Friday, April 26, 2013

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

The private investigator is an often used character in film noir. Well-known examples are Sam Spade ('The Maltese Falcon') created by Dashiel Hammett and the iconic Philip Marlowe ('Murder, My Sweet', 'The Big Sleep') created by Raymond Chandler. Number three on the list, and the main character of 1955's 'Kiss Me Deadly', is Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. First appearing in 1953 in 'I, The Jury', Mike Hammer became a popular character, even becoming the main character of 3 TV series (Marlowe got only 1 TV series, Sam Spade 0).

For 1955's 'Kiss Me Deadly', screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides ('Thieves' Highway') based the story loosely on Spillane's novel 'Kiss Me, Deadly', removing much of the original story in favor of adding a lot of 50s paranoia to it, especially the nuclear and cold war fears of those years but also (in a much more subdued manner) McCarthyism. He also turned Mike Hammer into a selfish, mean person who seems to enjoy inflicting pain on others. Whereas the original Mike Hammer was tough and hard-boiled, like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe before him, Bezzerides' Mike Hammer took it to a new, and pretty unsympathetic, level. Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe might not always play by the book, Bezzerides' Hammer doesn't read so the rules in the book simply don't apply to him. A moral code only gets in the way of things. Mickey Spillane was heavily disappointed with the overall result and especially the way Mike Hammer was portrayed in this movie. The movie however was a success.

The movie was produced and directed by Robert Aldrich ('The Dirty Dozen'), with cinematography by Ernest Laszlo ('D.O.A.', 'Impact') and music by Frank Devol ('The Dirty Dozen'). All three would work together on another noir, 'The Big Knife', that same year.

In the movie Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker) is a private detective who specializes in divorce cases. He typically accepts a case from the wife, and then finds out dirt on the husband to get some more money from him as well... And if that doesn't work, he gets his assistant Velda (Maxine Cooper, in her first motion picture) to put them in an embarassing situation so he get extort some money out of them anyway.

This is the Mike Hammer that almost runs over a woman on a dark road at the start of the movie, while driving a fast Jaguar. The woman, barefoot and wearing nothing but a trenchcoat, is Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman, also in her first motion picture). Hammer begrudgingly gives her a ride to the nearest busstop. Christina gets a pretty clear picture of Mike based on his car and sneering tone of voice:
'You have only one real, lasting love. [..] You. You're one of those self-indulgent males who thinks about nothing but his clothes, his car, himself. But you do push-ups every morning just to keep your belly hard... [..] You're the kind of person who never gives in a relationship, who only takes.'
That's Mike Hammer in a nutshell, and maybe the nutshell as well: hard, bitter and tough to crack. Before they reach the busstop however, a gang corners the car and ambushes them. They interrogate and torture Christina until she dies, and they push Hammer, Christina in his Jag down a hill. Hammer ends up in a hospital and is out for three days. Obviously Hammer thinks there's something big in Christina's death, and hoping there's something big in it for him, he starts to investigate. The story then becomes this long and twisty road where paying attention is necessary, as persons get introduced quickly and disappear again quickly, but in some cases are still crucial to the plot. Essentially, Christina had knowledge on the whereabouts of  a mysterious small suitcase, 'the great whatsit', and an even more mysterious Dr. Soberin (Albert Dekker) is after it. Soberin has enlisted the help of suave upper-class gangster Carl Evello (Paul Stewart) to get his hands on the suitcase. And then there's Lily Carver (Gabrielle Rodgers), Christina's roommate who seems slightly crazy and naive but is anything but. Hammer has to make sense of it all, and via a complex sequence of events and interviews, and a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti, slowly finds out what is going on and what this 'great whatsit' is that everybody is after.

Mike Hammer has no real friends in this movie, except a Greek mechanic, Nick (Nick Dennis), who provides the only genuinely sympathetic character in this movie with his upbeat, bright personality and 'Va-va-voom!' exclamations. And it isn't until Nick is killed that Hammer really starts to get personally involved in the case, before it was just a possible opportunity to make some money. The only other person that he 'cares about' in this movie is Velda ('cares about' is used in the most liberal sense here, because he has no problems pimping her out for his divorce cases), his loyal assistant. She knows she will never be Hammer's love, but she's content with it. She knows that whenever he is in trouble, he'll come to her, and that is good enough for her. She is also the one who dubs the secret everybody's after 'the great whatsit', before Hammer or Velda even know they're looking for a suitcase. And then there's police lieutenant Pat Murphy (Wesley Addy), who despises Hammer despite having a weird sort of professional working relationship with him.

