Quote of the Day! Too Late for Tears (1949)

Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea) to Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott)- “Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart.

The 1949 murder film Too Late For Tears, starring Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea, follows a woman desperate to protect a newfound fortune.

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying don’t shed those tears, I’ll be back again!

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) A magnificent specimen of pure viciousness & pure scientific research… by a magnificent Screwball

THE AMAZING DR. CLITTERHOUSE (1938)

Dr. T.S Clitterhouse-“Crime and research.”

Dr. T.S. Clitterhouse-“The greatest crime of all!” ‘Rocks’ Valentine-“What’s that?” Dr. T.S.Clitterhouse“Why, Homicide naturally.”

Directed by Anatole Litvak (The Sisters 1938, Confessions of a Nazi Spy 1939, Out of the Fog 1941, Blues in the Night 1941, Snake Pit 1948, Sorry, Wrong Number 1948, The Night of the Generals 1967) With a screenplay co-written by John Huston and John Huxley. Based on the play by Barré Lyndon – Music by Max Steiner who lends a dark and dramatic flourish to the sinister & mordant essence of the narrative.

Cinematography by Tony Gaudio (The Mask of Fu Manchu 1932, Lady Killer 1933, The Man With Two Faces 1934, Bordertown 1935, The Story of Louis Pasteur 1936, The Life of Emile Zola 1937, The Sisters 1938, Brother Orchid 1940, The Letter 1940, High Sierra 1941, The Man Who Came to Dinner 1942, Larceny, Inc. 1942, Experiment Perilous 1944, Love From a Stranger 1947)

The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse converges into several genres–black comedy with deadly dark overtones, crime drama, the gangster movie, suspense & psychological noir with classical horror elements evidenced by the duality of the schizophrenic hero.

Though absurd it’s an enjoyable Litvak’s direction, Huston’s screenplay and Gaudio’s arousing photography make it an enjoyable film to watch.

While watching Litvak’s film again, it suddenly hit me (smack between my green eyes) there is one significant trope that stood out so obvious, so clearly to me. Strange that I hadn’t realized it during my first viewing.

Dr. Clitterhouse is an archetypal Jekyll & Hyde figure, using his immersion into criminal activity rather than a smoky elixir to drink down his uneasy gullet, that would normally transform his outer appearance into a fiend, Clitterhouse still becomes transfigured as a criminal and a murderer by and because of his endeavors.

Edward G. Robinson as Pete Morgan in The Red House (1947) directed by Delmer Daves.

The story raises the question of the duality inherent in the protagonist J.T. Clitterhouse, where it is possible to tap into the dark side, the doctor diverges into a classical medical/science horror with personality traits being tainted by the evil/immoral tendencies that people are capable of. When exploring immoral activities that can ‘change a man’s personality’ there is always a fatalistic inevitability. The disambiguation of the situation-there are no horror props, no mysterious mad scientifically developed drug inducement– it is the single act, desire and curiosity of a scientist seeking answers concerning the criminal mind that literally subsumes the nature of the personality examining the questions. i.e. Dr. Clitterhouse becomes not a monster, but a criminal and ultimately a murderer.

Clitterhouse is seduced by the excitement he experiences, and embraces the darker side of himself without the use of a scientific ‘horror’ concoction. While presented as a gangster film, its conceptualization of medical/science experimentation on vicious human nature, aberrations in psychology and the criminal mind elucidates the clear philosophical themes of classical medical-science horror.

Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) written by Barré Lyndon stars Edward G. Robinson as a phony mentalist haunted by greed and a sense of impending doom. Co-stars Gail Russell and John Lund.

Film genres’ lines were often blurred in the 1930s & 1940s, in particular a few of Edward G. Robsinson and Humphrey Bogart’s films which intersected with crime, noir and horror narratives. In particular director Delmer Daves frightening The Red House (1947) and director Julien Duvivier’s Flesh and Fantasy (1943) and Night Has a Thousand Eyes 1948 starring Edward G. Robinson.

Then Humphrey Bogart’s exploration into the diverging genres were apparent in The Return of Doctor X (1939), and The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) directed by Peter Godfrey.

Humphrey Bogart in The Return of Dr. X (1939) directed by Vincent Sherman

As far as science horror goes -from the opening edge of The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse -frames smoky bubbling flasks. Gothic science horrors would be replete with such laboratory paraphernalia.

The film stars the extraordinarily versatile Edward G. Robinson as Dr. T.S. Clitterhouse, co-stars Claire Trevor as the marvelous self-sufficient crime boss Jo Keller. And Humphrey Bogart as mean as spit ‘Rocks’ Valentine.

Included in the fabulous cast of characters actors are many other beloved Warner Bros. stock players. Alan Jenkins as Okay, Donald Crisp as Inspector Lane, Gale Page as Nurse Randolph, Henry O’Neill as Judge, John Litel as the Prosecuting Attorney, Thurston Hall as Grant, Maxie Rosenbloom as Butch, Bert Hanlon as Pat, Curt Bois as Rabbit, Ward Bond as Tug, Vladimir Sokoloff as Popus.

The film Warner Bros. released in 1938 is an adaption of a British play performed on stage in London a few years earlier with Sir Cedric Hardwicke in the title role.

Apparently Edward G. Robinson wasn’t happy with his role in the film, and Humphrey Bogart like it even less, referring to it as The Amazing Dr. Clitoris. Both actors appeared in three other gangster films where they played adversaries –Bullets and Ballots (1936), director Michael Curtiz’s Kid Gallahad (1937) and Brother Orchid (1940).

Bogart felt that The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse was not advancing his career playing second fiddle to Robinson. Bogart would finally be taken seriously as a leading man in director Raoul Walsh’s They Drive By Night (1940) and High Sierra (1941) co-starring Ida Lupino.

The film stars the extraordinarily versatile every-man who can play it cruel and ruthless or unassuming and weak– Edward G. Robinson as Dr. Clitterhouse brings the perfect measure of seemingly invulnerable genius driven by his short-sighted crusade to study the criminal mind.

The film also stars the seductive and equally versatile actress Claire Trevor who won The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as the tragic Gayle Dawn in 1948 for Key Largo (Dead End 1937, director Robert Wise’s Born to Kill 1947 co-starring Laurence Tierney, Raw Deal 1948, Borderline 1950 ) As the gutsy crime boss Jo Keller who heads a gang of lovable miscreants. Jo finds herself drawn to Clitterhouse, partly because he’s not the kind of man she usually runs around with.

Humphrey Bogart brings his gruff hardened criminal type and mean as spit ‘Rocks’ Valentine, whose implacable toughness cuts through Clitterhouse’s sterile academic objectivity in the narrative. The two clash at every turn, until the force of their conflict creates a final verdict.

Robinson, Trevor and Bogart would reunite ten years later in John Huston’s Key Largo (1948) their working chemistry manifests splendidly in the crime genre. While Key Largo is the grittier story, The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse lends these three stellar actors a playground to exercise their tremendous adaptability to any role.

Edward G. Robinson plays T.S. Clitterhouse an esteemed Park Avenue physician who is invited to some the city’s most affluent cocktail parties. What the polite set doesn’t know about their charming intellectual guest is that he is acting as cat burglar stealing fortunes in jewels (not for money, he is quite well off financially) but for the purpose of conducting his research and gaining insight into the pathology of the criminal mind and the physiological changes in the active criminal’s physical and mental conditioning during the commission of a crime which he hopes to publish in a medical tome that will help inform both psychologists and law enforcement.

To indulge in the criminal atmosphere to the fullest, he insinuates himself into the city’s toughest gang and the head of the organization that is able to fence such expensive quality jewels. Jo Keller (Claire Trevor) is the high stakes fence in charge of her gang of thugs and miscreants led by the gruff and vicious ‘Rocks’ Valentine (Bogart) The gang pulls jobs all the while trying to evade capture by one Clitterhouse’s acquaintances, Police Inspector Lewis Lang played by the wonderful character actor Donald Crisp (Jezebel 1938, Wuthering Heights 1939, How Green Was My Valley 1941, The Uninvited 1944.)

The film opens with dramatic music by Max Steiner, on the title screen there is a laboratory with smoking, bubbling flasks behind the credits to invoke the feeling of science, cut away to…

There is a woman singing opera as she is accompanied on a piano at a high brow cocktail party. The camera pulls back and through a window we see a flashlight and someone taking jewelry out of a safe, the flashlight is the only source of light in an otherwise pitch black room. During Mrs. Updyke’s party, it is Dr. Clitterhouse himself who manages to crack the safe full of priceless gems beating one of ‘Rock’s Valentine’s and Jo Keller’s gang to the vault. He examines the expensive jewels and loads them into his medical bag.

