Claude Reigns Supreme: THE UNSUSPECTED (Warner Brothers 1947)

cracked rear viewer

As a classic film blogger, I’m contractually obligated to cover film noir during the month of “Noirvember”, so every Tuesday this month I’ll be shining the spotlight on movies of this dark genre!

Claude Rains  received second billing in 1947’s THE UNSUSPECTED, but there’s no doubt who’s the star of this show. Nobody could steal a picture like Rains, as I’ve stated several times before – his sheer talent commands your attention! Here, he gives a chilling portrayal of a cold, calculating murderer in a Michael Curtiz noir based on a novel by Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Charlotte Armstrong, and runs away with the film. Joan Caulfield gets top billing, but let’s be honest – it’s Claude’s movie all the way!

The film begins with a frightening scene played mostly in shadow, as a figure creeps into the office of Victor Grandison (Rains) and murders his secretary Robyn Wright while…

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30 Days of Noir #6: Walk The Dark Street (dir by Wyott Ordung)

The 1956 film noir, Walk The Dark Street, opens with a platoon of soldiers fighting in the Korean War.

Dan Lawton (Don Ross) has been promoted to lieutenant and Sgt. Tommy Garrick (Eddie Kafafian) isn’t happy about it.  Despite the fact that he and Dan were once good friends, Tommy now is openly insubordinate.  Dan claims that Tommy is just jealous that Dan got promoted while Tommy didn’t.  Tommy, however, claims that Dan is too incompetent to lead the men.  He writes a letter to his older brother, Frank (Chuck Conners).  In the letter, Tommy says that, if he dies, Dan is to blame.  Shortly after sending the letter, Tommy is killed in battle.

After the war, Dan returns to the United States.  When he enlisted in the army, he left behind a small hardware store and now he’s returned to discover that the store’s insurance has lapsed and that he’ll need several thousand dollars to renew it.

While Dan tries to come up with a way to save his store, he also decides to pay a visit to Tommy’s brother.  Why does Dan drop by Frank’s apartment?  It’s difficult to say.  When Dan first shows up in Frank’s doorway, you assume that he’s going to praise Tommy or maybe seek some sort of forgiveness for Tommy’s death.  Instead, Dan just tells Frank that Tommy wouldn’t have gotten killed if he had followed orders (!) and then mentions that he and Tommy didn’t always get along (!!).  Like, seriously, what’s the point of telling Frank any of this?  What does Dan think that he’s accomplishing?

Frank doesn’t seem to be too upset over Tommy’s death.  In fact, Frank is actually a lot more interested in talking about his love of hunting.  Frank even shows Dan some film that he shot during his last safari, which means that those of us in the audience get to spend four minutes watching nature documentary stock footage that has little to do with the rest of the movie.  Frank explains that he has a heart condition so he can’t go abroad to hunt anymore.  Poor Frank!  But, hey, Dan’s going to be in Los Angeles for the next two days and Frank does still own a gun so maybe Frank could just hunt him!

At first, Dan’s not too enthusiastic about the idea of being hunted by Frank.  Frank, however, assures him that they won’t be using real bullets.  Instead, they’ll hunt each other with “camera guns.”  Apparently, you pull the trigger and, instead of firing a bullet, the gun fires a cartridge that takes a picture.  Dan’s still reluctant but then Frank offers to pay him $10,000.  You can renew a lot of insurance for $10,000!

Quicker than you can say “Most Dangerous Game!,” Frank is stalking Dan through Los Angeles.  What Dan doesn’t realize is that Frank was lying about using a camera gun.  He wants revenge for his brother’s death so he’s hunting Dan with live ammunition!

This is one of those films that probably sounds more interesting than it actually is.  After setting up an intriguing premise, Walk The Dark Street doesn’t really do much with it.  It turns out that neither Dan nor Frank is particularly clever so nearly the entire movie is just footage of them walking down various streets in Los Angeles.  If you’re a history nerd like me, you might get a kick out of seeing what the streets of Los Angeles looked like in the mid-50s but otherwise, there’s not much excitement to be found in this movie.

The film stretched its credibility to the breaking point when Dan, while trying to hide from Frank, just happens to randomly run into Tommy’s ex-girlfriend, Helen (Regina Gleason).  Whereas Frank is stoic to a fault and Dan is just an incredible dumbass, Helen at least gets to tell everyone off.  She’s not impressed with either Frank or Dan, which makes her the default audience surrogate.  Helen figures out what Frank is planning but Dan refuses to believe her because, again, Dan’s not very smart.  While it may not have been the film’s intention, it’s hard not to feel that Tommy had a point about Dan being incredibly incompetent.

Aside from offering a chance to see what Los Angeles looked like back in the 50s, Walk The Dark Street is largely forgettable.

Music Video of the Day: The Business of Emotion by Big Data featuring White Sea (2015, dir by ????)

Eventually, all words will be replaced by emojis.

Hopefully, it won’t be as bad as The Emoji Movie.

This song is from Big Data, who put on a great show at the House of Blues in Dallas last week!