Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Dames Don't Care (Les femmes s'en balancent) (1954) French-Italian Noir

The 3rd Lemmy Caution flick. 

Like the first directed again by Bernard Borderie. The writing credits are Bernard Borderie for the adaptation of  Peter Cheyney's novel. Additional dialogue was by Jacques Vilfrid and Bernard Borderie. Cinematography was by Jacques Lemare. Music was by Paul Misraki.

Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution

The stars are Eddie Constantine as Selby Frayme / Lemmy Caution, Nadia Gray as Henrietta Aymes, Dominique Wilms as Paulette Burdell, Robert Berri as Fernandez / Jean Termiglio, Darío Moreno as Perera, the Head Waiter of Casa Antica, Nicolas Vogel as Jim Maloney, François Perrot as Langdon Burdell, Paul Azaïs as the watchman at the Bridge, Guy Henry as Daredo, Paulette's Friend, Emilio Carrer as Dr. Madrales, Gil Delamare as Sagers, Dominique Bukar as Bénito Burdell, Georgette Anys as Mrs. Martinguez, Martine Alexis, and Robert Burnieras Metts, the Police Chief.

The Story

Desert looking. Aloe Vera. Parched ground. Southern Italian coast. Early Evening. You hear it long before you see it.

1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 98 Convertible Coupe Deluxe. Horn blaring. Tools down the scrub land bordered two lane. Turns off and goes up the entrance road to the Casa Antica. 

The Coupe Deluxe is dusty. Sun oxidized. A Dull finish. The doorman runs over and lifts the hood.

The American Oldsmobile contains the burlesqued epitome of the "Ugly American" a loud mouth drunk. A VO tells us its FBI agent "Lemmy" Caution. The doorman pops the hood and pulls the horn connection plug. The blaring stops. Lemmy tells him not to touch anything else. 

He then announces loudly that "Me? I'M gonna tank up going to tank up," he pivots and stumbles off towards the entrance leaving his lights on.

Cheap rumba music, heavy on bongos and horns.

Lemmy's style of drunk walk is the one where you lean in the direction you want to go and just when you are about to fall on your face you're legs and feet instinctively go into survival mode and propel you along while you lurch side to side grabbing support from whatever is within range. 

The Casa Antica is a mostly alfresco night club, a high end kitsch version of an ancient beer garden set among fountains, faux Greco-Roman ruins of marble blocks, broken columns,and statuary. All that, is Frankenstein-ly attached to a bleak Italian Modern bar/kitchen building, with a full casino on the second floor.

Lemmy grips a broken pillar leans way out towards the maître d and waves a hello. The maître d steps over, leans into Lemmy and asks....

Maître d : Tabel for one sir?
Lemmy [waving him off while letting go and stumbling on to the dance floor yells out] : The best table. [walks into a couple on the dance floor and putting his hands on the mans back] The best whiskey. [he sits down at an empty table] And the best seat.

Lemmy  watches his contact FBI agent Sagers. He's the one  dancing with an older woman that Lemmy bumped into. The club waiter arrives with a glass, an ice bucket, and whiskey bottle. Lemmy grabs the bottle, the waiter stands there. Lemmy tells him "Ya getting in my way. Get lost" 

Lemmy turns back to Sagers, Lemmy calls him an old gigolo. Sagers stops dancing and goes over to Lemmy.

Sagers : I didn't hear you right.
Lemmy : Sure you did, I called you an old gigolo
Sagers : You mind stepping out.

Lemmy Caution with Gil Delamare as Sagers

As Sagers turns Lemmy sticks out his leg and trips him. They fight. With Lemmy throwing wild haymakers. Eventually Sagers lands a right hook. Lemmy decked. Lemmy declares out loud that he takes it all back, Sagers is a real man, and he'll buy him a drink. Lemmy grabs his whiskey bottle, tells the waiter to bring another, and then shakes Sagers hand.

