The Wrong Road, 1937, b&w. James Cruze (dir.), Richard Cromwell, Helen Mack, Lionel Atwill, Horace McMahon, Marjorie Main. 1:02 [0:53]
An odd little B movie, not without its charms. Open on a young couple dancing in a fancy nightclub and discussing their plans. She graduated from college and found that her father had squandered his fortune (consider the year!), and her only real plan was to become part of Moneyed Society. He graduated assuming he’d get a $10,000/year job (equivalent to more than $145,000 in 2009 dollars) but that disappeared, and now he’s making $25/week as a bank clerk—and is on his way out to make way for the boss’s relative. They’re both Too Good to Work, so they have a solution: He’s going to steal a bunch of the bank’s money, they’ll hide it, they won’t deny the crime, and when they get out of prison—Shazam!
They do this—basically, he just hands her $100,000 in a phony transaction (which, if it really was equal to $1.45 million, wouldn’t have them Set For Life but would be a nice starting point) and neither of them deny the crime. But the insurance investigator counsels them that this won’t work out well—the money’s traceable, so they’d have to sell it to a fence, leaving maybe $40,000, and, oh, by the way, they’re not likely to get two years, they’re likely to get ten. Is $2,000/year per person really worth it—even if he doesn’t capture the money when they get out? (Throughout, this hardnosed investigator—Lionel Atwill—is more of a wise old uncle than anything else.)
But they’re intent on it. And, two years later when they’re initially up for parole, he sees that they get the parole with some fairly stringent conditions (e.g., they can’t get married). Meanwhile, the guy’s cellmate has gotten out and wants some (or all) of the money…and the uncle they’d sent it to (sealed inside a music box) has died bankrupt, with his estate being auctioned off. Oh, and the insurance investigator is still on their trail and still counseling them to give it up.
You can probably guess how it ends; it’s an odd little morality tale. They keep saying “We earned that money,” but, well, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. In some ways, it’s a pointless little movie, but I found it enjoyable as a trifle. Still, given the length and general lack of plausibility, I can’t give it more than $0.75.
The Naked Kiss, 1964, b&w. Samuel Fuller (dir., also screenplay and producer), Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad. 1:39.
Truly a strange duck. Before the titles, we get a hot sequence where a half-naked woman is thwacking a man with her purse, eventually flooring him (he’s obviously drunk), taking $800 out of his wallet, removing $75, tossing the rest back…and, after getting dressed, checking her makeup and, by the way, putting the wig back on her bald head (he’d ripped it off), leaving.
After the titles, she’s getting off the bus in a town where the police captain deals with thugs by sending them out of town—and spots her as a prostitute, availing himself of her services as a demonstration (then telling her to get out of town, cross the stateline and river to his friend’s bordello, and she’ll be fine). She decides to go straight and turns out to be a wonderful nurse’s assistant at the local pediatric hospital, where she can get the kids on crutches and in wheelchairs to perk up.
That’s just the start. She meets and gets involved with The Man—the scion of the town’s founding family—with only the noblest of motives. To say much more would give the plot away, and it’s a fairly involved one. I’m not sure you’d call the ending happy, but it could be worse. In between, we get a mix of fairly slow, “natural” timing and some slightly odd acting. Oh: It’s also widescreen. On balance, I’ll give it $1.00.
Affair in Monte Carlo, (orig. 24 Hours of a Woman’s Life), 1952, color (b&w on this disc). Victor Saville (dir.), Merle Oberon, Leo Genn, Richard Todd. 1:30 [1:04].
Previously seen in 50 Movie Hollywood Legends and reviewed in the January 2009 Cites & Insights. Clearly the same short, “it says Technicolor on the movie but it’s black-and-white on this print” version. Here’s my review:
Merle Oberon is excellent in this tale of sudden romance and gambling addiction, told mostly as a flashback—but there are two problems. The biggest one is that this seems like “scenes from an affair”—at 1:03, it’s much far too short for its story and has gaps in continuity. Given the fairly slow pacing of the movie, that’s particularly unfortunate. Noting IMDB after rating this, I see that’s what’s happened: The movie should be 90 minutes long, the U.S. version was trimmed to 75 minutes (why?), and this version—apart from losing its color—is down to a mere 64 minutes.
The other—well, the credits list a Technicolor colour consultant, but there’s no color in the movie as presented here. The scenery would be much nicer and the film more convincing in color. It doesn’t have the qualities of great b&w cinematography. (Actually, it looks like desaturated color, which is what it apparently is.) Nice little story, good scenery, some good acting, but ultimately I’m generous at $1.00.
Sinners in Paradise, 1938, b&w. James Whale (dir.), Madge Evans, John Boles, Bruce Cabot, Marion Martin, Gene Lockhart. 1:05 [1:03]
Eight people board a lavish four-propeller seaplane to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to China (with, presumably, a stop in Hawaii). We learn just a bit of their stories early in the flight—with people standing around the cabin (which consists of seats across tables) during takeoff, and no signs that there even are seatbelts—and a bit more as the flight continues.
The plane crashes near an almost-deserted tropical island, hundreds of miles from the mainland. “Almost”: there’s a handsome, perfectly-dressed man in a little (well, not so little—he can comfortably seat all the rest at breakfast) grass shack, with a Chinese companion/servant. He tells the rest they’ll need to make their own way—and although he has a boat, he’s not willing to take them anywhere, even for very large bribes.
That’s the basics. The eight are a quite odd lot: Two weapons dealers, two criminals (one man, one woman), a wealthy industrial heiress, a nurse planning to fly back to China for relief work against her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s wishes, an ex-state-senator, and a 50-year-old woman planning to surprise her son in China. After the resident relents and agrees to take five of them to the mainland (the boat can only hold six), the weapons dealers force the servant to take them instead (killing the “elderly” woman in the process). The rest of the movie, short as it is, deals with the changes wrought by three months of making things work. It’s not all that major, and there’s no real ending, but it’s not bad. $1.00.