Think Fast, Mr. Moto

Hungarian born and Austrian educated, Peter Lorre was cast for eight films (1937-1939) as Mr. Moto, a smart and able Japanese man who foils villains in a variety of ways.

If you read many reviews of the Mr. Moto chronology, you’ll find a number of reviewers who want to invoke a racial element in reviewing these movies. A number of them are “offended” by watching these movies, because, as we all know, Peter Lorre was not Japanese. At this site, your reviewer takes movies for what they are – nothing more, nothing less. In these movies, Peter Lorre plays a character that is Japanese. If that bothers you, move on to the next movie.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Peter Lorre as Moto

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Peter Lorre as Moto

This is the first of the series of eight movies. It is 70 minutes long and from the original title image, you know this is going to be a good movie.

This review will contain some spoilers.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Title Screen

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Title Screen

We begin in San Francisco during a Chinese New Year celebration. The streets are full of people.

A man who appears to be Chinese enters a shop. As he does he runs into a man in costume at the doorway. He notices a tattoo on the man’s wrist.

Inside the shop, the operator of the store tries to get rid of him. But, the man produces some precious stones and offers to sell them to the shopkeeper.

This ends in a dispute which turns physical. Shots are fired but the man gets away.

But, while in the shop, he notices something curious – a basket with an arm hanging out of the top.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Someone's dead

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Someone's dead

The man whom we’ve been watching retreats to his room where he removes a disguise and we see that he is Mr. Moto.

A ship is scheduled to sail for China at midnight and Mr. Moto makes a telephone call to book passage.

The action shifts to the ship.

Mr. Moto boards the ship and is shown to his cabin by a ship’s steward named Carson (John Rogers). Moto notices that Carson has a tattoo on his arm. It is the same tattoo that he saw earlier on the masked man exiting the shop during the Chinese New Year celebration.

Just across the hall, a young man is accompanied to his cabin by a group of friends who are there to see him off. They have all had plenty to drink and when they see Mr. Moto, they find him amusing and insist that he join their little party.

Mr. Moto declines, but they insist.

Mr. Moto soon learns that the young man is Bob Hitchings (Thomas Beck) and that his father is the owner of the ship line. Bob is being sent to Shanghai to participate in the family’s import/export business.

Soon, Mr. Hitchings (George Hassell) comes to see his son off. The two of them speak in private and the elder Mr. Hitchings gives Bob a letter to give to Joseph Wilkie (Murray Kinnell), the head man of their operation in Shanghai.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Bob receives the letter

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Bob receives the letter

While they are on the ship, word is received about a body being discovered. It’s the body that Mr. Moto saw in San Francisco.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Word of a body discovered

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Word of a body discovered

During the journey Bob Hitchings and Mr. Moto become friends and spend a considerable amount of time together.

When the ship arrives in Honolulu, Moto and Bob witness an attractive girl boarding the ship. Bob is taken with her at once. Her name is Gloria Danton (Virginia Field) and she’s apparently on the way to visit her uncle in Shanghai.

When Gloria and Bob meet, she is not the least bit interested in him. But, eventually the two of them become friends and their relationship starts to take a romantic turn.

While on the ship, Gloria sends a telegraph to Shanghai.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Gloria sends a telegram

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Gloria sends a telegram

We quickly find out that the words on the telegram do not convey its true meaning.

Before the ship arrives in Shanghai, Mr. Moto finds the steward, Carson, searching Bob’s room. He’s looking for the letter that Bob is supposed to deliver to Wilkie upon arrival.

Mr. Moto confronts him and accuses him of killing the man in San Francisco. The two of them fight. Mr. Moto is the winner of the fight as determined when Moto tosses Carson overboard – ending not only the fight, but Carson’s existence.

By the time the ship arrives in Shanghai, Bob is in love with Gloria and says he wants to marry her. She says it’s not possible and that they will never see each other again.

Bob refuses to accept this as an answer.

When the boat arrives in Shanghai, Bob goes to Gloria’s cabin. She’s already gone.

Within minutes, Bob is met by Mr. Wilkie on board the ship. Mr. Moto is also present and Bob introduces him to Wilkie.

Then Bob recalls that he has a letter for Mr. Wilkie so he presents it to him.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Bob gives Wilkie the letter

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Bob gives Wilkie the letter

When Mr. Wilkie opens the envelope, the letter is nothing but blank paper.

Mr. Moto and Bob part company with the promise that they will see each other again in Shanghai.

Bob and Wilkie set off so Bob can begin his career with the family firm. All Bob can think about is Gloria. He tells Wilkie that he wants to find her and marry her.

