Summary Reviews: The Amazing Mr X meets Phantom Lady

Phantom Lady

Phantom Lady (1944)
Loyal secretary Ella Raines desperately tries to save her innocent boss from  the gallows. Woody Bredell’s moody noir photography and an orgasmic jazz jam session add jive to Siodmak’s otherwise lack-luster direction. Franchot Tone is convincing as a closet psychopath. Elisha Cook Jr’s turn as a sleazy jazz drummer is anarchic, but Raines’ impersonation of  a gum-chewing floozy is just embarrassing.  Based on a Cornell Woolrich novel.

Sweet Smell of Success

Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Manipulative NY celebrity columnist enlists sleazy publicist to destroy his younger sister’s suitor. As bracing as vinegar and cold as ice. Ambition stripped of all pretense.  Great chemistry between Burt Lancaster as the sinister chat columnist and Tony Curtis as the ruthless publicist.  DP James Wong Howe’s sharpest picture:  the streets of Manhattan have never looked so real.

The Amazing Mr X

The Amazing Mr. X (1948)
A crooked clairvoyant manipulates a widow who believes her dead husband is back. A brilliant gothic satire with humor, poetry, and panache.  John Alton’s expressionist lensing, Bernard Vorhaus’ fluid direction, and an ace Alex Laszlo score deliver top-flight entertainment.

Railroaded

Railroaded (1947)
John Ireland is great as a savage hood who frames an innocent guy for murder.  Anthony Mann’s poverty-row pulp-b is very noir, cut with acid, and photographed in the deafening blaze of gun-fire. Very entertaining.

Raw Deal

Raw Deal (1948)
A tragic love triangle very reminiscent of Marcel Carne’s Port of Shadows has to be one of  the great noirs.   A sublime film from director Anthony Mann and  DP John Alton, with a knockout cast in a strong story stunningly rendered as expressionist art.  The portrayals by Dennis O’Keefe, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt, and John Ireland are career bests.  Poetic voice-overs by Claire Trevor are  beautifully enhanced by Paul Sawtell’s eerie scoring.

Obsession

Obsession (1948 UK)
A macabre and sardonic melodrama. Psychopath shrink plans perfect murder. Taut direction from Edward Dmytryk with a Nino Rota score! Gruesome and disturbing.

Private Hell 36

Private Hell 36 (1954)
A flat crooked cop flic from Don Siegel. Ida Lupino, who co-wrote the screenplay, and Steve Cochran make it interesting.

Pursued

Pursued (1947)
Noir western from Raoul Walsh. Robert Mitchum is trapped by a dark dimly discerned past. Solid but inferior to the moody western Blood on The Moon (1948), also starring Mitchum.  Story is far-fetched and the actions of the protagonists seem  un-convincing.

Strange Illusion

Strange Illusion (1945)
A truly bizarre Hamlet remake. Edgar Ulmer turns a PRC-b into a camp expressionist noir of foul villains with a knockout finale. Jimmy Lydon, remember Henry Aldrich, plays Hamlet to Warren Williams’ Claudius, who is a bit of a lecher and is not past feeling-up teenage girls in swimming pools!

The Long Night

The Long Night (1947)
A  war vet is under siege in a tenement after killing a romantic rival. An RKO Henry Fonda vehicle from Anatole Litvak plays as melodrama with a strong supporting cast.  Barbara Bel Geddes is interesting as the love interest, but Vincent Price as the rival is too rococo and out-of-place. Me, I’m stuck on the luscious Ann Dvorak, a straight-up dame who falls for Fonda. John Wexley’s script over-reaches on the social criticism angle.

11 Comments

  1. DeeDee

    Hi!Tony,
    Well,well…it’s time for me to put my two-cents in when it comes to your mini reviews…as usual.
    Here goes…
    1.Phantom Lady I have watched this film and most definitely agree with your critique of this film, but it an interesting and fun film.( I really like Woody Bredell’s moody noir photography.) My rating ***
    2. Sweet Smell of Success My rating***1/2
    3. The Amazing Dr.X I just recently, acquired a copy of this…but I haven’t watched it yet.
    4. Railroaded Your critque summed this film up …perfectly. My rating ***
    5. Raw Deal I have watched this film once (if you call being in another room while the film is on the television in another room watching.) Therefore, I must really sit down and watch the 1948 film “Raw Deal.” Here Goes…a video link to
    Actress Marsha Hunt, Discussing the 1948 “Raw Deal” Onstage at NC5 With Author Eddie Muller.
    6.Obsession (1948 UK)…I have never watched this film…Therefore, I must seek it out to watch.

