Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Violent Road (1958)

Quite unintentionally, this turned into Merry Anders Week here at my blog!

It all started last weekend with PRINCESS OF THE NILE (1954), with Anders as one of the lovely handmaidens. Next came FBI CODE 98 (1963), in which Anders played a secretary who fortuitously spills coffee, indirectly saving plane passengers from a bomb, and then came DEATH IN SMALL DOSES (1957), in which she's a truckstop waitress addicted to speed.

In VIOLENT ROAD, which was also the second trucking movie I've watched this week, Anders is simply The Girl in the Convertible, with her scenes bookmarking Brian Keith's entrance and exit from the film.

VIOLENT ROAD is the story of six men hauling highly explosive rocket fuel on rough roads through unpopulated areas in order to reach the rocket company's new site.

The film is fairly entertaining but with the underpinning of an interesting story it had the potential to be better than it ultimately was; the movie is weighed down by several characters' depressing back stories. For instance, the underutilized Efrem Zimbalist Jr. is a rocket scientist who inadvertently killed his wife and kids (!) when a launch went bad and a missile crashed into a school. A couple other characters are drinkers who constantly -- and tediously -- relieve past glory days on the college campus or during the war.

As an aside, unless one wishes to spend the entire evening watching characters smashed on alcohol, I don't recommend watching this as a double bill with the other movie I wrote about today, CLASH BY NIGHT (1952)!

On the plus side, the movie was shot near Lone Pine, California, and some of the scenes are starkly beautiful, with gorgeous cloud-filled skies. There are some nicely done nail-biting moments, and Brian Keith is quite believable as the nervy trucker heading up the job.

From a modern perspective, it's rather fascinating to see something so dangerous being done in such an...unregulated...fashion! The rocket company works with the military but there's no government involvement in the move, the men just hop in trucks and do it, including a last-minute kid driver (Sean Garrison) who jumps in a truck when one of the original crew is too drunk to drive. The truckers meet some resistance from police at one point but otherwise they just get on the road and go.

Dick Foran plays a former war hero, with Ann Doran as his long-suffering wife. The cast also includes Joanna Barnes, Perry Lopez, Arthur Batanides, Ed Prentiss, John Dennis, Peter Brown, and Venetia Stevenson.

This 86-minute movie was shot in black and white by Carl Guthrie and directed by Howard W. Koch. The Richard Landau screenplay was from a story by Don Martin. IMDb indicates this is a version of a French film, THE WAGES OF FEAR (1953), which in turn was remade as SORCERER (1977), which was recently restored.

VIOLENT ROAD is a Warner Bros. film which does not appear to have had a release on DVD or VHS, but it's been shown on Turner Classic Movies, so it may turn up there again in the future.

11 Comments:

Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,
Don't know if this message will get through...but heres hoping.
Do not know how the line breaks will work as I cannot adjust the comment box!
At any rate I am not using Google Chrome which is the only way I have been able to reply in the past!
VIOLENT ROAD is pretty high on my wants list and it looks like there may be a Warner Archive release sooner rather than later.
I understand the film has a good supporting role for Dick Foran.
I have never seen any of his Warner Brothers Westerns,but would really like to,I uinderstand that they are pretty good.
There will be a "Dick Foran Western Collection" from The Archive at some point too.

7:57 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Wow! Success.
I am having a great time in London and the weather is really warm for this time of year.
So glad that my post went through as I do not think I could have kept away for a fortnight.
Actually your comments about the lovely Lone Pine scenery have made me want to see VIOLENT ROAD even more.
Dick Foran seemed to like to concentrate on supporting roles from the Fifties onwards,plus of course lots of TV work.
He had some interesting credits at that time.He also resisted appearing in British B pictures unlike his fellow Warners stars George Brent,Wayne Morris and Dane Clark.
In CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL he ends up with Beverly Garland so that cannot be bad. He is very good as a really nasty "heavy" in Jacques Tourneurs THE FEARMAKERS in fact his chilling performance is the best part of the film.Tourneur hated the film but as a curio it is worth a look.Foran is supposed to be outstanding in Irving Lerners STUDS LONIGAN another film on my "must track" down list.
As you may have guessed I kinda like Foran and will snap up VOILENT ROAD when it appears.
All in all I think Foran had a varied and interesting career and I am very curious to see what his Westerns were like.
Love the idea of a "Merrie Anders Week BTW.

8:57 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

John Knight, Hello. Re Dick Foran. I don't think he resisted but, rather, wasn't asked. Foran was more than a capable actor but with the exceptions of his Warner westerns was always in support. Warners dropped the series for lack of commercial support. Brent, Wayne Morris, and others were brought over, not as box office stars, but to lend credibility for purposes of US distribution, i.e., play dates. Supporting parts on television were on the table. Not much more. Oh, and while he may have played leading man parts at Universal, these were not sold on that basis.

