Posted by Don Malcolm on 6/10/2020, 6:31 am
It's always good to bring Gord's dead-ahead descriptions of obscure noirs back to our attention. Here are two unrelated ones that capture the flavor of the plot-driven "B" noir that was still flourishing in the US and the UK during the 50s, with Gord's nicely-turned little clues as to which films work the formulas with more or less elan...
THE BANK RAIDERS (1958, UK)
Peter Reynolds is a bottom feeder thug who makes a living stealing purses and the like. While trying to sell some jewellery to the local fence, Sydney Tafler, he is offered a job for some real loot. The local heavy mob needs a wheel man to drive the getaway vehicle for a bank heist.
The plan is simple and there should not be any problems. They will enter the bank at closing, hold the workers at gunpoint, then empty the safe. Reynolds jumps at the chance to move up in the underworld. Of course nothing is ever that simple and someone is killed. Other than the murder, the job goes like clockwork and the crooks get away clean.
Reynolds takes his cut of the score and the group splits up. Not being the smartest lad around, Reynolds starts flashing a huge roll. He pays up his back rent, gets a fancy suit, buys all the drinks and spends a wad on his girl. All this of course catches the interest of the local cops. He is pulled in for a spot of questioning by the detectives. The cops are unable to prove he was involved in the robbery and let him loose.
His spending has also annoyed the mob. They had told him to lay low and not spend the cash till things chill. They send their hit-man to have a few "words" about keeping silent. Reynolds just manages to turn the tables on the killer and escape. Leaving the dead man in his apartment, Reynolds hits the streets in a panic.
Now what to do? He heads for his girl's place. The girlfriend, Sandra Dorne, is less than happy to help until he offers the rest of his robbery take. Dorne pours Reynolds a stiff drink and cuddles up to him. She soon gets the whole robbery story and all the rest out of Reynolds. Dorne tells Reynolds she knows where he can get a passport and false papers. All he needs is more cash. She pours him another healthy belt and soon talks him into hitting the fence's safe.
She sends him out and starts packing her bags. She intends to relieve Reynolds of anything he returns with and head to France. Reynolds calmly walks into Tafler's place, sticks a gun in his ribs and hustles him into his office. "The rest of the bank take or die!" says Reynolds. Tafler hands over the loot. Reynolds, with a "top of the world" grin, heads for the door just as Tafler pulls a hidden gun and blows his head off.
The office door is then kicked in and the police rush in. Tafler is cuffed and led off. The police of course had been following Reynolds since they let him go. The film ends with a shot of Dorne sitting on her suitcases waiting for Reynolds to return.
Surprisingly good low budget programmer from the UK. It has a real early TV look to it which actually helps. And at 61 minutes it does not overstay it's welcome. Reynolds is quite good as the hapless crook who just digs himself deeper into trouble. Sydney Tafler always makes the most of these villain roles while Dorne turns in a decent bit as the girlfriend.
Directed by Maxwell Munden. A low rent, but quite watchable time-waster. (b/w)
THE TOUGHEST MAN ALIVE 1955
This is another of the seemingly endless amount of G-Man films to hit the screen in the 1940's and 50's.
This Allied Artists production stars Dane Clark, Lita Milan, Ross Elliott, Anthony Caruso and Thomas Browne Henry.
Dane Clark is a Federal Agent sent undercover to get the goods on some big time arms dealers. Clark is posing as a man, Anthony Caruso, who is being held on charges in an un-named South American country. The film is set on the San Pedro waterfront. The Feds fake an arrest of Clark and have him make a break for it. This action is to set him up as the real deal. The man Clark is posing as is Anthony Caruso. Caruso is a gunrunner who supplies weapons to anyone with cash. The Feds want the men supplying Caruso. Clark's Government contact is fellow agent, Ross Elliott.
Trouble soon comes a calling when two thugs show up to rub out Clark. The rub out is over a deal Caruso had welshed on. The gunmen don't know that Clark is not the real deal. Clark though ends the threat by hiring the pair. He then does a tour of the dock area. There he pretends to bump off a trailing Fed. This helps establish his bona fides even more with the underworld types.
Clark is soon mixed up with lounge singer, Lita Milan. Milan is the daughter of a deposed South American dictator. Milan wants Clark to help her acquire guns and ammo for a counter revolution. Also in the mix here are several Secret Service types from Miss Milan's home country. They are here to stop Milan from getting her hands on any weapons.
Now Thomas Browne Henry puts in an appearance. Browne is the front man for just the kind of big time weapons dealer Clark is after. A deal is struck for Clark to be the middleman on a half million dollar weapons sale to Miss Milan.
Now several flies in the old ointment pop up. First is that Anthony Caruso has gotten out of jail in South America. Clark's Fed contact, Ross Elliott wants to shut down the sting. The second fly is the fact that Miss Milan ends up having no cash. She wants Clark to front her the guns. Clark thinks fast and has the Feds deposit the needed cash in the bank.
Clark wants the deal to happen, and the quicker the better. The Feds figure that they have 4-5 days before Caruso might show up. Caruso, however, has heard through pals that somebody is doing business in his name. After he flies into town, he makes contact with Miss Milan. It turns out that Caruso had dealt with Milan's father back in the old days.
Matters now move quickly with Caruso planning on double dealing the Feds, Miss Milan and the weapon's dealers. We soon have cash and phony checks going in and out of the bank with Caruso getting the long green. Clark soon tumbles to Caruso's play. What follows is the mandatory amount of guns drawn, and fistfights that seems required in these low budget films. The bad guys are all rounded up with Caruso being beaten senseless first.
This low renter tries hard, but misses the mark for the most part. A better story and director would have helped. The story, by the normally reliable Steve Fisher, has no real pace to it. It relies far too often on the Clark character's narration to move the film along. Fisher, a one-time Oscar nominated writer was involved in the story or screenplay for the noir, DEAD RECKONING,LADY IN THE LAKE, THE HUNTED, ROADBLOCK, JOHNNY ANGEL, I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES and HELL'S HALF ACRE.
Director Sidney Salkow seems to just be going through the motions here. The man had talent, which he displayed in several western and adventure films. These include, THE GOLDEN HAWK, JACK McCALL DESPERADO, SITTING BULL and THE IRON SHERIFF.