My Review of ‘Deadline to Dawn’ (1946)

As part of TCM’s Noir Alley line-up, I recently saw this interesting little film noir.

The story concerns a U.S. Navy sailor Alex Winkley (played by Bill Williams) who wakes up post-bender with a big wad of moolah on him. Although his mind is a blank as to the previous evening, he recalls getting the dough from a woman he’d visited, the not-so-lovely Edna Bartelli (played briefly mostly lying down by Lola Lane).

So … being a really nice guy, and with help from dance hall girl June Gaffe (played awesomely by Susan Hayward), he tries to return the money. But, honey—it’s too late for that, because the woman has been offed whacked murdered as dead as a doornail.

Alex is so hazy on the previous night’s details, he can’t be sure he didn’t kill her. Thus, June and Gus Hoffman, New York City’s most philosophical cabbie (played by Paul Lukas) spend all night with him trying to figure out whodunnit. And the deadline is dawn, because that’s when Alex has to ship out. So, it’s shape up and ship out for Alex. Before dawn. Which explains the movie’s title. Well, book and movie, because it was a book first.

Apparently, the stiff deceased was quite the blackmailer, because she kept compromising letters about various men’s affairs and made a nice chunk of change off blackmailing them. Complicating matters is the appearance of Edna’s brother Val (played by Joseph Calleia), your typical gangster type who’d like to fix Alex up as the fall guy.

The plot has some nice twists and turns, as befits the genre. I do have to take issue with Eddie Muller’s observation during his introduction that the story relies too much on coincidence. In my opinion, it’s exactly that randomness that underscores the existential nature of the film noir genre (or style, if you will). So much of our lives are determined by coincidence and luck (or lack thereof).

I also thoroughly enjoyed the cinematography. Specifically, the way it captured the feeling of a big city at night—a place jammed with people who hardly know each other in the dark urban setting of empty streets.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but I will say it involves a plot twist that I never saw coming. And there is one thing I particularly liked about Hayward as June. She was anything but the typical film noir female. Instead of a femme fatale, June was a dance hall girl with a heart of gold.

I think this movie is an overlooked film noir delight. I highly recommend it for fans of the genre!

Posted in Crime Movies, Film Noir, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

‘Charade’ – Part Four

With the arrival of Saturday, for your entertainment, we have Part Four of Charade, a really funny and suspenseful film. Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn make such a cute couple, if you ignore the fact that Grant’s old enough to be her grandfather.

In any event, I’m pleased to make it part of the Saturday Matinee line-up!

So … here it is! 🙂

Having said that, here’s a survey I’m doing, in the interest of providing more and better B-movie entertainment!

Posted in Comedy, Mystery, Public Domain Movies, Serial Shorts, Spy Movies, Thriller | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘The 39 Steps’ – A Rambling Review

Warning: This rambling review is actually an outline of the movie I wrote for a screenwriting class. So, if you don’t want to read spoilers, DO NOT read this review (or whatever it is). If you’ve seen the movie and would like to revisit it, then here you go! 🙂 

The hero (Hannay) is at a theatre performance of Mr. Memory, who claims to know everything. During the show, a melee ensues and a shot rings out. Hannay goes home with a strange woman (God knows why exactly) who reveals that she’s a freelance spy (aka, agent) and that she fired the gun to create a diversion, because she’s being followed by men who want to kill her to keep her from thwarting their plans to smuggle information out of the country. She mentions the 39 Steps, an evil man with a missing part of his finger, and that she needs to meet a man in Scotland. But doesn’t tell him anything else.

In the middle of the night, the woman stumbles into the room where Hannay’s sleeping with a knife in her back and a (rather convenient) map in her hand. Now, Hannay has to get out of there.

Hannay uses a clever lie to escape the killers and catches a train to Scotland. However, when the body’s discovered and Hannay’s disappearance is in the newspapers, he grows increasingly anxious about getting caught by the police (who he figures probably won’t believe his story). He hides out with a farmer, who has an unhappy wife who likes Hannay. Then, about the time the (very paranoid and devout) farmer accuses his wife of adultery with Hannay, the cops show up. Hannay pays the farmer not to give him away, but the farmer double-crosses him. So Hannay has to keep running.

There’s a big chase scene, where the police chase Hannay over the Scottish moors. But Hannay makes it to a house, which was (conveniently) circled on the map. And, since it’s a Hitchcock movie, there’s a big party going on at the house, and the head of the house is a distinguished citizen. The housekeeper convinces the police that no stranger has come by. However, after the party breaks up, it turns out that the distinguished citizen is missing part of his finger, i.e., he’s a very, very bad man.

The bad man shoots Hannay, who’s saved by his Bible. Hannay tells the local sheriff what happened in the house. And the sheriff assures him it’s all good. But then, he turns Hannay over to two men who claim to be policemen. Double-crossed again!

So, Hannay makes a break for it and runs into a big political rally, where he’s mistaken for the candidate. And Hannay kind of rolls with it, telling a rambling funny speech to buy time. And the crowd goes wild and mobs the stage. But then, Hannay cedes the podium to the real politician. And a woman and a man take Hannay away, while he tries to convince them to call Canada, because terrible spy stuff is going down.

Then, the alleged police tell the woman that she has to come with them and Hannay. But eventually, Hannay realizes, “Hey, these guys aren’t police.” And through cleverness and resourcefulness, Hannay escapes again. But not before being handcuffed to the woman.

Hannay and woman (whose name I never heard) find refuge at an Inn where the proprietors mistake them for a newly-married couple, who are “so terribly in love.” In the middle of the night, the woman manages to pull her hand from the handcuff (ouch!).

