Three Studies of Boy and House

The movie is the oddly-titled TALK ABOUT A STRANGER, directed by David Bradley. I don’t know how much credit to give Bradley, who also helmed the legendary snore THEY SAVED HITLER’S BRAIN. The fact is, this movie was shot by John Alton, and his genius infuses every frame. With a pretty decent script at his disposal, Bradley couldn’t really go wrong, except with performances — and he scores here, with dedicated and restrained work all round.

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Kid’s always wanted a dog. He gets one, an adorable scamp, but it dies, apparently poisoned. Kid blames his sinister new BURBS-style neighbour and starts a whispering campaign against him. The climax is thrilling, the ending humane and sentimental.

I enjoyed the film and made a mental note to capture these images. And when I fast-forwarded through the movie to get them, I found myself more moved than when I had been watching it. The relationship of the boy and his dog got to me. Maybe because, as the sideshow clairvoyant says in NIGHTMARE ALLEY, with weird, sinister emphasis: “Every boy has a dog…”

It’s a nice childhood noir to set alongside THE WINDOW.

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13 Responses to “Three Studies of Boy and House”

  1. I know this film well, interesting that you should find a link between it and the superb NIGHTMARE ALLEY. Without having to drag it out for viewing I remember Alton’s handiwork well, in the scene involving the flame pots arrayed to prevent the orange trees from freezing, beautifully composed, lit and shot. Papa George Murphy, politically conservative but still well-used in this and another Alton-lensed noir, BORDER INCIDENT ( his death in BI may be the most frightening in all of noir up to this point in time, although seeing Wallace Ford boiled to death in the sauna in T-MEN comes close), is actually quite good. Pete was the carny alcoholic who utters the immortal “Every boy has a dog”, which is the same line echoed by the down-and-out hobo Tyrone Power after he’s effectively filled the late Pete’s shoes, even adopting Pete’s shtick involving gray-haired mothers, boys and their dogs.

  2. A friend of mine used to bemoan his failure to become a carnival geek like Power.

    “Travelling from place to place, working in the open air, getting paid in booze! What cruel caprice of fate led me instead to a career in
    insurance?”

    I’ve had a VHS of Border Incident for an age, yet somehow failed to watch it: maybe because the copy seemed too fuzzy to do any justice to Alton’s glorious b&w. Love Mann’s noirs, especially Desperate.

  3. TCM showed BORDER INCIDENT recently, actually while you and I were in NYC, I watched a bit of it when I was at my friend Ivan’s in Brooklyn last week. No, you don’t want to see a fuzzy copy of this film, not when there are other means to see it in all its glory. I believe it’s been released on DVD as well, part of one of those recent box sets Warners has put out of compiled noirs. It’s a beaut, you’d like it.

  4. Christopher Says:

    That house has made it into several low budget horrors..I just saw it in the 1957 The Vampire..

  5. There’s no connection, but for some reason I am reminded of one of my favourite films, Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show. Perhaps it’s that profile shot of the kid. He looks a bit like Jeff Bridges.

  6. Deep focus black and white may be the connection (although Alton hasn’t quite got everything sharp). Bogdanovich chose b&w because Welles told him he couldn’t achieve Kane-like deep focus in colour.

    It’s a grand house! Must get ahold of The Vampire, my See Reptilicus and Die quest has been on hold for weeks now.

  7. Speaking of vampires:

  8. Among other things Bradley uh discovered Charlton Heston.

  9. Wow! The big question would be, WHERE?

  10. Christopher Says:

    that was beautiful Peter!

  11. Remarkable. Wonder what the movie’s like.

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