Year: 1948

Director: Jean Negulesco

Cast: Ida Lupino, Richard Widmark, Cornel Wilde, Celeste Holm

Katie recently said that she was at a Borders trying to find Richard Widmark dvds. She mentioned Road House but I believe she opted for another choice. That was a mistake. This twisted film noir love triangle is excellent. Widmark plays a sociopath for the last time and he really goes all out. I don’t ever remember Lupino being this sexy before but she was a film noir staple indeed.

Jefty (Widmark) is the owner of a combination nightclub/bowling alley in a Midwestern rural town somewhere just south of the Canadian border. His best friend Pete — played by Cornel Wilde — is the manager. Friends since childhood, the boys did a tour in WWII together and when they returned, Jefty inherited the watering hole from his father. Pete has always been grateful for the job Widmark’s character gave him. One night Jefty returns from Chicago with a new performer named Lily Stevens (Lupino). Pete’s initial encounter w/ Lily is less than auspicious as he sees her in his office making herself at home in his chair like she owns the place. Any hope the manager has of being rid of her is dashed the first time the torch singer performs. She is a big hit and Jefty can’t keep all the customers away.

Everything Lily does gets under Pete’s skin. She leaves lit cigarettes everywhere, dresses too provocatively, and Lily has a superior attitude. For his part, Jefty seems to be clueless and insists that his two favorite people spend time together. The first time we see an inkling that the proprietor might be off his nut is when he adamantly demands that the manager give his new star bowling lessons. One of the supporting characters that resents the presence of Lily is Susie — played by Celeste Holm. She’s the cashier @ the Road House and she’s had an unrequited crush on Pete forever. As the picture progresses, it’s obvious to her that Pete and Lily are falling in love, even if they don’t realize it.

When Jefty returns from a hunting trip, he brags to his friend that he plans to marry Lily. All the quality time spent with the singer has evolved into a romance for Cornel’s character and he contradicts Jefty, claiming that he will be the one to marry her. Jefty’s love for his friend turns into bitter vitriol at the betrayal and he threatens repercussions. Widmark’s character sets up Pete for grand theft and our hero is found guilty. For whatever reason, the judge agrees to release Pete into Jefty’s custody for a probationary period. It becomes apparent to the viewer just how far gone the nightclub owner is when he forces Lily, Pete, and Susie to join him at his cabin in Canada for a holiday. Nothing good can come of this.

One of the things that struck me is how thankless Holm’s part is. She plays a heroic role in the ending but you’d expect someone who had just won an Oscar to get juicier opportunities than Susie. Negulesco does some fantastic things with Lily. I already mentioned the cigarettes which leave burn marks all over the piano like battle scars. He also has some fantastic costume ideas for her as well. She shows up for bowling in one of the most inappropriate, skimpy outfits I’ve ever seen. When Susie, Lily, and Pete have a picnic at the lake, the singer shows up without a bathing suit. Not to worry. One minute behind a bush and she emerges with one she fashioned out of scarves.

Probably my favorite aspect of this disc is the fabulous commentary given by Eddie Muller and Kim Morgan. Muller is one of the best film noir experts in the business and Morgan is a film historian who really knows her stuff. The commentary was recorded the week of Widmark’s death so that just adds to the reverence they have for the great actor. Muller’s fondness for Lupino knows no bounds and the two really do a good job of fleshing out all the actors backgrounds. At one point in celebration of Widmark the performer, Muller whips out a hip flask and he and Morgan drink a toast. Pretty cool. See Road House for the deliciousness of Lupino and the zaniness of a legendary actor. It’s a great film noir experience.

By James White

Year: 1956

Director: Fritz Lang

Cast: Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price

All the right names are attached to While the City Sleeps. As the opening credits unfolded I noticed pleasant surprise after pleasant surprise. This film features a star studded cast including (in no particular order) Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, George Sanders, John Drew Barrymore, Vincent Price, Rhonda Fleming, and Howard Duff, just to name a few. This cast portray characters in a movie that shines a light on some unattractive aspects of human nature.

After the death of a rich entrepreneur named Amos Kyne, his top employees struggle for control in this Fritz Lang film filled with twists, and turns. Their goal is to impress Mr. Kyne’s son, played by Vincent Price. Meanwhile, a brutal new serial killer is plaguing the city and they all want to dig up a scoop to secure some stature within the media empire.

This film not only takes a haunting look at the mind of a serial killer but also portrays the cut throat nature of office politics, especially amongst newsmen.

The real success of this film is the twists and turns and the backstabbing amongst all involved in Kyne’s media empire including the women involved with those trying to climb the ladder to prestige and success. Fritz Lang doesn’t pull punches as he depicts the lengths people are willing to go to further their career. The following line, spoken by one of the competitors, depicts just how low a man will go to get a little further ahead, “To get the job I’ll stick a knife into anyone I have to.” While the prominent members of Kyne’s media empire figuratively stick knives into one another a disturbed serial killer is literally murdering woman after woman. The cutthroat world of business is more then adequately likened to the most disturbed criminals found in modern society.

At times the story drags a little bit and considering the subject matter it isn’t nearly as suspenseful and gritty as it could be. Watching these very human characters as they claw at the throats of those standing in their way is not only entertaining but results in a little introspection on just how far each and every one of us might go to get ahead.

By Greg Dickson

Year: 1940

Director: Raoul Walsh

Starring: George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Anne Sheridan, Ida Lupino

They just don’t make them like they used to.

While They Drive By Night is certainly not the first title that comes to mind when someone mentions Film Noir, it is, never the less, a great example of Film Noir. This atypical Film Noir features outstanding performances by some real screen legends, including George Raft, Humphrey Bogart, Ann Sheridan, and an unforgettable and classic performance by Ida Lupino who plays the cunning and obsessive Lana Carlsen.

The puzzling thing about this movie is that it isn’t easily pigeon-holed. While I referred to it as Film Noir, it certainly doesn’t fit into the most stereotypical conceptions of what Film Noir is. Most think of movies with tough bad guys, smooth talking P.I.’s, gun play, femme fatales, and plenty of fighting. While They Drive By Night touches on many of those elements, it is really more of a movie about the journey of a regular joe as he tries to do something with his life, something meaningful. It is about struggling through life’s difficulties, while trying to secure for yourself a little slice of the American dream.

This movie has it all really, even as I write what I feel it is I can’t help but feel that my description doesn’t do it justice.

It deals with brotherhood, friendship, the pursuit of happiness, lust, social classes, the depression, murder, business, the drama of the courtroom, insanity, jealousy and betrayal.

In criticism of the movie, it certainly could have been better paced. The first half, and maybe as much as the first two thirds dragged compared to the rest of the film. While the beginning portions of the film do help set the stage for the rest of the plot, it could have been handled better. More of Lupino’s despicable Lana Carlsen and less of the trucking business would have improved this movie.

However, I recommend it for any one who enjoys a good story, or for any one who loves classic films. This is definitely worth your time, just don’t expect Casablanca or Citizen Kane.

A important side note for Bogart fans, keep in mind, this is before his big successes. This is before High Sierra, Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, Casablanca, To Have and Have Not, and Sabrina etc. Bogart spent plenty of time in the background before he became the poster child for some of the best years of Hollywood, and his role in They Drive By Night is one of those background roles. I couldn’t help but wish I could magically switch his role with George Raft who plays the lead. Not that I have anything against Raft, he too is one of those great Hollywood actors, it is just hard to compete with good ol’ Bogart.

By: Greg Dickson