Thursday, February 18, 2016

The 7th Commandment (1961) Bizarre Evangelical Noir

A great little "C" Noir Directed by Irvin Berwick, screenplay written by Irvin Berwick and Jack Kevan. What makes The 7th Commandment even more relevant is this year's (2016) Republican presidential race and the competition for the evangelical vote with the candidates vying for the "holier than thou" crown with pious one up-manship. It's definitely a "Weird Noir".

Poster & Film Title (two different spellings)

The film stars Broadway veteran character actor Kurt Richards billed as Jonathan Kidd, Lyn Statten a New York City actress, Film Noir bit part actor John Harmon (They Made Me a Killer (1946), Fall Guy (1947), Moonrise (1948), Flaxy Martin (1949), The Crooked Way (1949), Southside 1-1000 (1950),  along with lots of Crime TV in the '50S ), and Frank Arvidson. Cinematography is by Robert C. Jessup.

A 40-ish Square John, Ted Mathews (Jonathan Kidd), is rolling the dice on a second shot at life, he has just graduated from night school, The Radburn Extension College of San Francisco. He's giving the valedictorian to his class, he seems to be riding high on entrance ramp to Easy Street. Outside a 53 Chevy convertible drives up out of the dark to the entrance with Terry James (Lyn Statten) a blond bombshell behind the wheel. Man looks like this guys has it all right? Wrong. As one noir pundit put it "the blonder they are on the outside the badder they are on the inside". After primping, re-lipsticking, and checking herself out in the mirror, this hot tomato Terry slides over the bench seat towards the passenger side and assumes a recline pose that displays her obvious charms.

Terry (Lyn Statten) primping

Ted Mathews (Jonathan Kidd)





























Terry (Lyn Statten) displaying her obvious charms

Ted a deer in Terry's headlights





























































off to an illicit rendezvous

They can't wait for the motel

Head on!























With one wink from Terry the former confident Ted looks like a deer in the headlights. He is out classed, and obviously in over his head in lust with Terry, f-ed stupid, whipped, so to speak. He bops around to the driver's seat and heads to their "special place" at a good clip. During a torrid tonsil hockey session speeding down a two lane with his eyes off the road, Ted and Terry almost have a head on. Both cars swerve off the road and into the tulies. Ted wakes up slumped over the wheel checks on a moaning Terry and then goes off to scope out the other car.

Ted's killed a man

Ted shell shocked

Ted and Terry





























The other vehicle has slammed into a tree, it's drivers side door is open, a man is hanging half out with what looks like his head through the windshield and blood running down his arm, he looks permanently chilled. Ted thinks he's killed the man. Ted is first horrified then shell shocked. His screen image wavers stylistically indicating a transformation. Ted goes back to Terry's car and shakes her, she is unresponsive. Ted trance like just walks off into the dark leaving the scene of the accident.

Ted wakes up in an idyllic setting, laying back against a moss covered tree with the sun shining and the birds chirping. He stumbles to his feet and climbs up to an itinerant preachers truck. A crude hand painted plywood sideboard proclaims "Noah's Ark".  Noah Turnbull, (Frank Arvidson) is a simple evangelist tent preacher who is sitting on a canvas seat by a campfire having a cup of joe. Ted approaches Noah and is welcomed to join him. When Noah asks Ted's name, Ted hesitates, he doesn't remember, when he asks where he's from he doesn't remember, the accident has given him amnesia. Noah notices that Ted's ring has the initials "TM" so he starts to rattle off names that begin with "T". When Noah says Tad, Ted nods like a bobble head doll. Noah then goes through surnames again getting a reaction when he gets to Morgan, so Ted Matthews becomes Tad Morgan.

Noah's Ark


























































Noah and Ted/Tad
























After Tad threatens to bean Noah's unpaid tent raising helper, with a tree branch. The man had the audacity of asking to be paid, Noah advises Tad to repent his violent reaction, making him recite the Lord's Prayer with him, during the course of which in another stylistic foreshadowing, the teacher Noah is surpassed by his pupil Tad.

Apparently getting your bell rung not only gives you amnesia but also turns you, seven years later, into an evangelical faith healer raking in the big bucks. To paraphrase an old Cheech and Chong line Ted used to be f-ed up on women, now as Tad, he is f-ed up on the Lord. Noah has now become a sort of business manager/advisor and Tad is the star attraction billed as "The Orpheus Of The Pulpit". We see Tad, after a typical faith healing session, admonishing to his flock that he doesn't want to hear the clinking of coins in the offering baskets he wants to hear the rustle of green leaves, i.e. folding money.

Tad laying on of hands

The Big $$$$$





























We switch channels, so to speak, and seven years later also finds big changes with Ted's ol' gal pal Terry. She is now a sloven floozy shaking up with fellow booze hound Pete (John Harmon) in a fleabag "residence" hotel that looks right out of the Honeymooners. We see her in a bathrobe and nightgown sitting on a couch with her feet up on the kitchen table, staring at the door, she impatiently stabs out her butt in a cup of coffee and exclaims "where is that bum?"