Dr. Soberin makes appearances throughout the movie but his face isn't shown until the last part of the movie. But just by showing his shoes and trousers and by using Dekker's natural dominant voice he brings a lot of menacing and foreboding weight to the mythical Soberin character. When he's torturing Christina with pliers and later on when he gives Hammer a shot of sodium pentathol (the truth serum) in the leg in a casual manner and then pats him on the leg in an almost friendly manner, with the camera only showing Soberin from the waist down in both cases, not seeing his face only adds to the threatening and menacing nature of Dr. Soberin.

There are a couple of scenes that are done as single shots, but are done in a naturalistic way and are heavy on dialogue, you almost don't notice it. And despite them being dialogue-heavy scenes and done in a single shot, there's also a lot going visually, which makes these scenes so great. There's also a lot of attention in the way shots are framed and styled, it's really a gorgeous movie if you just look at the cinematography, directing and staging. And while it is essentially a B-movie, the actors are almost without exception giving great performances and the (many) important characters are fairly complex and 3-dimensional, even if they're not exactly sympathetic.

The opening credits are shown moving top-to-bottom, going backwards. So for instance, it first reads 'Robert Aldrich' and then 'directed by'. It's quite original, here's a shot of the title of the movie, courtesy of the wonderful Movie Title Stills Collection:
It seems pretty ridiculous now the way 'the great whatsit' is portrayed, and I still am a bit puzzled by how 'sensationalist' this movie becomes right at the end. It does take away quite a bit of the film's appeal to me, even though the movie as a whole is pure noir greatness. I'm sure it felt quite different when this was released, but it is just plain comicbook silly now. But, I would say that despite that flaw, it is still a highly enjoyable film noir that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

This Gun For Hire (1942)

The movie poster for 1942's 'This Gun For Hire', shown to the left, shows the discrepancy between what the initial idea was behind this movie and what the studio thought of it by the time it was released. Veronica Lake and Robert Preston are still top-billed on the poster, but it is Alan Ladd who is shown on the poster and not Preston. Ladd was a supporting actor at the time, but his role as contract killer Philip Raven in this movie propelled him straight into stardom. Part of the reason he was cast was because he was a fairly small actor, so the difference in height between him and the tiny Lake would not be too big. And it worked, as is shown on the poster, while Ladd was far from top-billed (he gets only an 'introducing...' credit in the actual movie) he made something special out of Raven, which not only the studio noticed, but also the audience as the movie became a box office hit and especially Ladd received rave reviews. Not to mention the on-screen chemistry between Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd was and still is undeniable. So much so that they would be paired together in 3 more movies, including 2 other great noirs, 'The Glass Key' and 'The Blue Dahlia'.

The movie was based on Graham Greene's novel 'A Gun For Sale', but was adapted into a screenplay set in California, rather than Europe, by Albert Maltz and W.R. Burnett. It was directed by Frank Tuttle, who would direct Ladd again in the noir 'Hell On Frisco Bay' in 1955 but he also directed 1935's version of 'The Glass Key', which would be remade in 1942 starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, in a successful attempt by Paramount to continue with the success of the pairing of Ladd and Lake. The cinematography was done by John Seitz who has one of the most impressive film noir resumes when it comes to lighting, his work can be seen in movies such as 'Double Indemnity', 'Sunset Blvd', 'The Big Clock' and 'The Lost Weekend'. The score was done by David Buttolph ('Kiss Of Death', 'Boomerang!', 'Crime Wave'). So while this movie might be an early noir, it oozed with noir potential behind the camera.