    7.Private Hell 36 Oh! Yes, you have summed this film up perfectly. My Rating…**1/2

    8.Pursued (1947))…I have never watched this film…Therefore, I must seek it out to watch soon.

    9.Strange Illusion (1945)I have watched this film and I have to agree with your mini review wholeheartedly. My rating ***

    10.The Long Night…I have never watched this film…Therefore, I must seek it out to watch.

    Once again, What a very interesting line-up
    Thanks, for sharing!
    DeeDee ;-D

  2. Some wonderful films reviewed here, Tony. I won’t comment too much on the individual films you list here, so as to maintain a little bit of surprise for you as the countdown continues! I will say, though, there are a number here that I simply haven’t had the chance to see yet, I’ll have to seek some of them out.

    And I’ll also add that there are times when I think that Sweet Smell of Success is my favorite movie of all time. That’s how highly I think of it.

  3. Yep Dave, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS is absolutely the masterpiece in this round-up, but I think Tony basically admits as much, if I’ve read his ‘measure’ of enthusiasm correctly. Dee Dee that is certainly a faithful counter-response on every one of these films, several of which I have not seen unfortunately. But Edward Dmytryk’s OBSESSION would appear to be Tony’s runner-up favorite here, and I must say I would agree with that. Dmytryk, whose CHRIST IN CONCRETE received resounding praise in these hallowed halls, is a consumate artist. I wm most intrigued to see RAW DEAL, PERSUED and STRANGE ILLUSION.

    As always, no-nonsense, fecind capsule appraisals.

  4. Thanks DeeDee, Dave, and Sam.

    Truth be told, my favorite from this lot is Raw Deal, which ranks with The SetUp as my top favorite noirs. It has so much poetry and has an almost European feel.

    But in filmic terms, yes, Sweet Smell of Success is great in every sense.

  5. Tony,

    A nice short summary of some fine films and some I still need to watch.

    For me, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS is just a great film. James Wong Howe has captured New York’s Times Square at its peak with the wet streets and neon lights from the movie theaters and all, dark and seductive. Lancaster and Curtis give some career high performances. Totally agree on PHANTOM LADY with the highlight being the steam heat driven jazz scene with Cook making the rest of the film pale by comparison.. Alton’s work in RAW DEAL is striking, a rough and tough film. RAILROADED is a nice little film with a good performance by Ireland. Have not seen the others but I do have THE LONG NIGHT on my DVR and will be watching it soon. I have been wanting to see PRIVATE HELL 36 for years because of Siegel and Lupino.

  6. The Long Night is a remake of Le Jour se lève (Daybreak) by Marcel Carné. As thirties French poetic realism transferred to post War America, it really doesn’t work, but the acting is terrific, including the film debut of Barbara Bel Geddes. Maybe Price stands out, but he’s always an entertaining slice of ham, and this is no exception.

  7. Hard-Boiled Rick

    In Raw Deal (1948), the Theremin musical instrument is a prominent device used throughout the film to enlarge Claire Trevor’s character (Anne). Anthony Mann’s use of the Theremin is just as important as Alton’s expressionist photography because the instrument cues the subjective state of Anne.

    Mann employs the Theremin to underscore the character’s inner monologue, highlighting her uncertainty, alienation, and existentialism…typical features of a film noir character. The instrument’s sound quality is ephemeral, conveying a strong emotional sense of unease, doubt, and anxiety.

    In Raw Deal, Mann uses the Theremin
    • in 11 of Anne’s inner monologue scenes,
    • the film’s opening scene,
    • the film’s closing scene,
    • at critical plot points including Anne’s surreal clock scene,
    • in the music that opens the film’s credits.

    If you don’t believe the Theremin is significant in Raw Deal, consider Mann’s T-Men (1947) or He Walked by Night (1948). Both films feature Alton’s outstanding photography, but lack the haunting unease of the Theremin.

    Using the Theremin, the director etches Anne’s plight in our subconscious. She is real and lasting, despite the fleeting quality of the instrument. The binding of the Theremin with stark photography and the plot’s doomed love triangle establishes Raw Deal as one of the most riveting and mesmeric film noirs in the canon.

  8. Thanks Rick for your interesting exposition. This is only a capsule review of Raw Deal and I do refer to the eerie scoring, so I am not quite sure why you think I would disagree with you. Tony

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