Friday, June 26, 2015


Unlike other spy movies of the '60s, The Defector takes a serious look at the quiet drudgery and danger of international espionage. Physicist John Bower is blackmailed by the CIA to enter East Germany in order to pick up microfilm from a disgruntled Russian scientist. Peter Heinzmann, a physicist working for the Stasi, is assigned to tail Bower -- a man whose work he respects -- in order to get the microfilm first. When the Russian scientist is murdered -- and the microfilm proves worthless -- Heinzamann is ordered to get Bower to defect to East Germany. With the help of a young woman named Frieda, Bower manages to escape to the West -- but the Stasi has one more trick up its sleeve.

The Defector -- a French production shot in Germany -- lingers in the mind, but for mainly the wrong reasons. It's an interesting but slow picture, picking up steam only in the final 30 minutes or so, when Bower tries escaping enemy hands. The story is certainly interesting -- I have a feeling it's a more accurate snapshot of the spy game than the James Bond movies -- but that's not what gives The Defector its cachet.

How do you say "Yikes!" in German?
No, that would be Montgomery Clift's final performance as Bower. Looking less like Tom Cruise as he did in I Confess, the 45 year-old Clift now resembles the drunken, decimated Buster Keaton in the latter's final M-G-M talkies. You can't help but gasp at his first close-up. Once the handsomest actor in movies, he now appears more haunted than the house in The Amityville Horror, the victim of a near-fatal car crash a decade earlier, followed by a constant intake of booze and pills. Food? What's food?

Yet, as if capitalizing on his physical downward spiral, Clift is an ideal choice as the accidental spy. This is no Sean Connery, but an isolated, sickly man who takes the job only to keep his government research grants coming. At no time do you ever think he could fight his way out of a situation. In fact, having him shot at point-blank range would seem a blessing.

Hardy Kruger is caught between a cop
and a hard place.
As Heinzamann, Hardy Kruger gives the Stasi operative a humanity missing from other spy movies of the day. Like Bower, Heinzamann is blackmailed by his handler to complete the job. They're two of a kind, even if the German is in better physical condition. He actually likes Bower and would rather see him return safely home than to get stuck on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall -- even if they could make beautiful research together in East Germany.

Oddly, he looks better on acid.

Judging by the one-sheet atop this page, The Defector's American release downplayed Clift's involvement (it was his first movie in four years), while trying to sell it as something similar to the trippy Roger Corman movies coming into vogue, thanks to one scene where Bower is slipped some acid. As if the drug was necessary; from the moment Bower arrives in Leipzig, his paranoia increases under the constant state-run surveillance, where even a visit to a doctor might mean life or death for all involved.

The Defector is dated in many ways -- the microfilm is said to determine if the USSR will get to the moon before the USA, a problem charmingly naive compared to today's international crises -- but is refreshing for its almost utter lack of "excitement". Today's spy movies replace genuine drama with CGI, impossibly handsome undercover agents, and allegedly-clever one-liners. The Defector's biggest action sequence is a power boat blowing up in the last reel. 

This is an action star?
Yet Bower's climactic escape -- by bike, foot, and boat -- makes for more genuine excitement than any Mission Impossible movie, because you wonder just how the hell Montgomery Clift survived any physical exertion outside of breathing. Disguised as farmer, Clift looks more like a concentration camp survivor.

No, I don't think so.
Perhaps that's why a love scene depicted in one of The Defector's lobby cards is nowhere to be seen in the final cut. The idea of a naked Clift in bed with a cute 26 year-old woman is just too much to take.

Clift's death (from "occlusive coronary artery disease") four months before The Defector's American release probably doomed what little success it might have achieved. The actor's sickly aura hangs over the movie like a human car wreck, keeping your attention even when the pace slackens and you wonder just where the story's going. Like his fellow method actor Marlon Brando in the twilight of his career, Clift just had to show up to make a project interesting.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015


The 69-minute long Are We Civilized? opens with all the hallmarks of a '30s independent production with big ideas and little money. A cast credit promising an epic (starring "Many thousands of soldiers, sailors and peasants"); a narcissist for a director whose signature that takes up half the screen ("Personally Directed by Edmund Carewe" -- thanks for showing up on the set, Ed!); and a "special score" performed by The Manhattan Symphony Orchestra of New York (not to be confused with Manhattan, Kansas). 

