Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
Sigmund Freud

“Ladies and gentlemen- welcome to violence; the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains sex.” — Narrator from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

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Tura Satana, Haji, and Lori Williams in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 1965
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Françoise Dorléac and Donald Pleasence in Roman Polanski’s Cul-de-sac 1966
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Constance Towers kicks the crap out of her pimp for shaving off her hair in Sam Fuller’s provocative The Naked Kiss 1964
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Peter Breck plays a journalist hungry for a story and gets more than a jolt of reality when he goes undercover in a Mental Institution in Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor 1963
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Bobby Darin is a psychotic racist in Hubert Cornfield and Stanley Kramer’s explosive Pressure Point 1962 starring Sidney Poitier and Peter Falk.

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Constance Towers as Kelly from The Naked Kiss (1964): “I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That’s what I saw.”

Griff (Anthony Eisley) The Naked Kiss (1964): “Your body is your only passport!”

Catherine Deneuve as Carole Ledoux in Repulsion (1965): “I must get this crack mended.”

Monty Clift Dr. Cukrowicz Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) : “Nature is not made in the image of man’s compassion.”

Patricia Morán as Rita Ugalde: The Exterminating Angel 1962:“I believe the common people, the lower class people, are less sensitive to pain. Haven’t you ever seen a wounded bull? Not a trace of pain.”

Ann Baxter as Teresina Vidaverri Walk on the Wild Side 1962“When People are Kind to each other why do they have to find a dirty word for it.”

The Naked Venus 1959“I repeat she is a gold digger! Europe’s full of them, they’re tramps… they’ll do anything to get a man. They even pose in the NUDE!!!!”

Darren McGavin as Louie–The Man With the Golden Arm (1955): “The monkey is never dead, Dealer. The monkey never dies. When you kick him off, he just hides in a corner, waiting his turn.”

Baby Boy Franky Buono-Blast of Silence (1961) “The targets names is Troiano, you know the type, second string syndicate boss with too much ambition and a mustache to hide the facts he’s got lips like a woman… the kind of face you hate!”

Lorna (1964)- “Thy form is fair to look upon, but thy heart is filled with carcasses and dead man’s bones”

Peter Fonda as Stephen Evshevsky in Lilith (1964): “How wonderful I feel when I’m happy. Do you think that insanity could be so simple a thing as unhappiness?”

Glen or Glenda (1953)“Give this man satin undies, a dress, a sweater and a skirt, or even a lounging outfit and he’s the happiest individual in the world.”

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Ed Wood’s Glen or Glenda 1953

Johnny Cash as Johnny Cabot in Five Minutes to Live (1961):“I like a messy bed.”

Dr. Moreau (Charles Laughton) Island of Lost Souls: “Do you know what it means to feel like God?”

The Curious Dr. Humpp (1969): “Sex dominates the world! And now, I dominate sex!”

The Snake Pit (1948): Jacqueline deWit as Celia Sommerville “And we’re so crowded already. I just don’t know where it’s all gonna end!” Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Stuart Cunningham “I’ll tell you where it’s gonna end, Miss Somerville… When there are more sick ones than well ones, the sick ones will lock the well ones up.”

Delphine Seyrig as Countess Bathory in Daughters of Darkness (1971)“Aren’t those crimes horrifying. And yet -so fascinating!”

Julien Gulomar as Bishop Daisy to the Barber (Michel Serrault) King of Hearts (1966)“I was so young. I already knew that to love the world you have to get away from it.”

The Killing of Sister George (1968) -Suzanna York as Alice ‘CHILDIE’: “Not all women are raving bloody lesbians, you know” Beryl Reid as George: “That is a misfortune I am perfectly well aware of!”

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Susannah York (right) with Beryl Reid in The Killing of Sister George Susannah York and Beryl Reid in Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George 1960

The Lickerish Quartet (1970)“You can’t get blood out of an illusion.”

THE SWEET SOUND OF DEATH (1965)Dominique-“I’m attracted” Pablo-” To Bullfights?” Dominique-” No, I meant to death. I’ve always thought it… The state of perfection for all men.”

Peter O’Toole as Sir Charles Ferguson Brotherly Love (1970): “Remember the nice things. Reared in exile by a card-cheating, scandal ruined daddy. A mummy who gave us gin for milk. Ours was such a beautifully disgusting childhood.”

Maximillian Schell as Stanislaus Pilgrin in Return From The Ashes 1965: “If there is no God, no devil, no heaven, no hell, and no immortality, then anything is permissible.”

Euripides 425 B.C.“Whom God wishes to destroy… he first makes mad.”

Davis & Crawford What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford bring to life two of the most outrageously memorable characters in Robert Aldrich’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

WHAT DOES PSYCHOTRONIC MEAN?

psychotronic |ˌsīkəˈtränik| adjective denoting or relating to a genre of movies, typically with a science fiction, horror, or fantasy theme, that were made on a low budget or poorly received by critics. [1980s: coined in this sense by Michael Weldon, who edited a weekly New York guide to the best and worst films on local television.] Source: Wikipedia

In the scope of these transitioning often radical films, where once, men and women aspired for the moon and the stars and the whole ball of wax. in the newer scheme of things they aspired for you know… “kicks” yes that word comes up in every film from the 50s and 60s… I’d like to have a buck for every time a character opines that collective craving… from juvenile delinquent to smarmy jet setter!

FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…

THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!

I just got myself this collection of goodies from Something Weird!

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There’s even this dvd that points to the connection between the two genres – Here it’s labeled WEIRD. I like transgressive… They all sort of have a whiff of noir.
Grayson Hall Satan in High Heels
Grayson Hall -Satan in High Heels 1962
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Gerd Oswald adapts Fredrick Brown’s titillating novel — bringing to the screen the gorgeous Anita Ekberg, Phillip Carey and Gypsy Rose Lee and Harry Townes in the sensational, obscure and psycho-sexual thriller Screaming Mimi 1958
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Victor Buono is a deranged mama’s boy in Burt Topper’s fabulous The Strangler 1964
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Catherine Deneuve is extraordinary as the unhinged nymph in Roman Polanski’s psycho-sexual tale of growing madness in Repulsion 1965

Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, Noir took a journey through an even darker lens… Out of the shadows of 40s Noir cinema, European New Wave, fringe directors, and Hollywood auteurs, brought more violent, sexual, transgressive, and socially transformative narratives into the cold light of day with a creeping sense of verité. While Film Noir pushed the boundaries of taboo subject matter and familiar Hollywood archetypes it wasn’t until later that we are able to visualize the advancement of transgressive topics.

Continue reading “Film Noir ♥ Transgression Into the Cultural Cinematic Gutter: From Shadowland to Psychotronic Playground”

Hyper-Masculinity/Hidden Frailty: The Robert Ryan Aesthetic in Film Noir

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Robert Ryan’s death July 11, 1973 with a special nod to Karen & The Dark Pages for their spectacular tribute to this incredibly real man!

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“Ryan was unfailingly powerful, investing his tormented characters with a brooding intensity that suggests coiled depth. Cut off from the world by the strength of their ‘feelings’ his characters seem to be in the grip of torrential inner forces. They are true loners. Ryan’s work has none of the masked, stylized aura of much noir acting. He performs with emotional fullness that creates substantial, complex characters rather than icons.”Foster Hirsch-FILM NOIR: The Darker Side of the Screen

Clearly Robert Ryan’s infinite presence in film and his numerous complex characters manifest an embracing universal ‘internal conflict’ of masculinity. I tribute certain roles the actor inhabited during his striking career. Though he was cast more often in the part as the imposing heavy, the depth and breadth of Ryan’s skill with his rough-hewn good looks should have landed him more roles as a lead male capable of such penetrating levels of emotion. He had a depth that suggests a scarcely hidden intensity smoldering at the surface.

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Robert Ryan as Montgomery in Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire 1947
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Robert Ryan in Act of Violence ’48

A critic for the New York Times reviewing Act of Violence (1948) wrote about Robert Ryan’s persona as the madly driven veteran bent on revenge, Joe Parkson calling him “infernally taut.”

Frank Krutnik discusses ‘Masculinity and it’s discontents’ in his book In A Lonely Street, “In order to make the representation of masculinity in the noir thriller, there follows a schematic run-through of Freudian work on the determination of masculine identity.” Claiming Freud’s work can be co-opted into film with an emphasis of it’s relevance to analysis of the cultural machinery of patriarchy.” He discusses patriarchal culture which relies heavily on the maintenance of a gender-structured ‘disequilibrium’ with it’s roots in the myth of the Oedipal Complex. Involving not only the power-based hierarchy of male service to masculine power but the established normative gender values which inform both the male and female figure.