10:31 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hello Barry,good to hear from you.
Yes I guess you are right Foran was probably never asked to appear in a British Fifties B Movie although I feel he would have fitted into one quiet well.
In a previous post you mentioned how Arthur Franz never became the star that he deserved to be.I remember years ago seeing Franz and Foran in the low budget Sci-Fi film ATOMIC SUBMARINE and I recall it being quiet good as well.
I think the film was Forans only Fifties Sci-Fi horror movie and I also remember him doing a few universal "Horrors" in the Forties.
As I mentioned before I have never seen one of Forans Warners Westerns and I look forward to the warner Archive set when it finally arrives.I also enjoyed Forans performance in a Sixties Universal
Western called TAGGART.Not a great film but rather interesting nonetheless.

11:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi John,

Glad to hear from you and glad your comments are getting through, they look just fine.

You seem to have great info on upcoming Warner Archive titles, do you get it from their Facebook page? I'm not on Facebook but maybe I need to be following that page more closely. In any event the information is very much appreciated!

CHICAGO CONFIDENTIAL and THE FEARMAKERS are movies I need to catch up with. Will be interested to hear what you think about VIOLENT ROAD when you catch it. I think I would have liked more focus on the mission at hand and interaction/relationships among the men rather than dwelling on their pasts, which are uniformly depressing, LOL.

A new disc arrived from ClassicFlix and I thought of you -- it's directed by Harmon Jones! (CANYON RIVER)

Re Dick Foran, I recorded some of his Westerns during "singing cowboy" month on TCM a couple years ago but I have yet to explore them. This has really been a Westerns year for me, getting to know the films of Murphy, O'Brien, Holt, and Montgomery...maybe I'll start to catch up with Foran in 2014! It would be even better if some of his movies are out in a nice Warner Archive set by then. (I'm also hoping the Archive puts out more O'Brien sets -- a second volume with Virginia Vale and one with Laraine Day would be great!)

I'm also curious to see some of the '50s British movies referenced here. I have the VCI DVD of Dane Clark in HIGHLY DANGEROUS in my "to watch" stack and also MAN BAIT with George Brent and Diana Dors. Just recorded Victor Mature in THE LONG HAUL which would fit right in with this past week's trucker movies!

Happy viewing!

Best wishes,
Laura

12:00 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

Man Bait is quite intelligent. You should enjoy it, bearing in mind that it is a fairly serious film.

John, I enjoyed Atomic Submarine as well.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for that feedback, barrylane! I look forward to it all the more.

Love submarine movies, I'm going to have to note the ATOMIC SUBMARINE title to look for in the future.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:38 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,
I only joined Facebook so that I could make requests on the Warner Archive page,I do not use it for anything else!
CANYON RIVER was a disappointment for me,I was expecting far more from a George Montgomery film directed by Harmon Jones.
Loved THE LONG HAUL a combo of Noir,Trucker thriller and kitchen sink drama. Good showcase for talented Gene Anderson an actress that we lost far too soon.
People request all sort of stuff on the Warner Facebook page and generally but not always they reply to requests.
Someone recently asked for GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING a film that I really want on DVD. Its on the way once they have restored the film.

12:59 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hi again Laura,
Really interested in your comments regarding submarine movies.
The submarine movie I really want to see is TORPEDO ALLEY staring Mark Stevens,Dorothy Malone,Bill Williams,Douglas Kennedy,James Millican and Charles Bronson.Sadly this Allied-Artists film is one of the titles that they sold off to Paramount/Republic so a Warner Archive DVD will not be forthcoming.
Another sub aqua movie I really want to see is THE UNDERWATER CITY
starring William Lundigan and Julia Adams. From the team that gave us ATOMIC SUBMARINE (Alex Gordon;Spencer Gordon Bennett.)
I really want the Sony MOD series to release this one.
BTW TORPEDO ALLEY was directed by none other than Lew Landers!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi again John!

That's too bad you found CANYON RIVER disappointing. (It has a low rating in the Maltin guide but I've found the book's ratings for Westerns can be way off base.) Will be sure to post here after I catch up with it. Also hope to pop in my LONG HAUL disc soon -- Mature is someone for whom I have increasing appreciation and the UK setting is also of interest. Like your description of it including "kitchen sink" drama.

Glad to hear GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING will be out when it is restored. Haven't seen it yet but love the cast and director.

The casts of those submarine movies sound really terrific. Especially a William Lundigan-Julie Adams submarine movie? That's a fantastic combination. Love him and am also very fond of her -- as you may know from an old post, I had a bit part in a play she starred in when I was in high school. A lovely lady.

Best wishes,
Laura

5:05 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hello again Laura,
You may enjoy CANYON RIVER more than I did; the film starts off really well but then sort of loses itself.At any rate I will really look forward to reading your review.
Could not agree more regarding Maltin and his attitude towards many Westerns that he reviews.
At least he gives A DAY OF FURY (which we have been talking about over in Tobyland)the thumbs up!
Really loved seeing Victor Mature play a Liverpool based truck driver in THE LONG HAUL,also Diana Dors very good in this film too;again I await your review with interest.
THE UNDERWATER CITY is a Sci-Fi film,title explains all.Columbia obviously never had much faith in the film because they released it in black & white although it was shot in color.I understand that it has been shown in color on US TV.
Loved your Julie Adams story she is one of those people that you never hear a bad word said about;everyone loves her!
I highly recommend getting on the Warner Archive Facebook page just to see what other folk really want to see.

11:29 PM  

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