A second man, enters into the nearly black room. Later his identity is revealed as of a thief called Candy (Billy Wayne) who climbs into the already open window and Clitterhouse’s flashlight shines on his bewildered face. He is told to put his arms up and turn around and face the wall. He assumes that it is the police. Then Rocks Valentine (Bogart) appears in the window, and is stunned to see what’s going on — he ducks down then climbs back down to the ground.

Clitterhouse’s (Robinson) distinct voice in the darkness tells him to remain with his hands up, as the first intruder (Dr. Clitterhouse) leaves the room, opening the door, and moves toward the sound of the opera singer.

Dr. Clitterhouse appears amidst the guests now as the opera singer finishes her aria. Mrs.Frederick R. Updyke (Georgia Caine) tells him that she’s in good voice this evening- he humors her “Inspiring, simply inspiring Mrs. Updyke.”

As Clitterhouse has takes a snoot full of brandy and walks away rolling his eyes because the caterwauling vocalist has decided to grace the guests with another moving soprano rendition, he makes a phone call to check in with his service, he’ll be going to the hospital to check in on one of his patients soon. Suddenly he hears a scream from upstairs.

Apparently the maid has discovered the safe has been cracked. He remains on the phone calmly giving some prescriptive advice to his nurse, while the rest of the guests head toward the stairs like a herd of well dressed antelope. The maid, “A burglar -your jewels -he came in through the window.” While the guests and Mrs. Updyke are hysterical, Clitterhouse has an amused and knowing smile on his face, finishing his phone call composed and unaffected by the sudden chaos.

The next phone call Clitterhouse dials –police headquarters – “Hello, Good Evening, I want to report a robbery at Mrs. Frederick R. Updyke’s house.”

The third phone call Clitterhouse makes is for an ambulance– the butler has shot Candy one of Jo Keller’s gang and is now the suspected burglar. The comedy of Clitterhouse’s calm, collected and calculated phone calls is subtle and farcical.

Mrs. Updyke- “Are we all going to be frisked?” Officer-“Yes Ma’am I’m sorry.” Mrs.Updyke answers giddily“Oh don’t apologize, I think it’s thrilling.”

Laying on the stretcher Candy who was shot in the shoulder insists he didn’t do ‘nothin’. Clitterhouse examines the bullet wound and Candy looks at him strangely and says  “Say didn’t you and me meet someplace before?”

Clitterhouse’s pedigree shows-“I hardly think so.” Candy asks a guest standing over him –“Who is this fella?” The guest-“Why, Dr. Clitterhouse of course.”  There’s a hand on Clitterhouse’s shoulder, the doctor looks up and it’s Inspector Lane (Donald Crisp) he looks up at him- “Oh, Inspector Lane, Isn’t this a prosaic case for you to be on?” Lane-“It may look like nothing to you, but I’m hoping it’s the end of all my headaches these last few months.” He tells the suspect Candy to hand over the ice, but Candy tells Lane he’s never seen any ice. “I ain’t got no ice on me, your dicks’ll tell ya.” Lane’s officers tell him that they searched him but found nothing. “I’m telling you I never saw it, I never had a chance, somebody beat me to it.” Lane asks him who he’s working with. “Just a lone wolf. What about Rocks Valentine?”Candy tells him-“I never worked, (knowing pause) Rocks who?” “Don’t act dumb you slipped that jewelry to somebody. Come on spill it.”

Lane instructs his men to search everyone, the servants and even the guests. Clitterhouse for a moment looks worried. Lane keeps interrogating the suspect, who insists there was somebody else in the room who was already going through the wall safe when he climbed in the window. “That’s on the level.”

Clitterhouse gets a call, he needs to be at the hospital already for emergency surgery. Lane even gives Clitterhouse a motorcycle escort. Clitterhouse takes his medical bag that was on the floor of the closet from the butler who was certain he had placed it on the shelf above when Clitterhouse first arrived. And as he walks out the —the butler pauses as he ponders a second thought at what just transpired. He knows the bag was on the top of the shelf before the robbery. Curious…

Clitterhouse evades Inspector Lane’s suspicion, all the while holding onto the goods in his medical bag which he brings with him to surgery. His devoted Nurse Randolph (Gale Page) finds the jewels and winds up discovering that it’s been Dr. Clitterhouse who is responsible for all the Park Avenue jewel thefts in order to conduct his research, where he records his blood pressure, pulse, pupil reaction, during and after he commits the crimes.

Nothing hints at the duality of Clitterhouse’s conscience and his Jekyll & Hyde personality more than this cross fade into the next scene. The psychological noir iconography of the mirror symbolic of the dual personae and his conscience represented by the police reflected in the glass.

In the surgical arena Dr. Clitterhouse is about to perform surgery on Counselor Grant who has a serious back problem. Clitterhouse is shown as a highly regarded surgeon having friends in high places, which is convenient for insinuating himself into the investigations for the 4 inexplicable robberies.

Dr. Clitterhouse tells him to relax and not be so jittery. The cantankerous and agitated counselor argues with Clitterhouse- “My dear boy I’ve had over a hundred clients face the electric chair I’ve never been jittery yet.” Clitterhouse-“But your clients were.” Clitterhouse needs his glasses and asks Miss Randolph to fetch his glasses which happen to be in his medical bag.

Nurse Randolph looks in the bag, while the counselor is giving Clitterhouse a hard time about him operating. Randolph finds the bag filled up with a glittering fortune of jewels, she has opened Pandora’s Box. Nurse Randolph watches as Clitterhouse discusses with another doctor how without the elliptical surgery on the counselor’s back, it might result in paralysis. “Oh Miss Randolph… (he sees her with the bag) What are you doing?… aren’t you getting my glasses?” “Yes indeed I have them right here.” “I’m sorry if you had any difficulty finding them?” “Not at all doctor only your bag was unusually full.” Counselor Grant (Thurston Hall) interjects. “Can I interrupt that big medical conference to ask for a cigarette” Clitterhouse-“Oh nurse you won’t forget to keep an eye on my bag.”

He’s already established that Nurse Randolph is an ally, who isn’t planning on turning him in. She is showing her loyalty and respect for him. Nurse Randolph will keep Clitterhouse’s secret.

Give this crank a cigarette please!!!!!!

Continue reading “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938) A magnificent specimen of pure viciousness & pure scientific research… by a magnificent Screwball”

Quote of the Day! The Third Man (1949)

Harry Lime (Orson Welles) to Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten)  “Don’t be so gloomy. After all it’s not that awful. Like the fella says, in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. So long Holly.”

You’re EverLovin’ Joey sayin’ I gotta go set my Cuckoo Clock, see ya soon!

Quote of the Day! Born to Kill (1947)

Helen-(Claire Trevor)“If you go to the police, you’ll see Laury sooner than you think.”

Mrs. Kraft-(Esther Howard) “Are you trying to scare me?”

Helen-(Claire Trevor) “I’m just warning you. Perhaps you don’t realize, it’s painful being killed. A piece of metal sliding into your body, finding its way into your heart. Or a bullet tearing through your skin, crashing into a bone. It takes a while to die, too. Sometimes a long while.”

Quote of the Day! Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)

Holiday Carleton (Barbara Payton) to Ralph Cotter (James Cagney) “You only said one true thing in your life, and that’s when you said you were going away tonight. And you are. Many miles out of town and six feet under. All alone, with nobody to lie to. And you can kiss tomorrow goodbye.”

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying there’s no need for us to say goodbye, we’ll always have tomorrow!

The Very Thought of You: Andrea King in 4 Fabulous Unsung Film Noir Gems!

The seductive Andrea King was born France Georgette André Barry on February 1st, 1919 in Paris, before her mother relocated them to the United States.

Eventually she settled in Queens, NY. King eventually found her way to Broadway at the age of 13 where she performed between 1935-36 in Fly Away Home with Montgomery Clift. At the age of 18 she went to Chicago and worked in the Lilian Gish company’s Life with Father for two years.  It was in 1944, that Warner Bros. signed Andrea King to a contract, her first bit part was as a nurse in a scene with Bette Davis in Mr. Skeffington, then she appeared in The Very Thought of You where as Molly Wheeler – she had to be bitchy to Eleanor Parker, which she joked she hated doing “Wait a couple of months baby and you’ll be making double dates with me just like we used to!” King was cast in small roles during the war. The Warner Bros. studio photographers voted Andrea the most photogenic actress on the lot for the year 1945, the year she starred in God is My Co-Pilot. Jack Warner who liked to name his new stars had wanted to change her name to Georgia King to Andrea’s horror she ran to friend director Delmer Daves and cried telling him it was awful, and sounded like a Mississippi burlesque queen!

