Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Hollow Triumph (1948) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival (Plus Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review!)

The opening night film at this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival was HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948), which I first reviewed after seeing it at UCLA in 2014.

HOLLOW TRIUMPH was produced by and stars Paul Henreid, with the great Joan Bennett as his leading lady.

Coincidentally, HOLLOW TRIUMPH was just released on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber, under the movie's equally well-known alternate title, THE SCAR (1948). I watched the Blu-ray's commentary track today, and review information specific to the Blu-ray is included at the end of this post.

Festival producer and host Alan K. Rode welcomed an enthusiastic crowd last Thursday night, saying that one of the special things about the festival is the way it preserves the shared movie viewing experience, "with the projector silently humming in the booth."

Rode also noted it had been 14 years since HOLLOW TRIUMPH was last shown at the Arthur Lyons Festival. The opportunity to see it on a big screen at the festival was most welcome!

Henreid plays ex-con John Muller, who holds himself in high self-regard but whose schemes never quite work out.

Muller runs afoul of a mobster (Thomas Browne Henry) thanks to robbing a casino. He hops a westbound train with the cash, knowing he's going to be rubbed out unless he comes up with a way to hide.

While working a boring job under an assumed name, Muller learns he's a dead ringer for a psychiatrist, Victor Bartok. And wouldn't you know, Muller happens to have some knowledge of psychiatry? Muller comes up with a plan to bump off the psychiatrist and assume his identity, enabling him to hide in plain sight.

Muller will have to convince Bartok's secretary and lover Evelyn (Bennett) that he's her boss...and little does he know, but in switching personas he's jumping out of the proverbial frying pan and into...well, you know.

HOLLOW TRIUMPH is a very entertaining film with many positive attributes, starting with great L.A. location photography by John Alton. Jack Webb as a hit man in a trenchcoat chasing Henreid to the Angels Flight Railway...well, that's the stuff noir dreams are made of!

Henreid is excellent as a fascinating and frankly rather unlikeable man whose arrogance is a significant part of his downfall. He's smart enough to cook up some interesting plans, but not quite smart enough to be certain they'll really work. An anti-hero role like this was a rather brave choice for Henreid, who spent much of the decade as a matinee idol.

I also kind of love that there's no explanation for why Muller and Bartok have the same accented voice, or why Muller's brother (Eduard Franz) doesn't have an accent. You just have to go with it and suspend disbelief. Such is the power of stardom in classic Hollywood.

Then there's the always marvelous Bennett, who has some terrific dialogue by screenwriter Daniel Fuchs. The script includes the great line "It's a bitter little world," a phrase well known to supporters of the Film Noir Foundation. The screenplay was based on a novel by Murray Forbes.

HOLLOW TRIUMPH runs 83 minutes and was directed by Steve Sekely. The supporting cast includes Leslie Brooks, John Qualen, Herbert Rudley, Henry Brandon, and George Chandler.

After the movie Alan Rode interviewed Paul Henreid's daughter Monika, a lovely and articulate lady who is very knowledgeable about her father's career.

She recounted that her father took a big risk in playing a bad guy in this film and in fact he received angry fan mail.

She also mentioned that as producer, her father hired friends such as George Chandler, whom Henreid later directed in DEAD RINGER (1964).

One of the things Monika said which struck me the most was that, for her father and others, a film like CASABLANCA (1942) was "just a job," in essence another day at the office. As she put it, he walked off the set of NOW, VOYAGER (1942) and right onto the set of CASABLANCA.

Henreid had a long career, transitioning from acting to spending many years working as a director in episodic television. As a matter of fact, I was just reminded that he directed Jack Kelly and Julie Adams in "Brasada Spur," one of my favorite episodes of my favorite TV series, MAVERICK.

Monika is working on a documentary about her father, PAUL HENREID BEYOND VICTOR LASZLO, which has a website. The site includes a link for anyone wishing to donate toward the project's completion. Monika is also on Twitter and Facebook, where she shares some terrific photos.

After the interview the evening wrapped up with a reception on the Camelot Theatre's front patio. It was a great start to a wonderful weekend!

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray, available under the title THE SCAR, is a beautiful print. The Blu-ray includes a fine, detailed commentary by Imogen Sara Smith which covers all aspects of the film, from the filmmakers to production history to thoughts on the film's themes, including how the movie reflects Hollywood's late '40s fascination with psychology. I enjoyed her commentary very much, and it was a particularly great way for me to deepen an already rich viewing experience.

The disc also includes a gallery of five film noir trailers. Fans of film noir will want to be sure to check out this lovely new edition of a most entertaining movie.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Vienna said...

Thanks for sharing, Laura. Sounds like a great evening . Must watch Hollow Triumph again.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Delighted, Vienna! It was really wonderful. I think I enjoyed HOLLOW TRIUMPH/THE SCAR even more on closer acquaintance.

Best wishes,

10:26 AM  
Blogger KC said...

I just reviewed this for ClassicFlix and have got to say of all the things I love about this movie, Alton's work is by far the thing I love the most. Just amazing what he could do. Thanks for sharing info. about the screening. Very interesting to hear what Monika Henreid had to say. Would love to see her talk about her father some day.

10:55 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

So true, KC! Besides the scene I mentioned with Angels Flight, some of my favorite Alton moments are the "look" of the "ordinary people" in the casino and the sequence with the trucks in the alley, which seems to foreshadow a chase sequence from ON THE WATERFRONT (1954) a few years later.

The movie would be worth watching for Alton's work alone, and yet there is much more to enjoy!

Delighted you enjoyed the post!

Best wishes,

11:08 AM  

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