Wilkie does everything he can to steer Bob away from looking for Gloria, telling him that there are plenty of other girls in Shanghai and to just forget her.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Shanghai looks ripe for trouble

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Shanghai looks ripe for trouble

A telephone call comes in. It’s the senior Mr. Hitchings calling his son. Mr. Moto has connections with the switchboard operator and before the telephone call is connected, the operator rings Moto’s room so that he may listen to the conversation.

When Bob tells his father that the letter he was to give Wilkie was blank, they know that foul play has occurred.

Mr. Hitchings relates that the letter was about the smuggling of diamonds in their shipments. He says that the day before customs found a load of narcotics smuggled in a shipment from China and as a result, they have to pay a $200,000 fine.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Another message

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Another message

Mr. Moto, meanwhile, visits a curio shop and runs into some trouble. He also calls on the police in regard to the identity of a certain young lady involved in a shipboard romance.

Back in his room, Bob is the recipient of a letter slipped under his door. When he reads it, he is given a clue about Gloria.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - A clue for Bob

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - A clue for Bob

Bob wants Wilkie to accompany him to the International Club. Wilkie protests that it is a place where he would not go, but eventually he gives in and the two of them depart for the club.

On the way, Mr. Moto is involved in an accident when the rickshaw in which he is riding collides with the car carrying Bob.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Rickshaw versus car

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - Rickshaw versus car

No one is hurt in the accident and when Bob sees his old friend Mr. Moto, he invites him and his companion to ride with them.

Just by chance, it seems that Mr. Moto is also destined to the International Club.

They all arrive at the club and now it’s time for trouble.

When they get there, all see that the female entertainer is Gloria. When she sees Bob the two of them talk and she reveals her true identity; her name is really Tanya Boriv and she was sent to Honolulu with a forged passport to find out why Bob was coming to Shanghai.

It is now apparent that some smugglers felt that Bob’s presence in the city could have a negative impact on their lucrative smuggling business.

When Bob goes into the back of the club where the dressing rooms are, the club operators take both he and Gloria/Tanya captive and tie them up in the basement.

Meanwhile, Mr. Moto leaves his date and Mr. Wilkie at the table and tells the club owner, Nicolas Marloff (Sig Ruman aka Sig “Rumann”), that he wants to gamble.

The club has a private gambling area, also in the basement, and Mr. Moto is taken there. No gambling is occurring though.

Before he leaves the table, he gives his date a note.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - A directive

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - A directive

She follows his instructions and contacts the police.

Once downstairs, Mr. Moto demonstrates some precious stones to Marloff and offers an opportunity for them to go into business together. Marloff accepts.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - The booty

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - The booty

Marloff shows Moto that he has Bob and Gloria/Tanya securely under control. They are locked up in a safe.

Now, we have real trouble.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - An unsafe safe

Think Fast, Mr. Moto - An unsafe safe

The Mr. Moto series is quality entertainment. All of the movies are a good way to spend just over an hour.

Think Fast, Mr. Moto @

Posted in 1937, Peter Lorre | Tagged as: , | Leave a comment

The Big Clock

According to a Wikipedia article, “film noir” is French for “black film.”

What makes up the elements of film noir? You could find any number of websites that will offer varying descriptions but your humble reviewer thinks the best way to describe noir is to point at various films of the genre and to say, ‘this is it,” and “this is it,” and “this is it!”

Could any higher compliment be paid to a film than to say that it is representative of what its genre should be? Your reviewer feels that this is one of the movies that can be held up as an example of film noir to say to someone, “this is what it is!”

This is not a film noir movie with a lot of stalking around fog-filled alleys and intense police investigations. Rather, it is the story of a man who is on the run, but not in the traditional sense.

George Stroud (Ray Milland) is an executive in a publishing company. He’s going to be accused of murder. He’s on the run inside an office building in an attempt to not be recognized by a man who has been brought into the building. That recognition will lead to accusations of murder.

Mr. Stroud’s goal, therefore, is to get to the bottom of the crime from within the building in an attempt to stave off his own ruin.

This movie is 95 minutes long and it should be 95 good minutes of movie-watching for film noir fans. It is based on the novel of the same name by Kenneth Fearing.

The rest of this review will contain spoilers. We’re going to take a good look at this movie so if you have not seen it, bail out when your interest is whetted and return to discuss it when you are done.

The writing, casting and acting are all good in this movie.

At the beginning of the movie, we meet George Stroud in the lobby of the skyscraper that houses Janoth Publications. Stroud is the editor of one of the Janoth magazines (and the focus of the movie).

He’s slinking through the building trying to avoid being detected by security guards who have been given orders to shoot to kill.

