Big Steal, The (1949; USA; B&W; 71m) *** d. Don Siegel; w. Daniel Mainwaring (as Geoffrey Homes), Gerald Drayson Adams; ph. Harry J. Wild; m. Leigh Harline. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, William Bendix, Patric Knowles, Ramon Novarro, Don Alvarado, John Qualen, Pascual García Peña. An army lieutenant accused of robbery pursues the real thief on a frantic chase through Mexico aided by the thief’s fiancee. Simple plot is essentially an elongated chase punctuated by fight scenes and gun battles. It is tightly directed in his to be trademark efficient manner by Siegel. Mitchum and Greer are the main sell here and they display strong chemistry trading witty dialogue. There is a lightness of touch to proceedings that tells its audience not to take things too seriously. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles and on location in Tehuacán, Puebla, Mexico. Based on the story “The Road to Carmichael’s” by Richard Wormser. [PG]
Enemy Below, The (1957; USA; DeLuxe; 98m) **** d. Dick Powell; w. Wendell Mayes; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Leigh Harline. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Curt Jurgens, Russell Collins, Theodore Bikel, Doug McClure, David Hedison, Kurt Kreuger, Frank Albertson, Biff Elliot, Alan Dexter. During World War II, an American destroyer meets a German U-Boat. Both captains are good ones, and the engagement lasts for a considerable time. Suspenseful battle-of-wits war drama benefits from a tight script and strong direction from Powell. Mitchum and Jurgens excel as the duelling captains, who gain a mutual respect whilst trying to destroy each other in order to survive. Finds time to comment on the inhumanity and science of war. Won an Oscar for Special Effects (Walter Rossi). Based on the novel by D.A. Rayner. [PG]
Reports have been issued of the casting of Liam Neeson to play Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe in an adaptation of Benjamin Black’s (pseudonym of John Banville) novel The Black-Eyed Blonde. Neeson will follow in the footsteps of Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet in 1944), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep in 1946), Rober Montgomery (Lady in the Lake in 1947), George Montgomery (The Brasher Doubloon also in 1947), James Garner (Marlowe in 1968), Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye in 1973) and Robert Mitchum (Farewell, My Lovely in 1975 and The Big Sleep in 1978).
The script has been written by William Monahan (The Departed) who commented, “The book by Benjamin Black was a pleasure to adapt, and with Marlowe there’s no chance of even being asked to do it left-handed. You have to do Chandler justice, carry a very particular flame, or stay home.”
The adaptation, like the 1968 adaptation of The Little Sister is at this time simply titled Marlowe, will be brought to the screen by Nickel City Pictures and producer Gary Levinson.
Friends of Eddie Coyle, The (1973; USA; Colour; 102m) ∗∗∗½ d. Peter Yates; w. Paul Monash; ph. Victor J. Kemper; m. David Grusin. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Peter Boyle, Richard Jordan, Steven Keats, Alex Rocco, Mitchell Ryan, Joe Santos. After his last crime has him looking at a long prison sentence for repeat offenses, a low-level Boston gangster decides to snitch on his friends to avoid jail time. Mitchum is impressive in bleak tale, which features authentic staging of armed robberies and gun-running deals. Relentlessly downbeat and typical of its time. Based on George V. Higgins’s acclaimed novel. 
