Friday, November 25, 2011

Not Necessarily Noir II

In November, the Roxie brougt Elliott Lavine and Johnny Legend back to program Not Necessarily Noir II.

The film I most wanted to see was The Killers (1964) with Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson, John Cassavetes and Ronald Reagan in his last role. Based on a Hemingway story and a remake of the classic Burt Lancaster/Ava Gardner film (1946), this was a made for TV film which was deemed too violent and released in the theaters. It was paired with Clint Eastwood's directorial debut Play Misty For Me (1971) which I had seen before. Unfortunately, I was more tempted by a Jeanne Moreau double feature at the PFA.

Actually, I had seen a number of the films at Not Necessarily Noir II before including Blow Out and Johnny Guitar.

I ended up seeing four films.

Brainstorm starring Jeffrey Hunter, Anne Francis and Dana Andrews; with Strother Martin; directed by William Conrad; (1965)
Female on the Beach starring Joan Crawford & Jeffrey Chandler; (1955)
Girl Gang; (1954)
Teenage Gang Debs; (1966)

The series closed with three Ed Wood film (Jail Bait, Glen or Glenda? & Plan 9 From Outer Space) and Johnny Legend's Woodworld, a documentary on Ed Wood. I didn't think I was up for four hours of Ed Wood so I passed on the final evening's program.


None of these films were what you would call masterpieces. Each of them had some serious flaws.

Brainstorm (directed by the actor William Conrad) was about a man (Jeffrey Hunter) who pretends to be crazy to justify a murder but then actual becomes insane with a little help from roundheel Anne Francis. The setup was solid but the film lost my interest midway.

Female on the Beach star Joan Crawford as a vulnerable widow living in a beach house next to some cardsharks and beach bum Jeffrey Hunter. I've noted before that Crawford plays the weakling or the bitch. In this one, she tried go half and half but the film had B picture written all over. A predictable script with Jan Sterling looking beautiful and future Gilligan's Island co-star Natalie Schaefer looking out of place. Girl Gang was notable for its explicit depiction of heroin use; I would even say it was a tutorial on how to mainline coke.

That leaves Teenage Gang Debs which was by far my favorite. Even at a modest 75 minutes, the film had a lot of filler in the form shots of motorcyclist riding around and dance sequences. The plot was essentially Lady MacBeth Joins a Motorcycle Gang. Actually, she (Diane Conti) is just the girlfriend of the gang leader but she is one pulling the strings and acting Machiavellian. Conti shines in the film. I'm surprised she didn't go on to bigger and better things.

Teenage Gang Debs is an unusually rough-edged, juvenile delinquency film featuring not one but two gang rape scenes, multiple murders and a biker gang that dresses like they're in a college fraternity.

Although the film was clearly padded out to get to 75 minutes, one dance sequence deserves a mention because the tune was great. Lee Dowell's The Black Belt had me tapping my feet and smiling.

Teenage Gang Debs deserves cult film status.

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