The story revolves around Philip Raven, a misanthropic contract killer whose left wrist healed badly after it got broken in a traumatic experience in his youth, which also sowed the seeds for his hatred towards people and his future profession. He's the (now) archetypical cold-blooded, seemingly emotionless, solo operating killer who has his own moral code (he doesn't kill children and loves only cats) that became a staple in movies afterwards, but had been virtually unseen before this movie, before Raven. At the start of the movie he's doing a job for Willard Gates (Laird Cregar) in San Fransisco, retrieving some documents and killing the man who stole them, and also killing a female witness. Afterwards he's paid by Gates in small bills, but Gates is double-crossing Raven. Gates had earlier reported the money as stolen from his employer's company, a large chemicals manufacturer. Police lieutenant Michael Crane (Preston) is assigned to the stolen money case, interrupting his holiday with his girl Ellen Graham (Lake), who works in San Fransisco as a singer/magician. Graham however is auditioning for a job at Gates' nightclub back in Los Angeles, which he runs on the side. It turns out a senator, who is running an investigation into companies who are selling secrets to enemies of the state (this is during World War II after all), suspects the chemicals company which Gates works for is one such company, and he is looking at Graham to work in Gates' nightclub and see what she can dig up. Raven eventually finds out he's been paid in marked bills, and wants revenge on Gates, and follows Gates to LA. Graham is taking the same train to go to Gates' club, and Raven and Graham meet by accident. They eventually form an uneasy bond, sharing a common enemy in Gates. Crane however isn't a bad cop and is hot on Raven's trail and also makes his way to Los Angeles. While Gates is seeking refuge in his office, and Crane is trying to arrest Raven, Raven and Graham are trying to get to Gates...

There are many things to like about this movie, and I like them a lot. Ladd's portrayal of the stoic and misanthropic Raven is exhilarating. He's got a lot of intensity, cherishes his isolation (but cats are always welcome), hardly ever shows emotion except with his eyes, has a menacing aura around him and and is a general tough guy. Lake on the other hand combines her natural sexiness with a cool, street-wise demeanor, she might be pretty but she's not going to simply sob if her stocking gets ripped. When Raven steals some money from her, and she finds out, rather than get all angry and upset, she simply asks for her money back and to leave it at that. And as mentioned before, there's a lot of chemistry between Ladd and Lake. They definitely hit it off on-screen. Cregar is perfect as the slimey and cowardly Gates who's got a thing for chocolate mints. It's a shame he died only a few years later, he also played a memorable role in another early noir, 'I Wake Up Screaming' (1941).

There are also things that aren't all that memorable here. Robert Preston's character is fairly forgettable and his part seems to have been rewritten to give more room to Raven (not that I'm complaining!). As I mentioned above, Ellen Graham comes across as a fairly independent woman who can think for herself. But her relationship with Crane is the complete opposite of that and is very conservative in what their dreams and respective positions in the relationship are. It's a bit awkward to be honest, the difference between Graham the singer and Graham the girlfriend. And the last few seconds of the movie when she professes her love for Crane are pure cheese, I really could have done without it! There is also a very patriotic angle here with the secrets being sold to a war time enemy and Raven eventually not only seeking his own revenge but also trying to help Graham with her just cause. Considering this movie was taped during WWII it is understandable the studio wanted to not just have Raven help the poor, innocent girl so to say, but also redeem himself even more by doing the right thing for his country. But I could've done without it to be honest, it comes off a bit heavy-handed and too obvious.

While this movie wouldn't usually be brought up in a list of the best or most iconic film noirs, it is certainly a classic in my book and deserves to at least be considered for any noir list. It helped define a new kind of cinematic killer, it was the first step in Alan Ladd's path towards becoming a film noir icon, Ladd & Lake are just pure magic together, and it is quite simply a great and thrilling movie. I would settle for less.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Thief (1952)

Directed by Russell Rouse, 1952's 'The Thief' stars Ray Milland as renowned and decorated nuclear physicist Dr. Allan Fields. Fields works at the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington D.C., but he's also a spy for an unnamed country, most likely the Russians. Communication between him and his espionage contact happens using phone rings, the pattern of the rings signifying the intent, usually to pick up a crumpled, discarded cigarette box on a street, containing instructions. The instruction usually say he's to photograph certain secret documents at the AEC onto micro-film. Fields then uses the Library Of Congress as the drop point for his contact to pick up the micro-film which is then smuggled out of the country, through an elaborate chain of people. One micro-film however doesn't make it out of the country as one of the links in the chain, an unnamed man, has a car accident, and the micro-film ends up with the FBI, who quickly link it back to the AEC. The FBI starts to follow all possible suspects from the AEC, including Fields, which his spy contact notices. He's instructed to go to New York City and wait until he receives further instructions on how to flee the country. The FBI intercepts the instructions however and catches up with Fields and his spy-ring on top of the Empire State Building in an almost Hitchcock-ian climax.