"Say, I remember you before you were a
fascist pig!"
In an unnamed European country, newspaper publisher Paul Franklin, Jr. is visited by his father, who, since World War I, has led a successful life in the USA. Under the direction of Gen. Bockner, the head of the Censorship Bureau, Junior's home is soon ransacked both for his newspaper's insistence on publishing the truth, and Senior's incendiary radio broadcast condemning the fascist government. Senior attempts to mend Bockner's ways.

Older than the real thing.
And it's at this point Are We Civilized? starts to show its sorry budgetary restrictions. Paul Sr. gives Bockner and his stormtrooper buddies a half-hour lecture on world history, illustrated for us by old silent movie clips. (Over a decade later, this cost-cutting trick was used in The White Gorilla.) Accompanied by a score that sounds like a bad mix of "Rhapsody in Blue" and The Twilight Zone, we start with primordial ooze before claymation dinosaurs start battling it out. A caveman figuring out how to draw leads to a discussion of Moses, Buddha, Confucius, Julius Caesar, Jesus and Mohammed. (I don't know why ISIS is all in a tizzy about portraying ol' Mo, since he appears to be a good-looking rascal.) 

"Wait, don't go, I'm only up to 14th century!"
During this time, Paul Sr. is completely oblivious that his son is currently getting the shit beat out of him by an angry mob outside the front door. But no matter -- there's still Napoleon, the Civil War, steamboats and automobiles to talk about. And as for all that footage from silent movies and newsreels -- copyright, shmopyright! They've gotta do something to pad this thing out.

"Comment ai-je ici?"
For its weird detour into history -- lasting almost half its running time -- Are We Civilized? is also remarkably prescient of a second world war, while Paul Sr.'s description of the Depression rings true today: "Destitute, homeless, hopeless men, women and children, bewildered in their pitiful distress," thanks to society allowing Wall Street shenanigans to run unchecked. (Former silent leading man William Farnum bellows his occasionally-overwrought dialogue as you'd expect from an actor born in 1876.) 

William Farnum (right)
with screenwriter Harold
Director Edmund Carewe and writer Harold Sherman clearly had a lot on their little plate. But they are to be honored for calling out the Nazis at a time when Hitler's personal representatives in Los Angeles had the final say over studio scripts -- Germany being a major market for American movies. (It's a practice that continues, to a lesser extent, as Hollywood movies are routinely rewritten in order to make the Chinese government look good.) Yes, the country in Are We Civilized? is anonymous, but its locale is unmistakable. Only an indie production without any desire for a German release could get away with it.

Are We Civilized?'s dialogue ranges from "what the?" (Jr. speaking of Sr.: "He's often told friends that having the top of his skull blown off in the war was a blessing in disguise") to dryly amusing (Jr., engaged to the daughter of head of the Censorship Bureau, promises to "love, honor, and suppress"). When Bockner threatens to expel the Franklins to America (where Senior already lives), you have to wonder why they don't say, "No problem, get us on the first boat outta here!" 
Carewe and Sherman apparently thought Are We Civilized? would somehow change the ways of mankind. Four years earlier, Universal Pictures thought All Quiet on the Western Front would signal the end of war for all time. In 2005, Steven Spielberg promised Time magazine that Munich, his movie about the massacre of Israeli athletes at the '68 Olympics, would lead to peace in the Middle East. No wonder so many movie-makers are good at what they do -- they live in a fantasy world 24/7.

Yet one glance at today's newspaper proves that Paul Franklin Sr.'s prediction that mankind would be in peril if we kept up our disastrous ways was all too accurate. The answer to Are We Civilized? is hardly a positive one. 



Wednesday, April 29, 2015


If a weasly, clubfooted tutor ever puts the moves on you, it’s best to give him a tumble. Otherwise, he’ll hold a grudge by becoming one of the most despicable people in history.

That seems to be the moral of Enemy of Women, the World War II-era biography/expose of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels. As Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment, he had total control over radio, movies, theater, art, newspapers and even psychics -- a position to be held by David Brock when Hillary Clinton is elected president. (I kid, I kid!)

An independent production released by Monogram Pictures, Enemy of Women is far more serious than its gaudy yet shabby posters would suggest. Too, its budget is better than your average Monogram release, and its running time longer. It almost looks like a movie from one of the majors, only with a relatively unknown cast,  which actually works in its favor.

Maria and Dr. Traeger engage in foreplay,
Perhaps knowing that wartime audiences might not be all that interested in a straight-ahead docudrama about Hitler's right-hand SOB, Enemy of Women's creators thread the picture with a love story involving aspiring actress Maria Brandt (the woman Goebbels desires but can never have) and Dr. Hans Traeger. They could have titled it Love in the Time of Swastika.

