Archive for June 19, 2019

Cahn Can’t

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , on June 19, 2019 by dcairns

The most memorable bit of dialogue in Edward L. Cahn’s DESTINATION MURDER (1950) is the bit they shoehorn in to justify the title: “This is the work of killers, and killers have only one destination: murder!”

Which should give you an idea of the kind of rot we’re dealing with here.

Elsewhere, we have Albert Dekker as “Armitage,” who refers to himself in the third person, like Trump. “Armitage is in the mood for music!” So Hurd Hatfield turns on the player piano. “Armitage wants his music LOUD!” declares Armitage, so Hurd turns the volume up, though how loud can the Moonlight Sonata really go?

Loud enough to drown out the screams of the tortured, apparently, as Armitage uses the opportunity to viciously beat a blackmailer with his belt (doubled up, with the buckle swinging… Dekker seems to have been a freak in the sheets, and he’s given this some thought, I fear).

The pairing of Dekker with womanhating sidekick Stretch Norton (Hatfield) jibes well with his s&m leanings to make this quite a kinky picture when it can be bothered. Which isn’t often enough.

Armitage must be constantly irritated underneath somebody’s borrowed hair, because even though he makes a point of calling himself by name all the time, the rest of the cast can’t decide how to pronounce his name, some favouring a soft, French kind of pronunciation.

Hurd Hatfield wants to know who sprayed Silly String all over his fireplace.

My favourite other bit was the beginning — like CITIZEN KANE (with which there’s an unlikely link) and SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS, “The End” comes up almost immediately, and we’re in a cinema where some gum-chewing jerk (East Side Kid Stanley Clements) nips out for a smoke, promising his date he’ll come back with popcorn, then jumps in a limo, gets driven to some house, changing into a delivery boy costume en route, rings the doorbell and tells the resident he has a package for him, then, having established the guy’s ID, shoots him right through the package before getting a lift back to the cinema where he can rejoin his date/alibi before the intermission between two features is over.

I would have been fine if the movie had ended at that point, but instead it goes on for a long 72 minutes, filmed in Cahn’s trademark “style,” which you could call “lean” or “economical” if you wanted to make a case for him, but might more accurately be described as “burned out.” All the scenes in head cop James Flavin’s office are shot from the same three angles, for instance.

Cahn’s films of 1931 are incredible. What’s the year he stopped caring?

DESTINATION MURDER stars Jane; Dr. Cyclops; Dorian Gray; Stanislaus ‘Duke’ Covelskie; Dallas Hart; Second Mate Briggs; Pat Garrett; and Charles Foster Kane – Aged Eight.

“Western Union forever!”

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