The plot is fairly basic and straight-forward, but for a reason. As the first tagline of the movie-poster says, 'The Only Motion Picture Of Its Kind!', and it's not far from the truth. This is quite the experimental film noir, as it has no dialogue (or monologue) whatsoever, as explained by the second tagline 'Not a word is spoken...!'. Unlike silent movies where people talk but aren't heard by the audience, people don't talk in this movie, period. Even the music heard on the radio is instrumental music. That does not mean people don't make sounds, as sighs and even cries are heard, albeit rarely, and a low murmur of voices is heard in the background at one point in the movie. But it does mean there's no dialogue to explain things or to advance the plot, so the viewer has to pay attention at all times, as there's one sense less to rely on when watching this movie. There are also ambient noises such as ringing phones (and there are a lot of em in this movie), footsteps, moving cars and the sound of chairs moving around, so this is a very deliberate 'gimmick' that is not even about making a 'silent movie'-style thriller, but about making a thriller that has no dialogue. It worked for me tho, but I imagine it's quite a polarizing aspect of this movie. And I also imagine this 'gimmick' was chosen to convey, and enhance, the solitude felt by Fields as well as the silent, quiet underground world of espionage where every word uttered can be one word too many.

No motivation is ever given for Fields' spying activities, but it's made clear from the way Fields behaves that he does not enjoy doing what he does, and he grows more conflicted over time. Personally, since it's the 50s with the communist 'red' scare and all, it seems fairly logical that he was spying for the Russians or another communist country, and following that, his motivation might have been to ensure that neither the West nor the East got the upper hand on nuclear knowledge, and thus on nuclear weaponry. Leveling the playing field so to say. But at no point in the movie is any of this alluded to, which is intriguing in itself.

Ray Milland ('Dial M For Murder', 'The Lost Weekend', 'Alias Nick Beal') carries the movie in a convincing manner, earning him a Golden Globe nomination for his performance. Without uttering a single word and without overacting, he manages to bring across a plethora of emotion in Fields' character, as Fields becomes more and more conflicted and frustrated with his spying activities.

The only other characters of note are Martin Gabel as Fields' contact for the spy-ring and Rita Gam as a woman occupying a room in a dingy hotel in New York City, and appears to be slightly interested in/intrigued by Fields, although seemingly more out of boredom than anything else. Mind you, apart from eye contact, Fields never has any sort of physical contact with either Gabel or Gam.

The movie was directed by Russell Rouse who also co-wrote the screenplay with producer Clarence Green. Together they also wrote screenplays for other noirs such as 'New York Confidential' and 'Wicked Woman'. The great cinematography was done by Sam Leavitt ('Anatomy Of A Murder', 'A Star Is Born') and it earned him a Golden Globe nomination. The soundtrack was scored by Herschel Burke Gilbert ('Witness To Murder', 'Beyond A Reasonable Doubt') which rightfully earned him an Oscar nomination. His music compliments the mood of each scene perfectly. It can be overbearing at some points, but because of the no-talking device it didn't bother me and seemed rather appropriate here.

This is not a perfect movie, nor is it great, but it's really intriguing and good and I enjoyed it. Despite the basic and straight-forward plot, this movie is definitely not easy to watch due to its gimmick. For me, it works tho. But I can totally see why it wouldn't for others.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Killer's Kiss (1955)

'Killer's Kiss' from 1955 was Stanley Kubrick's 2nd feature length movie as well as his first film noir. His second one being the well-known and critically acclaimed 'The Killing' from a year later of course. Stanley Kubrick co-wrote, directed, co-produced, edited, did the cinematography and probably made coffee first thing in the morning for everybody working on this movie. Due to inexperience with using a soundcrew, he ended up taping the movie without sound, and adding in all sound and dialogue afterwards. By that time however, main actress Irene Kane (who would later on become a journalist under the name Chris Chase), was no longer available, so someone else had to do her voice, an actress named Peggy Lobbin. It might explain why Kane's character in the movie comes across as wooden and awkward. But I digress...