El Dorado (1966; USA; Technicolor; 126m) ∗∗∗∗½ d. Howard Hawks; w. Leigh Brackett; ph. Harold Rosson; m. Nelson Riddle. Cast: John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, James Caan, Charlene Holt, Paul Fix, Arthur Hunnicutt, R.G. Armstrong, Edward Asner, Christopher George, Jim Davis, Michele Carey, Marina Ghane, Robert Donner, John Gabriel, Johnny Crawford. Cole Thornton, a gunfighter for hire, joins forces with an old friend, Sheriff J.P. Hara. Together with an old Indian fighter and a gambler, they help a rancher and his family fight a rival rancher that is trying to steal their water. Western re-teams Hawks and Wayne with the second half of the movie being a re-working of RIO BRAVO (1959). Many of the elements of that classic are repeated here and whilst it doesn’t quite reach the heights of its inspiration it is still fabulous entertainment. Mitchum is superb as drunken sheriff. Caan and Hunnicutt also shine as the young protegee and old Indian fighter. The poem recited by Mississippi is an actual poem called “El Dorado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Based on the novel “The Stars in Their Courses” by Harry Brown. [PG]
Yakuza, The (1974; USA/Japan; Technicolor; 123m) ∗∗∗½ d. Sydney Pollack; w. Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Leonard Schrader; ph. Kôzô Okazaki; m. Dave Grusin. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman, Richard Jordan, James Shigeta, Keiko Kishi, Eiji Okada, William Ross, Denis Akiyama, Kyosuke Mashida, Christina Kokubo, Eiji Go, Lee Chirillo, Akiyama. Mitchum returns to Japan after several years in order to rescue his friend’s kidnapped daughter – and ends up on the wrong side of the Yakuza, the notorious Japanese Mafia. Mitchum and Takakura are excellent as men from different cultures who find a mutual sense of honour in taking on the powerful gang. Explosive gunplay mixes with bloody swordplay in a tense finale. Edited version runs 112m. 
Walk Among the Tombstones, A (2014; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗∗½ d. Scott Frank; w. Scott Frank; ph. Mihai Malaimare Jr.; m. Carlos Rafael Rivera; ed. Jill Savitt. Cast: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, Marina Squerciati, Sebastian Roché, Boyd Holbrook, Stephanie Andujar, David Harbour, Briana Marin, Toshiko Onizawa, Purva Bedi, Maurice Compte, Patrick McDade, Luciano Acuna Jr., Hans Marrero, Laura Birn. Matt Scudder (Neeson), an unlicensed private investigator, reluctantly agrees to help a heroin trafficker (Stevens) hunt down the men who kidnapped and then brutally murdered his wife. Neeson is on fine form and although it never strays too far from genre conventions this is a professionally packaged dark thriller. Based on the novel by Lawrence Block. 
Crossfire (1947; USA; B&W; 85m) ∗∗∗½ d. Edward Dmytryk; w. John Paxton; ph. J. Roy Hunt; m. Roy Webb; ed. Harry W. Gerstad. Cast: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Gloria Grahame, Sam Levene, Paul Kelly, Jacqueline White, Steve Brodie, Lex Barker. This unusual and worthwhile black-and-white film noir was one of the first movies to deal with issues of anti-Semitism. A weary Washington detective must get to the bottom of a seemingly motive-lacking murder, with the prime suspect a boozy soldier who can only vaguely recall the events of the night. Dmytryk (also responsible for MURDER MY SWEET in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm. Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks. Also available in a computer colourised version. [PG]
Crossfire Trail (TV) (2001; USA; Colour; 92m) ∗∗∗ d. Simon Wincer; w. Charles Robert Carner; ph. David Eggby; m. Eric Colvin; ed. Terry Blythe. Cast: Tom Selleck, Virginia Madsen, Wilford Brimley, David O’Hara, Christian Kane, Barry Corbin, Joanna Miles, Ken Pogue, Patrick Kilpatrick, Rex Linn, William Sanderson, Daniel Parker, Marshall R. Teague, Brad Johnson, Mark Harmon. Rafe Covington promises a dying friend that he’ll watch over the man’s wife and ranch after he’s gone. Well-made western with a strong central performance from Selleck, but an overly melodramatic villain in Harmon. Good support cast headed by Brimley as wisened cow hand. Based on the novel by Louis L’Amour 