Andrea King’s portrayal of the angelic and strong minded Julie Holden in director Robert Florey’s Gothic horror The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) was perhaps my introduction to King’s beautiful persona. Co-starring with Robert Alda a year before they were to act together in The Man I Love (1947).

The Beast with Five Fingers (1946) starring Peter Lorre, Robert Alda and Andrea King.

Sophie Rosenstein the acting coach had taken a strong liking to Andrea and when she left Warner Bros. and went to Universal, a lot of roles opened up for Andrea at Universal.

Andrea King’s first major role as Lisa Dorn whom Andrea in an interview with TCM said was a wonderful part, a real leading lady– “She was evil and she was kind. She was two people all in one” in Hotel Berlin (1945) afterwards she played stylish often ‘mysterious’ leading ladies or supporting roles as the ‘bad girl.’

Finally King got bigger, glamorous lead parts and appeared in a cross section of genres throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. She is remembered for five significant film noir roles, Shadow of a Woman (1946), The Man I Love (1947) with the legendary Ida Lupino, Ride the Pink Horse (1947) starring and directed by Robert Montgomery, Dial 1119 (1950) with Marshall Thompson and the even lesser known Southside 1-1000 (1950) with Don DeFore, that I decided not to cover at this time.

In the 1965 she appeared in The House of the Black Death, Prescription Murder (1968) tv movie and Daddy’s Gone A -Hunting 1969. Andrea King made the transition to television, most notably she appeared in the original 1953 broadcast of “Witness for the Prosecution” for Lux Video Theatre (1950) co-starring Edward G. Robinson. She worked well into the 1970s, (appearing in genres- horror & exploitation- where so many beautiful starlets inevitably roam-a subject I plan on writing about extensively in my piece “From Glamour to Trauma: Deconstructing the Myth of Hag Cinema in the not so distant future here at The Last Drive In) including appearing in the exploitation film Blackenstein 1973. 

Shadow of a Woman (1946)

Directed by Joseph Santley with a screenplay by Whitman Chambers and C. Graham Baker based on the novel “He Fell Down Dead” by Virginia Perdue. Cinematography by Bert Glennon (Stagecoach 1939, The Red House 1947, House of Wax 1953) Edited by Christian Nyby. Costume design by Milo Anderson.

The film stars Andrea King as Brooke Gifford Ryder, Helmut Dantine as Dr. Eric Ryder, William Prince as David G. MacKellar, John Alvin as Carl, Becky Brown as Genevieve Calvin, Richard Erdman as Joe, Peggy Knudson as Louise Ryder, Don McGuire as Johnnie, Lisa Golm as Emma, Larry Geiger as Philip, Monte Blue as Mike, J. Scott Smart as Timothy Freeman.

The fan mail poured in about the pairing of Helmut Dantine and Andrea King together in Hotel Berlin 1945 so they tried it once again in Shadow of a Woman.

Shadow of a Woman (1946) is an essentially creepy suspenseful film noir, at the center of the narrative is a small boy that is being starved to death in order for his father to gain the boys fortune. It predates the superior film noir chiller The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) directed by Robert Wise, but the moodiness and the story line are faithful to a familiar trope.

The film is Andrea King’s second leading role under Warner Bros. after her debut as Lisa Dorn the hapless German actress in Hotel Berlin (1945) which unites King with her good-looking Austrian co-star Helmut Dantine who had played the enigmatic wounded Nazi soldier who terrorizes Greer Garson in Mrs.Miniver in 1942.

The role of Brooke was originally turned down by Alexis Smith, so Jack Warner offered the role personally to Andrea King who does a knock out job as the new bride who has been duped by a psychopath to fit into his nefarious plans. Brooke never becomes hysterical and doesn’t buy into her controlling husbands insistence that she is just ‘tired’ or close to a ‘nervous breakdown’. It also doesn’t take her long before she rebels against him.

Andrea King stars as Brooke Gifford who marries an unorthodox doctor who passes himself off as a natural healer. Eric Ryder (Helmut Dantine) treats his patients with strict dietary restrictions and a dash of hypnotism as an extra measure, including a frighteningly rigid diet for his young son Philip, who is only allowed to drink orange juice. (Well… he won’t have to worry about scurvy but he might die of starvation, poor lamb.)

Eric begins to exude a more sinister nature. His son looks properly ghostly and malnourished, so Brooke tries sneaking him toast with jam just to fatten him up a bit and put color and a smile on his cherubic face. It was the end of WWII and Brooke was lonely, as she relates in flashback the story of her threatening mistake. The film deals with the backlash of women who needed to be independent during the war and then were quickly pulled back into the security of domesticity. The irony of the story is how the lonely Brooke winds up with the wrong man, divorced from his wife and obsessed with controlling his sons eating habits, hinting at the evil motive of starvation in order to gain power over his son’s financial legacy.

“I met him in Monterey four weeks ago, our family physician Dr. Norris had sent me there to avoid a nervous breakdown. I just lost my parents and having been with them through their long illnesses… well I was in a bad way, both mentally and physically… Perhaps you’re wondering why I happen to marry Dr. Ryder on such a short acquaintance… But he wasn’t like most men, he was solicitous and charming. I never asked questions who or what he was.”

Shadow of a Woman opens with Brooke relating the story in flashback to the police. It takes place in Post-War California. Andrea King plays the lovely Brooke Gifford Ryder who seeks the American Dream of marriage and a happy home life. She marries Dr. Eric Ryder (Helmut Dantine) after a quickie whirlwind romance. Until the shine of wedded bliss wears off and she begins to suspect that he is hiding a dark side of himself.

Ryder worked in a carnival as a hypnotist and passes himself off as some kind of nutritionist /holistic healer who treats his patients with rigid diets and hypnotizes them not to feel pain when it’s there to alert the body that something is wrong. Ryder considers conventional doctors to be butchers. His regiments include a frighteningly stringent diet for his young son which leaves the boy weak and looking like death is hovering. A few of his patients have apparently already died because they failed to seek outside medical care, when Ryder’s treatments make it too late to save them.

There is a moment of premonition when the newlyweds Brook and Eric ask a Gypsy Fortune Teller to read their palms, She smiles while reading Brooke’s future and she quickly recoils telling Eric she has nothing to tell him.

The newly married couple argue about doctors, especially the doctor who cared for Brooke’s parents who have recently died. There are so many cues that alert us to Eric’s malevolent scheming. When Brooke has written to the family physician Eric takes the letter and puts it in his pocket, telling her he’ll mail it. But we already get the sense that he has no intention of letting her seek outside consultation from another doctor.

At the opening of the film, while the couple are honeymooning , they noticed two men trailing them. Also Eric is almost killed when a boulder drops down and nearly hits him.

When Brooke recognizes the dog from the beach where the rock almost killed Eric, he calmly tells her, “Oh dear, you’ve been closer to a nervous breakdown, than I’ve realized.” He quickly gives her instructions to pack her things and leave at the back exit of the hotel. He decides that they should Honeymoon at his cabin in the mountains where it is more secluded.

Brooke and Eric’s whirlwind romance of a week feels like a baffling eddy, and from the beginning once she marries this mysterious handsome doctor, someone tries to kill him, and they are followed around by two men with a dog who are trying to snap photos of them. Eric’s ex-wife Louise has hired her lawyer and his photographer friend to try and catch Eric doing something that would help her custody case.

Only after they get married does Eric decide to mention on their honeymoon that he’s been married before and is in a nasty custody battle over his son Philip (Larry Geiger) with his ex-wife Louise (Peggy KnudsenThe Big Sleep 1946, Humoresque 1946, A Stolen Life 1946) What Brooke doesn’t know yet is that he has only married her in order to convince the court that he’s the better parent for his son.

Brooke realizes that she is living in the shadow of Eric’s ex-wife Louise who is trying desperately to gain custody of their little boy Philip. The romance between Brooke and Eric feels so impulsive and we wonder why such an apparently intelligent, strong woman would walk into a marriage with a man she doesn’t even know. Granted, she is recovering from the loss of her parents and the lack of eligible men. But immediately after the they wed, strange events emerge. Aside from the boulder that nearly crushes him on their honeymooning, while they now reach his cabin in the mountains, there is the matter of Timothy Freeman (J. Scott Smart) who’s wife died under Ryder’s care–who tries to put a hole in Eric with a shotgun.

They are once again followed in the car by the two men and the dog, while Eric drives recklessly fast in order to lose the tail. Which he manages to swerve around a construction vehicle up on the shoulder, the two men get stuck blocked by it, Eric has thwarted them.

When they almost crash losing the two men who have been tailing them, she asks him who they are, he denies knowing them, she tries to suggest something, but he immediately questions her state of mind. Eric coldly turns it around and makes it about Brooke’s mental state. Though Brooke never acts vulnerable, and is always on her toes, no matter how suspicious and dismissive Eric behaves.