Maria had rejected Goebbels advances during his tutoring days. Once he becomes the head of all things artistic, Goebbels pulls strings to make Maria the biggest movie star in Germany, whether audiences liked it or not. In other words, they're a lot like Harvey Weinstein and Gwyneth Paltrow. But when Maria rejects Goebbels yet again, her career is finished and, for good measure, her father murdered. You'd think putting her on suspension would've been enough.

"Oh, Joey, tell me again about
the censorship laws!"
It's difficult to understand why Goebbels is obsessed with scoring with Maria, since he has a date with a different woman every night. Either these dames are attracted to power, or clubfeet must be a real turn-on for them. In fact, Goebbels seems to have hitched himself to Hitler's wagon just to score with the ladies; world domination is gravy. But as he tells Maria after her marriage to Hans, "You are the one open account in the ledger of my life." What a Romeo.

The look of love (for Hitler)
Rather than portraying him as an evil swine right off the bat, Paul Andor (born Wolfgang Zilzer) plays the pre-Nazi Goebbels as a metaphor for post-World-War I Germany -- a weak, pathetic cripple -- finding self-respect (and power) only when attending his first Hitler rally in 1928. The movie suggests that it was there Goebbels dreamed up the whole "Heil Hitler" routine. Quite an addition for one's résumé. (Most of the Nazis in Enemy of Women are either former wimps or full-time bullies.)

"Round up all the Jews, kill all the newspaper editors --
and, oh yeah, make sure there's toner in the copying
Once in power, Goebbels becomes the ultimate mid-level manager, forever grousing to subordinates ("I am not at all happy with our anti-Catholic campaign") while taking advantage of his position (see "score with the ladies" above). Despite the fictional storyline, there's a vague realism to Andor's performance that a major star would have lacked.  As with many independent movies of its time, Enemy of Women winds up being better than it should be because of its budgetary limitations. And the climactic forced separation between Maria and Hans -- arranged by Goebbels, naturally -- still works as an authentically heartbreaking moment.

For reasons unknown but entirely welcome, YouTube's print of Enemy of Women is in excellent shape for a "orphaned" movie. Despite being slightly washed-out from time to time, there are moments when it looks startlingly new, giving us the rare chance to see a Monogram movie the way it looked in its original theatrical release. Equally satisfying, there's nothing to mock, no over-the-top dialogue or hammy acting -- it's actually quite involving, with an excellent book-ending device involving an Allied air raid over Berlin. It's no Casablanca -- but sometimes a good burger is better than a steak. 

However, I still don't have permission to hang up the poster in my living room.


Saturday, March 21, 2015


Every actor has to start somewhere, but nobody's movie debut was more meager than Errol Flynn's. Having never acted before, he was hired to play Fletcher Christian in the Australian picture In the Wake of the Bounty, an odd hybrid of melodrama, documentary and travelogue. Or, as the onscreen introduction informs us, "the first of a series of great travel films to be produced by Expeditionary Films depicting strange incidents, strange places and strange people." They should have started with the studio itself.

"Aye, those Tahitian women were lovely...
or so I hear."

Throughout the first half of its 64-minute running time, In the Wake of the Bounty jerks abruptly from a pub where blind seaman Michael Byrne holds forth on his adventures aboard the HMS Bounty decades earlier, to flashbacks on the ship, and then back again. Never explained is how he returned to England after the mutiny or passed the naval physical to begin with, considering that he's, uh, blind

"Avast! Who moved my cheese,
Mr. Christian?"

Unlike later depictions of the Bounty's notorious commander, here Bligh has lost a couple of stripes, being a Lieutenant instead of Captain. He's also something an 18th-century Capt. Queeg, ordering his crew flogged for allegedly stealing his cheese. Talk about being a petty officer!

"We love unhygienic white men!"
But all that is forgotten when the crew reaches Tahiti. In the Wake of the Bounty then becomes something like a 10-minute home movie shot on location, with real-life islanders as extras. When the half-naked women aren't making like they're hanging out at the Playboy Mansion grotto, they're dancing for the Bounty sailors, throwing their hands in the air like they just don't care. The native men are content to play their drums, although I wonder how they feel about their women going gaga for these greasy Limeys who haven't seen a bar of Lifebuoy since setting off to sea. 

