An Offer You Can’t Refuse: Race Street (dir by Edwin L. Marin)

The 1948 film noir, Race Street, tells the story of what happens when the mob comes to San Francisco.

Led by the ruthless Phil Dickson (Frank Faylen, who you might recognize as Ernie the Cab Driver from It’s a Wonderful Life), the mob is looking to move in on San Francisco’s bookmaking rackets.  Dickson wants all of the bookies to pay him for protection.  Of course, he knows that he’s going to have a hard time convincing some of them to go along with his plans so he comes up with the brilliant idea of making an example of one bookie.  He sends two of his men to talk to a small-time bookie named Hal Towers (Harry Morgan).  They tell Hal that he can either pay Phil or he can suffer the consequences.  Hal says that he’ll suffer the consequences so they promptly through him down a flight of stairs, killing him.

When Hal’s best friend, nightclub owner Dan Gannin (George Raft), discovers what has happened, he swears that he’s going to get revenge.  Even after Dickson’s men abduct Dan and give him a brutal beating, Dan remains committed to getting justice for Hal.  Lt. Barney Runson (William Bendix), who has been Dan’s best friend since childhood, tries to convince Dan to let the police handle it.  He even tries to get Dan’s sister, Elaine (Gale Robbins) and Dan’s mysterious girlfriend, Robbie (Marilyn Maxwell), to convince him to back off but Dan won’t hear of it.  Of course, because this is a film noir, Robbie has secret of her own….

Race Street is a low-budget noir that only has a running time of 79 minutes but still somehow finds time to sneak in a few musical performances from Gale Robbins.  When the film first started, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting much.  George Raft seemed bored with his role and William Bendix’s opening narration didn’t fill me with much confidence.  However, it didn’t take long for the film to win me over.  Harry Morgan, for instance, brought a lot of wounded dignity to his relatively small role and his monologue before his murder is surprisingly moving.  Frank Faylen was cast against type as the evil mobster but it worked.  Seeing the normally amiable Faylen threatening to kill people was a good reminder that not all monsters look like monsters.  Some of them look like the friendly Bedford Falls cab driver.  As befits a film noir, the film is full of ominous shadows and sudden bursts of violence.  The scenes where Hal is murdered and Dan is beaten both stand out as being perhaps a bit more brutal than one might expect a film from 1948 to be.

Race Street is a minor noir but aficionados of the genre should enjoy it.  This is a short and no-nonsense film that gets the job done.  It’s an offer you should not refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House

12 Days of Random Christmas Songs: “Silver Bells” by Bob Hope & Marilyn Maxwell (from THE LEMON DROP KID)

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The holiday classic “Silver Bells” by songwriters Jay Livingston & Ray Evans has been covered by everyone from Dean Martin to Perry Como, The Supremes to Bob Dylan, Blake Shelton to Sarah McLachlan, but it made it’s debut in the 1951 film THE LEMON DROP KID, starring Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell. See how many Familiar Faces you can spot as Bob and Marilyn stroll down the snowy New York street and introduce the world to “Silver Bells”!:

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The Main Event: Kirk Douglas in CHAMPION (United Artists 1949)

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Kirk Douglas  slugged his way to superstardom in director Mark Robson’s CHAMPION, one of two boxing noirs made in 1949. The other was THE SET-UP , helmed by Robson’s former RKO/Val Lewton stablemate Robert Wise. While that film told of an aging boxer (Robert Ryan) on the way down, CHAMPION is the story of a hungry young fighter who lets nothing stand in his way to the top of the food chain. The movie not only put Douglas on the map, it was a breakthrough for its young independent producer Stanley Kramer .

Douglas is all muscle and sinew as middleweight Midge Kelly, and a thoroughly rotten heel. He’s a magnetic character, a classic narcissist with sociopathic tendencies drawing the people around him into his web with his charm. Midge has no empathy for others, not even his loyal, game-legged brother Connie (Arthur Kennedy in a solid performance), after…

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The Holy Grail of Bad Cinema: THE PHYNX (Warner Brothers 1970)

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(WARNING: The movie I’m about to review is so bad, I can’t even find a proper poster for it. Beware… )

I was so excited when I  found out TCM was airing THE PHYNX at 4:00am!  I’d heard about how bad it for years now, and couldn’t wait to view it for myself today on my trusty DVR. I wasn’t disappointed, for THE PHYNX is a truly inept movie, so out of touch with its audience… and just what is its audience? We’ve got a Pre-Fab rock band, spy spoof shenanigans, wretched “comedy”, and cameos from movie stars twenty years past their prime. Just who was this movie made for, anyway?

The film defies description, but I’ll give it a whirl because, well because that’s what I do! We begin as a secret agent attempts to crash into Communist Albania in unsuccessful and unfunny ways, then segue into some psychedelic cartoons…

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