Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Date With Death (1959) New Mexico Noir

The second Hollywood movie filmed in "psychorama," a process using subliminal information through film by flashing images on the screen so quickly that they cannot be perceived by the conscious mind. The subliminal communication was by Precon the Precon psychologist was Dr. Robert E. Corrigan, and the Precon engineer was Mr. Hal C. Becker.

Directed by Harold Daniels (Roadblock (1951),  written by Robert C. Dennis (Crime Against Joe (1956), The Man Is Armed (1956), Mike Hammer TV Series (1958–1959), Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV Series (1955–1962).  The cinematography was by Carl E. Guthrie (Flaxy Martin (1949), Backfire (1950), Caged (1950), Undercover Girl (1950), Highway 301 (1950), The Tattered Dress (1957), Hell Bound (1957) the appropriately sleazy music was by Darrell Calker.

The film stars Gerald Mohr (Lady of Burlesque (1943), Gilda (1946), Undercover Girl (1950), Hunt the Man Down (1950), Detective Story (1951), The Sniper (1952), ) as Mike Mason / Louis Deverman, Liz Renay
(The Naked and the Dead (1958), The Thrill Killers (1964)) as Paula Warren, Robert Clarke (Desperate (1947), Mike Hammer TV Series (1958–1959)) as Joe Emmanuel, Stephanie Farnay as Edie Dale. Harry Lauter (Moonrise (1948), Roadblock (1951), The Big Heat (1953), Crime Wave (1953), The Crooked Web (1955), The Case Against Brooklyn (1958)) as Lt. George Caddell, Ed Erwin as Det. Lt. Art Joslin, Lew Markman as Nicky Potter - Chief Thug, Ray Dearhorn as Sam the Jailer, Kenne Duncan as Andrews  the Freight-Train Watchman.

taking the siding

A Santa Fe freight drag bound for L.A.takes siding out in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. We see a hobo Mason (Mohr) smoking his pipe leaning against an open boxcar door. Mason had a used car lot in New York City and went flat broke so he's bumming his way to L.A. and a new start.

Mike Mason (Mohr)

A railroad brakeman walks along the top of the cars spotting Mason and another 'bo now sitting in the open doorway. The brakeman has words with the men, when he kicks Mason, Mason belts him and jumps off the car just as a passing freight roars by.

Mason now on foot is seen walking towards a dirt road rail crossing. At the road Mason looks at desolation in both directions. He flips a coin and goes to the right. after a few miles he spots a 54 Pontiac pulled off in the brush. He slips on his jacket, sticks his pipe in his pocket making it look as if he has a gun.

Approaching the Pontiac

He approaches the car, spots a woman's initialed scarf, draped out of the window next to a hanging sport coat blocking a view of the back seat. It looks as if there may be some hanky-panky going on. Mohr announces "sorry to interrupt your party, I wanted a ride into the next town." He gets no response, going to the window he sees a man slumped in the front seat. Mason shakes the man thinking he's just passed out drunk. He's not, he's dead, shot through the heart.

He searches the man and finds a NYPD police detective badge his name is Louis Deverman. Next we see Mason driving the Pontiac dressed in the sport coat that was hanging in the back window, shaving with an electric shaver plugged into the cigarette lighter, and speeding down the two lane fast enough to attract two motorcycle cops. They pull him over see his driver's license assume he's Deverman then escort him into the town of Mindon.

At the courthouse he's sworn in as the new police chief, then shown around the department by the acting chief Lt. George Caddell (Lauter).

At the jail he meets Paula Warren (Renay) the jail keeper calls her a transient, she's sitting in a cell awaiting a court date for attempting to defraud a hotel manager and simple assault. Paula tells him that she hit him with a lamp "it was self defence." Mason/Deverman tells the jailer to let her out.

Paula Warren (Renay)
Then he takes her to the hotel and tells the manager to drop the charges and give her back her room or he'll start hounding him about code violations. Mindon is rife with corruption, we see a tobacconist shook down by two thugs that threaten his daughter. Half the businesses in town pay protection to a racketeer named Joe Emanuel (Clarke) who runs his operations out of the Country Club.


Using the tobacconist's daughter to make a point
a flash of breast

Mason/Deverman quickly finds himself in the middle of the corruption scandal and the investigation of the murder of a dead man found outside town, i.e. the real Deverman. Mason/Deverman heads out to the Country Club to confront Emanuel.

Gangster Emanuel (Clarke ) 
He sees Paula auditioning for the floor show just before he meets with Emanuel. He suspects that Emanuel had the real Deverman killed and Emanuel all but confirms it. Mason/Deverman makes a deal telling Emanuel that since he's chief of police he can name his successor. Emanuel says he'll think about it.

After giving Paula a ride back to the hotel she invites him up to her room. While she takes a shower, Mason spots a scarf just like the one in the back of the murder car, while at the same time Lt. George Caddell finds out that Mason is an imposter. Everything goes twistedly Noirsville.


This film is an interesting watch if you can find it. The shakedown sequence with the two goons slowly cutting off the buttons on tobacconist's daughters tight sweater, and then right through her bra must have been quite daring for 1959, ditto the shower sequence with Liz Renay (at the time a gal pal of Los Angeles gangster Mickey Cohen). Mohr is believable, Renay and most of the major principals are adequate, the rest of the cast though seem like amateurs, probably the actual townsfolk of Roswell, New Mexico. This could use a restoration, what I had to watch left much to be desired. 6/10

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