None Shall Escape
“I want to breathe. That’s why I want out of this place. So I can take a deep breath again.” Joe Sullivan
Anthony Mann’s reputation today is primarily based on his Westerns of the 1950s. Yet before Mann reinvented the Western as a psychological landscape as much as a physical one, he honed his skill and dark vision on Poverty Row, stamping his mark on the Noir universe and directing little cheapo gems that rose way above their B-movie limitations thanks to the brilliance of their director and a wizard of a DP.
When Mann left Dark City to light out for the territories he took his Noir sensibilities with him and brought a hard-edged realism to the genre, steering it into bitter and neurotic territory. All his Westerns are essentially Noir on the Range and he created in Jimmy Stewart a Western protagonist who was not only morally ambiguous but near-psychotic, just one step away from being an out and out villain. The psychologically troubled Mann “hero” is always in danger of becoming what he already closely resembles, the Mann villain. This very interesting polarity has its roots in Mann's Noir of the 40s.
John Alton, master of bargain basement brilliance on a buck fifty budget, was the Director of Photography and he could have made any hack director look good. Fortunately he didn’t have to as he worked with Mann. Mann and Alton pooled their resources six times between 1947 and 1950 and to this day are one of the best director-cinematographer dream teams in cinema with style to burn. They naturally went together, like guns and ammo. Raw Deal oozes moody Noir atmosphere conjured up with a 40-Watt lightbulb. Thanks to the cinematography, the strange theremin music and Claire Trevor’s voice-over the entire movie has a hallucinatory and hypnotic quality about it. The characters move through a hazy dreamscape as if they’re in a cold-sweat nightmare. To say Alton illuminated the dark crevices of the human psyche would be misleading, but he revealed them. He once remarked that he wasn’t afraid of the dark, but he could certainly make his audience afraid of it.
Both Mann and Alton had learned how to work a tight budget toiling at perpetually underfunded PR outfits. Economy was second nature for them. We do get the occasional matte backdrop and miniature sets but so what? Alton had the special gift to dress up a little cheapo to resemble a major production with cinematic sleight of hand.
His beautiful Chiaroscuro photography is used as a smokescreen to hide the paltry budget. The result is poetry caught on celluloid. Alton creates a dreamlike twilight world of pure imagination, drawn from stacks of dog-eared pulp fiction magazines, “a nocturnal fantasia of pure pulp…which drew on two decades of fermented hard-boiled tropes”. (Eddie Muller, Noir Alley)
Raw Deal is a love letter to Noir and every time I watch it I’m in awe. It’s an absolute masterpiece, on every level. Eagle-Lion’s finest hour.
All Joe Sullivan (Dennis O’Keefe), in the big house for robbery, wants is to smell fresh air again and collect the 50G owed to him by gangster Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr), the guy Joe took the rap for. After that it’s destination Panama. Rick has greased some palms to bust him out but of course there’s a double cross. Never give a sucker an even break. Rick wants Joe dead so Joe won’t squeal into the DA’s ear and Rick doesn’t have to cough up all that lovely money. Rick is a bit touchy when it comes to having his plans ruined and figured Joe would have a thousand to one shot at success escaping, given the odds. So many things can go wrong during a prison break. Stray bullets have a nasty habit of hitting people. It’s mathematically solid thinking but the fall guy, lamentably alive, gets further than he’s supposed to, dragnet or not, with the help of his girl Pat Cameron (Claire Trevor) and his case worker and semi-hostage Ann Martin (Marsha Hunt). Rick knows loose ends must be snipped and sends his twitchy in-house torpedo Fantail (John Ireland) to take care of matters. Now Joe has a score to settle…
Raw Deal has an unusual voice-over narration by Claire Trevor, to my knowledge the only Noir (besides Mildred Pierce) with a female voice-over. It sets itself apart from the regular male voice-over by forgoing any kind of stentorian declarations. Trevor has a wonderfully husky, low-pitched and well-modulated voice. Her melancholy interior monologue resembles a resigned-to-her-fate confessional. Hauntingly disillusioned, almost catatonic, with a world of hurt and desperation in it, her narration puts a spell on the audience.
From the very first second doom, hopelessness and despair resonate strongly in that heart-broken voice. “Today’s the day. Today’s the day. The last day I have to drive up to these gates”. Pat’s voice should be joyous, after all it’s the day she tells Joe that his escape is set. But instinct tells her they’re in existential free-fall already. We see Pat visiting Joe in prison wearing all black with a veil over her face. It looks like she’s going to a funeral. She is, she just doesn’t know it yet.
Pat is, if not the moral center, certainly the heart and anchor of the story even though she’s a gangster moll. She’s gone through the hard-knocks school of life. Tough-talking and street-wise, with a bruised heart and dearly paid-for wisdom, she had the bad luck to fall in love with the wrong guy. But underneath that brassy exterior is a lonely, beaten down and scared woman who’s only ever wanted one thing in her life, Joe’s love. “Waiting, waiting, all my life it seems as if I’ve have been waiting for Joe.” She’d wait till hell freezes over.