Then another 10 minutes are devoted to the mutiny and its aftermath -- returning to Tahiti to pick up some babes and sailing to nowhere. But the men soon realize that a floating Plato's Retreat isn't all it's cracked up to be. As blind Michael Byrne puts it, "We drank heavily and fought over the women," which sounds an awful lot like your average New York bar any night of the week. Unlike the location shots, the "native girls" on board the Bounty are fully-dressed white actresses. It's an old Western custom: naked white women bad, naked darker women OK.

"Why did white men mate with the dark-
skinned women of Tahiti"? Take a guess, Skippy.
And there, at the 30-minute mark, In the Wake of the Bounty becomes a semi-documentary of life on Tahiti and Pictairn Islands (the location of Fletcher Christian's last stand) in 1932. On Pitcairn, we meet the real-life descendants of the Bounty's mutineers, where inbreeding had been rampant for 160 years. (We see the wedding of Alan Christian to Eva Christian, presided over by Edgar Christian. Eww.) And if you think all they do is hang around eating breadfruit all day, the narrator informs us, "There's no slackers on this little island!" -- despite the kids, we're told, having only a two-hour school day.

Not even all that cool native
jewelry can ease Fletch's pain.
But then, without warning, it's back to Bounty-full melodrama, as life after mutiny is no paradise in paradise. Fletcher Christian bemoans his fate to one of his sidekicks: "Death would be a release from the remorse that dogs my footsteps -- day and night, night and day!" Who knew people were singing Cole Porter in the 18th-century?

Swing it, baby!
And then it's back to 1932 once more, this time for the scripted climax. A Pictairn couple tries to SOS a passing ship to bring medicine for their sick baby, but the distance is too great for the message to carry. The baby dies, the mother weeps melodramatically, and the father recites a prayer at fade out. That's what you get for marrying your sister.

When In the Wake of the Bounty's intro promises that Expeditionary Films "has not spared time or money" in making the movie, it seems to mean that they didn't spare any money at all. The sets look like something out of a Thomas Edison short from 1903, while much of the acting is strictly 19th-century stage melodrama. When one of the Bounty's sailors says of Lt. Bligh, "If I could only live to see him suffer like we've been suffering," he might as well be quoting the audience's opinion of the director.

"Don't worry, ladies, you'll be swooning
over me soon enough."
But what of 24 year-old Errol Flynn in his movie debut?  He's a little gaunt -- did he have one of his bouts of malaria before shooting? He sports his real, pre-Hollywood teeth, which he wisely keeps hidden most of the time. And he's kind of awkward, often looking down at his feet while keeping his arms folded. Still, he's easily the best actor in the movie, with his smooth, familiar voice trying to make sense of the risible dialogue he's been given. ("Mutiny... piracy... Oh God, where will it all end?" Believe me, I asked the same thing.) Even if you had never heard of Errol Flynn, you'd pick him as the only one in the movie who had any chance of success.

Two years later, Flynn's first starring role in an American movie, Captain Blood, was released, launching his legendary career. That same year, M-G-M released Mutiny on the Bounty starring Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, immediately becoming a seafaring classic. But In the Wake of the Bounty, little seen outside Australia, left no wake at all.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015


You'd think a movie with a script by Morrie Ryskind (A Night at the Opera) and a score by Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill (no credits needed), would be long-considered a classic. But the answer to the musical's title, Where Do We Go From Here?, is "down the memory hole."

It's certainly an unusual concept for a musical, being the story of Bill Morgan, a 4-F scrap dealer who wants to impress the soldier-crazy slut Sally Smith, while blind to the affections of the good-girl Lucilla Powell. An inept genie in a magic lamp tries to grant Morgan his wish to join the army, but succeeds only in sending him back and forth through time -- the American Revolution, Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World, and 16th-century New Amsterdam -- while encountering Sally and Lucilla's ancestors along the way.

Fred MacMurray tries unsuccessfully
to look down June Haver's dress.
Alternately refined and juvenile, lively and tedious, Where Do We Go From Here? feels like a Broadway show that 20th Century-Fox decided would make a swell Technicolor movie instead. Gregory Ratoff's directing style consists of long, unedited takes without the panache of, say, Alfred Hitchcock or even Laurel & Hardy. While it works for the astonishing USO production number "Morale," it tends that much more to make the movie resemble a filmed play.

Not that Where Do We Go From Here? is without charm. Fred MacMurray, the man least likely to sing Kurt Weill, does a nice job with the dreamy "All at Once" and "If Love Remains" -- two numbers that are probably Cafe Carlyle staples even today. "The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria" (guess which scene), on the other hand, is a 10-minute mini-opera that impresses for its sheer audaciousness. 

