Monday, May 23, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Earlier this month I reviewed SINGAPORE (1947) from the Kino Lorber Dark Side of Cinema VI collection.

I returned to that set tonight for JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON (1949), directed by William Castle. This film about a government sting operation to break up a drug ring features a top cast including Dan Duryea, Howard Duff, Shelley Winters, and Tony Curtis; Curtis is fourth billed as Anthony Curtis.

JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON is almost a docu-noir, with the feel of movies about Treasury or FBI agents like T-MEN (1949) or WALK EAST ON BEACON! (1952).

Duff plays George Morton, a U.S. Treasury agent in postwar San Francisco. Morton has been unable to crack the case of a lethal drug ring when he has a fresh idea and pulls his childhood friend Johnny Evans (Duryea) out of prison on Alcatraz.

Johnny resents George as the man who sent him to Alcatraz in the first place, but George presents Johnny with a powerful reason to offer his help, and the two men go undercover together, posing as gangsters wanting to make a drug deal.

After a visit to Canada the men end up at a Western-style resort in Tucson, with Terry Stewart (Winters) tagging along. The resort is managed by the overly genial Nick Avery (John McIntire), who's got a silent bodyguard (Curtis) working for him...

It may not be a great movie, but it's quite solid, just the sort of procedural crime film I like, with a good Universal Pictures cast which also includes Leif Erickson, Gar Moore, Barry Kelley, and Charles Drake, who has a single scene as a hotel clerk. Duff may be a little dry, but it works in contrast with the emotional, compelling Duryea and Winters.

Curtis is effective as a gunman who doesn't speak but is quite observant. This was his third film, following his debut the same year dancing with Yvonne DeCarlo in CRISS CROSS (1949), and with his darkly handsome good looks and piercing eyes, Curtis is a real standout. It's easy to see why his career continued on an upward trajectory.

It's a fast-paced 76-minute film which was written by Robert L. Richards from a story by Henry Jordan. The black and white cinematography was by Maury Gertsman. Another of the film's strengths is atmospheric location work.

To my knowledge, JOHNNY STOOL PIGEON is another "never on DVD" release from Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The Blu-ray print, from a new 2K master, looks and sounds great. The disc has a commentary track by Jason A. Ney and a three-film trailer gallery for other movies available from Kino Lorber.

I'll be reviewing the final film in the set, THE RAGING TIDE (1951), at a future date. It's another one with a top Universal cast!

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

1 comment:

  1. Good, solid U.I. thriller with a great cast. Very much my kind of movie really.