The Underground Railway
The title describes an expensive array of safe houses all across the country, set up by lawyers, mob bosses and politicians, where a hoodlum on the run can go while escaping, if he can pay the freight.
A brutal murderer does this after going over the wall at Lewisburg Penitentiary in Pennsylvania, en route to Los Angeles for his share in a Federal Reserve job. Along the way, he makes several stops to alter his discountenancing facial appearance, and arrives at his hotel on Sunset Boulevard looking “gorgeous” (this from a beard supplied by his lawyer, a blonde beard out of a dance marathon who makes the trip for tuition to a secretarial school, and falls in love with her supposed husband).
Lawyer and beard are disposed of, he goes to the 7-11 Club in Venice, where his partner doesn’t recognize him and is bloodied. The gorgeous brute walks right past raiding officers with a suitcase full of money, but the partner now calls his name. The brute instantly shoots him and dies surrounded by police, shot and burned in the wreck of his car, “brutally”.
The Noise of Death
One day there’s a widow on Joe Bucco’s front lawn, he killed her husband, his wife’s cousin. He sends her home in his chauffeured car.
Eliot Ness finds the dead man. When she’s shown how her husband was murdered, strung up alive in the meat locker of his own restaurant, the widow breaks her silence. Bucco is the top boss hereabouts.
Ness finds him in his mistress’s boudoir, a platinum blonde draped in her peignoir like Mt. Fuji. “Ah,” says Bucco, examining a piece of 8mm film, “the Grand Canyon, good.” Ness puts the finger on him for the killing and hears, “I couldn’t live at home if I killed my wife’s cousin.” Ness flings a name at him, his collector Little Charlie. Bucco investigates.
Little Charlie collects thirty percent on loans, not twenty-five. The dons have met out in the country, Bucco’s been replaced, everyone on the street knows it.
Charlie’s got a new angle. Beer trucks come back full of trash for another fee, instead of just empty. The cousin didn’t pay. Bucco strikes back, smashing trucks and injuring Little Charlie.
Bucco takes a shoeshine, gives the boy a new button for his hat, “Honorary Delegate 4th Annual Bra & Lingerie Convention”. His driver is assassinated on the street, a former middleweight whose monkey tricks were shown off to Ness at his boudoir visit, the champ turned chimp. Bucco sent him to Ness to finger Charlie with perjured testimony. Ness tried to get the goods, but the driver refused, “I love the man.”
Bucco shows Ness a solid gold key around his neck. “Some day—everything you want to know.” A secret meeting with Charlie brings the finish.
Bucco’s widow tells Ness, “I’m going to go out and commit a mortal sin, so I can go to hell and marry him again.” The safety deposit box contains a small phonograph record for Ness, “I’m gonna sing,” the voice says, and Bucco does, in a fine singing voice. “Get outta this business, Mr. Ness,” it continues.
Ben Maddow’s script is as sharp as possible, Grauman moves every bit as rapidly, the actors are led by J. Carrol Naish as Bucco and Henry Silva as Little Charlie in a masterpiece of planetary evil, when worlds collide, observed by the untouchable Ness, who tells his wife on the phone they ought to leave each other because of his long hours and her unhappiness, but “let’s be miserable together.”
Augie Viale puts a slot machine in every Chicago nook and cranny, it’s obligatory. Within a week, says Ness, his crime empire will outdo Capone’s in wealth. The big boys downtown want to see results, Viale’s method is to blackmail a former IRA gunman turned New York rumrunner, now out of prison, a man to whom Ness owes a favor.
Viale’s new manager has a daughter in society, engaged to be married and under the impression her father is a late war hero.
Slot machines aren’t a Federal rap, a harassed shop-owner clues Ness to a bootleg warehouse. Agent Youngblood, undercover as a waiter in Viale’s establishment (one of the judges’ and senators’ sons among the clientele is the bridegroom), alerts Ness to a shipment of slot machines from out-of-state, “FEDS STOP SLOTS” is the headline.
Ness flushes out Viale with a press conference, the manager is angrily ordered to kill him. Failing at this, the would-be assassin is Tommy-gunned on the street, and staggers from his hospital bed to gun down Viale and see his daughter married.