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Act of Violence Robert Ryan as Joe Parkson co-starring Janet Leigh

Many of the characters in Ryan’s noir world are informed by a cultural ‘determinacy of the phallus’ that authorizes toughness and strips the limits of desire as an obligation to masculine identity. Patriarchal power structure predetermines a fixed and limited role that creates a destiny of submission and impotence in Ryan’s characters. But within the framework of these extreme male figures lies an intricate conflict of varying degrees of vulnerability and fragility.

Ryan manifests this duality within hyper-masculine characters. Outwardly physical, confrontational, and hostile, Ryan is a master at playing men who suffer from alienation and inferiority surrounding their own ‘maleness’ and self-worth. He was never just a dark noir brute or anti-hero but a complex man actualized through layers of powerful dramatic interpretation. His performances suggest a friction of subjugated masculinity bubbling within.

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Ryan as Earl Pfeiffer and Barbara Stanwyck in Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night

The trajectory of the male through the Oedipus Complex encompasses the male subjectivity which is a principle issue in the noir ‘tough-thriller.’ The ‘existential thematic’ link to the Oedipus myth concerns questions of male desire and identity as they relate to the overarching law of existing patriarchal culture substituted for the original fearsome ‘divinity.’ This element is one of the driving psychological themes underlying in any good classic film noir.

In this post I put my focus primarily on Ryan’s characters within the framework of each film and while I discuss the relationship between him and the central players I do not go as in depth as I usually do discussing his co-stars or plot design.

I apply this thematic representation to much of the roles engendered in the films of Robert Ryans‘ that I’ve chosen to discuss here. A patriarchal power structure establishes the tragedy of man’s destiny, a fixed and limited role in the character’s own destiny as there is a predominant power that threatens them into submission and sheds light on their own impotence. So many of the noir characters in a Robert Ryan noir world are shaped by a cultural authority structured through ‘determinacy of the phallus’ that authorizes toughness in the male identity that strips away the limits of desire, as an obligation to ‘masculine identity.’

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Ryan’s stoic boxer Stoker in Robert Wise’s The Set Up

I’m focusing on particular Ryan’s roles within a noir context that depict archetypal hyper-masculine tropes and the problematic strife within those characters. Whether Ryan is playing the deeply flawed hero or the tormented noir misfit, his characters are afflicted with an inherent duality of virility and vulnerability, an inner turmoil, alienation, persecution and masochism. It’s a territorial burden that Robert Ryan so effortlessly explores.

These films show Ryan’s trajectory through forces of menacing restraint and poignant self-expression. Within a noir landscape, the schism of stark virility and tenuous masculinity exposes the complexity of alienation, masochism and frailty. Robert Ryan’s performances are a uniquely fierce and formidable power.

I’m discussing: The Woman On the Beach (1947) haunted & emasculated coastguardsman Lt. Scott Burnett, Caught (1949) neurotic millionaire Smith Ohlrig, The Set- Up (1949) noble over- the-hill boxer Bill ‘Stoker’ Thompson, Born To Be Bad (1950) misanthropic & masochistic novelist Nick Bradley, Clash by Night (1952) cynical misogynist projectionist Earl Pfeiffer, Beware, My Lovely (1952) morose psychotic vagrant handyman Howard Wilton,On Dangerous Ground (1952) unstable, alienated violent cop Jim Wilson, Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) racist persecuted ex-con Earle Slater.

Within the framework of these ‘extreme’ male figures lies an intricate conflict with varying degrees of vulnerability & fragility within the male psyche. The narratives don’t necessarily flesh out this conflict plainly, but Ryan’s performances certainly suggest and inform us about the friction of this subjugated theme bubbling to the surface as he manifests the duality within his hyper-masculine characters. Robert Ryan was a master at playing men who suffer from alienation and inferiority surrounding their own ‘maleness’ and self-worth.

Robert Ryan

Ryan is never just a dark noir ‘brute’ or anti-hero but moreover a complex male who is actualized through layers of powerful dramatic interpretation. A complexity of stark virility and ‘tenuous maleness’ as the narrative witnesses Ryan’s trajectory transforming him through various dynamic forces of menacing restraint and poignant self-expression. Outwardly physical, confrontational, hostile and ultimately masculine, and the schism that is inwardly emotional, alienated, self deprecating, masochistic and fragile within the film noir landscape. Robert Ryan’s performances still maintain a uniquely fierce and formidable aesthetic of the ‘suffering-marginalized man.’

Continue reading “Hyper-Masculinity/Hidden Frailty: The Robert Ryan Aesthetic in Film Noir”

Alfred Hitchcock: The Television Years: 8 Indelible Episodes

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“There are moments when even to the sober eye of reason, the world of our sad humanity may assume the semblance of hell”-Edgar Allan Poe

Alfred Hitchcock Presents opening credits

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The camera frame evolves into a most simplistic line-drawing, a chubby caricature of Alfred Hitchcock’s endearing profile which then converges with Charles Gounod’s “Funeral March for a Marionette” as suggested by Bernard Herrmann. Bernard Herrmann had scored so many of Hitch’s feature films, as well as John Williams and Dimitri Tiompkin. Hitchcock appears at first in a shadowy silhouette from the corner of the screen, then stepping prominently into the outline, filling his place as the master of the evening’s suspenseful ceremonies.

Now,I offer a brief snap shot or oeuvre featuring some of my very favorite episodes of both Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. They never stale, they always tickle and cause that most delicious little shudder, from some of the finest mystery and suspense writers and re-experiencing the delight of seeing how the show had given some of the best acting talent their very first start…right here.

THE GLASS EYE

Season 3 episode 1 aired on (6 Oct. 1957)

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Jessica Tandy, Tom Conway, William Shatner, Rosemary Harris and Billy Barty

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Robert Stevens and written by Sterling Silliphant.

Jim Whitely (William Shatner) and Dorothy (Rosemary Harris) begin cleaning out the apartment of his dead Cousin Julia (Jessica Tandy), Jim comes across a small wooden box that contains a mysterious glass eye, and starts to relate the strange and macabre story to his wife of why it remains in Julia’s possession.

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The proper, lonely and romantically repressed Julia had fallen in love with a famous ventriloquist named Max Collodi (Tom Conway)Becoming obsessed with the performer she saw all his performances, sending him letters requesting to meet him.Eventually quitting her meager job, in order to follow his show around Europe, Max agrees to meet Julia, setting forth certain conditions upon their first encounter.

Once she arrives at his hotel room, she finds him sitting in a dimly lit atmosphere of mystery, surrounded by shadows and subterfuge. The darkness envelopes him, and he asks her to keep her distance. He sits at a table with his small dummy George.

Overcome with passion as the two begin to talk, Julia tries to reach out and touch the object of her undying passion -Max Collodi, but it comes along with grave consequences.

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An Unlocked Window

Season 3, Episode 17 aired on (15 Feb. 1965)

Dana Wynter as Stella, T.C. Jones as Nurse Betty Ames, and Louise Latham as Maude Isles

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by Joseph M. Newman, from a story by Ethel Lina White.

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Nurse Killer-“You’re Such a Pretty Nurse, Freda” cackle, cackle

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Over the course of  two weeks a psychotic maniac is on the prowl, being reported all over the television and radio.The police are baffled by this madman who is preying exclusively on live-in nurses.

Set the stage for a dark and stormy night, where Nurse Stella Crosson (Dana Wynter) and Nurse Betty Ames (T.C. Jones) are held up by the storm at the house of the man they are taking care of (John Kerr) He’s got a bad heart and lives in a creepy old mansion on the outskirts of town.

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Suddenly, the women get a phone call from the murderer telling  them that he knows they’re alone, and is on his way over to kill them both. Stella goes around the house making sure all the windows and doors are locked tight, but discovers that they overlooked a small window in the basement that is flapping open from the storm. Is he already in the house?

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Maude Isles-“I read a book about a man who only killed trombone players, he beat them to death with their own trombones.”

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WATER’S EDGE-

aired on (19 Oct. 1964) Season 3 episode 3

Starring the vivacious, the amazing  Ann Sothern, & John Cassavetes.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Bernard Girard with a teleplay by Alfred Hayes, based on a short story by Robert Bloch.

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The prolific Robert Bloch, genius writer of the horror suspense genre

John Cassavetes plays Rusty Connors who tricks his prison cellmate Mike Krause (Rayford Barnes) into telling him every detail about his gorgeous girlfriend Helen Cox (Ann Sothern). On his deathbed, Mike reveals to Rusty that he’s got a stash of $56,000 hidden away with the help of his dead accomplice, Pete Taylor.

