Saturday, July 07, 2007

A couple of Bs

I watched two Bs this afternoon.

Th first, and certainly the lesser, was "The Mark of The Whistler," a Columbia crime drama based on a Cornell Woolrich story and directed by none other than William Castle. 1941. Simple set-up. Guy claims money that doesn't belong to him and quickly comes to regret it. A nice tidy movie with two brilliant Woolrichian twists to keep things going and a rather odd first act that gives it some superficial but entertaining character. I bought this years ago, don't know if you can find it anywhere these days. Richard Dix is the lead. If he'd been a better actor he'd have been perfect for early Eugene O'Neill, the sea plays. A really mournful face that could become brutal in an instant. Robert Ryan in "The Iceman Cometh."

The second was "The Leopard Man," the Val Lewton RKO unit with Jacques Tourneur directing. This is based on the Woolrich novel The Black Alibi. Some extremely nice work done on so small a budget a few scenes looked as if they'd been shot at Monogram (and I'm not being sarcastic). Dennis O'Keefe does a good job as does the female lead Jean Brooks. If you like noir lighting, this is your movie. It has the longest traveling shot I've ever seen done with '"expressionistic" lighting. This is the one about a small community terrified by an escaped circus pather and the bloody deaths attributed to it. But are the deaths really the work of a human being? Unlike the novel which, for me, contains some of Woolrich's best writing, the movie offers us only one real suspect so the whodnit aspect isn't all that nifty. But everything else sure is. There's a second version of the movie narrated by William Freidkin discussing camera shots, plot points and the careers of the various actors in the film. Excellent stuff. The Val Lewton Collection DVD.

1 comment:

Todd Mason said...

As you probably remember, the Lewton Unit made their films on budgets not too much up from Monogram or other Poverty Row studios.