Last night we had an Eleanor Parker double feature, with several of her children in attendance.
The gorgeous and gutsy actress died last year, just a few days before Pop Faust, so it’s fitting that we would honor her in this year’s festival. Of course we all know that host Alan Rode will take any excuse to show CAGED.
CAGED is a Noir City favorite and one of the best prison movies ever made. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and dial this one up, pronto. I’ve already done a write up and you can read it here. Or better yet, read Rode’s far smarter and more in depth article here.
Side note: Check out this glamour shot of young and foxy Hope Emerson!
Next up, DETECTIVE STORY.
This seems like more of a melodramatic police procedural than true Film Noir. It charts a single busy night in a New York City police station with its rotating cast of quirky cops and robbers. The focus of the story is a hard-nosed and hot-tempered detective obsessed with bringing a slippery abortionist (!) to justice at all cost. He sees everything in stark black and white and is inclined to punch first and ask questions later, until he is inevitably confronted by his own wife’s dark secret.
On paper this looked like a winner for me. I love William Bendix, one of my all time favorite tough guys, plus Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker ain’t too shabby either. Not to mention the NYC setting and the edgy, taboo subject matter. But in the end, I didn’t really love this movie. It wasn’t awful, it just felt a little stagey and heavy handed. Over-written and over-acted, particularly by Douglas, who chewed the scenery so hard I was amazed he didn’t crack all his big white teeth. Parker’s performance was probably the best thing about this movie, though even she had her over-the-top Oscar-bait moments. Which apparently worked, as she was nominated for an Oscar for this film.
I also liked a lot of the minor characters, like the crazy Italian thief and the nervous klepto chick. But over all this one left me feeling kind of meh. Particularly the ending. Anyway, I wouldn’t warn you away from watching it, but I can’t whole heartedly recommend it either.
I’ll tell you what, though. This is a film that could really use a remake, because the bare bones of the story are damn good. I love this notion of the fine (or sometimes non-existent) line between cops and criminals and the dark legacy of violence and abuse passed down from father to son. It could still be set in 1951 but allow full disclosure of the whole abortion business, rather than beating around the bush about it to placate the censors the way they had to in the original.
Hey, Hollywood. Get on that, willya?
Tonight’s line up is a lulu. JENNY LAMOUR (Quai des orfèvres) and ANGELS OVER BROADWAY. Hope to see you there.
Thanks for the wonderful vintage images, Christa. Excellent commentary too.