Pat loves Joe unconditionally to the point of desperation. “I want whatever he wants, up or down, make or break.” That’s the trolley car she’d ride till the end of the line, even if it goes off the yellow brick road into the abyss. Tammy Wynette would be proud of her.
Her blind love for Joe literally entraps her though she’s clear-sighted enough to realize it’s built on quicksand. “He’s never really told me he loves me”. Ann is getting under Joe's skin. No desperate devotion on Pat’s side can dampen the sparks that fly between Ann and Joe. It is quite telling that Joe calls Pat his "partner” to Ann’s face, not his girl or his ladylove, and frankly treats her more like a buddy than a lover.
Into the bargain Pat is saddled with another handicap. She’s a tad shopworn and knows her time is running out. Mann and Alton come precariously close to belaboring the point of a race against time. One of Noir’s favorite fetish items, ticking clocks, are everywhere in the movie. Time is precious, it doesn't stop for anyone and most of all time will run out in the end. There is a wonderful scene where Trevor's face is reflected on that of a clock.
While we can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a femme fatale in Noir, sexy and brooding Dennis O’Keefe is one of Noir’s rarer breeds, the homme fatal.
Joe is a bit light in the ethics department. Hard-nosed and brutal, he has no compunction about taking advantage of both women’s desire for him. He’s like Typhoid Mary. What he has is catching. But all’s fair in love and Noir. This time he miscalculated his own emotions though. He falls for Ann as she falls for him. But lust and larceny are a volatile highly combustible combination.
It’s not too often that Noir renders us with a backstory on one of the protagonists, but we get one here. Growing up poor and in orphanages, Joe is the kind of kid who was born with an eight-ball in his cradle. When he was young he saved other children from a burning house for which he earned a medal. Ann wants to know where that heroic kid went off the rails.
“If you want to know what happened to that kid with the medal, he had to hock it at sixteen. He got hungry.”
Joe turned in his boy-scout badge. He saw that no-one can live on good deeds alone. They don’t pay the bills.
“I am from under a rock, a whole pile of ‘em; Corkscrew Alley, Dean’s Orphanage, the famous rock that hits you in the back of the head after you’ve tried to help someone, not to mention that heap I busted out of called the State Pen.”
It is worth noting that the movie starts and ends on Corkscrew Alley, a metaphor so obvious it risks accusations of banality. It’s the hardscrabble place where life puts you through the meat grinder and you buy your one-way ticket to hell. But as we’ll see there’s just enough humanity in Joe to keep us rooting for him. If Noir doesn’t make us root for the morally corrupt outright, it at least makes us care about the person who’s morally compromised.
Ostensibly the films seems to set up the classic dichotomy between the good girl and the bad girl, the Madonna and the whore, who battle it out for the soul of the homme fatal. Before she meets Joe, Ann is “Miss Law and Order”, leading a life of clear-cut simplicity. Good is good and bad is bad. It’s a viewpoint that simplifies life.
But this is as far as the standard good girl-bad girl dynamic goes. Lines get blurred pretty quickly. Little Miss Goody Two-Shoes has to figure out quite fast that her steadfast principles are on shaky moral ground because her attraction to her rehabilitation project makes her willing to walk on the wild side and explore the darker aspects of her character. She may like to delude herself, and Joe, that her interest in him is purely professional, but the innocent act isn’t too convincing. It’s just another way of saying she has the hots for the bad boy who poses a serious threat which excites her. The strong undercurrent of sexual desire between the two is there from the first second.
To help Joe she eventually shoots a man in the back. The shot was not fatal but she’s horrified by what she’s done. Now she has to live with the knowledge that she too has a capacity for violence.
Pat may have a checkered past but her only reason for living a life of crime is utter devotion and she’s always there when the spam hits the fan. All she ever wanted was normality. In a way she’s a lot like perpetually pickled ex-moll Gaye Dawn. Pat is no lush but she has the exact same tendency to masochistic self-destruction. She too grew up on Corkscrew Alley and it’s beaten all the fight out of her. Yet despite their animosity Pat is capable of feeling sympathy for Ann: “She, too, is just a dame in love with Joe. And she’s lost.”
For once the doomed love triangle between Joe, Pat and Ann does not hamper the movie. Their three-way dynamic is the dramatic and emotional core of the movie. Nominally Raw Deal may be a gangsters on the lam/revenge tale but what the movie is really about is the fundamentals: the very nature of love, loyalty and betrayal, and making profound moral (or immoral) decisions. It lends the film an unusual emotional depth.
Pat personifies Joe’s past. Ann is the promise of a fresh start. It is Ann who brings out Joe’s softer side, not Pat. Ann sparks a yearning for his own lost innocence. Ann figures all he needs is the love of a good woman to bring out that heart of gold. Oh dear, that hoary old chestnut again. Women should know better by now. Well, to be honest, we probably do but when did that ever deter us? Girls are silly things.
Ann is able to break through Joe’s defenses when she tells him that life dealt her a lousy hand too, though she may not look it.
“Just because I own a car and a tailored suit and my nails are clean, you think I’ve never had to fight?”