It’s at this point that we begin to hear the story that has led to this moment. It all started 36 hours ago. Everything was normal at that time but some very unexpected and strange things have occurred. George asks at the outset, “How did this happen?”

In the lobby of the Janoth Building is a very large clock. It’s so big that some sort of 1948 computer is inside controlling it and several people can fit into it comfortably. It controls all of the clocks in the building as well as the clocks in several other American locations and all of Janoth’s holdings abroad.

Tours are given daily and hundreds of people visit the building to see the clock.

The Big Clock - The Clock

The Big Clock - The Clock

Janoth Publications outputs many magazines from their New York City skyscraper. Each magazine is published on a different floor. Some of the magazines include; Sportways, Airways, Artways, Styleways, Newsways, and then there’s Crimeways – that’s the magazine that George Stroud is the editor of.

George and his wife Georgette (Maureen O’Sullivan) are natives of Wheeling, West Virginia. They’ve been married for seven years and have a five year old son. But, we learn that they never even had the chance to honeymoon. George began working for Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton) about the time they were married and Janoth has never allowed him to go on a vacation.

Oh, they’ve planned vacations before but Janoth inevitably finds a reason why George must stay at work and the trips home to West Virginia are always cancelled.

Now, another vacation has been planned. In fact, George, Georgette and their little boy are leaving aboard a train bound for their hometown tonight.

Earl Janoth is a multi-millionaire who presides over his publishing empire. He’s also a clock-obsessed, teeth-picking, eavesdropping, controlling tyrant. Janoth is not too impressed with most of the people that work for him. His closest associate, and only confidant, is his right-hand man, Steve Hagen (George Macready) who is listed as Editor-in-Chief of all of Janoth’s magazines.

But, he also finds favor with George Stroud.

George’s main redeeming quality is that Crimeways is successful – due in large part to George’s ability to generate public interest and sell magazines because he oversees a staff that has great success finding people that are missing or hiding in relation to criminal activity.

They keep a blackboard in the office and use it to keep track of clues while they track down the people they are searching for.

The Big Clock - The blackboard of clues

The Big Clock - The blackboard of clues

They’ve just located a missing person in Salt Lake City and it gets Janoth’s attention. He knows this story will sell a lot of magazines and he wants George to postpone his vacation, yet again, to keep the wheels turning. Janoth is so controlling that he wants the printer to use red ink to print the story and when George tells him that the printer says that’s a technical problem, Janoth simply fires the printer. (Later, as another example of Janoth’s penny-pinching control, he orders an employee’s pay docked for leaving a light burning.)

George is in the process of arranging his staff so they can cover the story while he is gone and get the magazine out. This is not an acceptable plan for Mr. Janoth and he informs George that he can postpone his vacation and go later. George declines and tells him that has been the case too many times in the past. When Janoth gives him an ultimatum that he either stay or quit, George quits. Janoth further informs him that he will “blackball” him and that he’ll never work for a magazine again.

The Big Clock - Janoth says stay or else

The Big Clock - Janoth says stay or else

Pauline York (Rita Johnson) is an attractive girl who is a “friend” of Janoth. Actually, it appears that she is a “kept woman” of sorts. Janoth is supposed to dish out the money to her but he’s not quite dishing enough.

Pauline is present in Janoth’s office when he is using an intercom system to eavesdrop on George in his office while he rails on about not being able to go on his vacation. After she and Janoth have a falling out (over money), she follows George to a restaurant and while he waits for his wife at the bar, she sits down and introduces herself.

They are both angry at Janoth and they chat while they have a few drinks and blow off steam railing against him. When serving a cocktail, the bartender inadvertently spills a drink on Pauline. George offers his handkerchief for her to wipe it off.

Shortly after, Georgette Stroud arrives at the restaurant to have dinner with her husband and sees George talking to Pauline York. Georgette wants to know who she is. George tells her that she is someone he just met moments ago and that’s it.

After the dinner George tells his wife that he has to get some things done and that he will meet her later.

Here’s where it’s going to get a bit confusing, but it’s all important and it makes sense.

Georgette Stroud has had a number of vacations cancelled and she’s not in the mood for it this time. She does not know that George has quit his job and when he’s not on time for their scheduled departure, she boards the train and leaves without him.

Later when George calls home, he is informed by the housekeeper that his wife left him behind, so he and Pauline hook up again for a night of drinking. What happens here is important: On the way to a bar, a tipsy George and Pauline stop by an antique store after George spots a painting in a window. George collects paintings by an artist named Louise Patterson (Elsa Lanchester). He recognizes this as being one of her paintings.

They enter the store only to find that a rather unusual lady is already trying to buy the painting.

