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

An Offer You Can Refuse #10: Gambling House (dir by Ted Tetzlaff)


The 1950 film noir, Gambling House, begins with the aftermath of a murder.

A man’s been gunned down in an illegal gambling house.  The murderer is gangster named Joe Farrow (William Bendix) but Farrow has no intention of going to prison.  Fortunately, another gambler was wounded during the shoot out.  Marc Fury (Victor Mature) will survive his injury but he might not survive being a witness.  However, Farrow sends his gunmen to make Fury an offer.  If Fury agrees to take the rap for the shooting, he’ll not only live but Farrow will pay him a good deal of money.  Fury agrees because …. well, what else is he going to do?

Fury is arrested for the murder.  He pleads self-defense and he’s acquitted at the trial.  So far, so good, right?  However, there’s always a complication.  First off, there’s the fact that Farrow wasn’t exactly being honest when he promised to pay Fury.  Farrow has no intention of giving Fury any money.  In fact, now that Fury has been acquitted and the case is officially closed, it might be more convenient just to have Fury killed.

The other problem is that Fury’s trial brings him to the attention of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.  The INS takes a look at Fury’s record and they discover that he’s not Marc Fury at all!  (I know, it’s a shock.  Who would think that a name like Marc Fury would be fake?)  It turns out that his original name was Marc Furiotta and he was born in Italy.  His family came to the U.S. when Marc was a child.  Marc always assumed that he was a citizen but it turns out that his parents were never naturalized and therefore, Marc is in the country illegally!  INS wants to deport him.  Marc wants to stay in the United States.

Fortunately, Marc will have a chance to try to convince a judge to let him stay in the United States, despite his lengthy criminal record.  Until his hearing (or until he makes bail), he’ll be detained at Ellis Island.  Marc soon finds himself stuck on Ellis Island, presumably right underneath the base of the Statue of Liberty.  (I know the Statue of Liberty isn’t actually on Ellis Island but the imagery just got stuck in my head while I was writing this review and I’ll be damned if I’m going to take it out.)  He’s surrounded by earnest immigrants who can’t wait to become American citizens and that awakens his own patriotic feelings.  He also meets a social worker named Lynn (Terry Moore) and he falls in love with her.  When he appears before the judge, he explains that he can’t put into words why he wants to stay in America.  He just know that he does.   Awwww, what a wonderful story …. oh wait.  He’s still got Joe Farrow trying to kill him, doesn’t he?

Gambling House is an odd film.  Actually, it’s something like three different films at once.  On the one hand, it’s a low-budget film noir, with menacing tough guys and a morally ambiguous hero and an outwardly respectable villain who is actually a member of the mob.  On the other hand, it’s an earnest legal drama about an immigrant who comes to love his adoptive country.  And then, on the other hand (that’s right, this movie has three hands), it’s a romcom where cynical Marc ends up falling for idealistic Lynn.

That’s a lot for one, low-budget 90-minute film to carry on its shoulder and sadly, Gambling House struggles to balance all of its different elements.  It gets off to a good start, with Victor Mature delivering all of his lines with a scornful disdainful for anyone who looks at him.  And the scenes with William Bendix as the mob boss are effective.  But none of those scenes seem to belong in the same movie with Marc waiting on Ellis Island and Lynn explaining why she wants to help people become citizens.  In the end, this is a film about many things but none of those things are really explored in that much depth.

Though this is a adequately directed and acted film and this is one scene, in which Marc looks at the New York skyline from the holding cell in Ellis Island, that achieves a certain visual poetry, this is still an offer that you can 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

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt. 22: Winter Under the Stars


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I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, and since my DVR is heading towards max capacity, I’m way overdue! Everyone out there in classic film fan land knows about TCM’s annual “Summer Under the Stars”, right? Well, consider this my Winter version, containing a half-dozen capsule reviews of some Hollywood star-filled films of the past!

