jordan is not responding in a normal way, she asks him "you better see a doctor Jordan you have a low blood count."

Paula (Blair) and Eddie Mason (Stuart Whitman)

June Blair January Playmate of The Month
There is also this whole elaborate meeting of the junkie (George E. Mather) and "Daddy" (Dehl Berti) his creepy looking pusher sitting at a ringside table at a nightclub strip show. The junkie is itchin' and twitchin', slightly freaking out, needing a fix, while the pusher ignores him sitting calmly wearing dark sunglasses, and slicked back hair who drinking a glass of milk. While the junkie pleads, the stripper (Virginia De Lee who was a cover girl who also BTW appeared in Playboy) gyrates directly in front of the pusher. The Pusher tells the junkie "shut up I want to enjoy this" You don't notice till the end of the strippers set that the pusher is holding on to a seeing eye dog.

Junkie Stanley (George E. Mather) and "Daddy" (Dehl Berti)

Virginia De Lee

"Daddy" (Dehl Berti)

Virginia De Lee Cheesecake

Tail Fins

Another great example of a Noir where tail fins are very noticeable putting this film solidly into the Tail Fin Noir list.



Again an excellent little Noir that won't disappoint. The screencaps are from the MGM limited edition DVD entertaining. 7/10