We experience the story as Brooke continues with her voice-over.

Brooke- “What ever it was that he had seen in the window, had made him change his mind quickly.”

On the road. Brook- “Why all the hurry?”
Eric “Am I going to fast dear?”
Brooke- “Oh no, flying too low.”

David (Louise’s lawyer)-“I wish that cheap quack would go to sleep on one of these curves, save someone the trouble of killing him.”

Eric and Brooke go to his cabin in the mountains hoping to elude Louise’s lawyer. While settling into her bedroom, Brooke opens up a drawer and finds an assortment of women’s brushes and hair pins. Brooke’s face relates the worry that washes over her, as the questions start piling up.

Eric “Why don’t you like it here darling?” Brooke-“Well I’m not a prude but I’d feel better knowing that I was the first woman you brought here.” Eric- “So that’s what’s been bothering you… I don’t know how you found out but it’s true. I did let my wife use the cabin after our divorce.” Brooke says in a startled whisper-“Your wife!… I didn’t know.” Eric- “But you saw it on our marriage application. I thought it was very tactful not to make a point of it.” Brooke-“I didn’t read the application.” Eric-“I’m terribly sorry I thought you knew. But it doesn’t make any difference to us does it darling?” Brooke-“No, of course not… Would you rather not tell me about her?” Eric-“I’d like to forget that I ever met her. Her father was a patient of mine. A fine old gentleman. But Louise, (he pauses) Tell me darling, you haven’t got a lot of money have you?”

Once Brooke and Eric arrive at his Gothic house in San Francisco, they are greeted by his sister Emma and his nephew Carl who are not welcoming at all. They act strangely toward Brooke, as if she is an outsider.

Eric brings Brooke home and introduces her as his wife to Emma, who is resistant to shake Brooke’s hand. Eric asks how his son Philip is and Emma hesitates a bit as if she is frightened to answer, then tells him that the boy’s stomach trouble is back. Eric replies-“There shouldn’t be anything wrong unless you’ve been feeding him solids again.” Emma-“I’ve kept him on liquids just as you ordered.”

Carl welcomes his Uncle home. Carl comments sarcastically to Eric-“What’s the matter you look upset. Did something you eat not agree with you?” Eric walks away from him and ascends the staircase-“Nothing I eat- disagrees with me!”

Emma introduces Brooke as Eric’s wife… Eric’s home at first is inhabited with seemingly hostile characters, Lisa Golm as Emma, Eric’s morose and cantankerous sister. His crippled nephew Carl (John Alvin) Emma’s son, who Eric refuses to allow to get the surgery that could correct his leg.

Bert Glennon’s cinematography creates a manifest antagonism of hostile shadows. 

The somber Emma tells Brooke with a tone of doubt in her beleaguered voice that she hopes she’ll be happy. Brooke in voice over-“I wondered right then how long I could remain in a house where I was not welcome.”

Brooke gets a jolt of her new reality after she tells Eric that she can see why Philip’s mother wants the child so badly. Eric tells her that Louise is not going to get him, and asks if she’ll stand by him. Brooke says that she’ll do anything she can to help. When he informs her that she already has by marrying him, the awareness that comes over her face is acute as if her blood just turned to ice. Eric supposes, “Don’t you see the judge is much more apt to grant permanent custody of a child to a happily married couple, than to a single man.” But he stresses that they must keep their marriage a secret until the court date so that Louise’s lawyer has no time to counter attack, allowing him to believe that he’s snapped photos of an illicit affair rather than of a newly married couple. “I understand, it’s a very clever plan Eric. When did you think of it?” Eric assures her that he loves her more than anything else in the world.

Carl- “Mother’s the cook tonight, you see servants don’t stay with us very long, neither does anybody else.”

Carl-“Pleasant little household we have here isn’t it.” Brooke-“We could make it pleasant if we try.”

Emma and Carl are at first an odd pair all seemingly living in fear, who appear to know family secrets with menacing looks and a lack of warmth right from the beginning. Maybe it’s their diet which only consists of small amounts of vegetables, while Eric gorges himself on the best steak at his local diner.

Carl-“What a life she’s going to lead.” Emma-“She has only herself to blame. She married him with her eyes open” Carl-“I doubt that… but I think we’re opening them.”

Eric is called out on an emergency to see his patient Mrs. Calvin. Brooke decides to go with him on his call. Eric warns her, “Brooke you’ll possibly hear stories about me. That I’m a faker. I want you to know that they’re not true. And I will prove it to you. Get your things.” 

As Brooke and Eric leave, Louise and David MacKellar her lawyer pull up to the house. Louise is there to see her son, but they don’t know that Brooke is actually Eric’s wife yet. Not realizing that Eric was home now, she’ll have to phone Emma who has been secretly letting Louise see her son Philip.

David-“And he’s got the girl with him. How do you like that for nerve.”

Becky Brown plays Genevieve Calvin whose mother is dying. Eric passes Brooke off as his nurse. But Genevieve is obviously in love with Eric.

Leah Baird as Mrs. Calvin is in enormous pain. Eric essentially ignores her physiological illness and controls her pain by hypnotizing her. The result is that the poor old woman dies because she didn’t seek proper medical treatment.

It doesn’t take long before Brooke realizes that her husband is a fraud after all, who might even have a few deaths of his patients on his hands. Brooke finally comes to grips with the true horror that confirms Eric has only married the financially self sufficient Brooke as a way to retain custody of his son, in order to steal his inheritance. Naturally being a sociopath Eric played it smooth at being romantic in the very first few days of their rushed courtship, but his true colors begin to emerge once Brooke is brought into the family home.

Brooke tells Eric’s nephew Carl that she has a very fine doctor friend whom she’ll set up an appointment with so he can look at his lame leg.

Like many good noir suspense thrillers, there is the moment of ‘reversal’ when the contrast between the light and promising beginning turns gloomy and sinister.

When Philip comes into Brooke’s room while she’s eating breakfast in bed, the cute little fella, jumps up and sits with her telling her it looks good. Brooke asks him what he had for breakfast. He tells her orange juice. She asks what he had for supper the night before. He tells her orange juice. She spreads a lovely helping of jam on toast and hands it to Philip who has given himself a jam mustache. Carl comes in and tells him to wipe the jam off his face.

The art direction by Hugh Reticker and Bertram Tuttle is perfectly moody for the menacing atmosphere, and quite the contrast from the opening scenes where Brooke and Eric are honeymooning on the bright sunny spaces of the beach. The Nob Hill mansion is dreary and uninviting.

Carl challenges Brooke asking her why she married Eric. She tells him that she married Eric because she fell in love with him. He gives her the total picture of the family’s finances. That Eric can’t touch Philips money until he’s 25, which gives her many years to butter up the kid.

Genevieve Calvin calls up telling Brooke that her mother is much worse. Brooke gives her the number of her own Dr. Nelson Norris (Paul Stanton) Brooke and Philip hit it off just swell, and she heads out to her house in Burlingame to keep up on the cleaning, and maintain a link to her independence. Smart girl!

Dr. Norris meets Brooke at her house, and informs her that Mrs. Calvin died on the operating table. Brooke can’t believe it because she seemed so comfortable the night before. “Her daughter called me in a little too later. She was being treated by this fellow Eric Ryder who’s the biggest quack in San Francisco” Brooke-“Are you serious?” Dr. Nelson-” Do you know him?” Brooke-“Yes, Yes I know him.” Dr. Norris-“Then for heaven sake don’t have anything to do with him. These quacks have a little superficial knowledge. They’re always very glib and persuasive and helpless people like Mrs. Calvin have to pay for it. This man was entirely responsible for her death. I did everything I could possibly do. But she was too weak. Too far gone.” Brooke-“that’s dreadful” Dr. Norris-“If you know anyone in his hands for heaven sake warn them against him. This man is a menace to the community.”

Andrea In voice-over “I refused to believe this terrible indictment of my husband. But a voice deep inside of me kept saying it’s true….”

Andrea King is brilliant as a woman who is not a wilting violet while her nefarious husband keeps revealing more unsavory parts of himself, Andrea King always manifests an inner strength and intelligence in all her roles. In Shadow of a Woman, Brooke has the mindfulness to maintain her home in San Bernardino which is one way of getting out from under her bizarre marriage that she very quickly learns is a sham.

Eric is a murderer and not just a quack who inadvertently allows his patients to take his dietary course of treatments, while ignoring danger signs of underlying illness. Genevieve Calvin (Becky Brown) comes to Eric’s house and threatens to go to the judge not only about his unethical methods but says she will make trouble for him so he won’t be able to maintain custody of his son, after her mother (Leah Baird) dies from his malpractice.