The image of a slot machine forced onto the counter of a tiny shop is the centerpiece.
The White Slavers
Capone’s prostitution racket operates at a distance out of modeling agencies and dramatic schools that are fronts for the trade. The girls are roped in and hooked, then work for their keep. “So what?”, says Joe Average, as defined by the press.
“The no-touch men are at the border,” says a Mexican ingénue translating for the boys, who take out their choppers and “destroy the evidence.” Press interest livens.
Mrs. B is brought out of retirement among her birdcages to manage the perturbed girls. She buries Mary Sage at a tenderhearted mobster’s expense, his brother is Capone’s outside man, whose forte is acid or knife, he never uses a gun, “I don’t dirty myself.”
It takes three men to stand up to Ness’s action, Capone insists on it. A trap is laid at No. 3 Magdalen Street. Ness is the brother’s way out, the Judas goat is mowed down, the girls in the basement assail the outside man, leaving him dead.
Portrait of a Thief
Legal 190 proof grain alcohol is pouring into Chicago from the world’s largest food processing firm, Brawley Mills outside of New York. Two brothers, convicts for embezzlement and the like, have changed their names and risen to become president and vice-president of the company. The alcohol goes into flavor extracts, cosmetics and pharmaceutical products, but the president makes a deal with Johnny Torrio, who ascertains the identity of the men he’s dealing with and shakes down the company for thirty million dollars over the years, and all the alky he can transport.
Ness loses both these valuable witnesses to Torrio’s gunmen, but stops the drainage from Brawley Mills in both senses.
Head of Fire—Feet
Many twists and turns as a classmate from Garfield High School uses Ness to blackmail a gangster who’s turned the Chicago Sports Palace, now owned by the successful chum, into a money drain with every fight fixed.
An elaborate subterfuge keeps Ness off balance as his friend is seemingly attacked by hoods who Tommy-gun and firebomb his apartment, send his mistress to the hospital and leave a pile of the gangster’s money in his wrecked limousine, fished out of Sheepshead Bay. His wife has been a courier, he’s been paying off Ness with the money, supposedly.
The last hit is real, the body turns up alive at the Sports Palace. Ness gets the whole story and is knocked out, his old football teammate dies in the ring after borrowing his pistol for a shootout with the gangster, who bleeds in the aisle and demands an ambulance, “You got no heart, Ness!”
The Rusty Heller Story
A Southern belle rises in the rackets as mistress of a right-hand man and then of his boss. She is cast off when the latter’s wife imposes her will, and now plots to gain vengeance by returning to her previous lover with incriminating documents in her possession, offering them for a quarter-million (the boss has immigration troubles). For $100,000, she betrays the married lover to Capone, whose death squad is no match for its victim. She dies in the arms of Ness, whom she had invited to “a place on top of a mountain, where the air’s so full of moxie, the statues kiss.”
A brilliant role for Elizabeth Montgomery, outfitted in stunning gowns from one scene to the next, played to the top and capped in the clinches with Ness by an invocation of Joan Bennett (like Steven Hill’s Nehemiah Persoff in “Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond”, dir. John Peyser).
A taxi driver reluctantly makes a few extra dollars for his family by driving a truck in his boss’s theft of pure alcohol from a government warehouse. Ness raids the operation, the driver is shot by the boss’s cousin for interfering in the shootout. His son swears vengeance against Ness.
The taxi garage is a front for the largest liquor plant in the country. The mob is displeased at this failure, send a troubleshooter with a hearing apparatus he switches off at the sound of “noise”. The boss hires four gunmen from the Purple Gang out of Detroit.
The boy takes potshots at Ness and is caught, then released to trace the gang. He gets a job washing cars at the garage.
The gunmen grow restive, heat from Ness has stalled things, the troubleshooter watches impatiently. The boss agrees to set up Ness for a hit, using the kid.
Ness is drawn into a trap, gunmen in the shadows wait everywhere. The boss is killed on orders of the troubleshooter, the boy learns the truth about the taxi garage and his father’s death, interferes with the ambush and goes on to an institute of higher learning.
The Mark of Cain
A petty racket is turned into an empire of heroin by Little Charlie Sebastino, until a girl dies of an overdose and the mob shuts him down for fear of publicity. Back to bootlegging, he raids his own brewery and claims his uncle was killed in a shootout with Ness.