Additional spoiler alert: We don’t find out now but later it is revealed that the lady trying to buy the painting is the artist herself; Louise Patterson. George, obviously, does not recognize her on sight.

She offers $10 to the store owner for her own painting but George offers more and the painting is sold to him. He and Pauline then depart the store with the painting in hand.

They head to a bar called Burt’s Place. It looks like a fun spot and they have a good time.

The Big Clock - At Burt's Place

The Big Clock - At Burt's Place

The big draw at Burt’s Place is that the bar is full of all kinds of knick-knacks and the idea is to stump Burt, the owner/bartender, by asking for something that he can’t immediately produce. One customer says “bubbles” and within seconds Burt has bubbles flying across the bar.

George and Pauline are rather inebriated and ask Burt for a “green clock.” Within seconds Burt produces a sundial with a green ribbon tied around it – thus, a green clock. The have failed to stump Burt.

They depart the bar with the sundial in their possession and end up at Pauline’s apartment. Drunk, George passes out on the couch.

When Pauline looks out the window and sees Janoth’s car outside, she wakes George up and tells him that he’s got to go before Janoth makes it up to her apartment.

George manages to get out just in time and heads for the staircase just as Janoth exits the elevator. Janoth pauses and looks toward the stairs and sees George descending in the shadows. Janoth takes a close look but is unable to identify the person he is looking at due to the darkness.

Janoth enters Pauline’s apartment and immediately starts making accusations against her. It is apparent that Pauline likes to have a good time and Janoth knows it and he doesn’t like it. He sees her as his property and he is enraged.

Janoth demands that Pauline tell him who the man was that just left. She obliges and makes up a name; Jefferson Randolph.

Then, Pauline proceeds to dress him down and tells him that if he were not the great Mr. Janoth that no one would pay any attention to him at all.

People do not talk to Earl Janoth this way and get away with it.

The Big Clock - Janoth is not happy

The Big Clock - Janoth is not happy

In a fit of rage, Janoth reaches for anything he can find. The first thing he finds in the sundial that George and Pauline brought home from Burt’s Place. He grabs it, swings it, and hits Pauline.

Janoth leaves the apartment. Pauline is dead on the floor.

Meanwhile, George sobers up, and knowing that his wife and son left town without him, gets on a plane and flies to West Virginia. When he arrives late at night, his wife is angry at him but he explains that he no longer is employed with Janoth and that they can return to West Virginia where he will be content to work for a local newspaper.

This makes Georgette Stroud very happy – but that happiness will be short-lived.

Back in New York, Janoth (after murdering Pauline) turns to his only confidant, Steve Hagen. Janoth tells Steve that he’s just killed Pauline and the two of them go into immediate damage control.

Steve Hagen takes a taxi to Pauline’s apartment to survey the situation.

Once inside, he finds an electric clock that was broken when Janoth killed Pauline. Obviously, it shows the time the murder was committed. Hagen turns the broken clock back an hour – back to the time that George Stroud was in her apartment.

He also discovers the murder weapon, the sundial, and removes it from the apartment.

Funny thing though, when he looks at the bottom of the instrument, it opens the door to being able to pin the murder on another person; it shows where it came from – Burt’s Place.

The Big Clock - The murder weapon

The Big Clock - The murder weapon

Not only do Janoth and Hagen want to pin the murder on someone else, Janoth is worried that someone, especially the other man, saw him at Pauline’s apartment.

Steve Hagen tells Janoth that maybe the man doesn’t know him, to which Janoth replies, “Everyone knows me.” Jefferson Randolph must be found and the murder must be pinned on him, especially before he can possibly identify Earl Janoth as someone he saw entering Pauline’s apartment.

Back in West Virginia, George Stroud has been with his wife for less than five minutes. He has informed her that he no longer works for Janoth. She is happy. All will be well again.

But, the telephone rings. George doesn’t answer the first time but it rings again. This time he answers and before he knows it, he’s talking to Earl Janoth.

This is one of the most important moments in the film and it’s important to understand what happens here.

George does not know that Pauline is dead. All he knows is that he saw Janoth arrive at her apartment.

On the other end of the phone Earl Janoth tells George a story. George does not know what it all means, but he sees through it enough to know that it points at him.

Janoth says that a man named Jefferson Randolph (the name Pauline made up) is the payoff man in a war contract scandal and that they have to track him down. He needs George to use the resources of Crimeways Magazine to find this man. Janoth wants George to set up the blackboard and put his staff on the job at once.

When he relates the details, George knows that he is Jefferson Randolph. He still doesn’t know that Pauline is dead, but he knows that if he is exposed as the man who bought the painting and was Burt’s Place that it will lead to his ruin. But, he thinks at this point that Janoth simply wants to know who was in Pauline’s apartment.

