Monday, August 31, 2009

A Lucky Strike Discount

Back in September of last year, when I began this blog, my second entry was called 'Twas Rock & Roll That Killed Your Hit Parade, which looked back at the Lucky Strike Hit Parade show of the early 1950's.

Shortly thereafter I received a very kind email from Andrew Lee Fielding, whose mother Sue Bennett was one of the early stars of television, and a regular on Your Hit Parade.

We exchanged several emails, and Andrew told me about a book he had written about his mother's career and early television. He was nice enough to send me a copy.

I wrote a full review of The Lucky Strike Papers in And Now, A Lucky Strike Extra . . .

Andrew also has his own blog, which you’ll find linked on my sidebar.

This highly entertaining and informative book would make a worthy addition to anyone's library, and with the Holidays upcoming, would be a terrific gift for anyone with a love of nostalgia.

I bring this up today because Andrew is running a special price on the book, for a limited time.

If you are interested, I’d hurry up and order. I’ve no idea how long this special will last.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Hollywood Palace 1965






Variety shows, more than any other medium, show us where our heads, and our hearts were at over the first two decades of TV. In the early 1950’s, many of the shows were largely extensions of Vaudeville or Burlesque, filled with acrobats, baggy pants comedians, and `specialty’ numbers. 


The budgets were miniscule, the production values nil (unless you count the stage curtain), and the novelty of actually watching TV was so great, that it really didn’t matter what you were watching a lot of the time.  


There were exceptions, of course.  


Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town, and Dumont’s Cavalcade of Stars, Your Show of Shows, The Colgate Comedy Hour, and others often put on extraordinary shows for the times. 


By the mid 1950s, once Television had proved it could sell advertising and turn a profit, budgets increased and Variety Shows became big budget extravaganzas with lots of big name guest stars.


ABC Television was the 3rd network, lacking in affiliates, prestige, and ratings throughout much of the 1950s and 1960s.  They viewed the powerhouse variety shows like CBS’s Ed Sullivan and Red Skelton shows, and NBC’s Bob Hope and Andy Williams shows with more than a little envy, and wanted a `big’ variety show of their own. 


In January of 1964, after the Jerry Lewis Show failed to gel in the fall of 1963, they turned to Bing Crosby to produce an all star variety show for Saturday nights.   While never the powerhouse that Ed Sullivan created for CBS, The Hollywood Palace proved to be durable enough to run for 7 years.


Having the highly rated Lawrence Welk Show as a lead-in, no doubt helped, but that also meant that The Hollywood Place played to an older audience than many other shows. 


They routinely lost out in the ratings to shows like NBC’s Saturday Night At The MoviesGunsmoke, and Mission Impossible. In 1967, the show was moved to Tuesday nights where they got beat by NBC’s Tuesday Night at The Movies.  


In 1968, they returned to Saturday nights.


Unlike most variety shows, The Hollywood Palace used `guest’ hosts, although Bing Crosby hosted at total of 31 times (including all of the Christmas Specials).    While never a ratings powerhouse (never in the top 20), the show was a solid if not spectacular variety show.


Today we’ve 5 shows from 1965.   The video quality on these aren’t the best in the world, but the nostalgia factor and entertainment value remain superb. 


These shows are on the Internet Archive, and are presumed to be public domain . . . but I’d get them while you can.  Variety shows have a bad habit of being contested regarding their pubic domain status.



Hollywood Palace - February 6, 1965



David Janssen as host (formerly Richard Diamond, and now Dr. Richard Kimble of The Fugitive) with --Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, Edie Adams singing "Love," "I'm Glad There Is You" and "The Man That Got Away", Tim Conway, Vic Damone singing "But Not for Me," "Fascinatin' Rhythm" and "They Can't Take That Away from Me", and the Harlem Globetrotters do basketball tricks. Add in a knife throwing act and a Trapeze act, and you have pretty full hour of entertainment.




Hollywood Palace - March 27, 1965


Hosted by Tony Randall and featuring Diana Ross and the Supremes. --Allan Sherman sings "Crazy Downtown" (parody of Petula Clark's "Downtown") --Nelson Eddy and Gale Sherwood sing duets,--Vikki Carr sings  "The Good Life," "So in Love" and "The Days of Wine and Roses" . Throw in Pat Morita, some acrobats, a high wire act, and a wrestling bear . . .   and well, that’s variety for you!


