Film Review: Quicksand! (1950)

Also known as: Gungfly (Sweden)
Release Date: March 24th, 1950
Directed by: Irving Pichel
Written by: Robert Smith
Music by: Louis Gruenberg
Cast: Mickey Rooney, Jeanne Cagney, Barbara Bates, Peter Lorre, Jack Elam (uncredited)

Samuel H. Stiefel Productions, United Artists, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Now, wait a minute! Don’t holler ’til you hurt!” – Daniel ‘Dan’ Brady

Quicksand was pretty highly touted in a few books I read on classic film-noir. However, I found it to be a bit pedestrian and drab.

Now the performances by most of the main cast were good, especially Peter Lorre, but Mickey Rooney was kind of a distraction, as I just didn’t find his character to be believable. That may also be because I’m watching this through modern eyes and I mostly only know Rooney through his work, later in his career.

It was just hard for me to buy into him in this but that’s also a moot point when the picture itself isn’t very engaging, has a really basic plot and also has really predictable twists and turns.

The film is also very short, which isn’t a big deal, especially with smaller noir productions of the time but there is such a lack of story that even with a scant running time, it feels like there are scenes that are too drawn out. It feels like the script was 60 pages and they tried their damnedest to stretch it to the length of a film with 80 to 100 pages.

Still, it’s not bad. It’s passable and fairly competent from a technical standpoint. There just isn’t a whole lot here to care about or sink your teeth into. There’s a hundred classic noir pictures that are better than this one.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other noir B-movies of the ’40s and ’50s.

Film Review: Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Also known as: The Secret Four (UK)
Release Date: November 11th, 1952
Directed by: Phil Karlson
Written by: George Bruce, Harry Essex, Rowland Brown, Harold Greene
Music by: Paul Sawtell
Cast: John Payne, Coleen Gray, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Neville Brand

Associated Players and Producers, Edward Small Productions, United Artists, 99 Minutes

Review:

“What makes a two-bit heel like you think a heater would give him an edge over me? ” – Tim Foster

Kansas City Confidential is a pretty intense and fun film-noir. It also has two of my favorite western stars in it: Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The film is directed by Phil Karlson and is considered by many to be his best.

While the big crime in the film takes place in Kansas City, a big portion of the film goes down to Mexico. You see, an ex-con trying to go straight, is framed for a million dollar armored car robbery. When the real criminals go to Mexico, the ex-con follows in order to expose them and clear his name.

The story is pretty good and it has a lot of interesting twists and turns that make it a good textbook noir, as far as the scheming plot goes. Most of the characters are despicable and you’re always waiting for one of them to turn on the others. Lee Van Cleef is especially good and always does a villainous role justice, as he slithers in and out of the scenes like a snake ready to strike at anything that moves. His facial expressions and body language in this are so predatory, it really shows that he is an actor better than the roles he was getting at this point in his career.

John Payne was good as the lead but he always seemed to be overshadowed by the villains on screen, as they all had a really dark and powerful charisma.

I loved that this film felt larger than most noirs, which seem very confined and small. This was vast and open and really stepped outside of the box.

The film did really well upon release for Edward Small Productions, who responded by turning this into a series with followups New York Confidential and Chicago Confidential. Those were not directed by Karlson, however. Even the more modern neo-noir L.A. Confidential was an homage to this film in title.

Karlson would go on to do The Phenix City Story, which was a sort of spiritual sequel to this. He also dabbled in more film-noir and would go on to do The Silencers, the first of Dean Martin’s spy parody films, and the original Walking Tall with Joe Don Baker.

Kansas City Confidential is a fine motion picture. If you are a fan of film-noir and haven’t seen this one, you should probably check it out.

Rating: 8/10