There's one suborned every minute.
Above is a poster for Bait, which is a sort of a b-movie version of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but produced with half the budget and talent. Hugo Haas plays a man who made a gold strike two years ago, then got caught in a snowstorm, almost died, and hasn't had been able to locate the mine again. To accomplish this he takes on a partner played by John Agar. Meanwhile Cleo Moore plays a fallen townie woman Haas impulsively marries, and from that point onward the trio live together in a one-room mountain cabin. Haas has no intention of splitting the gold, and the close quarters lodging is all according to his master plan. It's unclear at first what that is, but we eventually find out: induce Agar and Moore into committing the then-crime of adultery so he can legally kill them. And you'll think: Isn't there an easier way not to share gold?
This flick is pure cheeseball stuff, with a cautionary introduction by the Devil himself (played by Cedric Hardwicke), and lots of sinister voiceover and greed sweats, but since it's one of seven collaborations between director/writer/star Haas and his muse Moore, for fans it's probably worth seeing. Objectively, however, though some of those collaborations managed to rise above their meager budgets and dubious scripts to result in entertaining films, this one doesn't. It's a bit like a bad high school play. Also, not a film noir, no matter what IMDB claims. The American Film Institute calls it a drama. Our recommendation: don't take the Bait. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1954.
They say the truth will set you free, but it'll send her to prison.
Written, directed, produced by, and co-starring Hugo Haas, One Girl's Confession is a morality play that ponders the role of fate in people's lives. Imagine a man leaving his house and stopping for a few moments to help a boy retrieve a ball. Ten minutes later a flower pot falls from a highrise balcony and crushes his skull. If he hadn't stopped to help the boy the pot would have missed him by ten feet. Terrible luck. But at his work that day there's a natural gas explosion, which would have killed him anyway.
That's the type of idea Haas plays with. He has Cleo Moore in the lead role as a woman who steals $25,000, wants to use the money to get ahead, but various metaphorical flower pots keep landing on her head. Maybe wealth just isn't in the cards. On the other hand, it's possible the fault, as they say, is not in her stars, but in her self. Helene Stanton plays a crucial support role, tipping the balance of fate at just the right moment, and Glenn Langan plays Moore's love interest.
One Girl's Confession is just a b-movie, but it manages to elevate itself above its ilk thanks to a charismatic lead performer. A seventy-four minute running time doesn't hurt either, as the curtain falls just before as central idea begins to wear thin. You probably have worse movies in your queue, so adding this one can't hurt. Maybe it'll help you avoid a flower pot. One Girl's Confession premiered in the U.S. today in 1953.
A textbook case of pianist envy leads to serious trouble.
This poster was made for Strange Fascination, a film put together by triple threat Hugo Haas, who wrote the screenplay, directed, and starred. It premiered this month in 1952. Plotwise a rich widow traveling in Europe meets a brilliant pianist who wants to leave the continent to get away from its “recent misfortunes.” She sponsors him and brings him to New York City, where he has immediate success, but his head is soon turned by platinum blonde showgirl Cleo Moore. She's got show business ambitions but no avenues, so she hitches herself to the rising pianist and proceeds to make his career go limp.
Hugo Haas headlined scores of movies and accumulated more than forty credits directing and writing, so Strange Fascination was no vanity project. In fact we suspect it was uniquely important to him because of its autobiographical elements. For instance, like the pianist he plays Haas left eastern Europe—Brno, Austria-Hungary, which is now part of the Czech Republic—and became respected in his chosen industry. And his given name was Pavel Haas, while his lead character here is named Paul, the Anglicization of Pavel.
In Strange Fascination Haas crafted a solid movie but don't let the online reviews fool you—it isn't film noir. These days any movie that's mid-century, black and white, and dramatic gets the noir stamp on crowd sourced websites like IMDB and Wikipedia. Strange Fascination contains bits of noir iconography, but films of the period have no choice about that—after all, rain falls even in musicals and neon signs occur even in comedies. Strange Fascination is really a straight melodrama. Go into this little b-movie with that expectation and it may prove satisfying.
So when I sign this I'm giving you permission to turn my life into an unrelenting hell?
First rule of plotting a murder: make sure the victim isn't listening in.
Above you see a poster for Pickup, one of the nastier little noirs we've run across our years maintaining this website. Beverly Michaels tries to worm her way into a retired man's affections in order to have the life of leisure she thinks she deserves. But her target, in addition to being old fashioned and a bit obtuse, has some sort of chronic or psychosomatic brain injury that results in confusion and hearing loss. Even so, she manages to marry the poor slob, then sets about figuring how to kill him to obtain his savings of $7,300. When he's hit by a car one afternoon his hearing returns, but Michaels has no idea it's happened and openly plots to murder him, assuming he's still deaf while the entire time he listens in horror. This isn't supposed to be funny, but it is, uproariously. Michaels says the most vicious things about the guy, behind his back and right to his face, day after day, with no idea he can hear every word. These crazy sequences are a big reason why this cheap little b-flick has survived the decades. Plus Michaels knocks her first starring turn over the center field bleachers, playing shrill, wall-eyed evil to the hilt. She was rewarded with more work, including similar gold digger parts in 1953's Wicked Woman and 1956's Blonde Bait. The latter was her last role, making for a short career, but a memorable one. We recommend Pickup, morbid plot, shoestring production values, and all. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1951.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Wilson Suffers Stroke
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson suffers a massive stroke, leaving him partially paralyzed. He is confined to bed for weeks, but eventually resumes his duties, though his participation is little more than perfunctory. Wilson remains disabled throughout the remainder of his term in office, and the rest of his life.
1968—Massacre in Mexico
Ten days before the opening of the 1968 Summer Olympics
in Mexico City, a peaceful student demonstration ends in the Tlatelolco Massacre. 200 to 300 students are gunned down, and to this day there is no consensus about how or why the shooting began.
1910—Los Angeles Times Bombed
A massive dynamite bomb destroys the Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California, killing 21 people. Police arrest James B. McNamara and his brother John J. McNamara. Though the brothers are represented by the era's most famous lawyer, Clarence Darrow, of Scopes Monkey Trial fame, they eventually plead guilty. James is convicted and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. His brother John is convicted of a separate bombing of the Llewellyn Iron Works and also sent to prison.
1975—Ali Defeats Frazier in Manila
In the Philippines, an epic heavyweight boxing match known as the Thrilla in Manila takes place between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. It is the third, final and most brutal match between the two, and Ali wins by TKO in the fourteenth round.
1955—James Dean Dies in Auto Accident
American actor James Dean, who appeared in the films Giant
, East of Eden
, and the iconic Rebel without a Cause
, dies in an auto accident
at age 24 when his Porsche 550 Spyder is hit head-on by a larger Ford coupe. The driver of the Ford had been trying to make a left turn across the rural highway U.S. Route 466 and never saw Dean's small sports car approaching.
1962—Chavez Founds UFW
Mexican-American farm worker César Chávez founds the United Farm Workers in California. His strikes, marches and boycotts eventually result in improved working conditions for manual farm laborers and today his birthday is celebrated as a holiday in eight U.S. states.
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