This week, I indulged in more dark classic cinema and a TV delight, too…
Having discovered rarefilmm.com recently means I’ve also discovered some lesser known films featuring actors I love. This week, that includes Unholy Partners and Night Has a Thousand Eyes, both of which star the incomparable Edward G. Robinson.
Unholy Partners (1941): Returning home from military service in WWI, young Bruce Corey (Edward G.) gets back to the newspaper game and the girl he left behind (Laraine Day). But now he’s more ambitious, driven by a desire to create a new sort of paper, a tabloid, that will give the public more of the spectacle and controversy they desire. His new paper has to be funded, and the only taker is mobster Merrill Lambert (Edward Arnold). Corey gambles his way into partnership with Lambert and dodges the gangster’s attempts to influence content or drive him out. Eventually, Corey tires of the tabloid game, feeling the style has run its course (ha!), but that doesn’t mean he’ll escape Lambert’s wrath to live happily ever after with his girl. Not brilliant, but RECOMMENDED.
Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948): This psychic thriller brings both Tod Browning’s Miracles for Sale (1938) and Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley (1947) to mind. Is former con artist Triton (Edward G.) still a phony or a real psychic? Why is he warning the heiress daughter (Gail Russell) of his former stage partner and abandoned fiancee (Virginia Bruce) that she will soon die? Is this true precognition or just a sham? While Triton is too earnest to keep suspense high at first, the police (including a typically snarky William Demarest) find more than a few coincidences that cast suspicion on his honesty and ramp up the tension until the final climax. RECOMMENDED.
The Bad and the Beautiful (1952): This behind-the-scenes Hollywood melodrama features Kirk Douglas as the son of an unscrupulous movie producer determined to prove himself and to achieve even than his father did. He is presented as a man who cares about nothing but success, but through the eyes of the studio head who has supported his rise (Walter Pidgeon), we see there is more than just cruelty and misuse behind his work with a director (Barry Sullivan), an actress (Lana Turner), and a writer (Dick Powell). I had expected a more overblown, soapish narrative and less choppy pacing, but I like the take on Hollywood ruthlessness and short memories. Douglas is particularly excellent, and the film took home five of six nominated Oscars, including Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Gloria Grahame (who is on screen for about 5 minutes total), Best Writing/Screenplay, Best Cinematography (B&W), Best Art Decoration (B&W), and Best Costume Design (B&W). Douglas was nominated but lost to Gary Cooper in High Noon. I can see why neither director nor film was nominated, but I can still definitively call this one RECOMMENDED.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents,”Revenge” (S01E01, 1955): This first episode of the series that ran from 55-62 is a doozy. Ralph Meeker (who played Mike Hammer in Kiss Me Deadly this same year) is an uncharacteristically swell fella, recently married and starting a new job while living in a trailer park with his young and lovely wife (Vera Miles). They’ve moved because she, a former ballerina, had a breakdown and needed a quiet atmosphere and simple life to mend. But this is Hitchcock-directed, so peace is not what she gets. When hubby comes home from his first day at work, he finds his wife catatonic, repeating over and over that she has been killed by a salesman who entered their trailer and attacked her. (That she does not move or blink her eyes makes her actually seem dead…) No one — including their kind but nosey neighbor (Frances Bavier) — seems to have seen a thing. The police do eventually find a witness who can only describe the man’s height, dark hair, and suit. But when the couple goes for a drive, the traumatized wife sees the man and her husband becomes determined to have revenge. Will all go smoothly? Of course not. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.