Cry Tough and Down Three Dark Streets

CRY TOUGH may be my favorite film this year. Not because it’s a work of cinematic genius or anything like that. Just because it hits all my sweet spots and then some. Nymphomania! Judo! Stag films! Gas masks and stingy brim hats! And this exchange: “What’s shakin’?” “The bacon. But this bacon is taken.”

Gorgeous young John Saxon plays a Puerto Rican ex-con who comes home to his old New York neighborhood and tries to go straight, but winds up seduced back into a life of crime. He falls for a hot Cuban nymphomaniac (Linda Cristal) who hates the idea of marriage and doesn’t want to be tied down to just one man. (My kinda gal!) After pulling a few violent jobs for a slippery, effeminate crime boss, he’s poised to take over the dirty business, but all he really wants is his disapproving father’s love and acceptance. Dad’s declaration that Saxon is dead to him sends the kid into a self-destructive downward spiral. No sappy, happily-ever-after in this one.

It’s set in my old hood, in the “teeming tenements” of New York City during the hottest part of the sweltering summer. I loved the steamy rooftop love scene on what we used to call “tar beach.” I loved the fact that the crooks had no guns, only switchblades. I loved the death-curse of the bloody chicken head. I loved the weird, homoerotic scene where Saxon confronts the naked crime boss in the bathtub. I loved all the meaty Latina dancers in tight skirts. In short, I loved this movie. It was dirt cheap, shot for peanuts and a bit heavy handed in its attempt to be socially relevant but that didn’t stop me from loving every minute of it.

John Saxon was there in person to introduce the film. I had no idea that he had been a model for pulp covers and magazines as a teenager. I also dug his story about coming to Hollywood at 17 and meeting fellow New Yorker Tony Curtis, who told him “Don’t let ‘em bug you about your accent. You talk how you wanna talk.

The second feature was DOWN THREE DARK STREETS.

This documentary-style procedural starred Broderick Crawford as an FBI agent who steps in to investigate three separate but possibly related cases after his partner is murdered. A widow is receiving phone calls from a mystery man who wants her to turn over her late husband’s insurance money or he’ll kill her kid. A homicidal gangster is on the loose and his saucy girlfriend is the only one who knows were he’s hiding out. A kid gets mixed up with a gang of car thieves who threaten his blind wife if he doesn’t go along with their racket. Crawford solves the cases, including his partner’s death, using cutting-edge scientific techniques (like semantics!) and his own intuitive ability to see into the inner workings of the criminal mind. CSI, 1954!

Tons of great vintage LA locations, including a climactic scene up at the Hollywood sign. The droning narration might have been a downside to some, but I liked the wordy explanations and all the dated “science.” Not a good film by any stretch but fun to watch. I especially liked the blind girl IDing the bad guy (Claude Akins!) by feeling his cauliflower ear.

Funny glitch in this print. As I mentioned yesterday, both these prints are brand spanking new, so new that there was no time to check them out in advance. In fact, there was some worry that the prints might not make it to Hollywood in time for the show. But they did and our viewing was the first time anyone had seen them. I have no idea what the back story was behind these two print or where they came from, but at one point the extortionist gives the widow a note composed of cut out letters. The note is in Italian! Wonder what happened there…?

I’ll be back on Wednesday for the final show in this year’s Noir City series, GASLIGHT and MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS.

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