Not a Federal job, concludes the head of the council that “closed” him. Sebastino feeds dope to a junkie nightclub drummer in exchange for an assassination.
The dead man’s brother assumes control. The council break a pencil each to signify their vote, Sebastino dies for defying their law and supplying the junkie.
Conrad Janis in the latter role contributes an impression of Frank Sinatra in The Man with the Golden Arm (dir. Otto Preminger). Eduardo Ciannelli is in top form as the top boss, Will Kuluva is his brother, whose wife (Paula Raymond) is having an affair with Sebastino, played by Henry Silva as if the style of his suit delimited his ferocity, which is to say, on a fine scale of reserved depravity.
A Seat on the Fence
Overseas supplies are drying up, so Victor Bardo gets his narcotics by robbing hospitals and drug stores, creating a shortage for patients. His foreign jobber is executed as a failure on his return, not before promising reporter Loren Hall a letter all about it.
The teleplay gives John McIntire all he needs for the Thirties newspaper and radio man, the voice, the understanding, the objectivity, and just a touch of nervous temperament. Hall doesn’t know the letter has been burned by the jobber’s assassin, and neither does Bardo, a diabetic on regular shots of insulin. He kidnaps the jobber’s sister, a carefully-protected girl who knows nothing.
Hall is ready to go to jail to protect his sources, but gets a call from the girl and goes to Ness.
A magnificent portrait, McIntire’s Hall. One of the items on his news broadcast has the Italian Embassy holding up Borzage’s A Farewell to Arms (Gary Cooper, Helen Hayes, Adolphe Menjou) “until Benito Mussolini himself is satisfied that it has no scenes detrimental to the Italian Army.”
The Purple Gang
The Purple Gang of Detroit steps between Ness and a heroin middleman for Capone by kidnapping the fellow, and when they find out what they’ve done, they leave the corpse for his wife with a note to Ness, then kill her.
The big money is in the stiff’s brother-in-law. Nitti himself arranges to pay $250,000 for such a valuable commodity. Ness intercepts him, brings the ransom in his place. A shootout ends “the reign of the Purple Gang”, nets the heroin linchpin, and leaves Nitti with egg on his face.
Ness regards the rescued culprit, “he broke the laws of the country that took him in,” he is a recent arrival, “sells his product... he looks like he should be telling fairy stories to children,” a kindly old party.
The Larry Fay Story
Collusion and gangsterism drive up milk prices, a grand jury pressures Ness for evidence. Two milk producers have formed a triumvirate with Fay to monopolize the business, one laments the price increase and sides with the public, he tells Ness. The other claims the Depression has put prices on the bottom of their value, and is very nervous.
Ness hounds him to the breaking point, already the man has been threatened with blackmail by an underling in the mob, the younger brother of Fay’s partner, Sally Kansas. She knows nothing of the racket, shields the boy, gets revenge when he’s killed.
The nervous triumvir is nearly disposed of on a New York-to-Havana cruise, and Fay nearly done in by Sally, before Ness arrives to claim the witness and culprit.
June Havoc sings “the big butter and egg man from Crackertown P.A.” and rallies the customers at the El Fay Club. “He looks like a hot kiss and a cold breakfast might kill him” describes a woman’s date, a man alone is a stag, “you know what a stag is, don’t you, folks? That’s an old buck with no doe!”
This marvel depicts a coast-to-coast franchise for the mob, envisioned by Arnie Seeger, “organization is my middle name.” The weight of this is Joe Kulak, known as “the Teacher” for the youngsters he’s brought in under his tutelage. Many of them sit at the long table in the Rathskellar for the decisive meeting, but Joe is under arrest for murder.
Seeger’s moll is Mrs. Rose Schram, known to him as Roxie Plummer. Her husband gets out on parole, is shunned by Seeger for turning State’s evidence, and goes to Ness for a few dollars to keep off the cold. He dies in an icehouse, fingered by his wife. A marriage certificate found in a flophouse identifies her, she names Kulak for the murder of a police technician eavesdropping on a conference with Seeger.
Kulak “don’t like no arguments”, he’s taciturn, in or out. Opposition to the plan is liquidated, Roxie is suspected of a leak and nearly “rubbed out like a soup stain” till she gives up Maxie.
