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Frontier Outlaws (1944)
Great character actors
Bargain basement stuff, but lifted to a very enjoyable level by some lovely character acting. Charlie King is a quintessential 'heavy'; Fuzzy doesn't do much in this one, but Buster Crabbe excels himself when he goes undercover in the shape of a Mexican bandit leader, and plays it with an easy charm that contrasts with his rather bland 'Billy Carson' persona. The highlight though is the stand-out performance of Emmett Lynn as the befuddled judge - it's what classic Hollywood character acting is all about, and his bizarre cameo is touched with genius. Just one pedantic note: this is not a 'Billy the Kid' offering - it is the second film in the follow-on 'Billy Carson' series.
Noir, Method and Gay
Little known, but quite extraordinary independent movie from the tail end of the fifties, that is as good as any of the great heist movies from the post-war noir era. It's a stunning exercise in naturalistic movie making, using only real locations with natural lighting and sound that would grace an Italian neo-realist classic. Continuing that theme the actors are all either amateurs; down the list character actors; or,like STEVE McQUEEN and MOLLY McCARTHY, very inexperienced. The 4 gang members are all seedy losers with no redeeming features, but lots of psychological flaws that the bleak, uncompromising script lays bare, giving the audience no respite as they stumble towards their sordid oblivion. The raw method of McQUEEN in his scenes with MOLLY is sub-Brando, but interesting and unsympathetic, and of considerable historical interest; and the 3 C-list actors playing the other gang members seize their opportunities in lead roles, that in the case of CRAHAN DENTON especially, but also JAMES DUKAS, involve a startlingly blatant homosexual theme that would have had 50's audiences fainting in the aisles if they had known what they were watching. It is homosexual jealousy and angst that leads DENTON to commit the appalling killing of the girl, and an earlier scene in the hotel room with his henchman DUKAS reveals their dominant/submissive homosexual relationship quite openly.
Don't be put off by the low production values - this movie has much to say, and much to offer.
Early Bogart bit part
This early Bogart movie is only available on DVD/video in a reissue print entitled "Call it Murder". This print lists Bogart above the title instead of 8th in the cast as in the original release, and was obviously resurrected to cash in on Bogart's post 1930's fame. He is adequate in a small part, but the film is a slow-moving filming of a 1930 play that is interesting enough as a moral melodrama, but also mercifully short. The interest lies in the sequences in the courtroom and death chamber, which eschew the stage-bound grouping, and ponderous delivery of the body of the film, and uses the camera in an imaginative and cinematic way. Worth a look as a 30's melodrama, but don't expect a Bogart movie.