Bucking Crazy

It’s been a banner year for Robert Mitchum enthusiasts.  Earlier I reviewed the underrated 1959 western The Wonderful Country, (in my opinion) one of the actor’s greatest efforts.  Now, from the folks at the Warner Archive Collection, comes the DVD-R made-to-order edition of another of his finest cinematic moments, Nicholas Ray’s hauntingly majestic 1952 modern western THE LUSTY MEN.

Like the man himself, the movie is a contradiction of terms:  bleak, stark, bitter, warm, poignant and humane.  As with all brilliant motion pictures, these emotions are not conveyed via dialog (although the script, adapted from the Claude Stanush novel, by Horace McCoy and David Dortort, is first-rate), but rather eye contact, body language and moving (in every sense of the word) camera.

THE LUSTY MEN chronicles the tale of sad loner Mitchum (as yet another tragic Jeff, a la Out of the Past), who portrays loser/winner Jeff McCloud, a big-time rodeo star who, nearing the end of his performing days, realizes that he has nothing to show for his past victories.  What makes this a monument to Mitchum’s considerable acting chops is his weariness and gait.  He walks slightly askew, carefully climbs into trucks, jeeps and other vehicles with teeth slightly gritted and suppressing a wince; indeed one senses every ruptured muscle, twisted tendon and broken bone this twentieth-century jouster has experienced.  It’s nothing short of subtle cinema acting at its most triumphant.

We first see McCloud making his way toward the modest home he grew up in, a place he hasn’t lighted down on since he ran away as an adolescent.  This sets the scene for one of my favorite moments in all of cinema.  Mitchum crawls under the framework of the house and digs up a long-buried treasure – a dinged tobacco tin containing a toy gun, a dog-eared rodeo program and two nickels.  He lovingly looks at the contents, his few positive memories flashing before his craggy face and into the audience’s.  It’s a stunning bow to both Mitchum’s and Ray’s style and technique.  Even this quiet reminiscence (without having to resort the clichéd flashback device) is cut short by the intrusion of the current owner, armed with a rifle.  It’s Burt Mustin, at the youngest you’ve ever seen him (he only looks 90).  When Mitchum introduces himself, Mustin invites him in for a meal and a palaver.  The wily senior citizen reveals that he is primed to make a quick, profitable sale of the property to a married couple, determined to begin their lives as independent ranchers.  Translation:  suckers.  Mitchum is amused, especially when the duo drives by to ogle their dream cottage.  The marrieds are the equally beat-down Louise and Wes Merritt (top-billed Susan Hayward and Arthur Kennedy).  Merritt, an amateur rodeo participant/buff, at once recognizes McCloud, and the surprised Mitchum gets the rock-star treatment.  Spouse Louise immediately regards him as a shifty saddle bum.  Nevertheless Mitchum accepts Kennedy’s invitation to bunk with them and perhaps find temporary eating money on the ranch where they’re currently employed.

From here the performances ascend from mere oater participants to the Greek tragic level.  Mitchum inspires Kennedy to quit the ranch game and try his hand on the professional circuit, for which he’ll collect a percentage of the naïve starry-eyed wannbe’s winnings.  McCloud’s motives are dual-fuel-powered:  to cop some hefty cash and to move in on Hayward, whom he has become infatuated with (to Hayward’s credit, these feelings are not reciprocated).  These rampant Mephistophelian kinks (“Just wanna see one guy get what he wants,” Jeff informs Louise) are soon smoothed over, as Kennedy’s formidable riding and roping prowess propel him to the top of the rodeo tour.  And, in kind, he becomes a miserable, cheating bastard – soon regarding the simple ranching life as chump change.  McCloud, now hopelessly in love with Hayward (who at last warms to the Stetson-wearing knight, whose tarnished armor is finally starting to shine for the first time in his life) and suffering from guilt for corrupting Kennedy, tries to make amends in what can only be called a contemporary Sydney Carton sacrifice that, like the aforementioned Wonderful Country, will hit you in the gut.

