Film Review: Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Release Date: November 4th, 1964 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Douglas Heyes
Written by: Douglas Heyes, Whit Masterson
Music by: William Loose, Henry Mancini, Carl W. Stalling
Cast: Ann-Margret, John Forsythe, Ann Doran

Universal Pictures, 83 Minutes

Review:

“Why, David, I thought I’d never find you in ladies’ underwear.” – Saleslady

Kitten With a Whip was a movie made to bank off of the popularity of rising star Ann-Margret. However, it’s a pretty terrible film that feels like it was rushed out to strike while the iron was hot. Luckily for Ann-Margret, her career had some staying power, she wasn’t a flash in the pan and she’d go on to be in much better films.

As bad as this was though, it shouldn’t be a surprise that it got riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Plus, it fits nicely with a lot of the other B-movie teen and beatnik flicks that they played a lot.

The story is about a politician (John Forsythe), whose wife is out of town. One night he comes home to discover Ann-Margret’s Jody hiding out. Jody gives some sob story and convinces the sad sap to help her out.

Soon after, juvenile delinquents show up and make his life a living hell, as his nice house becomes a beatnik party bunker. The politician is afraid of scandal, so he puts up with it. Also, at one point, Jody tells him that she’ll accuse him of rape if he gets the cops. Eventually, the beatnik punks get violent and the politician and Jody flee to Mexico with the delinquents on their tail.

Honestly, the plot is a bit nuts but it does tap into some film-noir tropes while clearly trying to be more like the youth movies of the day.

This isn’t particularly well made, despite having good stars and being made by Universal.

Ultimately, this did showcase Ann-Marget’s dramatic side where her previous films were musicals. So in some way, I’m sure this helped her career more than it hurt it.

This is pretty forgettable though.

Rating: 3.75/10
Pairs well with: other Ann-Margret movies or other beatnik films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Film Review: Pitfall (1948)

Release Date: August 24th, 1948
Directed by: Andre DeToth
Written by: Karl Kamb, Andre DeToth (uncredited), William Bowers (uncredited)
Based on: The Pitfall by Jay Dratler
Music by: Louis Forbes (uncredited)
Cast: Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Raymond Burr, Jane Wyatt, Ann Doran

Regal Films, United Artists, 86 Minutes

Review:

“She probably doesn’t appeal to you but for me, she’s just what I told the doctor to order.” – J.B. MacDonald

I have always liked Dick Powell in film-noir and Lizabeth Scott had my heart from the first moment I saw her. She is one of my favorite leading ladies of all-time, especially from her era. This picture also has Raymond Burr, a guy I’ve always been a fan of since discovering Godzilla at a young age and because of my mum’s love of Perry Mason reruns. Ann Doran also shows up in this movie.

Frankly, there are a lot of good pieces here but the film mostly falls flat. It is film-noir in style but it’s more about infidelity. Strangely, being that this was a 1940s film and that the Hollywood rules were strict on morals, Dick Powell’s character gets off really easy. The truth behind this, is that the film was actually in violation of the Hays Code but Andre DeToth, the director, went before two senior board members and pointed out that they both had mistresses. Needless to say, the film was released as DeToth envisioned it.

Dick Powell is solid in the movie but doesn’t have the presence he had when he was the first actor to play the famous Philip Marlowe character in 1944’s Murder, My Sweet or when he was his typical “tough guy” characters. Lizabeth Scott was as beautiful as ever and had charm and charisma but her character, overall, didn’t have the gravitas of some of her other roles. Raymond Burr, at this point, was just the standard heavy but that was really his role until he became Perry Mason on television.

The problem with this film, is that it starts out strong, moves at a brisk pace but then loses itself somewhere in the middle. While it tackles a provocative subject, for the time, it handles the situation with kid gloves and doesn’t really explore the underlying darkness of the characters’ indiscretions. And as much as I like the cast, I just don’t care enough about their characters.

Pitfall is not a bad film and most people seem to like it more than I did. It’s just one of those movies that pulls you in and then releases you well before the story is over.

Rating: 6.25/10

Film Review: Fear In the Night (1947)

Also known as: And So Scared to Death, Nightmare (both working titles)
Release Date: April 18th, 1947
Directed by: Maxwell Shane
Written by: Maxwell Shane
Based on: Nightmare by Cornell Woolrich
Music by: Rudy Schrager
Cast: Paul Kelly, DeForest Kelley, Ann Doran, Kay Scott

Pine-Thomas Productions, Paramount Pictures, 72 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve got an honest man’s conscience… in a murderer’s body.” – Vince Grayson

I came across this old noir film that stars DeForest Kelley. Being a big “Bones” McCoy fan, I figured that I’d check it out.

In this film, we meet Kelley’s Vince Grayson. He wakes up from a nightmare where he killed a man in a strange octagonal house. However, he finds blood on his wrist and some items in his pocket from the nightmare. He is convinced that the nightmare was real and confides in his friend Cliff about the incident. Cliff thinks Vince is just overworked and exhausted and doesn’t believe his dream could be real. However, there is much more to this mystery as the film continues on.

This picture was pleasantly surprising. I thought it would be a low budget throwaway noir movie, as they were a dime a dozen in the late 1940s. It certainly wasn’t magnificent but it filled its scant running time with a decent story and a pretty good reveal and conclusion. Also, DeForest Kelly wasn’t bad for being at the beginning of his long acting career.

The cinematography and camerawork were also a bit impressive for the overall quality and budget of this thing. The scenes in the octagonal room with the mirrored walls came off brilliantly. Visually the one-point perspective of the shot setup allowed the camera to peer down the central mirror and then also veer down the two angled sides beside it, almost implying the varying paths the main character’s mind could venture down. Or sort of implying his split personality between the real world and his dream world where he is a killer.

Realistically, Fear In the Night is just a bit better than your average bear in the noir genre but it showed that the people behind it had a lot more skill than the average bear. For fans of the genre, it is probably worth checking out. You won’t be stunned or shocked by it but it should be fairly enjoyable. And if it isn’t, it’s only 72 minutes.