Movie Diary 6/28/2020

fearmakersTraipsing through some low-budget quasi-noir over the weekend.

The Fearmakers (Jacques Tourneur, 1958). Dana Andrews comes home from a Korean War prison camp intending to resume his career as a public-relations man in D.C., only to find his business sold out and the new boss (Dick Foran, quintessential gray-flannel-suit operator) involved in crooked political lobbying. There’s a Red Scare bent to the plot, but if you remove that detail, the film is prescient on the issue of money and influence. In the opening sequences, it looks as though the movie is going to play with the possibility of Andrews being brainwashed – the term keeps coming up – but it doesn’t really go there. Some very, very odd scenes along the way, like Andrews’ stay at a boardinghouse run by fellow travelers. Leading lady Marilee Earle made a half-dozen films in two years and then bowed out. There’s a supporting role for Mel Torme, who does some amusing nerdy shtick while wearing Coke-bottle eyeglasses. This was a year after Tourneur and Andrews did Night of the Demon, and this doesn’t rise to that level, but it has a level of pain that is unusual for a B-picture. Andrews looks pretty rough, but this adds to the character’s blown-out exhaustion – his preferred breakfast is a cigarette and coffee.

Time Table (Mark Stevens, 1956). An elaborate robbery on a train, with an insurance investigator (Stevens) tracking down clues. The twists are decent and Stevens makes for a dogged protagonist. The low-rent edges are visible, and the acting uneven; when Jack Klugman and John Marley come along in small roles, they really pick up the slack. Marianne Stewart has a forlorn, sad quality as Stevens’ wife; Felicia Farr, the future Mrs. Jack Lemmon, plays a sultry robber. There’s some good language (“do the Dutch” means commit suicide) and room for odd touches, like Stevens ordering a drink for a Mexican prostitute and then pouring the shot out on the bar. An interesting movie, catching some ’50s frustration in its genre gears.

Deadly Duo (Reginald LeBorg, 1962). Down-on-his-luck lawyer Craig Hill (not a good actor) goes to Acapulco at the behest of a wealthy tycoon (Irene Tedrow) to entice her widowed daughter-in-law (Marcia Henderson) to give up custody of a child. What makes it watchable is the widow’s twin sister, a floozy with a calculating slickster husband (Robert Lowery) of distinct sociopathic tendencies. In explaining her nasty behavior, the twin says, “I told you how much money meant to me,” which is admirably up-front.


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