30 More Days of Noir: The Killer Is Loose (dir by Budd Boetticher)


Film noir comes to the suburbs!

The Killer is Loose opens with the robbery of a savings and loan.  At first, it seems like meek bank teller Leon Poole (Wendell Corey) behaved heroically and kept the robbery from being far worse than it could have been.  How meek is Leon Poole?  He’s so meek that his nickname has always been Foggy.  People have always made fun of him because of his glasses and his bad eyesight.  Everyone assumes that Poole is just one of those quiet people who is destined to spend his entire life in obscurity.

However, the police soon discover that Leon Poole is not the hero that everyone thinks that he is.  Instead, he was involved in the robbery!  When Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotten) leads a group of cops over to Poole’s house to arrest the bank teller, Poole’s wife is accidentally shot and killed.  At the subsequent trial, Poole swears that he’ll get vengeance.  And then he’s promptly sent off to prison.

Jump forward three years.  Leon Poole is still in prison.  He’s still deceptively meek.  He still wears glasses.  Everyone still assumes that he’s harmless.  Of course, that’s what Poole wants them to believe.  He’s still obsessed with getting his vengeance.  Meanwhile, Detective Wagner and his wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming), are living in the suburbs and have a somewhat strained marriage.  Lila wants Wagner to find a less dangerous and less stressful job.  Wagner wants to keep busting crooks.

When Poole see a chance to escape from prison, he does so.  That’s not really a shock because even the quietest of people are probably going to take advantage of the chance to escape from prison.  What is a shock is that Poole ruthlessly murders a guard while making his escape.  He then kills a truck driver and steal the vehicle.  He then tracks down his old army sergeant and guns him down while the man’s wife watches.  Always watch out for the quiet ones, as they say.

Now, Poole has just one more target.  He wants to finish his revenge by killing Lila Wagner.

The Killer is Loose is a tough and, considering the time that it was made, brutal film noir.  (Seriously, the scene where Poole kills his former sergeant really took me by surprise.)  While both Rhonda Fleming and Joseph Cotten give good performances in their roles, it’s Wendell Corey who really steals the film.  Corey plays Poole not as an outright villain but instead as a man who has been driven mad by years and years of taunts.  After spend his entire life being told that he was a loser, Poole finally decided to do something for himself and, as a result, his wife ended up getting killed by the police.  Now that Poole’s managed to escape from prison, he’s willing to do anything just as long as he can get his final revenge.  Corey plays Poole with a smoldering resentment and the performance feels very real.  (If the film were made today, it’s easy to imagine that Poole would be an anonymous twitter troll, going through life with a smile on his face while unleashing his anger online.)  It brings a very real spark and feeling of danger to a film that would otherwise just be a standard crime film.

The Killer Is Loose also makes good use of its suburban setting, suggesting that both Fleming and Cotten have allowed themselves to get complacent with their life away from the obvious dangers of the big city.  You can buy a new house, the film seems to be saying, but you can’t escape the past.

Cleaning Out the DVR #17: Film Noir Festival 3


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To take my mind off the sciatic nerve pain I was suffering last week, I immersed myself on the dark world of film noir. The following quartet of films represent some of the genre’s best, filled with murder, femme fatales, psychopaths, and sleazy living. Good times!!

I’ll begin chronologically with BOOMERANG (20th Century-Fox 1947), director Elia Kazan’s true-life tale of a drifter (an excellent Arthur Kennedy ) falsely accused of murdering a priest in cold blood, and the doubting DA (Dana Andrews ) who fights an uphill battle against political corruption to exonerate him. Filmed on location in Stamford, CT and using many local residents as extras and bit parts, the literate script by Richard Murphy (CRY OF THE CITY, PANIC IN THE STREETS, COMPULSION) takes a realistic look behind the scenes at an American mid-sized city, shedding light into it’s darker corners.

Andrews is solid as the honest…

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Horror on the Lens: The Spiral Staircase (dir by Robert Siodmak)


For today’s horror on the lens, we have the 1946 suspense film, The Spiral Staircase!

In this film, Dorothy McGuire plays Helen, a young mute woman who has been hired to serve as a caretaker for wealthy old Mrs. Warren (Ethel Barrymore, who was nominated for an Oscar for this film).  At the same time, someone is murdering women in the same town.  Are they all connected?  Of course, they are!  The fun of the movie is discovering how they’re connected.

I was introduced to The Spiral Staircase by my friend and fellow member of the Late Night Movie Gang, Chris Filby.  It’s a gothic murder mystery, full of atmosphere and menace.  I think you’ll like it so, if you have 80 minutes to spend on it, please watch and enjoy!

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 7: Film Noir Festival


Now that Lisa’s finished cleaning out her DVR, it’s time once again for me to clean mine, featuring five fabulous films noir:

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I first got my DVR service from DirecTV just in time for last year’s TCM Summer of Darkness series, and there’s still a ton of films I haven’t gotten around to viewing… until now! So without further ado, let’s dive right into the fog-shrouded world of film noir:

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RAW DEAL (Eagle-Lion 1948, D: Anthony Mann)

This tough-talking film seems to cram every film noir trope in the book into its 79 minutes. Gangster Dennis O’Keefe busts out of prison with the help of his moll ( Claire Trevor ), kidnaps social worker Marsha Hunt, and goes after the sadistic crime boss (Raymond Burr) who owes him fifty grand. Director Mann and DP John Alton make this flawed but effective ultra-low budget film work, with help from a great cast. Burr’s nasty, fire-obsessed kingpin is scary, and John Ireland as his torpedo has a great fight scene with O’Keefe. The flaming finale is well staged…

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Happy Birthday Robert Mitchum: OUT OF THE PAST (RKO 1947)


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One of my favorite actors, the laconic, iconic Robert Mitchum was born August 6, 1917 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Rugged Robert had a wandering spirit, riding the rails in the days of the Depression, and even did time on a Georgia chain gang. Mitchum eventually ended up in California , and was bitten by the acting bug. After small roles in Laurel & Hardy comedies and Hopalong Cassidy oaters, Mitchum got noticed in a series of B-Westerns based on the novels of Zane Grey. His big break came as a tough sergeant in 1945’s THE STORY OF G.I. JOE, which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. But the role that made him a star was world-weary private eye Jeff Bailey in the film noir classic OUT OF THE PAST.

We meet Bailey running a gas station in the small town of Bridgeport, California (an homage to Mitchum’s hometown, perhaps?) He has a mute…

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