Hollywood Story and Undertow

I think I’m safe in saying that last night’s William Castle double feature, Hollywood Story and Undertow, was the best so far.

Long before Castle was electrifying asses during showings of The Tingler, he was a Hollywood jack of all trades, cranking out flicks in every genre, including a handful of Noirish crime dramas. Johnny Stool Pigeon, The Fat Man, and of course, these two.

Hollywood Story is kind of like Sunset Boulevard’s cheap, trampy kid sister. But in a good way. It’s also set behind the scenes in the film industry, features several aging silent stars, and was made right around the same time. It even uses supporting actor Fred Clark in a very similar role. The plot is pure melodrama. A silent movie director was murdered years ago and a modern day (modern day being the 50s) producer becomes obsessed with turning the story into a movie and solving the case in the process. Great cast, including the gorgeous and classy Julie Adams, fantastic vintage Hollywood locations, tons of industry in-jokes and possibly the best story diagram scene of all time. Plus I love the over the top finale in the creepy prop house.

Undertow stars Scott Brady as a ex-mobster trying to go legit. We all know how well plans like that work out in Film Noir. Needless to say, he winds up on the lam, framed for the murder of his fiancé’s kingpin uncle. I have a tough time taking Brady seriously, because he always strikes me as a softer, G-rated knock off of his older brother Lawrence Tierney. (We’ll be seeing the real deal next week in Bodyguard.) That being said, I still enjoyed Undertow. I loved all the vintage street scenes of downtown Chicago and the amazing, almost monster movie-esque ending. Come to think of it, both of these films had sinister, melodramatic endings that seem to hint at Castle’s future as the king of B horror.

That’s it for this round, kids, but I’ll be back at the LA Film Noir Festival on Wednesday for Julie (not Adams!) and Blueprint for Murder.

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