“What else could I be?”, asks the murderous chemist crippled by polio. Ness holds up a newspaper and shows him, “ROOSEVELT WINS BY LANDSLIDE”.
The chemist starts out in a mob laboratory renaturing alcohol doctored by the Government, the denaturant cannot be removed, Frank Nitti’s speakeasies are drying up, Nitti’s displeased. A colleague finds the answer and is murdered for it. The chemist makes himself a partner in the supply business.
He plays the Government against his boss by way of Eliot Ness, who receives a sample of the renatured alcohol and sends it to the lab. The delaying response issued by Washington cashiers Nitti’s supplier, the entire business falls into the chemist’s hands.
He buys a diamond ring for a chanteuse. Ness arrests him for murder, eliciting the anguished question and front-page answer.
Murder Under Glass
Capone’s mob is on to narcotics, with the end of Prohibition seen at Roosevelt’s election. A shipment is hijacked, the supply disappears. Nitti goes to New Orleans.
Bouchard et Cie (est. 1807) runs the business there, they’re ship outfitters, Emile Bouchard has a sideline or the other way around. He and a partner hijack not one but two heroin shipments, to raise the price.
At the same time, Bouchard undertakes the construction of a bulletproof car like Capone’s, that’s his ambition, “to make them forget their Al Capone”. The glass is switched on him, he’s hit in the Mardi Gras parade, despite the best efforts of Ness to secure his testimony. The dope is recovered.
Ness brooks the insults of a bullying Nitti henchman with his head down and a stern look as the man leaves his New Orleans hotel. In the same motion, Ness picks up a desk phone and cues a search of his room.
Luther Adler’s Southerner is as picturesque as the parade he drives in more and more nervously, with Ness on the seat beside him retailing the dangers of masked assassination.
Ring of Terror
A boxer dies in the ring, the top contender, beaten to death after dropping his guard. His manager figures the fix was in, loudly proclaims it. A mobster’s henchman tells him to keep silent.
Ness is given a tip, the boxer was full of morphine, it’s not in the autopsy report. It checks out. He accuses the manager, who slugs him.
The trainer is killed, he doped the kid. Millions are riding on the championship, the manager’s next fighter is to take a fall, or else the manager’s wife gets reported as an illegal alien.
The henchman dies, the manager’s gun has his wife’s fingerprints on it. He won’t testify, and figures her for using him.
She takes the oath, admits her guilt, freeing his testimony. The mobster is arrested, she is deported to Budapest with a suspended sentence for killing the henchman in self-defense, her husband joins her there.
The King of Champagne
A Dickensian résumé of the bootlegging operations, that begins with tacit irony two weeks after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election. The Volstead Act is doomed, a bottle manufacturer gets into the business by supplying the one drink never imitated, champagne. The utz for this comes from a repugnantly stingy uncle, who is lured into financing the deal.
A ferment of “spiced cider and sugar cane” is the drink, a Frenchman finds a corking machine at the Industrial Museum. The uncle, a restaurateur, is offered a clientele beyond his dreams after the Parkshore Club is closed by Ness, “no more serving fish stew to jerks”.
Greed and chicanery undo the conspirators, and very briefly the bottle manufacturer is “the king of champagne”, as Ness calls him, but a moment later he’s dead, killed in a shootout during a raid.
He begins by ratting out a warehouse full of champagne (a tip this good, says Ness, is “usually from a guy who’s waiting in the wings to take over”) and killing a rival.
Amazing performances by the principals, Barry Morse speaking French, George Kennedy as the deaf-mute assassin speaking in sign language, Michael Constantine very soft-spoken as the plotter, and Robert Middleton as the uncle with his mouth full.
She was a gangster’s moll and a Burly-Q Queen by the age of sixteen, now at 23 she’s the Marquise de Bouverais. Her husband’s family have been making cognac since 1780, half of their livelihood is gone with Prohibition, along with that of their growers, vintners, distillers and bottlers. It’s brought into the U.S. from Canada, and handled in Chicago by a man named Bogar, who is hustled into the office of a racketeer on the move, Nate Kester.
