Category Archives: peter lorre

Quicksand!

Quicksand ~ I bet you never knew Mickey Rooney made a film noir, did you? This lost flick from 1950 stars Rooney as a good old American kid, almost a grown up Andy Hardy without the smarts who wants to take a flashy girl, played by Jeanne Cagney (Jimmy’s sister), out and impress her. He sneaks twenty bucks from the register at work, fully intending to return it the next day, and chaos ensues. She’s not the innocent girl she seems, and is involved in shady dealings, including the creepy and fearsome Peter Lorre who runs the local arcade.

Though for the most part forgotten, this is a pure example of film noir, as our mostly innocent protagonist falls deeper and deeper into a criminal whirlpool of quicksand, thus the title. Taken from Cornell Woolrich story and deftly played by the cast, this film was also one of the first to feature product placement – keep an eye out for Pepsi and Bit-O-Honey.

Quicksand does have two failings, and they’re not all that bad, and of course I’m excluding the, er, intriguing fashion of the time. It suffers from the Woody Woodpecker syndrome of “None of this would have happened if only he’d gone to the police in the first place.” Also, it’s hard to ever forget that Mickey Rooney is anybody other than Mickey Rooney. Still, it’s an intriguing time capsule, and a great lost film noir.

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20,000 Leagues Under Turok


20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ~ The 1952 Disney version is by far the best and most entertaining of this Jules Verne classic. I love the classic Disney opening with the book opening just like their animated films, even though this was their first live action film. Seeing Kirk Douglas sing “Whale of a Tale” is worth watching all by itself. Douglas and James Mason as Captain Nemo make this one rock. It does swerve into True Life Adventure territory from time to time and gets preachy in some places (as in the book) but this is still one of the best. I love Douglas’ comment about Peter Lorre’s eyes looking like soft-boiled eggs. One note about the closed-captioning on TCM however – it’s very streamlined, changing the dialogue slightly for time, and it didn’t make me very happy. Otherwise this is a great flick.

The Enchanted Cottage ~ Perhaps one of the greatest love stories ever filmed, this 1944 remake was originally written by Arthur Pinero to give hope and inspiration to soldiers who had been wounded in the first World War. It’s a magical film, and I watch it every time it airs. Heartily recommended.

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver ~ Despite the fact that they are missing at least one if not more worlds that Gulliver visited this is still a pretty entertaining flick. The highlights include a wonderful score by Bernard Herrmann and not enough effects by Ray Harryhausen. Enjoyable for kids for than adults.

Turok: Son of Stone ~ Turok first began as a Dell Comics hero back in 1954, and began a rocky (pun unintended) journey through several other comics companies, like Gold Key, and later Valiant and Acclaim. The character has long achieved cult status eventually leading the property to become a video game and now, a direct-to-DVD movie. Always a reliable formula, Turok was a Native American warrior who stumbles upon a land inhabited by dinosaurs, hilarity ensues. Yes, Turok is a great character and it’s a shame that he’s pretty much wasted here. The animation is much the same simple stuff seen in the recent Marvel DVD features, no frills stuff. About all I can recommend here is the excellent score by James Venable which is superb.

The Maltese Falcon


NEAR PERFECT

A Video Review of The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

The third screen version from 1941 of Dashiell Hammett’s “The Maltese Falcon” is quite possibly the best film noir ever made. Not only is director John Huston’s screenplay nearly word for word identical to the novel the film has a nearly perfect ensemble cast.

The famous story involves private investigator Sam Spade on the track of both his partner’s killer and an elusive jeweled statuette called the Maltese Falcon. Where the 1941 version succeeds over its predecessors is in the casting. Hammett’s work is about off the wall, colorful characters that just weren’t properly brought to life previously.

Humphrey Bogart is Sam Spade. He plays it with a cynical disconnection almost giving the effect of not actually living his life but watching and enjoying the ride. The female lead is Mary Astor one of the few actresses to make the leap between silents and talkies successfully. Her Brigid O’Shaughnessy isn’t as tough as she should be but still exquisitely done.

The skill demonstrated here is immaculate. Gladys George as Spade’s partner’s sexy wife Iva, Barton MacLane as big time prick Dundy, Peter Lorre in one of his most famous roles as Joel Cairo – all wonderful and flawless in their parts. I didn’t care much for Lee Patrick as Effie but that’s just my personal preference. I found her foxy but unconvincing at times, not as charming as previous Effies.

The parade doesn’t stop there. Sydney Greenstreet is the sinister fat man Kaspar Gutman perhaps his most memorable role, Ward Bond famous for TV’s “Wagon Train” plays amiable cop Tom Polhaus and film noir veteran Elisha Cook Jr. known as Hollywood’s lightest heavy is the decidedly evil Wilmer Cook. Blink and you’ll miss the director’s dad Walter as Captain Jacoby. As I said this is a perfect ensemble cast.

It’s rare that such a combination of perfect script and cast happens but when they do it’s a joy. Add in the beautifully fitting score by legendary composer Adolph Deutsch and you’ve got possibly one of the best film noirs ever made and probably one of the best of that decade. 1941’s The Maltese Falcon is a masterpiece.