Friday, January 29, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Loophole (1954)

NOTE: This post on LOOPHOLE (1954) is one of my contributions to the Allied Artists Blogathon being hosted by Toby at 50 Westerns From the 50s. The blogathon will be held January 29-31, 2016. I've also written about QUANTRILL'S RAIDERS (1958) for the blogathon. Be sure to visit Toby's site for lots of interesting links to posts about Allied Artists movies!

It was love from the first stylish shots of the Allied Artists film noir LOOPHOLE (1954) -- wow, a Van De Kamp's Bakery, complete with windmill! The movie is packed with location shooting in the L.A. and Malibu areas, filmed in glorious black and white by William Sickner.

Actor-Writer Warren Douglas wrote the screenplay for LOOPHOLE; coincidentally Douglas also wrote the Western DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE (1957), an Allied Artists film I reviewed a few days ago, which had a great part for LOOPHOLE star Barry Sullivan.

In DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE Sullivan played a bad guy who turns out to have a good heart. In LOOPHOLE, Sullivan stars as Mike Donovan, a good guy persecuted as though he's bad.

Donovan, a WWII veteran, is the chief teller at a bank. One day when the bank examiners come for an audit, a ringer (Don Beddoe) sneaks in among the examiners, and he easily walks away with nearly $50,000.

As the bank is closing Friday afternoon, Mike can't get his account to balance, and as he frets over it, everyone else leaves for the weekend. He goes home without reporting the missing money, worrying over it all weekend, and first thing Monday he and his wife Ruthie (Dorothy Malone) go to his boss to tell him about the inexplicable loss. (There's something kind of quaint about the wife going along to discuss her husband's job problem with his boss...that struck me as a little odd, though needless to say this was a major problem and she wanted to support her husband.)

The boss believes Mike, but the bank's bond company puts a detective (Charles McGraw) on the case, and the detective refuses to believe that Mike is innocent. He hounds Mike incessantly, and when Mike loses his job, he makes sure Mike can't work anywhere else. (I've seen more than one reviewer compare McGraw's investigator to Inspector Javert! He's relentless...and clearly a disturbed man.) Mike and Ruthie lose their home, but they work together on their own to solve the mystery.

LOOPHOLE is a great-looking noir with a top cast; in addition to the fine trio of lead actors, Mary Beth Hughes appears as the femme fatale.

My only issue with the movie is that it's really difficult watching two nice people kicked, kicked again, and kicked some more. That aspect didn't make for relaxing viewing, especially as McGraw is so convincing as a dogged tormentor! His last shot in the movie is downright creepy.

I found a piece McGraw biographer Alan K. Rode wrote about LOOPHOLE, posted at Noir of the Week, and recommend it. It includes some background on the history of Allied Artists.

At the time Alan wrote the article, LOOPHOLE wasn't available on DVD. Happily LOOPHOLE is now available in a very nice-looking DVD print from the Warner Archive. There are no extras.

LOOPHOLE was directed by Harold D. Schuster. It runs 80 minutes.

April 2018 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see LOOPHOLE in a gorgeous 35mm print at the Moir City Film Festival.


Blogger john k said...

Lovely review and choice Laura,
I totally agree about the "ordeal" the couple went through-rather harrowing
at times.
This was sweetened a bit for me by having Don Haggerty as a most liberal cop and
a nice contrast to McGraw. I also loved seeing Richard Reeves (who normally plays
brutal thugs) play a humane and decent character who helps Sullivan in his plight.
With this fine piece and Toby's forthcoming review of DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE
perhaps Harold Schuster will get a bit more kudos.Having said that some of his
best films remain unreleased like JACK SLADE,FINGER MAN and PORT OF HELL.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Jerry E said...

Terrific choice of film and a fine review, Laura!
It is not long since I saw this film for the first time and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I like stories that take ordinary people and put them in jeopardy (I suppose because we can so easily identify with them) and this story is particularly well-done. You wonder "can their plight really get any worse??" - and then it does.
Barry Sullivan is one of a small band of players that have been on my radar most of my life but in recent years have become special favourites - performances understated and always reliable. I wouldn't want to forget Dorothy Malone either by the way.
Charles McGraw nearly always gave a riveting performance (good guy or bad guy) and I can't think of many actors who would have been more effective in their role here.
I recently saw him starring in an early film in his career, "THE THREAT" (1949) and he was just sensational. One scary guy!
Great stuff!!

9:19 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the film, John and Jerry!

I agree, Haggerty was a nice contrast to McGraw. He's someone I've just come to appreciate thanks to the Bill Elliott Detective set!

Really looking forward to Toby's piece on DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE, I enjoyed it so much and it will be great to read Toby's insights on it.

Jerry, I think the "relatable" point you make is part of why it got hard for me -- it's so scary seeing a "normal" couple go through this! It's not "noir fantasy" with more iconic "hard-boiled" types like, say, a Marie Windsor going through this. Though it's interesting that one of the things I most love about noir is the very "real" Los Angeles settings of so many films! What a great window to the past -- I loved that about this movie!

I like Barry Sullivan more and more -- he was in so many good films. Dorothy Malone also had a really good run of films in both Westerns and noir/crime films.

I need to see THE THREAT! It's in my stack so hopefully this year.

Best wishes,

9:37 AM  
Blogger Kristina said...

This sounds really interesting, love the actors. These "wrong man" stories can be a very intense watch, especially when the targets are so sympathetic! Scary.

12:03 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Kristina, I suspect you would really enjoy this one, especially if you like the cast. The good thing is I think I'll find it easier to watch next time around -- I find it helps to know what's coming!

Best wishes,

9:42 PM  
Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I saw it years ago but remember well it had the tension you describe as we wait for things to turn out all right. I'm fine with that--that's what makes a thriller like this one what it is.

It's nice to see Harold Schuster get some attention, since I never forget he not only directed this as well as the even better "Dragoon Wells Massacre" but also the first movie I ever saw--Disney's 1948 "So Dear to My Heart" which is in a very different mood and he did very well with it (hasten to add Schuster directed the live-action part, most of it, and not some good animation sequences that are also in it).

Enough cannot really be said for Charles McGraw--certainly great as either a bad guy or a good guy but could shade that persona in any role that came along. Years after his great lead in "The Narrow Margin" he turns up in "In Cold Blood" (1967) as Perry Smith's father in what is mostly one five or six minute sequence that is all on him, and he's brilliant--indeed haunting--in that role and if I cared about Oscars at all and could have voted that year he would have been Best Supporting Actor because it was that stunning.

1:41 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake,

Thanks for your note! I'm so glad you reminded me that Schuster also directed SO DEAR TO MY HEART, I completely forgot that. (Hope we can get together soon so I can pass that film on to you!!) He really did do some fine work, didn't he?

LOOPHOLE will be easier for me next time since I'll know what's coming!

It's been great to see all the discussion about DRAGOON WELLS MASSACRE recently, at 50 Westerns as well as here. A really good one.

I haven't seen IN COLD BLOOD so enjoyed hearing about McGraw's performance. He is always so good -- though I love him best as the hero of not only NARROW MARGIN but ARMORED CAR ROBBERY.

Best wishes,

7:44 PM  

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