The plan is to duplicate De Bouverais bottles and labels exactly, then peddle imitation brandy under the name. Bogar is told this is what he’ll be selling from now on, he takes a swig, no brandy drinker would ever be fooled. Kester has a sort of compulsive smile near laughter, contradiction exacerbates it until he lashes out.
Therefore it is necessary to destroy the taste for the genuine article, “they’ll forget.” Bogar is roughed up, his brandy smashed, Ness and the papers called in. Bogar tips Ness off about Kester, and dies in mid-conversation, cut with a broken bottle.
The marquis and his wife come to Chicago, Kester shanghais her for a confab at his Odeon Burlesque, where she joined the chorus line when the word went out she had betrayed her lover. She is to keep “the imported stuff” out of Chicago, or be turned over to “the boys in Cicero”. A Tommy-gun pass on a sidewalk stroll sends the couple to the pavement. The marquis arranges a new Chicago buyer, Hermanos. For this, he is killed.
The marquise, whose name is Marcie, puts it to Kester. His brandy isn’t selling, it needs a cognac base, she’ll supply it, the added cost will be paid back in volume. Accidents befall Kester’s operations. Marcie turns him over to Ness.
A bloody shootout in a barn used for storing liquor puts an end to the caper. When Prohibition is repealed the marquise sends Ness a case of her best.
Bird In The Hand
A parody of Hawks’ Scarface, given a sharp rendering by Kronman along these lines, the rise to power is mirrored by a brother-in-law, he runs a pawn shop, his sister (“what do I need a woman for, I’ve got you”) wants him to “be somebody”, he schleps a hundred grand to Washington, where the statue of Lincoln presides over the gangster’s arrest, a Chicago leg man turned Southside racketeer with New York backing.
The brother-in-law has a hobby raising birds, psittacosis has broken out, the Public Health Service is on the hunt for a source.
The gangster has a hard time of it, a hit shoots back, killing his hit man’s driver. The brother-in-law collapses on J Street before delivering the money. The wife walks out and dies of parrot fever.
The Twilight Zone
Past the African masks goggled at by the Art Appreciation Society, through the Egyptology Room to a Victorian dollhouse, the inhabitable plane.
“Paper Doll”, inner furnishings, the great hiatus from the world.
Great Grauman, best Beaumont, magnificent cast.
The fellow’s bedroom gets the dollhouse angle after his departure, to prepare the disparition.
Grauman gives an account of himself at once in a flurry of action remarked by Anthony Mann (The Heroes of Telemark), followed by a brisk and regularly rhythmic installation at an RAF base, then he embarks upon the exposition of a film whose order of expression is properly dreamlike.
The materials are figural images, the Norwegian resistance leader and his sister from the song, an RAF pilot jauntily displaying a hook for his right hand, other pilots from Australia and India, an airman who gets married during the special training, and so forth. The dreamer is an unemployed barnstormer who takes his pay as a Mosquito pilot and doesn’t know the war from anything but gun sights.
13 Rue Madeleine (dir. Henry Hathaway) is part of the equation, which went largely uncomprehended. The flying sequences in the narrow valley of a loch or fjord could not be overlooked.
Lady in a Cage
“Passion remote,” says the halting poetess, “and beauty secure.”
She lives alone with her son, it’s the Fourth of July and very hot, he leaves home. The power goes out, she’s trapped in an invalid elevator. A wino and a fat lady hustler named Sade break in to rob the place, the poetess doesn’t recognize herself and her son. Three young hoods take over (representing her son and the couple he’s visiting with), they kill the wino and lock up the hustler.
Critics nowhere had any idea what it was all about.
Sade’s pawnbroker and fence rides to the rescue with goons. The son gets characterized as Prodigal and conflated with Œdipus. In a rare moment of lucidity, the poetess realizes she’s a monster.
Daughter of the Mind
A Cold War tale of parapsychology, spiritualism, technology, cybernetics, Czechoslovakian theatrics and counterintelligence.
An intensely elaborate drama of deduction, rich as Browning’s Sludge, with a key quite familiar to the Impossible Missions Force, by the author of Lady in a Cage out of Paul Gallico (Davis’ teleplay won the Edgar).
The little girl returns from the dead to haunt her conscience-stricken father till he’s ready to defect, a professor and the CIC investigate her apparition.