Eric makes it appear as if the distraught Genevieve commits suicide, when he puts an overdose of pills into her drinking water, knowing that the maid Sarah is off for the night, the police won’t question the circumstances.

Eric’s ex-wife Louise wants custody of their son and her lawyer David G. MacKellar (William Prince) meets Brooke and they form a friendship. Eventually Brooke works with them to expose Eric’s malevolent plans.

When David meets up with Brooke in a diner, he hands her a subpoena telling her she’s exhibit A in the custody hearing. That she spent that weekend with Ryder without the benefit of clergy. “Has Ryder been filling you full of diet theories and orange juice?… Joe (the short order cook), has Doc Ryder been in tonight?” Joe- “It’s a little early for him yet.” David-“Got his steak on ice?” Joe-“Yeah, I’m saving a nice one for him, the juiciest New York cut I seen since Pearl Harbor. I wish I knew where he gets ’em I can’t find steaks like that.” David-“See Ms Gifford, a phony. All those diet theories are sucker bait for his racket.” Brooke-“He has lots of patients and they keep going to him.” David-“Of course people will go to anybody who promises to work miracles.” He tells her that carrots three times a day and fresh air is fine if you’re not really sick but if you need real medical help, and he keeps you from getting tests and treatment from a regular medical doctor then it’s plain murder! “Break it all down and what do you make of our Dr. Ryder, a second rate hypnotist, and not even that. Did you know he used to work for the carnival before he went into the health racket?”

William Prince is wonderfully sharp tongues and amusing as Louise’s attorney David MacKellar with his witty cracks and his likable manner.

Brooke asks David why Louise is so interested all of a sudden in getting custody of Philip when she didn’t want anything to do with him before. David asks her “Who told ya that?” “My husband, Dr. Ryder.” They go back and forth with a humorous repartee , until Brooke shows him her marriage certificate. David-“There goes my appetite and my case. Sister you sure had me fooled. Doc Ryder can turn on the charm when he wants to but marrying the guy for money. Well I wish you luck, all of it bad…” “You’re pretty nervy Mr. MacKellar” She points out that he’s Louise’s attorney and aren’t they interested in Philip’s estate? Telling him from the picture that Eric painted she’s not the grieving mother she pretends to be. David, disgusted with this exchange flings some change on the counter for Brooke’s coffee, passes up his hamburger and leaves.

Brooke’s voice over continues-“It was disloyal to Eric to tell of my marriage, but I no longer cared. I wanted to help Mr. MacKellar. I wanted him to respect me.”

Andrea King does not deliver the role of the vulnerable women-in-peril, but a strong willed and energetic woman whose eyes are wide open as soon as Eric’s charming veneer loses it luster, which is immediate. She isn’t afraid to confront him, nor does she wait to seek out the answers to the mysteries surrounding her new life. She even rejects his kisses instead of accepting them like some women may. In some films, hearing their struggling through dire inner monologues as to why his embraces feel creepy yet she loves him. Brooke now knows why he makes her skin crawl and she doesn’t question her own imagination about it. From the edge of the story she begins to hold him at bay and not become submissive.

At first its had seemed that Emma and Carl would not warm up to Brooke, with Emma’s maudlin, grim expressions and Carl’s sarcastic asides, but after Brooke takes a shine to sweet little Philip, and begins to earn the trust of the family, through her obvious kindness, they open up to her.

When she talks to Emma and her son Carl, she learns how Eric holds them hostage, by depriving them of a means of support to go anywhere else. He won’t let Carl get his leg fixed because it’ll prove he’s a fraud, and Emma hates the way he starves little Philip but she is afraid of her brother and what he’ll do.

Carl –“After all he’s Brook’s husband.”
Brooke-“And something could be done about that!.. Well I’m beginning to see how this household ticks and all the time I was thinking you were the most unfriendly people I have ever met.”
Emma- “I don’t blame you.”

Eric’s ex-wife Louise is desperate to protect her son and get him away from Eric, she and lawyer David G. MacKellar  meet with Brooke who wants to help them protect little Philip And they form a friendship, as Brooke works with them to expose Eric’s malevolent plans. I’ll leave it there, so I won’t spoil the suspenseful conclusion of Shadow of a Woman.

Continue reading “The Very Thought of You: Andrea King in 4 Fabulous Unsung Film Noir Gems!”

Quote of the Day! The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

“After all crime is nothing more than a left handed form of a human endeavor.” Louis Calhern as Alonzo (Lon) D. Emmerich

You’re everlovin’ Joey saying thank god I’m right handed!

Quote of the Day! The Big Combo (1955) Mr. Brown: I’m gonna give you a break. I’m gonna fix it, so you don’t hear the bullets.

THE BIG COMBO (1955)

released Feb 5, 1955 by Allied Artists

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy 1950, My Name is Julia Ross 1945 , So Dark the Night 1946) Screenplay by Philip Jordan, Director of photography John Alton who’s haunting chiaroscuro and noir figures in silhouette fill out the landscape of entrapment, corruption and decadence.

From Film Noir: Reflections in a Dark Mirror by Bruce Crowthers

In The Big Combo (1955)“Alton’s dazzling black and white photography starkly counterpoints the film’s perverse sexuality which constantly strains against the limitations of the Hollywood code. Whether exploring the sado-masochistic violence of the hoodlums, two of whom, Fante and Mingo are clearly homosexual or the psycho-sexual domination wielded by gang boss, Brown over the young woman from the right side of the tracks, the scripts and the director’s needs are continually and effectively fulfilled by Alton’s camera.”

Stars Cornel Wilde as Leonard Diamond, Jean Wallace (Jigsaw 1949, The Man on the Eiffel Tower 1950, Storm Fear 1955) as Susan Lowell, Brian Donlevy (The Glass Key 1942, Impact 1949, The Quatermass Xperiment 1955, A Cry in the Night 1956) as McClure, Richard Conte (The Blue Gardenia 1943, Cry of the City 1948, Thieves’ Highway 1949, Whirlpool 1949, Oceans 11 (1960), Tony Rome 1967, Lady in Cement 1968) as Mr. Brown, Lee Van Cleef as Fante and Earl Holliman as Mingo, Robert Middleton as Peterson, Helen Walker as Alicia, Jay Adler as Sam Hill, John Hoyt as Dreyer, Ted De Corsia as Bettini, Helene Stanton as Rita

Joseph H. Lewis   from Film Noir and the Cinema of Paranoia by Wheeler Winston Dixon-
Lewis abandoned westerns and began a “frenzied round of freelancing that took him from Poverty Row to the majors, with such films as the disquieting horror Universal film The Mad Doctor of Market Street (1942) and the astonishing Secrets of a Coed aka The Silent Witness 1942 for PRC.”

The Big Combo is considered a ‘syndicate’ film noir, where a mob organization is running the urban landscape, in which the organization is ‘all’ but with a difference. According to writer/historian Wheeler Winston Dixon, director Lewis was an “eccentric and he depicts a universe that is as out of kilter as his often imbalanced camera set-ups; the camera sweeps in on the protagonists in their most intimate moments, frames them as silhouettes in wide shots that effectively use fog and a few shadows to disguise the fact that seem to entrap his characters in even tighter compositions.”

Brown- “I’m gonna break him so fast he won’t have time to change his pants.Tell him the next time I see him, he’ll be in the lobby of the hotel, crying like a baby and asking for a ten dollar loan. Tell him that. And tell him I don’t break my word. Diamond –“You must have done something pretty fine to get as high as you are, Mr. Brown. I’m looking into that. I’m gonna open you up, and I’m gonna operate. I hate to think of what I’ll find.

At the police station, booked on a phony charge just to harass Brown. Joe McClure-“Mr. Brown is a very reasonable man. You don’t know him.” Leonard Diamond “Oh, is he? Well I’m not. I intend to make life very difficult for you Mr. Brown.”

Joe McClure-“You shouldn’t talk like that, Lieutenant. You’re overstepping your authority.” Mr. Brown-“Joe, the man has reason to hate me. His salary is $96.50 a week. The busboys in my hotel make better money than that. Don’t you see, Joe? He’s a righteous man.”

From FILM NOIR: THE DARK SIDE OF THE SCREEN BY FOSTER HIRSCH

“One of the eroding factors in the fifties thrillers surfaced in such films as the Big Combo and The Phenix City Story where crime no longer springs from the aberrant individual but is instead a corporate enterprise, run like a business. (Or like Murder Inc.) This view of crime is widespread, almost communal undertaking, counters the traditional noir interest in the isolated criminal whose actions are controlled not by an impersonal conglomerate but by a complex interweaving of character and fate.” Hirsch also points out that it represents another level of decadence.

