L. A. River Redux

July 16, 2011

I love the Los Angeles River:  I loved it long before I knew a thing about film noir and its not infrequent appearance as a movie location.  I loved it even before I knew what it was when I saw it as a kid.  But that’s me.  Anyway, when I read about Roadblock at Film Noir of the Week where the car chase in the river was mentioned, I had to see it.  Car chase in the river?   If you are asking that, you don’t know noir, and don’t know L.A.

The movie is a simple B-movie that moves along nicely with no real surprises.  Honest Joe is a fine insurance detective, whose cleverness, drive, and sharp partner, lead to many nicely solved cases and lots of recovered loot for clients.  He falls for a sultry dame in high fashion clothes whom he meets on a plane flight when she pretends to be his wife to avoid using her name.  (When the plane is grounded mid-flight by weather, they have to share a hotel room provided by the airline.)  She’s into the high life with racketeers, but she likes him and strings him along.  Her looks are the kind that might make a straight guy bend the rules, a lot.   The sexy, chiseling Diane is played by Joan Dixon, a real knockout.  She’s great when she’s being the bad, sexy, material girl, and still good to look at when she inexplicably goes straight, but she doesn’t have much to work with then.

Some favorite scenes:

Hey sister!  What’s with the Mrs. Joe Peters business?
I’m not your
sister, I’m your wife – at least until we get to Los Angeles.  Now buckle your seat belt.

Joe has gone all bad, and Diane wishes he had stuck to the straight and narrow.  As he tries to elude his pursuers by detouring into the L.A. River, She asks:

Where does this highway take us?
This isn’t a highway.  This is the L.A. River!

The chase makes fine use of the setting in the nearly dry riverbed.  (It stays that way for most of the year.)  Joe kicks Diane out of the car, literally shoves her onto the pavement, but she is reunited with him after his last futile rebellion against the law and The Law.


Point Blank

January 8, 2009

Walking, walking, walking…his name is Walker.  His wife won’t know what hit her.   I fondly recall this pedestrian passageway from the Los Angeles airport. Another weird view in a mirror.

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Driving around sun-drenched LA.  Beauty waits for the Beast.  Another view in a glass.

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The scenes from the movie trailer I remember seeing in 1967.  Bam, bam, bam…who knew he was shooting at an empty bed?  His target flew the coop long ago.  He really messed up her bed, and not with rough sex.  Is Walker shooting with blanks, as they say?

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The obligatory after-passionate-sex scene when the couple usually takes langrous drags on cigarettes.  No smoke here, no fire.  Walker dangles his empty gun limply between his legs.

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They sucumb to reverie…how they met.  “You were drunk,” she says.  She wore white.  And who are those thugs shadowing them all the while.  They sure “met cute.”

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Yeah, but things didn’t turn out so great.  Life’s no picnic in southern California suburbia…

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Wife’s dead, a suicide with pills.  Now he gets with her sister.  Nice scenery in Santa Monica.  Will she help him, he asks as he uses the scope to sight the penthouse where his prey is living?  Is it an accident that they are the same color?  A woman and a telescope, just a means to an end…getting that $93,000 he’s owed. 

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They set up Walker to be shot by a sniper, but he’s too smart for them.  The bad guys get killed.  The wonderful L.A. River is the setting.  Thanks to the US Army Corps of Engineers for this splendid WPA Deco style set doubling as a public works flood control project.

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Waiting in the hillside villa for the big guy, Chris wonders, “Does this guy feel anything?”

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While he waits, a little TV.  Part of the weird and sardonic social satire this movie contains.

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Chris collapses after pummeling him, and leaves.  But not before she sets the kitchen buzzing with multiple appliances running riot just to annoy him.  The effect is of a poltergeist loose among consumer heaven.

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