Last night’s show was billed as a Hugo Fregonese double bill. That didn’t mean a thing to me, since I had no idea who that is. I do now, Faustketeers.
First up, HARDLY A CRIMINAL (Apenas un delincuente.)
Host Eddie Muller introed this one as a cross between NAKED CITY and BRUTE FORCE. While it certainly does reflect elements of those films, it doesn’t feel derivative to me at all. More like a new chef’s take on my favorite dish.
Our arrogant anti-hero is a dapper accountant with a gambling problem and a desperate hunger for the finer things in life. He concocts a scheme to embezzle a half a million pesos from his employer and then hide the dough while he does six years in prison. He figures a short stretch in the big house is a small price to pay for a life of ease and plenty, but doesn’t figure on getting mixed up with a gang of fellow inmates who will stop at nothing to get their mitts on his ill-gotten fortune.
There are so many things to love about this film. The opening NAKED CITY style voice-over and gritty street scenes in the city of Buenos Aires, a city about which I know next to nothing. It felt a lot like my own hometown of NYC. I loved all the tough-guy character actors, the sexy club dancer and the massive vintage printing press. I also loved the unexpectedly brutal torture scene and the bleak-as-fuck finale with the burning money. In short, I loved this movie.
This is gonna be another one of those films like CRASHOUT. A film that I love to death and want to not only recommend but demand that you hunt it down and watch it, pronto, but it just isn’t readily available. A lousy, barely-watchable version is up on YouTube (sin subtitulos, unfortunately) for hardcore Noirhounds who understand Spanish but the rest of you will have to wait until someone (hint, hint, Eddie!) is able to finagle a subtitled DVD release.
After catching Hollywood’s eye with this film, director Fregonese came to America to make ONE WAY STREET, our second feature.
I’ll pretty much watch Dan Duryea in anything, but this film suffered a little by comparison to the first. At least in my eyes.
James Mason plays a crooked doctor who gets sick of digging bullets out of gangsters and decides to make off with a bag of loot. His plan is a smart, fairly original and Noirishly over-the-top idea in which he poisons the head baddie (Duryea) and then withholds the antidote while he lams with the dough. He probably could have gotten away with it, if he hadn’t taken the moll too. Rule number one in Noir City: NEVER cock block Dan Duryea.
My biggest problem with this film was that it got a little bit slow and sappy in the middle, when the doc and the moll get stranded in a small Mexican village, bond with cute kids and heal sick animals. Then there was the laughably abrupt, forehead-slappingly gratuitous Hayes Code ending, because of course the doc can’t be allowed to get away with his crime. Welcome to America, Hugo!
Interesting side note on this one. Beautiful Swedish actress Märta Torén, who played the moll and was being billed as the new Ingrid Bergman, died tragically at the age of 30. There seems to be some conflicting info out there regarding her death, but she apparently suffered from some kind of sudden cerebral hemorrhage.
Tonight, we’ll be enjoying a David Goodis double, NIGHTFALL and AND HOPE TO DIE. We’re getting down to the wire now, Faustketeers. Only three nights left in Noir City. Hope to see you there.