Hollywood Palace - April 10, 1965



Host Groucho Marx invites long time comedic foil Margaret Dumont (her last TV appearance)to reprise their classic "Captain Spaulding,"  number from "Animal Crackers."  Groucho’s Daughter (who tried to have a pop singing career) --Melinda Marx sing a `girl group’ number then does a duet with Groucho. Gordon and Sheila MacRae sing and do impressions.  Add to this Shecky Greene, Miriam Makeba, a flamenco dancer, a Scottish comedian, and trick unicyclists from Denmark. 


Hollywood Palace - October 2, 1965


Fall of 1965 brought COLOR to much of ABC’s lineup.


Host Fred Astaire sings and dances, musical guest  We Five do "You Were on My Mind" – Jazz organist Jimmy Smith does "The Organ Grinder's Swing"  --Astaire dances some more -- Jackie Mason does stand-up.--Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn do a ballet pas de deux and Paul Lynde & Carmen Phillips  appear in a comedy sketch.

Hollywood Palace - November 13, 1965


Hosted by Judy Garland who sings "Once in a While," I Loved Him" and "We're a Couple of Swells" and a medley of other numbers.  Then is joined by Vic Damone to sing a West Side Story Medley.Chita Rivera dances, the comedy of Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber, and throw in some acrobats and musical clowns for good measure.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

There Is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set . . .






Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission. If we wish to make it louder, we will bring up the volume. If we wish to make it softer, we will tune it to a whisper. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a soft blur or sharpen it to crystal clarity. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to... The Outer Limits.

— Opening narration  – The Control Voice


For those of us who grew up huddled around black & white TV sets and could get an ABC affiliate in 1963, these words remind us of one of the great, early science fiction shows of television.  


Although not a commercial success at the time (only 49 episodes over 1 1/2 seasons was produced), it is now widely regarded as having been ahead of its time.  


Following in the footsteps of The Twilight Zone, and to a lesser extent Science Fiction Theatre, The Outer Limits presented a darker view of the future, and the dangers of technology. 


Interestingly, some of the special effects that were used on this seminal series ended up on Star Trek a few years later.  The `transporter effect’ was first used to represent an `ion storm’ in an episode called The Mutant.


And just like Star Trek, it’s first pilot episode, was turned down by the network.


You’ll also find a number of actors who would either guest, or even star, on Star Trek in these shows.  James Doohan and Grace Lee Whitney appear in two of the episodes below, but William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy both starred in episodes as well.


The Outer Limits was an hour long anthology series.  There were no continuing characters, no ongoing story line.  Each story took place in its own `universe’.   


YOUTUBE has a small selection of episodes in the Classic TV section.  Hopefully they will add to this collection, but for now we have 5 1-hour episodes for your viewing pleasure.  


There is a short commercial to endure before each show begins.  A small price to pay for a return to . . . The Outer Limits.





1006 The Outer Limits: The Man Who Was Nev... (51:21)

(V) Martin Landau portrays a time-traveller desperately trying to stop the birth of an inventor whose bacterium turns humans into mutants.




1008 The Human Factor (51:30)

(V) On a military base, in the frozen vastness of Greenland, an army psychiatrist devises a machine which enables him to tune in directly to his patients' thoughts.  

You’ll find a lot of familiar faces in this one including Gary Merill, Harry Guardino, Sally Kellerman, and Ivan Dixon. 



1016 Controlled Experiment (51:28)

(V) The inhabitants of Mars and its satellites, worried by the fact that Earth's warlike humans might spread their ways to other planets, send two messengers to research the peculiar phenomenon known only to the human race -- murder.


Look for Carroll O’Conner, Grace Lee Whitney, and Barry Morse in this episode.



1036 The Expanding Human (51:18)

(V) Roy Clinton, a university professor experiments with a drug that expands human consciousness. 

Starring Skip Homeier, James Doohan, and Keith Andes.