Once Rusty is released, he goes in search of the epic Helen, and finds her in the small town of Hanesville working as a waitress in a greasy spoon diner slinging hash and, and not quite as divine as Mike had related in his verbal memoirs.

Rusty pretends to be enamored with the voluptuous Helen, in order to enlist her in helping him find the stashed cash from the robbery.The journey leads them to a ramshackle boat house on a lake, inhabited by a sea of hungry rats.

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LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER

Season 3, Episode 28 aired on (13 Apr. 1958)

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Barbara Bel Geddes as Mary Maloney, Harold J. Stone as Lieutenant Jack Noonan, Allan Lane as Patrick Maloney,

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock himself with teleplay and story by the great darkly humorous British writer Roald Dahl.

Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd.

Roald Dahl
British writer of the darkly comedic fairy tale world, Roald Dahl

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Barbara Bel Geddes plays the dutiful Mary Maloney, devoted wife and housekeeper. Husband police chief Patrick Maloney comes home and coldly tells her that there’s another woman he wants to marry and that he wants a divorce. Oh, yeah and Mary’s pregnant with his child, but he’ll let her have the child, they’ll probably be okay.

The usually composed and polite Mary erupts in a moment of rage killing him by way of blunt force trauma to the head with a giant frozen leg of lamb.

She then calmly calls the police, giving them her quick alibi, a story that she’d been out shopping, while the murder occurred. Lieutenant Noonan is the investigating officer on the case. He is bewildered by the lack of a murder weapon missing from the scene of the crime.

Mary being the ultimate hostess and good cook invites the hard working detective Noonan and the other police officers to stay for dinner. Noonan says while stuffing his face with Mary’s fine meal, “For all we know, it might be right under our very noses.”

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CapturFiles_11 Old Mrs Keating gave me the ring test dangled it over my tummy, and it's a boy
“Old Mrs Keating gave me the ring test today… dangled it over my tummy, and it’s a boy”
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“I want a divorce…now we’ve got to be calm and sensible about it”
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“You must have your supper darling, I wouldn’t ever let you go without your supper”

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I won’t let you leave, you can’t… you can’t
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“Try and stop me”

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Road Hog

Season 5, Episode 11 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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Raymond Massey as Sam Pine, Robert Emhardt as Fred Fratus, Ray Teal as Ben Tulip, Richard Chamberlain as Clay Pine, Brad Weston as Sam Pine Jr. (27 Sep. 1962)

From Alfred Hitchcock Presents directed by Stuart Rosenberg, teleplay by Bill S. Ballinger from a story by Harold R. Daniels. Produced by Joan Harrison and associate producer/actor Norman Lloyd

Dynamic character actor Robert Emhardt is deliciously vile as a very selfish and rude traveling trashy and risqué, novelty salesman who willfully forces a truck off the road, making it virtually impossible for the young injured Pine boy to make it to the hospital for medical care. He ultimately dies because of Salesman Fratus’ actions.

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Don’t Look Behind You

Season 1, Episode 2 aired on (27 Sep. 1962)

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From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, directed by John Brahm and written by Barré Lyndon

Vera Miles is Daphne engaged to Harold (Jeffrey Hunter) Abraham Sofaer plays Dr.McFarlane, Dick Sargent (the 2nd yet inferior Darrin on Bewitched) is Dave Fulton who is madly in love with Daphne, Mary Scott is Wanda Hatfield and Alf Kjellin is Edwin Volck a brilliant composer.

The world of academia is occupied by intellectual types, social misfits and radical thinkers. At one such particular local college, there is a fiend ravaging women while they walk home through the neighboring woods. At a social gathering of faculty, they speculate the motives of the madman, using their knowledge of criminal psychology and floating theories around while drinking cocktails and fawning over the beautiful Daphne. Is Daphne going to be the maniac’s next victim?

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Return of Verge Likens

Season 3, Episode 1 aired (5 Oct. 1964)

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From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour directed by Arnold Lavin and based on a short story by Davis Grubb

Peter Fonda is Verge Likens a simple, respectable farmer’s boy who’s father is murdered by a ruthless politician again perfectly befitting the acting chops of Robert Emhardt as Riley McGrath who thinks he can get away with anything. George ‘Goober’ Lindsay plays D.D. Martin, McGrath’s cutthroat flunky in a role that is quite a contrast from the oafish and good natured Goober Pyle.

But Verge is smart, patient, and not impetuous when it comes to laying the blueprints for his master plan of revenge.

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Lonely Place

Season 3, Episode 6 aired on (16 Nov. 1964)

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Starring Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram and Bruce Dern.

From The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Directed by Harvey Hart, with a teleplay by Francis Gwaltney from a short story by C.B. Gilford

This is perhaps one of the most disturbing pieces of suspense television, that would quite aptly fit onto the larger  screen adapted as a major motion picture. The cinematography is stunning and Teresa Wright and Bruce Dern’s acting is so distinctively nuanced that it lifts the narrative beyond mere television drama. The theme of isolation, dread and psychological/physical abuse by Emery and Jesse is stunning and at times nightmarish. Teresa Wright plays the meek Stella, a woman who has been so beaten down by her obnoxious and domineering cretin of a husband Emery played by Pat Buttram. Stella is a gentle soul, who loves animals, befriending a little squirrel who becomes her only source of joy. Along comes the menacing Bruce Dern as the mysterious Jesse who is willing to work for $5 a day picking peaches, knowing all too well that Emery is exploiting his labor. He proceeds to terrorize Stella, kill her pet squirrel, and turn the ineffectual and spineless Emery against her, as he is unwilling to protect or defend his own wife, being a cowardly neanderthal himself.

Dern inhabits one of the most striking performances as a vicious socio-pathic drifter, so transcendent for it’s day that it’s utterly chilling to watch the narrative come to force . Dern’s Jesse makes his sleazy character Keeg in Cycle Savages 1969 pale in comparison.

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The landscape of a Gothic Americana horror story

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‘GOOD EVENING’-MonsterGirl

the clip joint- Fourteen Hours (1951)

FOURTEEN HOURS (1951)

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Directer Henry Hathaway’s (The Dark Corner 1946) taut film noir, about a desperately unhappy man who threatens to commit suicide by standing on the ledge of a high-rise building for 14 hours.

With an all star cast- Paul Douglas, Richard Basehart, Barbara Bel Geddes, Debra Paget, Agnes Moorehead, Jeffrey Hunter, Howard Da Silva, Grace Kelly, Martin Gabel and Jeff Corey.

“From the edge of the ledge he defied them all!”

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Don’t jump off now…MonsterGirl, helping you down off the ledge

From The Vault: Caught (1949)

“The story of a desperate girl”

CAUGHT 1949

Director Max Ophüls ( Letter From An Unknown Woman 1948, The Reckless Moment 1949) offers a gritty and volatile film noir starring James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes and the imposing figure of Robert Ryan. With an uncredited assistant directorship by Robert Aldrich. Based on the book Wild Calendar by Libbie Block

Written by Arthur Laurents (The Snake Pit 1948,West Side Story 1961, The Way We Were 1973)

Interesting question: If Howard Hughes gained control of RKO in 1949, was Robert Ryan’s characterization of Smith Ohlrig truly based on Hughs?

A young Howard Hughes…Ryan was perfect for the part of Smith Ohlrig

Also stars Frank Ferguson (regular on Andy Griffith Show) as Quinada’s partner Dr. Hoffman, Art Smith as Ohlrig’s psychiatrist who knows Ohlrig is a walking powder keg, Natalie Schafer as Dorothy Dale and Curt Bois as Ohlrig’s personal assistant, and like many a good Film Noir delivers, the snarky gay cipher – Franzi Kartos, who’s incessantly calling Leonora DARLING… that if subtitled would read ‘you bourgeois cow…’

One of the staples of the Noir catalog, Caught is a brutish and self contained story about an egomaniac, hungry for power and consumed by a nasty possessiveness that borders on the psychotic.

Paging Dr. Freud… a classic case of over compensation and oh yes… this man is a ticking time bomb

Robert Ryan is chilling as the neanderthal bigwig worth millions of dollars, with an explosive rage that rests on simmer until something sets him off when it doesn’t go his way. Oh, and Ohlrig also suffers from panic attacks, which he believes is truly a heart condition and not a nervous disorder.

Barbara Bel Geddes is the naive Leonora Eames, who has child like fancies of marrying a wealthy man and live a life of luxury. Invited to a party on a boat one night, she meets Smith Ohlrig outside on the pier, near his yacht. Although Ohlrig could have any woman he chooses, something about Leonora sparks to him. From the very first encounter we can see that it’s not a romantic chemistry that stirs Ohlrig, but something more forbidding and sinister.

