Movie Diary 1/15/2018

treadsoftlyThere is a UK cable station called Talking Pictures. It carries a whole bunch of obscure Brit-related movies, and after each film a voiceover says, “Thank you for supporting film history.” I have been unable to resist.

Marilyn (aka Roadhouse Girl, Wolf Rilla, 1953). The new mechanic (Maxwell Reed) walks into an unhappy marriage between the petrol-station owner and a bored wife (Sandra Dorne). It looks like the set-up to The Postman Always Rings Twice, and some of it plays like that, but we also have two other people who fixate on the bored wife (including a bon vivant who happens to stop by the station on the night of the murder; he’s played by Ferdinand Mayne, the well-traveled actor whose filmography includes The Fearless Vampire Killers and Barry Lyndon). From the director of Village of the Damned.

Blackout (Robert S. Baker, 1950). More Maxwell Reed, as a temporarily blind man who walks into a murder scene and – although he can provide no visual clues to the killers – decides to go about solving the crime. Who was Maxwell Reed? Apparently he had real youth-culture popularity in the late 1940s, and also married Joan Collins in 1952. (In 2014 Collins said that he had drugged and raped her on their first date.) Very tall and dark-haired with a Robert Mitchum vibe of sarcasm beneath the manly action. According to Imdb he modeled his style after Stewart Granger, so that works too. The movie does a lousy job of giving the hero a reason to keep investigating the murder, but otherwise has a pleasant noir atmosphere.

Tread Softly Stranger (Gordon Parry, 1958). Missing money, a factory heist, two brothers vying over the same woman. And she is Diana Dors, the UK’s Marilyn Monroe. In short, there is a lot to enjoy here, and the movie’s got a humdinger of an ending. George Baker and Terence Morgan are the brothers, one rakish, the other, well, an accountant. Photographed by Douglas Slocombe, and between the studio-built rooftops outside a modest flat to location shooting at a real, spark-spewing factory, it looks great.

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