1048 The Premonition (51:14)

(V) Under instruction from flight control director Baldwin, test pilot Jim Darcy executes a maneuver which causes his supersonic plan to exceed heretofore known velocities.



My thanks to a reader who pointed out that HULU also has episodes from the original (and revived during the 1990s) version of The Outer Limits.    These show may only be available inside the US.


You’ll find 32 episodes from the original series here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Follow That Show . . . err, Man





(Cue dramatic music)

A man running frantically down the street.  He is being followed by a black sedan.  He ducks into a building, climbs the stairs, and knocks on a door.  


Before anyone can answer a machine gun cuts him down.




Door opens and private detective Mike Barnett appears.


Barnett hears a click – ducks – and the gun fires another salvo  . . .  and ROLL CREDITS




And so opens another episode of one of the earliest of the TV detective shows, originally called `Man Against Crime’, but retitled as `Follow That Man’ starring  Ralph Bellamy




Beginning in 1949, and produced and broadcast live as a stage bound production (as many shows were at that time) until 1952, the show was one of the early hits of Television for CBS.


It moved to the Dumont network in 1953 and 1954, and ran on NBC from 1953-1956 (it was simulcast by Dumont and NBC during 1953-54).  The show was sponsored by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, and the star was often seen smoking cigarettes (of course, everyone did back then).


As world weary, but tough as nails P.I. Mike Barnett, Ralph Bellamy broke a lot of the `rules’ for TV detectives.  He didn’t carry a gun, and was chummy with the police . . .sometimes even working with them on cases.


Ralph Bellamy (1904-1991) had a career that spanned 6 decades.  During the 1930’s he was part of the Hollywood group known as the `Irish Mafia’, A-List actors who were mainly of Irish descent.  They included James Cagney, Pat O'Brien, Spencer Tracy, Frank Morgan and Frank McHugh.


Bellamy was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor in  The Awful Truth (1937) and saw good reviews in His Girl Friday (1940). He portrayed a different detective - Ellery Queen - in a few films during the 1940s, but he never really made it as a leading man in film.

Bellamy did television, and appeared on Broadway to much acclaim during the 1950s, and is perhaps best remembered for his role as Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello.  Bellamy reprised that role in 1960 in the film version.

Filmed as tough, often violent, little film noirs Follow That Man episodes hold up pretty well after more than half a century.  We’re lucky enough to have a pretty good selection from seasons 4 and 5 residing on the Internet Archive.


A Complete List of Available episodes can be viewed here.


Day Man

The Third Rail

The Iceman

Free Ride

The Coconuts Eye

Room 505

The Doll Bandit

The Polecat Shakedown

The Wire Tappers

Petite Larceny

Death Takes a Partner

Hot Fur

Sic Transit Gloria

A Family Affair

The Hitch Heisters

Black Leg and White Tie

The Main Bout Is Murder

The Cube Root of Evil

Paradise Lost

Fuller's Folly

The Silken Touch

Ferry Boat

Killer Cat

Get Out Of Town

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Roads To Romance





During the late 1940’s and through the 1950’s, the American car maker Chevrolet commissioned the creation of a series of 3 and 4 minute mini-travelogues which were used to encourage Americans to `get out on the road and see America’ in their new Chevrolet.


The series was called The Roads To Romance.


Okay, these were thinly veiled commercials.   But they are no less interesting for it.


Travelogues were once a big part of entertainment.  At a time when few people were afforded the opportunity to travel – particularly to the more exotic and obscure places of the world – travel films gave people a way to see how other people in the world live.


Perhaps the most famous of these were the James Fitzpatrick travelogues produced for MGM during the 1930’s and 1940’s (as the sun slowly sets in the west . . .we bid fond adieu to the quaint and happy people of  . . .)


The rap on these, and other travel films of the era was that they were often little more than moving picture postcards, showing only the positive and `pretty side’ of life. 


Social commentary and gritty realism was great stuff in film noir, but it wasn’t often found in travelogues.


Admittedly, access to places like Borneo, or Lithuania, or Peru (or even some places in America!) for these producers would have been shut down in a hurry if documentary filmmakers has focused on poverty, crime, and human rights.