From The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller-“This gray area between old-school hoodlum and the new “organization man” was fertile turf for noir fables…)… in The Big Combo the gangster picture is distilled into a sexual battle between the saturnine, sensual Mr. Brown (Richard Conte) and dogged but frustrated flatfoot Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) Both men covet the appetizing Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace), whom Diamond has been stalking for months as part of his investigation of Brown’s illegal Combination.”

I have read that chiaroscuro is director Lewis’ domain and that he also liked to use icy blondes the way Alfred Hitchcock did. In Gun Crazy (1950) Lewis had Peggy Cummins, and in The Big Combo it is Jean Wallace, yet Lewis’ women are more overtly ‘sex-kittenish than high class blonde.- From Film Noir: An Encyclopedia Reference to the American Style by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward

Cornel Wilde does a blunt job playing a righteous cop, Leonard Diamond who will do anything to take down Mr. Brown who represents everything he detests in the world.

“I know his name. The name of a man who will pick up a phone and call Chicago and New Orleans and say “Hey Bill, Joe is coming down for the weekend. Advance him fifty thousand,” and he hangs up the phone and the money’s advanced, protection money. A new all night bar opens, with gambling outside city limits. A bunch of high school kids come in for a good time. They get loaded, they get irresponsible, they lose their shirts. Then they get a gun, cause they’re worried, they want to make up their losses. And a filling station attendant is dead with a bullet in his liver. I have to see four kids on trial for first degree murder. Look at it. First degree murder, because a certain Mr. Brown picked up a phone.”

Robert Middleton who happens to be one of my favorite underrated character actors plays Diamond’s boss, Police Lt.Peterson, who’s trying to convince Diamond not to pursue Brown through his girlfriend Susan Lowell and realizes that after tailing her for months, Diamond might have developed feelings for her. “You’re a cop, Leonard. There’s 17,000 laws on the books to be enforced. You haven’t got time to reform wayward girls. She’s been with Brown three and a half years. That’s a lot of days… and nights.”

Richard Conte is particularly more brutal as Mr. Brown than in some of his other portrayals of the embodiment of the crime aesthetic, possessing the essential flair of the well heeled mobster. The Big Combo is one of the most bleak and perverse of all the mid 1950s film noirs. The pace of the film leaves us hanging in a world of perpetual threat and vexation.

Richard Conte infuses the role of Mr. Brown with an unusual intensity even for the enduring tough-guy Conte as he plays a ruthless mob boss who practically holding a society girl Susan Lowell (Jean Wallace) hostage by their odd attraction for each other. Susan has left a budding career as a pianist to be a trophy in Brown’s collections, seduced by his control, and the money he lavishes on her, yet ambivalent about her self-loathing and her attraction to his perverse power over her body and their sexual relationship. In a potent scene he takes Susan in a secret room in her apartment filled with a hidden stash of money and ammunition. Brown to Susan- “This is my bank… we don’t take checks, we deal strictly in cash. There isn’t anybody I’d trust with so much temptation–except myself. Or maybe you.”

Mr. Brown- “Where’d you get that outfit?”  Susan Lowell “What’s wrong with it?”  Mr. Brown-“I like you better in white. You’ve got a dozen white dresses. Why don’t you wear them? “ Susan Lowell-“White doesn’t please me anymore.” Mr. Brown –“A woman dresses for a man. You dress for me. Go put on something white!”

Brown employs his two exploitable goons Fante (Lee Van Cleef) and Mingo (Earl Holliman) to stay close to Susan and watch her every move, acting as unwanted bodyguards.

Brown’s far-flung organization is under attack by the overzealous hard-boiled detective Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde) who is determined to bring Brown to justice. All of Mr. Brown’s associates are figures marginalized by society in some way, all defined by their ‘difference.’ Brown gets his kicks pointing out what everyone else around him lacks while he pats himself on the back like a sadistic narcissist.

The film opens with Susan fleeing a boxing match, pursued by Mr. Brown’s two hired muscle heads, through dark alleys until she is finally caught by Brown, which only symbolizes his sexual dominance over her.

“It was for her I began to work my way up. All I had was guts. I traded them for money and influence. I get respect from everybody but her…”- Mr. Brown

Brown is so fixated on displays of dominance and strength that he fires his boxer after he loses his bout. First he uses the opportunity to belittle his deputy McClure (Brian Donlevy) in front of the young boxer then he smacks Benny across his swollen bloody face waiting for his retaliation, but when it’s obvious the boy won’t hit him back, he cuts him loose.

Brown talking to Benny after the bout- “So you lost. Next time you’ll win. I’ll show you how. Take a look at Joe McClure here. He used to be my boss, now I’m his. What’s the difference between me and him? We breathe the same air, sleep in the same hotel. He used to own it!”

[yelling into McClure’s sound magnifier that is in his ear]

“We eat the same steak, drink the same bourbon. Look–same manicure, cuff-links. But we don’t get the same girls. Why? Because women know the difference. They got instinct. First is first and second is nobody…  Now, Benny, who runs the world? Do you have any idea?” Bennie Smith “Not me, Mr. Brown.” Mr. Brown “That’s right, not you, but a funny thing, they’re not so much different from you, but they’ve got something. They’ve got it, and they use it. I’ve got it; [pointing to McClure] he hasn’t. What is it, Benny? What makes the difference…? Hate! Hate is the word, Benny! Hate the man that tries to beat you. Kill ’em, Benny! Kill ’em! Hate him till you see red, and you’ll come out winning the big money, and the girls will come tumblin’ after. You’ll have to shut off the phone and lock the door to get a night’s rest.”

Brown lectures Benny- “You should have hit me back. You haven’t got the hate. Tear up Benny’s contract. He’s no good to me anymore.” 

Brown cuts his fighter-Benny loose, telling him he just doesn’t have the killer instinct he needs. Brown is a narcissistic bully whose smooth philosophical meanderings taunt the people who work for him, women and even the cop who is right on his heels.

Brown’s two brawny side-kicks Fante and Mingo are obviously homosexual lovers, who thrive on violence as an enhancement to their sexual arousal like foreplay. Brown’s former boss, the weakened and inadequate McClure must rely on a clunky portable radio sized hearing aid in order to keep up with the gang’s activities.

Lt. Diamond goes after the psychotic megalomaniac Mr. Brown trying to shut down his crime organization. There is conflict already within the organization as Brown is demeaning to McClure and verbally bates him constantly with put downs, to try and get a rise out of him. McClure wants to get rid of Brown all together and take over as head of the mob once again, but in the end he is too impotent, to smack down Brown’s power.

Brown has a prized possession —his beautiful blonde girlfriend Susan who is watched over every minute of the day by his two thugs Fante and Mingo. When Susan finally has a breakdown and overdoses on sleeping pills as a way out, she finally asks Diamond for help.

Susan eventually attempts suicide by taking an overdose of pills, which puts her in Diamond’s path. Diamond himself is attracted to Susan. Believing that the only escape from her amoral relationship with Brown is to die, Diamond tries to pull her away from his control.

First Diamond wants to expose Brown’s criminal organization and secondly it would give him great satisfaction to take Susan away from Brown, as he also has developed feelings for her.

When Diamond harasses Brown by arresting him on false charges just to bring him into the station –he goes on a mission to persecute Brown, who retaliates as his credo is “First is first and second is nobody” Brown puts a contract out on Diamond, who is then kidnapped by his two vicious flunky’s Fante and Mingo who are in a surreptitious relationship, with each other Mingo showing his sexual attraction and love for Fante in a rather covert yet palpable way. Though toward the end, while they’re hiding out, he does make mention that he’s sick of Salami. A thought, make of it what you will!

In a shocking scene Fante and Mingo torture Diamond, it is particularly brutal and vicious as they use McClure’s hearing aid turned up to full volume amplifying sound to the point it could blow his ear drums out. The pain on Diamond’s face is tangible. Then they begin pouring alcohol down his throat poisoning him, leaving him to appear as if he’s been off on a bender, thank god his boss Peterson (Robert Middleton) is there to help Diamond recover.

Mr. Brown-“I think Mr. Diamond needs a drink. Got any liquor?” Fante-” How about some paint thinner?” Mr. Brown-“No, that’ll kill him. Anything else?” Fante- “Hair tonic, 40% alcohol.” Mr.Brown-“Fine.”

Once he recovers from his torture, Diamond is even more determined to bring Brown down. Diamond starts to put the pieces together and find clues that point to Brown’s involvement in the murder of a racket boss who disappeared a while ago, and whose place he took over in the organization. He discovers some of Brown’s old associates, Dreyer (John Hoyt) an Austrian who runs an antique and import business and Bettini (Ted De Corsia)a nice Italian man who owned a pizza parlor in the city and is now hiding out, fearing for his life.

