Boys of the City

They open a fire hydrant to cool off and inadvertently upset the apple cart.

The East Side Kids, off to the Adirondacks with a judge up for bribery, wanted by the mob, and privately embezzling his pretty ward’s money.

The whole scene shifts to a castle called Briarcliff Manor, very shady, with Minerva Urecal a ringer for Judith Anderson in Hitchcock’s Rebecca, coincidentally.

Sarris mentions the director’s “1940 record,” which includes this film and That Gang of Mine.


That Gang of Mine

The money of horse racing is an inducement, Muggs wants to be a jockey.

It’s not his style, as he discovers.

Everything’s riding on a thoroughbred, Muggs positively insists a professional jockey ride.

The owner and groom, the trainer, the backer, various shady track interests, and the jockey, a well-trained athlete, not to mention the bettors.


Pride of the Bowery

It is subjected to the C.C.C. in lieu of the Golden Gloves, and therein lies the tale.

They ain’t got any money, the East Side Kids, and Muggs the contender.


There is a neverending struggle at the camp, and that’s the story.

“Just as truculent, loudmouthed and nasty as ever” (T.S., New York Times).


Invisible Ghost

The wife who ran off and was killed with her lover in a car crash (Le Mépris), or nearly.

She returns, fearfully, a face at the window, setting the husband off to murder some innocent.

Lewis’ cruel wit and brutal insights illuminate the picture entirely.

A brilliant film, notable also for Lugosi’s transformations, a noctambulism, a derangement, a strangler.

It was, incredibly, “a cinematic curio” to T.M.P. of the New York Times, “incredibly amateurish” and “silly,” thus are standards maintained.


The Mad Doctor of Market Street

The genius idea is that he places subjects in suspended animation in order to cure their diseases, it doesn’t work.

Fleeing the authorities, he lands on a desert island...

The sublimity of this was lost on Geoff Andrew of Time Out Film Guide, on the other hand, he might get it eventually.

Lionel Atwill, one of his greatest performances.


Bombs Over Burma

Burma Road, China under Japanese attack.

Truck convoys are the key, the Japs have spies to pinpoint them. An officer in German military intelligence is traveling by bus, the bridge is out, all the passengers spend the night at a monastery, the Chinese schoolteacher, some Americans, Sir Roger and his body servant.

This was, to T.S. of the New York Times, “a dud at the Central”, the harrowing footage of aerial bombardments “a few old stock shots” and the meticulous action “the ancient plot device used in ‘Shanghai Express’,” but later critics have come to a better understanding.

Lewis opens with a device from Henry King’s Marie Galante, the first few minutes are all in Chinese, without subtitles.

Nothing to do with Sternberg in the sense meant by T.S., a lot about “funny” Americans hearing both sides of a story first.


Minstrel Man

The plan of the work conveys the period 1929-1944 (the central date is the S.S. Morro Castle disaster in 1934), the war is never mentioned and no dates are given.

The artiste and his métier (“My Bamboo Cane”).

The minstrel show in all its glory.

The New York Times reviewer found Benny Fields to be what Dixie Boy Johnson is called in the film, a great song stylist, and dismissed the rest as “an easy-to-take picture.”

Halliwell’s Film Guide speaks of “interesting sidelights”.


My Name Is Julia Ross

The London secretary who wakes up a Cornish wife.

Mother and son have her for a replacement, she must be a suicide, the other was murdered.

A matter of money.

A film as brilliant as they come, typically Lewis, with monstrous roles for Whitty and Macready as foils to Foch.

“A B-plus for effort at least,” thus Bosley Crowther of the New York Times indited, department-wise, for the record.

Shrewdly assessed by Variety, “fast and packed with tense action throughout. Acting and production (though apparently modestly budgeted) are excellent... Joseph H. Lewis directed for pace, and he achieves it all the way.”

Rosenbaum and Kehr essentially follow Variety’s line in the Chicago Reader.

“Having toiled industriously on nonsense for years,” writes Geoff Andrew in Time Out Film Guide, a real authority.

Halliwell’s Film Guide gives the devil its due but finds it “culted into a reputation beyond its worth” and has James Agee, no less, in support with his “generally successful attempt to turn good trash into decently artful entertainment.”