Knowing what might be in store for him George quickly agrees to return to New York after only being in West Virginia for a few minutes.

Now we meet Bill Womack (Harry Morgan, pre-Dragnet, pre-M*A*S*H) when he is giving Janoth a massage. Womack appears to be a heavy that works for Janoth, and suddenly he’s everywhere shadowing George upon his return. Janoth’s intentions are to carefully control the events that are to follow and Womack is there to do his bidding.

The Big Clock - Bill Womack

The Big Clock - Bill Womack

George now oversees an investigation that he must also manipulate, lest it close in on him.

Although George tries to steer his investigators in wrong directions, they start to close in.

Georgette Stroud returns to New York. She knows that something is wrong and when she returns to their apartment and finds the painting, and then reads a newspaper article about the painting, she knows she has to help.

One of George’s investigators finds the painter (Louise Patterson) at her home and when she tells him that she was also trying to buy the painting, she further relates that the woman in the company of the unknown man was Pauline York. Patterson remembers her from some prior work that she did. Furthermore, Louise Patterson can identify George if she sees him. She just doesn’t know his identity.

When this information reaches George by telephone, he goes to Pauline’s apartment as quickly as he can to try to talk to Pauline and stave off further identification. George arrives and enters the apartment. Her body is still on the floor where she fell when struck as she has not been discovered by anyone else.

Now, George knows that Pauline is dead and he knows that Janoth killed her. The goal is to prove it and not end up being framed for the crime himself. George also notices the broken clock on the floor and turns the hands forward one hour.

George returns to the Janoth Building to find out that the antique dealer is now present in the building. He can identify the man who bought the painting and Janoth puts the building on lockdown so that the antique dealer can look at everyone in the building.

Now George Stroud is really in trouble. He tries to get out of the building by using a side door but all exits are sealed and Janoth has ordered his guards to shoot to kill if the man is identified.

During this time, Georgette Stroud (who is also in the building trying to help her husband) finds the handkerchief that George gave to Pauline in the bar when the bartender spilled a drink on her. It is in Steve Hagen’s office. There is no way that Steve could have come to possess this item if he were not involved.

Everything is coming to a climax now. George has been hiding trying to gather evidence – he has found out information about the cab that took Steve Hagen to Pauline York’s apartment, and where it took him next.

George is ready to confront Hagen and Janoth. But, Janoth’s heavy, Bill Womack, is following him through the building. George and Womack fight inside the big clock and George temporarily knocks him out. But, that doesn’t last long and Womack is again on his trail.

George makes it back upstairs and Bill Womack is headed up in the private elevator. George uses the interlock system to shut down the elevator trapping Womack in the elevator between floors.

George, Georgette, Steve Hagen and Mr. Janoth meet in Hagen’s office and George makes an accusation.

The Big Clock - An accusation is made

The Big Clock - An accusation is made

Your humble reviewer feels that this movie is right on target for film noir type fare. It seems neither too long nor too short. Virtually everything has something to do with the plot. The movie really has no “filler” material that does not relate to the story.

The casting is very good and the story is believable. Thy mystery is what will happen at the end as you are witness to the crime and the wrongdoing that leads to George Stroud’s situation.

If you are a collector of film noir movies, don’t miss this one.

The Big Clock - Janoth makes his escape

The Big Clock - Janoth makes his escape

The Big Clock @

Posted in 1948, Charles Laughton, Ray Milland | Tagged as: | Leave a comment

The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend is film noir and is based on the novel of the same name by Charles R. Jackson.

Set in New York City, it’s the story of a man named Don Birnam (Ray Milland) whose alcoholism reaches a peak on a weekend in which he is supposed to be enjoying a four-day restful vacation.

The movie is a rather frank dissertation on alcoholism as viewed in 1945.

Your humble reviewer’s opinion is that this movie is very good and will hold your attention for its 101 minute duration. It was the winner of four Oscars; Best Picture, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ray Milland), and Best Screenplay (Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder). It also won Best Picture and Best Actor at the Cannes Film Festival and Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, and Best Actor.

One difference between this film and most movies of the noir flavor is that it does not contain the crime element found in most noir productions. It does, however, have the dark, foreboding and repressed ominousness that denotes the genre.

The Lost Weekend - New York City

The Lost Weekend - New York City

The rest of this review will contain spoilers, so if you have not seen this movie, read on at your own risk.

Don Birnam is a struggling writer. He’s not struggling to get something published – he’s struggling just to get something on paper. The cause of his struggle is bottle-related.

