'The Threat,' 'Follow Me Quietly' and 'The Captive City' are minor pictures with some major pleasures
Felix Feist is no auteur but he made some minor classics of the noir genre, notably "The Devil Thumbs a Ride" and "Tomorrow is Another Day." Here he has a good story (if not always a great script) and a truly menacing heavy in Charles McGraw as death-row killer Red Kluger, his tenor gravel and heavy frame carrying the threat of the title in every step and speech. Red isn't simply engineering a getaway, he's plotting his revenge against everyone who put him in prison and getting rid of anyone standing in his way.
We're not talking lost masterpiece here; Feist is saddled with flat dialogue ("Now you know how a good detective works. When he finds something, he calls!"), generic sets and a cast of frankly non-charismatic leads (Michael O'Shea adequate as the cop hero, Robert Shayne a real stiff as his partner, and Frank Conroy almost a non-entity as the D.A..). But Virginia Grey is superb as a trampled flower of a showgirl and Feist allocates his limited budget cleverly, saving his resources for a few set pieces, notably the finale in a hunting cabin where the wait for a getaway plane drags on and the tension turns to violence with a dynamic crane shot and a brutal bare-knuckle brawl. This is the kind of punch that low-budget crime films could and, at their best, did deliver.
"Follow Me Quietly" (Warner Archive), a 59-minute thriller from Richard Fleischer (soon to be a major studio director but in 1949 paying his dues in specialty shorts and B-movies), is just as good, and just as limited. This was clearly timed to play the bottom of a double bill, but it has better production values than most B-movies and Fleischer devotes much greater care to the direction. He's announcing his ambitions here.
William Lundigan is the lead detective on the trail of a self-styled executioner called "The Judge" and Jeff Corey is his loyal, supportive partner, supplying the wry remarks as Lundigan applies modern techniques to build a physical and psychological profile from a smattering of clues: an early profiler in a shadowy film noir world. Fleischer does a tremendous job of whipping up drama from a generally static script, though even he can't generate much heat from the love-hate tension between Lundigan and spunky, persistent reporter Dorothy Patrick. But while Fleischer garnered well-deserved kudos for a couple of sharp cinematic stings involving the dummy they mock up from the clues, his more impressive achievement is the eerie mood he creates from a generic backlot city street set and the chase finale he stages in an industrial plant, full of pipes and tanks and catwalks and ladders, a labyrinth that Fleischer employs superbly before the film's final jab. (You should just ignore the romantic comedy of the framing coda, just one of those conventions of B-crime movies designed to left audiences back out of the darkness before send them out of the theater.)
The Farrelly Brothers’ long-awaited film featuring Moe, Larry, and Curly will be released next April
Oy. I’ve been worried about this film ever since it was announced that the cast of “Jersey Shore” was appearing in it. The Farrelly Brothers have been trying to make a film about the Three Stooges for ages and are finally getting their wish after more than a decade of Development Hell (the film switched studios, endured various bankruptcies and takeovers, and changed its cast multiple times). This is not a biopic—one of those was already made back in 2000, a TV-movie produced by Mel Gibson, of all people (Gibson is a huge fan of the Stooges).
The new film will present three new Three Stooges episodes set in the present day. 20th Century Fox has just released this teaser poster for the film, which is scheduled to open on April 4, 2012. (Yes, the studio logo is intentionally cropped.)
Brothers Moe and Curly Howard (Moses and Jerry Horwitz) along with Larry Fine (Louis Feinberg) were the nice Jewish boys who became the phenomenon known as the Three Stooges, beginning in vaudeville in the 1920s, appearing as comic relief in many feature films in the 1930s and 40s, and later finding their niche in a series of slapstick shorts. After Curly suffered a debilitating stroke in 1946, he was replaced by another brother, Shemp.
At various stages in this film's development, actors such as Benicio del Toro, Sean Penn, Hank Azaria, Jim Carrey, and Adam Samberg were rumored to be taking on the lead roles. The actual cast will feature Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe, Sean Hayes as Larry, and Will Sasso as Curly. Besides the “Jersey Shore” personalities, there will be cameos by Jane Lynch as the Mother Superior of the boys’ childhood orphanage they are trying to save, Larry David as Sister Mary-Mengele (ouch), Jennifer Hudson as Sister Rosemary, and Sofia Vergara as some kind of hot babe.
I hope I’m wrong about this film and that Bobby and Peter Farrelly’s stamina and devotion to the project pays off. And hey, who knows? Maybe Snooki will be revealed as a true comic genius. “Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!”