Just before Sam Fuller’s debut as writer/director on I SHOT JESSE JAMES/’49, cult helmer Douglas Sirk displayed his distinctive style & pacing on this Fuller script, giving the film a fluidity Fuller could never have managed then . . . . or, come to think of it, later. The mix works well for the first half of the pic, but goes off the rails in the addlebrained second half. No doubt, the neat set-up sold Sirk on the project with Cornel Wilde’s parole officer finding a soft spot for his new client (Patricia Knight), a tough cookie just out after murdering a thug for the handsome mug who both loves and uses her. At first, she plays the parole officer for a sucker, but ends up screwing things up when she (wouldn’t you know it) falls for the sap. So far, so good, but when an accidental shooting puts the newlyweds on the lam, the film can’t pull off the complete reboot of plot & characters. Maybe the problem is Mrs. Cornel Wilde as the moll. That’d be Patricia Knight whose uninflected line readings kill all her scenes, even when it should be something of an advantage not to know what she’s thinking. Sirk and lenser Charles Lawton still manage a few tasty bits in the opening scenes in a cool L.A. office building Joseph Losey later used to great effect as a huge warehouse for his remake of M/’51, and around some grimy oil rigs toward the end.*
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT (Putative) / CONTEST: *This whole oil rig sequence, with its temp workers and lousy cabins, gets copied in another film with two lovers on the lam made around this time. But what is it? When we come up with the title (currently on the tip of our tongue!) we’ll get it listed. Or, dear reader . . . come up with that movie title to win a MAKSQUIBS Write-Up of any NetFlix DVD.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Who came up with the completely meaningless title?