When we really get to know Don Birnam, we learn that he was the object of high hopes in college but since that time he hasn’t accomplished anything. Presently, he’s in his early thirties and lives with his brother Wick (Phillip Terry) in a New York City apartment. Wick seems to be successful and he also cares very much for his brother so he allows him to live with him rent-free. Wick has been sympathetic to Don’s problem and has tried for six years to help him. So far it hasn’t worked, even through one try at rehabilitation.

Don also has a beautiful girlfriend named Helen St. James (Jane Wyman) who, despite his problem, is extremely loyal to him. She’s been willing to stand by him even though he has no job or money and drinks to excess.

As the movie begins, we find Don and Wick packing for what is planned as a four-day weekend in the outdoors. Apparently, Don has just come off a bender as they refer several times to what he’s “just been through.” Don states that he hasn’t “touched the stuff for ten days.” Wick extols the virtues of spending time in the outdoors and four days away from the city and seems to believe that Don is at a point of positive change in his life.

But, in reality, Don has other things on his mind. There’s a bottle hanging out the window on a rope and he’s trying to figure out how to stow it in his luggage without Wick finding out.

The Lost Weekend - An emergency bottle

The Lost Weekend - An emergency bottle

We meet Helen when she arrives at the apartment to see the brothers off. Don uses this visit as an opportunity to get rid of the two of them for a few hours before they are set to depart when he convinces Wick to accompany Helen to an event.

Just before Wick and Helen leave the apartment Wick discovers the bottle outside the window and pours it down the drain. Don claims that it must have been there for some time and that he did not recall that it was there.

Now Don has a problem. He has no money and no liquor but he needs a drink.

Within minutes a cleaning lady arrives to clean the apartment. Don is not in the mood for her and shoos her away. Before she goes she asks for her money. When Don tells her that he doesn’t have any money she tells him that Wick usually leaves her money in the sugar jar. Don checks – and when he does, he finds a $10 bill.

He tells the cleaning lady that the money was not there and she departs. He departs too – right behind her and headed for a liquor store where with the $10 he buys two bottles of Rye.

He’s still planning on going on the trip with Wick and the idea now is to smuggle the two bottles to their destination. On the way home he stops by a neighborhood bar to have a few shots of Rye with the money he has left.

Predictably, he stays too long and gets drunk. Meanwhile, Wick and Helen are at Wick’s apartment waiting for Don. When he doesn’t arrive Wick is disgusted and ready to wash his hands of Don for good. He decides to go on the trip alone and departs.

We don’t see Wick again in the movie until a scene where Don tells his story to a bartender and the movie flashes back to show us how Don and Helen met, and how she subsequently learned of his alcoholism.

Now, Don is all alone in Wick’s apartment with two bottles of Rye. He’s already missed the trip and he’s well-oiled. He decides to drink one bottle of Rye and hide the other one. Even though he’s alone now, he’s so used to hiding his liquor that he continues to do it now.

He knows that Wick is already on to all of his old hiding places (including behind books and heating vents) and he discovers a new place on top of a ceiling light.

The Lost Weekend - A bottle awaits

The Lost Weekend - A bottle awaits

The next morning Don awakens and he instantly needs more booze. He makes his way down the street to Nat’s Bar. He has enough money for a few more shots of Rye. Nat (Howard Da Silva) doesn’t care for Don at all and lets him know as much.

A girl hangs out at Nat’s named Gloria (Doris Dowling). She’s a prostitute and she likes Don – a lot. In fact, she wants to go out with him and he agrees to take her out. Nat knows that Don has no plans of actually taking her out and he unloads on Don after Gloria leaves the bar.

Later, Don is back at the apartment and he can’t remember stashing the other bottle of Rye on top of the ceiling light and tears the apartment apart searching for it – without success.

He sits down and notices a matchbook on the coffee table with the name of a bar on it. He needs to drink so he decides to go.

At the bar Don drinks Gin and when he’s presented with the bill, he realizes that the small amount of money that he has left has dwindled down to the point that he can’t pay the bill. Now he has a new mess that he has to find a way out of.

A couple sitting near him are occupied with each other and the young lady is not paying attention to her purse. Don decides to relieve her of her money so he steals the $10 she has in her purse. He’s caught though and an embarrassing scene is the result. Don is summarily ejected from the bar.

He goes home and ends up finding the bottle he stashed on top of the ceiling light – and proceeds to drain it dry.

The next morning Don awakens disheveled and broke, but one thing has not changed; he needs another drink. But, Don has run out of friends.

The Lost Weekend - Out of liquor

The Lost Weekend - Out of liquor

He’s no stranger to using the services of pawn shops to help meet his needs and now he takes his typewriter, a gift from his mother, and departs the apartment in order to get a few more dollars. Unbeknownst to Don, it’s Yom Kippur and all of the pawn shops are locked up tight. There’s no chance of turning the typewriter into another $10 today.