The Last Escape
Liberation of a German rocket scientist in 1945, O.S.S. and British operation.
The Russians offer money and political bait and are humorously depicted as homing in on a radio broadcast of Wagner (later they gallantly return a dead English “officer and a gentleman”).
The mistress of an obersturmbannführer lost her husband on the Russian Front and would gladly sleep with the O.S.S. to save her little boy’s life.
Filmed on location in Germany, which makes for an unequaled representation of the time and the place centered around a dicey rendezvous at a water mill in the center of town.
New York Times, “obvious beyond words.” TV Guide, “laden with clichés.” Catholic News Service Media Review Office, “director Walter Grauman compensates for an obvious script and wooden acting by a lot of wartime action scenes with remarkably little bloodshed.” Dan Pavlides (All Movie Guide), “routine World War II drama.”
Grauman’s extremely abstruse and recondite allegory of the McCarthy days is beautifully understood on the basis of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, naturally enough, eked out as analysis by a long feint from Polanski in Rosemary’s Baby that is vital to the comprehension.
All told, and especially given the witch hysteria it conveys so intelligibly, a great articulate masterpiece on the ills of the time.
Innocents, college students they’re represented as, fabricate a credit line they pay back with money from home, a criminal uses their fictitious identity to run up a government position and kills them one by one.
A wonderful, guarded mystery with darkness chasing a girl down a corridor, among a number of memorable images. The location (Los Angeles City College, briefly UCLA) is unmentioned, the story begins in Texas before the events depicted.
The university computer, known as “Big Ugly”, plays a figurative role in the considerable drama.
The First Day of Forever
The Streets of San Francisco
The story is essentially similar to Klute. The higher-priced spread (Janice Rule) is dumped at the Orphanage by an executive who has expended his account. Outside, she’s attacked by another (James Olson) who keeps a wooden crucifix on his desk with the names of the floozies he’s “saved” carven into its base. Inspector Keller watches over her at the Hotel Kennedy (“We’re on a budget,” Lt. Stone explains), sitting up all night with a Holy Bible and his pistol. He takes her to Fisherman’s Wharf (where the madman is subdued) and she’s last seen working at a pleasant café called Summerhouse.
This striking night piece is remarkable for lighting that is or approximates natural lighting. The effect of this is rather startling and particularly noticeable in rooms that are unlit as they’re entered. The light of a lamp acknowledged as such is intensely poetic.
Grauman’s absorption with light wrangles Keller into a corridor window suffused with light behind him, amongst the play of interior and exterior lights in the city. The two detectives drive off at the end as the sun splashes down on cars in the street.
45 Minutes From Home
The Streets of San Francisco
A businessman is set up for the badger game by a girl hitchhiker and then accused of her murder when she and her lover have a fight that accidentally kills her.
The charming bait is as free as a bird on a fair San Francisco day, then suddenly turns vicious against her victim’s type of person.
Consciously or not, this is one of the ingredients of Polanski’s Frantic, right down to the houseboat. Grauman’s main concern as always is lighting, like Steve Sekely, and the nervous command of camera movement regulated by editing. Characteristically, even an overcast sky registers a sunsplash.
The Streets of San Francisco
An English professor (Carl Betz) at the University of San Francisco is being blackmailed for his rowdy past as, in his own words, “a junkie.” Grauman opens on a nice sunny day in the suburbs as he, who lives in a nice little house, visits one very much like it to make his regular payment to a former San Francisco police officer (Barney Phillips). Another client arrives, the professor is shown into the next room, the client is a hit man who has a shootout with the blackmailer, killing him but missing once in a wild shot that passes through a door and hits the unseen professor in the arm.
SFPD want the professor to testify, but that would jeopardize his position. His wife suspects him of infidelity, owing to the regular expenditure. The hit man wants to rub him out as “a loose end.” The bullet is still in his arm. This is the whole story, as unraveled with incredible speed at the opening of Act I. The bombshell comes in Act II, when Lt. Stone and Inspector Keller go to the university to interview the professor, and observe him lecturing on Ezra Pound (“A poet,” says the inspector. “I know,” replies the lieutenant.) At issue are the wartime broadcasts by the poet in Italy. Was he a traitor? What if the professor had been, say, a junkie in his past, and a man had died? What is the proper relationship of a man’s public and private life?