Filmed on location throughout Texas, California, Arizona, Washington, New Mexico (Roswell, no less) and Oregon, THE LUSTY MEN, produced independently by Norman Krasna and Jerry Wald for RKO, is a masterpiece on every plane.  The visuals, conjuring up the very essence of what Larry McMurtry wrote about, are the result of outstanding camerawork by the legendary Lee Garmes.  In addition to the aforementioned scribes, uncredited screenplay doctoring was done by Alfred Hayes, Andrew Solt and producer Wald.  A continuing thread running through the scenario is champion riding equated with sex, duly discussed in the adult verbal exchanges wherein Mitchum (and others) compare women to horses:  “[It’s] like dancing with a gal only you let him lead,” McCloud tells Merritt. “Some things you just do for the buzz.”

The music, touching, tough and, when called for, branded with loud braggadocio, remains one of Roy Webb’s best scores.  It is hands-down the best of the early 1950s-western sidebar genre of rodeo movies, that encompassed Budd Boetticher’s Broncho Buster and Richard Fleischer’s Arena.

The supporting cast, too, is exceptional with Arthur Hunnicutt as a punchy rodeo veteran a standout (“…a bronc shook his brains loose”).  His proud monologue on how he beat having his leg amputated is sardonic, head-shaking stuff.  Other cast members, comprised of ace movie folk, stuntmen and actual rodeo denizens, include Frank Faylen, Walter Coy, Lane Chandler, Jimmie Dodd (yeah, that one), Chuck Roberson, Glenn Strange, Richard Farnsworth, Robert Bray, Sheb Wooley and Mitchum’s bro, John.

I loved this movie from the first time I saw it on TV in the 1960s.  Admittedly, I initially had a problem with the casting of Kennedy and Hayward as the young kid and his wife.  These were hardly spring chickens, but, upon subsequent viewings, I came to appreciate the honesty behind Ray’s and RKO’s decision.  Ranching was/is a brutal existence.  While I may have opted for perhaps Audie Murphy and Janet Leigh, I soon understood the logic of the Kennedy/Hayward pairing.  This life aged folks – and quick.  It’s why dudes like Mitchum’s character went for the glitzy alternative.  If ever I need further proof, I found it in the 1970s – after seeing a photograph of ranch workers, whose average age hovered around 23; they all looked they were in their mid-fifties.

THE LUSTY MEN is to western-riding horse lovers what Forbidden Planet is to sci-fi addicts.  The rusted couplet, “There never been a [horse] that couldn’t be rode, there never was a cowboy who couldn’t be throwed,” uttered in various evocations throughout the narrative’s proceedings, is nothing less than a mantra to equine owners, who can and do often quote it verbatim.

When I worked with Nicholas Ray in the 1970s (as an assistant editor on You Can’t Go Home Again), I eagerly awaited opportunities to talk cinema with the man, who, even then, I considered one of the greatest directors of all-time.  I was disappointed by his reluctance to humor me; well, at least, at first.  Finally, one late afternoon, he cut me off and snapped, “Okay, what’s your favorite movie of mine – and don’t say Rebel without a Cause!”  Kinda funny, as it was obvious then that many movie fanatics my age would probably thought that was the only pic the substance-abusing overaged teenager had ever made.  Remember, too, that this was the 1970s, and many Ray movies weren’t available for screening.  Nick was surprised at my response; I told him that while I did like Rebel, my faves (at the moment) volleyed between On Dangerous Ground and THE LUSTY MEN, with the victor probably being the latter.  This proved to be the ice-breaker, and Ray opened up afterward, telling me that Mitchum was one of the three actors whom he truly considered a friend, the other two being Robert Ryan and Sterling Hayden.

Indeed, Mitchum was partial to directors who put deep thought behind their decisions, artists whose footage ignited creativity (specific angles/moving camera/radical editing, rather than standard reportage long shot/medium shot/close-up) that cinematically underlined the plot.  This was the kinder, gentler Mitchum who responded to Ray and later Vincente Minnelli as if their words were gospel (unlike his bad-boy shenanigans when confronted with the Otto Premingers and Henry Hathaways).

Mitchum got on well with the cast and crew, and enjoyed being reteamed with Hayward, with whom he had worked the previous year on White Witch Doctor (he took to calling her “Big Red”).  Mitchum also bookmarked the contributions of Robert Parrish, who briefly took over directorial chores when Ray fell ill (Parrish would later helm the classic Wonderful Country, his greatest work).

