Movie Diary 4/19/2021

Street of Sinners (William Berke, 1957). Continuing my investigation into the films of William Berke, prolific B-movie maker. This is from his late period of independent crime pictures, and although it doesn’t have the New York atmosphere of The Mugger or Cop Hater, it’s got some interesting and/or flat-out weird scenes. George Montgomery plays a new, by-the-book beat cop, who inherits a notorious neighborhood run by tavern owner Nehemiah Persoff. (Either that, or a cigar-store wooden Indian plays the cop; it’s hard to tell.) Montgomery’s flatfoot is so uptight you wonder whether some great neurosis is going to be revealed about him, but no, he just needs to become more realistic about his methods. And speaking of Method, Geraldine Brooks gives a high-powered Actor’s Studio performance as a lush who takes a liking to the cop, a twitchy, occasionally startling turn for a character doomed to end badly. Lots of juvenile delinquents and hot rods; the Wild One moment comes with the question “What’s wrong?” and the answer “The whole world.” The cast includes Marilee Earle, who also starred in Berke’s The Lost Missile and Island Women, Joseph H. Lewis’s Terror in a Texas Town, and Jacques Tourneur’s The Fearmakers and basically nothing else. The well-traveled Stephen Joyce makes his film debut and leans heavily on James Dean’s ghost; also debuting is Andra Martin, soon to be immortalized in The Thing That Couldn’t Die. Overall, not exactly great, but there are some inventive shots, including a dangerous-looking stunt with an out-of-control hot rod.

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