Archive for Berry Kroeger

eXQUIsITE cOrPsE

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2012 by dcairns

“You? But… you’re dead!”

“Yes, I am. Won’t you… join me?”

With these words, CHAMBER OF HORRORS officially crosses the line into “movies I can’t believe I haven’t seen before.” Long before these immortal words are uttered, we’ve had the FEAR FLASHER and the HORROR HORN, cheapjack gimmicks to alert the squeamish, and we’ve had Patrick O’Neal chopping his own hand off with an axe, while underwater. This is a movie determined to deliver, come rain, snow, sleet or hail — a TV pilot script presumably rejected for gruesomeness, from the authors of MacGyver and THE MAN WITH THE X-RAY EYES, finds itself under the direction of Hy Averback, the not-quite-inspired helmer of films such as I LOVE YOU, ALICE B TOKLAS and huge amounts of TV — so why is it so GOOD?

There’s the script, which has weird concepts and funny lines to spare — what other 1966 movie opens with a madman forcing a priest, at gunpoint, to marry him to a corpse? And there’s even a hint that the marriage may have been consummated (!)… Cesare Danova is only so-so as leading man, but his sidekicks are Wilfred Hyde White and a charismatic Mexican dwarf billed as Tun Tun. And there are cameos by noir’s arch femme fatale Marie Windsor, primo sleazeball Berry Kroeger (in yellowface, no less) and some full-on cheroot-smoking zest from Jeanette Nolan, Orson’s Lady Macbeth. And, for no readily explainable reason, Tony Curtis turns up for thirty seconds, playing cards in a Baltimore brothel. “I have — excuse the expression — a full house.”

The fellow really holding it all together, even as he hacks the rest of the dramatis personae apart, is Patrick O’Neal, who on this evidence could have had Vincent Price’s career (the plot, in which the crazed scion of a wealthy family dismembers the officials who sent him to execution, sending parts to the police as if to assemble a Frankenstein’s homicide victim, seems to pre-echo Price’s PHIBES revenger’s comedies, even as it picks up from his earlier HOUSE OF WAX). O’Neal was a damn good actor, as you can see in KING RAT, but I’ve never seen him have this much fun, throatily whispering menaces, humming gleefully to himself, and attaching an amusing series of weapons to his wrist-stump, the best of these being a pistol concealed within a lifelike wax hand…

Pop!

The movie has perhaps not quite enough jokes, but makes up for it by having some jokes that are well above its station — and the ending will really make you wish that TV series had happened. Joe Dante should make it for Warners, immediately.

Iron Noir

Posted in FILM, Politics with tags , , , , , on May 17, 2010 by dcairns

William Wellman’s THE IRON CURTAIN is a brazen propaganda flick about a Russian agent (Dana Andrews) who tries to defect in Canada. What with Wellman’s latter-day shift to the right, the film’s subject matter, and the ever-so-slight miscasting of Andrews and Gene Tierney as Russians, I wasn’t expecting great things.

The film has one of those stentorian voice-overs, like T-MEN, that always gives me a bit of a pain, and it’s rather comically scored with Russian classical music for that toney upscale espionage feeling. But the cinematography is FANTASTIC — Wellman treats it as noir all the way, with the Russians as gangsters (and I’m not so much a lefty that I can’t see the justice of that in this case) and the Canadian settings give it a wintry splendour. Charles G Clarke also shot MOONTIDE, and he has a real feeling for the shadows…

So, if the drama is wooden and one-note — and completely humourless — it’s still pretty watchable, just for the imagery. And we have the sneering villainy of Berry Kroeger, a sort of more-sybaritic Orson Welles figure, whom I’ve previously enjoyed in CRY OF THE CITY (venal mob lawyer), GUN CRAZY (sleazy carny), and many others. Berry K is one of the few actors who can simultaneously emit oil and poison from every pore, a skill which guaranteed he was never out of work at the studios, although he did have to bring his own mop.

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