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My view of "Bad Company" is very splitI have never seen an old movie so split between outstanding and lousy elements. All and all it's worth watching, but in order to explain why, I have to ALERT YOU TO UPCOMING SPOILERS.
Saw this almost 20 years ago on AMC, so it's not going to be a very incisive description, but basically it's an early underworld drama with 2 young people (Helen Twelvetrees and John Garrick) trying to get untangled from a gangster (Ricardo Cortez).
Let's get the bad things out of the way, first. There's a mad scene late in the film where Twelvetrees realizes that Cortez, muttering & walking back and forth near a bust, I think of Napoleon (or himself, I don't remember), has lost his marbles. The shots alternate between Cortez, chewing the scenery, to Twelvetrees' increasingly horrified expressions. With each succeeding cut these expressions become more and more ridiculously overdrawn. In these moments, film acting seemed to move back to early Vitagraph days.
Then there's a plot angle that no one would be able to swallow. Harry Carey, playing a law enforcement officer, wants to trap Cortez and assassinate him. He's supposed to arrive at a bootlegging vessel, and when he comes downstairs on the ship, Carey will be waiting for him, with a 30 caliber mounted machine gun!! But Cortez gets wise and has Garrick go instead. We see the young fellow walking downstairs into the hold, Carey's grip on the trigger tightening, then there's an artful fade to black. Fade up on Garrick, not in unidentifiable pieces in the morgue, but waking up in the hospital with a slight leg wound. He's well enough to jump up to go out to save Twelvetrees! While going there, the taxicab he's a passenger in is struck by a trolley and almost cut in half. But Garrick just jumps out and starts running!! And now the good stuff. Arthur Miller's camera-work is excellent; one marvels at what he had to do to get an early scene where bootlegging ships rendezvous at night. No process screens, day-for-night or miniatures were used. Tay Garnett's direction is often exceedingly graceful, especially his use of dissolves during a lavish gangland wedding, which even has a dirigible dropping balloons (or maybe it was flowers). Also this is the one of the more action-packed early crime pictures I have seenunlike "Public Enemy" or "Little Caesar", in which the shoot-outs either were clumsily or perfunctorily staged, or done off-screen.
Worth watching, if you just ignore those little problems I noted above.
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