Gang Busters

The Red Dress Case (1955)

TV Episode  -   -  Crime | Drama
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An ex-con just released from prison is reunited with his old criminal cronies with one change - his girl friend, a beautiful blonde with a sharp mind and a heart of stone, demands to call ... See full summary »

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Cast

Episode cast overview:
Ann Savage ...
Juanita
Tom Neal ...
William Harlan Crain
Stan Malotte ...
Shakey Deester (as Stan Malloti)
Burt Wenland ...
Bunch
Paul Bryar ...
Doctor
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Storyline

An ex-con just released from prison is reunited with his old criminal cronies with one change - his girl friend, a beautiful blonde with a sharp mind and a heart of stone, demands to call the shots for the gang. Things go well at for the crooks at first, until the woman decides she must have a beautiful, French-made red dress, but refuses to pay for it and a night watchman is slain during the botched robbery. Written by David Bassler

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Crime | Drama

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Release Date:

1955 (USA)  »

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(RCA Sound System)

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1.33 : 1
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Quotes

[unknown to Crain, Juanita has taken a lethal dose of sleeping pills]
Juanita: You want to kiss me good-bye before you go?
William Harlan Crain: Hey, ain't none of that stuff! Time's too short.
Juanita: Oh.
William Harlan Crain: I'll be seein' you, Juantia.
Juanita: Time's too short...
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User Reviews

 
Depraved reunion for ANN SAVAGE and TOM NEAL!!
18 January 2010 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This extraordinary noir reunion between Ann Savage and Tom Neal arrived on the small screen seven long and very hard years after their 1945 co-mingling in Ulmer's fatalistic masterpiece DETOUR. "The Red Dress" was produced for the short-lived but memorable syndicated television crime series GANG BUSTERS (1952/53), itself a spin-off from the original radio series from the 30s and later movie serial from the early 40s. Some of the filmed half-hour GANG BUSTER TV episodes focused on notorious icons like Dillinger, Alvin Karpis and Ma Barker. Others, like this incredible oddity, recounted the exploits of totally forgotten (though real) criminal nobodies whose only destiny was to wind up behind the eight ball. The series was pretty primitive, often displaying the type of accidental visual style and grungy pulp energy normally associated with the best of the poverty row noir features from the late 40s.

In "The Red Dress" Ann Savage plays Juanita, one-time girl friend of career crook William Harlan Crain (Tom Neal, appearing more grizzled and haunted than his recently former self), who is only hours away from serving out a five-year sentence in San Quentin for armed robbery. Juanita meets him at the gate with hopes of reviving their relationship but Crain is reluctant—time in the can has made him edgy, suspicious. She drives him back to her place where she drags out Crain's former pals Shaky and Bunch (Stan Malotte and Ben Wenlend). Before anyone knows it, the old gang is back in business, only this time Juanita calls the shots and she's not shy about letting these guys know it. She's got weapons galore stashed at her cozy little hideout and a short-wave police radio hook-up to boot. After a lot of huffing and puffing by the boys, they reluctantly give themselves over to her control. She aggressively maps out jobs for them and, amazingly, they pull off a series of successful stick-ups. With each job Juanita's relentless determination to make bigger and better scores along with her unsuccessful attempts at igniting romantic yearnings in Crain soon begins to ratchet up the tension within this tenuous group.

By now Crain is clearly fed up with toeing the line yet fails to do anything about it. Shaky and Bunch are no better. Juanita is now exclusively focused on devouring Crain, lusting for him in the face of his utter revulsion. Depressed and coming undone, she goes to a doctor who gives her drugs for the anxiety.

The ironic gist of the plot involves Juanita's escalating obsession with the pricey red dress at a downtown boutique that she's been drooling over ever since the episode began. Having this dress means more to her than anything (with the possible exception of having Crain) as she now starts to careen emotionally out of control. Finally she decides to have the boys knock over the dress shop—making sure to grab the devil dress as a well-earned bonus for her. Crain and the other two are baffled by the stupidity of such a heist but they fold pretty quickly and fall in line. They break into the shop that very night and in the process a witness is shot and killed. Now they've suddenly got a murder rap hanging over them and desperation sets in immediately. To make matters worse, the red dress is of no use to anyone, getting completely tattered during the frantic getaway—now leaving Juanita thwarted at every level of her ambition. With the cops closing in and any hope for freedom beyond reach, the gang continues to flee in a blind panic. Juanita's own descent quickens and finally ends with her fatal OD as a clutch of faceless cops march Crain, Shaky and Bunch silently off to their predictable doom.

The unholy re-teaming of Ann Savage and Tom Neal is obviously at the cold heart of this oddly compelling film noir experience. But it's also fair to say that the film itself, for all of its ruthless nothingness, earns its own dilapidated place at the darkest dead-end on poverty row.

"The Red Dress" was directed by W. Lee Wilder who made the excellent poverty row noirs THE GLASS ALIBI (46) and (especially) THE PRETENDER (47) as well as later oddball horror films like MANFISH (56) and BLUEBEARD'S TEN HONEYMOONS (60).

Public scandal dogged Tom Neal all through the 1950s and 60s. In 1951 he was virtually blackballed from appearing in Hollywood feature films after nearly decimating fellow actor Franchot Tone in a brawl over the affections of troubled actress Barbara Payton. In 1965 Neal was convicted on charges of involuntary manslaughter after fatally shooting his wife in the head. He was sentenced to ten years in prison but paroled after serving only six. He died the following year of a heart attack at age 58. In 1992, the actor's son, Tom Neal, Jr. starred in a low-budget, independently produced remake of DETOUR.


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