The Undercover Man

Treasury agent, Internal Revenue, bookkeeper, with two associates against a murderous gangster known as the Big Fellow.

The far behind of law enforcement that brought down Al Capone, a peculiar theme especially close to Lewis, who wastes no time on recriminations or even analysis but plunges right in with the deadly silence all around the agents, something here, something there, nothing, grueling work, an inspiration, anything, a miracle, desperation, dedication, a life-or-death struggle down to the first day in court.

“This fearful fable”, Bosley Crowther of the New York Times called it (his news is that Duke Ellington was playing the Paramount).

“A good crime-busting saga,” said Variety.

“A superior crime thriller” (Geoff Andrew, Time Out Film Guide).

“Good” (Halliwell’s Film Guide).


Gun Crazy

A couple of sharpshooters out on a spree, usually arrogated to Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde, not entirely without reason.

The one is heavily indebted to the other for her killer instinct, a matter of fear, and then it’s all nothing, a waste of talented youth brilliantly analyzed by Penn.

A sagacious film, the camerawork in a moving car is justly famous for its skill and tenacity.


A Lady without Passport

While working on a case of alien smuggling out of Cuba, a Border Patrol agent falls in love with a beautiful survivor from Buchenwald.

Lewis’ pictures of Havana make a million-dollar film, the great stone buildings, Magnacola, a fruit cart upset by the agent (disguised as a rich Hungarian) to throw off pursuit and stop a streetcar in laughing detachment, the sunny seaport, a romantic construction of serenade and paseo and orchestra on the wharves in the evening, a nightclub dancer.

The smuggler’s plane is ditched in the Everglades, the crash is viewed from a Navy scout plane that circles to observe the distant pantomime of fists and murder over a small rubber raft.

Crooks and undesirables have to be rescued from the swamp, the agent goes after the smuggler Palinov, the girl and the pilot heading to the mouth of the Shark River, where a cabin cruiser is waiting, he empties the fuel tank and sees the smuggler weigh anchor for a short cruise into Coast Guard hands. Offered her choice, the girl stays behind to be arrested. The pilot has been left in the jungle with snakebite, for Border Patrol agents to find.

A bare clue allows the experienced hands at INS to locate the plane before takeoff, a simple ruse throws them off, three Navy planes are sent on reconnaissance, one of them flown by a local man with a drawl on the radio back to flight control, “due south? Do tell!”



Retreat, Hell!

The Chosin Few, from the initiation of hostilities to their heroic defense and the even greater heroism of their “advance in another direction.”


The Big Combo

The fix is in, the mob treasurer hands out money with a phone call, no books.

A direct picture of the situation, Conte looks at the camera to spell it out in hoodlum doubletalk, very familiar.

It breaks apart like a ship in a storm because a lieutenant in the 93rd Precinct has his mind on it and uncovers a few salient facts about the smooth, silent operation.

There are amusing sidelights, the underling skipped in a takeover, the moll feigning madness for security, the new moll at a concert recital for comfort to her mind, and of course the two hoods, Fante and Mingo.

Reviewers at the time could not see it, gradually it has come to be discerned more clearly.


A Lawless Street

Medicine Bend, a “snarling beast” of a town the marshal hears every day.

A strict definition of a town-tamer. It bites him, a couple of leading citizens put in force a plan to kill the marshal, hinder the founder and make a fortune on it “wide open”.

The nightmare vision is fully stated, the marshal bites back.

A Western as classic as they come, with an especial portrait of the town-tamer wearing himself out and his luck and his guts day after day until the beast dies or he loses his nerve or some other calamity (the founder’s dream is statehood).

But a town isn’t tame until it’s ready, the catastrophe makes up its mind for it.

“Gamet’s Vegetable Compound” on the calendar means the screenplay (last date June 6th).

“It’s no masterwork,” according to Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Guide), go figger.


7th Cavalry

The disaster, inquest, burial detail.

The effect of the battle, a sizable delinquency of the Army.

Redress at Little Big Horn, collecting the dead in the face of the Sioux.

“Weird and occasionally wonderful”, says Geoff Andrew of Time Out Film Guide.


The Rifleman: The Journey Back

One is not an Indian, cowardice under torture has another aspect, if villainous murder does not.

John Anderson as one accused by his own and condemned by the enemy.

Harry Carey, Jr. as the trooper dogging his betrayal.