Archive for August 26th, 2014


by John Grant

US / 93 minutes / bw / Santana, Columbia Dir: Nicholas Ray Pr: Robert Lord Scr: Edmund H. North, Andrew Solt Story: In a Lonely Place (1947) by Dorothy B. Hughes Cine: Burnett Guffey Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy, Carl Benton Reid, Art Smith, Jeff Donnell, Martha Stewart, Robert Warwick, Morris Ankrum, William Ching, Steven Geray, Hadda Brooks, Jack Reynolds, Ruth Gillette, Alix Talton, Lewis Howard, Don Hamin.

Dorothy B. Hughes’s psychological thriller In a Lonely Place (1947) is one of those marvelous novels that make the hardboiled pulp literature of the 1940s and 1950s such a rich trove for lovers of what one might call vernacular literature. Its central character is a serial strangler called Dixon “Dix” Steele. He has murdered the tenant of the apartment in which he now dwells—and he’s living off the dead man’s allowance—but most of his murders are sex killings. To the world, and to his old army buddy Brub Nicolai, now a cop, he pretends he’s a wildly talented upcoming writer; like so many such, he never in fact writes anything. Against all the odds, he strikes up a passionate relationship with the redhead who lives in a neighboring apartment, Laurel Gray. What he doesn’t know is that she has recognized the cigarette lighter she gave to the man he killed; with Brub, Brub’s wife Sylvia and Brub’s boss, Captain Lochner, she works to bring the serial killer to justice . . .

To aficionados of the 1950 Nick Ray movie, the names will seem familiar and likewise some of the circumstances, but the whole basis of the plot disturbingly different, as if Hughes had capriciously thrown together the elements of the movie and made something willfully other out of them. Of course, the reality is the other way round; but the movie has become so very much more a part of the popular consciousness than the half-forgotten novel that it has come to dominate our perceptions of what’s the “right” version. (more…)

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