It is a turning point in their relationship just as an incident that’s seemingly unconnected to the movie's plot yet central to its vision. While hiding out in a farmhouse Joe helps a fellow man, another escaped criminal, to evade the police. It is an act of mercy. But it is an axiom of Noir that the second the Noir hero gets sentimental, or maybe just human, he gets slapped down hard with cold reality. Humanity is a luxury he can’t afford. Going soft is for suckers. Another act of mercy will be Joe’s undoing in the end.
Joe’s main reason for breaking out of jail is his desire to breathe fresh air again, something that was a rare commodity in prison. His longing for a better life has become a relentlessly tormenting nightmare. (There’s also the matter of 50G owed to him by Rick, but it is a secondary reason.) After the escape Joe believes he’s finally free, but Ann sees what he can’t see himself. The cops would never stop breathing down his neck. Joe is still shackled because the most confining prison cell will always be his shady past, his mine-field of a future and the legacy of Corkscrew Alley. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. To quote another Noir: “If you want fresh air, don’t look for it in this town”. You can’t escape Dark City.
It is what all sinners on the lam have to understand in the end. Being an outlaw means being an outcast. It means everlasting exile from your fellow men. Always running, always hiding, never being able to go home again. There is no refuge in Wilderness. It may be beautiful and unspoiled but it is as unforgiving and corrosive as the confined prison cell they have fled.
In his Westerns Mann wasn’t interested in showing how the West was won so much as in how the landscapes of the West with their vastness and their harshness psychologically affected his protagonists.
We already get that here. Noir doesn’t need the psychological and aesthetic framework of the city to function. In non-urban noirs, emptiness replaces the claustrophobic and encroaching spaces associated with urban noir. People are stranded in vacant hostile places where life is distilled to the primitive and one law counts: Live and let die.
For a while in the late 40s/early 50s Burr had the field to himself when it came to playing psychos. His intimidating, hulking figure was a staple in Noirs. Rick is almost always photographed from below which makes his burly figure even more frightening. Burr made a career out of playing psychos before he became Perry Mason and kept his nose clean. After changing sides Burr never drifted back to the dark side again, but pre-Mason Burr will always be fondly remembered by any Noir lover as a creep, a sadist, a deviant, a nutjob. You know, all the finer qualities a man can possess.
He wasn’t merely bad, he was despicability personified. Whenever one of his psychos walks into a scene, the other characters and the audience shrink back in instinctive loathing.
There’s something distinctly gardenia-scented about Rick, he likes to live soft and surround himself with luxury (the floral dressing gown, the long cigarette holder, the posh jewelry he wears). A physical coward, he’s the guy who never fights his own fights if he can send out some underling to do his dirty work for him. “You always get somebody else to pull the trigger for you,” remarks Fantail to him.
Rick has strong pyromanic tendencies. Not only does he know his way around a Camel or a Lucky, he puts lighters to more creative uses, like singeing the earlobe of his henchman just because the guy annoyed him.
But most of all Raw Deal is notable for a flame-throwing incident before Lee Marvin became famous for it in The Big Heat. One dipso dame has to learn the hard way that hurling burning cherry jubilees in her face is Rick’s idea of a fun evening. Of course, in accord with Chekhov's dictum that a rifle produced in Act One must be fired by Act Three, Rick comes to a very satisfying end himself.
Raw Deal has many devastating moments in it, but the second to last scene in the cabin of the ship waiting to leave for South America must be one of the saddest. Joe and Pat have secured a passage and Joe is saying all the right things to Pat in a cheerless voice about making a better life for themselves in South America, but Pat knows that “every time he kisses me, he’d be kissing Ann”. She knows what Joe doesn’t, that Rick has kidnapped Ann. In the end Pat must face realities. She can’t go off to South America with Joe. Her life with him would be a sham as she’s lost his love, if she ever had it in the first place. And she’s not bad enough to let her rival suffer in the clammy clutches of Rick. So she lets Joe go off to save Ann. The classic lose-lose situation of Noir. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
The finale is beautifully staged and shot. In a haze of fog and gun fire, doomed figures dance to their ultimate fate.There is no happy ending for anybody in this film. Joe kills Rick and saves Ann but luck and Joe never had much of a track record. He gets shot for his troubles and dies on the sidewalk, in Ann’s arms. It’s OK with him though. “I got my breath of fresh air. You….” The Noir hero is always just one lucky break away from hitting it big time, and only one unlucky break away from losing it all.
For Pat it’s utter defeat in the end:
“There’s my Joe in her arms. A kind of happiness on his face. In my heart I know that this is right for Joe. This is what he wanted.”
Joe got his redemption, if only in death. Ann has the satisfaction of knowing that Joe dusted up his rusty boy-scout badge to do the right thing. Only Pat is left with absolutely nothing. The world keeps on spinning at the fadeout, she doesn’t end up under a sheet in the morgue but it’s a constant in Noir that even if you survive, you never really win. That's the way life crumbles, cookie-wise. Sometimes surviving means you have to go on living, without hope and in misery. It's the eternal torment of the survivor.
Brilliantly dissected and presented. When I see you are doing a title of which I am fond, I am excited to read your article.ReplyDelete
The first time I saw Raw Deal I was blue for a week. It got under my skin.
