Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Vice Raid (1959) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

VICE RAID (1959) is the final film to be reviewed from the three-film Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection available from Kino Lorber.

The set also includes the previously reviewed THE GIRL IN BLACK STOCKINGS (1957) and GUNS, GIRLS AND GANGSTERS (1959), both of which I enjoyed, especially the latter film.

VICE RAID is the weakest of the trio, about a policeman framed by a mobster and a model, who in turn eventually works with the girl to take down the mobster, but although it was a fairly flimsy film, I enjoyed it despite myself.

Whitey Brandon (Richard Coogan) is on the police vice squad working to bring down a modeling/prostitution racket run by Vince Malone (Brad Dexter). To get rid of his police problem, Vince sends for tall, cool Carol Hudson (Mamie Van Doren), who arrives in town and promptly accuses Whitey of assault and causes him to lose his job.

Carol then accepts a position on Malone's "personal payroll" as his mistress. She doesn't count on her kid sister Louise (Carol Nugent) showing up; explaining away her fancy apartment and clothes to Louise is a bit awkward.

When Vince's righthand man Phil (Barry Atwater) assaults Louise in the worst possible way and she ends up in the hospital, Malone won't help Carol find Phil and she determines to have her revenge and help the cops get rid of Malone and his entire gang.

The script is no better -- and maybe worse -- than your average TV cop show of the era, and much of the acting, including by Coogan, isn't very interesting. The film is saved by the slinky presence of Van Doren, who's watchable throughout, and Dexter, who has a little more charisma than the rest of the male cast.

It's kind of a silly movie, between the low-rent script and the bland performances, but I found it entertaining in a goofy sort of way. I'm a sucker for narrated police procedurals and loved John Dehner's stentorian narration punctuating every scene; in this case Dehner's narration was almost in the "so bad it's good" category, causing me to grin in several places.

I probably shouldn't have enjoyed the movie as much as I did, but there's just something about the contrast of booming, ultra-important-sounding narration with an underperforming cast and run-of-the-mill crime story that I find amusing. Dehner's narration provides a constant sense of urgency, waking the audience up every time things get a little slow.

It was good to see Carol Nugent as Carol's pretty, innocent sister. Nugent was a successful child actress in favorites such as SECRET COMMAND (1944), CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (1950), BELLES ON THEIR TOES (1952), and TRAIL OF ROBIN HOOD (1950). She's all grown up here, 22 when the movie was released late in 1959, and along with Van Doren and Dexter, she's the liveliest member of the cast.

The supporting cast also includes Frank Gerstle and Nestor Paiva. The film was directed by Edward L. Cahn.

Somewhat curiously, the movie was shot by the great Stanley Cortez, known for THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942) and THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955), among other fine work. VICE RAID's crisp widescreen black and white photography is shown off to fine effect on the Kino Lorber Blu-ray.

The Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection is a great little set of three fun films. I very much enjoyed watching all three movies for varied reasons, and I recommend the set for those who share my liking for off-the-beaten-path crime films.

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


Blogger Bill said...

John Dehner's narration on Hallelujah Trail was fun. He always looked and sounded serious--- even in a very rare comic role. He played Paladin on the radio. Have Gun Will Travel was the only show that started on TV and then had a radio version-- for a year or so. That was pretty much the end of the line for radio drama.

12:54 AM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, I think you hit the nail on the head with this write-up of VICE RAID(1959). Yes, there are much better off-the-beaten-path crime films than this one, but it is "Fun" to watch, because of the performance of Mamie Van Doren. Mamie's screen presence is the reason to view VICE RAID, and not just for her physique. Unlike Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, Mamie's persona was more as an intelligent, sassy, and on the edge bad girl. She always improved the one-dimensional characters that she was given to portray.

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES have run film perspectives of Mamie's movies and here is what she has had to say: "I feel blessed that so many fans have expressed their pleasure at watching the Turner Classics showing of many of my films. Your praise, support, and love make life warm and cozy for me, and I can’t thank you enough. Regardless of what some critics may say, audiences have approved of them, and that is the sweetest revenge of all. My deepest appreciation to all of you." The Fans know what they like. Mamie wasn't a great actress, but she is, hands down, a charismatic personality, who is still very much with us and continues to go strong at the age of 88.

9:03 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Bill, that's true, Dehner had a way of sounding serious even when funny. His best part ever, IMHO, coming as Banker Bates in the MAVERICK episode "Shade Deal at Sunny Acres."

Walter, I agree, there's something very edgy and interesting that makes Van Doren a little different. I liked watching her in all three of the films in this set. Loved the quote from her and appreciate you sharing it with me and the other readers here.

Best wishes,

11:25 PM  
Anonymous Andy Wolverton said...

I agree with you, Laura. This was my least favorite film in the Kino Lorber collection, despite the better production values. I wonder if we'll see more of these from Kino? It seems the set almost immediately went on sale at 60% off (which is how I picked it up). Great review, as always!

12:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Andy! Thanks so much for dropping by and checking out this review. It was a really fun set, even if the movies weren't perfect, and I really hope Kino releases additional sets of this type.

I've just started diving in to Kino's British Noir II set with THE INTERRUPTED JOURNEY (1949) and am looking forward to exploring the other films in that set. The RKO Classic Adventures set was another interesting compilation of titles.

Best wishes,

2:13 PM  

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