In our neck of the woods we like film noir. Lady Laird has all that Russian and German language literature in her past. She can even stand Strindberg (I’m joking. Nobody can stand Strindberg.) So I pick dark stuff for her to watch. How I found Annika Bengzton, which I hope some of you have watched. She’s hot, the subtitles aren’t that onerous, and she takes her top off from time to time.
But there’s a dark strand in American movies too. Most of you know the handful of archetypes: Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Touch of Evil, and Kiss Me Deadly. You know. Black and white. Not so happy endings. Or beginnings for that matter. All these titles are indexed at imdb.com if one or two aren’t known to you. Guess which one ends with a nuclear explosion.
Truth is, though, there are many such movies, starring everyone from Bogart to Mitchum to William Holden to Glenn Ford. Lots of sultry blondes no better than they should be. Including dolls like Jan Sterling, who made this appearance in a 1950 production called Mystery Street:
It’s a startling little movie. The hero is a surprisingly diminutive Ricardo Montalban (the real life inspiration for “the most interesting man in the world” in Dos Equis ads), who is aided in his murder investigation by a Harvard professor (Bruce Bennett) who seems straight out of the modern TV series CSI.
All kinds of stuff is upside down. Patrician Elsa Lanchester plays a madam. The wife of a man who is implicated in the death of a prostitute trusts him enough, correctly it turns out, to stand by him even at the risk of her own life. And the villain is a Harvard snob who sneers at the Hispanic cop on the case. But everybody is wearing a suit and tie. Except the women, obviously, of whom one is a female marine, who knows exactly how to police a 1911 .45 caliber semi-automatic.
Life ain’t what we think it is. The past ain’t as dumb as we sometimes want it to be. Movies weren’t as naive as we pretend they were. Watch this one if you think you know better.
btw, collections are available.