The past few weeks have included more writing and reading about film than screening films, but I did enjoy a few noirish and related delights, and avoided the Oscars like a Boss. Here we go:
The Phantom Speaks (1945): After reading a detailed review of the film at Noirish, I immediately found the film on YouTube at The Paramount Vault and watched. It’s B Noir-meets-B Horror and answers the burning question: “If a criminal’s will is strong enough, can he live on in another’s mind after he faces the electric chair?” Tune in and see! RECOMMENDED FOR RIFFING.
Lady Gangster (1942) and Ladies They Talk About (1933): Watched the first to see if it might be good for #BNoirDetour night, then discovered it was a remake of a pre-Code delight starring Barbara Stanwyck. For more, see my Noir Face-off comparing the two. Both are RECOMMENDED.
Lady Scarface (1941): After seeing Lady Gangster, I stumbled upon Lady Scarface. With its homage to the original Muni Scarface (1932) and featuring the one and only Judith Anderson as the titular villian (#TeamDanvers), I was ready for a real treat. Add in a bit part for Eric Blore and I was downright giddy. Then, very soon, I wasn’t. This film is a textbook example of a Bait-and-Switch scam. Sure, Anderson is great as the evil and cunning gang leader with a scar…for the five minutes she has on screen. She gets no background or development, and most of our time is spent with Dennis O’Keefe as the stalwart cop and goofy Frances Neal as a plucky (to the nth degree) girl photographer. The film almost ends up a screwball comedy, shoving the crime/noir elements to a brief opening and (anti-)climactic scene. I can’t help but fume over the waste of Anderson and the Lady Scarface concept. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Slightly Honorable (1939): This title came up in a random noir YouTube search, and I’m glad it did. Directed by Tay Garnett (of The Postman Always Rings Twice fame), it’s a surprisingly delightful crime-comedy picture of the pre-noir era. The cast is fantastic, beginning with lead Pat O’Brien showing great comic timing I didn’t know he had. Edward Arnold and Broderick (“Brod”?) Crawford doing their usual schtick, and a surprisingly glorious Ruth Terry. She exudes so much teen energy she almost leaps off the screen. Even Eve Arden joins in as a grouchy, incompetent secretary. The actual murder mystery is the least interesting facet of the film, and the pacing does slow down midway. But overall, it’s a lot of fun. RECOMMENDED.