Archive for Lawrence Tierney

Thumbing Rides

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2019 by dcairns

On the last day of Il Cinema Ritrovato there’s only one show on at a time, and apart from the big outdoors event in the Piazza Maggiore, it’s all films that have previously screened. Gives you a chance to catch up on things you’ve missed during the overstuffed phantasmagoria of the previous week-and-change.

Thanks to Charlie Cockey’s recommendation I slipped into Djibril Diop Mambety’s THE LITTLE GIRL WHO SOLD THE SUN, which was indeed lovely. This Senegalese short feature combines elements of realism with a fable-like simplicity — the technical standards and the performances are touched with a similar naivety but they get the job done: the measured pace of the action really makes you feel the distances the disabled protagonist has to cover, and Moussa Balde in the role has an uncertain way with dialogue but a wonderfully natural and forthright approach to her interactions with other characters. You love her.

Nobody in THE DEVIL THUMBS A RIDE inspired that kind of affection. Fiona had seen it earlier but didn’t at all mind seeing it again. Lawrence Tierney is scary as hell, a totally convincing psychopath, maybe within touching distance of his real self by most accounts. Though Tarantino’s treatment of him on RESERVOIR DOGS shows who the real bastard was.

The plot has an unexpected “boiling-a-frog” quality, where Tierney doesn’t reveal his badness to the other characters for ages — this does make the hero seem pretty foolish, because the clues are right there, and we’re made wise from the opening shot. But the suspense of waiting for the penny, or the other shoe, or the gallows trapdoor, to drop, is considerable. Lots of wildly enthusiastic supporting players too, including Betty Lawford as a memorable bad girl.

I’ll have to watch more Feist — THE THREAT and TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY also screened but I wasn’t able to see them here. I don’t think he’s a major talent but he’s very efficient and he sometimes pulls off surprises.

Carradine Strikes Out

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on October 13, 2010 by dcairns

Consider this a sequel, of sorts, to that long-ago post, Ten Bad Dates With Roddy McDowell. This time, it’s John Carradine who doesn’t seem set to enjoy much luck.

Give up now, John!

The movie is FEMALE JUNGLE, a profoundly silly title for a not quite so silly movie, essentially a retread of BLACK ANGEL. Here it’s homicide cop Lawrence Tierney who fears he may have committed murder during an alcoholic blackout, which is pretty much the most serious faux pas a homicide cop can make. Apart from the always-intense Tierney (a guy who really did go nuts with a drink inside him) and Carradine (who looks GOOD in those specs, damnit — they add another, previously missing dimension to his head), there’s “And Introducing” Jayne Mansfield, who actually acts in a convincing human manner here, rather than deploying the light-comedy fembot style she made so much her own later.

Seen in the clip with Carradine is former beauty queen Kathleen Crowley, who’s quite moving and vulnerable in a Patricia Medina kind of way — her argument scenes with her husband, (screenwriter star Burt Kaiser) are so circular and illogical and poorly-written as to be actually a pretty convincing evocation of the average domestic tiff between people who have just plain gotten into the habit of fighting.

Nice atmos of late-night grime.

Images from

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray]

A King in Paris

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , on July 27, 2010 by dcairns

Textbook use of comedy chair.

LE ROI DES CHAMPS-ELYSEES got fairly short shrift from its star Buster Keaton, and one can see why. But, having finally tracked down a copy of the film, I thought it was a bit better than its slight reputation would have suggested.

Firstly, unlike the wildly off-tone MGM vehicles which had driven him to Europe, the movie uses Keaton primarily for visual gags. The bulk of the dialogue is distributed among the supporting cast — Keaton’s employers chatter incessantly, with a good bit of overacting. I should mention, by the way, that I don’t speak the French, and my copy is unsubtitled… but the movie was still perfectly comprehensible.

Perhaps the fact that Keaton couldn’t really speak French helped the film. Here, he mouths the French words, and a stranger’s voice emerges — not a perfect match for his uniquely rasping voice, but not bad. I’d love to know who spoke the lines. I’d have hired Louis Jouvet, who looked like Buster’s older, funhouse-mirror brother. The effect is often strange, as if the voice isn’t coming from his body — the audio quality is discernibly different from the other characters’ speech, and at times he sounds a bit like a Raudive recording of departed spirits of the ectopshere…

Buster’s visual bits are good, and I suspect he worked out some of them himself. The story is a string of loosely-connected devices, climaxing in Keaton, an actor playing a convict, is mistaken for the real thing, a doppelbuster, if you will. For me, the prospect of Keaton playing a dual role was the most exciting aspect of the movie: unlike in THE PLAYHOUSE, this isn’t a multitude of Busters, it’s two distinct personalities. Gangster Buster is a serious bad guy, which you can tell by the way he keeps punching people in the face.

Mean Mister Buster.

Director Max Nosseck (with Robert Siodmak as “supervisor”) seems more at home in the crime parts of the story, shooting and cutting a nocturnal car chase with manic energy, than in the comedy, but he frames the gags reasonably astutely. I guess the habit of using tighter shots appropriate to dialogue scenes in filming slapstick only really caught on, damagingly, in the ‘forties. Nosseck’s enthusiasm for gangsterism would pay off in his later Hollywood career, where he helmed DILLINGER and THE HOODLUM, both with Lawrence Tierney

The most unfortunate part of the film is the ending, where Buster and his cute leading lady, Paulette Dubost (looking kind of like Annette Benning — she’s best known for THE RULES OF THE GAME and she’s STILL ALIVE!) are reunited. Buster actually smiles. I guess the Europeans thought it would be a neat surprise. Buster says he only did it to show them it wouldn’t work, “And I was right.” He looks like he’s baring his teeth rather than actually smiling. Given Buster’s problems with drink, a collapsed marriage and a career in freefall, creative interference of such an intrusive kind (recalling his parting shot to Louis B Mayer, “You warped my character!”) must have been painful, so it’s not surprising he couldn’t make it convincing. Though Keaton is losing his looks and some of his grace, it’s the only bit of the film where the strain really shows. A shame they fade out on it.