The second time I watched Raw Deal I took the academic approach. And I was blue for a week.
What a movie! Until I turned her around on the style, my second youngest sister would say "That's not one of those noir you like, is it? Raw Deal personifies that attitude.
PS: A recent tidy of my DVD collection found Raw Deal in the pile. I'd forgotten I had it. Now I have to schedule a little blue time.
It is really one of those movies that gets under your skin. I've watched it many times and actually bought the blu ray. It's really worth it.Delete
So, have you managed to infect the whole family with the Noir bug? Or the classic movie bug in general? Lucky you.
I'm not sure if I've seen any of Anthony Mann's film noirs. I do indeed know him from his westerns and the later epics. But when you say that the westerns developed from his earlier noir work, it seems obvious, like something I should have guessed.ReplyDelete
It's interesting about the director cinematographer pairing as well. I assume that was aided by them working for the same studio(s). That shot of the face reflected in the clock is really good too.
Hi Jay, I really think all of Mann's Noirs are worth watching. With Alton he did Border Incident (MGM B Unit), Raw Deal, T-Men (my other favorite), He Walked By Night and Reign of Terror (all Eagle Lion).Delete
Without Alton Desperate and Side Street are very good.
Alton had worked all over the world before coming to Hollywood, with a long stint in the Argentinean film industry. He apparently loved the slightly haphazard conditions there, so when he came to Hollywood, smaller studios suited him very well.
I think Mann is a director who had a distinctly Noir vision and it must have influenced his Westerns. I'm sure there were other factors as well, I should look into that more and write something about one of Mann's Westerns.
Reign of Terror has been on my watchlist for a while, that's an unusual one. I don't know if there's much of Mann's earlier style in the later epics, maybe they're just too big for a director to stamp much personality on, unless you're a David Lean.Delete
You should definitely write about some westerns. There are quite a few noirish ones in the late '40s and '50s.
Reign of Terror is really good. A must watch. It's now out on blu ray.Delete
I always found Mann's later epics incongruous. They just don't quite fit the rest of his filmography. He was not an "epics man", like Lean.
A wonderful write up of a film that just seems to improve with each viewing.ReplyDelete
The recent Blu Ray at last gives the film the presentation it's always deserved,on disc at least.
Yes Alton could make any hack director look good and he certainly did that with The Pretender (1947)
and no director was more of a hack than W.Lee Wilder.
As far as hot liquid in the face goes Anthony Quinn gets a whole jug of coffee in his, in Parole
Fixer (1938) but this time 'round he really deserved it.
The Stewart/Mann Westerns are in a league of their own but I do have problems with some of the
others. Man Of The West is way overrated by the auteur cult that worships Mann and a couple of them
are friends of mine. Gary Cooper and Jack Lord as cousins and Lee J Cobb as Coop's uncle with
daft aging make up as well. I keep thinking how wonderful the film would have been with Robert
Taylor and Burl Ives. Ives would have been chilling unlike Cobb's vaudeville turn.
I've got all of Mann's Westerns so far available on Blu Ray and await The Film Foundation's
4K restoration of Winchester'73. The Naked Spur needs a decent restoration too-I live in hope.
I did get the recent Blu Ray of Cimarron and how much Mann actually directed is still a mystery,
some sources say Charles Walters directed over half the movie. There's one section where The Cherokee
Kid and friends are camped outside town, and the resulting failed heist and shoot out, in a school
house that are classic Mann but the rest is mixed to say the least. One positive vibe about the
film is that it's good to see Mann return to anti racist themes that were explored in the very
underrated Devil's Doorway. Interestingly,Cimarron is peppered,literally, with actors who had
previously worked with Mann.
Raw Deal is a far more complex film than other classic Eagle-Lion Noirs including He Walked By Night
which Mann buffs state that he directed all the best bits,be that as it may, but the whole film
looks great because of Alton.
Certainly on Raw Deal and T Men Alton deserves equal credit to Mann as far as the sheer visual
brilliance of these films. One things for sure none of Mann's films looked the same after he and
Alton parted company and none of his Westerns achieved the heights as those he made with Stewart.
The blu ray is really worth the price.Delete
Oh my, I forgot about The Pretender. I saw it a few years ago and while it wasn't really bad it's hard to believe W. Lee was the brother of Billy.
I like Man of the West quite a bit, but I can see Robert Taylor in the Cooper role. Taylor by then had become a very good actor indeed.
The auteur theory never sat well with me. I don't believe in it. I find it simply unfair to everybody else involved, the actors, the writer, the DP etc. Especially during the studio era, films were a collaborative effort.