We view movies (particularly musicals, fantasies, romances, etc) through a lens that allows for artistic distortions of reality, with little complaint.   As long as we don’t try to view these travelogues as `documentaries’, we ought to be able to enjoy them for what they are.


A glimpse back at the way we used to be, viewed through the lens of the American Dream of the 1950’s. 


So . . . if you’ve a half hour or so, and any desire to see the United States of the late 1940s and 1950’s through the windshield of a classic Chevrolet  . . .  sit back and enjoy these Sunday drives.




Roads to Romance: 1949 

Actually 4 different travelogues – each running about 3 minutes in length.  This film features road trips to Oak Creek Canyon (Arizona), California Coastal Highway (San Luis Obispo, San Simeon), San Diego’s Cabrillo Freeway,  and lastly Western Michigan’s "Queen of the Great Lakes"





Coral Gables, Florida


Admittedly, for a Floridian who grew up during the 1950s in this state, this one has special appeal.   `Old Florida’ is just about gone, replaced by high rise condos, fast food restaurants, and Interstate Highways.

Romanticized?   You bet, but still a wonderful trip back to the past.





Roads To Romance Pt1

Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island, Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis and the Pennsylvania Turnpike






Roads To Romance Pt2

Cayuga Lake in New York, Olympic National Park in Washington, Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah, and the Columbia River Highway in Oregon






Roads To Romance: Santa Cruz Trail

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Phantom Empire Strikes Back






During the 1930s and 1940’s, and even early into the 1950s, when you went to the movies you generally got two movies, a cartoon (or two), a newsreel and (particularly during Saturday Matinees) the latest chapter in an ongoing cliff hanger of a serial.


A lot to get for your 15 cents (in the 1930s) or quarter (in the 1940’s).  


Many movies back then were quite a bit shorter than what we expect today, of course.  Particularly the `B’ movie half of a double feature, which often only ran about an hour.   Still, by the time you added in a 20 minute serial, cartoons, and newsreel  you could figure on about 3 hours of entertainment.




The history of movie serials goes back well into the silent era, with perhaps the most famous from that era being the 20-chapters of The Perils of Pauline – released in 1914.  


Pearl White, who appears as Pauline performs most of her own stunts, and Milton Berle always maintained that this was his first film appearance as a small boy, although that claim has never been authenticated.


Unlike the serials that would come later, Pauline was rescued at the end of each episode – the `cliff hanger’, with the serial’s star apparently about to perish at the end of each chapter – wasn’t used in The Perils of Pauline.


Pauline proved so successful, it sparked imitators (including White in The Exploits of Elaine), and numerous parodies (including Dudley DooRight).   It also proved an effective, and inexpensive way to draw people back to the theatre each week to `find out what happens next . . . ‘.


By the early 1930s, sound had arrived, and serials reached their zenith of popularity.   The most common serials were westerns, because they were the cheapest to make.  But other genres such as science fiction, crime dramas, and spy yarns were popular as well. 


This was the age of Flash Gordon, The Green Hornet, and The Mystery Squadron.

For the most part, these were low budget `B’ movies (with a capital `B’), but what they lacked in production values, they often made up with enthusiasm.  


Originally aimed at the youth market, and typically shown on Saturday Matinees, these are popcorn munching, escapist, and often wildly entertaining bits of nostalgia and history.  


Indiana Jones and even Star Wars owe much to this genre.


Sure, you have to be in the right mood to watch one (and have some time, they run 4 to 5 hours in length!), but I find they can be very enjoyable, particularly when consumed in smaller 1 or 2 chapter bites at a time.


Perhaps the wildest, and most outlandish of these serials was The Phantom Empire, which was Gene Autry’s first starring role.  This is . . .  sit down for this . . .  a singing modern cowboy Sci-Fi epic.


The plot?   


Well, I’m not sure that it matters, but here is the IMDB description:


When the ancient continent of Mu sank beneath the ocean, some of its inhabitant survived in caverns beneath the sea. Cowboy singer Gene Autry stumbles upon the civilization, now buried beneath his own Radio Ranch.

The Muranians have developed technology and weaponry such as television and ray guns. Their rich supply of radium draws unscrupulous speculators from the surface. The peaceful civilization of the Muranians is corrupted by the greed from above, and it becomes Autry's task to prevent all-out war, ideally without disrupting his regular radio show.


Try not to let it bother you that these cowboys are all battling against the underground inhabitants of `Moo’ (sic).  In any event, in 12 glorious chapters, here is The Phantom Empire.


Phantom Empire - Chapter 1: Singing Cowboy

Phantom Empire - Chapter 2: Thunder Riders

Phantom Empire - Chapter 3: Lightning Chamber

Phantom Empire - Chapter 4: Phantom Broadcast

Phantom Empire - Chapter 5: Beneath the Sky

Phantom Empire - Chapter 6: Disaster From the Sky

Phantom Empire - Chapter 7: From Death to Life

Phantom Empire - Chapter 8: Jaws of Jeopardy

Phantom Empire - Chapter 9: Prisoners of the Ray

Phantom Empire - Chapter 10: Rebellion

Phantom Empire - Chapter 11: Queen in Chains

Phantom Empire - Chapter 12: End of Murania


Or, if you prefer, you can download the entire serial as one large (and very long) movie.

The Phantom Empire - All 12 Chapters
The Phantom Empire was produced in 1935 by Nat Levine. A series of 12 Chapters by Mascot Serial, starring Gene Autry


Serials never really went out of vogue, they just moved from the movie theatre to the small screen.  In the 1950s we had serials in the form of Spin and Marty, and the Hardy Boys on the Mickey Mouse Club.  


The classic Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons were serialized, as well. And Dr. WHO out of the UK utilized the cliffhanger, serial format with episode arcs that ran anywhere from 3 to 12 shows.


In the 1960’s, BATMAN with Adam West utilized the cliff hanger ploy, and today,  Jack Bauer continues on with the format in `24’.


In the future I’ll bring you other serials, available for downloading.  Everything from Tarzan to Dick Tracy, Flash Gordon to Ace Drummond.  

If there’s even a little bit of a kid left in you, I think you’ll enjoy them.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Big Band Remotes





Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee


During the 1930’s, 1940’s, and into the 1950’s Big Bands were the most popular form of musical entertainment, with names like Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, and Artie Shaw all household names.


In the 1920’s and early 1930s most of the big bands played a `sweet’ form of dance music, or jazz, that relied heavily on violins and tended to stick to the melody, allowing for very little improvisation.   


Some of the big name bandleaders of this early genre included Paul Whiteman, Ted Lewis, , Ben Bernie, Ben Selvin, , Rudy Vallee, , Glen Gray, Ben Pollack, Shep Fields and Fred Waring. 


Swing, and more free-form jazz was looked upon with scorn by many people, and it wasn’t until about 1936 that it took off.  Once Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and Artie Shaw paved the way   . . . many of the older bands would shift to the newer style of playing.  

Others managed to hang on, playing the old `sweet’ style, for an older audience.   While Swing dominated, there were other popular genres as well – including dixieland jazz, western swing, and novelty bands.


Bands would often play at nightclubs, casinos, and hotels and their shows were carried lived on the air by local radio stations, and even nationally by the big radio networks of the day.   


Many of these bands are forgotten by today’s generation, but their recordings remain for us to enjoy.  


The Internet Archive has a nice selection of these big band radio remotes.  Some of the sound quality is less than perfect, but the enthusiasm, and the sense of history of these recordings makes up for that.


AcrossTheDial_1953-12-25.mp3                            4.67 MB

CamelCaravan_1937-08-31_wBennyGoodman.mp3     10 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1933-11-30.mp3      9.93 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1933-12-                 14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1933-12-14_.mp3    14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1933-12-28_mp3     14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1934-01-04.mp3     14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1934-01-11.mp3     14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1934-02-01.mp3     14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1934-04-19_.mp3   14 MB

KraftMusicHall_wPaulWhiteman_1934-06-28_mp3    9.55 MB

PaulWhitemanPresents_1943-07-18_.mp3               6.56 MB

Remote-AlOverand_1948-06-03__Montana.mp3      3.29 MB

Remote-BenPollack_WBS_Summer_of_1930.mp3     6.29 MB

Remote-ChetBaker_1954-03-16_.mp3                    11 MB

Remote-ClaudeThornhill_1947-09-22_.mp3             8.21 MB

Remote-CountBasie_1940-02-20__.mp3                 7.12 MB

Remote-CountBasie_1940-02-Rhapsody.mp3          7.12 MB

Remote-CountBasie_1945-01-29_.mp3                  3.25 MB

Remote-CountBasie_1953-01-01_.mp3                  10 MB


These and DOZENS MORE are available HERE.   Literally hours of rare, toe tapping, and nostalgic music. 

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Classic Film Noir





As a genre, Film Noir is like pornography.  It is hard to define, but you know it when you see it.


Curiously this style of film making, which reached its zenith between the early 1940’s and the late 1950’s, was defined more in retrospect than at the time of its inception.  


In 1941, no one said, “Let’s make a film noir”,  because the term hadn’t even been coined.  It wouldn’t be until 1946 that French Critic Nino Frank used the term film noir (French for “black film”). 


While defined by cinema buffs and historians later, many directors of that era claimed to be unaware they were making a `genre’ film.


Film noir, as you might imagine, are dark films, filled with shadows (both literally and figuratively).  Stark , usually black and white photography  (neo-noir films made in the 1960’s and later are often in color), and sometimes possessing a dreamlike (or nightmarish) quality.


They run the gamut from gangster films, to police procedural dramas, to horror and suspense.  It is more about `attitude’ and style than plot.   Film Noir often featured less than sympathetic protagonists, anti-heroes, and the underbelly of society.


Film noir was a departure from Hollywood’s normal fare, and often touched (lightly) on subjects that other films never would have dared embrace.   Women were often dangerous, and of questionable virtue.  


Romances were often desperate, torrid and ill fated.   


There certainly were noirish films made before 1940, by such masters as Fritz Lang and Michael Curtiz, but today many are regarded as `proto-noir’ by historians.  


Neo-noir films are those that came after the late 1950’s.


A lot of these films, at the time, were `B’ movies churned out by lesser studios to fill the bottom half of a double feature.   They were quickly (but efficiently) made, for a small budget, and often featured studio contract players who were looking for their big break.


Still, big stars like Bogart, and Stanwyck, and Sinatra appeared in these films, and people flocked to see them.


I’ve recently been indulging in my taste for film noir, discovering old favorites along with some I’ve missed along the way.   The Internet Archive has a nice collection of these films, and so I’m highlighting a few of the better ones today.


The Strange Love of Martha Ivers - Lewis Milestone
"Man is waylaid by chance in old home town, meets a girl down on her luck and a turbulent couple with whom he shares a dark childhood secret. Significant noir melodrama focusing on provocative, intermingling relationships of neurotic love, guilt and fear." - noir expert Spencer Selby Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas (his first film), Judith Anderson, Roman Bohnen, Darryl Hickman...


A real treat for rising star watchers, this was Kirk Douglas’s film debut (1946), and while his performance is overshadowed by Van Heflin and Lizabeth Scott, he would quickly move on to star billing himself.  



The Hitch-Hiker
Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy pick up a hitch-hiker (William Talman) who turns out to be an insane escaped convict.


This taut little drama was actually based on a true story.  In 1950 Billy Cook murdered six people, then took 2 prospectors captive and forced them to drive him to Mexico where he planned to kill them. 

The Mexican police captured him, before he could carry out his plan, and he was executed in the gas chamber at San Quentin.  

Ida Lupino, who had begun directing low budget `issue oriented’ movies, makes her 5th directorial showing with this film. Lupino would go on to become one of the most  prolific directors in television drama during the 1950s. 

Look for William Talman (D.A. Hamilton Burger from Perry Mason) as the crazed killer, and Edmond O’Brien (see D.O.A.  below) and Frank Lovejoy as his captives.


Fear in the Night
DeForest Kelley in a Cornell Woolrich story. This is a better copy than what is already on this site.


Dr. Leonard `Bones’ McCoy 20 years before Star Trek.    Sharp eyed film buffs will find DeForest Kelly showing up in a lot of small film, and TV roles, usually as a cowboy, or a small time crook from the 1950s and early 1960’s. 

Kelly also had a recurring role as a detective on Lee Marvin’s M-Squad series in the late 1950s. 

Here, in his 3rd film appearance, Kelly gets the lead role in a story about a man who dreams he committed a murder, then slowly begins to believe it wasn’t a dream.


An engrossing film noir with Mickey Rooney, Peter Lorre, and Jeanne Cagney. Needing money for a date, Rooney borrows $20 from the cash register, starting a chain of events that includes car theft, burglary, and possibly murder.


Mickey Rooney, who god bless him, is still working at the age of 92, makes an impressive entry in the film noir category (playing against his Andy Hardy image) as a mechanic who `borrows’ $20 from the till where he works in order to take a girl out, only to find himself slowly sinking into a quicksand of crime and deception.

Don’t let the casting fool you, this is one taut little noir.




Panic In The Streets - Elia Kazan

One night in the New Orleans slums, vicious hoodlum Blackie (Jack Palance) and his friends kill an illegal immigrant who won too much in a card game. Next morning, Dr. Clint Reed (Richard Widmark-this time not seen pushing little old ladies in wheelchairs down the stairs) of the Public Health Service confirms the dead man had pneumonic plague...


One of my all-time favorite movies, it features Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas, Barbara Bel Geddes, Jack Palance, and Zero Mostel in a gritty search for a criminal who has been exposed to pneumonic plague. 

The last major plague outbreak in the United States was in Los Angeles, in 1924.   But each year a dozen or so cases of bubonic plague are diagnosed here, almost always west of the Mississippi.  Pneumonic plague is deadlier than bubonic, and is more easily transmitted.    

Today, as I write this, there is a small town in China quarantined because of an outbreak of pneumonic plague.   This is a disease that, in some parts of the world, is still a problem.  


He Walked By Night - Bryan Foy
Gripping film noir crime drama about a manhunt for a ruthless killer who plays a deadly cat and mouse game with the police. Starring Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Whit Bissell, and Jack Webb, this movie was the basis for "Dragnet". Watch for Whit Bissell, the unsung but solid bit player who has appeared in hundreds of films and TV shows


This film in many ways was the template for the classic Dragnet radio and TV show, even beginning with the narration `This is the city . . .” and `The names have been changed to protect the innocent . . .”.

Jack Webb, who has a relatively small role in this film (police lab tech) was starring in a little remembered radio show “Jeff Regan, Private Investigator”, and was urged by the police technical advisor to the movie to do a radio show based on actual police files. 

A year later Dragnet went on the air.

A police procedural drama of the highest order, this nifty thriller cast a young Richard Basehart as the killer.   This film was also the first to use the tunnels and canals of the Los Angeles water system as a backdrop.


"Man is involved in two freakish accidents that make him look like a murderer. Poverty row masterwork that is the most precise elucidation of the noir theme of explicit fatalism." - noir expert Spencer Selby | Cast: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald. | A B-movie, it was shot in six days. The film, budgeted for $89,000 and ended up costing $117,000 to make.


There were 5 big movie studios in Hollywood, and a bunch of `poverty row’ studios (see Poverty Row Studios) that had to rent space, actors, and even cameras to make movies.   They churned out `B’ movies on a budget, and every once in awhile produced something extraordinary. 

Such is the classic noir Detour, where a man’s self-destructive nature takes him down a grimy and fatalistic path.



D.O.A. - Leo C. Popkin
D.O.A. (1950) is a film noir drama film directed by Rudolph Mat̩, considered a classic of the stylistic genre. The frantically-paced plot revolves around a doomed man's quest to find out who has poisoned him Рand why Рbefore he dies. The film begins with a scene called "perhaps one of cinema's most innovative opening sequences" by a BBC reviewer. The scene is a long, behind-the-back tracking sequence featuring Frank Bigelow (O'Brien) walking through a hallway into a police station to repo...

In 2006 former Russian Spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with a major dose of polonium-210. He died 3 weeks later. 

An unlikely murder technique, but presaged by the movie D.O.A. more than 50 years earlier, where a man goes to the police department to report a murder:  His own.

Far superior to the 1989 remake, this classic from 1950 is well worth exploring.


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