Noir City Hollywood, the Home Game: BITTER RICE and THIEVES’ HIGHWAY


I suppose you could call this working class double bill Truck Noir, but really it’s more like Agricultural Noir. Up first, an Italian flick I’d never seen before.

BITTER RICE

When a jewel robbery goes sideways, a criminal couple splits up at a train station to evade the cops. The girlfriend Francesca, played by American actress Doris Dowling, stashes the necklace in a kerchief and hides out among a group of female migrant rice pickers, where she meets sultry Silvana Mangano. That’s where things get super fucking gay all over again.

Sorry, I don’t make the rules.

Sure, there’s a virile, hairy-chested male love interest in the mix, as well as Francesca’s no-good criminal boyfriend, and all sorts of romantic shenanigans ensue between the four of them. But for my money this is a movie about the deep, true bonds between (sweaty, sexy, scantily-clad) women. The two main characters push horny men away constantly and seem to genuinely connect only with each other.

The clear message here is that love between women is all that really matters. Run away with me, Francesca says. Don’t let him ruin you! Sadly, it’s clear that the dark pull of heterosexual lust will be Silvana’s downfall. Just like it was for Gino in OSSESSIONE.

Also, lotsa bare feet!

But all of my personal kinks aside, this is a really enjoyable movie. It’s got that slow-paced Italian neorealism vibe but in this case it’s tempered with bursts of pulpy, two-fisted action, wild musical numbers and gripping suspense. There’s rising tensions between the workers and the bosses, an ill-fated rice heist, and an epic, brutal shoot out in a meat locker!

Also, hot chicks.

Did I mention the hot chicks? They are hot. Also wet.

Of course I was sad that Francesca and Silvana don’t end up together after the scumbag jewel thief gets hung up on a meat hook. At the very least they should have been able to live happily ever after as a throuple with the beefy military guy.

But hey, this is Noir City, right? No happy endings.

Next up, we hit the express lane back to Straightsville for THIEVES’ HIGHWAY, my second favorite truck noir flick after HELL DRIVERS.

Richard Conte plays Nick Garcos, a WWII vet who returns home to discover that a mobbed-up trucker (Lee J. Cobb) has robbed, beaten and paralyzed his immigrant father. He teams up with the guy who bought dad’s failing truck and hatches a plan to haul a truckload of rare apples into San Francisco. When he inevitably butts heads with Cobb and fights back against the corrupt fruit racket, two-fisted, Golden Delicious Noir ensues.

There’s a foxy, “friendly” French dame who may or may not be up to no good.

Maybe the good kind of no-good.

Fans of Richard Conte’s nipples aren’t gonna want to miss this one.

Also, there’s a delicious cameo by one of my all time favorite Noir City character actors, the towering Hope Emerson!

Anyway it’s fucking fantastic and you should see it.

Today, we’ve got a sensational triple bill of Spook Racket Noir with THE MIND READER, IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND and NIGHTMARE ALLEY! Stay tuned, Faustketeers…

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