Once he sets his sights on her,taking her for a ride in his car, he decides there and then, to marry this plain girl, whom he doesn’t love, but knows he can possess easily.

Leonora soon realizes that her dream has become a nightmare and that Smith is a menacing character who treats her like part of the furniture and is not quite right in the head.

Ohlrig refuses to give Leonora a divorce, so she decides to leave her opulent home on Long Island, and take a job as a receptionist in the city working for a doctor who runs a free clinic in a very poor neighborhood.

Perhaps this is Leonora’s way of cleansing her soul for making the mistake of marrying for money and not for love.

James Mason is Dr. Larry Quinada the absolute antithesis of Smith Ohlrig. He’s genteel and compassionate, and soon the two fall in love, though Leonora is held captive by her dominating husband.

Leonora Eames: Look at me! Look at what you bought!

Complicating matters is the fact that Leonora becomes pregnant by the sadistic Ohlrig who would rather see her a prisoner in the sterile palace that is her home rather than let her go free… Is the threat of financial security and the welfare of their unborn child that which will chain her to him forever…?

Smith Ohlrig: Is she coming down?
Franzi Kartos: [Stands silent, knowing that Leonora is not coming down]
Smith Ohlrig: [Getting angrier] Why the devil do you think I sent you up there, you dirty little parasite? Get her down here!
Franzi Kartos: [Long pause] I think I prefer to be a headwaiter again, Mr. Ohlrig.
Franzi Kartos: [Heads for the door, then stops] You know, you’re a big man, but not big enough to destroy that girl. Goodbye.

Franzi Kartos tinkling the ivories…darling

There are thousands of fabulous films in my collection just as thrilling, this is one of them! Don’t you get caught-MonsterGirl

MonsterGirl’s 13 Days of Halloween: Obscure Films Better Than Candy Corn!

13 Days of schlock, shock…horror and some truly authentic moments of terror…it’s my pre celebratory Halloween viewing schedule which could change at any time, given a whim or access to a long coveted obscure gem!

No doubt AMC and TCM will be running a slew of gems from the archives of Horror films to celebrate this coming Halloween! Films we LOVE and could watch over and over never tiring of them at all….

For my 13 days of Halloween, I thought I might watch a mix of obscure little gems, some vintage horror & Sci-Fi , film noir and mystery/thriller. Halloween is a day to celebrate masterpieces like The Haunting, The Tingler, House on Haunted Hill, Curse of The Demon, Pit and The Pendulum, Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, Psycho just to name a few favorites.

But the days leading up to this fine night of film consumption, should be tempered with rare and weird beauties filled with a great cast of actors and actresses. Film’s that repulse and mystify, part oddity and partly plain delicious fun. Somewhat like Candy Corn is…for me!

I’ll be adding my own stills in a bit!…so stay tuned and watch a few of these for yourselves!

The Witch Who Came From The Sea 1976

Millie Perkins bravely plays a very disturbed woman who goes on a gruesome killing spree, culminating from years of abuse from her drunken brute of a father. Very surreal and disturbing, Perkins is a perfect delusional waif who is bare breasted most of the time.

Ghost Story/Circle of Fear: Television Anthology series

5 episodes-

The Phantom of Herald Square starring David Soul as a man who remains ageless, sort of.

House of Evil, starring Melvin Douglas as a vindictive grandpa who uses the power of telepathy to communicate with his only granddaughter (Jodie Foster) Judy who is a deaf mute. Beware the creepy muffin people.

A Touch of Madness, stars Rip Torn and Geraldine Page and the lovely Lynn Loring. Nothing is as it seems in the old family mansion. Is it madness that runs in the family or unsettled ghosts?

Bad Connection starring Karen Black as a woman haunted by her dead husband’s ghost.

The Dead We Leave Behind starring Jason Robards and Stella Stevens. Do the dead rise up if you don’t bury them in time, and can they speak through a simple television set.

Night Warning 1983

Susan Tyrrell plays Aunt Cheryl to Jimmy McNichol’s Billy, a boy who lost his parents at age 3 in a bad car wreck leaving him to be raised by his nutty Aunt. Billy’s on the verge of turning 17 and planning on leaving the sickly clutches of doting Aunt Cheryl and she’ll kill anyone who gets in the way of keeping her beloved boy with her always….Tyrrell is soooo good at being sleazy, she could almost join the Baby Jane club of Grande Dame Hag Cinema, making Bette Davis’s Baby Jane seem wholesome in comparison.

Also known as Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker...

Murder By Natural Causes (1979 Made for TV movie)

Written by Richard Levinson and William Link the geniuses who gave us Columbo, this film is a masterpiece in cat and mouse. Wonderfully acted by veteran players, Hal Holbrook, Katherine Ross and Richard Anderson and Barry Bostwick. Holbrook plays a famous mentalist, and his cheating wife has plans to kill him off.

Tension 1949

from IMDb -A meek pharmacist creates an alternate identity under which he plans to murder the bullying liquor salesman who has become his wife’s lover. Starring Richard Basehart, Audrey Totter , Cyd Charisse and Barry Sullivan

Messiah of Evil aka Dead People 1973

A girl arrives on the California coast looking for her father, only to learn that he’s disappeared. The town is filled with eerie people, and a strange atmosphere of dread. She hooks up with a drifter and they both uncover the true nature of the weird locals and what they’re up to. They learn the horrific secret about the townspeople…This film is very atmospheric and quite an original moody piece. Starring Marianna Hill, Michael Greer, Joy Bang and Elisha Cook Jr.

Devil times Five aka Peopletoys 1974

This film is a very unsettling ride about a bus load of extremely psychopathic children who escape after their transport bus crashes. Finding their way to a lodge, they are taken in by the vacationing adults and are eventually terrorized by these really sick kids. Claustrophobic and disturbing. Stars Sorrell Booke, Gene Evans. Leif Garrett plays one of the violently homicidal kids.

The Night Digger 1971

Starring the great Patricia Neal, this is based on the Joy Cowley novel and penned with Cowley for the screen by the wonderfully dark Roald Dahl, Neal’s husband at the time.

From IMDb -Effective psychological love story with a macabre twist not found in the original Joy Cowley novel. The dreary existence of middle- aged spinster Maura Prince takes an unexpected turn with the arrival of young handyman Billy Jarvis, but there is more to Billy than meets the eye. This well-crafted film, full of sexual tension and Gothic flavor, was Patricia Neal’s second after her return to acting, her real-life stroke worked deftly into the story by then-husband Roald Dahl. Written by Shane Pitkin

They Call It Murder (1971 Made for TV movie)

A small-town district attorney has his hands filled with several major investigations, including a gambler’s murder and a possible insurance scam. Starring Jim Hutton, Lloyd Bochner, Leslie Nielsen, Ed Asner and Jo Anne Pflug

A Knife For The Ladies 1974

Starring Ruth Roman and Jack Elam, there is a jack the ripper like killer terrorizing this small Southwest town. Most all the victims are prostitutes. A power struggle ensues between the town’s Sheriff and Investigator Burns who tries to solve the murders.

Born To Kill 1947

Directed by the amazing Robert Wise ( The Haunting, West Side Story, Day The Earth Stood Still )this exploration into brutal noir is perhaps one of the most darkly brooding films of the genre. Starring that notorious bad guy of cinema Lawrence Tierney who plays Sam Wild, of all things, a violent man who has already killed a girl he liked and her boyfriend. He hops a train to San Francisco where he meets Helen played by Claire Trevor who is immediately drawn to this dangerous man.

The Strangler 1964

Starring the inimitably imposing Victor Buono, who plays mama’s ( Ellen Corby/Grandma Walton) boy Leo Kroll, a psychopathic mysogynous serial killer, under the thumb of his emasculating mother. Kroll’s got a doll fetish and a fever for strangling young women with their own panty hose. The opening scene is chilling as we watch only Buono’s facial expressions as he masturbates while stripping one of the dolls nude by his last victim’s body. Part police procedural, this is a fascinating film, and Buono is riveting as Leo Kroll a psycho-sexual fetish killer who is really destroying his mother each time he murders another young woman. Really cool film by Allied Artist

Murder Once Removed (1971 made for tv movie)

A doctor and the wife of one of his wealthy patients hatch a plot to get rid of her husband so they can be together and get his money.Starring John Forsythe, Richard Kiley and Barbara Bain.