It’s a bare speculation left at that. The case is closed when Lt. Stone impersonates the professor to catch the hit man, who has kidnapped the professor’s wife. There is a shootout, and Inspector Keller determinedly hits his man. In the epilog, he buys the lieutenant a copy of Pound, wherein the recipient of the gift finds “Ancient Music” and still prefers the Miranda Rights card he carries in his pocket.
Grauman is in an ecstasy of sunlight and red police lights outside the blackmailer’s home. For the rest, his eternal precision and calm never fail him on the heaving seas of the story, this recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross who flew 56 missions over Europe.
A Collection of Eagles
The Streets of San Francisco
This is a fine combination of rare subtlety and noir action, with its suggestion of homosexuality in the deployment of a criminal caper involving Mexican planchettes and counterfeit gold eagles.
The play of light and shadow is the primary constructional element. Belinda Montgomery stands in a strong unitary lateral light as the inside girl of two minds about this caper. She and John Saxon as the mastermind from Maiden Lane emerge from the shaded sidewalk into the light of Union Square as he speaks of his grandiose plans, in a shot developed out of My Darling Clementine (dir. John Ford). The warm sun is briefly seen bouncing off a car door. Lt. Stone and Inspector Keller emerge from Mama’s, cross Stockton and discuss the case in a long take as they walk down Filbert Street past Saints Peter & Paul to their car. Grauman ends the take by cutting to a reverse angle showing the distance traversed, and then tilting up to the spires of the cathedral, a uniformly bright sequence.
Joseph Cotten plays the collector. The score by Michel Mention is unusually inspired.
Tower Beyond Tragedy
The Streets of San Francisco
A Hitchcock Vertigo variant in which the killer (Edward Mulhare) has a predilection for escorts who resemble Stefanie Powers with a blonde streak. The script by Mort Fine prepares a devastating coup with a suspect in a nursing home who resembles the killer at the advanced age he’s said to fear.
Grauman’s approach follows the script’s rigid severity. With an objective camera across the room, he films Powers giving Mulhare the brush-off in the tower apartment he pays for, and smashing a Matisse print he’s particularly fond of. The violence of her words prepares Mulhare’s response as he slowly realizes he has a statuette in his hand, looking down at it, then at her as he raises it to strike.
Grauman advances by minuscule degrees from this night interior through seaside night exteriors to Golden Gate Park on an overcast day outside the Conservatory of Flowers. He films the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge on the water directly underneath it, then slowly pans right to reveal one of Vertigo’s location shots.
The script, whose title comes from Robinson Jeffers, has been tantalizing with the prospect of a visit to Tor House, but in the end proposes a tower (never seen) on the coast for a love nest. There’s a struggle on the cliffs, and only when it is averted and the killer is under arrest in the final moments of Act IV does Grauman allow the sun to fill the camera lens on the empty cliffside path overlooking the sea.
Grauman also has an interesting use of the handheld camera for shots of the killer as if he were rather difficult to look at steadily, or advancing the instability of his persona, very subtly.
Are You in the House Alone?!
The two films indicated are Powell & Pressburger’s The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (“criminals walk the streets and you hide yourself inside, you must not let this happen”) and Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor, seen by the juveniles on a double date and discussed by them afterwards.
The principal point of discussion is whether or not Faye Dunaway should have slept with Robert Redford.
Grauman’s point is elucidated much later, a dull-witted rich kid as insouciant as an Amberson spies on young lovers to intimidate the girl and ultimately rape her, he does not go entirely unpunished but is exiled to the wilds of New Hampshire.
Collinson’s Fright is closely related.
Nightmare on the 13th Floor
Why hotels don’t have them as a rule, though the Wessex certainly does, a “superstition” about evil in high places.
A trumpery sort of travel writer uncovers the axe murders of an age gone by, and a recent revival. Satan must have his fill, every jot and tittle of blood, to grant immortality in his ranks.
James Brolin, Louise Fletcher, Alan Fudge, among the Wessex staff.
Echoes of Kubrick (The Shining) and Hitchcock (Psycho) show the trend of understanding involved.