Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

Vice Raid

Cinema Monolith: 5/10
IMDb: 5.4/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: ** out of 4

Released in December, 1959
Not rated
71 minutes

Directed by Edward L. Cahn

Written by Charles Ellis

Cast: Mamie Van Doren, Richard Coogan, Brad Dexter, Barry Atwater, Carol Nugent, Frank Gerstle, Joseph Sullivan, Chris Alcaide, Nestor Paiva, Jeanne Bates, Mushy Callahan, John Dehner (narrator)

Syndicate Owned Sin-Center Smashed! Besides needing to add more titles to the ‘V’ section of my film index, I was intrigued by that tag line—a sin-center?—and the fact that cheesecake model Mamie Van Doren was starring in a crime thriller focusing on…you guessed it, cheesecake models (or more specifically, ‘public relations girls’, if you get their drift). Adding to the intrigue was the sight of noir veteran Brad Dexter in the cast list, playing the part of a racketeer. And then, when I saw it clocked in at a swift 71 minutes, I knew I’d found the perfect way to end a lazy Saturday night.

The boss of an unnamed New York crime syndicate, whose ‘dirty tentacles reach into every dark and corrupt corner of the country’, is having trouble with the local cops, and asks the Detroit office to send him a girl with both a bod and a brain. The idea is to use the girl to frame a particularly pesky police detective; the bait, of course, is Miss Van Doren, in all her curvy, blonde-bombshell glory. And everything goes according to plan, but when Doren’s innocent kid sister is manhandled by one of the mob goons, she’s determined to switch allegiance and help the good guys bust the syndicate.

Though it did offer some lurid appeal to noir fans, and boasted the star power of Dexter in a typically suave but oily part, Vice Raid still couldn’t quite escape its B-movie trappings; this was most evident in its lack of production value and the pedestrian direction of Edward L. Cahn, whose closest—and apparently only—foray into noir territory had been 1950’s Destination Murder. And though I did get a kick out of how seamy it all was for a late-’50s movie, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the look and quality of a TV crime show of the era, such as The Detectives or M Squad.

So here’s the big question: should Vice Raid be classified as film noir, or something else entirely? Both IMDb and Wikipedia call it a crime drama, but it is mentioned in a few of my noir guides, so if you ask me, I’d say it straddles the line: there was nothing at all noir-like about Cahn’s direction, and the story offered no private detectives, chump heroes, or dark, rain-slicked locales to at least give it some context. But Doren’s character made for a passable femme fatale, and Dexter’s mob boss was straight out of a noir textbook, so perhaps I’ll give it some slack and call it ‘minor league‘ noir.

But is it worth a look? Sure, why not…it’s a quick watch, I enjoyed the performances of Dexter and Frank Gerstle, who played the police captain (and should’ve played the lead role over Richard Coogan, in my opinion), and Doren is at least easy on the eyes, if not so easy on her acting. And how does it fare on my Ten Rules of Film Noir list? A solid 6 out of 10, which alone should qualify it for noir membership, but with no trains, flashbacks, or sour endings in sight, and the fact that the thugs punched like sissies, it ends up teetering right on the noir edge. But if you’re like me, and have free time to kill on a weekend night, it sure beats reruns of Three’s Company.  (5/10)


10 comments on “Vice Raid

  1. HAHA I’d never heard of cheesecake models before. I always like my “Stinking Bishop” with some big “Bristols”. OOoooo Eeer misses, I’d like to get my hands on her Gorgonzola’s!

    I do have this one on my too watch list. With that runtime I should fit it in sometime soon. And that tagline is amazing 🙂 “Syndicate owned sin-center smashed!!! Phoney model agency exposed as B-girl headquarters!”


    • Todd Benefiel

      Ha, I had to look up ‘Stinking Bishop’ and ‘Bristols’…hilarious! Just a head’s up: this is mostly about Miss Van Doren’s ‘bristols’ and nobody else’s, and unfortunately, the JMQ and VMQ numbers are quite low, thanks of course to this being a film made and released in the 1950s. But as far as films about sin-centers go, it leads the pack!

      Now, I’m off to look up ‘Gorgonzola’…

      Liked by 1 person

      • JMQ has to be Juicy Melon Quota? But what is VMQ? Voluptuous Mammary Queens? I see some more research is needed. Sits back whilst adjusting one’s monocle.


      • Todd Benefiel

        Well, you had some pretty good guesses there, and on were on the right track, but you were juuuust a bit off. But feel free to use your variations on your site whenever you like…they have a bit more, ahhh, punch than mine do.


  2. Sun City Doug

    A 5 out of 10 rating isn’t too bad. However, a 10 out of 10 rating would be looking at the cute-as-a-bunny Joyce DeWitt !!


    • Todd Benefiel

      Ah, so what you’re saying is, I should’ve watched that other show about prostitutes that was on that Saturday night?


  3. Ah yes, Miss Mamie. Dad was a fan if I do recall. This one’s on my too watch list and nice to see Brad (no one remembers me in the Magnificent Seven) Dexter on board as he excelled in these gangster type flicks way better than he did in the westerns. Nice pick to spotlight.


    • Todd Benefiel

      Your Dad has fine taste in gangster molls! And I agree about Dexter…I’ve liked him much more in the noir films of his that I’ve seen, especially 99 River Street.

      Liked by 1 person

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Movies Reviewed: 227

From the Monolith: 125

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