Scream Pretty Peggy (1973 made for tv movie)

This stars Bette Davis who plays Mrs. Elliot. Ted Bessell’s plays her son Jeffrey Elliot a sculptor who hires young women to take care of his elderly mother and his insane sister who both live in the family mansion with him. Also stars Sian Barbara Allen. What can I say. I love Bette Davis in anything, especially made for tv movies, where something isn’t quite right with the family dynamic. Lots of vintage fun directed by Gordon Hessler

The Man Who Cheated Himself 1950

A veteran homicide detective witnesses his socialite girlfriend kill her husband. Then what ensues is his inexperienced brother is assigned to the case.Starring Lee J.Cobb, Jane Wyatt and John Dall

The Flying Serpent 1946

Classic horror/sci fi flick that just doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Almost as fun as The Killer Shrews.  Starring veteran actor George Zucco

The Pyjama Girl Case 1977

This more obscure Giallo film directed by Flavio Mogherini and starring one of my favorite actors Ray Milland, Also starring Mel Ferrer and the beautiful model/actress Delilah Di Lazzaro. I’ve left my passion for Giallo films in the dust these days, but I decided to watch one that was a little off the beaten track.

From IMDb- Two seemingly separate stories in New South Wales: a burned, murdered body of a young woman is found on the beach, and a retired inspector makes inquiries; also, Linda, a waitress and ferry attendant, has several lovers and marries one, but continues seeing the others. The police have a suspect in the murder, but the retired inspector is convinced they’re wrong; he continues a methodical investigation. Linda and her husband separate, and there are complications. Will the stories cross or are they already twisted together? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Cul-de Sac 1966

Directed by Roman Polanski starring Donald Pleasance and  Françoise Dorléac as Teresa

A wounded criminal and his dying partner take refuge in a sea side castle inhabited by a cowardly Englishman and his strong willed French wife. A bizarre dynamic unfolds as this eccentric couple once captives of the criminals at first, their relationship, strangely begins to evolve into something else.

Dr Tarr’s Terror Dungeon aka Mansion of Madness 1973

This is a mysterious and nightmarish excursion into “the inmates have taken over the asylum” theme. Based upon Edgar Allan Poe’s The System of Dr Tarr and Professor Feather

Blue Sunshine 1978

Three women are murdered at a party. the wrong man is accused of the crimes. yet still more brutal killings continue throughout the town. What is the shocking truth behind these bizarre epidemic of …people are losing their hair and turning into violent psychopaths?

Homebodies 1974

Starring Peter Brocco, Francis Fuller, William Hanson, the adorable Ruth McDevitt, Ian Wolfe and Paula Trueman playing elderly tenants who first try to thwart by rigging accidents, a group of developers from tearing down their building. Old homes and old people…It turns into murder! This is a wonderfully campy 70s stylized black comedy/horror film. I love Ruth McDevitt as Miss Emily in Kolchak : The Night Stalker series.

The ensemble cast is brilliantly droll and subtly gruesome as they try to stave off the impending eviction and relocation to the institutional prison life of a cold nursing home facility.

A modern Gothic commentary on Urban Sprawl, the side effects of Capitalism on the elderly and their dust covered dreams, and the fine balance between reverence for the past, and the inevitability of modernity.

The jaunty music by Bernardo Segáll and lyrics by Jeremy Kronsberg for “Sassafras Sundays” is fabulous!

The Evictors 1979

Directed by Charles B. Pierce whose style has somewhat of a documentary feel ( The Town That Dreaded  Sundown 1976 Legend of Boggy Creek 1972) This film has a very stark and dreading tone. Starring one of my favorite unsung naturally beautiful actresses, Jessica Harper ( Suspiria, Love and Death, Stardust Memories, and the muse Pheonix in DePalma’s Faustian musical Phantom of The Paradise ) and another great actor Michael Parks. A young couple Ruth and Ben Watkins move into a beautiful old farmhouse in a small town in Louisiana. The house has a violent past, and things start happening that evoke fear and dread for the newlyweds. Are the townspeople trying to drive them out, or is there something more nefarious at work? Very atmospheric and quietly brutal at times. Also stars Vic Morrow

Jennifer 1953

Starring Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Agnes Langsley gets a job as a caretaker of an old estate. The last occupant was the owner’s cousin Jennifer who has mysteriously disappeared. Agnes starts to believe that Jennifer might have been murdered. Is Jim Hollis the man whom she is now in love with… responsible?

Lured 1947

Directed by Douglas Sirk and starring Lucille Ball, George Sanders and my beloved Boris Karloff!

There is a serial killer in London, who lures his young female victims through the personal ads. He taunts the police by sending cryptic notes right before he is about to murder again. Great cast includes Cedric Hardwicke, George Zucco and Charles Coburn...

Love From A Stranger 1947

A newly married woman begins to suspect that her husband is a killer, and that she is soon to be his next victim.Starring John Hodiak and and Sylvia Sidney

Savage Weekend 1979

Several couples head upstate to the country and are stalked by a murderer behind a ghoulish mask.

The Beguiled 1971

Directed by the great Don Siegel ( Invasion of The Body Snatchers 1956, The Killers 1964 Dirty Harry 1971 This stars Clint Eastwood, Geraldine Page and Elizabeth Hartman. Eastwood plays John McBurney who is a Union soldier imprisoned in a Confederate girls boarding school.  A very slow yet tautly drawn web of psycho sexual unease forms as he works his charms on each of these lonely women’s psyche.

The Mad Doctor of Market Street 1942

An old forgotten classic horror, starring Lionel Atwill and Una Merkel. Atwill plays A mad scientist forced out of society when his experiments are discovered. He winds up on a tropical island, there by holding the locals hostage by controlling and terrorizing them.

The Man Who Changed His Mind original title (The Man Who Lived Again) 1936

Directed by Robert Stevenson. Starring my most favorite of all Boris Karloff, and Anna Lee of Bedlam

Karloff plays Dr. Laurence, a once-respected scientist who begins to delve into the origins of the mind and  soul connection.

Like any good classic mad scientist film, the science community rejects him, and so he risks losing everything for which he has worked, shunned by the scientific community he continues to experiment and further his research, but at what cost!…

The Monster Maker 1944

This stars J. Carrol Naish and Ralph Morgan. Naish plays Dr Igor Markoff who injects his enemies with the virus that causes Acromegaly, a deformity that enlarges the head and facial structures of his victims.

The Pyx 1973

I love Karen Black and not just because she let herself be chased by that evil Zuni doll in Trilogy of Terror or dressed up like Mrs Allardice in Burnt Offerings. She’s been in so many memorable films, in particular for me from the 70s. Here she plays Elizabeth Lucy a woman who might have fallen victim to a devil cult. Christopher Plummer plays detective  Sgt. Jim Henderson investigating the death of this heroin-addicted prostitute. The story is told using the device of flash back to tell Elizabeth’s story.

Five Minutes To Live 1961

Johnny Cash, the immortal man in black, plays the very unstable Johnny Cabot, who is part of a gang of thugs who terrorize a small town. This is a low budget thriller later released as Door to Door Maniac. I could listen to Cash tune his guitar while drinking warm beer and I’d be satisfied, the man just gives me chills. Swooning little me…….!

The Psychic 1977

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In this more obscure EuroShocker, a clairvoyant… the gorgeous Jennifer O’ Neill, suffers from visions, which inspire her to smash open a section of wall in her husband’s home where she discovers a skeleton behind it.

She sets out to find the truth about how the victim wound up there, and if there’s a connection between their death and her fate as well!

Too Scared To Scream 1985

Directed by actor Tony Lo Bianco A killer is brutally attacking several tenants that live in a high rise apartment building in New York City.Mike Connors stars as Detective Lt. Alex Dinardo who investigates the killings. Also stars another unsung actress, Anne Archer, Leon Isaac Kennedy and Ian McShane

Violent Midnight 1963

An axe murderer is running loose in a New England town! Also known as Psychomania not to be confused with the fabulous British film of devil worshiping bikers who come back to life starring Beryl Reid. This film features Dick Van Patten, Sylvia Miles, James Farentino and Sheppard Strudwick. It’s got it’s own creepy little pace going for it.

When Worlds Collide 1951

Another classic sci fi world is headed toward destruction film, that I remember from my childhood. Starring Barbara Rush and John Hoyt, two of my favorite character actors. It’s a lot of fun to watch and a well made film that’s off the beaten path from… Forbidden Planet and War of The Worlds.

All The Kind Strangers  (1974 made for tv film)

Starring Stacy Keach, Sammantha Eggar, John Savage and Robby Benson

A couple traveling through a backwoods area are held hostage by a a group of orphan children who want them to be their parents. When ever an adult refuses to participate in the delusion, they are killed. Great disturbing made for tv movie.

The Todd Killings 1971

Directed by Barry Shear and starring Robert F. Lyons as Skipper Todd, a very sociopathic young man who holds sway over his younger followers like a modern day Svengali. Also starring Richard Thomas, Belinda Montgomery and the great Barbara Bel Geddes as Skippers mother who takes care of the elderly.