The Warner Archive DVD-R of THE LUSTY MEN looks pretty good, brandishing a crisp, black-and-white 35mm transfer.  While some of the transitions and, understandably, rodeo stock footage exhibit slight grain, it’s a minor carp.  The mono audio is appropriately loud and boisterous.

Exciting, touching, rough, brimming with equal doses of gallows humor and pathos, THE LUSTY MEN is a testament to fantastic picture-making.  It’s a crowning achievement for Mitchum, Ray, RKO and 1950s Hollywood.  It’s one beautiful movie.

THE LUSTY MEN.  Black and White.  Full frame [1.37:1].  Mono audio.  The Warner Archive Collection.  CAT # 1000190727.  SRP:  $21.99.

Available exclusively through the Warner Archive Collection:  www.warnerarchive.com

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Fools of the Game

A pleasant seasonal diversion, A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT SEX COMEDY, Woody
Allen’s 1982 celebration of what can only be termed as hummer solstice, comes to limited edition Blu-Ray from the gang at Twilight Time/MGM Studios/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment.

Set during the early part of the last century, SEX COMEDY (big surprise) owes much of its inspiration from the writer-director’s idol, Ingmar Bergman, and his 1955 classic Smiles of a Summer Night; yet, it concurrently borrows many a riff from (obviously) Shakespeare’s spritely sprite fest and Jean Renoir’s brilliant Rules of the Game, a 1939 dramedy of manners set on a country estate overrun with horny couples uncoupling to couple.

The main characters of this farce comprise three pairs of philandering scamps, tramps and vamps.  There’s Andrew and Adrian (Allen and the wonderful Mary Steenburgen), a dysfunctional duo of the worst kind.  Lecherous Allen, an inventor, hasn’t had “relations” with his supposedly frigid wife (the reason being a rather climactic shocking one) apparently since the Grover Cleveland administration.  She’s all ZaSu Pitts a-flutter and appears to want it too, just not with the Woodman (INSERT your own opinion here).  Perhaps a weekend soiree with their friends to celebrate Steenburgen’s aging kin’s upcoming nuptials might melt the ice during the torrid late July nights?

Which brings us to couple number two, smarmy New York doctor Maxwell (Tony Roberts) and his fill-in-the-blank twist.  Maxwell is the guy parents warned their daughters about, and likely has his tintype proudly displayed in Warren Beatty’s wallet.  Thinking nothing of violating his patient’s/friend’s/relative’s marriage vows, Roberts redefines the moniker of Dr. Feelgood; in short, no uterus is safe, and we’re not relegating that to human.  Unfortunately, all his paramours are busy for the weekend, so he approaches his new, fetching receptionist, Dulcy (Julie Hagerty), who readily accepts; this proves to be a blessing in disguise, as she’s the doc’s female equivalent – a master of moves the Kama Sutra missed, including the daring Mexican Cartwheel.

Last, but certainly not least, is the raison d’etre for the bash, the revered professor Leopold and his trophy wife, the ravishing Ariel.  These eyebrow-raisers are played (as far as I’m concerned) to perfection by Jose Ferrer and Mia Farrow (although, at the time, the latter received 1982’s Golden Raspberry for Worst Actress).

But there’s mischief a-foot(-sie).  Farrow’s reserved demeanor is a sham; to quote a studio worker to a nervous Regis Toomey when asked about his costar Clara Bow for his 1931 entry The Kick-In, “she’s laid everything at Paramount except the carpet.”  Insult to injury, Andrew has lusted after Ariel for years, and once even dated the woman, but was afraid to physically approach her (being a Woody Allen production, Farrow’s character, it turns out, was itching to have him jump her Rosemary’s Baby post-delivery bones).

The sexual tension is, if nothing else, aromatic (“The moment I smelled her, I loved her,” announces one character to another) – causing more pressure on the about-to-bust Andrew, the can’t-get-enough Maxwell/Dulcy and even the elder statesman Leopold, who’s request to Hagerty for some final wild oat sowing before being shackled to his lady ball-and-chain is deliriously approved.

