THE GANGSTERS ALL HERE Live Tweet movie for Sat., Oct. 24: THE BIG COMBO (1955)

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This week, The Gangsters All Here makes a bid for legitimacy with a film-noir gem titled The Big Combo. It stars Cornel Wilde as Police Lt. Leonard Diamond, who is on a one-man quest to bring down Mr. Brown (ultra-slick Richard Conte), a racketeer who appears to control everything and everyone in town except for Lt. Diamond. The worthy supporting cast includes Helen Walker (in her final film role), Jean Wallace, and Brian Donlevy (who seems to play a slobbering syncophant in about every other one of these types of movies).

And my dear online blogger-friend Salome at BNoirDetour would never forgive me if I didn’t mention two other memorable supporting actors: Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman as Mr. Brown’s henchmen Fante and Mingo. When I first watched this movie, I regarded this less-than-dynamic duo as simply the movie’s answer to Of Mice and Men‘s simpletons George and Lennie. But Ms. Salome finds a fascinating homoerotic subtext to this pair’s relationship, right down to their sleeping in separate but nearby beds. You decide.

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Are you kidding? With all of the aforementioned juicy plot elements, plus a jazzy score from Laura‘s David Raksin, this movie can’t possibly get less than 5 out of 5 fannies. You’ll want to stay put right up to the movie’s final shot (which unapologetically apes, er, does a homage to a legendary film from the 1940’s). See you this Saturday!

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Guest-hosting a #BNoirDetour Live Tweet double feature on Sun., Sept. 13

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Holy maloney, when did I die and go to film-noir heaven? I’m as giddy as Richard Widmark pushing a wheelchair-bound woman down the stairs!

For this Sunday, the film-noir blog BNoirDetour is letting me completely handle her usual Sunday Twitter.com presentation of noir movies. She kindly let me co-host about a month ago, but this is the first time she’s given me the whole she-bang to handle. Don’t worry, though, I’m giving you a couple of memorable flicks to finish off your weekend!

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My first choice is a particularly earthy number from 1955 titled Murder Is My Beat. It stars Paul Langton as Ray Patrick, a police detective who is aboard a train to accompany Eden Lane (Barbara Payton), a convicted murderess, to prison to carry out her sentence. But during a brief layover, Eden happens to look out the window — and wouldn’t you know it, she sees the very man whom she has been convicted of murdering. Once Eden convinces Ray of this, it’s Ray’s minor task to convince the rest of the world that Eden is telling the truth.

This sounds about as far-out as noir gets, but it’s riveting all the way, in no small part to the bare-bones direction of Edgar G. Ulmer, director of the almost existential noir classic Detour. And I gotta admit, I’m a pushover for buxom blondes — and if somebody like Eden told me she’d just seen Bigfoot outside her window, I’d probably do all I could to prove her right, so I can relate to Ray’s plight.

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My second entry for the evening is 1948’s Cry of the City, starring Victor Mature as Lt. Candella, a seen-it-all cop who’s trying to nail high-profile gangster Martin Rome (Richard Conte, The Big Combo) for a jewel robbery that Rome won’t cop to. The movie starts out as a lively game of cat-and-mouse, but with a tough-as-nails screenplay by an uncredited Ben Hecht, and taut direction from noir veteran Richard Siodmak (Criss Cross), the movie evolves into an unforgettable character study of both sides of the law. This might seem a strange description, but this movie is as beautiful as film noir gets.

Join us on Twitter.com at 9 p.m. EST on Sun., Sept. 13; if you’re looking for an “anchor” Twitter account, go to mine (@MovieMovieBlogB). (If you don’t usually “follow” me on Twitter, be sure to add me so that I can read your Live Tweet comments. You can always “unfollow” me after the double feature.) Use the hashtag #BNoirDetour to follow the movies and comment on them whenever you’d like, and have a BNoir blast with us!

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POSTSCRIPT. I — Movie Movie Blog Blog, that is — would like to take this opportunity to invite the regular viewers of #BNoirDetour to follow The Gangsters All Here, my Twitter page devoted to my Saturday Live Tweets of classic-era gangster movies. If you like film-noir, you are sure to enjoy my selection of films featuring fedora, fast talkers, and Feds!

Just click on the above banner to go to my The Gangsters All Here Twitter page. Then, every Saturday at 2:30 p.m. EST, join us for a great gangster movie, and use the hashtag #GangstersAllHere to comment on the movie with your fellow Twitterers. And if you want a heads-up on the week’s movie selection, click here to visit my blog devoted to this same Live Tweet. Enjoy the movies, you mugs!

(My enthusiastic thanks goes out to Salome at BNoirDetour for letting me take over her “director’s chair” this week!)

I'm so happy!

I’m so happy!

THE BIG COMBO (1955) – Mr. Brown comes to town

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About the only thing wrong with the sizzling film-noir The Big Combo is its title. The cast is uniformly excellent, but it doesn’t make you think of a combo, because there’s plainly one standout: Richard Conte as a showy gangster known to one and all only as Mr. Brown.

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Conte plays this guy smooth as silk. You keep waiting for somebody to find Mr. Brown’s Achilles’ heel, and occasionally it happens. But even when it does, Mr. Brown never loses his cool; he just jumps back for a split-second, as though a spider had fallen off the ceiling onto his sharply creased jacket, and then he goes right back into his gangster patter. This is another of those old movies that’s meant to teach you that crime doesn’t pay, yet you end up rooting for the bad guy.

It’s not for lack of trying on the good guy’s part, though. Cornel Wilde plays Leonard Diamond, a police lieutenant determined to blow most of the city’s budget in trying to bring down Mr. Brown. Every element of the story seems ripe for parody, but the entire cast underplays so perfectly that you end up taking the movie at face value and loving it. Jean Wallace and Helen Walker as Brown’s lovers present and past, Brian Donlevy as Brown’s put-upon stooge — they all put the movie’s point across without forcing things.

The icing on the cake is David Raksin’s jazzy score (What a turnabout from Laura!) and John Alton’s ultra-stylish photography (SPOILER ALERT: Does the movie’s final shot remind anyone else of Casablanca?). The Big Combo is indeed quite the film-noir platter.