The Crooked Way

Confusion and disorientation, a world suddenly tipped out of kilter, false and mistaken identities – such phenomena are par for the course in the film noir universe. Taken individually, these elements crop up in countless ordinary thrillers, but mix them all together in an urban setting with a story of organized crime and it moves into noir territory. The late 40s saw the full flowering of this type of cinema, when the initial optimism of the post-war years was just fading enough to allow disillusionment to take a firmer hold. The Crooked Way (1949) is one of those low budget efforts that is easily overlooked – the stars and director are people only familiar to hardcore movie fans, although the cinematographer, quite rightfully, still draws huge critical praise. What’s more this film often gets overshadowed by a glossier, more expensive production with a strikingly similar theme. I reckon it’s a touch unfair as there are plenty of positive ingredients; it’s by no means a perfect movie, but it does deserve a bit more credit and attention than it’s normally afforded.

Eddie Rice (John Payne) is on the point of being discharged from an army hospital in San Francisco. He’s seen sitting in a doctor’s office while questions are fired at him, questions like where he came from and what he did. Well, Eddie doesn’t have any answers for the simple reason that he has no memory. There’s a piece of shrapnel lodged in his brain, in an inoperable spot, and as a result he’s suffering from amnesia. All that’s known is that he joined up in Los Angeles using the name of Eddie Rice. The doctor’s advice is to go back to LA, see and be seen, and maybe someone will remember him, give him some lead about his vanished past. So that’s exactly what he does, and no sooner has he stepped out of Union Station than he runs slap bang into two guys who seem to know him very well indeed. These are two cops (Rhys Williams & John Doucette) and neither one is thrilled to run into him. This is vaguely unsettling for Eddie but a greater shock awaits him at the station house when he learns that his real name is actually Riccardi, and he’s got a rap sheet as long as his arm. Lots of films noir feature regular guys stumbling into trouble and desperately trying to escape it, but in this case that’s not possible; whatever else a man can do, he can’t run away from himself. The temptation is there alright and Eddie weighs it up yet there’s that fundamental philosophical desire to know oneself as well as one can. No, he’s going to have to stay, to discover what kind of man he was and why he did the things he did. To do so, he must reacquaint himself with the woman he once loved (Ellen Drew) and the partner (Sonny Tufts) he crossed up and sent to prison. Trying to trace back through the blank pages of his own past is a big enough ask in itself, but Eddie’s quest for his own identity becomes even harder when he finds himself beaten, framed for murder and running from both the mob and the law.

In 1946 Joseph L Mankiewicz made Somewhere in the Night, telling the story of a veteran with amnesia returning to LA to trace his background and unearthing some disconcerting facts. It was produced at Fox and exhibits all the gloss that studio could afford to give its movies. The basic premise is quite similar to that of The Crooked Way and I imagine more people have seen or heard of it – that loaded, evocative title can’t hurt any either. It’s a fairly good picture on its own terms, but if you put these two amnesia films up against each other, then I’d have to plump for The Crooked Way every time. This is partly down to the grittiness which goes hand in hand with a lower budget, and also the strong reliance on authentic LA locations. On top of that, there were two men behind the camera whose presence is a significant part of why the film works for me: Robert Florey and John Alton. I guess few will know the name of Florey nowadays – he was one of those émigré directors who came to Hollywood in the early thirties and worked mostly on B pictures before moving into television, where his credits are extensive. The thing about Florey is he had a background in expressionism and consequently his work has a strong visual sense that’s ideal for capturing mood and atmosphere. In addition to this film, I strongly recommend checking out his direction of Perchance to Dream from The Twilight Zone, one of the finest episodes of that excellent series. John Alton should, of course, need no introduction. A true artist, Alton’s deep black shadows and imaginative lighting are a joy. Any film he worked on bore his unmistakable stamp, and The Crooked Way is no exception.

