Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Jerry Entract ""

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Jerry Entract

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.
1) UNDERTOW (1949) directed by William Castle
“Undertow” was one of William Castle’s earlier (and less “showy”) films (1949) from a screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Lee Loeb based on a story by Horman.

I tend to like movies about “ordinary Joes” who are caught up in situations where they feel powerless, often through their own foolish actions or weakness (not sure what all this says about me!).

A young Scott Brady plays the protagonist as a retuning soldier from WW2 who is framed by the underworld for a murder. Much of the film sees Brady looking for the guilty party while evading the police.

A good cast includes Dorothy Hart, John Russell and Bruce Bennett – and even a young Roc (Rock) Hudson.Fine cinematography by Irving Glassberg for Universal.It comes in at a taut 70 minutes.

2) THE LINEUP (1958) directed by Don Siegel
“The Lineup” is an earlyish directorial feature of Don Siegel (so popular later for the Dirty Harry films, among others) and is a feauture taken from the long-running TV series of the same name (1954-60).

The film stars Eli Wallach, Robert Keith and RichardJaeckel (as the bad guys) with Warner Anderson who starred in the TV series in a co-starring role. His partner in the \tv series, played by Tom Tully, was played in the film by Emile Meyer for some reason.

Action is split between the heist the bad guys are working and the police work of the SFPD, headed by Anderson.

Siegel showed he was a force to be reckoned with, particularly in his staging of the exciting action scenes and the suspense building to the climax. A vastly entertaining and under-rated movie.

3) UNION STATION (1950) directed by Rudolph Mate
“Union Station” is a fine and, I think, under-rated “cat and mouse” thriller directed by the excellent Rudolph Mate from a screenplay by Sydney Boehm that is based on a novel called “Nightmare In Manhattan” by Thomas Walsh. However, action is switched to Los Angeles for the film which cinematographer DanielFapp shot on location in and around Union Station in LA. This adds tremendously to the enjoyment of the movie.

Paramount put big-hitter William Holden in the lead role as the head of the station’s security police. The plot centres around the kidnap of the blind daughter of a wealthy man and the kidnapper is played well by character actor Lyle Bettger. With the victim being blind you’re going to hate the kidnapper and Bettgerdoes really well with this.

No spoilers but the story concludes within parts of the station, keeping suspense and excitement maintained to the end.

4) PITFALL (1948) directed by Andre De Toth
Andre De Toth was a director highly-regarded in certain quarters for his work in bringing in medium-budget movies in taut fashion on tight schedules. Some of his westerns were particularly successful. “Pitfall” was one of his and although considered by some a lower-budgeted version of “Double Indemnity”, for me it stands on its own as a fine entertainment.

We return to the theme of an “ordinary Joe” getting into serious and violent trouble, largely due to weakness on his part fuelled by boredom with his humdrum life and marriage. Getting Dick Powell to play the part was a guarantee of some quality work in the role. A good cast featured Lizabeth Scott as his temptress, Jane Wyatt good as his long-suffering wife, and Raymond Burr. Good cinematography by Harry J. Wild.

5) 99 RIVER STREET (1953) directed by Phil Karlson
“99 River Street” is another example of an “ordinary Joe” caught up in events that are beyond his control. The central character is a taxi driver and former boxer and a man seething with bitterness. He is played by John Payne who had emerged post-WW2 to play in some fine westerns but especially good in a series of excellent “films noir”, of which this film is a particularly fine example.

Screenplay was by Robert Smith, based on a story by George Zuckerman. A particularly fine cast included Evelyn Keyes, Brad Dexter, the excellent and beautiful but sadly under-rated Peggie Castle, as well as good character players Jay Adler, Jack Lambert and Eddy Waller.

The film is tough, gritty and dark (literally too) with excellent cinematography by Franz Planer and directed by the ever-reliable Phil Karlson.


Laura said...

Hi Jerry,

Loved your list! I've seen and enjoyed the last three films you list here so now I'm anxious to see the other two, given how much I liked PITFALL, 99 RIVER STREET, and UNION STATION. UNDERTOW in particular has an absolutely fantastic cast!!

It's been quite a while since I saw UNION STATION -- since I recently walked through the station in person I've been meaning to revisit it.

Thanks for a great list!

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

All good choices, Jerry. Having said that, I've yet to see Undertow but it sounds right up my street.


Blake Lucas said...

Great choices and comments, Jerry.

I like all these movies but especially PITFALL, one of the very best films of its type and the rare movie in which the "femme fatale" is just one very human female and is the most sympathetic character in it. My favorite role of the great Lizabeth Scott.

I'm also long partial to THE LINEUP, one of my favorite Siegels. Your timing of this choice is especially good because we just learned of the death of Eli Wallach, who is superb in this,

Jerry E said...

Many thanks for your kind and supportive comments, Laura, Colin and Blake. Most appreciated.

Of course, I had no foreknowledge of Eli Wallach's passing but it is timely. Great actor.

john k said...

Very fine choices,Jerry I too would love to see
UNDERTOW,yet another title to add to my ever growing
"must track down" list!
Scott Brady made a couple of other crime/Noirs for
Universal round about the same time as UNDERTOW;
Both films have fantastic casts.
There are just so many Universal thrillers of the
same vintage on the "missing list"