That is generally so.Delete
Of course I have Man Of The West in my collection-the craft and the landscapes alone make the film a "must have" I just feel in 1958 Taylor would have been much better-you could never really believe Coop as an ex renegade. Taylor played a similar role in The Law And Jake Wade and very good he was too.Cooper was far more suited to his role in The Hanging Tree another film which seems to improve with each viewing. There's a lot of good things in the first half of Cimarron but the constant switch from location footage to studio sets is jarring to say the least. The Tin Star is pretty good as well but simpering Anthony Perkins is always a minus factor as far as I'm concerned. Very interested to hear your views on the Auteur Theory...could not agree more.ReplyDelete
Ha! I've finally (not before time) discovered how to make comments appear as "justified" type/characters. My constant ranged left comments must have been driving you up the wall! These Classicflix Blu Ray's of old Eagle-Lion films were wonderful,I was hoping Canon City would get the high-def treatment-Alton's work on that film is sensational and the film is pretty darn good as well.ReplyDelete
While,finally,we are on this Eagle-Lion kick I thought I'd mention Repeat Performance (1947) I know Laura has championed this film and I'm sure Barry Lane will comment-I've only seen a very poor copy of this film although I do believe it has been recently restored. Hopefully a Classicflix Blu Ray may be in the works. Repeat Performance is very Noirish in look and tone although as I recall it does have fantasy elements. Hardly a B Movie-at least according to imdb (not always the most reliable source) it had a budget of 1.3 million $. Director Alfred L Werker had some interesting credits I'm very fond of his Western The Last Posse which is well worth tracking down. Hopefully Laura or Barry might be able to give information of Repeat Performance finally appearing on a high quality disc.ReplyDelete
I agree about Anthony Perkins. Not a favorite actor though perfect for something like Psycho, but he shouldn't be anywhere near a Western.Delete
The Last Posse is fantastic, mostly due to the stunning cinematography by Burnett Guffey.
Repeat Performance is a wonderful film. I also only saw a bad copy online, but it has been restored by the Film Noir Foundation and shown at festivals, but no company has picked it up yet to sell it, as far as I know.
I will do the best I can. The film Repeat performance is quite different from the novel which does not really have any fantasy elements, but takes place in Barney's final minute or so of life, shot down by police in a New York subway. Franchot Tone was originally cast, but somehow that fell apart and Louis was set for $100,000 at ten thousand a week for ten weeks. He worked for five and they just kept sending money for a second five. He was pleased.Delete
Richard Basehart has made a success on Broadway in The Hasty Heart along with John Lund. Neither made it into the film version; Ronald Reagan and Richard Todd played the leads. As for Basehart in Repeat Performance, the novel's character was not called William Williams, but William and Mary -- at the least a cross dresser.
Louis thought the cast quite strong; Tom Conway, Natalie Schaeffer, Benay Venuta, and others, but that Joan Leslie was too young for her part as written, consequently there was some restructuring. The narrator, John Ireland.
And the film was successful for Eagle-Lion.
Thanks,Barry much appreciated.Delete
Thanks Barry. I'm just looking at a list of Eagle Lion films and they made many many little gems.Delete
John and Margot, a related but far more significant comment that touches on Repeat Performance can be found at Glenn Erickson's House By The River review of about a months back with my observations following. And Eagle - Lion was a great outfit for as long as it lasted.Delete
Thanks again Barry I read Glenn's review and your most interesting reply. Actually I didn't mind the Swashbucklers Louis made for Columbia and there was also an interesting Noir Walk A Crooked Mile where he was teamed with Dennis o Keefe.Delete
Glenn mentioned Dorothy Patrick who did become a sort of minor B/Noir actress with some interesting credits including Follow Me Quietly recently given a stellar review by Margot.
I have seen the Republic B's Dorothy made- Lonely Heart Bandits and The Blonde Bandit and very good they are too,for what they are. I have not seen,but would love to see, Destination Big House,Tarnished and Federal Agent At Large the titles alone intrigue me.
It's also interesting that people who worked for Eagle Lion went on to greater success especially Arnold Laven (Gardner Levy Laven) Howard W Koch and Aubrey Schenck (Bel Air Pictures) in fact Koch later ran Paramount for a while and had a long association with Sinatra. Bryan Foy and Crane Wilbur had done lots before Eagle Lion but went onto great success with Warners including their mega smash House Of Wax, besides lots of other interesting pictures that they made either together or separately. Margot fave,Steve Cochran worked quiet a bit with Wilbur and Foy as well at the height of his success.
BTW there's a very fine review of Federal Agent At Large over at Where Danger Lives (2014) Now I want to see this thing even more. A horrible copy can be viewed on-line,that is if you don't mind watching movies through Medieval murk,gosh I do wish someone would release these type of poverty row gems.Delete
John, Walk A Crooked Mile was way above the Columbia swashbucklers. Gordon Douglas directed and he did Fortunes of Captain Blood, which if not a better story than the others, and it was not, presented its cast and star well enough. Even Seymour Friedman's work on Son of Dr. Jekyll, a sloppy production, still handled his outstanding cast well, and allowed them to save the film from ruin, but from Ralph Murphy on, and nothing wrong with him or his filmography, just that he seemed to have no feel for the genre; the dullness and mechanics became apparent. These films were all produced by Harry Joe Brown, who was no Eddie Small so far as Hayward is concerned. Louis thought the big mistake he made was going into television; I think it was going into television and mutilating The Lone Wolf, an ideal property that presented Michal Lanyard as an American tough guy, as opposed to a suave former jewel thief. I may have written this before, but Louis at one point said to me, 'My wife wishes you had been with me when we were doing The Lone Wolf. But you were only a little boy.' True, I was fifteen, but I knew. An aside: My grandmother watched one of these shows with me, and at some point half way in, said 'you know, he used to be in good things.'.Delete
I checked out Glenn's review, Barry. Thanks for the backstory.Delete
I agree about Eagle Lion. Really, they can't be called a Poverty Row outfit. Too many fine pictures and certainly not bottom of the barrel.