This is quite a pivotal film in the career of John Payne. George Sherman’s Larceny had got him into crime pictures and The Crooked Way builds upon that. Payne was a good fit for noir in that there was a toughness about him but also a lived-in, kicked around look which such movies required. His role was a demanding one, calling for innocence, bewilderment and a bit of an edge too. The character of Eddie is complex due to the fact he starts out as someone trying his best to be decent yet also lacking assurance. He is, by necessity, a man aware of nothing beyond the here and now but he’s also keen to know how he got to that place, what path in life led him there. When the revelations come, Eddie is shocked and confused since it doesn’t square with the way he feels about himself. Payne is fine at getting across the nervy uncertainty of the character, the flashes of aggression which are buried deep within. The movie was a good stepping stone for him, laying the foundations for strong performances in later noir vehicles like 99 River Street and Kansas City Confidential. Ellen Drew, in the films I’ve seen, often appeared to be handed passive roles. The Crooked Way gave her more to do though by casting her as a woman who’s had a hard enough time and thus encourages a more gutsy performance, even stopping a bullet meant for Payne at one point. As the principal villain, Sonny Tufts is suitably mean, his introduction during the interrogation of a mob informer setting the tone for what follows. In support, there’s good work from Rhys Williams, John Doucette and Percy Helton.

The Crooked Way was released on DVD in the US by Geneon a long time ago now. It’s not a bad transfer, a bit harsh looking in places maybe, but it’s also interlaced. Some of the other titles from that imprint have subsequently appeared or been announced from Olive and Kino, so I’d like to hope a stronger version would hit the market sooner or later – and I’ve just noted that it appears Kino do indeed have plans for this title in the summer. The movie isn’t without its faults of course – there’s a heavy reliance on coincidence on a number of occasions (but, in all honesty, that could be said of a lot of noir pictures) and the ending is just a little too pat. Still, I don’t see these as major flaws of the type to ruin the viewing experience. Overall, this is a good solid noir, based on an interesting premise, beautifully composed and shot, oozing the requisite hard-boiled feel. It’s the kind of half-forgotten film I always like to tell people about, if they have the time or patience to listen to me. I say give it a try, it might surprise you.

 

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55 thoughts on “The Crooked Way

  1. Nice one Colin!
    I think there are more John Payne fans out there than you realise! The problem is many of his best films are still on the “missing list”
    Another great Noir THE BOSS is only available as a pretty wretched MGM/MOD and as DVD Beaver stated when they reviewed it the film needs a “proper” restoration. LARCENY is a much sought after title and I DO hope some brave soul gives us a Blu-Ray of this one…perhaps Koch Media in Germany who have some sort of deal going with Universal at the moment;plus the fact they love their “Noirs”. I think Ignite Films in Holland have a high-def master of THE CROOKED WAY so hopefully one of the enterprising “boutique” imprints (Arrow Films?) will give it the release the film really deserves. Payne’s last Noir HIDDEN FEAR is also interesting and certainly has it’s moments but is hardly a high water mark for Payne or Director Andre De Toth. Opinion is divided on Payne’s Vista Vision Technicolor Noir Phil Karlson’s HELL’s ISLAND but I really like it and it has a career best performance by Mary Murphy as a Femme Fatale to be reckoned with. Two very interesting Payne Westerns SANTA FE PASSAGE and ROAD TO DENVER are also unreleased thus far plus the engaging romp RAILS INTO LARAMIE is one of the very few Universal Fifties Westerns not available somewhere on the planet.
    I too like the amnesia victim picking up the pieces type of thriller and like you I much prefer THE CROOKED WAY to SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT which is a tad too flabby for my taste. Recently caught up with THE LONG WAIT which has Anthony Quinn picking up the threads in this Mickey Spillane non Mike Hammer tale.
    Film has Quinn taking more beatings,dodging more bullets and getting involved with more blondes than even Hammer could handle. Franz Planer’s (99 RIVER STREET) striking photography is the film’s ace card. I would place that film halfway between THE CROOKED WAY and SOMETHING IN THE NIGHT.It’s certainly worth tracking down I might add.
    After SHANE and ONE EYED JACKS it’s certainly a treat to see Colin return to the “unheralded gem” type of picture but that’s not to say that those two films were not most interesting diversions from the usual RTHC type of picture.

