A slice of life of the movie business, this satire blends drama, comedy, sensuality and suspense as it illustrates the ups and downs of showbiz through the lives of a few "wanna-be" movers and shakers of the Hollywood film industry.
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Ray Dennis Steckler
Ray Dennis Steckler,
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Yes, it's all true what they say about "Secret File Hollywood". In all honesty you would have to describe it as being a really bad movie. Yet, in a way, it's actually a minor classic.
It's one of those ultra low budget, flea pit quickies that "came back" to wander around the graveyard of late night TV in the 1970s. But, unlike most of its kind, it isn't so bad nor so completely devoid of entertainment value that it's entirely unwatchable.
OK, so what's the story? Well, it's pretty simple.
After becoming involved in a bar room shooting incident somewhere around L.A, deadbeat private eye Maxwell Carter (Robert Clarke) loses his snooping ticket and suddenly find himself out of work. With a couple of months back rent to pay on his sleazy dump of an office and a mean bookie on his tail who won't take "no" for an answer in regard to some outstanding pony debts, Maxie boy has to come up with some serious cash - pronto.
Enter Nan Torr (Francine York), the luscious, smartly - tailored editor of a cheap-jack scandal rag called (you guessed it) "Secret File Hollywood". Now, this is where the whole thing gets really exciting.
It just so happens that the serpent-like Nan (who stares out at the world through a pair of phony black-rimmed glasses) is a good pal of "Hap" Grogan, the bookie 'oom Max is into for about three grand.
To the sound of a sexy saxophone (or is it a trombone ?) smoldering away in the background, Miss TNT slides into Max's miserable hole in the wall and starts to whisper something about a high paying job.
Badly hung-over from a night on the sauce, its takes our hero a moment to get a hook on Nan's batty proposition. Turns out that it's a pretty shady assignment even by Max's lowly standards. Clear away all the bells and whistles and what it gets right down to is blackmail. In short, Nan wants the poor slob to take some compromising photos of a famous(and married) Hollywood director. Of course, Nan will take care of all the staging requirements. All Max has to do is stand in the bushes and snap away at the right moment with his 35mm SLR.
But things rapidly get out of hand and blackmail soon turns to murder and suicide (one of each). Before long, however, we come to learn that neither Nan nor the gun-toting Grogan are the real brains behind the operation. They actually take their orders from a mysterious "Mr Big" -someone whom they have never personally met (he gives them their instructions via tape recorded messages).
Anyway, as utterly desperate as he may be, murder just isn't Max's style and, bein' the kinda guy that he is, he decides to blow the lid "clean 'awf" the whole stinkin' racket.
Although listed as having been made in 1962, those who care about such things will note that there are no cars later than '59 models in any of the street scenes.
The boom mike does, indeed, frequently appear at the top of the frame -something that was not unusual in bargain basement movies of the period.
Despite all its faults, however, this creaky little gem does have a certain grotesque charm and I'll always have fond memories of watching it on Channel 9's "Nightowl Theatre" many moons ago.
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