Where Danger Lives is a fantastic blog I always check out. Wish it would be updated more often.
The last round up..at least as far as I'm concerned this time 'round.....ReplyDelete
Firstly, always mighty fine to hear someone championing Guffey.
Your superb write up made me want to watch Raw Deal again and to be honest it has not been too long since I last saw it. On first viewing one is intrigued about how the film turns around the standard plot of guy released/escapes from prison to right the wrongs and sort his life out. Raw Deal has no time for standard plot devices that's what makes the outcome so different;refreshing.
Second and third viewings the viewer begins to get more involved with the complex motives/desires of the characters. My most recent viewing 4th or 5th,I guess I was amazed of how the film drifts away from "these mean streets" literally. We do get the standard roadblocks,chases but also panoramic coastal vistas,a quieter interlude by a woodland campfire,and a frenetic shoot-out by a remote cabin.There's also a doozy of a punch up in a taxidermist's shop. The ending which returns to the mean streets is sensational. I also re-played the extras on the disc and learned that the budget for Raw Deal was $500,000 and the film certainly punches above it's weight in that respect. I cannot recommend the Classicflix Blu Ray highly enough-countless hours of restoration work was involved on this release and the same goes for their beautiful restorations of T Men and He Walked By Night. I live in hope that Classicflix will eventually get around to Canon City and Repeat Performance.
$500,000 is not a bad budget. I doubt Momogram or Tiffany could afford that.Delete
Great review as always. I may reblog ;-)ReplyDelete
Of course. :)Delete
I'm glad John steered me over here as I hadn't visited in the last few days and hadn't read this yet! Very much enjoyed it. Any film with O'Keefe, Hunt & Trevor is a winner for me.ReplyDelete
I have heard rumor that REPEAT PERFORMANCE may come out from Flicker Alley, which has released beuatiful sets of other films restored by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA, most recently TRAPPED (1949), but I have not had definite confirmation. Perhaps I will be able to get the scoop on that talking to FNF folks at the upcoming Noir City festival... Always appreciate the background from Barry shared above.
Always happy to see you have a new post up, Margot!
Hi Laura, I can't wait for Repeat Performance to come out. It would be great if you could get some info on that.Delete
You're lucky to go to all these festivals. I'm so jealous. At some point I'll make it to the California ones, I'm really not that far away. I'd love to do the whole LA Classic film experience.
Hi again all, was able to talk to someone in the know and while I can't share any details as it's "not for publication" yet, I can say that if all goes well, REPEAT PERFORMANCE fans will be very happy just about a year from now. :)Delete
Oh that is great. Can't wait. Thanks so much. :)Delete
Another great review. Have you considered writing a book on film noir?ReplyDelete
Hi there, thanks for stopping by.Delete
I can tell you that several publishers have been breaking down my doors with frantic demands to publish my book...wait, I had that dream last night. :)
Writing a book, or at least an article for a book, would be fun but let's be honest, writing about classic film is nothing that interests too many people. I think classic film bloggers can be happy that the internet nowadays provides us with an outlet to write and find some readers.
Of course you can write a book. It is largely written if an assemblage of the articles are thematically presented. Start with Macfarland and Bear Manor Media and load it up with photographs.Delete
Thanks Barry, that is very kind of you. I'll check it out.Delete
Well, watching/reading about it keeps me off the streets. Thanks for blog!ReplyDelete
And it keeps me out of the county lockup. Glad to provide some entertainment.Delete
Excellent work, another superlative write-up on a tight and stylish little noir. It's been too long since I last sat down and watched a Mann movie. This probably sounds pretentious of me but there is something about his stuff that demands wholehearted emotional engagement, and that type of viewing experience can be a little draining after a while. I can see a thread running all through his work; the noir sensibility seguing into the early westerns and their own evolution in turn making them more complex and classical in terms of their inner drama, which I think makes his gradual move to the epic more logical than it might at first appear. Actually, I'll happily defend The Fall of the Roman Empire all day for its (for me anyway) compelling combination of genuine spectacle, passionate dissection of the corrosive effects of ambition and its overall grandness as a piece of cinema.ReplyDelete
On the auteur business, I used to be ambivalent about it to say the least but over the years I've come round to it and I generally do subscribe to it. It's all a matter of perspective: the notion of a filmmaker's work having a thematic thread running through it doesn't have to ignore or exclude the contributions of others to the whole creative endeavor. The collaborative nature of the process isn't compromised by having the director's sensibilities imprinted on it, in fact it could probably be argued that the opposite is true.
