I think last night was my favorite so far. It was billed as a “crooked cop” double feature. Which it is, but I liked my friend Richard Heft’s description better: a “festival of booze-sweaty foreheads.” Which it also is.
First up, the sweaty Edmond O’Brian in Shield for Murder:
O’Brian stars as a dirty cop who murders a bookie for his bankroll and, as is so often the case in Noir City, covering up one crime quickly leads to others as he spirals dangerously out of control. Even his long-suffering girlfriend, played by Marla (The She Creature!!!) English and his partner John (Brain from Planet Arous!) Agar can’t save him from his inevitable self destruction. (Yeah, okay, so I’m a monster nerd.)
I loved this film, even though it was obviously shot for a nickel. O’Brian was fantastic, tortured yet believable and surprisingly sympathetic. Like Muller said, if you thought O’Brian was sweaty and unhinged in D.O.A, you need to see this movie.
The print was a bit of a mystery going in, since no one from the Film Noir Foundation was able to see it before last night’s screening. It turned out to be in pretty rough shape, but I was still thrilled to see it on the big screen and I hope that it will be eventually restored.
Speaking of restoration, if you’re enjoying these write ups and want to help the Film Noir Foundation continue to restore and preserve rare gems like Shield for Murder click here to donate. Tell ’em Faust sent ya.
Next up in the festival of booze-sweaty foreheads, Private Hell 36:
A pair of cops (Cochran and Duff) investigate a robbery, but when they uncover the missing dough, one of them starts getting ideas about how to keep his gold-digging girlfriend (Lupino) in diamonds. He pockets a chunk of the cash, much to his buddy’s dismay. They hide the money in a forgotten trailer park and seem to get away with it at first, but the pressure of covering up their crime begins to unravel their friendship. Cue the binge-drinking (which, according to Muller, wasn’t really acting) and sweaty foreheads.
Ida Lupino is my hero. She wasn’t just a pretty face, she was also a writer, director and producer. She co-wrote this film, and you can really see her deft touch with character development. There’s plenty of two-fisted action, but what makes it great is the interplay between the characters and they way they come apart at the seams.