So this was it. The last night of one of the best Film Noir festivals ever. I reconnected with old friends and made some new ones too. I was really sad to see it end, though I was getting pretty sick of popcorn. Anyway, on to the final round.
The Champ: THE GARMENT JUNGLE (NY)
GARMENT JUNGLE starts with a bang when a cranky garment mogul (Lee J. Cobb) tears an inferior dress off sexy model Gloria Pall. The plot is “ripped from today’s (well, 1957’s) headlines” and deals with a fierce battle between the dressmaker’s union and Mafia thugs fighting to keep them out of a Manhattan sweat shop. This film is jammed packed with wonderful character actors, including Wesley Addy, Richard Boone and the night’s special guest Robert Loggia. Gia Scala is absolutely gorgeous in a raw, sexy, sweaty, New York summer kind of way, but I have to admit the nursing her baby in the bar scene kind of weirded me out. JUNGLE gets pretty preachy and heavy handed in its message about the whole union business but it’s full of nasty brutal violence and beautiful women in vintage lingerie, so that was OK with me.
As I mentioned, Robert Loggia was the guest of honor and he had plenty of behind the scenes tales to tell. Apparently JUNGLE was partially shot in on location in New York City by Robert Aldrich and then taken away and completely reshot on LA soundstages by Vince Sherman. Rumor has it that tyranical studio exec Harry Cohn was still angry at Aldrich over THE BIG KNIFE, which featured a tyrannical studio exec that had clearly been modeled after Cohn. I probably should have asked him how it felt to spank Gia Scala, which he does more than once in JUNGLE, but sadly, I didn’t have the nerve.
The Challenger: ABANDONED (LA)
Another wonderful, crackling Bill Bowers script, (“The idea of you going legit is like a vulture going vegetarian!”) plus Raymond Burr and one of my favorite tough guys, Mike Mazurki, makes ABANDONED a real treat. This film, as the wonderful tag line suggests, is about the black-market baby racket. A small town girl (Storm) comes to LA looking for her missing sister. The sister turns up dead, a supposed suicide, and her illegitimate newborn is missing, leading Storm and a curious newspaper man (O’Keefe) to a ruthless baby broker praying on desperate unwed mothers. The dated stigma of giving birth out of wedlock seems quaint and silly now, but they were tackling a pretty ballsy topic back then. It’s nothing new, but I loved every minute of it.
We already knew my old hometown didn’t stand a chance after Sunday’s tie, but now it’s official. I have to give this last round to ABANDONED, so Los Angeles takes the win with a final score of 8-5.
It seems strange not to be getting ready to head over to the theater tonight. I’ve been so used to my little routine that I hardly know what to do with myself now. Well, back to the grind on CHOKE HOLD, I suppose.
I hope you’ll all come out and see me at Vroman’s tomorrow night for my last official HOODTOWN signing.