Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.
Released on February 20, 1947
Directed by Felix E. Feist
Written by Felix E. Feist, from the novel by Robert C. DuSoe
Cast: Lawrence Tierney, Ted North, Nan Leslie, Betty Lawford, Andrew Tombes, Harry Shannon, Glen Vernon, Marian Carr, William Gould, Josephine Whittell, Chuck Hamilton, Lee Phelps
He’ll kill until he dies! Tough-guy actor Lawrence Tierney, one of film and television’s most certifiable whack jobs, once again plays a quietly-psychotic killer in this RKO film noir cheapie, written and directed with verve by Felix E. Feist, who seemed to have a decent grasp on the noir style, and a good ear for natural dialogue.
Tierney is cold-hearted ex-con Steve Morgan, a ‘slap-happy bird with a gun’ who robs and kills a theater owner outside a bank in San Diego, hitches a ride with a happy-go-lucky schmo heading north to LA, then invites two party girls along for the ride during a stop at a filling station, all the while involving the trio deeper and deeper into his own escape plans. Soon the four of them are holed up at a beach house in Newport, where everything begins to unravel for everyone involved.
A very entertaining 62 minutes, with an energetic pace that never seemed to let up; around every turn was an unpredictable twist or change of events that pushed the narrative forward, and there was enough brutality and smart-mouthing from Tierney to make any fan of his films giddy. The guy really seemed to have a screw loose—on screen and off—and even though he apparently disliked taking bad guy roles, he truly had some screen presence when he did: Dillinger, Born to Kill, and The Hoodlum are some prime examples of his most sociopathic work.
Feist made good use of Tierney and supplied the film with a handful of acceptable noir elements, but what I got a kick out of most was the banter and interplay between the cops, which had a casual and realistic ring to it (except for the few typically naive lapses in common sense when it came to police procedure). Unfortunately, the film’s short running time also resulted in an ending that unfolded too fast, paving the way for a pair of quick codas that were pure cheese, and shone too cheerful a light on the noir-themed darkness that had preceded them. (7/10)