Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hey, Babe, Take a Walk on the Wild Side

I put Walk on the Wild Side (1962) purely because of its famous credits sequence, a long tracking shot of a black cat stalking through an alley. It's pretty neat, but the rest of the movie more than lives up to it.

It stars Laurence Harvey as Dove, a decent though down-and-out Texan trying to get to New Orleans to find his girl. He runs into Kitty Twist (Jane Fonda), who tries to seduce or rob him, whichever. When she tries to rob the Mexican woman (Anne Baxter) who runs a chili joint outside of town, he gets rid of her. Soon, he is searching the city while working at the chili joint, while the owner moons over him.

We finally meet his girl, a French artist played by Capucine. She is resident in an ill-defined establishment for women run by Barbara Stanwyck. Ms. Stanwyck has a curious affection for the girl - she doesn't want her working the nightclub downstairs, but needs her to make up to a local politician.

The whole thing is rank with prostitution, lesbianism, unrequited passion, jazz music, blackmail,an amputee, and the heat of New Orleans. It was adapted from a novel by Nelson Algren, Chicago's famous chronicler of the underbelly, a writer and poet, labor organizer and drunk, man-whore and lover to Simone de Beauvoir. I assume it was toned down quite a lot for the movies - they never say that Stanwyck is a lesbian who runs a whorehouse, but it could hardly be plainer. Ed Dmytryk gets to use a lot of his noir technique, but this is really a slumming melodrama.

In conclusion, the cat credit sequence is by Saul Bass.

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