Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE HUNTED and RANSOM! ""

Monday, September 8, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - THE HUNTED and RANSOM!

THE HUNTED (1948; Jack Bernhard)
What says noir better than an opening featuring rain pouring onto a dark and lonely strip of road whilst ominous horns blare?  
Preston Foster plays a cynical police detective who had to put the woman he loved behind bars for murder. Now she (played by the actress Belita) is out and he's in love with her again, but is really wrestling with the notion of wether or not she actually committed the crime he sent her up for. Belita is quite lovely and seems to be a cross between Jenna Elfman and Veronica Lake as near as I can triangulate. She was nicknamed "The Ice Maiden" for her remarkable ice skating talent and athleticism, but one could easily see how that nickname could serve another purpose after seeing this movie. Anyway, the gal was an ice skater before she was ever an actor and she gets to show it off. It's a very rare noir film that features a lovely leading lady who gets to do a wonderful skating routine in the middle of the picture. She's a great skater too of course and it's always a trip to see an actor performing in some other capacity within the context of a movie when it's really them doing it and you can see it's really them doing it. Pretty neat. And she's not a bad actress either! I found myself way more caught up with her character than I expected because she's pretty adorable and quite alluring. There's this whole back and forth as to the "Did she or Didn't she?" subplot and there's a point where things become pretty clear, but I was eagerly anticipating the final reckoning. This film was penned by one Steve Fisher. Steve Fisher is one of my all-time favorite writers if for no other reason than that he wrote a great little book called GIVEAWAY as well as the script for SONG OF THE THIN MAN (which is one of my favorite entries in that series). All in all THE HUNTED is an enjoyable little B-noir. Gets a little boost from a Charles McGraw appearance in the last ten minutes.

RANSOM! (1956; Alex Segal)
This film was remade in 1996 by Ron Howard with Mel Gibson in the Glenn Ford role. Somewhere along the way it went from RANSOM! (with exclamation point) to just RANSOM. It's really too bad that studios have all but done away with using punctuation like that in film titles. I really think it indicates greater urgency and excitement in the first incarnation of the film. That may not be true at all, but subconsciously, that's how I feel about it. It really must be the exclamation point. Anyway, I'd love to see some kind of crossover between the two movies. Either they are both somehow taking place in the same timeline or maybe if a young Mel Gibson bumped into Glenn Ford in the first film (we'll call it "!")  or an old Glenn Ford appeared in a diner in the '96 version. I'm not sure why, but that would entertain me.
So this film is one of those classic film scenarios wherein once the police get involved, we are treated to a behind-the-scenes procedural type look at how they handle a kidnapping situation. The phones in the the house are monitored in a very antiquated way which involves the phone company and that's all very amusing now though at the time I'm sure it was cutting edge. I always think of Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW now when I watch kidnapping movies and few films can live up to that unfortunately. I will say that I did find it intriguing to see Donna Reed in this type of film. She plays her standard mother/wife type, but it is particularly interesting to see her got to the emotional places she goes to in dealing with her son being taken. Her initial reaction was pretty powerful to me, but that may have something to do with me being used to see her play different material.

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