From IMDb-“Based on the true story of ’60s thrill-killer Charles Schmidt (“The Pied Piper of Tucson”), Skipper Todd (Robert F. Lyons) is a charismatic 23-year old who charms his way into the lives of high school kids in a small California town. Girls find him attractive and are only too willing to accompany him to a nearby desert area to be his “girl for the night.” Not all of them return, however. Featuring Richard Thomas as his loyal hanger-on and a colorful assortment of familiar actors in vivid character roles including Barbara Bel Geddes, Gloria Grahame, Edward Asner, Fay Spain, James Broderick and Michael Conrad.” Written by alfiehitchie

This film has a slow burning brutality that creates a disturbing atmosphere of social and cultural imprisonment by complacency and the pressure to conform, even with the non conformists.

Todd almost gets away with several murders, as the people around him idolize him as a hero, an not the ruthless manipulating psychopathic killer that he is. Frighteningly stunning at times. One death scene in particular is absolutely chilling in his handling of realism balanced with a psychedelic lens. This film is truly disturbing for it’s realism and for a 1971 release.

To Kill A Clown 1972

Starring Alan Alda and Blythe Danner. Danner and Heath Lamberts play a young hippie couple who couple rent a secluded cabin so that they can try and reconnect and save their marriage.

Alan Alda plays Maj. Evelyn Ritchie the man who owns the property and who is also a military raised- sociopath who has two vicious dogs that he uses as an extension of his madness and anger.

Panic In The Streets:Elia Kazan’s Socio-Noir A Plague of Immigrants

Panic In The Streets – Directed by Elia Kazan who sees the world of film through a Socio-Noir lens.

Noir has it’s socio-political roots in post war Europe, and was strongly influenced by German Expressionism. In America the post-war atmosphere engendered a realism which manifested in the noir film as well as the crime/police drama with a documentary sensibility.

Kazan himself an immigrant is one of the great American directors well known for such seminal films as A Streetcar Named Desire, A Face in The Crowd, On The Waterfront and Boomerang


Starring Richard Widmark as Lt. Cmdr Clinton Reed M.D. naval officer and family man, Paul Douglas (Douglas gave his best performance in Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night, perhaps one of my all time favorite noir films) as Captain Tom Warren. Barbara Bel Geddes as Clint’s wife Nancy (also in a great episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents Lamb to The Slaughter) and the always great Jack Palance as the nefarious Blackie. Also co stars the wonderful Zero Mostel as Raymond Fitch, Blackie’s slovenly flunkie.

Elia Kazan’s sociological perspective reveals to us the human condition in a naturalistic style. His films elucidate the way in which the collective soul reacts to an existing situation. Kazan was part of the movement of the New Realism, which bared witness to the state of paralysis of a post World War II identity and shed light on the stunted psychological elements of that current time.

In Panic In the Streets Kazan’s opening shot, we are plunged into a world of immigrants and trains. The trains cut through the grimy metallic city nightscapes. Here, New Orleans is as mysterious as its inhabitants. New Orleans, the seaport shipping city, is filled with lowlifes and a sense of desolation. Imports/exports, and the working class immigrants who suffer and toil for their daily bread and muddle their way through life in the slums, and row houses, on the streets and in local bars. They are an anonymous, shabby yet tenacious community of otherness existing but not quite persevering. The aggregate disdain for authority and the mistrust of the surrounding influences that form the power structures that control and look upon them as a subservient class.

There is a commanding scene in a diner,Clint stops in for a coffee and the people sitting  at the counter look isolated and sullen. Dirty and sickly and down trodden. They all have cracked faces. There is a photographic quality as if capturing the weathered souls of the Okies in The Grapes of Wrath.

What I call Socio-Noir is present in particular for Panic In the Streets. The film works as much as social commentary as it does dark tale of crime drama, with protagonists, anti-heroes and femme fatales. Panic in The Streets is in keeping with the police documentary moral where the hero, that of Lt Clint Reed M.D. sets out on a righteous path as savior. He is incorruptible and courageous.

Along with the trains cutting through the grungy metallic night in the city and it’s din, the film creates the unwashed environment and the oily screechy noises of movement. struggling people trying to survive. Desperate criminal elements abound amidst the sounds of blaring ship horns coming in to dock. The city is an alive filth stained entity.

There is evidence of Kazan’s attitude crystallized when dialogue towards the end refers to community and what that truly means. Kazan shows us city scapes and panoramic views to evoke how people can be swallowed up by the enormity of urbanization. An urbanized society split by class and race.

The people in these city settings doing their unnamed tediums, rituals, sitting solemnly at bars, sitting outside the building on steps and street corners. These are people outside of society as the cinematography would frame them, Living together, collections of tired faces, ethnicities, class distinctions. The working class, the bureaucrats, the law enforcers and the riffraff feed off the weaker of the herd.

There is an extreme juxtaposition of the clean lily white suburbia that Richard Widmark’s character Lt Reed, lives in, to the filthy environmental mechanisms of the inner city dweller. Reed comes home to a freshly scrubbed house, a refined and virtuous wife in a pristine neighborhood, the idealism of post World War II America. With all the amenities that are afforded the white collar social class.

Even Paul Douglas’ hardened cop Capt Warren, at first feels stand offish about the naval officer Dr Reed invading his territory. There is an obvious hierarchy amongst who serves the community. Questions of rank of the military, and education background amongst the civil servants and professionals.

Captain Warren’s dynamic of feeling threatened by the authority of a possible Naval Academy Elite and the hard working class cop on the beat. The struggle of power between the two coming to terms with working with each other.

Panic In The Streets is less about the pneumonic plague and more about the way people are reacting to each other around the situation. It is the catalyst for them to expose their inner demons, and fears. Mistrusts and paranoia. The need for self preservation. Blackie’s character is a very paranoid personality, that symbolizes the mistrust of a society that would cheat him out of what he perceives to be rightfully his.

The story begins one night in the slums, when the ruthless criminal and paranoid Blackie aided by his miscreant cohorts kill Poldi’s illegal immigrant cousin who Blackie believes cheated at cards because he won too much money. Once again the angular rock jawed Jack Palance projects himself as imposing Minotaur who holds sway over his subordinated companions. Within this community there are hierarchical sub structures set up in order for the vicious opportunistic Blackie to maintain survival and control.


What wasn’t known at the time of Poldi’s cousin’s murder was that he was already dying of the plague by the time his body was dumped like garbage.

The next morning on the docks a child shows the cops where the dead body is. Lt Dr Clint Reed of the Public Health Service confirms that the dead man had pneumonic plague. In order to prevent an epidemic of catastrophic proportions, Clint and Capt. Warren, must hunt down the killers, and inoculate anyone who came in contact with them all in the span of 48 hours. This they must struggle with under secrecy, holding the news agency at bay as not to panic the public, chase off the carriers of the plague and thus create chaos in the streets. They are also met with resistance and suspicion by the very community, a melting pot of ethnicity they are trying to help.

We see dock workers and the ships populated by foreigners. We hear a comment made about the dead man being a foreigner after they  bring the body on a gurney through the back hospital entrance. Kazan uses a semi-documentary style, constructing a neo-urban naturalistic environment. Framing the story on a mis en scene proscenium stage. We see real people going about their daily lives, along the fault lines of the surrounding class and ethnic differences in the community.

The two medical examiners are more concerned about where and what to eat for lunch, while there’s a dead man lying on the table. For them it’s business as usual, they show no empathy.

The city has taken a life, and these two medical examiners are just doing a job, while the only thought is about food and getting their needs met as a priority. After discussing the sexy waitress that one has his sights on, one of the guys says that it might take longer, than he expected. Another man comes in and asks “is that the foreigner that they brought in?” Again, emphasis on otherizing this human being.

The examiner named Cleaver orders the less attentive man to get out. He realizes something doesn’t look right with the body. Then Clint Reed is called in to look at slides. Photographs are snapped. He’s asked who else has come in contact with the body? He wants everyone inoculated. The FBI doesn’t have any info on the man. But obviously he was carrying something infectious. He also wants to know if it was the bullet or the infection that killed the foreigner.

Kazan himself a Turkish immigrant used a lot of social commentary on the American Dream, the people who live outside the context of that framework and how foreigners were treated here in the U.S. when after World War II the fear of foreigners was rampant. In Panic in The Streets they carry the plague. They are dirty and suspicious. They represent a dangerous element.

Clint is now sitting around a table of suits. He is relating a tale about a woman in 1924 who was carrying a disease that killed 26 people, who died suddenly and horribly from an outbreak. The disease was found to be pneumonic plague, a pulmonary form of the black death, of the middle ages.