Sagers and Lemmy sit at a table and before they can talk the same waiter arrives with another bottle. Lemmy stares at him and tells him again to get lost.

Lemmy is not drunk after all. Lemmy tells Saugers his cover name is Selby Frayme. Sagers tells him that he thinks he's been around too long. Lemmy asks about the letters. Saugers tells he they should be at Henrietta Aymes' house and he passes Henrietta's key to Lemmy. Lemmy asks about the phony dollars. They are looking for the source of counterfeit U.S. thousand dollar bills. Saugers tells him nothing new. Lemmy says that tomorrow he'll get a cable, hes being reassigned to the New York office and and himself, Lemmy is taking over. At that moment Henrietta herself makes the scene. She and her escort walk across the dance floor and up the stairs to the casino. 

Nadia Gray as Henrietta Aymes

Lemmy tells Sagers no hard feelings and gets up. He pinballs off another couple dancing. He careens towards the maître d. Lemmy waves and wobbles a "So long chubby," while grabbing his lapel. "See ya around." While the maître d fixes his jacket. Lemmy waves a, wait a minute, finger in the air and gives the maître d a big tip. Lemmy tells him "buono sera" (good night in Italian) pirouettes, and stumbles out.

So ends the hilarious opening sequence of the English language release of Dames Don't Care

Lemmy then heads to Henrietta's house. With the key he lets himself in and searches for the letters. He finds them hidden in a book. 

The whole case was first brought to the FBI's attention when Henrietta went to cash a thousand dollar bill from the money her late banker husband gave her and found out it was counterfeit. Her husband committed suicide two months earlier in Rome by driving off a bridge under repair, conveniently before the whole scheme was exposed. Once the phony bills connected to the Ames, the entire suicide "investigation" was reopened and the re-questioned watchman at the bridge changed his story to admit he saw a woman jump from the car right before the car drove off the bridge. 

Then a tip off to the letters in Henrietta's possession came from a suspicious anonymous letter sent to the FBI. The letters in question, the anonymous letter claimed, shows that Henrietta was in Rome the day of the suicide.

Lemmy heads back to the Casa Antica to snoop around, He parks the Oldsmobile Futuramic alongside the Casa's wall and climbs from the side of car to the windscreen and then to the top of the wall and over.

Lemmy pulls out an automatic and a flashlight. It all goes Noirvsille He spots a napkin with blood on The tiles near the bar.

On the floor of the back bar Lemmy spots blood drops they lead to a refrigerator. Inside the refrigerator is Sagers. Inside of Sagers are six bullets. He also finds evidence that his cover is blown.

Lemmy heads back to the Olds and drives to the nearest police station. He identifies himself as a US FBI special agent and reports the murder of his fellow agent at Casa Antica . However he tells the Chief to not take any action. He tells him the crooks made the mistake of killing Sagers and that he'll be there when they make there next mistake.

Nicolas Vogel as Jim Maloney with Lemmy

Dominique Wilms as Paulette Burdell

Darío Moreno as Perera, the maître d  of Casa Antica

Robert Berri as Fernandez / Jean Termiglio

The film is has an interesting balance of Noir, picaresque humor and a hard boiled detective mystery with a big dose of surreal Italian Modern atmosphere with a little dash of kitsch. 

Again Lemmy Caution is a great addition to the pantheon of great Film Noir P.I.'s A character who can be described as an amalgamation of Sam Spade, Phillip Marlowe, and Mike Hammer and putting that i in a blender with whiskey, and the early 60s versions of spies 007 and Matt Helm. The two female leads are both full figured broads, Nadia Gray as Henrietta Aymes is more old school traditional looking, while Dominique Wilms as Paulette Burdell gives off an Anita Ekberg vibe. The rest of the cast is quite adequate. The cinematography was good and the score adequate. Watch for the running gags with the waiter at the Casa Antica and the blaring car horn.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime in an English language release. A fun flick, could use a good restoration, 7/10.