Mystery Collection Disc 22

The order of movies on the disc is not the same as the order on the sleeve. My comments appear in the actual order on the disc.

Four Deuces, 1976, color. William H. Bushnell (dir.), Jack Palance, Carol Lynley, Warren Berlinger, Adam Roarke. 1:27 [1:24].

Previously reviewed (May 2008). Back then, the sleeve called it “a tongue-in-cheek crime melodrama”; while that’s no longer true on the sleeve, the movie’s clearly intended that way. Here’s what I said in 2008; I didn’t watch it a second time:

…It has a fine cast, with Jack Palance, Warren Berlinger and Carol Lynley (among others). It’s done comic-book style, with big color captions popping up on some scene changes. The print’s pretty good, sound is fine, good Roaring 20s music, reasonably well filmed.

…Maybe that’s enough. It’s a lively story with loads of action, double crossing, explosions, gunsels, maidens in distress… No heroes, really, but a variety of villains in what’s basically an old-fashioned prohibition-era gang-vs.-gang war, with each gang having a speakeasy as headquarters. Somehow I couldn’t get into it. Sure, you could say it’s all comic-book violence, but it seemed as though the only ways to move the plot forward were machine guns and arson. I don’t know about tongue-in-cheek, but I found it offputting. You might think it’s great good fun. I didn’t, and wind up with (charitably) $1.00.

The Limping Man, 1953, b&w. Cy Endfield and Charles De la Tour (dir.), Lloyd Bridges, Moira Lister, Alan Wheatley, Leslie Philips, Helene Cordet. 1:16.

The movie begins on an airplane with Lloyd Bridges returning to his seat, asking the person next to him what happened to the magazine he was reading, being told that the person behind him borrowed it, and then settling in for the remaining hour of a flight to London.

Once he gets off in London, things get strange: A person right behind him in line is shot by a sniper; the police ask questions; he can’t reach the woman who was supposed to meet him…and we spiral into an odd and complex mystery involving illicit goods, two musical numbers, a dead man who may not be, mixed motives and an ending that…

Well, I guess the scriptwriters had trouble with the ending. I won’t give away what they finally did, but fans of Bob Newhart or certain movies set in and above Kansas might guess. Let’s say it’s a real comedown from the rest of the film that cheapens the whole business. (The feature review at IMDB calls it a “moronic ending,” and I think that’s about right. That, plus a damaged print, reduces an otherwise serviceable (if perhaps overly complex) semi-noir mystery to $1.00.

Trapped, 1949, b&w. Richard Fleischer (dir.), Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton, John Hoyt, James Todd. 1:18.

Lloyd Bridges once more—this time as a forger who’s in prison when his masterpiece $20s start showing up again. With staged escapes, lots of ambiguity and a fair amount of double-crossing, it’s a nice little adventure/mystery. (This time, Hoyt’s a hero—a government agent—and Bridges a villain.)

The major drawback I saw was the opening six minutes and closing two minutes, essentially an advertorial for the Treasury Department. It’s all very stirring and even informative, but once you get to the plot it’s clear that no Treasury person will ever be less than wholly moral and clean, and I think that weakens the movie somewhat. Even so, it’s a well-done film with great atmosphere, good writing and some nice little twists, easily worth $1.50.

The Pay Off, 1930, b&w. Lowell Sherman (dir.), Lowell Sherman, Marian Nixon, Hugh Trevor, William Janney. 1:05 [1:10]

Here’s an odd one that, despite its 1:10 length, feels more like a vignette than a movie. We open on a city park around midnight, with two cops walking the beat and a young couple asleep on a park bench. One cop wakes the couple, who start discussing their plans to marry the next day on the $230 the young man’s saved from his job as an assistant to an apartment super. A bad guy overhears the $230, robs them, and sets the plot in motion—because the young man’s been to one particular apartment where some folks play high-stakes poker. As things progress, the couple tries to hold up the folks in the apartment and recognize that one of them is the robber, but they only want their $230 back. Naturally, the bad guys turn the tables on the good guys, but…

Well, the robber’s a young punk who is part of a gang run by another guest (Lowell Sherman, director and lead), a mastermind who specifically tries to avoid gunplay and is quite suave. The mastermind views the young couple as an opportunity, takes them back to his apartment, treats them well…and, eventually, the young punk manages to involve them in a jewel theft where the punk shoots the jeweler. Later, the mastermind shoots the punk in self-defense—but his former girlfriend (or moll), now attached to the punk, decides that he’s Guilty and should be Shot. This leads us to the gang’s meeting room inside the nightclub that the mastermind set up…and, as he’s trying to make his case, the cops arrive (with everybody but the young couple fleeing the scene).

And yet, this doesn’t feel like much. It all comes down to a DA claiming he can fry the young man because he was, somehow, involved in the jewel theft/murder as an accessory and whether the mastermind will ‘fess up, condemning himself to save them. Can there be any question? All very heartwarming, all very improbable. All in all, I can’t give this more than $1.00.

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