The story revolves around 3 characters: over-the-hill prize-fighter Davey Gordon (Jamie Smith), taxi dancer Gloria Price (Irene Kane) who works in a dance hall owned by Vincent Rappalo (Frank Silvera) who's obsessed with her. Gordon and Price live in the same apartment block and their windows are opposite each other, so they occasionally catch a glimpse of each other. One night, after Gordon loses a televised fight watched by Rappalo and Price, Rappalo goes over to Gloria's apartment and he gets a bit too frisky with her. She starts to scream, and Gordon hears her and runs over to help her. Rappalo is long gone by then, but it is the first real contact Davey and Gloria have. The next morning they have breakfast and Gloria tells Davey the story of how she became a taxi dancer, a paid dance partner. Before they know it they're in a relationship, born more out of a need for real human contact than anything else. Davey's uncle George who owns a horse farm in Seattle has asked him to come over for a vacation, and Davey's thinking of moving there to work. He wants Gloria to come with him, and she accepts. They both try to get their last payment, Davey from his manager and Gloria from Rappalo and that's when things go haywire. Rappalo doesn't want to let Gloria go that easily, so he has his men kidnap her, but not after they kill Davey's manager due to a mix-up, and the movie rapidly moves to a violent climax in a mannequin factory where Rappalo and Davey face off.

The story is fairly straight-forward, and doesn't need all that much time to play out. In fact, it takes less than an hour. Maybe that's why Kubrick added a fairly unrelated scene where Gloria recounts the story of her father and her sister and how she ended up as a taxi dancer. The scene shows her sister Iris, a ballerina, in a solo dance with Gloria narrating. It's quite unnecessary for the story and serves little purpose. Iris however was played by Ruth Sobotka, who was Kubrick's wife at the time, so maybe that explains things.

Jamie Smith and Irene Kane are not exactly great actors, and Frank Silvera is the saving grace of this movie acting-wise. But the cinematography really helps this movie. Even though Kubrick was still fairly inexperienced at this point, his eye for beautiful and clever shots was already present. He utilizes a (now mostly torn down) industrial area of Manhattan in effective ways to create claustrophobia and tension and show rundown building and empty, grey streets. Also the strange angles he uses during Davey's fight help tremendously with that scene.

There are 2 musical themes that are repeated several times. One is a softer, more romantic theme which gets played (in varying ways) during the more mellow parts of the movie. Then there's a more upbeat samba-like theme, which gets played during the more tension-filled scenes. Pretty nice touches. Then during the final scene in the mannequin factory, when the two men finally square off, the music stops and the echo-ing sounds of their footsteps and weapons hitting materials are the only sounds left. The soundtrack is actually quite clever this way, it compliments/mimics the mood of the film, right until the final fight, when the echoing sounds becomes a soundtrack in itself. Very clever.

The final squaring off itself between Davy and Rappalo is quite insane and brutal. Rappalo is wielding an axe and Davy a sharp-pointed pole, and the way Rappalo is swinging the axe wildly and hitting the mannequins, it really seems like somebody could've gotten seriously hurt during the shooting. It's a great sequence which is more realistic also becuz both men are stumbling around, tripping over broken mannequin parts, throwing whatever they can at each other. It looks anything but choreographed. It's an awesome scene.

Because all sound had to be added afterwards, it comes off rather weird at times. The sounds of Davey and Kid Rodriguez hitting each other during the fight sound rather fake for instance. Which is a shame, the fight itself is filmed in a pretty nice manner with strange angles, such as from between Davey's legs and from the floor looking up between the 2 fighters. It is also apparent often that the dialogue was added afterwards, and the sounds of footsteps are almost invariably out of sync with the visual footsteps. It distracts a bit at times but truth be told, it works to the movie's advantage in the aforementioned fight, the echoing sounds really add tension there.

'Killer's Kiss' is not a classic film noir nor classic Kubrick movie, but it's pretty good nevertheless and especially the last 20 minutes or so are well worth watching.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Strange Illusion (1945)

Cult-director Edgar G. Ulmer directed 1945's 'Strange Illusion' and it's clear from the start it's a cheapie. This movie, also known as 'Out Of The Night', was released by Producers Releasing Company, one of the many so-called 'poverty row' studios who consistently churned out low-budget bottom-end double bill features. Film noir is littered with great, and sometimes even classic, cheap B-movies ('D.O.A.' and Ulmer's own 'Detour' for instance), but let me start of by saying this is most definitely not one of them. Oh well...

