Brute Force and House of Numbers

Last night’s Los Angeles Film Noir Festival program featured a prison break double bill. First up, one of the best prison break movies of all time, BRUTE FORCE.

I absolutely love this movie, one of the few out of this year’s line up that I’ve already seen. However, I have to agree with director Jules Dassin who, according to host Eddie Muller, was unhappy with the addition of the girlfriend-related flashbacks. Not that I’m ever disappointed to see gorgeous Ella Raines or Yvonne DeCarlo on screen, but those sequences do seem unnecessary, obviously tacked on to dilute the overflowing testosterone. Maybe it would be a better movie without the dames, but it’s still brilliant. Hume Cronyn is superb as the sadistic chief of security. His performance is both chilling and utterly believable, delivered without whiff of melodrama. The cast is stacked to the rafters with every old-school tough guy in Hollywood, plus there’s both a Creature from the Black Lagoon connection (Whit Bissell) and an Outer Limits connection (Jeff Corey) so that makes me a happy geekgirl. Not to mention, as my pal Keith Rainville says, this film contains the single finest plancha onto a machine gun nest in film history. This one is available on DVD, so you can play along at home with your own private Film Noir Festival. Highly recommended.


After the bizzaro third-world poster art from the previous night, this is much more like it. Love the question mark motif. But what this poster doesn’t tell you is that you’re in for DOUBLE JACK! That’s right, double your pleasure with double Jack Pallance. No, this isn’t just a glimpse into my perverse sex fantasies, Pallance actually plays a double role as look-a-like brothers in this strange and not entirely successful prison break flick.

Good Pallance is shacking up with the hot blonde wife of San Quentin inmate Bad Pallance while they pull off what has to be one of the most complicated and convoluted prison breaks of all time. I won’t spoil all the details, but it involves Good Pallance breaking IN to prison and impersonating his brother. Of course he falls for his brother’s wife along the way and things get ugly. But what did you expect in Noir City?

This was a vintage print and a little soft at times, but not unwatchably so. My big beef with this picture was the abrupt, unsatisfying ending. It’s like the writers spent so much effort on the plans for the prison break, that they had no creative energy left to figure out what would happen after the break was over. Still, I can’t get enough of Jack Pallance and it was worth it for the composite shot where Bad Pallance threatens to strangle Good Pallance. I can’t exactly recommend this one, but I enjoyed it.


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