Sunday, April 03, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Whiplash (1948) at the Noir City Film Festival

Eddie Muller started off another great evening at the Noir City Film Festival by saying that he wasn't going to introduce himself, because those of us who came out on a Sunday evening to watch movies starring Dane Clark, Preston Foster, and Belita were obviously "his people."

Muller's "people," in fact, included the one and only Leonard Maltin, who was there tonight to enjoy excellent prints of two obscure but highly entertaining movies.

The print of WHIPLASH was provided by Warner Bros., which incidentally released the movie last month on DVD-R via the Warner Archive. To my knowledge the print wasn't restored, but it was in great shape, showing off the gleaming black and white photography of J. Peverell Marley.

The movie stars a bunch of terrific names from the Warner Bros. stock company of the '40s: Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Jeffrey Lynn, S.Z. Sakall, and Alan Hale.

Clark plays Mike Gordon, a painter in Monterey, California, who meets mysterious Laurie (Smith) when she buys his painting. They quickly fall in love, but Laurie seems troubled, and one day she disappears after spotting a mean-looking man in the cafe owned by Mike's friend Sam (Sakall).

Following the one clue Laurie left behind, Mike relocates to New York. He has no luck finding her, until one night he visits a nightclub with his neighbor Chris (Arden); one guess who the singer entertaining at the nightclub turns out to be! The only problem is, it turns out Laurie has a rather nasty husband (Scott) -- who turns Mike into a boxing star named Mike Angelo. You'll simply have to watch it to follow that turn of events! The plot is just getting started...

WHIPLASH is a fast-paced, enjoyable film starring performers at the top of their game. Clark blends a rough everyman quality with intelligence and sensitivity; I also enjoyed him greatly in another film released in 1948, EMBRACEABLE YOU.

Smith doesn't show great dramatic range here, but her somewhat remote demeanor serves the mysterious Laurie well. I assume it was Smith singing the ballad "Just for Now" but haven't found confirmation.

Clark and Scott had previously costarred in HER KIND OF MAN (1946), which was memorable, although not on a par with WHIPLASH. I have to say I really love Zachary Scott. No one did shifty-eyed weasels better! His characters manage to combine slime with charisma (grin). This time around he's a wheelchair-bound former fighter who delights in making those around him miserable. His ultimate fate was deliciously staged, sparking both laughter and applause from the audience.

Jeffrey Lynn leaves behind the charm he displayed a decade earlier as Felix in the FOUR DAUGHTERS series and is used to good effect as Laurie's alcoholic brother. He's a tragic character whose wry quips also provide a touch of comic relief.

Hale plays Clark's Irish boxing trainer. The supporting cast also includes Douglas Kennedy as Scott's henchman. Early on in the film Jimmie Dodd (THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB) plays piano for Clark and Smith. Sharp-eyed film fans can also spot perennial bit player/extra Bess Flowers in the audience of a fight.

WHIPLASH was directed by Lewis Seiler, billed here as Lew Seiler. The musical score was by Franz Waxman.

The film runs 91 minutes.

WHIPLASH is shown periodically on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer is here.

Coming soon: a review of the second film on the double bill, THE HUNTED (1948), an obscure film which is up there with CRY DANGER (1951) as the film I've enjoyed most this year. (Update: Here it is!)


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

What a great experience you had! Leonard Maltin and a great lesser-known Noir! Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

6:42 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Raquelle! Hope you had a great time at REAR WINDOW Sunday -- looking forward to hearing about it.

Best wishes,

8:40 AM  
Blogger Eddie said...

It was a pleasure to meet you at the movies, Laura. I enjoyed our chat and hope we'll talk again before the festival is over. Glad you liked THE HUNTED. A strange B film that wanted to be more, and almost makes it. Still more than enough to make it memorable.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much, Eddie! I had a great time Friday and Sunday, and it was a treat to meet you in person. I'm looking forward to saying hello again in the future. I expect to attend 3 or 4 more evenings before the festival concludes.

Best wishes,

11:23 PM  

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