Monday, October 07, 2013

Tonight's Movie: Shack Out on 101 (1955)

Prior to reading about the new DVD release from Olive Films, I'd never heard of SHACK OUT ON 101 (1955). Boy, was I missing out! It was love from the very first jazzy notes playing during the opening credits of this Allied Artists film.

It's a rather odd movie, but I mean that in the best possible way. I think I watched most of the movie with a smile on my face, and what more can a viewer ask? I'd love to see this film all over again on a big screen with an appreciative audience.

The goings-on include Commies exchanging microfilm in the titular diner, mysterious poultry truck drivers, and the harpooning of a stuffed swordfish (!). There's Keenan Wynn benchpressing weights on the diner counter, Lee Marvin as a scarily unsanitary short order cook named "Slob," Terry Moore as a shapely waitress with aspirations to pass the Civil Service exam, and Frank Lovejoy as a seemingly mild-mannered professor in the middle of it all. Think of it as a lighter take on a PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET (1953) type story.

Wynn plays George, owner of the diner and the employer of both Slob and Kotty (Moore). (My hearing must be going, I thought they were calling her "Connie" all the way through the movie, but apparently not.) George says the only reason he keeps Slob on the payroll is he can't get a better employee at such an out-of-the-way establishment. Personally, I would have done the cooking myself rather than keep Slob around...but without Slob there's no movie!

Lovejoy plays Sam, a professor who frequently drops in at the diner, ostensibly because he's attracted to the hot waitress. Sam's also got a seashell collection and regularly buys new specimens from Slob. Sam's interactions at the diner appear friendly and innocuous, but it soon becomes apparent some of the goings-on at the shack are not quite what they seem.

The movie veers between character study, comedy, romance, and Cold War noir, and it worked for me on all levels. (The zigzagging style made me think just a bit of movies like HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT and ARISE MY LOVE, earlier films which were also emotionally all over the map, though a lot more glamorous!) Wynn and Whit Bissell staggering around in the diner in swim fins, Wynn and Marvin having a contest for the best legs, Slob's kitchen fight with Perch (Len Lesser), and that scene with the harpoon, which is one of the more amusing sequences I've seen recently -- well, it's all pretty wild.

The noir angle is good too -- who cares if it's all rather improbable? -- and though the climax to the final action sequence can be seen coming a mile away, that doesn't make it any less fun!

The movie's got a great cast of pros who seem to be enjoying themselves, and the audience enjoys the movie along with them. I'm a huge Frank Lovejoy fan so I got a big kick out of him in this film, and I'm sure fans of the other lead actors must feel the same way, as they're memorable roles. There's a nice part for character actor Whit Bissell, too.

SHACK OUT ON 101 was directed by Edward Dein, who cowrote it with his wife Mildred. The movie was filmed in black and white by Floyd Crosby (HIGH NOON). The movie runs 80 minutes.

The standard Olive DVD I watched looked great. It was also released by Olive on Blu-ray. There are no extras on either version.

It had a VHS release back in 1998.

For additional enthusiastic reviews of this film, visit DVD Beaver and Home Media Magazine, as well as DVD Talk, where Adam Tyner writes that SHACK OUT ON 101 is a "deliriously fun and unrepentantly weird movie."

If "B" level noir's your thing, SHACK OUT ON 101 is very highly recommended.


OpenID livius1 said...

Great review. I intend to add this to my collection as soon as possible. You can never have too much Lee Marvin.


2:47 AM  
Blogger Jacqueline T Lynch said...

I've never heard of this one. Sounds fun.

5:07 AM  
Blogger john knight said...

Hi Laura,
Just back from London,and was glad my comments were able to get through while I was there.
Many thanks for you kind words over on Colins website.
Never seen SHACK OUT ON 101 but have always wanted too.Did not know that it was shot by Floyd Crosby so that makes it an even more of a must see for me.
Edward Dein made a couple of really wacky Fifties Universal Horrors.
I believe that we mentioned THE LEECH WOMAN before. CURSE OF THE UNDEAD is a bizzare combo of Western and Vampire movie with Michael Pate spreading terror in the West.Oddly enough its the only one of Universals Fifties Horrors not yet released on DVD. I know that creepy films are not your thing but I think you would find the two titles that I mentioned fun.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Vienna said...

Thanks for your review. Will now definitely get this. Anything with Mr Lovejoy!

7:59 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

"If "B" level noir's your thing..." You know it!

11:39 AM  
Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

This movie sounds so bizarre! Great review Laura as always.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I wish we could all watch this one together! :) I'd really love to hear other reactions as you are each able to catch it. It's unique. :)

Glad you're safely back home, John! I remember reading about CURSE OF THE UNDEAD -- maybe in one of Boyd Magers' interview books, or a magazine like FILMS OF THE GOLDEN AGE -- and I agree, that's a horror movie I might actually have to see, LOL.

Best wishes,

12:54 PM  
OpenID vienna said...

Just caught up with it and agree entirely with your review. This is a little gem,almost like a stage play with all the action in the diner. Terry Moore was better than I thought she would be.

1:02 AM  

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