The Champ: PITFALL (LA)
Is there some sort of implied vaginal metaphor in that title? I’ll guess leave that to the college set to figure. The “pitfall” in question is sultry, whisky-voiced Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell is the middle-aged everyman who falls for her. The plot follows an insurance investigator (Powell) who feels trapped in his regimented, predictable and unchanging life, until an embezzlement case introduces him to a gorgeous model (Scott) and, as is frequently the case in Noirland, his brief indiscretion proceeds to rip his carefully regimented life wide open. Raymond Burr is absolutely wonderful in the role of the sleazy PI turned stalker and Jane Wyatt plays the mousy housefrau who turns out to be much tougher than you’d think. Great dialog and surprisingly complex performances really make this film. It’s a penetrating autopsy of the 50’s suburban dream.
The Challenger: A DOUBLE LIFE (NY)
I don’t like Shakespeare. There, I said it. Call me a philistine, but whenever I see guys in fruity, frilly outfits spouting off thees and thous, it makes my eyes cross. It’s like the exact opposite of everything I love about Film Noir. I want fedoras. Dark streets. Terse dialog spoken out of the corner of an unshaven mouth. Not heavy makeup and earrings and bombastic, wordy stage plays, for crying out loud. Sure DOUBLE has some of the trappings of Noir in between the endless insufferable Othello scenes, but it just wasn’t enough to keep my interest. Ronald Colman won an Oscar for his role as the actor who loses his ability to separate himself from the murderous character he plays on stage. DOUBLE may be a good movie, maybe even a great movie, but it’s just not my cup of tea. Even the ubiquitous Whit Bissell couldn’t make this one work for me. Now if it were a story about an actor playing a gangster or a psycho murderer in a Film Noir who finds the role consuming him after the director yells cut, it would have been right up my dark alley. Of course, Coleman probably wouldn’t have won the Oscar, since gangster pictures aren’t Important like Shakespeare.
That being said, it hardly seems fair for me to give this round to LA for PITFALL, but I never claimed to be an objective judge. Shakespeare is an automatic disqualification in my book, but I encourage everyone out there to check out DOUBLE LIFE and judge for themselves.
Tonight’s match up: 711 OCEAN DRIVE vs THE MOB