Hi Colin, I don't think the wholehearted emotional engagement that we have to invest when watching a Mann movie is pretentious at all. There is simply a lot more going on in his films than in admittedly very entertaining George Montgomery or Dale Robertson B Westerns. There should be room for both. I really have to rewatch The Fall of the Roman Empire which I saw decades ago.Delete
The auteur theory can be discussed endlessly. And indeed I do love to discuss it endlessly while boring people to death.
If we think of the director as someone who rallies the troops and brings out the best in everyone, I'm all for it. Most good directors have a vision, maybe a theme that runs through their movies. Mann certainly did. Ford did. Wilder did. Joseph Losey did. The list is endless.
But often, especially during the studio era, it was not the director who had absolute control over the filming but the producer. Gone With the Wind is the vision of producer David Selznick. Fred Astaire musicals have the unmistakable stamp of Astaire himself on them, not of the men who directed them. Would Billy Wilder's movies have been the same without his frequent collaborator/writer Charles Brackett? Would the Magnificent Seven be as entertaining without Bernstein's score?
I just don't like the idea of other contributors not being recognized and being used almost as a pawn by the director. And now I'll shut up. :)
Wholehearted emotional engagement...gosh! I watch Mann films all the time,but there again I'm a good deal more facile than Colin. I have no problems "gearing myself up" to watch a Mann Western or Noir and in fact I regularly watch Westerns from Mann's 50's peers Boetticher,Daves and Sturges all of their best films are emotionally complex. The Man From Laramie is really a Greek Tragedy in a Western setting as was Sturges' Last Train From Gun Hill and Karlson's sublime Gunman's Walk.All three of these films require wholehearted emotional engagement but it's no stretch as far as I'm concerned plus the fact in the Sturges and Karlson films there is a subtext of racism as well.ReplyDelete
Budd Boetticher,more so than the other three liked to inject humor into his films despite the often complex issues involved. Lighter moments were supplied by Budd's Horny Lonesome Cowboys,their unrequited lust contrasted with Randolph Scott's generally Puritanical hero.
As Colin knows,I have little time for Mann's overrated Man Of The West,the emotional violence of the James Stewart pictures replaced with leering sadism.Mann is not above obvious symbolism either with Julie London's Scarlet Woman dressed in scarlet,a trick Mann also used with the Anne Baxter character in Cimarron.Man Of The West,as I've mentioned before is undone by ridiculous casting.
Gary Cooper is however very well cast as Doc Frail in Daves' wonderful The Hanging Tree. The aptly named Frail has his demons too,perhaps even more so than some of the James Stewart characters.Doc Frail despite his shaded past is actually more humane,he is capable of real acts of kindness despite his demons,but we,the audience, know that all hell will break loose at the films explosive climax.
The Hanging Tree is certainly not an easy watch and is not for all tastes but the darker tones of the film contrast very well with the often epic scale of the production.
Regarding Mann,The Last Frontier is certainly one of his lesser pictures but it does have it's moments; not too much emotional engagement involved here. Even the troubled Cimarron has some powerful scenes especially my previously mentioned section with The Cherokee Kid. There's a very emotional scene where the Native American moppet is barred from the all whites classroom..."they don't want me" she sobs while the Stars & Stripes is visible waving in the background. I don't know if Mann actually directed this scene but it's very powerful all the same.
The whole point of this,if indeed there is one, is that I need a regular fix of Mann,Boetticher,Daves and Sturges despite my emotional frame of mind at any given time.
Now,would you believe,to get back on topic, well Marsha Hunt, and in fact the header of this piece "None Shall Escape"
I recently finally caught up with De Toth's None Shall Escape and here is a film that does require wholehearted emotional engagement as well as being tough to watch at times. As an anti Nazi film made in 1943 the film is generally free of cliche and stereotype. I've watched the film three times so far and have gained different aspects with each viewing. There are scenes compromised by censorship constraints of the time,a sexual assault and suicide, where you have to pay very close attention to what's actually taken place.DeToth's direction is superb as is Lee Garmes photography.
In closing I will state that I will give None Shall Escape another viewing soon when I can give the film wholehearted emotional engagement...you see I'm not so facile after all.
I think Man of the West is a very good movie, though I'd have to rewatch it again before I say anything definite about it. But no doubt there is a streak of sadism in that movie.Delete
I have actually never seen The Hanging Tree or Cimarron. I've heard so many mediocre things about Cimarron that I've always put it off. Also, both movies have Maria Schell in them, an actress I can take or leave. Usually it's leave.
I think you put on the finger on something that I was only subconsciously aware of. Though of course I like Randolph Scott Westerns (how can we not?) his Puritanical streak bothers me a bit. I'm trying to think of a Western where he has sizzling chemistry with his female costar. I assume it goes back to William Hart. Other Western heroes don't seem to have that problem. Now there's something that I should look into.
None Shall Escape is a very interesting movie, as if somebody was looking into a crystal ball.