    Off topic Colin and I think we have discussed this before but I notice that there are a whole raft of Blu-Rays available in Spain (mostly from Llamentol,but not all) mostly of titles that have been previously released in the States. (JUBAL,PONY SOLDIER and so on..) It’s odd because some of these releases have the same cover art, and I remember you saying that they use the BD/r process. Furthermore many of these releases get trashed on Amazon es. Perhaps you could kindly re-inform me as I regard you as the expert on Euro releases.

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    • A couple of things, John. The Crooked Way will be coming out via Kino in the US, supposedly this summer, so that should be Blu-ray and DVD editions – don’t know if the BD will be locked to Region A though.

      On Payne’s westerns, I think I’ve only seen Santa Fe Passage, which I lied a lot and would love to see released officially.

      The Long Wait sounds very good – I like Quinn – and amnesia storylines are full of potential whatever approach the films take.

      Now, those Spanish Blu-rays. I don’t really know what the situation is there as I haven’t bought any myself. All I know is many are reported to be on recordable disc and this has led to lots of negative feedback on the likes of Amazon.es.

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    • Thanks. It’s not exactly the same movie as Somewhere in the Night but there are obvious similarities and it’s tempting to compare them. The Mankiewicz movie is fine as it goes but the toughness and sparseness of this one trumps it for me.

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    • Oh yes, amnesia is almost the ideal noir trope as it sets up situations which are simply loaded with possibilities.
      I was quite impressed with Ellen Drew here – it’s the best role I’ve seen her given and she did really well.

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  2. Good movie and review, and count me as another big John Payne fan, he must be one of the most versatile and underrated stars ever. As you say he has a weariness at this point that fits for noir. Also want to second John’s comment above about THE BOSS being a great movie. Best.

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    • Good to see some support for Payne. John’s earlier point about the difficulty in seeing many of his films is well made and I think his reputation would rise if only more people were able to access his work.
      Two recommendations for The Boss now – I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled for this.

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  3. Great review of another film I haven’t seen, though I have caught Somewhere in the Night and note it’s the more celebrated and better known picture, perhaps all down to the prestige. I noticed this one was only available for a scandalous price so will await the Kino release. Another to add to the list…

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    • Cheers, Mike.
      I bought the Geneon disc when it first came out years ago and it was very cheap at the time. I guess it’s OOP now and therefore fetching much higher prices. I expect the Kino release to be an improvement, and I’ll be happy to upgrade. Alton’s cinematography always deserves to be presented as well as possible.

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  4. Always good to hear others fighting Payne’s corner and great that Kristina is also an admirer of THE BOSS. If you remember I was surprised Colin did not include Payne on his list of great Noir actors some time ago. 🙂
    Another great Payne flick a sort of “maritime Noir” is CAPTAIN CHINA, far and away the best of several films he made with director Lewis R Foster. This one has the added bonus of also starring the iconic Gail Russell and is shot by the great John Alton. Yet another fine film thus far denied a DVD release.
    Surely Colin, regarding Payne’s Westerns you must have seen SILVER LODE and TENNESSEE’S PARTNER. The latter was recently released in Italy in its correct ratio. Perhaps you were talking about the unreleased titles that I mentioned.

    THE LONG WAIT is certainly pretty good but for me the ending was a let down, and I certainly felt that Quinn ends up with the wrong woman at the end of the picture. It’s a film that is more than worthy of a DVD release. Great news about the Kino Blu-Ray edition of THE CROOKED WAY…..their Blu Rays are certainly always Region A.

    I thought I would say a word or two regarding Robert Florey, a director that I really admire. I really need to re-watch FACE BEHIND THE MASK a little gem of a B Movie. I am a great admirer of the Crime/B Movies made by Paramount in the late Thirties, early Forties. These films usually fall into two camps the G Men vs criminals type or the innocent victim railroaded into prison type. Of the latter type of film, Florey’s WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES is the one title that’s impossible for me at least to track down. I really want to see that film which also headlines Ellen Drew. Iv’e seen the other Florey entries to the genre like DISBARRED,KING OF ALCATRAZ and PAROLE FIXER and they are all excellent.

