Archive for February 18th, 2011

Director: Byron Haskin

Producer: Hal B. Wallis

Screenwriter: Charles Schnee

Cinematographer: Leo Tover

Music: Victor Young

Studio: Paramount 1948

Main Acting: Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas

There are many unexplained mysteries in the world. What fascinates me the most is how certain choice films can be completely unavailable yet they tend be the ones that deserve to be mass produced for an appreciative audience. Film noir has its fair share of pictures that have never seen the light of day in a proper release. I Walk Alone is one such example—a quality movie filled with big stars and more than decent production values. The fact that it languishes in obscurity in some dusty vault as film nitrate slowly eats away at all the wonders possessed inside is some form of unspeakable tragedy. TCM occasionally airs this 1948 movie late at night or even early mornings (strange considering its a dark film noir). And that’s how I was lucky enough to be able to catch it a few years ago.

Back then, I was just starting to get into the genre and had no idea about I Walk Alone‘s scarcity. I just remember thinking that it was a great movie that must have been a high point for this new type of film I was finding interest in. It wasn’t until I tried purchasing a copy and failed miserably, did I realize the film’s availability issues. Amazon seemed to suggest it did not exist, as if I had conjured up the movie in my mind. Video stores didn’t have any in stock or couldn’t even recall knowing of the picture’s existence. Defeated, I quickly moved on to other film noirs that I could find and enjoy. Finally, years later, I got my second viewing through Netflix. With their streaming option, I was able to watch it on my Mac and relive those past nostalgic glories. Even though it didn’t end up being quite as mind-blowing as I had built it up from all that anticipation, it still turned out to be a fine film that deserves much higher recognition.

While the string-heavy score by Victor Young plays slightly more melodramatic than necessary, overall this is an above average film noir that is worth the trouble of tracking down. At times, Frankie Madison reminds me of what might have been if Joe Collins from Brute Force had gotten out of jail and continued his life. The bitterness of being confined in a cell is conveyed well in both pictures, but obviously in different ways. After doing time for 14 years, Frankie gets out of the slammer and looks for his old partner, Turner who had escaped a prison term and is now swimming in dirty money. Naturally, he is not looking to shower old Frankie with any of the profits he has acquired in the intervening years. Wendall Corey is great as the sad sack Dave and Kirk Douglas is always wonderful as the icy cold villain. Douglas as the greedy corrupt businessman screwing over everyone around him echo’s some of Force Of Evil‘s withering attacks on capitalism. Mike Mazuki, who happens to be my favorite peripheral noir character, gets a sweet little role as Dan the doorman.

Frankie Madison, a man who has fully paid his debt to society, becomes the sympathetic center of this movie. He’s the sentimental good guy who is loyal and thus gets trampled on by unscrupulous forces that don’t want to share in the profits and wealth being accumulated. Think of him as Polonsky’s numbers racket workers being manipulated and taken advantage of… “I’m at the plate, you’re doing the pitching.” Sadly, life can sometimes throw a curve ball into the dirt.

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by Allan Fish

(France 1949 86m) DVD2 (France only, no English subs)

Aka. Keep an Eye on Amelia

Avec caleçon

p  Louis Wipf  d  Claude Autant-Lara  w  Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost  play  Georges Feydeau  ph  André Bac  ed  Madeleine Gug  m  René Cloërc  art  Max Douy  cos  Monique Dunand

Danielle Darrieux (Amélie Pochet/d’Avranches), Jean Desailly (Marcel Courbois), André Bervil (Étienne), Julien Carette (Amedée Pochet, Amélie’s father), Grégoire Aslan (Prince Nicolas de Palestra), Victor Guyau (Van Putzeboom), Charles Deschamps (La maire), Lucienne Granier (Palmyre), Colette Ripert (Charlotte), Louise Conte (Irène),

It’s been unseen in the UK since its original run in with the censors in 1950, and indeed unseen in France for a long time due to rights issues.  Finally, it resurfaced on French TV and DVD but an English friendly edition seems as likely as finding the original cut of Greed.  Even the original Feydeau play is no longer in print in a decent English translation, and can only be tracked down through rare book sellers.  It was a film I’d wanted to see for years, raved about by Leslie Halliwell in both his Film Guide and his ‘Halliwell’s Hundred’ book, the ultimate French sophisticated farce.  He talked of how subtitles have problems keeping up not only with the pace of Feydeau but with the wit, and indeed the language occasionally goes too far for English translation of the day – French speakers will smile as one character declares “I’ll fuck off!”.  It’s easy to find details of the plot online, and armed with a copy of the original play in English and very roughly translated subtitles for the film, one sits down to try and watch it with a sense of trepidation.  (more…)

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