Sunday, April 27, 2014

Guest Review – Open Mike Night: Dressed to Kill (1941) and My Gun is Quick (1957)

By Philip Schweier

Recently, Netflix has added a handful of low-budget crime films to its current repertoire, and I took the opportunity to indulge myself in two tales starring famous private eyes named Mike.

Lloyd Nolan stars as Mike Shayne in Dressed to Kill (1941), in which he becomes embroiled in an entertaining little murder mystery on the eve of his wedding. His bride-to-be, Joanne (Mary Beth Hughes) is a performer in a burlesque theater, and a resident of the Hotel Du Nord next door. As they are leaving to get hitched, a maid’s scream alert Shayne to the demise of one of the hotel’s residents and his guest.

Said resident has occupied an upper apartment for years, and even had a number of secret passageways to the theater next door installed, where his last successful show closed decades before. Immediately, suspicion falls upon his former cast mates, who in one manner or another are slowly being eliminated.

With the promises of a small fortune awaiting him should he solve the murders, Shayne launches his investigation, much to the frustration of his betrothed, as well as Police Inspector Pierson (William Demarest). In semi-comedic fashion, Shayne manages to expose the culprit, with the help of Mantan Moreland, who would parlay his bug-eyed routine to great success in the Charlie Chan movies.

The film is hardly as charming as the Thin Man films, nor as cerebral as any Sherlock Holmes adventure. It’s a sugar cookie of a movie, hardly satisfying or nutritious, merely intended to satisfy a momentary craving for a simple murder mystery

My Gun is Quick (1957) stars Robert Bray as Mike Hammer, in a loose adaptation of the Mickey Spillane novel of the same name. Full of no-name performers (by today’s recognition anyway), the film’s budgetary shortcomings actually work in its favor by increasing the traditional grittiness Spillane fans expect. The story deviates from the original novel (Mike Hammer’s second outing), but still remains a suitable entry in the Mike Hammer film canon.

Mike befriends a down-on-her-luck prostitute who is later found murdered, and the unique ring she wore is missing. It would appear the ring is a piece from a collection of jewels smuggled out of France following the war. Determined to get to the bottom of her killing, Mike follows leads that take him from one end of the social spectrum to the other. Most of those he encounters along the way have a nasty way of ending up dead.

The script is a bit suspect, leaving a few plot threads unresolved, but the film is so steeped in classic LA film noir, complete with mid-1950s jazz and dimly lit, cramped sets, that most fans of the genre might be forgiving. I enjoyed it, but your mileage may vary.


hobbyfan said...

Robert Bray---a no-name? Well, maybe in 1957, but in the 70's, he joined the cast of Lassie. That makes him a known commodity to me.

Anonymous said...

And what of Whitney Blake?
Mother of Meredith.