As he staggers down the street, Don realizes he is outside the apartment building where Gloria (the girl from the bar) lives and goes in and finds her apartment. She’s mad at him, really mad, but she cares for him and when he begs her to give him money, she gives in and gives him $5. He quickly turns to leave.

This really shows the depth of Don’s situation. One moment she is his total focus. But, the minute she hands him some money, he’s done with her and is now focused only on getting to the nearest bar or liquor store.

As he turns to descend the stairs, a little girl is on her way up the stairs. When she and Don meet, he starts to lose his balance and he grabs for a light fixture on the wall. It won’t support him though and he falls all the way down the stairs.

The Lost Weekend - Don can't hold on

The Lost Weekend - Don can't hold on

When Don awakens, he’s not sure where he is. He’s in a room surrounded with people who all appear to be mentally ill. It turns out to be a combination drunk tank and mental ward. He wants to leave but is denied.

That night, two other patients/inmates simultaneously experience delirium tremens. While a doctor and several orderlies attend to those patients, Don uses a doctor’s coat and the darkness to slip out onto the city’s streets.

The Lost Weekend - Finding his way out

The Lost Weekend - Finding his way out

It’s Sunday morning and people are on the streets headed to church. Don is wearing an overcoat and the pajamas he was dressed in at the facility. Again, he needs a drink.

Seeing a liquor store operator opening his store Don follows him in. He tells the man that he needs a bottle of Rye and although he doesn’t have the money to pay for it, he is taking it.

After committing the strong-arm robbery Don returns to the apartment where he is still alone. He drinks the bottle of Rye he has just acquired.

While he is sleeping it off Helen comes to call. He won’t open the door for her so she gets help from the apartment building owner and janitor and they open the door for her.

Don is in bad shape. Helen insists that she is going to stay and help him. He doesn’t want her presence.

Early the next morning Don quietly exits the apartment, but not before stealing Helen’s coat. He takes the coat to the pawn shop (where he is known well) and pawns it.

Helen awakens just as Don leaves the apartment and follows him in the rain. She confronts him on the street but it’s of no use.

Helen believes that Don has pawned her coat so that he can buy another bottle.

She enters the pawn shop and speaks to the operator. He tells her that he did not give Don money; he gave him something else instead.

The Lost Weekend - A final decision

The Lost Weekend - A final decision

As stated earlier in this review, this is not a boring movie. Like many noir films it will keep most viewers interested throughout.

It’s always interesting to see a classic film that deals with a problem that is still relevant to society today.

Don Birnam is on a collision course with himself. Throughout the movie Don speaks of “the two Dons.” There is the Don that is creative and wants to be a writer and there is the Don that is an alcoholic.

The second Don has now taken over and the situation is not sustainable. He recognizes it and actually understands the problem completely. He is able to articulate his problem and has no delusions about the situation that he is in.

Yet, he drinks.

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Posted in 1945, Jane Wyman, Ray Milland | Tagged as: | Leave a comment

Mabel’s Dramatic Career

As of the date of this review, Mabel’s Dramatic Career does not appear to be available on DVD. The Amazon link is for a VHS tape that contains this title. If you are seeking this short feature, you are advised to search for a DVD release. This is a 14 minute silent movie.

This review does contain spoilers. Don’t be alarmed though, the outcome is no secret.

Mabel (Mabel Normand) is a kitchen maid. Mack (Mack Sennett) lives with his mother (Alice Davenport), who employs Mabel.

The home doesn’t look like one in which servants are employed, but this is 1913 and anything is possible.

Mabel's Dramatic Career - She's a kitchen maid

Mabel's Dramatic Career - She's a kitchen maid

Mack wants to marry Mabel and in the opening scene produces a ring and gives it to her. She’s thrilled, but within minutes Mack’s mother finds out and shows great disapproval. She immediately puts Mabel back to work.

Suddenly, a visitor comes to call. It’s a girl (Virginia Kirtley) from the city. We don’t know for what reason she is there but without her there’s no story.

Mack decides she is more exciting and he immediately ditches Mabel and goes after this new girl.

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Mack has woman trouble

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Mack has woman trouble

Mabel protests and tries to hang on to him but he boots her from the home. She’s penniless and walks away with her suitcase.

But, she ends up in front of Keystone Studios. Here’s where it gets interesting.

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Outside Keystone Studios

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Outside Keystone Studios

Mabel wanders in and a rehearsal appears to be going on for a movie. She is quickly welcomed to the group and, poof, she’s an instant movie star.