As one might expect, this is a featherweight, yet extremely entertaining foray; while no Annie Hall, it’s definitely worth a peek, if only for the actors and the narrative’s unusual magical mystery tour.  While Allen’s Andrew is a crackpot inventor, he’s a successful crackpot inventor – whose denial of coitus has proved to be a boon to the Edison community.  His crazed contraptions genuinely work, and there’s an ethereal sequence wherein he and Farrow take a ride upon his flying bicycle (sadly, he hasn’t mastered landing, but that’s what derriere jokes are for).  More amazing is his prowess at conquering the afterlife, with a spirit box that that would have delighted Conan Doyle.

It should be noted that the males in SEX are pretty much one-dimensional shallow types (which works, as it follows the scenario); the women, on the other hand, are fantastic.  A highlight of the pic showcases the femmes’ escape to a wooded area to smoke and discuss “ways of the world” (aka being a captive audience awe of the experienced Hagerty).

There is the usual plethora of clever self-deprecating Allen lines, by way of Bob Hope, and some are tres amusing.  When a clawing-the-walls Allen begs Steenburgen to let him defile her, she responds with an uncomfortable “I can’t!  It’s disgusting,” to which Andrew replies “How can it be disgusting?  I don’t even have my clothes off.”

That said, the award chops for the movie go to Ferrer, who steals the proceedings hook, line and stinker.  Throwaway dialog becomes hilarious laugh-out-loud funny when mouthed by the veteran thesp.  Asked by his equally stuffed shirt colleagues about his upcoming honeymoon, Ferrer proudly and dryly comments that nothing he can fathom derives more spousal pleasure than “an opportunity to show her Thomas Carlyle’s grave.”  It’s my favorite exchange in the movie (and if you’re not chortling now, try repeating it aloud in Ferrer’s voice).  It’s Ferrer’s picture in other ways too, specifically in the satisfying mystical resolution involving “pure essence.”

The problem with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY is that, in Allen’s own words, “I wanted to do for the country what I’d done for New York in Manhattan.”  Of course, that’s not entirely possible, as the director doesn’t harbor the love for the bucolic as he does for the metropolitan joys of La Grosse Pomme.  Nevertheless, in the gifted hands (and eyes) of cinematographer Gordon Willis, the pastoral establishing shots of the upstate New York locations are stunning, recalling works of such 19th century artists as Worthington Whittredge, Alexander Wyant, Asher B. Durand and others.

I recall first hearing about the production of this movie, and reveling in the thought of teaming Steenburgen with Hagerty, whom I figured would be playing sisters.  As is often the case, I was wrong, but their vocal similarities interestingly triumph since sexually they are diametrically opposed bedroom participants.

Most prominently, SEX was the initial collision between Allen and Farrow.  Farrow, in her 1997 autobiography What Falls Away, reminisced that all did not begin grandly.  It was a stifling hot and oppressive summer in 1981 when the movie was lensed (I can attest to this since I despise New York from June-August, and still have horrific, vivid memories of that sweltering year).  Under the blazing lights, the broiling sun and the layers of authentic period female apparel, the actress was near collapse (“By mid-movie I had an ulcer andwas taking Tagamet four times a day”).  She was giving much contemplation to calling it quits, at least in front of the camera. “I asked [Woody] if in the future, if there was a future, I could be his assistant, so I wouldn’t have to act.  He looked at me doubtfully and said, ‘It’s hard work being an assistant.’”  One assumes that Farrow was tempted to whack Allen with a 2 x 4, which, if nothing else, would have changed a future movieland collaboration, or, at least, sped it up to its outcome.

In one of the great modern show business stories, SEX continues to provide anecdotal gales of laughter due to an off-camera event.  During the production, Jose Ferrer appeared on a local New York talk show.  It was also the same building where Dustin Hoffman was filming Tootsie.  On a lunch break, Hoffman, deciding to keep his lady garb intact, jumped into an elevator, populated by Ferrer, his assistant and a male intern.  Hoffman gushed all girly-like toward the former Cyrano star, and the tolerantly embarrassed Ferrer quietly thanked “her.”  Tootsie then went one step further, giggling how she’d like to perform oral on the stunned actor.  At the next floor, “she” merrily exited, skipping down the corridor.  Once the elevator doors closed, Ferrer growled to his companion, “Who was that scumbag broad?!”  Again, recite it aloud in his voice.

The Twilight Time Blu-Ray of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY captures all the beauty of Willis’s formidable abilities (more so than any previous video incarnation).  The crisp audio is perfect for reveling in the numerous asides, and, particularly Ferrer’s swipes at the dastardly Roberts.  The classical music, culled from Felix Mendelsohn-Bertholdy (also utilized in Max Reinhardt’s 1935 filmic depiction of the Shakespeare fantasy), can be accessed as an IST.  There’s also the inclusion of the original trailer.

Those looking to up their summer viewing from the glut of idiotic fast-food animated fare might well consider delving into this enticing grown-up dessert, undeniably light, but compellingly flaky.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY.  Color.  Widescreen [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 1.0 DTS-HD MA.  Twilight Time/MGM Studios/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment. CAT # 8-11956-02067-3.  SRP: $29.95.

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Deeper and Deeper

Succinctly put, when I first viewed the 2013 BBC crime series THE FALL, SERIES 1, last year, I was knocked for a loop.  A disturbing and unusual probe into two unbalanced minds, each on opposite sides of the law:  one hunting the other, one stalking the other.  Quite a switch from Debra Messing or Lucy Liu tossing cute Spielbergian quips (aka, forced and unfunny) around Manhattan whilst solving dumbass crimes.  No siree bob, THE FALL chronicled the dual activities of gifted detective Stella Gibson (an amazing performance by coproducer Gillian Anderson), called in to investigate the serial killings of women in Belfast, and her nemesis Paul Spector (equally powerful thesp display from Jamie Dornan), a Jekyll/Hyde psychopath, as brilliant as he is cruel.

Each supremely intelligent adversary is a total pro at their day jobs: Gibson for her prowess as a top DSI in the field, and more, problematical, Spector – who excels as therapy case worker for (wait for it) battered women.  But that’s only the cold iceberg tip of the crisscrossing parallels that link these two personalities.  Each has a kink, once, as the song goes, “the five o’clock whistle blows.”  Cougar Gibson craves wild sex with younger male subordinate underlings; Spector relishes in liquidating the female populace of raven-haired beauties (the fact that he has helped as many victims as he’s murdered is jaw-dropping, to say the least).

In the first series, viewers became addicted to the upsetting similarities between the two main characters, along with their cat and mouse reciprocal byplay.  And the double-take conclusion left millions of engrossed fans breathlessly waiting for more.

And so it came to pass.

SERIES 2, broadcast in the UK in 2014 (and now available on Blu-Ray from Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment) wastes no time in picking up where its predecessor left off.  And it’s even creepier and more nightmarish.  Of course, the terrific cast is a major reason, but prime kudos must go to the talented, demented mind of creator/producer/writer/director Allan Cubitt.  Can’t forget the ace location cinematography of Ruairi O’Brien, nor the atmospheric soundtrack of composers Keefus Ciancia and David Holmes.

In SERIES 2, we learn the reasons behind Spector’s mania – how his victims all reflect his first true love (Valerie Kane).  Lured back to Belfast after a successful escape, he tracks the original object of his affections down (now happily married mother), kidnaps her, and holds her prisoner between bouts of torture and video recordings to satiate his lust (and, possibly, to taunt the authorities if/when discovered).  Gibson, realizes the part she played in this family’s grief, and goes after Spector’s household, comprising a pregnant wife (Bronagh Waugh) and precocious daughter (Sarah Beattie), both (at least, on the surface, unaware of hubby/daddy’s dark side).

Gibson’s choosing her latest boy-toy (Colin Morgan, essentially, a 20-something male version of herself) ultimately plays a crucial part in the intertwining narrative, but two other frightening incidents dominate this gripping 6-part, 2-disc set.  The first is the introduction of a defrocked, incarcerated priest (Sean McGinley), a monstrous pedophile who violated scores of under-aged boys during his reign of terror.  This predator, who “groomed” Spector, makes Hannibal Lector look like Captain Kangaroo.  A meeting with the grinning ghoul falls short of making his interrogators retch in revulsion.  One almost feels sorry for Spector.

Which brings us to why it’s “almost.”