    The non-Florey entries in this excellent series were normally directed by Louis King another underrated director. Florey’s PAROLE FIXER is great clocking in at about a hour it never lets up. I must admit I am a total sucker for crime films where we have “straight arrow” G-Men vs criminal scumbags. PAROLE FIXER has wealthy do-gooders duped into getting psychotic criminals early parole. Let loose into society is nasty Anthony Quinn who more or less carries on where he left off upon release. Florey’s film has both wit and taut pacing,furthermore there is a hot coffee in the face moment that predates THE BIG HEAT. These movies have the production values only a major studio can supply. As the pre 1949 Paramount library is now owned by Universal hopefully we may see some of these little gems turn up on the re-activated Universal Vault MOD imprint…..I certainly hope so.

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    • Lots of great info there as usual, John. A number of those films you mentioned will now be on my list to look out for.

      You’re right, and I should have made myself clearer, I was referring to the Payne westerns I hadn’t seen from you list.

      Also, I had a hunch Kino’s Blu-rays were locked to region A, so I guess it’ll be the DVD for me, for the time being at least.

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  5. This sounds perfect Colin – film noir about amnesia shot by John Alton – I gotta have it! Can’t believe I don’t have it in fact. I hadn’t realised that this was almost Florey’s last feature release before lots and lots of good TV. RUE MORGUE and BEAST WITH FIVE FINGERS are the titles I usually associate him with (he was I believe the original choice for the Karloff FRANKENSTEIN before Whale came in)

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    • I know you’re a sucker for amnesia stories so, yes, this should be right up your street, Sergio. I think it’s a very cool little movie and have no hesitation recommending it – I reckon it’s best to wait on the Kino release, still if you find you can’t…

      I think you’re right about Florey being down for the Frankenstein gig at first. I can’t fault Whale’s work but I reckon Florey could have pulled it off too.

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  6. A few extra points:
    Firstly the Kino version is most certainly going to reviewed by DVD Beaver (they love their Noirs!) and they are certain to feature the screencaps from the previous DVD release of THE CROOKED WAY as a comparison. The Kino version should smoke all previous versions.

    I hope Kino release THE LONG WAIT at some point,as far as I know the film has never had a DVD release. There are now two re-issue imprints plundering the United Artists back catalog (Actually MGM/UA which comprises United Artists and American International libraries. Vintage MGM titles are now owned by Warner Bros…confusing isn’t it) Olive Films seem to have given up on the Paramount/Republic stuff they were putting out and now seem to be concentrating on the MGM/UA stuff.Furthermore Olive Films seem to like to concentrate on cultish/campy stuff (beach party movies/biker flicks) so a Kino release of THE LONG WAIT seems more likely.

    Furthermore Kino’s forthcoming releases of THE CROOKED WAY and TEN SECONDS TO HELL seem to suggest that they are now concentrating on lesser known movies to a certain extent. At any rate with two companies now plundering the vintage United Artists stuff; that can only be a good thing!

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    • I’m kind of hoping Olive still get round to a few of the titles they had slated for release a while back. I know some were deemed unsuitable due to the condition of the elements but not all.

      Ten Seconds to Hell looks terrific judging by the beaver screencaps I’ve seen – I’ll have to get it.

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  7. I do have a few issues with THE LONG WAIT as I touched upon previously. However, for fans of Noir with an amnesia plotline it’s essential viewing.
    I don’t know much of director Victor Saville’s work except that he more or less retired from directing after the commercial and critical failure of his big budget THE SILVER CHALICE. I have given the lion’s share of THE LONG WAIT’S success to the highly creative photography of Franz planer. That’s not to say Saville’s direction did not play a huge part in the “look” of the film. As Blake Lucas likes to say “the film did not direct itself” I stole a line from Blake but there again I only steal from the best! 🙂

