Friday, March 17, 2017

Forgotten Noir Fridays: Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949)


Edmund Dantes (Glenn Langan) has no sooner stepped off a boat (on which he’s employed as a second mate) docked along San Francisco’s waterfront when he must come to the rescue of a woman being attacked by a pair of goon-like gentlemen.  The female in question is Jean Turner (Adele Jergens), an heiress who’s currently receiving mail at a sanitarium (or “nuthouse,” as Dantes colorfully refers to it) because her guardian has placed her there to keep her from receiving the substantial fortune left to her by her father.  Jean cashes in when she’s either married or reaches the age of twenty-five; she mentions to Edmund that she’s nearly there, age-wise (yes, I knew Jergens was in her early thirties when this film was produced), but if the two of them were to tie the knot she could defeat her custodian’s eevill scheme.  (It would be a temporary business arrangement.  A three-month merger.)

Glenn Langan, Robert (Bobby) Jordan
So they’re off to “The Biggest Little City in the World” (Reno), and the morning after, Jean is having second thoughts.  When Ed ventures out to get her some cigarettes, he discovers upon his return that she’s vanished…but the address of the sanitarium has been scrawled on the mirror in lipstick.  (If Jean was abducted…wouldn’t the people putting the snatch on her notice something like this?)  Arriving at Casa del Cuckoo, Dantes hides in an upstairs room in the asylum when a man enters…and is shot by an unseen assailant.  This makes Ed The Amazing Colossal Patsy (actor Langan is known for his starring role in the 1957 cult sci-fi film The Amazing Colossal Man), as he’s arrested, tried, and sentenced for the murder of a man he’s never even met!  (Worst.  Honeymoon.  Ever.)

Adele Jergens
Despite its clunky title, which would be more fitting for a swashbuckling epic, Treasure of Monte Cristo (1949) is a decent noir whose only deficits are flabby pacing (I was kind of disappointed in director William Berke, who can usually make these little programmers hum) and uneven performances.  Far be it from me to want to deny actor Glenn Langan a career in show business…but the guy is in dire need of a charisma transplant (I know, he did quite a few biggies at Fox, like Forever Amber [1947] and The Snake Pit [1948]); a better leading man would have improved this picture enormously, and I’m only saying this because I have a thing for Adele Jergens.  (Adele and Glenn have zero chemistry.  Zip.  Nada.)

Margia, Margia, Margia! (Dean, that is.)

“If you love or live in San Francisco, this movie's like a time machine back to 1949,” observes Stuart Galbraith IV in his review at DVD Talk…and I think that’s another deficit in Treasure—it’s more of a travelogue at times than movie thriller.  (A narrator at the beginning even regales us with some Frisco stats before the story gets underway.)  Shooting on location is always nice in a film, but it shouldn’t overshadow the plot…which is conventional to the point of cliché from the get-go.  (There’s even a scene with a paralyzed victim who must communicate by moving his eyeballs.)  I wasn’t quite as taken with the suspense as Galbraith; truth be told, I had a little trouble staying awake at several points in the film.  (You could argue that the suspense is generated by “will he be able to keep from nodding off?”)

Steve Brodie
Dead End Kids/East Side Kids/Bowery Boys fans will be amused at the presence of Bobby Jordan (billed here as Robert), portraying the friend who helps Langan crash out on his way to San Quentin—I’ve seen Jordan in a couple of Tales of Wells Fargo episodes of late, and can’t help but be a little wistful at how his adult life turned out (I think Leo Gorcey once remarked that his friend “didn’t have a guardian angel”).  Familiar movie heavy Steve Brodie plays the bad guy (pro-tip: never hire an attorney sporting a pencil-thin moustache) and member-of-the-TDOY-faithful b piper will be overjoyed to see Lippert “good luck charm” Sid Melton (billed as Sidney) as a henchman (thankfully, he keeps the shtick to a bare minimum).

Heeeeeeeeeeere's Sidney!

There’s a DVD disclaimer at the beginning of this film that reads: “The original nitrate negative to this picture had decomposed, but fortunately a master positive survived.  Even after restoration the sound track is not perfect.  We hope this imperfection will not affect your enjoyment of this rare film.”  It did not (though the part about the sound concerned me to where I waited until the cleaning ladies finished vacuuming), and it just reinforces what has become a mantra here on the blog: film preservation is most important, because nitrate won’t wait.  You can purchase a copy of Treasure of Monte Cristo on the Forgotten Noir & Crime Collector’s Set Vol. 4, available at The Sprocket Vault.

4 comments:

Hal Horn said...

Gotta give the guy credit: despite the lack of onscreen chemistry, Glenn is the man who landed Adele Jergens in real life--the same year this film was released. They stayed married for 42 years until his death.

I never bought Langan as a hero either, but he made a good slimy villain on the Hondo series in his waning years as an actor.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Br'er Hal broke the blog stillness:

Gotta give the guy credit: despite the lack of onscreen chemistry, Glenn is the man who landed Adele Jergens in real life--the same year this film was released. They stayed married for 42 years until his death.

I will give him credit, because I was not aware of the Langan-Jergens coupling in real-life. (I still think she could do better...but it's probably not my place to say.)

he made a good slimy villain on the Hondo series in his waning years as an actor.

He did, indeed. (I saw most of the Hondos before we had to jettison getTV.)

Scott said...

Wow, this flick is like a Mystery Science Theater 3000 All Star Game. Glenn of course was in two episodes, The Amazing Colossal Man and Women of the Prehistoric Planet, Adele femme fataled her way through Radar Secret Service, Steve Brodie was in Wild Wild World of Batwoman (also playing a lawyer) and Giant Spider Invasion, while Sid Melton left his peculiar funk all over Lost Continent and Radar Secret Service.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...

Scott accepted the challenge to make Crystal Light come out of my nose:

while Sid Melton left his peculiar funk all over Lost Continent and Radar Secret Service.

I am so using this the next time I see Sid in a Lippert film (I predict I won't have long to wait).