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Friday, May 9, 2014

DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD (1954)

Don’t be put off by a brief bit of sub-par backscreen projection in the opening race car scene, this downbeat B pic, early credits for director Richard Quine & scripter Blake Edwards, is a trim piece of work. Mickey Rooney, dropping the off-putting non-stop exuberance that made so much of his post WWII output a pain, is very effective as a socially withdrawn loner, a whiz auto-mechanic with dreams of racing in the big time. Out of the blue, he’s being vamped by pretty Dianne Foster, unaware at first that it’s just a tease to get him involved as getaway driver in Kevin McCarthy’s simple, but meticulously planned bank robbery. Loaded with fine location work (dig the ultra-lux streamlined details at Mickey’s car service joint and the easy access at a roomy strip of Malibu Beach), it’s a film that knows its way around L.A. (nicely caught by lenser Charles Lawton) as well as around its not so nice cast of characters. Only George Duning lets the ‘below the line’ side of things down with a phoned-in music score.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Rooney was rarely this brutally belittled for his lack of stature. The joking from co-workers really stings and takes on a not so subtle hint of sexual inadequacy, barely skirting the old production code.

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