Cahn Can’t

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!”


6 Responses to “Cahn Can’t”

  1. So, no comment on how everyone in the lineup is the wrong way round (“I’d recognize that covered head and partially covered neck anywhere?)

    One question about the British justice system: in Brit crime films, they always line up the criminals in a room and bring the accusers in right to their face to identify them. I saw this in Prime Suspect and assumed it was for dramatic effect, or to show how brave the witness was or something, but then I saw it in Brian Helgeland’s Legend, which leads to a ridiculous scene where Christopher Ecclestone leads a little old lady RIGHT up to Ronnie Krays threatening face to identify him. When she understandably doens;t, he looks at her with contempt, leading me to wonder if he was playing the dumbest cop in the entire world.

    So do lineups actually happen like that on your sceptered isle, and if so, what is the raitonale given the obvious drawbacks?

  2. I think we DID do lineups that way at one time (“You know why cops all over the world have the reputation of being dumb? Because they don’t have to be anything else.”) but I would be astonished if it still went on. I think Prime Suspect is not terribly accurate — I have been slightly surprised by Linda LaPlante’s grasp of reality in the past.

    I imagine the rationale was: everyone is a good citizen who will testify in spite of any danger.

    The lineup here is arranged because the witness only saw the killer’s back. She is able to pick three possible backs from the lineup, one of whom is Buddy Swan and one of whom is Stanley Clements, the killer. She’s good!

  3. Where else has La Plante slipped up in the past?

  4. I recall an episode of something or other where a suspect is found to have rental DVDs in his house. I’m watching, thinking “Ex-rental! Not even the hint of a crime.”

    The show then provides the explanation that he worked in a video store and was given them, which seemed unnecessarily elaborate given that probably most UK homes at the time contained ex-rental tapes.

  5. Cahn made some excellent films in late career.

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