DVR Theater: A Pair Of Fine Noirs, Off The Beaten Path

One of the staples of the crime noir material I love so much is that they are, for the most part, stories told from the male point of view. We often have the male narrator telling us how everything went sour, utilized in Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet and others. It was an easy way to reproduce the language of the pulp material the films were based on, many of which were in first person narrative from the main male character who lusted/greeded and lost out big time. We’d only see the femme fatale & her motives through his eyes, and be put into the same position as to wondering what those motives really were.

So that’s what makes Too Late For Tears an interesting little number from 1949. This time, we get the story pretty much via the femme fatale’s point of view, following reliable femme fatale Lizabeth Scott’s efforts to hold onto a bag of money literally thrown into her & her husband’s car one dark night. The well-meaning nebbish hubby (Arthur Kennedy) wants to call the cops, she bullies him into stashing the money and waiting… and then things start to get complicated. The always dependable to play a lowlife Dan Duryea shows up as the true target of the drop, and then Scott plays him like the cheap piano he is. Along for the ride are Don DeFore as a mysterious stranger from the husband’s past and Kristine Miller as the suspicious sister. Scott’s scheming and manipulations to get the money are all presented to us with her as main character, not via whatever the men are doing. And she’s just stone-cold EVIL which makes it all the more fun. Director Byron Haskin also made I Walk Alone (also featuring Scott), one of the quintessential my-old-mob-has-gone-corporate gangster films of the 40s, and handles this genre quite nicely, filming around Los Angeles this time. The script is by Roy Huggins, based on his magazine serial – and it’s the story that brought him to Hollywood. He’d become much better known for his TV work which included creating/producing stuff like Maverick, The Fugitive and The Rockford Files.  Although… gotta say…. the ending of Tears could have been handled a bit better.

It reminded me a little of the Joan Crawford film Sudden Fear, another noir tale told from the POV of the woman, although Joan plays the good girl betrayed in it. Gloria Grahame is along to be the bad girl and Jack Palance plays the guy who betrays Joan. Don’t you want to see it now?

Over to merry old England for our next entry, 1958’s Nowhere To Go. One of the last films to come out of the old Ealing Studios, and you could see they were practically out of money for this stripped-down simple & excellent film that got an MGM release in America. We have the familiar faces of Bernard Lee (M from the old Bond movies) as a fellow thief to our lead, and the movie debut of Maggie Smith as a naive jilted deb for falls for our lead, an escaped convict on the run, trying (like Lizabeth Scott in our last movie) to pick up the stash of stolen money he left behind before his trial and conviction. We follow his developing desperation to escape his situation as, step by step, everything falls apart and goes wrong for him as the cops close in and the money gets further and further out of reach.

He’s played by George Nader, and throughout this thing, I keep thinking “Where have I seen this guy, he seems familiar, but I have no idea what else he’s been in…” and when I look it up, I get an OMG moment to be sure.

He plays what passes for a romantic lead/hero in Robot Monster, a candidate for one of the worst movies ever made (and a must-see item!!!). In fact those of you who have seen Robot Monster or have returned back here after clicking this link to watch it all on youtube for free know that he plays the guy that a child dreams about boinking his sister in a post-apocalyptic bubble-machine landscape (Yes, Lawrence Welk dropped the big one) while fighting an alien killer gorilla suit wearing an old diving helmet.

I cannot… yet I must…. Okay, I admit it… this reviewer is impertinent! Guidance Ro-Man is commanding me to move on, so here we go.

Nader moved on from the drek of Robot Monster and did a nice job in Nowhere To Go. He’d do some TV work and played Jerry Cotton in a series of German-made FBI agent movies. An eye accident caused him to retire from acting to avoid the bright lights. And once his acting days were over and he was no longer under pressure to be closeted, in the ’70s, he wrote a well-received scifi novel, Chrome, about a future world totally absent of homophobia where  gay robots have love affairs. It’s quite the collectible item too. Hey, that’s a way better premise than Robot Monster, and you gotta admit that such a scifi concept would certainly fly in today’s pop culture scene. So I’d argue Nader was decades ahead of his time.

AND SO WAS ROBOT MONSTER. The future is impertinent!

Elmer Bernstein did the score to that cinematic sludge. And he did pretty well for himself afterwards.

Nader also inherited the bulk of Rock Hudson’s estate. He and his partner, who worked as Hudson’s personal secretary, had been friends for years.

Enough gossip – Nader as an actor isn’t bad. He does well in the con artist charming the dumb old lady scenes, and he’s great in the numerous fatalistic scenes where he bleakly assesses and reassesses his multiplying failures. It reminded me a lot of James Mason in the excellent Odd Man Out, where every new idea for escape gets shut down and the walls keep closing in.

I just had a brilliant epiphany: I need to combine the most memorable efforts of both George Nader & James Mason and make a movie where gay robots battle against teen aged Hitler clones for the control of a bubble-machine laden post-apocalyptic landscape.

With music by Elmer Bernstein, of course.

“Slap a happy ending on it and the script will write itself,” as Larry Levy says in The Player.

While you’re waiting for the premiere, I’ll have more film blogging up soon. Stay tuned.

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