    The film has drawn negative reaction for it’s blatant misogynistic elements, well after all it is a Spillane tale. Certainly Gene Evans’ woman hating bad guy is as nasty as they come. The scene that I found a really tough watch was a nasty almost Kafkaesque sequence involving Peggie Castle (superb as always) Furthermore in my opinion the film falls apart towards the end but the striking early scenes and build up make the film more than worthwhile. I’ve only got a not too great off air copy of this film which should look stunning on DVD or Blu-ray. I’m going to send my copy of THE LONG WAIT to Laura as we have been discussing lots recently about what is acceptable and what’s not regarding screen violence. Furthermore we are both huge Peggie Castle fans. It’s just one of those films that I would love to get someone else’s opinion of;someone I respect in their outlook on film.
    BTW Colin please don’t get the wrong idea I think that it’s great that you only review films that are out there for folks to actually buy and normally you point them towards the best version available. It would be indeed frustrating to read one of your wonderful essays and then not be able to buy the film.
    THE LONG WAIT is certainly worthy of debate and I hope it gets the release that it deserves Anthony Quinn is excellent in the film and pretty passive as Spillane anti-heroes go, he only resorts to violence when really pushed,of course this happens lots of times throughout the film. Poor Laura, I’ve really put her “on the spot” again especially as her “to be viewed” stack is as formidable as Colin’s. Still Laura, your take on THE LONG WAIT would be fine sometime this
    year…if possible of course 🙂

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    • John, I’m not all that familiar with Victor Saville either. Of his work, I’ve only seen Kim although I do have a copy of Conspirator to get round to at some point. That to-watch list again!

      You know, I don’t think I initially decided to only look at commercially available titles – and did feature a few in the past which (at least at the time) were not for sale – but it just kind of worked out that way.

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  8. So pleased to see a really good review of this fine “noir”, Colin. It is a film I like very much (just up my (dark and rainswept) street actually). I can only reiterate and support others’ comments here about John Payne. My admiration for him as both a noir player and western star goes back very many years (50-odd).

    A Payne “noir” that has not been mentioned above, though I feel sure it will have been in earlier posts, is “SLIGHTLY SCARLET”. Not a perfect noir by any means but still worthy of mention. Payne plays well a character who is not all-bad but certainly not virtuous either. Like Robert Ryan, Payne can play both sides of the coin adeptly. And then there are the two sizzling redheads, Arlene Dahl and Rhonda Fleming!

    John mentions “HOLD BACK THE NIGHT” but unfortunately this one has so far completely eluded me. I always live in hope…….

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    • Dear Jerry Entract,
      I don’t recall mentioning HOLD BACK THE NIGHT anywhere here but as you have brought it into the mix I thought I would enlighten you. HOLD BACK THE NIGHT is not a Noir but a Korean War film, the last of four films John Payne made with Allan Dwan. Payne and Dwan were working with a much lower budget than their RKO films, the extensive use of rear projection in the exterior scenes is a testament to that. Having said that it’s a really good war picture, more about relationships than actual combat, though there is plenty of that in the film as well. Payne gets stellar support from Peter Graves and Chuck Conners. As a later entry in the Korean War cycle of films the film has far less “Anti Red Elements” than earlier films like Louis King’s SABRE JET and Dwan’s own FLIGHT NURSE. That’s not to say those two films are not without interest and despite all the “Anti Red” subtext those films too basically deal with relationships.
      Another really good later Korean War film is Harmon Jones’ excellent TARGET ZERO (now remastered in widescreen as a Warner Archive MOD) TARGET ZERO also brings interesting elements into the mix like Richard Stapley’s (Wyler) Brit with an anti American agenda. Film has an excellent role for Peggie Castle and a great early role for Charles Bronson. While it was fine to see TARGET ZERO get a DVD release,sadly HOLD BACK THE NIGHT is one of those Allied Artists pictures not owned by Warner Brothers so a DVD release seems unlikely, unless all that Paramount/Republic stuff is handed over to Warners, now that Olive
      Films seem to be concentrating on the MGM/UA titles. Paramount/Republic own a huge chunk of the Allied Artists catalog. Furthermore Warners do have a deal with Paramount, releasing OOP Paramount titles plus Blu-ray editions of past hits like GUNFIGHT AT OK CORRAL and DEATH WISH.

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  9. Thanks for the info, John – I should have checked more carefully, the title I meant was “Hidden Fear” of course (well they do both start with H)! But I haven’t seen that one either!

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    • Glad that’s cleared up Jerry.
      HIDDEN FEAR is interesting especially the on location filming in Copenhagen. The film starts out as a great Noir then sort of morphs into an international action pic. Not totally successful but with the Noir stuff more interesting than what follows. As I have said before, it’s great that the Kino Lorber folks are delving into these more obscure titles so hopefully HIDDEN FEAR may get released at some point. Interestingly, Shout Factory (aren’t they part of Kino Lorber) have just announced a Blu-ray edition of the very low budget “cult” Robert Mitchum film THUNDER ROAD.

