I love Charles McGraw. That profile, that voice. If I could go back in time and do a film adaptation of MONEY SHOT, I’d want McGraw to play Malloy. And THE THREAT is all about McGraw doing what he does best.
Cold blooded killer Kluger (McGraw) busts out of jail to get revenge on the cop and the DA who put him there. But instead of killing them on the spot, he kidnaps them and, along with his stripper ex-girlfriend (Virginia Grey) drags them out into the desert for a little fun and games while they wait for the plane that may or may not be coming to fly them to Mexico.
A tense, claustrophobic premise shot for peanuts, this one is all about the actors. Which is both good and bad. McGraw is sensational and his henchmen are also pretty memorable. Michael O’Shea is a fine actor, but (through no fault of his own) I’ll always think of him as the comedian in LADY OF BURLESQUE and had a hard time taking him seriously in this. Virginia Grey was kind of hot and cold for me, sometimes grating and shrewishly over-the-top but other times intriguingly brittle and skittish. I loved her big moment at the end, which I won’t give away. The other thing I loved about her in this movie was a small detail that may have been unintentional but was really a nice touch. She was kidnapped on her way home from work (at the strip club) and for the whole film she’s in the same outfit. She’s got this safety pin holding her cheap blouse closed because one of the buttons is missing. Now maybe this flick was so low budget and on such a tight schedule that the missing button was a behind the scenes wardrobe malfunction and they didn’t have time to fix it, but I’d like to think this it was a deliberate choice on her part. Because it seems so real and natural, like maybe she was planning to fix it when she got home that night but never made it. Which I guess makes your mom right, that you should always dress nice and wear pretty underwear in case you get hit by a car. Or in case your homicidal ex breaks out of jail and kidnaps you on your way home from work.
I heard a rumor that there was a remake of this one getting tossed around a few years ago. Guess it never went anywhere, but if anyone out there on the interwebs knows more about it, please share with the rest of the class.
Then there was THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS
On paper this one looks fantastic. Joan Crawford, Mistress of the Bitch Eyebrows, plays a gangster (!!!) who needs to pull off one last heist before she goes blind in order to pay for the operation to restore her sight. She falls for the eye doctor along the way and dreams of going straight, but her current squeeze slash partner-in-crime has other ideas and hires a sleazy private dick to follow her around. The dick offers Joan a “special deal” to keep his mouth shut, but she’s a lady, dammit, so the spurred squeeze comes gunning for the surgeon.
Sounds great, huh. Except it isn’t. Not by a long shot. For one thing, someone should be sued for false advertising. This woman isn’t dangerous at all, except by association. Unless you count slapping the horny P.I. Once. Other than that, she mostly just moons over the hunky doctor and makes salad dressing and sappy pronouncements about light and roses and having a man’s strength to lean on. Actually, she doesn’t really make the salad dressing, the doc’s cute-as-a-button daughter makes it while Joan smiles indulgently and radiates wannabe mommyness. She keeps threatening to go back to the homicidal ex, but doesn’t. You get the idea that she’s planning something, but it’s never really clear what or why. Not what I’d call dangerous.
This movie was more of a melodramatic romance, and not a very good one. If this were Noir, ruthless Joan would try to go straight, willing to do anything (including murder) to hide her criminal past, but it would all inevitably go to shit and come crashing down around her. This is the first film from this years festival that I flat-out didn’t like. It had moments that were fun. I liked David Brian as the boyfriend. All the crime-related stuff was entertaining, like the heist and the fights between the boyfriend and his brother, and I thought the big final shoot out in the operating room was the best scene in the film, but as soon as it went back to the romance angle, I found myself looking at my watch. Joan herself allegedly hated this film, and I can see why. Skip this one and watch POSSESSED instead.
Tonight, JOURNEY INTO FEAR and THE BRIBE.