Try The Spoilers for chemistry, Western Union, Abilene Town, My Favorite Wife. Seven Men From Now. Not so tough.ReplyDelete
Barry, yes absolutely right. Should have thought of those. Still, Randy's lovemaking seems to be a bit less, erm, hands-on than other actors's.Delete
Margot, you have to make a point of seeing The Hanging Tree - it really is a superb movie on many levels. If you'll forgive my linking to my own site, here's a piece I wrote on the film back in 2014 - https://livius1.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/the-hanging-tree/ReplyDelete
What a great review, Colin. And of course always link away.Delete
OK then, I'll track The Hanging Tree down.
Margot, top-notch write-up once again and a joy to read. I so enjoy the comments, whether I agree, or not and that's what is so good about them. John K, I really enjoyed your very un-facile commentary.ReplyDelete
I wish I had more time to comment, but the situation here, where I'm at, is getting more hairy everyday. This isn't the forum to comment on, so I won't. Margot I'll always read your marvelous write-ups, though I might not have the time, or mindset to comment. Take care and good health to you and all the readers and commenters of this wonderful site.
Thanks, Walter. I don't know what your situation is but I hope all will be will. Good luck to you and everybody. Keep Calm and Watch Classic Movies.Delete
The last round up........possibly!ReplyDelete
I am so aware of the testing times that you are going through at the moment,my thoughts and prayers are with you. I miss our regular "banter" so much,furthermore I feel that you are the only person in Blogland who actually "got me" and my often twisted off kilter views on films in general. It's a great comfort to me that you are still able to keep reading this superb blog,just to know you are with us in spirit,if not commentating 'right now.
Regarding the other stuff I always felt Gregory Peck often looked ill at ease with some of his female leads-this works beautifully in The Gunfighter one of the finest Westerns ever made and after all these years seems to improve with each viewing.
I think the Scott Puritanical thing was in the Boetticher films, a neat contrast to the lowlifes that he encountered along the trail.Furthermore I thought the love scenes between Scott and Maureen 'O Sullivan in The Tall T were pretty convincing..Randy actually gets the girl at the end of that picture. Check out Edward Ludwig's Coast Guard where Randy plays a flaky,irresponsible womanizer a regular "babe magnet" if you will. Frances Dee fancies Randy over trustworthy reliable Ralph Bellamy,
she agonizes every time Scott flies out on a dangerous mission but couldn't care less when Bellamy flies out on one....that's women for you.:) I always thought of Dee as a wholesome type until I saw Coast Guard, I thought her character in that film was incredibly contemporary. Further shocks were in store when I encountered Frances in the notorious pre code Blood Money. Very non p.c. homophobic slurs and all,Frances plays a bored socialite on the constant lookout for rough sex. In this,hopefully more enlightened age Blood Money is not an easy watch,lets just put it down to an artifact of it's era.
I thought Burt Lancaster made a wonderful (if one note) Puritan in Micheal Winner's Lawman a Western of considerable merit,I feel, but Winner had to spoil the whole thing by having Burt bed Sheree North,which proves even Puritan's have their limits.
Margo, in tracking down The Hanging Tree please try to source the recent Warner Archive restored Blu Ray..it's sensational. Even if the film is not your cup of tea (which I'm sure it will be) you will be entranced by the stunning visual look of the film.
Couldn't agree more regarding Schell she's actually very good in The Hanging Tree but for me unbearable in Cimarron and gets worse as the film moves along.
Again the recent Warner Archive Blu Ray is a very good restoration-a whole heap on money was spent on this film and it shows-for sheer spectacle alone it's worth a look. The point I found really jarring was especially in the earlier stages of the film the constant transposition from studio scenes to location footage-at lot of those scenes look as if they were re shoots. Some sources say Charles Walters was only brought in at the final stages of the picture,others say Walters shot over half the movie. As a Mann completist (as far as his Westerns and Noirs go) for me the film was an essential purchase.
Colin's link made me re read his Hanging Tree review. I also re-read some of my comments-these things come back to haunt us..."did I really say that"ReplyDelete
The fact is back then I only had a crappy Euro version of the film and seeing a film as it should look in sparkling high definition makes all the difference.
The Hanging Tree is certainly a film that I have re appraised over the years I'm certainly a lot more fond of it than I was,say six years ago. I'm of an age when I was able to see virtually every major 1950's Western on the big screen at large single screen theaters as a kid I loved everything way back then. It's strange how our opinions of films changes with the passage of time and certainly seeing beloved films remastered in high definition often makes our rediscovery of them all the more rewarding. I wonder how long these film blogs will remain in cyberspace to come back to haunt those of us who often make misguided comments on them.
Randy pre-Western is a bit of a different matter. It seems there are two different Scotts out there. Pre-Western and Western.Delete
I know Blood Money, one of the best pre-Codes.
As for remastering of old films, I have no first-hand knowledge of this but I imagine the films that come out now on blu-ray may look better than on the day the hit the theaters back then.
I liked what you said about noir – even if you survive, you never really win. Ain't it the truth.ReplyDelete
This looks like a beautiful film, judging by the images you posted. It always blows my mind to see what is capable on minimal budgets.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this film. I cannot wait to see it.
Hi Ruth, I'm surprised you haven't seen it. Watch it as a double bill with T-Men.Delete
On a different note, I hope you're doing fine.