That’s not all that hard to believe.

Meanwhile, Mack has been rejected by the city girl. As soon as he is jilted, he pulls out a picture of Mabel and realizes that he’s made a mistake.

Some years later…

Mabel's Dramatic Career - In After Years

Mabel's Dramatic Career - In After Years

…Mack is still a rube and he’s outside a movie house when he notices a Keystone movie poster with Mabel’s picture on it. He goes in to see the picture.

Here is where we get some interesting shots of a movie within a movie. The movie plays on the screen while a piano player pounds away. We also get a shot of the projection room.

Mabel's Dramatic Career - A real 1913 projection room?

Mabel's Dramatic Career - A real 1913 projection room?

It’s interesting to see that movies were already including stories about movies in 1913.

This is obviously Mack’s first time seeing a movie because he thinks that what he is watching is real.

A villain is threatening Mabel and Mack goes through a few minutes of wild theatrics – which conclude with Mack producing a pistol and shooting up the theater, thus emptying the occupants out onto the street.

Fatty Arbuckle appears only as a patron in the theater who ties to calm Mack down. Even this brief appearance by Arbuckle is funny.

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Sennett and Arbuckle

Mabel's Dramatic Career - Sennett and Arbuckle

After shooting up the theater Mack goes looking for the villain – and somehow finds him. He’s married to Mabel and they have children. Mack can hardly believe it.

This is very early film and it’s simple, slapstick humor. But, it is very interesting to this reviewer. Someone that thinks that what he sees on a movie screen is real was probably an accurate portrayal of a lot of people in 1913.

It would be easy for the casual observer to dismiss this as a silly short little piece of comedy from the early 20th Century but there was probably a little more thought going on here than meets the eye.

Mack Sennett was a Canadian who was one of the founders of the Keystone Studio. He and Normand apparently were actual lovers for a time. Sennett lived to be 80 years old but both Normand and Arbuckle had relatively short and tragic lives. Both were involved in murder scandals during their lives and are two very interesting people from the era of early Hollywood. By 1933, both were dead.

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Posted in 1913, Mabel Normand, Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle | Tagged as: , , | Leave a comment

The Naked City

Let’s just start off this review by saying that this is a good movie. It’s 96 minutes of cop movie with a big film noir feel.

Irishman Barry Fitzgerald is the real star of the movie as Detective Lieutenant Dan Muldoon. There are enough other good guys, bad guys, and some in-between to go around.

The movie begins with (and is full of) impressive aerial shots and cinematography of New York City. Throughout the movie you will be treated to very impressive camera-work. In fact, this movie won the 1949 Oscars for Best Cinematography (Black-and-White) and Best Film Editing.

The Naked City - Lower Manhattan in 1948

The Naked City - Lower Manhattan in 1948

We start with a narrator (Mark Hellinger) preparing us for what we are about to experience. We are told that the film was shot, not in a studio, but on the streets of New York. It’s a single story – the story of a murder. But, it’s really the story of the city. We are given insight into one event, one set of circumstances, which make up this great city.

“It’s One O’Clock in the morning on a hot summer night.”

These words introduce us to a scene in which a murder occurs – the murder of a young woman from New Jersey, the daughter of immigrants, that has moved into the city seeking a more luxurious life than what her parents were able to provide during her youth.

The Naked City - A sad goodbye

The Naked City - A sad goodbye

But now, she’s dead and this movie is the examination of the people and circumstances that led to her death.

Several things make this movie good; The story is solid. The cinematography is appealing to the eye. The acting is good and the characters are well developed.

The Naked City - A scene on the street

The Naked City - A scene on the street

When the murdered woman is discovered it sets a police investigation into motion. When they begin, the police have virtually nothing to go on. Questions must be asked. Leads must be developed and followed. What starts as clues that resemble a needle in a haystack must be explored. We get to know the law-enforcement officers that work the case and see how they peel back the layers to expose the truth.

Things have happened that have led to this young woman’s death. People are involved and there are reasons that the players in this game have acted as they have.

The Naked City - A bridge of trouble

The Naked City - A bridge of trouble

Your humble reviewer will offer no spoilers. It should suffice to say that this film is recommended. The story will unfold as the movie progresses. As we witness the unfortunate murder, we don’t know any of the players but eventually the scheme that led to this murder will be revealed.

There’s a little bit of a “Dragnet” feel and this feature might have some elements that will remind people of modern crime dramas on television and in the movies. It is a sold film and if you like this sort of fare, you should find this to be among the best of this genre.

The Naked City - A towering problem

The Naked City - A towering problem

The final lines of the film; “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

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Posted in 1948 | Tagged as: | Leave a comment