Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '55 - Kristina Dijan ""

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Underrated '55 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan loves all kinds of movies, blogs at Speakeasy and tweets @HQofK.

A Man Alone (1955; Ray Milland)
Star Ray Milland made his directorial debut with this interesting experimental western. Milland plays an infamous gunfighter who happens upon a stagecoach massacre and is naturally assumed to be the culprit. He hides from a lynch mob in the house of the ailing sheriff (Ward Bond) and his daughter Mary Murphy. Murphy comes to believe and then love Milland, and defends him to her corrupt father and to the skeptical townspeople. All the while, crooked banker Raymond Burr, the man responsible for the stagecoach murders (along with henchman Lee Van Cleef) works hard to frame Milland. The notorious outlaw has a hard time proving his innocence and an even harder time convincing himself he deserves the kind of happiness a life with Murphy might offer. If he can even get out of that house alive. Milland doesn’t speak for the first half hour of the movie and that silence forces him to communicate his character’s past and intentions in fascinating ways (he got a lot of practice in 1952’s The Thief, where he didn’t speak at all). 

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955; Lewis Gilbert)
Killer fortune hunter Dirk Bogarde sets his sights on rich older widow Margaret Lockwood. He seems to have met his match because she’s no pushover. She closely watches him, keeps him on a short leash when it comes to money, and seems to have her own sinister agenda. When a rich younger woman gets Bogarde’s attention, he plots to get rid of Lockwood, and Lockwood realizes she loves and wants to keep him. Bogarde makes his villain more disturbing and unpredictable but playing him as an immature psycho with a self-image so delicate that he can’t stand mockery or failure. Lockwood was one movie away from ending a brilliant career that was so much more than The Lady Vanishes. She could play everything from innocent romantic heroines to wicked villainesses, and it’s fun to see her here as a cougar who finds she needs affection even if it comes from a warped man-child and potential murderer.

Tight Spot (1955; Phil Karlson)
1955 was a good year for director Phil Karlson, who had 4 movies out. The best known should be his shocking reality-based corruption expose Phenix City Story, so I’m picking another Karlson movie from that year, Tight Spot. Here, Ginger Rogers plays a framed gangster’s moll sprung by D.A. Edward G. Robinson, who needs her to testify against her former mob friends. Cop Brian Keith has to keep her alive for the court appearance, while mobster Lorne Greene plots her murder. Greene is a scary gangster who seems to have endless ways into Rogers’ hotel room, including exploiting Keith’s questionable past. Rogers sometimes overdoes it with the tough cookie attitude but is good overall at showing the anger and cynicism not only of a disposable floosie but of a woman aging out of mob favor (and out of Hollywood for that matter; Rogers was 44 and would only make a few more films). Keith and Robinson are both riveting and director Phil Karlson keeps the tension tight in this great looking noir.

Wichita (1955; Jacques Tourneur)
Jacques Tourneur directs and Joel McCrea stars as Wyatt Earp. Earp wants some peace and quiet and a life as a businessman, but trouble follows him to town. He’s reluctant to take the position of marshal until the wild cattlemen kill a child. His gun ban isn’t popular with the businesses who depend on letting even the worst-behaving customers have their way, and soon the townspeople start to hate him and his strict controls. But he gets support from reporter Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen), the daughter of a town VIP (Vera Miles), and from his brothers, who arrive in time for a showdown. A personal and petty grudge nursed by villain Lloyd Bridges bookends the larger struggle against corruption and crime, as well as the effort to make a skeptical town change their ways. It’s all sorted out by a friendly lawman who’d rather be doing other things but steps up when nobody else is qualified to make and keep order.

We’re No Angels (1955; Michael Curtiz)
It’s a Christmas movie that’s anything but sweet. This Michael Curtiz comedy has Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray playing killers and escapees from Devil’s Island prison. Their conscience overrides their criminal intentions when they decide against robbing a merchant and stick around to help him save his business. If by help you mean cheating shoppers and planning to bump off the proprietor. They get emotionally involved with the family running the store (Leo Carroll, Joan Bennett and Gloria Talbott), even butting in to the love life of the merchant’s daughter. When their evil uncle and store owner Basil Rathbone comes at Christmas threatening to shut things down and throw the family out on the street, the three convicts protect the family the only way they know. Dark humor comes from watching these tough guys use their talent for good without ever converting to angels themselves. Bogart and Ray are charming, while Ustinov steals it with his deadpan readings and slick con man ways.


Jerry Entract said...

Great choices, Kristina! The kind of films that I seek out from choice every time, especially the two westerns. I (re)watched 'WICHITA' just recently and was reminded yet again what a terrific western it is but it has been a while for 'A MAN ALONE'. Must put that right!

Anonymous said...

Yes, first rate picks, Kristina. I couldn't fault those choices at all, not one of them I don't enjoy and appreciate myself.


Kristina said...

Thanks to you both for reading and commenting, tried for a nice mix and really enjoy both those westerns and their stars. Hard to pick just 5 from such a great year!

Laura said...

Kristina, I really enjoyed your list, especially A MAN ALONE (which is a big favorite) and WICHITA.

As I mentioned elsewhere, my dad just recommended TIGHT SPOT to me this week! Going to be pulling it out!

Best wishes,

john k said...

Lovely choices Kristina and I can only endorse Colin's comments regarding
your inspired choices. Oddly enough CAST A DARK SHADOW has eluded me until
only recently.Bogarde's creepy performance seems to indicate what was to follow
in THE SERVANT. Very telling scene where Dirk is reading the "bodybuilder" magazine.

Kristina said...

Thanks John and Laura, got to have westerns in there and those were great ones, hope you enjoy Tight Spot, it's a little ahead of its time, reminds me of 70s cop movies. Bogarde was so creepy there, you're right, it's an unpredictable thriller.