The movie starts off with a heavy-handed dream sequence in which we see Paul Cartwright (Jimmy Lydon) walking in a thick mist. His mother and a man, whose silhouette is all that can be seen of him, are walking besides him. Paul explains to the viewer how the silhouette is not his father, who he was close with. His mother Virginia (Sally Eilers) proceeds to tells him it is his new father, but Paul has a very bad feeling about this silhouette. His sister Dorothy (Jayne Hazard) joins them and shows Paul a bracelet with a lions head on it which the new man has given her. As they're walking a train can be seen, which hits a car, distressing Paul even more, and Paul awakens from his nightmare, with Dr. Vincent (Regis Toomey) sitting by his bed. Dr. Vincent, or 'Doc' as Paul calls him, is a family friend and he and Paul are on a fishing trip together. Paul's dad, a former judge and lieutenant Governor of California, had died 2 years before after an accident. When Paul returns back home from the trip, he finds out his mother has started dating local businessman Brett Curtis (Warren William). Later that night he meets Curtis over dinner and he seems alright enough, even tho Paul cannot get the dream out of his mind. However afterwards, his sister Dorothy shows him a bracelet Curtis just gave to her, which has a lions head on it! Paul starts to feel his dream might become reality and becomes very suspicious of Brett Curtis. Later on he starts to go through his father's old files and comes across the unsolved case of Claude Barrington. Barrington was thought to be a murderer among other crooked things but nothing could ever be proven as there were never any fingerprints found and no witnesses that came forward and Barrington got away with everything and he was thought to have died. When his mother tells Paul about a past engagement of Curtis, where his fiancee drowned, he's reminded of one of Barrington's unsolved murders, and his suspicious mind immediately thinks Brett Curtis and Claude Barrington are one and the same. He starts his own investigation, reluctantly aided by Dr. Vincent, which leads him to Professor Muhlbach (Charles Arnt), a psychiatrist who has his own clinic, and who seems to be a friend and associate of Brett Curtis. Paul decides to have himself institutionalized to try to find out more that way. But Curtis and Muhlbach are on to him, and a cat & mouse game ensues.

The movie was made in under a week and with an extremely low budget, and quite frankly, it shows. The story uses a number of forced plotdevices to move things along, but that stretch the imagination. For instance, Paul's dad was obviously aware of his death, because he left behind a stack of letters with his lawyer to send to Paul at regular intervals. Sound believable? Not to me it doesn't... In one of the letters he receives right before he finds out about Brett Curtis dating his mother, his dad warns Paul about his mothers gullibility and that he's to take responsibility of the household and not let men prey on his mother. What a coincidence. Another instance of the low budget is when Paul is watching a car late at night from a second story window, at an angle which makes it impossible to look properly into the car to see who's inside. But the camera shows who's inside the car from a much lower angle, as if we're seeing it through Paul's eyes, which is clearly not the case. There are more instances and some of them are quite annoying to be honest.

The way Paul and his friends are taken straight out of boys movies from that era adds an almost comedic air to the movie, they have that juvenile happy-go-lucky 'charm' to their dialogue, and it just doesn't feel right. You almost expect them to say 'Gee wiz!' every other sentence, thankfully that doesn't happen, but 'Boy!' does get used. Paul is played by Jimmy Lydon, who actually starred in a series of these movies under the Henry Aldrich moniker, but that's no excuse to act the same way here. Lydon's even called James Lydon in the credits, which seems like an obvious attempt to seperate him from his former character and give him a more serious edge. But it's not much use with Lydon still playing a Henry Aldrich-like character here, now is it?

There are a few good things here tho. Occasionally some shots play with shadows in pretty clever and effective ways. And Warren William, who was a moderately popular actor in the pre-code era (he was the original Perry Mason) plays an ultra-slimey but very distinguished, smooth & suave creep here, to great effect. William was way past his prime here (and would die a few years later) but he still manages to play the part here, you know he's up to no good the second you see him, with his oily combed back hair, hawk-like nose and his thin smile. He definitely was able to combine the sinister and the classy person in one character.

Warren William is actually the only actor with any sort of redeemable part here. Regis Toomey was an accomplished actor, but his part as Dr. Vincent is too one-dimensional to really allow him to show his skills. And most everybody else just seems to go through the motions, with George Reed who played Paul's friend Ben, as the low point, there's nothing serious about his acting. It seems an obvious consequence of the really short filming time (under a week reportedly), the low budget and the script which isn't all that great. Ulmer was known for making the most out of such bad circumstances, but I'm afraid even he was incapable of saving this movie from the lower end of mediocrity.

The movie is noir-ish, but it is more of a semi-paranormal crime/melodrama than anything else without the dark grittiness usually associated with film noir. The night scenes are fairly atmospheric and there's a decent use of shadows every so often, but this movie is more interesting to Edgar G. Ulmer aficionados than film noir aficionados.

I couldn't find a trailer for this movie, but you can watch it in its entirety on