Decision at Sundown (1957; USA; Technicolor; 77m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Budd Boetticher; w. Charles Lang; ph. Burnett Guffey; m. Heinz Roemheld; ed. Al Clark. Cast: Randolph Scott, John Carroll, Karen Steele, Valerie French, Noah Beery Jr., John Archer, Andrew Duggan, James Westerfield, John Litel, Ray Teal, Vaughn Taylor, Richard Deacon, H.M. Wynant. Scott and his sidekick arrive in the town of Sundown on the wedding day of the town boss, whom the Scott blames for his wife’s death years earlier. Well-made Western where all the characters are shades of grey. Scott delivers one of his best performances as an angst ridden ex-civil war vet out for revenge. Based on a story by Vernon L. Fluharty. [PG]
ONE SHOE MAKES IT MURDER (TVM, 1982, Fellows-Keegan Company / Lorimar Productions, USA, 95 mins, Colour, 1.78:1, Mono, Cert: NR, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Mitchum (Harold Shillman), Angie Dickinson (Fay Reid), Mel Ferrer (Carl Charnock), José Pérez (Det. Carmona), John Harkins (Smiley Copell), Howard Hesseman (Joe Hervey), Asher Brauner (Rudy), Bill Henderson (Chick), Cathie Shirriff (Caroline Charnock), William G. Schilling (Cab driver), Sandy Martin (Gloria), Grainger Hines (Garage attendant).
Producer: Mel Ferrer; Director: William Hale; Writer: Felix Culver (based on the novel “So Little Cause for Caroline” by Eric Bercovici); Director of Photography: Terry K. Meade (Metrocolor); Music: Bruce Broughton; Film Editor: Jerry Young; Art Director: Donald Lee Harris; Set Decorator: Ernie Bishop; Costume Designer: Thomas E. Johnson, Joy Tierney.
Robert Mitchum made his TV debut in this old-fashioned mystery. Hale’s movie echoes the noir films of the 1940s and 1950s without ever conjuring the atmosphere to match, despite Mitchum’s world-weary voiceover and Broughton’s retro music score.
Mitchum is a washed-out ex-cop hired by a rich Nevada casino owner (Ferrer) to find his wife (Shirriff) who went missing at the same time as the casino was shut down by the authorities. Along the way Mitchum also meets up with Dickinson, an ex-hooker turned good, who takes a shine to him and helps him out. When Shirriff falls from a balcony, after she has been traced to San Francisco, Mitchum suspects foul play whilst the police suspect Mitchum.
The plot unfolds in familiar fashion from here with a small cast in which both Ferrer and Pérez standout. Whilst Hale fails to inject any real rhythm to the story and it at times feels laboured, both Mitchum and Dickinson hold our interest by turning in performances which play heavily on their iconic status. Culver’s screenplay adaptation could have been tighter and the limitations of TV budget scaled back the production.
Whilst this fails to hold a candle to genre classics it remains an entertaining enough mystery on its own terms and is worth exploring by genre fans.
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (1975, E. K. Corporation/ITC, USA, 100 mins, Colour, 1.85:1, Mono, Cert: 15, Mystery) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Mitchum (Philip Marlowe), Charlotte Rampling (Mrs. Helen Grayle), John Ireland (Lt. Nulty), Sylvia Miles (Mrs. Jessie Florian), Anthony Zerbe(Laird Brunette), Harry Dean Stanton (Billy Rolfe), Jack O’Halloran (Moose Malloy), Joe Spinell (Nick), Sylvester Stallone (Jonnie), Kate Murtagh (Frances Amthor), John O’Leary (Lindsay Marriott), Walter McGinn (Tommy Ray), Burton Gilliam (Cowboy), Jim Thompson (Mr. Baxter Wilson Grayle), Jimmie Archer (Georgie).
Producer: George Pappas, Jerry Bruckheimer; Director: Dick Richards; Writer: David Zelag Goodman (based on the novel by Raymond Chandler); Director of Photography: John A. Alonzo (Technicolor); Music: David Shire; Film Editor: Walter Thompson, Joel Cox; Production Designer: Dean Tavoularis, Art Director: Angelo Graham; Set Decorator: Bob Nelson; Costume Designer: Tony Scarano, Silvio Scarano, Sandra Berke.