Fante and Mingo go to Diamond’s hotel room intending to kill him, and wind up murdering his sometime lover night club singer Rita who went there to surprise him with a date, but becomes an unfortunate casualty being at the right place at the wrong time she is caught in the fray. Even Rita had laid things out for Diamond about the reasons why Susan would stay with a creep like Brown- “Women don’t care how a man makes his living, only how he makes love.”

After Diamond finds Rita’s body gunned down in his apartment- “She came to see me in her best shoes!” I treated her like a pair of gloves. I was cold… I called her up.”

Brown tries to school Diamond in the ways of the world, “You’d like to be me… You’d like to have my organization, my influence, my fix. You think it’s the money. It’s not–it’s personality. You haven’t got it. You’re a cop. Slow. Steady. Intelligent. With a bad temper and a gun under your arm. With a big yen for a girl you can’t have. First is first and second is nobody. 

Brown- “You’re a little man with a soft job and good pay. Stop thinking about what might have been and who knows–you may live to die in bed.”

Brown starts to get paranoid and panicky, getting rid of McClure who is a weak link in the mob, and then his two henchmen who know too much about his double dealings and can be linked to McClure’s murder. Adding to Brown’s worries, his ex-wife Alicia (Helen Walker) comes back into the picture after hiding out in a sanitarium aiding Diamond in Brown’s capture. Ultimately leading to a showdown at an airplane hangar where Diamond corners Brown. Alicia “I’d rather be insane and alive, than sane… and dead.”

When McClure tries to double-cross Brown by using his own thugs against him, Fante and Mingo pretend to go along and wind up turning their machine guns on him instead, while Brown sardonically watches grinning like the sadist he is. With a flair of evil embellishment Brown walks over to McClure who has two machine guns trained on him, and takes out his hearing aid. Brown-“I‘m gonna give you a break. I’m gonna fix it, so you don’t hear the bullets.” It is a stunning scene we are watching from McClure’s perspective the flashing lights and smokey tendrils from the gun fire happen at us, but it is all done in eerie quiet and darkness. We are experiencing the frightening moment when he is shot to death. We become McClure at that moment.

Later Brown wants to dispose of his two thugs so there is no evidence of murder, he hands them a package while they are hiding out in an old building in the basement that used to be a speakeasy, They think the package is filled with food, guns and their share of the money they heisted from the bank, but it’s filled with dynamite. As the two men are blown up, leaving Mingo alive for a brief moment just enough to give a death bed confession to exact revenge for his lover’s death and point the finger at Brown.

Richard Conte is icily ruthless as the film’s antagonist, Mr. Brown who is not known by any other name, signifying an enigmatic symbolism for abject violence and immorality. As Dickos states “his imaginative brutality, Lewis bridges violence to the audience’s darker, vicarious desire to see pain inflicted on the screen”

There is a sense of noir fatalism and an underlying current of deviant and provocative sexual appetite within The Big Combo. Much of the violence is influence by a strong element of sadism. The relationship between Susan and Brown is structured by fatalism, as she is sullen and submissive to his neurotic controlling fixation, while she wants to escape she shows no strength or determination other than to give in to it. Brown is obsessed with Susan as an object, preoccupied with her body. This is illustrated in one scene where he devours her with studied kisses, he worships her ,objectifies her with salacious flattery in a way that perversely brings her to ecstasy. It might be this odd sexual attraction to Brown that keeps her passive to his controlling behavior toward her.

From Film Noir Encyclopedia: Edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward
“The Homosexuality of Mingo and Fante is smothered in an atmosphere of murder and sadistic torture , as they refine the conventions of violence into a sexual ritual. Joseph H. Lewis’s direction strongly points to a crude sexual bias throughout the film. Even Diamond appears to be sexually frustrated and compensating for impotence. Much in the same way as Lewis’s classic Gun Crazy, there is an affinity between sex and violence.; and the exploration of futility presents an ambience strangely reminiscent of an earlier period of noir films, such as Scarlet Street and Woman in the Window. These attitude combine with John Alton’s photography to create a wholly defined film noir, as striking contrasts between the black and white photography and Lewis’s sexual overtones isolate The Big Combo’s characters in a dark, insular universe of unspoken repression and graphic violence.” -Carl Macek

From Street With No Name by Andrew Dickos

“The Homoerotic violence in the Mingo-Fante relationship, unencumbered by misguided sociological sentiments, is still stereotyped psycho-sexuality —offensive enough on another score—but it is raw and consistent with the noir world. The privilege of noir cinema, as distinguished from other genres, lies in the latitude these films were permitted in exploring sexual power and its ambiguity, and the reason is apparent; as the cautionary cinema of the great negation of a “healthy’ puritanical American vision, the film noir almost mandates a depiction, however perverse, of those repressed impulses reigning hand-in hand with the anarchy that drives its protagonists to violence and paranoia. Unrepressed sexuality alongside these characteristics is far too messy to contain, so it must be vanquished. When it is particularly threatening, one may be sure that there is a woman involved.”

Lewis’s The Big Combo- “where it becomes almost pornographic to see Susan Lowell hopelessly submit to what is surely suggested to be an act of oral sex performed by her crime-lord boyfriend, Mr. Brown. But Lewis is no pornographer, he is a sensualist in the most serious way. No other works in American film until the 1960s broached the acknowledgment of these carnal hungers as a life-enhancing dimension of dangerous living—indeed, in living a short, intense life unto quick death.”

Both Lewis’ film noir masterpieces Gun Crazy and The Big Combo are sexually defined by the discursive violence of the external world—so much a corollary for the violence of passion that Lewis and screenwriter Philip Jordan can barely mask the story of The Big Combo as merely another sensational example of the extend to which organized crime corrupted postwar American Life.

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying there’s an underlying current of shadows and light here at The Last Drive In, but no worries, you got what it takes to stick around -no need to turn up the volume for you to hear how much I appreciate you all!

Quote of the Day! Shadow of a Doubt (1943) “I brought you nightmares!”

SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943)

 

Uncle Charlie (Joseph Cotten)-to Teresa Wright (Charlie Newton)

“You think you know something, don’t you? You think you’re the clever little girl who knows something. There’s so much you don’t know… so much. What do you know really? You’re just an ordinary little girl living in an ordinary little town. You wake up every morning of your life and you know perfectly well that there’s nothing in the world to trouble you. You go though your ordinary little day and at night you sleep your untroubled, ordinary little sleep filled with peaceful, stupid dreams… and I brought you nightmares.”

Your EverLovin Joey saying there’s not a shadow of a doubt that I’ll be back with a more indepth look at Hitchcock’s masterpiece of psychological terror!

Shock (1946) Psychological-Noir – The mind is a delicate fragile thing, it’s almost as intangible as faith.

SHOCK (1946)

Directed by Alfred Werker (The House of Rothschild 1934, He Walked By Night 1948, The Young Don’t Cry 1957),  screenplay by Eugene Ling, based on a story by Albert DeMond. Cinematography by Glen MacWilliams (The Clairvoyant 1935, King Solomon’s Mines 1937, Lifeboat 1944, The Spider 1945) and Joseph MacDonald  (The Street With No Name 1948, The Young Lions 1958, The Sand Pebbles 1966) Art Directed by Boris Leven and Lyle R. Wheeler. Set direction by Thomas Little.

Shock stars Vincent Price as Dr. Dick Cross,Lynn Bari (Nocturne 1946, The Amazing Mr. X 1948) as Elaine Jordan, Frank Latimore as Lt. Paul Stewart, Anabel Shaw as Janet Stewart, Michael Dunn as Stevens, Reed Hadley as O’Neil, Renee Carson as Mrs. Hatfield, Charles Trowbridge as Dr. Harvey and Mary Young as Miss Penny.

Shock was Vincent Price’s first starring role for 20th Century Fox. It was originally slated as a “B” movie, but it’s unexpected success created openings in better movie houses. Vincent Price possesses an enigmatic sensuality that in my view makes him the complete leading man, tall and romantically brooding with his velvet intonations and his striking features and dramatic flare.

Shock falls into the category of the psychological film noir, where the lead antagonist is a psychiatrist who has committed a crime, and is able to use the resources of his craft to manipulate the chaos created by his act, in a way that sustains his secret. The subject of this tightly woven narrative is a young woman who is portrayed as hysterical and possibly losing her mind, evincing the idea that she is not to be believed. The mise-en-scène is also primarily set in the sanitorium.

