Another stellar night of Noir at the Egyptian. This year has really been exceptional in both rarity and quality. I’m really glad I decided to do the whole run.
First up, Drive A Crooked Road. Mickey Rooney plays a lonely, disfigured auto mechanic who falls for a hot dame and gets mixed up in a heist. Nothing new there, but man did I love this film. For starters, forget everything you think you know about Rooney. He knocks this one out of the park, delivering a subtle, complex performance that was genuinely moving without a drop of treacle. In fact, the whole cast is terrific and what could have easily been just another run-of-the-mill crime drama ended up being one of my favorite films that screened this year. The script is smart, streamlined and crackling with dark humor and the resulting film is deeper and more mature that I ever would have suspected. Hunt this one down if you can. You won’t be sorry.
Next we have the seething cauldron of red hot man love that is Walk a Crooked Mile. I thought Between Midnight and Dawn was the most homoerotic film ever screened at the Film Noir Festival. Boy was I wrong.
Unsurprisingly, the same director, Gordon Douglas, is responsible for both of these “buddy” pictures. While there’s a perky female love interest (or should I say, obvious beard) in Midnight, Crooked Mile doesn’t even bother. In fact, the only mention of fish on the menu in this one is the G-man’s single throwaway comment about the effect a sexy lady doctor had on his “corpuscles.” A comment which is quickly shot down when his British “partner” reminds him that she’s obviously a dirty commie. Did I mention this scene takes place while the two of them are in bed? Not actually together, of course, since it is the 40s after all, but in twin beds in their shared room.
The plot is standard red-scare fare about a nest of commies (including Raymond Burr with a goatee!) plotting to steal top secret nuclear formulae from an atomic research facility. When one of their operatives gets killed on the job, rock jawed G-man Dennis O’Keefe gets teamed up with a suave sleuth from Scotland Yard. Once our studly G-man gets a taste of that uncut British manhood, the two become inseparable and repeatedly save each other’s lives as they work together to smash the international spy ring.
I swear, these two actors had more on-screen chemistry than a lot of modern hetero pairings, constantly trading arched eyebrows and smoldering looks between their silly, leaden lines. At one point, the Brit, played by Louis Hayward, has to take an undercover job in a laundry and we are treated to a long, gratuitous scene of Hayward working the steam-press, stripped down to his nearly sheer undershirt and dripping with sweat.
Best of all, Crooked Mile has a decidedly un-Noirish happy ending. When the chief asks Hayward if he plans to return to London now that the free world has been saved from commies, O’Keefe takes his arm and says, “Oh no he doesn’t.” Then the film abruptly ends on a shot of the two of them walking off into the sunset together. They may as well have just made out at that point, since they were clearly planning to live happily ever after.
The biggest disappointment in this one for me and my date Matt Wallace was that the murder which kicks off the whole story takes place at a wrestling arena, but all we get to see is an event poster on the wall. You can hear the sounds of the cheering crowd in the background, but what, no ring action? What a tease!
So, a few more days off for your intrepid blogger, but I’ll be back at the Egyptian when the LA Film Noir Festival continues next week. I won’t be able to make it for Eve’s Necklace on Wednesday night, but I’ll be there for Crashout and Cry Vengeance on Thursday.