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  10. Firstly I would like to add my support for SLIGHTLY SCARLET this is one title that I certainlyhope gets a Blu-ray upgrade at some point-such a sensational looking film. Sorry to keep harking on about THE LONG WAIT but it’s my first “discovery* of 2015. I was aware of the film before but had no idea of how good it actually was. Another film where a bank teller gets framed, and involved in all sorts of trouble is Harold Schuster’s very fine LOOPHOLE. While LOOPHOLE is not as stylish in its “look” as THE LONG WAIT it is far more credible and believable. I would say LOOPHOLE is the superior film in every way and should be far more well known than it is. At any rate the lovely widescreen remastered version from Warner Archive gets my highest recommendation. As a big Barry Sullivan admirer I’m sort of biased. Credibility is certainly not the strong suit of THE LONG WAIT but this, I think, applies to lots of Noirs, HOLLOW TRIUMPH and the aforementioned LARCENY among them. We, as Noir fans, tend to overlook this in view of the convoluted plotting in many of these films.
    Saw another really rare item recently THE COME ON (1956) Actually, I don’t know if it really qualifies as a Noir because it’s mostly set around beaches and
    boating marinas in daylight. Is there such a thing as a “Daylight Noir” Certainly THE COME ON has Noir elements with its tale of grifters and obsessive love.
    This film really stretches credibility to breaking point but is of great interest to me, at least, because it’s an Allied Artists picture in widescreen black and white and has very fine performances from Anne Baxter and Sterling Hayden. Needless to say, the “off air” copy of this very rare film that I have is sadly pan & scan, and I live in hope that it’s one of those pesky Allied Artists titles in fact owned by Warner Brothers.

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  11. To my utter delight I notice that Laura has just reviewed Robert Florey’s PAROLE FIXER which was mentioned in this thread earlier. Laura’s review certainly does this terrific B film justice. I do hope that Laura’s review will prompt Universal Vault to release some of these great Paramount B pictures to DVD-they sure should be a lot more well known than they are. I will be supplying Laura with the two other films in the “J Edgar Hoover” series QUEEN OF THE MOB and UNDERCOVER DOCTOR which are also great fun in their own right. I also intend to send Laura TIP OFF GIRLS, ILLEGAL TRAFFIC and PRISON FARM, these little gems are everything a B picture should be…..and then some!
    I am ever amazed at the way Laura brings these little known obscure pictures into the spotlight, I just hope the big studios are taking notice. I do hope that I can eventually track down Florey’s WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES which is incredibly rare and by all accounts one of the very best of these outstanding Paramount B Films. Robert Florey and Louis King sure knew how to make cracking B films and deserve far more credit than they usually get.

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  12. Prison Movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve met some people who refuse to watch them. Having said that, over the years there have been many outstanding ones. I thought that I’d mention this because I have finally tracked down WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES, rather sooner than I thought. The p.q. is not too hot on the copy I received but was far better than I was lead to believe. WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES is one of those most entertaining Paramount B Movies that I have been going on about, and while not the best of the bunch it’s a very entertaining, though wildly improbable film. I thought that I would bring it into the mix here because it was directed by Robert Florey and headlines Ellen Drew. WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES belongs to the sub-genre of the innocent person(s) railroaded into prison type of picture. Other films of the same era are two from Louis King ROAD GANG and PRISON FARM. ROAD GANG from Warner Brothers is in line studios “Social Conscience” type of picture. It’s a tough and harrowing film in the tradition of HELL’S HIGHWAY and I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG. Warner Archive have released this little gem as a double bill with King’s equally impressive DRAEGERMAN COURAGE a film exposing dangerous working conditions in the mines. The Warner Archive release is highly recommended for lovers of taut B Movies.
    Over at Paramount King also made PRISON FARM, there is still some sort of social message there but Paramount were more committed to making entertaining B Movies, the main message in many of their crime programmers was that “crime does not pay” PRISON FARM is a model B Movie and gives us a combo of a male and female prison flick. It’s a tough little picture and hugely entertaining.
    Florey’s WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES also has male/female perspective of prison life but Florey’s film tones down the violence. Life in the women’s prison laundry looks pretty grim, but the women also get time to relax playing bridge, while Louise Beavers knocks out a few tunes on the piano. In the male prison scenes we have humane guards for a change, but Florey does include the odd chilling moment, especially when a prisoner collapses while being lead into the death
    chamber. Florey’s direction is sensational; every set-up looks visually impressive. Ellen Drew is excellent in the lead, it’s a shame that her career faded in the Fifties. Interestingly, there is a subtext in WOMEN WITHOUT NAMES of overzealous politicians, exposing “cushy” 1940 prisons, it certainly give the film a somewhat current day theme. Many, many great prison pictures come to mind to many to mention here but one recent release from Warner Archive is the engaging REVOLT IN THE BIG HOUSE which is a nifty Allied Artists quickie. At any rate the film gets a positive “thumbs up” over at DVD Beaver.