But the score's overall sophistication is so far out of step from other '40s movie musicals and its own silly script that Where Do We Go From Here? probably bewildered its original audience. Sometimes bizarre is good. Other times it's just... bizarre.

Anthony Quinn and Fred MacMurray get cozy
while ignoring the hot squaw on the rug.
Along with MacMurray, the cast is something of a ragtag bunch. Joan Leslie and June Haver are beautiful but bland second-tier leading ladies. Mexican-born Anthony Quinn is a fast-talking 15th-century Indian chief who threatens to scalp Morgan, before selling him the island of Manhattan -- which already has Times Square street signs. (If you love relentless anachronistic humor, Where Do We Go From Here? is for you.) 

Gene Sheldon goes back
in time so he can refuse to
make this movie.
Stage actor Gene Sheldon speaks more dialogue as the idiot genie than he probably did in the rest of his career. If you're old enough, you may remember Sheldon on TV as either Zorro's mute sidekick, or variety shows playing banjo while making funny faces. Actually, you probably don't, but I do.

Where Do We Go From Here? has some trappings of an A-picture but with a B-movie running time of 74 minutes. (A sequence featuring Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes, presumably set in the Old West, was excised before its release.) Too, its May 1945 release date -- rather late for a flag-waving, World War II-themed picture -- suggests that it had been sitting on the shelf for at least a year. Like Fred MacMurray's character, Where Do We Go From Here? was probably never in quite the right time or place.

Anyone interested in watching the lengthy "Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria" production number can go here.

The demo for a deleted song, combining tongue-twisting lyrics and insulting Native American humor, can be heard here performed by Gershwin & Weill.

Monday, February 2, 2015


One of the most popular movies at this year's Sundance film festival was shot on an iPhone. The White Gorilla outdoes this DYI style by consisting mostly of footage from a movie made nearly 20 years earlier. The only way the moviemakers could have been lazier would have been to simply release it without the newly-shot material. In fact, it would have been better.  

The White Gorilla uses "highlights" from the 1927 serial Perils of the Jungle as flashbacks narrated by Steve Collins, a hunter recounting his African adventures with a friend, Bradford. 

"Let's you and him fight."
Well, not exactly with Bradford. You see, the actor playing Bradford is running around in 1927 while the actor playing Collins is skulking behind bushes or atop trees in 1945 allegedly watching the action unfold before him. No matter how much danger anyone is in, Collins uses every excuse in the book to avoid getting involved ("With the lions between me and the shack, there was nothing I could do but sit tight.") This is supposed to explain why the two actors never appear together, but actually makes Collins look like a coward. So much for the brave white hunter.

"If only someone from 1927 could save me!"
The moviemakers further try to hide the antiquity of the silent footage by badly dubbing in sound effects, music, and the occasional cry of "Help!" (which Collins, of course, never responds to). This doesn't rationalize, however, the drastically different fashions or brief scenes where characters' mouths move but no dialogue is heard. Even for undemanding B-movie fans of the '40s, The White Gorilla must have been greeted with flying popcorn boxes by everyone except kiddie matinee attendees. 

Ofay the Jungle Boy.
The "flashback" scenes, however, are good for reminding us of the classic jungle movie cliche of the white interlopers holding sway over the natives. The Perils of the Jungle footage takes it once step further by presenting some five year-old white kid as the ruler over anyone with skin darker than a coconut. They even kiss the brat's hand. Al Sharpton would love this picture. (The one "African" in the 1945 footage speaks with a Southern patois. South Africa, perhaps?)

My wife would love a coat like that.
But wither Konga, the titular white gorilla? He's in the 1945 footage, courtesy actor/stunt man/ professional gorilla imitator Ray Corrigan. Konga's bad attitude is due to being rejected by his darker-skinned "tribe." If you think the screenwriter intended The White Gorilla to be a social metaphor, don't bother. The movie was merely cashing in on the popularity of a similar movie then in release, White Pongo. Yes, there was a white gorilla movie craze in 1945. 

Grown men got paid to do this.
In addition to impersonating Konga, Ray Corrigan also plays hunter Steve Collins, thus giving him the chance to chase himself onscreen for a moment. When they come to fisticuffs, however, a double appears to step in as Collins. (Corrigan was quite protective of his monkey business.) Konga is later killed in a fight with another ape, which looks more like a bad wrestling match between two drunks in, well, monkey suits. 

This new footage runs less than half of White Gorilla's 60-minute running time, accounting for its alleged 3-day shoot. The scenes at the trading post which appear throughout the movie look like they could have been shot between breakfast and lunch. Make that breakfast and coffee break.

