Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Wicked Woman (1953) at the Noir City Film Festival

This year I was fortunate to attend four film festivals in a ten-week time frame, from early March to mid-May, adding up to a total of 58 movies, plus two feature-length slates of vintage cartoons!

There were also non-festival films reviewed in that time frame, so consequently it's taken a little while to find time to wrap up some of my festival coverage! Tonight I'm circling back to the final night of the Noir City Film Festival, a "1953" double bill of THE BIG HEAT (1953) and WICKED WOMAN (1953).

WICKED WOMAN was directed and cowritten by Russell Rouse and starred his wife, Beverly Michaels, in the title role.

WICKED WOMAN is memorable beginning with the title song, which was composed by Joe Mullendore and Buddy Baker and sung by Herb Jeffries. (Jeffries has a unique place in film history, having been a black cowboy star, while Baker is better known for his work on Disney movies.) The song is so melodramatic that it made me chuckle a bit, yet -- like the rest of the film -- it stayed with me long after the movie had ended.

The statuesque Michaels plays Billie Nash, a blonde floozy and user par excellence who drifts into a small town. She rents a cheap room, bumming free meals off a creepy fellow tenant (Percy Helton) who wants to be more than friends, and she gets a job pushing drinks in a bar owned by Matt (Richard Egan) and Dora (Evelyn Scott) Bannister.

Before long, Billie tempts Matt into attempting to sell the bar behind the alcoholic Dora's back and run off with her, but things don't go as planned.

It's difficult to describe this grimy little movie. Every frame of the movie reeks of sleaze, especially the scenes with Helton. I enjoyed it almost despite myself; I'm not certain I'd say it's a good movie, but it's unforgettable!

By chance I just came across a 1978 list of "25 Most Memorable Cult Films" by critic-historian Andrew Sarris, and he includes WICKED WOMAN, calling it "my own all-time schlock favorite," describing star Michaels as "wonderfully lurid."

Michaels had a fairly short career, 14 films in a seven-year span; she's a unique screen persona. I'm not sure I'd term her a good actress yet, like the film itself, she's very memorable. Someone like Gloria Grahame could have played the role well, but it's Michaels who gives the film its particular patina of low-rent grime, with a notable assist from Helton.

I tend to think of Richard Egan as a straight arrow type; he certainly had the reputation offscreen as a devoted family man. It was thus quite interesting here seeing him led astray by the femme fatale, eventually realizing he's in way over his head.

WICKED WOMAN runs a quick 77 minutes. It was shot in stark black and white by Eddie Fitzgerald. The supporting cast includes Frank Ferguson, Robert Osterloh, Bill Phillips, and Bernadene Hayes.

The evening and the festival came to a fun end as we walked to our parking place alongside an ebullient Illeana Douglas, who briefly entertained us singing and dancing to the movie's title song. A good time was had by all, a great ending to a wonderful 20-film festival.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

58 movies and four festivals? wow! I don't know how you keep up with it all Laura! I've never heard of Wicked Woman. Looks intriguing that's for sure!

8:27 AM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

My, you certainly had a night to remember.

The only time I recall seeing Ms. Michaels was in the Cheyenne episode The Storm Riders. It was their pared down version of They Drive by Night and Beverly had the Lupino part and her doomed hubby was Regis Toomey (!).

10:18 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a busy spring for sure, Raquel! Noir City was especially challenging as I saw every movie in the festival for the first time ever. But it was worth the effort!

Caftan Woman, I have never seen that CHEYENNE episode and am fascinated. Michaels and Toomey?! I looked up the season and was pleased to see I have it (Season 1) in my collection. Thanks for a great tip!

Best wishes,

11:53 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older