The Hoodlum, 1951, b&w. Max Nosseck (dir.), Lawrence Tierney, Allene Roberts, Marjorie Riordan, Lisa Golm. 1:02.
The term “film noir” and the vaguer “noir” have been applied by various amateur reviewers to many of the flicks in this massive set, and I suspect this one’s no different. (As I discovered checking IMDB: Yep—”a very underrated B film noir.” You can get away with almost any crap as long as it appears to be noir.) Unfortunately, “noir” has become a lazy way to glamorize cheap, nasty flicks—ones that revel in the dark side of humanity without the skill to suggest deeper meanings. I suspect much of what’s celebrated as noir is actually a browner color that gives off a certain stench: film crap. This one doesn’t even have the excuse of being filmed during the Depression.
This sad little B movie gives it away in the title. It’s about a hoodlum—a piece of work who’s arrested pretty much every year from age 15 onward for increasingly serious acts of casual thuggery. This time, he’s in for 5 to 25—and although the warden sees a lifetime criminal for what he is, the aging mother somehow convinces the parole board to free him.
Which, of course, does not go well. Need I recount the plot? He betrays his brother, seduces his brother’s girlfriend (who later commits suicide), sets up a really dumb armored car robbery that yields two dead in his little gang and two dead armored car employees…and eventually even his mother tells him what a piece of work he is, then dies. As does he, shortly thereafter. He never grows as a character; he’s scum, and seemingly proud of it.
I see no redeeming qualities in this other than its brief length. If you’re a believer that all noir has its worth (as, apparently, most of those who deigned to review this on IMDB do) and that badly-done cheap flicks with no redeeming virtues are all noir, I suppose this could get $0.50.
Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, 1947, b&w. John Rawlins (dir.), Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, Jack Lambert, Ian Keith, Bernadene Hayes, Jimmy Conlin. 1:00.
It’s a Dick Tracy B programmer, and that means slightly over-acted fun with silly character names, oddly-named villains, and good clean fun. This time, the villain is The Claw, a criminal whose right hand was replaced with a hook in the same accident that messed up one of his legs. We also have Honesty Insurance (with Peter Premium as a VP), Vitamin Flintheart, Tess Trueheart, Sightless the ‘Blind’ Beggar (whose sign is honest: “I am Sightless”), Longshot Lillie and more.
The setup: A furrier’s fortune in furs is stolen from his vault—by somebody who clearly knew the combination, changed just a couple days ago when the furrier changed insurance companies. In the process, the night watchman was slain. Who did it and why? We find out in a spirited hour. Great fun, but also a one-hour flick (and exactly the right length); I give it $1.00.
Black Gold, 1936, b&w. Russell Hopton (dir.), Frankie Darro, LeRoy Mason, Gloria Shea, Berton Churchill, Stanley Fields, Frank Shannon, George Cleveland, Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones, Dewey Robinson. 0:57 [0:54].
What we have here is a musical, with original songs. Or it’s a romantic dramedy, with a young couple meeting cute and immediately falling for each other. Or it’s a tale of industrial sabotage and ruthless oilmen. Or it’s a tale of rebellious youth. It’s really all of those, with easily enough plot for a three-hour extravaganza…and the whole thing runs 54 minutes. Of which the first 2+ minutes are essentially waste footage showing various oil-rig scenes and showing off the cinematographer’s love of fancy dissolves, and another couple of minutes are apparently stock footage with the star overlaid, also showing off both fancy dissolves and fancy picture overlays.
What it isn’t is a mystery. The villain’s obvious from the first time we meet him, the ending has to be a happy one (although there’s a twist to it that makes no sense at all to me, but to explain it would be a spoiler), and very little is mysterious along the way. I think the movie relies primarily on fans of Frankie Darro, and it’s one of those movies that starts out by showing each major character with the actor’s name. It’s certainly fast-moving, and enjoyable enough in its odd way. I’ll give it $1.00.
Blonde Ice, 1948, b&w. Jack Bernhard (dir.), Robert Paige, Leslie Brooks, Russ Vincent, Michael Whalen, James Griffith, Emory Parnell, Walter Sands, John Holland, Mildred Coles. 1:13.
This flick, which is a noir film of sorts (of the femme fatale variety) starts out fast and never stops moving. We’re at a wedding, where various men are bemoaning the fact that their onetime girlfriend is marrying a wealthy man—and some of them have engraved cigarette cases from her. One throws the case away from a verandah (the wedding’s at the wealthy groom’s home), shortly before the new bride comes out and assures him that she loves him (not the groom) and will write to him from the honeymoon…
Now the couple are on the honeymoon. She’s writing a love letter to the spurned man; when her husband enters the room, she covers it with a brief letter to somebody else. Unfortunately, when he’s reading the innocent letter, he drops it, reveals the other letter, and walks out on her, flying back from the LA hotel to his home in San Francisco.
Without revealing too much of the plot, let’s just say that the next day the new widow goes after her old flame again…and then gets engaged to an up-and-coming Congressman, shedding some more blood along the way. Oh, and pretty convincingly framing the old flame who she still professes to love.
It all works out in the end, and it’s quite an amalgam of newspaper life (the old flame’s a newspaper columnist, she was a society writer and has become the society editor) and sheer coldblooded ambition mixed with sociopathy. The only problem I had is that this woman strikes me as so absurdly cold that, stunning as she may be, I couldn’t see how she got so many men falling for her so rapidly. But I’m sure it happens. Despite that, this is a good one, worth $1.50.