Movie Diary 7/5/2020

hellboundDown Three Dark Streets (Arnold Laven, 1954). Procedural picture, with stentorian voiceover, about FBI agents working on three cases. There’s an interesting structural thing that presages Psycho: Kenneth Tobey (three years after The Thing) plays an agent who – given his prominence and attractiveness – appears to be our main character. After a few scenes, he’s shot down very suddenly, without melodrama, and the focus shifts to his colleague, Broderick Crawford. Some good noir shadows in the mix, especially in Ruth Roman’s house, as she gets menaced by an extortionist threatening to kidnap her kid. Some fragrant types in the supporting cast, including Martha Hyer, Marisa Pavan (as a blind girl who gets roughed up by Claude Akins), Jay Adler (Roman’s creepy uncle, who lives in her house and keeps slipping in her room when she’s changing her nightdress), Casey Adams, and Gene Reynolds. William Schallert gets killed in the first minute. An escaped convict runs around, and the actor who plays him, Joe Bassett, has an authentic Gary Gilmore quality. Some grisly moments, and odd location shooting, including around the HOLLYWOOD sign. Joseph Biroc photographed. Not exactly a revelation, but it has its moments.

Hell Bound (William J. Hole, Jr., 1957). Heist picture that revolves around a plan to steal money from a newly-docked ship. It starts with the usual stentorian narrator, detailing how the job will work, only to reveal that we’re actually watching a film made by the plot’s mastermind (John Russell); he’s showing the movie in order to get backing for the plan. Some L.A. good location stuff – the climax takes place at a junkyard for L.A.’s retired streetcars – and a gallery of weird characters, like the blind guy (Dehl Berti) drinking milk in a burlesque joint (his seeing-eye dog at his side) and Stanley Adams as a health inspector whose diabetes is important for the heist plot – this is one bizarre story. June Blair plays a hotsy moll who’s going to pretend to be a nurse during the knockoff, but during the week of prep she falls for the totally-innocent EMT, played by dewy Stuart Whitman. The script, by the prolific Richard Landau, has some nifty callbacks and a certain level of perversity. Russell makes for a truly brutal antihero.

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