Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Outside the Wall (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tuesday evening's double bill at the Noir City Film Festival teamed two rarely seen films from Universal Pictures, FLESH AND FURY (1952) and OUTSIDE THE WALL (1950).

Both films were screened in brand-new 35mm prints.

OUTSIDE THE WALL was the lesser of the two movies, yet it was still highly enjoyable, thanks to a good cast in an interesting, fast-paced story.

Richard Basehart plays Larry Nelson, pardoned after spending 15 years in a Philadelphia prison for an accidental death he caused as a teenager. Soured on big city life by his initial experiences outside the prison walls, Larry uses his prison experience as a medical assistant to obtain a job at a country sanitarium.

Larry has no interest in doing anything which would land him back in prison, although a mercenary blonde nurse named Charlotte (Marilyn Maxwell) causes him to want some quick money so he can attract her interest. Another nurse, Ann (Dorothy Hart, seen last weekend in TAKE ONE FALSE STEP), proves herself a true friend to Larry, and he even opens up to her about his past.

Larry has unexpected new problems when a deathly ill crook, Jack Bernard (John Hoyt), becomes a patient at the sanitarium. Bernard had recently stolen a large sum of money, and a gang of crooks including Garth (Harry Morgan) want to know where it's been stashed. Garth will stoop to some pretty unpleasant techniques in order to find out what he wants to know.

I really enjoyed this film, not least because it wasn't always predictable. Except for one brief moment of succumbing to temptation, Larry has a pretty tough spine and sticks to his plan to live his life without fear of returning behind bars. With his prison background, he's also deceptively cunning and strong, easily fighting his way out of a jam more than once.

It had only been five years since Maxwell sparkled as Ruth in MGM's BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (1945), but the 29-year-old actress looks a bit worse for the wear here, and the impression isn't helped by her unpleasant character. She stands in stark contrast to lovely Dorothy Hart, who's very appealing in this film. What a treat to see Hart in not one but two movies in the Noir City festival!

This was one of the last films in which Joseph Pevney acted; he plays an obnoxious orderly. Pevney appeared in several film noir titles, most notably appearing as Jack Oakie's trucking partner in THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949). He began directing the same year OUTSIDE THE WALL was released; his credits included the first film of the night, FLESH AND FURY (1952). He also directed a film showing Wednesday night, MEET DANNY WILSON (1951).

The cast also includes Signe Hasso, Mickey Knox, and Lloyd Gough.

Don't blink when Larry and Ann visit a roadhouse; it registered with me that the waitress was Peggie Castle right about the time she exited the picture!

OUTSIDE THE WALL runs a crisp 80 minutes. It was written and directed by Crane Wilbur and filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg.

This would make a great double bill paired with another film about an ex-con, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951).

OUTSIDE THE WALL is not available on DVD. As with other films seen in the festival, we'll hope for a future release.


Blogger Maricatrin said...

I enjoyed this one too, and like you say, it keeps you guessing. I wasn't sure how bad things would turn out for Larry, it was a relief when he got Ann in his corner... even if he was a little slow to appreciate it.

Richard Basehart does a good job here, playing a character who is both hardened and inexperienced (a seemingly contradictory assignment.)

I always take special note of Basehart, as my father saw him at the Hedgerow Theater back in 1979 in a production of Macbeth. The play ran for a limited time only and my dad says he was lucky to see it, Basehart was excellent. (Basehart had been a member of the Hedgerow company from 1938 to 1942, and even slept in a small room above the theater at the time. He would refer to the Hedgerow as his second home when he made his return almost 40 years later.)

3:31 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Good description of Basehart's character. He seems so inexperienced at times that it's a bit of a shock when he battles his way out of problems, and then you realize it would make sense he'd gotten that tough in prison. The inexperience with the outside world is what made me think of TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY as a great double bill, as there are some similarities with the characters in that regard.

That's a lovely story about Basehart, great to hear. His first film, REPEAT PERFORMANCE has become a big favorite of mine. It was moving to see his burial site in Westwood last year.

Best wishes,

11:56 PM  

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