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    • I don’t mind prison movies myself, and the ones you described sound at least interesting, but I know what you mean about their not appealing to everyone. There is, I suppose, a depressing feel to many and it’s only to be expected that this may turn some people off.

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  13. It’s a funny old thing Cyberspace…………….
    Further thoughts on my love for these old Paramount B Crime Thrillers Laura has kindly e-mailed me a glowing review of Louis King’s wonderful PERSONS IN HIDING by Cliff at Immortal Ephemera. Laura,of course gave the film a glowing review last year and it was one of her “movies of the year” (2014)
    Laura also notes that no less than Lou Lumenick is lobbying to get some of these terrific films released. PERSONS IN HIDING pre-dates GUN CRAZY and BONNIE AND CLYDE and those later films lift elements from King’s movie. It’s sad that these amazing films are not more well known and better still “out there” for people to buy. Still with Laura,Cliff and now Lou Lumenick on the case things are certainly looking up.

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  14. I am sorry that I have sort of “taken over” this thread, and I do promise to show some sort of restraint in the future. It’s interesting, Colin, that you mention the “Boutique Labels” but a lot of them seem obsessed with “cult” items a lot of the time, though of course not always. I have gone on and on about this before but it’s a shame that whole groups of films are on the missing list. Apart from all the great Paramount B crime thrillers of the late thirties early forties, none of which have made it to DVD, there are other “groups” as well.
    Republic are famed for their B Series Westerns but they made some great A Westerns as well starring the likes of Rod Cameron, William Elliott and Forrest Tucker as well as interesting titles featuring the likes of John Payne and Sterling Hayden. Nick Ray’s JOHNNY GUITAR starring Hayden has of course been released because of it’s cult status, but it’s the only one.
    A whole chunk of the Allied Artists library is now owned by Republic which means many interesting films are being denied a release (the majority of Allied Artists titles are owned by Warners who have released many of these film on their MOD series). Interesting directors like Harold Schuster are not able to be re-appraised by film fans because a whole chunk of his output is among the Allied Artists stuff Paramount own. There’s some great stuff there like JACK SLADE, FINGER MAN, PORT OF HELL, DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE and THE RETURN OF JACK SLADE. I am also amazed that many key films have not, as yet been released on Blu-Rry, WINCHESTER ’73 being a prime example, though I am sure it will happen one day.
    Just imagine how great visually stunning films like THE LAST WAGON and RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY would look on Blu-ray. Instead, we get stuff like KING KONG ESCAPES or those “Beach Party” flicks, though I’ve no doubt there is a huge market for that stuff. Still having said all that these blogs are a great place to air our views and bring some of these lesser known films to other fans attention.
    Another group of films on the “missing list” are all those cheesy Pine-Thomas films that I love so much, if nothing else they looked great. Furthermore Paramount lead the pack in the Fifties with their gorgeous saturated Technicolor. I for one would love to see some of those things on Blu-ray.