Terry the floozy "where is that bum?"





























Pete (John Harmon) "I got back as soon as I could"

"I had to roll a drunk"





















When Pete comes in the door with a bottle of booze wrapped in a newspaper, she asks "what took you so long I've been sitting here for over an hour drinking this cruddy coffee." Pete replies "I got back as soon as I could" Terry: "yea I bet you ran all the way", Pete: "would you knock it off, you said you wanted a bottle, I had to roll a drunk to get enough dough." Terry: "my hero."

When Terry unwraps the bottle and is about to pour herself a shot she spots Ted's familiar face in an ink ad. She tells Pete that she knows this guy, his name is not Tad Morgan, it's Ted Maxwell. Terry tells Pete that Ted is the bum that ditched her and let her take the 6 month rap for drunk driving. She snags some change from Pete and makes a call to "Tad". Tad says he doesn't know who she is, so Terry decides to head to San Francisco and see for herself.

Terry spots Ted in the paper

Ted/Tad "The Orpheus of the Pulpit"


































We cut to another of Tad's revivalist-faith healing sessions. As soon as Tad spots Terry in among his congregation he looks as if he's seen a ghost, his memory comes flooding back and he remembers that he killed a man. He just walks off the stage. Tad tells Noah that he knows that he's Ted Maxwell and that he's a sinner, but Noah replies in weird evangelical logic that it must have been God's will, and that he should not give himself up to any authority, i.e. the police.

Back in his office Terry tells Ted that he's got a nice racket going. She especially likes the "green leaves" part of his sermon. Ted replies that I suppose you'll tell the police that I killed a man, which surprises Terry because in reality the other driver lived.  Terry not missing a beat, tells Ted that she can be saved real nice for a grand, telling him she'll be happy with that. Tad/Ted pays her off glad to get rid of her.


Terry confronts Tad/Ted





























Ted's memory is back





























Green Leaves

I can be saved real nice for a thousand bucks






























Terry heads home with a new wardrobe and a case of booze for Pete.  Terry tells Pete that Ted thinks he killed the other driver and that Ted's gonna be our Santa Claus. They celebrate opening up the case and drinking out of "His" & "Her" bottles. They go on a bender. When they finally sober up and find out that they are out of booze, Pete tells Terry that "you might have to make another trip to the North Pole.... and maybe next time Santa Claus will come across with a couple of grand" Terry laughs and tells him she has a better idea she'll marry him. Pete explodes and smacks her around the kitchen. Terry screams that marriage is like insurance, if Ted finds out that he didn't kill the guy I'll still have my hooks in him, he'll still be our meal ticket.

A case of booze and new lounge wear "Ted's gonna be our Santa Claus."

After the bender and out of booze

 "Looks like it's time for another trip to the North Pole"






























A better Idea,,,, marry him






























A jealous Pete smacking Terry around





























Hooks in





























Terry drops a dime on Ted to tell him she needs more money. Ted who has been doctor ordered to take a vacation for his heart condition, says he'll be out of town. Terry tells him that that's OK then he can stop by on his way to his destination. When Ted arrives to write her another check, he becomes Terry's virtual prisoner. She rips up the check and tells him he's staying. It's not long before Terry gets the old fires raging again in Ted's loins, but she holds out, not letting him round the bases until he drinks some booze. Drink some booze, get some sex. Using booze and sex she can regulate Ted into a semiconscious stupor. She hires an off the wagon preacher to perform the marriage ceremony.

Terry is holding Ted up for the vows and as soon as they are pronounced man and wife, she lets go and Ted drops to the floor. When the preacher leaves, she drags Ted to the sofa. Pete arrives soon after and he carries Terry over the threshold to the wedding bed while Ted is passed out. The 7th Commandment is broken.

come into my lair said the spider to the fly

You're staying





























In lust again






























Drink booze for sex






























Stupor achieved
Wedding Ceremony
Pete waiting in the wings






























Bride and Pete "it's your wedding night  ain't it."

Over the threshold and to bed





























The passed out groom





























The early next morning Terry wakes Ted and tells him she's ready to meet his flock as his new wife the Mrs Reverend Tad Morgan. Ted is stunned, but soon begins to scheme a way out. He almost strangles her at one point, but decides on another plan. He tells her he wants to walk to the station. While crossing the long bridge across a river, Terry stops to rest her feet. She takes off her pumps and sits up on the railing. Terry asks Ted to massage her feet. He does, and then grabbing her feet tosses her into the drink, disregarding the 6th Commandment. Ted then throws her shoes and her tar bar in after her. He then heads back to San Francisco.

We are married
About to strangle the bride

tired feet

massaging

Tossed in the drink

back from the river





























boozing

Terry getting her revenge





























Terry actually survives and tries to get revenge. The film has quite a few more entertaining twists and turns as it reaches it's over the top bizarre preachy finale. A nice sound design by S.F. Brownrigg. Available on Something Weirds Six Weird Noirs DVD. 7/10


4 comments: