For the third year in a row, Chicago’s legendary Music Box Theatre is hosting a Film Noir festival. A grab bag of cinematic classics and rarities, Noir City began last Friday and will conclude tomorrow evening. I was out of town for the first few days of the festival, so I missed out on some choice titles such as New York Confidential and The Blue Dahlia. I was able to go on Tuesday, however, and caught the “Men and Women of Conviction” double feature. Both movies are not available on DVD, so I was pleased to catch both of them on the big screen.
Crashout [1955, Lewis R. Foster]
Six survivors of a prison break meet up in a hidden cave and agree to work together to escape the area. One convict, Van Morgan Duff (William Bendix), leads them along with the promise of sharing his bank loot that is buried deep in the mountains.
While dodging cops and watchmen, the convicts push forward by taking innocent people hostage and escaping increasingly tricky situations. It’s a suspenseful affair that includes some surprisingly brutal moments (such as the off-screen moment where someone is bludgeoned to death with a rock). The cast is great, although I did find Luther Adler’s performance to be a little too over-the-top. Bit roles from two lovely women (Beverly Michaels and Gloria Talbot) are welcome additions as well.
Crashout has a fun, quick pace, and it is wildly entertaining throughout. I thought the last scene was a little weak, but it still wrapped things up nicely. One of the better prison escape films I have seen. 8.5/10
The Story of Molly X [1949, Crane Wilbur]
This one was quite a bit different than what I was expecting. June Havoc stars as Molly X, a “brass-knuckled dame” who takes over her boyfriend’s gang after he is murdered. After finding out who killed her lover, Molly shoots down the assailant in cold blood and subsequently finds herself in a women’s prison. As the title indicates, the movie tells her story…
I have to say that it was refreshing to see a woman leading in this type of film. In the early stages, Molly X is gruff and doesn’t take shit from anyone. When she is locked up, she starts to break down and this is when the film starts to suffer. The entire middle section of the movie follows the introspective battles that Molly is dealing with, and it loses the grittiness that made the beginning (and later, the end) so intriguing. It’s an interesting character study, no doubt, but it kind of drags along before picking back up near the end.
I enjoyed The Story of Molly X, but it was a little underwhelming coming after the exciting Crashout. Still, June Havoc’s wonderful lead performance makes the movie worth watching. 6.5/10