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    • Indeed, there’s tons of stuff that’s yet to see the light of day but there is a trickle. I think that when it comes to the major titles it comes down to who has the rights more than anything. The boutique labels are generally doing a good job but their releases are only as good or interesting as the material they have access to. Today i just pre-ordered Eureka’s UK Blu-ray of Mann’s Man of the West and I’m very much looking forward to it. Mind you, I’d love to see a release of Dragoon Wells Massacre in any shape or form. Ultimately, I guess it’s largely a matter of patience as I’ve picked up titles I honestly never expected to have in the last few years.

      And by the way, John. I’m more than happy to have you “take over” a thread here any time you please – you should know by now that these contributions of yours are always very welcome.

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  15. The MAN OF THE WEST Blu-Ray from Eureka is an “essential” purchase for me as well. As you know I do have “issues” with some aspects of the film but I’m certainly not going to let this one slip by. The extras look most interesting and I love the artwork.
    DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE is being released in Germany soon but with a German only soundtrack sadly. Another highly sought after Allied Artists Western AT GUNPOINT is being released by the same imprint but in 1.85 as opposed to the correct 2.35 ratio, it does however have an English soundtrack. I will get it as a stop-gap until something better surfaces (if ever) and will keep you updated on the p.q.

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    • The upcoming Man of the West looks like a marvelous all-round package and the pre-order price on Amazon is very good too in my opinion.
      That’s annoying about Dragoon Wells Massacre and unusual too – not many movies are released without the original soundtrack included. Of course there have been editions of At Gunpoint floating around which also contained only a dub. The latter is a film I like quite a bit – I only saw it once on TV and can’t recall what aspect ratio was used – so I’ll be interested to hear how it looks if or when you pick it up, John.

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  16. The German imprint releasing AT GUNPOINT and DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE are
    Fernsehjuwelen (Film Jewels) who are releasing loads of stuff from the Republic and Allied
    Artists vaults. Film Jewels mainly release box sets of old TV mini-series. They seem to have a
    deal with the original German distributor,Gloria Film or something, who originally released
    these old movies. I guess the ratio thing may be due to how they appeared on German screens
    at the time and some prints had German only soundtracks and others did not.
    At any rate there is a whole raft of these vintage films in their future release schedule,
    and it’s just pot luck if they make it to DVD in English as well.

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  17. For info on all things German I highly recommend the Alive Ag site. They keep tabs on all the smaller imprints like Explosive Media who are doing some great stuff at the moment. They, however, do not list Koch Media which is more or less a major label.
    The recent German release of Mitchum’s FOREIGN INTRIGUE is a sensational widescreen transfer but for me at least a really flat film especially for a Fifties Mitchum movie.

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    • Ah, thanks, I’ll have to bookmark that site for future reference.

      I wrote a piece on Foreign Intrigue some time ago, John, and I’d more or less share your assessment of the film as a bit flat – not bad, but promises more than it ultimately delivers.

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  18. In my opinion The Crooked Way is one terrific little film. It’s everything a film noir should be and that many of them aren’t. John “One Bulb) alton’s cinematography is top notch in this one, maybe his best work. But the script and the way Florey directed Payne are what make it so good. The opening shot in the dark during the eye exam is near perfection. When Payne arrives in LA and gets braced by cops and his past is slowly revealed is pure hard-boiled, more like a Raymond Chandler character than any character in any of the Marlowe movies. Payne is tight-lipped, cool, but obviously under pressure. I didn’t know Sonny Tufts was that good. And what can you say about Percy Helton. I caught TCW on TCM and have it permanently stored on DVR.

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  19. Pingback: The Crooked Way in HD | Riding the High Country

  20. Colin

    This and Larceny are my two favorite Payne noir. Not that I dislike any of the others. (have not seen Hidden Fear). The look of this one just beats me over the head with its beautiful selection of grey and black shadows. I would swear the great John Alton could light a film with the reflection of a lit cigar off a silver dollar. Florey of course adds his own flourishes to the production, and as you so well pointed out, the cast is good right down the line. A real keeper!

    Gord

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    • I keep hearing good things about Larceny and I hope to catch up with it one day.
      I was really taken with The Crooked Way from the first time I saw it but was disappointed how poor the available versions looked. The restored edition that we now have is an improvement and I’d like to think it might encourage a few more people to check it out.

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