PLAYMATES (RKO 1941; D: David Butler ) – That great thespian John Barrymore’s press agent (Patsy Kelly) schemes with swing band leader Kay Kyser’s press agent (Peter Lind Hayes) to team the two in a Shakespearean  festival! Most critics bemoan the fact that this was Barrymore’s final film, satirizing himself and hamming it up mercilessly, but The Great Profile, though bloated from years of alcohol abuse and hard living, seems to be enjoying himself in this fairly funny but minor screwball comedy with music. Lupe Velez livens things up as Barrymore’s spitfire…

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Base-Brawl: William Bendix in KILL THE UMPIRE (Columbia 1950)


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Ahh, spring is in the air, that magical time of year, when a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of… baseball!! That’s right, Dear Readers, Opening Day is upon us once again, and what better way to celebrate the return of America’s National Pastime than taking a look back at KILL THE UMPIRE, a 1950 comedy conceived in the warped mind of former animator Frank Tashlin and directed by ex-Warners vet Lloyd Bacon.

Big lug William Bendix stars as Bill Johnson, an ex-major leaguer whose passion for the game keeps him from holding a regular job because he keeps playing hooky to go to the ballpark. Bill hates only one thing more than missing a game – umpires! But when his exasperated wife threatens to leave him, his ex-ump father-in-law suggests he go to umpire school to save his marriage. Bill balks at first, but then reluctantly agrees, not wishing…

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Happy Birthday Lucille Ball: THE DARK CORNER (20th Century Fox 1946)


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Having grown up on endless reruns of I LOVE LUCY (and her subsequent variations on the Lucy Ricardo character), I’m not used to watching Lucille Ball in a dramatic role. In fact, I think the 1985 TV movie STONE PILLOW is the only time I’ve seen her play it straight until I recently watched THE DARK CORNER on TCM, a minor but enjoyable noir with Lucy headlining a good cast in a story about a private eye framed for murder. And since today marks the 105th anniversary of the redhead’s birth, now’s as good a time as any to look back on this unheralded hardboiled tale.

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Lucy, looking mighty sexy at age 35, plays Kathleen Stewart, secretary to PI Bradford Galt, recently relocated to The Big Apple. He’s got a secret past that’s dogging him, and a shady man in a white suit following him. Galt confronts the tail, who claims to be…

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Strange Bedfellows: THE GLASS KEY (Paramount 1942)


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Anyone who watches television, reads a newspaper, or surfs the Internet today knows the axiom “Politics is a dirty business” is dead on point. The mudslinging and brickbats are being tossed at record rates, and it just keeps escalating. Here at Cracked Rear Viewer, we’re just plain tired of all the nonsense. Ah, for the old days, when politics was much more genteel and civil, right? Wrong! Politics has always been a dirty business, proving another old adage, “There’s nothing new under the sun”. Case in point: the 1942 film THE GLASS KEY.

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The story’s based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, and was filmed once before in 1935 with George Raft, Edward Arnold, and Claire Dodd. In this version, Paramount chose to star their red-hot team of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, fresh off their hit THIS GUN FOR HIRE. Brian Donlevy takes the Arnold role as Paul Madvig, a…

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Double Dynamite: Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell in MACAO (RKO 1952)


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Even though 1951’s HIS KIND OF WOMAN lost money (mainly due to studio boss Howard Hughes’ meddling), Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell were reteamed the following year in MACAO. The film was actually sitting on the RKO shelf, having been completed in 1950. Once again, the autocratic Hughes wasn’t pleased with the original version, and fired credited director Josef von Sternberg, replacing him with Nicholas Ray. Mitchum himself even contributed to rewriting some scenes. The result is an entertaining noir that, while not quite as good as HIS KIND OF WOMAN, still manages to hold your interest.

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On a boat from Hong Kong, drifter Nick Cochran (Mitchum) meets grifter Julie Benson (Russell), who lifts his wallet. The pair also meet Lawrence C. Trumble (William Bendix), a salesman specializing in “nylons, pearl buttons, coconut oil, and fertilizer”.  The three are headed to Macao, “The Monte Carlo of the Orient” (actually the RKO backlot), for various reasons…

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