Yet I can't help but admire the moviemakers' chutzpah in promoting it as "The Greatest Wild Animal Picture Ever Made!" (Never trust a movie whose opening credits lists two actors followed by "AND AN ALL-STAR CAST.") And since producer Lou Weiss was responsible for both Perils in the Jungle and The White Gorilla, he didn't have to pay anyone for the rights to the old footage, thus lowering the already cut-rate budget. 

Don't give Harvey Weinstein any ideas. Given the chance, he'd happily find a way to combine the next Quentin Tarantino picture with Shakespeare in Love.


Friday, January 30, 2015


One of the many things I love about old movies is their simplicity. Or is it the original audiences' simplicity? Because there are times you have to swallow an awful lot of malarkey with these things (which I happily do).

Take Eyes in the Night, a 1942 M-G-M programmer. While trying to clear a friend of murder, Police Captain Duncan McLain breaks up a Nazi spy ring. 

You'd trust a blind cop with a gun, right?
So far, so World War II. But what sets McLain apart from other cops is that he's blind. And like other blind cops, McLain has no problem getting the drop on bad guys with his own patented martial arts technique, or walking (with his seeing eye dog) to a greenhouse on a property he's never visited before. McLain even has perfect cursive handwriting. The only thing he can't do is explain how the hell he's capable of all of this.

Friday's ticked off because his
contract said nothing about
publicity stills.
And speaking of geniuses, his dog Friday can understand commands like "Hide behind the bed," "Take this message home," and, probably, "Make me a South Beach Martini, and don't be stingy with the Cointreau."  Friday is also capable of jumping 12-foot walls and figuring out how to escape from a locked basement by knocking over a pile of mattresses and... well, it doesn't matter. You wouldn't believe me, anyway. Suffice it to say, this mutt makes Rin Tin Tin look like Goofy. According to the credits, Friday is played by Himself, which is a strange name for a dog. (Memo to wife: That's a joke.)

"Four walls and a roof... or is it
four roofs and a wall?"

Smart as he is, Friday can't talk (yet), so McLain has a two-legged sidekick, Marty, to describe the surroundings when inspecting crime scenes. But when Marty's played by the perennially dim-witted Alan Jenkins, you know that the dog ultimately has the upper paw. Jenkins, on loan from Warner Bros., seems almost out of place in a Metro picture, even one on the lower-end of the budget spectrum as Eyes of the Night, but, as usual, is a welcome sight. Well, except for the blind cop.

Ann Harding is 41 but playing 50.
Donna Reed is 24 but playing 17 while
looking 35
. The magic of Hollywood!
While it's always fun to see not-yet famous stars in early roles, it's even better when they're playing the opposite of what you're used to. And here, it's Donna Reed as the 17 year-old slutty bitch (or bitchy slut) Barbara Lawry, who's having an affair with her stepmother's ex-lover (the soon-to-be murder victim). In Eyes in the Night's final scene, Reed's character is going on a date with the middle-aged McLain. What people called a happy ending, we now refer to as "daddy issues."

"OK, anyone who isn't a Nazi, say 'aye.'"
I'm not sure how many Nazi spy rings there were in America, but judging from 1940s movies, you couldn't open a refrigerator without hearing "Sieg heil!" In Eyes of the Night, the krauts make up the theatre group Barbara Lawry belongs to and Norma's entire household staff. Didn't anyone hear of background checks?

I have no idea what's supposed
to be happening here.
Edward Arnold plays Capt. McLain with what used to be called his usual aplomb. Sophisticated, clever, almost happy to be blind, McLain doesn't let his affliction stop him from doing his job, although I wouldn't want to live in a town where there's a blind cop packing heat.

But Arnold's style is partly his undoing. Adept at playing villains (like Satan in the Metro short Inflation), he makes me just a little uncomfortable when a good guy, as in Eyes in the Night. There always seems to be something nasty simmering just below the surface, like a desire to kick his dog in the face without warning. (Paul Newman admitted basing his performance in the Coen Brothers' 1940s-style farce The Hudsucker Proxy on Arnold. Take it from someone who's seen it -- it was a bad idea.)

Maybe audiences didn't buy the blind-cop premise after all. The studio waited three years before making another McLain movie with Arnold before scuttling the whole idea. These were also Friday's only movie appearances. Not much of a call, apparently, for seeing-eye dogs working with blind cops. Typecasting's brutal, even if you can hide behind a bed on command.


To read about Inflation, go here.