But before she can leave, she overhears the two men talking on the phone and confirming Hannay’s story. Then, when the men talk to the male proprietor, who almost spills the beans, his wife comes along and chases the two men out. Because she doesn’t want to rat out that nice young couple.

At this point, Hannay finally has someone on his side–the woman, yeah. And they go to the Palladium Theatre in London, because the man with the crap finger must meet the two men there. Hannay’s in the audience when Mr. Memory is introduced. And he realizes that Mr. Memory has the information the spies want to get out of the country. But, the villain and the police are both after Hannay. Fortunately, the police get to him first.

Before he’s taken away, Hannay shouts out “What are the 39 Steps?” to Mr. Memory, who then tells everyone it’s a secret organization of spies. But he’s shot before he can reveal the information.

So, they take Mr. Memory backstage, and he tells them the information before he dies. But no one was taking notes, so … so much for that. 🙂

But Hannay is in the clear, and he has a girlfriend–whatever her name may be.

This movie is awesome!

Posted in Classic Movies, Foreign Films, Hitchcock, Movie Reviews, Spy Movies, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , | 19 Comments

Featured On the Reef ~ Debbi Mack

So very cool! Thanks, Sarah! 🙂

Lemon Shark Reef

On the Reef is a series featuring fabulous indie authors from around the blogosphere and beyond. Titles, covers, and blurbs that catch my eye, new releases, great reads… Basically, authors I’d like to highlight and works I’d like to share with my fellow book-loving word nerds. Happy Reading!

Featured

I Found it at the Movies by Debbi Mack

Film Noir Reviews (Book 1)

A short, tongue-in-cheek guide to old classic movies from the film noir era. Like Pauline Kael only cooler!

Film noir (a term adopted well after these movies were made) represented a dark departure from the upbeat films that Hollywood produced up until the early 1940s. This collection of movie reviews provides a guide to some of most notable entries into that classic canon.

This book is the first installment of a series. The second book provides a handy guide to neo-noir movies. Also, check out the trivia…

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Charade – Part Three

Okay … it’s been one of those weeks. And, if there’s a God, assuming all goes well and technology doesn’t totally fuck mess with me, it’s time for me to bring you Part Three of Charade!

So here it is … I hope. 🙂

Thank, God! 🙂

Posted in Comedy, Mystery, Public Domain Movies, Serial Shorts, Suspense, Thriller | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

My Review of ‘How the West Was Won’ (1962)

I happened to catch this movie on TV after a particularly bad day. This was back when I was in college in the early 80s. The minute I started watching, I could tell I was in for a treat. The family that the story revolves around (the Prescotts) was made up almost entirely of stars I recognized.

The movie starts off focusing on the Prescotts’ move out West. Along the way, they encounter even more stars I knew, including Jimmy Stewart as a mountain man named Linus and Walter Brennan as a really bad guy who tries to bring the Prescotts’ trip to an abrupt (and fatal) halt.

Without going into all the details (because it would so completely spoil the story), the movie follows the Prescotts’ two daughters, Eve and Lilith—those early settlers could be so biblical. 🙂 And as their names suggest, they each follow very different paths.

Eve (played by Carroll Baker) ends up marrying Linus (the mountain man), starting a farm, and having a son. Lilith (played by Debbie Reynolds) goes West, where she becomes a singer and eventually hooks up with a professional gambler bearing the show-boaty name of Cleve Van Valen (played by Gregory Peck).

As the plot of unfolds, you not only get the story of these two women and their heirs, but you get a whole history lesson. That was the other thing that captivated me about this film—its sheer breadth. As it happens, I was taking a class in the history of the trans-Mississippi West at that time. Watching this movie was a bit like reviewing the material for a final exam, but with storylines woven in that made the already interesting subject positively exciting.

This movie is an epic in every sense of that word. Not only was it filmed in spectacular color using the state-of-the-art Cinerama of that time, but the array of acting talent and the locations are breathtaking. On top of that, the film is populated with all kind and manner of character actors familiar to the genre, like Andy Devine.

The film even touches on the conflict created when the transcontinental railroad crossed over lands where the Native Americans lived apart from (so-called) civilization. Henry Fonda puts in a moving and humorous performance as a grizzled buffalo hunter named Jethro, whose contempt for the white man contrasts sharply with the hardnosed sentiments of Mike King, the railroad’s corporate stooge (played as only Richard Widmark could).

In a sense, this movie marked the end of an era in cinema. It was not only a film made on a grand scale, but it was an old-fashioned Western that managed to squeeze a bit of social critique in with sentiment for the past. The plot is episodic, with each episode representing a different time period in the civilizing of the frontier. And not only does it have a star-studded cast, but it had three directors: John Ford (what a surprise!); Henry Hathaway; and George Marshall. Plus narration by Spencer Tracy and some awesome aerial photography.

I thoroughly recommend this one for anyone who enjoys classic movies and Westerns. They really don’t make them like this anymore! 🙂

Posted in Classic Movies, Epic, Movie Reviews, Westerns | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

Part Two of ‘Charade’

Hello, it’s time for the next part of the Saturday movie special. The film in question is Charade. As you may recall if you saw last week’s post, Audrey Hepburn had just learned that the husband she hardly knew had been whacked offed terminated with extreme prejudice and tossed like a sack of third-class mail from a moving train.

This week’s part continues with more dialogue between Hepburn and the dude who plays the French detective — who is definitely not Inspector Jacques Clouseau. There’s also that priceless funeral scene, which cracks me up every time I watch it.

Charade_Poster

So … here it is. Part Two of Charade:

Posted in Classic Movies, Comedy, Mystery, Public Domain Movies, Serial Shorts, Spy Movies, Thriller | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment