Thursday, November 14, 2013

Art, Crime and Rock and Roll

Last Sunday we decided to take a break from the contemporary action movies we've been enjoying and go back to a simpler time, with some streaming black-and-white: Crime Against Joe (1956).

Joe, John Bromfield, is a Korean war vet, who lives with his mother and tries to paint. When he can't get the dream girl he is painting right, he goes out and gets drunk. He has a few adventures, most of which he doesn't remember the next day. Which is too bad, because some women have been getting attacked and one of them was murdered. So Joe, his chubby cab-driving pal Red (Henry Calvin) and carhop Slacks (Julie London) set out to find the real killer.

This is definitely Poverty Row, but has several things going for it. It's filmed in Tucson and has a nice lived-in small town feel. The murderer left behind a class pin, so all the suspects came from the same high-school. And almost everyone we meet had a motive and opportunity, sometimes just barely sketched in. It's not exactly clever, but it's a decent script.

Bromfield is pretty good - he's a bad artist sponging off his mother and drinking too much, but still manages to seem like a good guy. Julie London is the only "name" actress and she doesn't do any singing, but she looks pretty sweet. There's another singer, Alika Louis, who sings at the Pango Pango tiki bar - got to love a tiki bar.

So, not a great movie, but a fun 70 minutes if you like this kind of thing. We've been watching old Alfred Hitchcock Presents, which were made at about the same time, so this fit right in.

Since it's so short, we added a second feature, It's All Over Town (1963). This one is an English color production, full of musical numbers, but just as low-budget as Crime Against Joe. It pretends to be a documentary, with a narrator speaking Scouse, about two lads out on the town. This gives them the excuse to show a lot of songs and a little strip-tease (filmed in reverse). The songs are mostly very square - the star is Frankie Vaughan, a third-rate Sinatra who, it is said, was very popular at the time. But there are also appearances by The Hollies with a very young Graham Nash, and the Springfields, with a tall-haired Dusty Springfield. Granted, they have only  2 songs each, and one of the Springfields' numbers is a hideous faux-Latin "Maracabamba". But some of the other acts aren't bad, including trad-jazzman Acker Bilk and sweet Clodagh Rogers - One of Lenin's favorites, according to Monty Python.

The lads watching these numbers, Lance Percival and William Rushton (billed as Fat Friend), were also appearing in That Was The Week That Was, which I remember liking at the time. This, not so much, although it is only 60 minutes long and an interesting look at pop music before the Beatles were fab.

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