Saturday, January 11, 2020

Tonight's Movie: Naked Alibi (1954) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

I first saw NAKED ALIBI (1954) nearly eight years ago at the Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood.

I very much enjoyed seeing it at the festival, but unfortunately the movie hasn't been available for home viewing in the years since. It's been a long wait, but I'm happy to say that NAKED ALIBI is now finally available on Blu-ray and DVD thanks to Kino Lorber.

I was glad to have the chance to watch Kino's attractive new Blu-ray release, as I had a good time revisiting this quite entertaining film.

Gene Barry plays Al Willis, bakery owner, married to Helen (Marcia Henderson), father of a young child...and possible murderer. After Al is picked up for disorderly conduct he gets into a fight with the cops, including Lt. Parks (Casey Adams), and says he'll get revenge. The very next night, Parks is killed. Soon thereafter, two more policemen are murdered.

Police Chief Joe Conroy (Sterling Hayden) is certain Al is the killer, but a sensational photo of Joe supposedly "roughing up" Al combined with political pressure forces Joe out of office, while Al remains free.

Joe remains convinced that Al is guilty and hires a private detective (Don Haggerty) to shadow Al, who becomes so unnerved at being tailed that he tells his wife he needs to go somewhere to calm his nerves and immediately leaves town.

To this point the viewer isn't completely sure whether Joe is an overzealous cop or Al is the killer, but when Joe tails Al to Border City, it soon becomes clear which is which. Among other things, the married Al knows nightclub singer Marianna (Gloria Grahame) very, very well...and he doesn't treat her especially nicely, either. It seems Al has a completely different side which might shock his loving wife. (One wonders if he always held on to his temper around Helen...)

All Joe needs is the evidence to crack the case against Al and prove it in court, and Marianna may help him get the answers he's looking for.

Hayden is perfect in this as the aggressive cop with no quit in him, reminiscent of the part he played in the classic CRIME WAVE (1954), released the same year. Hayden's Joe may be a little nicer than his CRIME WAVE detective, but not when it comes to doggedly going after a bad guy.

Barry often played upstanding men, in films such as THE ATOMIC CITY (1952) or THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953), but he's quite convincing here as an out-and-out sleaze. The duality of Al's character -- loving husband to Helen, abusive lover of Marianna -- is never really explained, but much of the time there's no rhyme or reason to evil, so it's not too much of an issue, other than making the viewer curious. Al's cruelty to Marianna is chilling.

Grahame is terrific in an appealing performance as the singer who comes to realize her boyfriend Al, who disappears from town for long periods of time, isn't all he seems. (He sure gets testy when she suggests marriage!)
I especially enjoy Grahame's performance of "Ace in the Hole," even knowing she's dubbed (by Jo Ann Greer). Grahame really puts the number over.

The film's other pleasures include Haggerty as the reliable private eye, Kathleen O'Malley (WAGON MASTER) in a brief but memorable scene as a cop's wife, and a young Chuck Connors, over four years before his RIFLEMAN TV Western, as a police detective. I wished that the story had been such that it would have made sense for Connors' character to be in the film longer.

The cast also includes Billy Chapin, Tol Avery, and Stuart Randall.

I noted when I first saw the movie that cinematographer Russell Metty's black and white shooting of "Border City" seems to foreshadow his later work in TOUCH OF EVIL (1958). That still hit me strongly on this viewing several years later.

The movie runs 86 minutes. It was directed by Jerry Hopper.

Extras on the Blu-ray are the trailer, a gallery of four additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Kat Ellinger.

Film noir and crime film fans should particularly enjoy NAKED ALIBI. While not a top-drawer classic, NAKED ALIBI is a solid, entertaining film with excellent lead actors which holds up to repeat viewing. Recommended.

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


Blogger Vienna said...

I have no recollection of seeing this film . Your review prompts me to get the dvd. Thanks!

11:20 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

I hope you find it as fun to watch as I have, Vienna. I'd love to hear what you think!

Best wishes,

11:01 PM  
Blogger Vienna said...

I’ve just ordered it. Will let you know.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Excellent! Enjoy!

Best wishes,

11:44 PM  
Blogger Dave and Paula said...

Laura, we saw the 1954 version of this classic noir. Lots of twists and close calls but Sterling Hayden always gets his perp one way or the other. Not into blue ray but past experience tells me that Kino Lorber studios must have done a good job on the transfer.

8:54 PM  

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