Grooming becomes a major catalyst in Spector’s sexual depravity as well.  Katie, nubile teen babysitter (Aisling Franciosi) introduced as a secondary character in Series 1, returns with a vengeance in SERIES 2.  An extraordinary tour de force acting job by Franciosi transforms this vic into a perp-in-training.  Her desire for Spector is wholly due to his perversions, and stems from her belief that she’s absolutely convinced that this upstanding family man and revered professional is the serial killer.  And Spector plays Katie like a fiddle, a dangerous game that erupts from heinous fantasies to a vow wherein the teen offers verification of her devotion by offering to murder her BFF.  The horrific part is that Spector doesn’t care a bit about his Frankenstein experiment.  He’s getting off doing this to the young woman…well, because he can!

In the interim, there’s a brief respite via a wonderful bit by Anderson in a restaurant.  When a horndog hits on her, she turns to the woman she’s dining with, and plants a long, wet kiss on the surprised companion’s pan that would have delighted Errol Flynn.

On the downside, Gibson’s stick-up-his-arse superior (John Lynch) shockingly makes a move on the officer in her hotel room (with Spector, unbeknownst to them, hiding in her closet as a witness; more fuel for the fire).

While Gibson gets access to the killer’s personal effects, Spector’s break-in allows him to pore over Stella’s (very intimate) diary.  To complicate matters, a violent abusive wanker husband (Brian Milligan) of one of Spector’s cases (again, the irony being that she’s a woman he’s saved and protected) vows a sanguinary vendetta upon the therapist (or “the rapist,” your choice).

It all tightens like a coil of barbed wire around the throat in a tension-filled forest climax, the sinister woods leading all to the possible buried-alive vicinity of Spector’s “beloved.”

Like all great television shows, THE FALL, SERIES 2, concludes with us wanting more (relax, me buffs, Series 3 has wrapped and should be airing this winter).

The Acorn Blu-Ray is, as one might expect, top-notch, both in High Definition imagery and 5.1 surround audio.  There are also some enticing extras, including deleted sequences and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

For those who relish a truly bent mystery, as fascinating as it is scary, one can’t help but fall hard for THE FALL, SERIES 2.

THE FALL, SERIES 2.  Color.  Widescreen [1.78:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment.  CAT # AMP-2460.  SRP:  $24.99.

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Catch of the Day

I’m always delighted to be able to finally see an elusive motion picture I’ve heard about most of my adult life; if it’s a film noir, so much the better.  Thus, win/win with the recent Blu-Ray release of the 1950 obscurity TRY AND GET ME, now available through Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment.

Made independently on a low budget for Robert Stillman Productions, with a guaranteed distribution deal from United Artists, TRY AND GET ME is one of those spidery web of hopelessness dramas so far-fetched that it must be based on a true story.  And so it is.

The movie revolves around the infamous 1933 Brooke Hart kidnapping/murder case and subsequent horrific vigilante justice, which inspired the 1936 Fritz Lang classic Fury.  In fact, the pic, either as an in-joke or homage, was originally entitled The Sound of Fury (I prefer to think it was the former).

Unlike the earlier version, the protagonist is not a totally innocent dupe, but rather (as in the actual case) a pair of thieves looking to up their game.  One, Jerry Slocum (Lloyd Bridges at his sleaziest) is a career criminal, the other, Howard Tyler (the always underrated Frank Lovejoy), a poor schnook who couldn’t get a break if a truckload of crutches fell on him.

Tyler, barely getting by, is nevertheless unswervingly championed by his loyal, longing (and needy) wife (Kathleen Ryan) and child (the unfortunately named Donald Smelick).  Desperate to work, Tyler travels hours each day trying to pick up any kind of employment.  Disillusioned, he enters a bowling alley for some relief and a brewski.  And, wham, there it happens.  It’s the old, “A fool walks into a bar (well, bowling alley)…” wheeze.  Lovejoy gravitates toward loudmouth cool dude Bridges, a self-made entrepreneur, lucky in cards and love.  Naturally, Lovejoy is intrigued, and soon the two strike up a conversation, not unlike the Granger/Walker “meet cute” from Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

Tyler eventually ends up in Slocum’s hotel room listening to the braggart’s grandiose plans and schemes, eventually realizing that his new bestie is a 100% sociopath.  Bridges’ offer of a decent paying gig encompasses being no less than a wheel man for a series of small-time robberies.  At first Lovejoy is outraged, but soon is convinced that his plight is society’s fault.  He wanted a job, but no one else gives a crap about him, so WTF.

