Monday, August 3, 2015

Highway Dragnet (1954) Desert Noir Film Soleil

(SLWB - December 21, 2012)
Directed by Austrian-born Nathan Juran who won an Academy Award for art direction on How Green Was My Valley (1941). Juran's most famous film being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) ( filmed under the name "Nathan Hertz"). The film was a sort of joint writing project with Herb Meadow (screenplay) and Jerome Odlum (screenplay), Tom Hubbard (additional dialogue) and Fred Eggers (additional dialogue), U.S. Andersen (story) (as U.S. Anderson) and Roger Corman, all listed in the credits. The cinematography was by John J. Martin, noted mostly for low budget Westerns, and the Music was credited to the Music Department and Edward J. Kay. 

The film stars Richard Conte (fifteen Classic Noir second only to Bogart), Joan Bennett (six classic Noir and with a later return in the late 1960s and early '70s in the classic soap opera Dark Shadows TV Series (1966–1971)), Reed Hadley (House on 92nd Street (1945) and Boomerang (1947) - as narrator) , Mary Beth Hughes (Loophole (1954)) and Wanda Hendrix (Nora Prentiss (1947), Ride the Pink Horse (1947)).

This is more of what has become termed as a Film Soleil, one of those desert or tropic based, sun baked Noirs rather than a dark typical Film Noir and it's entertaining enough for me.

Fremont Street & Las Vegas opening sequence

Jim Henry (Richard Conte)

Terry Smith (Mary Beth Hughes)

A Korean War vet (Conte) drifts into Las Vegas picks up a drunken blonde floozy (Hughes) at a bar. They fight, they get "friendly"... he wakes up the next day and continues hitching towards California.

Det. Lt. Joe White Eagle (Reed Hadley)

He gets picked up by the homicide squad led by a Native American Det. Lt. Joe White Eagle (Hadley), it seems that the floozy was strangled Conte was last seen with her and Conte's alibi buddy is MIA. Conte is a decorated combat vet, LVPD gets a bit lax and Conte is able to snatch a gun and get the drop on the officers. He grads a police interceptor and shoots out the tire of the other police car and gets the hell out of Dodge.

Jim Henry (Conte), Susan Willis (Hendrix), Mrs. Cummings (Bennett)

Conte spies ewo women with car trouble on the side of the road and hatches a plan. Ditching the police car and changing his clothes he hikes back to the women. They are a woman photographer (Bennett) and her young female model (Hendrix) on assignment shooting desert resorts for a travel mag.

Film Soleil

Salton Sea... Closed till Forever

This film has some great location shots of Vegas, great desert locations of roadside beaneries, filling stations, desolate highways, etc., etc. The final denouement takes place in a surreal flooded flyspeck pounded by the surf of the Salton Sea. Conte and Hadley are great and Hendrix is cute.

Bennett in this flick is closer to her Elizabeth Collins "Dark Shadows" persona than her characters from Scarlet Street and Woman in the Widow. Its the persona that I first became familiar with so she worked for me.

This film needs a good restoration it has in the past been streaming on Netflix, currently you can find it on Youtube. 7/10

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