Delightful version of Raymond Chandler’s classic 1940 novel, previously filmed as THE FALCON TAKES OVER (1942) and MURDER MY SWEET (1945). Mitchum is a perfect world-weary Marlowe, despite his age and Richards creates an authentic translation of the author’s prose.
Marlowe is hired by oversized ex-con Moose Malloy (O’Halloran) to trace the girl he has not seen for seven years. What follows is a twisting tale of deceit, spiced with witty dialogue and colourful characters. The period detail is also excellent with the dark photography (by Alonzo who also worked on the previous year’s genre classic Chinatown) and mournful music score adding considerably to the mood.
In a strong supporting cast, Miles (nominated for a supporting actress Academy Award) scores heavily as a booze-soaked ex-dancer and Ireland is imposing as the seemingly only honest cop, Nulty. Also impressive is Murtagh as the butch madam of a brothel who also gets the better of Marlowe physically. Some of the other performances are more variable – former boxer O’Halloran is physically imposing as Moose, but delivers his lines with a stiffness that matches his build. Rampling manages to create some sexual tension, but lacks the finesse for this type of role of a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake.
Richards’ pacing of the story is well-judged and his work on this meticulously designed film is supported by editors Thompson and Cox in retaining a sense of clarity and flow through the complex plot twists.
The film’s success led to Mitchum playing Marlowe again in the less successful remake of THE BIG SLEEP in 1978, which bizarrely switched location from 1940s LA to 1970s London.
CROSSFIRE (RKO Radio Pictures, Inc., USA, 86 mins, B&W, 1.37:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Crime Thriller) ∗∗∗∗∗
Starring: Robert Young (Captain Finlay); Robert Mitchum (Sgt. Felix Keeley); Robert Ryan (Sgt. Montgomery); Gloria Grahame (Ginny Tremaine); Paul Kelly (The Man); Sam Levene (Joseph Samuels); Jacqueline White (Mary Mitchell); Steve Brodie (Floyd Bowers); George Cooper (Corp. Arthur Mitchell); Richard Benedict (Bill Williams); Richard Powers (Detective Dick); William Phipps (Leroy); Lex Barker (Harry); Marlo Dwyer (Miss Lewis).
Producer: Adrian Scott; Director: Edward Dmytryk; Writer: John Paxton (Based on the novel “The Brick Foxhole” by Richard Brooks); Director of Photography: J. Roy Hunt; Music: Roy Webb; Film Editor: Harry Gerstad; Art Director: Albert S. D’Agostino, Alfred Herman; Set Decorator: Darrell Silvera, John Sturtevant.
Detective Finlay (Young) investigates a group of soldiers who are accused of beating a man to death without an apparent motive in this well-directed and acted film noir based on Brooks’ controversial novel of a homophobic motivated murder (here translated into a hatred of Jews rather than homosexuals).
Dmytryk (also responsible for Murder My Sweet in 1944) directs with a sure and efficient hand giving the story sufficient room to breathe whilst keeping the plot moving along. Ryan conveys a fine balance of calmness in the early scenes and a descent into desperation as the net closes. Mitchum is solid and confident in an early supporting role, whilst Young displays a world –weariness that would become a signature for the noir police detective. Hunt’s photography is first-rate with most scenes set at night and being low lit giving ample opportunity for contrast and shadow. Paxton’s adaptation provides good dialogue for the actors and generally steers clear of the genre’s more obvious traits. Grahame has some memorable screen time as the painted lady caught up in events.
Whilst this is not a classic, the film is one of the better examples of the atmosphere and tension the genre could create with a gifted director at the helm.
Both producer Scott and director Dmytryk were later accused of communist sympathies and became the first two members of the “Hollywood Ten” who were blacklisted and imprisoned – although Dmytryk was later reprieved.