Soon bills are being paid, wifey is happy, and all is good.  It’s the new post-war American dream, with a couple of caveats.

Concurrently, the press, portrayed as self-serving journalists with an accent on the yellow, scares the public with local crime-wave articles, penned by a conflicted Richard Carlson.  His boss, slimy Art Smith, couldn’t care less, as each issue outsells the last.

Fuel feeds the fire, and small-timer Bridges now wants to up the ante.  The something-new-has-been-added incentive is to kidnap a local rich kid (Carl Kent), collect a ransom and live on easy street.  Lovejoy is appalled, but essentially blackmailed into assisting, the promise of one last big payoff being a not-so-bad carrot.  But did we say that Bridges is a sociopath?  Oh, yeah, we did.  “No witnesses” is the best solution to prevent capture, and a shocked Lovejoy watches as his partner lovingly slaughters the victim.

The guilt piles up, causing Lovejoy to drift into alcoholism and, finally (dat ole debil moon) insanity.

The public, revved up by the sensational reporting, forms a mob, intent to hunt and extract their own special kind of justice.  And since the community is multi-racial…uh-oh, here we go…

In many ways, like Losey’s extraordinary contemporaneous effort The Lawless (also available through Olive Films), TRY AND GET ME melds many progressive ideas (anti-capital punishment, affordable health care, decent pay) into a cohesive and literate narrative (much of it delivered by an admittedly preachy immigrant sociologist, enacted by Renzo Cesana).  Based on the The Condemned by Jo Pagano, the script, by Pagano and director Cyril Endfield, is an almost flawless primer on how to write a first-rate movie on a miniscule budget.  Of course, it helps immensely that the cast and crew is no Z-movie company.  Aside from the excellent thesps already named, the roster of A-1 players includes Adele Jergens, Harry Shannon, Kathleen Locke, Yvette Vickers, Irene Vernon and, in his cinema debut (as a lousy comic) Joe E. Ross.  Hot cha!  The pic was beautifully photographed on location in Phoenix, AZ, by Guy Roe (who previously photographed Sirk’s exquisite 1946 A Scandal in Paris), and the music score is by the terrific composer Hugo Friedhofer.

Best of all is the tight, suspenseful direction by Endfield.  It’s likely his liberal ideas sealed his fate, as this was his next to last work before being blacklisted by HUAC, and forced to seek refuge in the UK (where he remained for most of the rest of his days, not surprisingly a close doppelganger of the aforementioned Losey’s future).  They sure tried to get him!  Alas, our loss was Britain’s gain.  Once ensconced in England, Endfield strutted his considerable stuff by knocking out the first draft for the horror classic Night of the Demon, while embarking on a remarkable series of brilliant movies in which he collaborated with actor Stanley Baker, including 1957’s Hell Drivers and the 1964 classic Zulu.

TRY AND GET ME, under the original Sound of Fury moniker, performed disastrously upon its debut.  UA quickly withdrew it, gave it the more exploitative TRY AND GET ME title, and let it loose again amongst the popcorn-munchers, where it bellied-up even worse.  The movie was tossed into the Joan of Arc/Ishtar bin, where it essentially remained for more than sixty years, with only enticing pressbook snippets, amazing stills and poster art to whet noir/Endfield fans anxious labiis.

Thankfully, Olive Films has rescued this too-long neglected gem and given it the treatment it deserves.  The 35mm elements are in fine shape with Blu-Ray bringing out all the stark black-and-white cinematography in stunning detail.   Ditto the mono audio, particularly one grisly moment where the sound of raw steak being pounded in a diner is identical to that of Bridges pummeling Kent’s head with a rock.

So, film noir aficionados, there’s no reason for you to try and get TRY AND GET ME.  Simply put, get it!  And get it good!

TRY AND GET ME.  Black-and-white.  Full frame [1.33:1; 1080p High Definition].  2.0 DTS-HD MA. Olive Films/Paramount Home Entertainment.  CAT # OF1195.  SRP:  $29.95.

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