Since I’ve been lax in posting comics and drawings, I’ll do a quick double feature of old timey noir and noir wannabe movies.
STREET OF CHANCE – This 1942 amnesia plot stars Burgess Meredith aka the old Batman TV show villain The Penguin as Frank, who is walking down the street and is hit on the head from a construction accident, and wakes up as Frank. But Frank finds that his initials on his hat and cigarette case are different. He had been living a double life for the last year, and woke up remembering only his original life.
But in the last year, he was on the run from the police as a suspect in a murder. After wandering around, he’s recognized as Dan by his gal Ruth from his amnesia year. That’s right, he was a crook..? His gal Ruth is a maid for some rich people and Frank, as Dan, is suspected as killing one of them.
There’s a surreal bit where Frank leaves his office building after his first day back at his old job, catches a cab, and is chased by a man with a gun running after the cab. The cop actually smashes the window with the gun, a scene he remembers in the window of his home. This is the most exciting bit of the movie, which then devolves into a slow talkie where Frank alternates in conversations with his sneaky girlfriend and the mute invalid old lady who can only blink in response to his questions. Not remotely suspenseful as he asks her to blink to every letter he speaks alphabetically to form words. Maybe the filmmakers only could make so much of a movie about a man trying to evade three police for 70 something minutes.
Once Frank and Ruth go to the mansion, Frank tries to piece together what Dan was doing there and who killed…oh, it gets pretty boring. How and why did Frank become Dan for a year? The movie doesn’t really explain this…or I was so bored in the 2nd half as Dan meanders around the mansion half trying to figure out who he was and half trying to solve the murder mystery. The film just lingers as the narrative shifts back and forth between Danny and the old lady and the family bickering. Maybe Frank talking to the old lady and her blinking in response was innovative in 1942, I don’t know. I zoned out, even in the 2nd viewing. Was the amnesia and double life bit just an excuse to have the character Frank solve the murder? I hadn’t read the book this is based off (The Black Curtain). Did he have TWO accidents on the same street a year apart? That’s the impression I got in the first viewing.
I think you can skip this one. The Crooked Way was a little more interesting as far as its amnesia story was concerned. The cast also includes Claire Trevor, who had won an Academy Award for another role. The detective is played by Sheldon Leonard, who played mobster heavies and also shady characters in various running gag segments of late night comedy shows in the 50’s.
TRAPPED – This 1949 morality tale looks like it was filmed in 1801, when moving pictures didn’t exist, but it might just be the copy I saw on YouTube. It opens with the societal danger that is counterfeiting money, including b-roll stock footage touting the wonders of the Secret Service as they track down counterfeiters. One of these counterfeiters is the imprisoned Lloyd Bridges, who is approached by the government to help them sniff out and find another counterfeit ring using one of his old $20 plates.
Lloyd turns them down, and then is being escorted by bus to another prison…where he escapes. But it turns out to be a ruse, a plausible cover where he infiltrates the counterfeit ring…and then he turns on his government handlers, basically triple crossing them or something. Ugh, no. For a triple cross this is also pretty boring and Lloyd’s character narrative goes from being our subject that we follow along with, to eventually being nabbed and taken out of the pictures for the last reel or so. What’s the point? Who wants to watch the govt agents get their man when the one guy we assume by screentime alone is just another pawn in this game? That’s like if Luke Skywalker returns to the moisture farm after dropping Leia off at Yavin 4 and we follow Wedge or Porkins for the rest of Star Wars.
You can skip this. Here’s the movie: Counterfeiting is bad. You’re welcome.
Director Richard Fleischer of Fleischer Studios fame made a lot of spectacles – he would graduate from these kind of crime movies (I covered The Narrow Margin before, another story with fake outs that seem quickly brushed under the carpet once they happen to interesting characters) to make some epic movies like Fantastic Voyage…and later, uh, Red Sonja.