 

“The films identifiable as psychological noirs offer much more extreme interpretations of this anti-traditional style. The mise-en-scène of psychological noirs can be classified as operating within two distinct modes, the surreal and the inexplicable. Surreal mise-en-scène refers to overtly artificial visual elements within psychological noirs that are often achieved through the use of special effects, while inexplicable mise-en-scène designates elements that can be either real or not, within the context of the narrative, and only make sense to the viewer once the film’s narrative has been fully revealed”– Matthew Ducca –Film Noir in Context-Psychological Noir

“Here’s one of the best of the season–and I’m referring to Shock, a terrific little picture that , without any particular ballyhoo, steps into the same category as Lost Weekend and Spellbound for intelligent, engrossing entertainment… {Price} is terrific as the psychiatrist-murderer –smooth, menacing and as dangerous as a tiger’s paw.” –-Los Angeles Herald Examiner, March 7, 1946

“…{Price} makes a sufficiently deadly menace…” –Variety

In Shock, Vincent Price plays a prominent psychiatrist Dr. Dick Cross who is having an affair with his nurse Elaine Jordan (Lynn Bari). During an argument with his wife who is willing to give him a divorce but goes to pick up the phone threatening to ruin his reputation, infuriating Cross who loses control and winds up beating her brains out with a silver candlestick. Price is marvelous as he straddles the moral fence between going to police and reporting what he has done and being completely led by the conniving Elaine who is more the pure villainess of the story. Cross states that he didn’t mean to kill her, there was no-premeditation but now that he’s put the body in a trunk and shipped it off to his lodge, he shouldn’t have listened to Elaine and called the police instead. Elaine is ruthless and Janet will talk, only if Dick Cross lets her.

In film noir fashion Elaine drives Cross to his ruination as the film’s malevolent femme fatale. Cross manifests a sort of sympathetic anti-hero, ambivalence with his tormented conscience and his attraction to the alluring temptress who doesn’t have an ounce of humanity in her beautiful bones is finely portrayed with Price’s iconic eloquence and his stylish restraint. Cross is torn between his feelings of guilt for what he’s done and fearing that the police will find out that he is responsible for his wife’s death.

At the center of the story is Anabel Shaw as Janet Stewart, waiting for her husband Lt. Paul Stewart (Frank Latimore) who was believed killed in the war, when actually he was in a Japanese prison-camp. While sitting up in the hotel room, Janet overhears the argument between Cross and his wife, about his mistress and him asking for a divorce. Janet, walking out onto the balcony, witnesses Cross striking his wife with a large silver candlestick and immediately goes into shock.

Janet becomes the film noir figure as the ‘un-believed’ who is in a semi-hysterical state an unable to articulate calmly what she she saw. Ironically is overseen by the one person she has to fear the most, her doctor who is the murderer! Everyone buys into the belief that Janet has in fact gone mad. The paralyzing sense of persecution that envelops poor Janet creates a world of paranoia and confinement.

In one chilling scene later on in the film, shot with a restricted light source stemming from the lightening storm and narrowing warning shadows by cinematographers MacWilliams and MacDonald, one of the patients, the deranged Edwards, at the sanitorium whom the doctors have come to believe is too dangerous to be kept at their facility has hidden a key, sneaks out of his room and enters Janet’s room, where he tries to strangle Elaine. Once Cross arrives in time to save her, Janet comes out of her hypnotized stupor and begins screaming that Cross is the man she saw murdered his wife. Of course the staff just assumes it’s the ramblings of a mad woman who needs to be committed.

Back to the beginning of the film. When Dr. Cross is first called in to consult on the Janet’s condition, he realizes that her room is directly across from the window in his hotel room. He asks her “Did you walk out on the balcony?” when she responds yes, he understands that she witnessed him killing his wife which mostly likely is the cause of her trauma.

Finally, Paul has had enough and walks into Janet’s room, while Cross finds him there, Janet becomes agitated, “It’s him, he picked something up and he killed her, he killed his wife!”

Cross explains to Janet’s husband Paul, “The mind is a delicate fragile thing. It’s almost as intangible as faith.”

Dr Cross convinces her well-meaning husband Paul to commit her to his sanitorium for treatment, where he can watch over her progress and keep her in a catatonic state, sedating, hypnotizing and trying to control her memories of the murder. While under the influence of drugs, Cross tries to convince Janet that she imagined the quarrel and the brutal murder.

Finally, Paul has had enough of not seeing his wife and walks into Janet’s room, while Cross finds him there, Janet becomes agitated, “It’s him, he picked something up and he killed her, he killed his wife!”

“She Knows Elaine, she remembers!”

“Don’t leave me here, he’ll kill me!” Elaine sedates Janet

Cross in a move to illustrate how many of his patients feel paranoia about their surroundings. He explains to Paul that she’s “filled with delusions” even going as far as introducing Paul Stewart to the old oddball Miss Penny who decries that everyone at the institution are murderers and out to kill her! She suffers from Dementia Praecox or Precocious Madness, delusions of grandeur and feelings of great persecution.

To Elaine, it’s the perfect crime, allowing everyone to believe Janet is crazy when she’s really telling the truth. She gleefully tells him, “Well, smile darling, it’s fallen right into our lap.” As Cross becomes more desperate, he does takes on a more sinister role, telling Janet, “You’re losing your mind Mrs. Stewart, you’re losing your mind!” 

Paul isn’t as gullible to just go along, he asks to call in a consultation with Dr. Harvey (Charles Trowbridge) who happens to be Cross’ mentor. Of course Cross consents as to not call attention to his motivation for keeping Janet as the hospital so long. Cross also denies access to Paul, informing him that the shock of seeing him might cause her more harm than good. Even the staff thinks that Janet is having hallucinations.

Paul brings Dr Harvey (Charles Trowbridge) in on the case

While Cross wavers between keeping the young woman quiet and under his control, Elaine’s cold blooded nature urges him to actually give Janet an overdose of insulin. “If a man wanted to, he could get rid of her and no one would ever know… I could give her insulin shock treatment, give her an overdose.” Then they’d be safe. Elaine prods him, “why not… is her life more important than ours.”

But while Cross wavers between menacing moments and weakness which Elaine detests, he does feel sorry for Janet, feeling that he just can’t trick the poor child anymore, that there’s a limit to which even he can’t go. As Elaine takes Cross down memory lane of the first time they made love, he pleads with her, “I can’t do it Elaine, I won’t!”

Biting at Cross’ heals is D.A O’Neil invoking a prototype of Lt. Columbo for me, as he keeps coming back to Cross asking questions and slowly but surely leading him to his capture, by getting a court order to exhume his wife’s body, and telling him they’ve arrested a tramp in the same vicinity of where they found his wife’s body. The drunken intruder who clubbed  another women to death for her jewels, and they found traces under the microscope of silver and wax on her body, the coroner coming to the conclusion that the murder weapon is a silver candlestick! O’Neil asks Cross, “Do you have candlesticks at the lodge?”

Reed Hadley as D.A. O’Neil is as persistent and suspicious as Columbo asking all the small questions that would worry a murderer!

 

Cross is torn between the law closing in on him, his own inner conflict and the seduction by Elaine who wants Janet dead so they can finally be together. After Cross disposes of his wife’s body, put inside a trunk and shipped to their lodge, he dumps the body off the cliff and drives back home, meeting up with Elaine. “Driving back, there was a time to think. I got to thinking about you. I asked myself, is she worth what I’ve done.” Elaine whispers suggestively, “Well?” Cross embraces her passionately, as she utters, “That was a very satisfactory answer.”

in Lucy Chase Williams’ wonderful The Complete Films of Vincent Price- she points out that there are plot elements that are “reminiscent of Price’s great stage success Angel Street-as the smooth, charismatic therapist, Price sits on the girl’s bedside, quietly convincing her that she’s losing her mind.”

Fox’s creative publicity department sent out this statement, “Price’s days at the studio were spent under the supervision of a psychiatric technical advisor. Most of his evenings were spent rehearsing for the Theatre of Romance radio show on which he reenacted the same role in Angel Street that he made famous on the New York stage. ‘So you see,’ laughed Price, ‘I was a mental case both day and night’…

“Although Vincent is rapidly becoming known as ‘Hollywood’s most wicked man’ what with murdering practically every feminine contract player at 20th Century Fox–for films only, of course-he wants to play comedy.” ‘Ah yes,’ punned Price, ‘I’m getting to be quite a lady killer. But you wait and see, one of these days I’ll be killing them with love and murdering women with laughter.’

From Vincent Price (Classic Images, June 1992)

“Shock was an experiment, actually. The studio was spending too much money on films and taking too long to make them. Something had to be done to boost output and cut down on costs. So they asked me and Lynn Bari if we could make a film in twenty days and still have it look like a first-class production. I read the script and thought it was pretty good. I said, ‘Certainly we can do it, if you don’t change the script and louse it up for us’. And so they agreed… The Film did very well at the box office, so Twentieth was very pleased.”

Your EverLovin’ Joey saying Happy Noir-vember and don’t be ‘shocked’ if I scare up a few more good film noir gems to celebrate the month!… and all my love to the charismatic Vincent Price.