One of the men sitting at the table is asking “who is he” about Lt. Clint Reed. Reed asserts himself with authority in this room of skeptics. “One of the jobs of this department is to keep plagues out of this country. This kind of plague can be spread easily like the common cold. Through sneezing”

“The committee is asking why are you telling us this.” “Because this morning the police found a man who was infected with this disease.” “Our reports show the man died of 2 bullet wounds” “Regardless of what the police surgeon said, he would have died within 12 hours.”

Paul Douglas as Capt. Warren is at the table. He’s arguing that he did die from 2 bullet holes. The mayor and the other men around the table want them to check but Lt Clint Reed tells them that he had the body destroyed. Cremated as not to spread the infection. The men seem outraged. There is a power struggle going on about who is in control of this situation. Panic is very much a film about control.

Everyone has been isolated and inoculated but there’s still one man “The man who killed him” who ever dumped him might be walking around with incipient plague at this moment. Capt. Warren exudes his disdain and is being stubborn, he doesn’t feel that there’s going to be a problem. But Lt. Reed insists “We have 48 hours. If the killer is incubating the plague then time will be running out. before it spreads amongst the city. You’ll have the makings of an epidemic”.

He burned all the dead man’s possessions because they were contaminated too, so they don’t have an identity on this man. The commissioner is saying that the police department can’t be held responsible for it. Captain Warren is highly skeptical and the commissioner only concerned about his own accountability. They can’t find an unnamed man in 48 hours. The commissioner doesn’t believe Dr Reed and acts like he’s making a big deal out of it. He tells the mayor, if you want to believe him then give the story to the press. Then Dr Reed says “I may be an alarmist. but I’ve seen this disease work and it can spread all over the entire country and the result would be worse than anything you could ever imagine”. Reed implores them that the key to the whole thing lies here, now and what they decide to do with the next 48 hours will be crucial. They ask Lt Reed “What can we do?”

Reed says “find this man” and so the plot becomes focused on finding Blackie before he can spread certain catastrophic disease. They all leave saying that they will give Reed their full co operation, but Captain Warren remains behind with his hand on his chin while Lt Reed remains seated at the table.

Warren asks Reed “an Annapolis Man?” he answers NO, Why? Warren says ” no reason” but he’s got a quizzical  look on his face. His question of whether Reed went to the elite military school shows the rift between the two Warren says “now I’d start worrying what you’re going to do when we don’t turn up your boy” mentions again, he doesn’t want him to think he’s one of the sailors in his navy. Again we start to see some kind of class battle, distinction between the two men.

Outside in the hallway, a reporter starts snooping, but they brush him off. Shades of trouble to come about the right of the press to full disclosure and the responsibility these people have to the public’s safety. What is good for them. Again we see a paradigm of hierarchy at work.

At the police station Mostel’s character Fitch who is no stranger to the police is being questioned. He says “You can’t do this to me I’m a US citizen, I got rights.” Here again is the assertion of the foreigner being alien and the paranoia of the American people that their rights will be taken away by the people in positions of power, the U.S. Government and most especially the foreign element.

They shove the photo of the dead guy at Fitch. He says he hasn’t seen that guy. “Where were you last night”? “I was visiting my mother in law she was wrestling semi finalist”, Cop interrupts “Where were you fat boy? I think you’re a constitutional liar” Again, the patriotic ethnocentric zeitgeist  is evoked during the exchange.

Capt.Warren is back at the morgue with Lt Reed~ they think he might have been Armenian, Czech or mixed blood. Reed tells them to notify the immigration authorities immediately. They find traces of rust, fish and shrimp on him which shows that he might have come in on a boat. Warren still annoyed at Reed, says “unless he walked through a fish market, bought 5 pounds of shrimp and brushed against a freshly painted fire escape.” Warren is still so resistant to help Reed, and doesn’t want his company or input at all. Reed insists that Warren get inoculated like everyone else.

Reed gets to assert his manliness by making Warren take his shot, because he told the commissioner, and Warren just got through telling the other cop in the room why the boys had to take their shots when they were complaining and Warren barks “because the commissioner said so” Reed says ” roll it up” makes him roll up his sleeves. Again, the film asserts that control is an underlying issue at play. The dynamic between these two men going head to head is building and you can tell that Warren comes across like a strong willed Bull Mastif but we sense that he is a decent man with principals of his own. “Half the two bit criminals in town are in the precinct. Sneak thieves, wife beaters and pick pockets. It isn’t going to work though”. Reed gets mad. “Why are you doing it this way then if it isn’t going to work? Warren tells him that he’s rounding up all the usual suspects because it’s the only way he can make progress in finding the dead man’s identity. Warren then accuses Reed of making this case a big issue jut to make a name for himself.

Reed asks Warren to come have coffee across the street. Now in the diner. “Look Captain do you have a family, are you married?” “No, my wife died 8 years ago”. We start to get a closer look inside this man Warren.Kazan loves to build his characters, to unfold them like an artichoke heart, peeling away the layers, until we see the core. Reed is trying to appeal to Warren’s human side, the family man.

“The doctors said it was neuralgia but it was a brain tumor.”This reveals a bit more of the picture as to Warren’s mistrust of doctors. Reed replies “You don’t think much of me as a doctor do you”Warren shoots back “you keep asking questions you finally get answers. NO.” So we see Warren not only has a dislike for military snobs, but a mistrust of doctors as well. Reed’s just a plain working class slob, a cop who is trying to sort through the trash of human debris that he comes across. Warren again says “Civil Service, you get a pension, what do you make?” Reed says it runs about the same as a police

Captain. Warren frowns, he looks like he took a hit.”Look this man obviously came off a boat, he was obviously smuggled into the country. They probably don’t want to talk to the police, they’ve been coming the docks and the streets but no one is talking”.”Maybe they want to talk to their mothers” Warren says, then Reed “Offer them a reward, promise them immunity for information. Bring in another set of experts from Washington to help me out. Well you could use it.” “You’ll never see the day” says Warren glaring proudly. Reed gets frustrated. “I’m not gonna wait til the facts penetrate that thick skull of yours, there just isn’t that much time”

Now at a dingy laundromat Fitch runs, up to a woman, his wife, who says “Blackie makes you tag around like a dog on a leash. He’s a big goon.” “He pays me.” Fitch asks if his bags are packed. She says “why don’t you stand up to him sometime? Why don’t you tell him off.”He says “Angie will you shut up! Why don’t you go inside.” She says she doesn’t want to be alone with that big Ape Blackie,

Fitch calls out “he’s coming down the stairs.” He doesn’t want Angie hanging around. He doesn’t like a smart cracking dame. He yells at her to get away from the washing machines. Fitch keeps insisting to Blackie that they should leave the city, they’re picking everybody up. He wants to know why Poldi hasn’t shown.Fitch tells him”He’s got a date with a dame”. Concerned Blackie says “Where’d he get the doe? You know I got a hunch about him. They’re not gonna pick me up. You see those machines. That’s business. Legitimate even. they aint gonna pick up a legitimate business man.”

Blackie begins to rant. Argues, Fitch tells him that they’re picking up legitimates. “They’re picking everybody up. “Why, why are they picking everybody up Fitch why? You don’t know. You got a high school education you’re a smart fella. This guy Kolchak (the dead man) is just a floater. He gets off a boat, gets very unsocial, even pulls a knife that he’s gonna use on Poldi. So they turn the town upside down for one crumb. They got every cop in town huffin and puffin, trying to find out who he is. Why are they doing it?”

Fitch says he doesn’t know. “Well I’ll figure it out for you. I got a hunch he brung something in. I got a hunch he brung something in and they’re looking for it.” Blackie’s alienation is beginning to grow, he suspects he is being cheated out of something big, that rightfully should be his. This man is filled with Egomania. Classic anti-social behavior. He continues his rant.

“Only he aint got it, and you know why. Cause friend Poldi’s got it.” Fitch comes back at him “Poldi do you think he’d do something like that. He’s his cousin aint he. (the dead man) “I told you I had a hunch about that guy.” Blackie snorts back. Fitch sweating says “look Poldi is a nice guy he wouldn’t do something like that.”

Poldi is trying to put something over on me, I saved his life and that’s how he repays me. There’s paranoia growing in this man Blackie, big dark and brooding. He tells Fitch there’s one thing he don’t like, Fitch says “sure Blackie” “it’s somebody trying to put something over on me. I never liked it”

Now there is a long shot of Blackie sitting at the counter, framed by the landscape, the atmosphere of alienation. He is in black a quiet powder ceg and Fitch l in the backdrop going out the door looking so small and insignificant. The shot frames how the power is manifested by Palance’s character and Mostel is just a perifery character powerless and subordinate. Again we hear train whistles. Trains, symbolize the ever changing movement, the transients of urban city life. We now see Blackie all alone in the cluttered unattractive room.  Sitting alone. A man with thoughts on his mind, Paranoid, greedy and angry.

A Sea plane lands. We see the Nile Queen. The captain of the Nile Queen denies that the man could have been on his ship. “I’m not calling you a liar, I’m calling you a fool. Most of your crew will be dead.” The captain won’t listen. Warren and Clint look over the people on board. They look away. There’s almost 200 “rats” on the ship. He yells “see, you might be carrying plague.” Rats possibly a double entendre.

The captain yells for the men to get back to work. but the crew says they want to hear what Clint Reed has to say. “Never mind what he says.” But the crew resist and fights ensue. Chaos. “Break out the weapons. You’re inciting my men to mutiny. I’m the master here.” Again the prevailing hegemony in this film is exposed yet again. An Asian man says, one of the cooks is down with fever. “Right now I want to put everyone in quarantine.” They inoculate them. “They got on in Iran. They just dumped him over the side.”

Another Asian cabin boy brings the men food. “They ever talk about anything else. They want a shish kabob. He asks what it is. “Lamb on a stick, some of the Greek and Armenian restaurants serve it.” Warren hoped they had a lead to the eats place where the illegal immigrants who got smuggled on board would have gone to get food. Athena Cafe they’ve covered 11 joints and no luck.

At the Athena Cafe, the diner owner’s wife says to her husband in the back kitchen, about Kolchak that Poldi brought him. She says  he was contagious but tell Warren and Reed that we know nothin. “I got a headache”. Although the man wants to tell them who Kolchak was, he does not.

Warren and Reed get into the car. Blackie comes up along the street. A midget tells him they found Poldi. He gives the little man money and rubs his head like a child. Blackie goes inside, Fitch says “I found him.” Blackie says what’s that smell. Have you been trying that stuff on your head again Fitch? Blackie takes a piece of food, asks if it’s  been touched yet. Ironically Blackie’s paranoia extends to his being a germaphobe as well. The food had been touched by a foreigner.

Now it’s nighttime and the cops find a very sick person in the emergency, a high fever case.  The cops call out to Captain and Reed. Another woman sick fever case. The Athena owner’s wife. They run up the stairs of the tenement, it’s too late- she is dead. They have to quarantine the whole apartment. “Dr put down on death certificate tentative pneumonia. that’ll have to do for now. Clothes will have to be burned”. All of a sudden the Greek owner comes in and calls for Rita. asks for his wife. Reed looks disturbed. “Where is she.” “What you do. I can’t let you go in there”. “Your wife is dead” “She can’t be, you lie. She said she just don’t feel good.”

“Remember me Matharis. We showed you a picture. If you told us the truth the chance your wife alive.” “Poldi brought him. Kolchak. Gloria Hotel. Find Poldi” They run down the stairs. Tell the police to get a list of people in the food place. Nobody in or out and then they speed away to the

Gloria Hotel, the reporter Neff hears them and  goes after them. They ask to be taken to Poldi’s room.
Neff confronts them. Why wasn’t this story released to the press? “I figure you guys running around town, he probably had small pox or cholera” Reed reasons with him. Tells him it’s plague. “We can’t let you have the story.” “With the chance of an epidemic. You guys are crazy. You’ve wasted a day. I represent the public. No two bit civil servant.” Reed says “There’s a chance we can contain it.” Warren tells the cop to take Neff into custody, and luckily finds out the editor doesn’t have the story yet,Reed asks the police officers on the scene if Neff can make trouble, they said Warren would be lucky to get a job mopping floors.

By now, we have a sense of how foreigners are dirty, mistrustful and alien to us, even when the one cop jokes about liking shish kabob. The foods are unfamiliar. The foreigners don’t trust the Americans, cops ,doctors, and visa versa, This film shows the disconnect and separation of immigrants and the America they live in.

Reed goes home for a bit to get some rest, and is met by his wife. “Don’t come any closer. Another contagion case. Another uniform to be decontaminated.” “You didn’t catch it yourself hon, you look a little beat.” “Yeah I look so good normally.” He blows up at her. He spent the money for the cleaner’s bill on the reward money.” When ever your tired you think I’m scolding.” “I spent it on something for the dept. You can put in a voucher No one has figured how to get money back from the us gov. I have to go out again, Gruffs, Just get me some coffee.” He looks at a piece of furniture being refinished in his yard and taps it. Like this is part of his real life before this filthy mess.This belongs to his clean life.

He didn’t call his wife last night. “It’s a plague case.” “Here in New Orleans? At least they have you, you’ve been through it.””Now look hon, let’s not be little miss sunshine.” “We went thru it in California.” “Whats eating you?” “I’m tired and fed up” “Stick around, just afraid if I lye down I’ll fall asleep. If I fall asleep I’m dead. Just don’t let me fall asleep. Today I took a perfectly nice guy, a cop not particularly bright, but what do I do, I push him around, make a lot of smart cracks about him. And I tell him off all day long. He winds up proving he’s 4 times the man I am. I do the same thing to you. Why do I do that?”

“Capt, Warren meets Reed on the corner. Reed tells the mayor that Warren arrested the reporter Neff on his orders. Someone starts talking about how a woman died last night in their own community. Reed yells, “Community. what community, do you think you’re living in the middle ages.

If they alert the media the man carrying the plague will leave.” All these men in power are only concerned about their portion of the responsibility. “Anybody that leaves here can be in any city within 10 hours. I can leave here today and be in Africa tomorrow and what ever disease I had would go right with me” The mayor says “I know that”~“Well think about it when you’re talking about communities we’re all in the community , the same one.” Reed who is finally smiling asks Warren for a cigarette and says “Take the pack.” He finally sees Reed as a regular guy fighting the same bureaucracy he does. This comment about community, I suspect is Kazan injecting his point of view about the universal ideal of what community truly means into the film.

The chief couldn’t hold Neff, and admits that he agrees with Reed but he couldn’t stop him. They’ll have 4 hours before it hits the papers. and Neff can color the story any way he wants. One of the other cops says he will be in the morning but he has to be honest he’s taking his wife and kids up to the grandmothers they’ll be safer there. Reed says  as he turns away, “well here we go”” Don’t misunderstand he’ll be there, Oh sure he will, never the less here we go, kids are kids.” “Tell you the truth I’m scared to death I want to call Washington and get some help here.”

Next morning, church bells are ringing, and the old woman Poldi’s mother and the midget are walking. The midget brings Poldi’s mama, and introduces her to Blackie. He speaks in his unceous manner “Yes I heard he was sick but I couldn’t find him mama.” “No he’s dying. I’m gonna send for a doctor, neighbors already sent.” “No mama this is my doctor he’s the best. Fitch is helping Poldi drink water. Blackie walks in. I didn’t want to leave Poldi,. I was gonna get ya, but he’s so sick.

A nurse comes in. She yells at Blackie. This man has to go to hospital. Blackie says he aint going. High fever. rapid pulse. The nurse tries to convince Blackies doctor that he need to be in the hospital Fitch says I had an aunt once went in never came out. The doctor says “I know these people, they are very superstitious.” Again otherizing them as alien and strange in their ways.

They start to move Blackie down the stairs when Lt.Clint Reed confronts them saying he wants to talk to Poldi. Blackie violently flings Poldi and the mattress off the stairs as if it were mere garbage and runs away with Fitch as we hear the police sirens closing in.

Kazan proliferates his films with a proto-naturalistic style within the environments he shoots. Richard Widmark displays an inward discontent while Paul Douglas has a more restrained anger and hardboiled everyman quality. This heterogenous chemistry between the two actors  fuels the film and is as potent as their mission to hunt down the plague carrying killers from every coastline dump and cheap rooming house.

Jack Palance, whose strong saturnine looks often putting him in the role as villain is marvelous as the unmerciful Blackie under Kazan’s directing. The verite of the more grittier moments feel as if we are watching the actors up close on a stage. I’m reminded of Street Car and how much I felt like I was in the room with Blanche when Stanley taunts her ruthlessly.

The narrative is sharp and driving and the tautness of the plot at times sensational, is tense during the investigative process when Warren and Reed interview people from the film’s collection of characters some, brutish misogynists,gruff dock laborers, cliched grinning Chinese ship cooks, worn out street dames and superstitious immigrants who are still living outside of the conventions of the American experience.

At the end Reed returns to his home, back in the neat world that he inhabits with his untainted family, to live out the American dream once again.