Stuart Heisler – The Glass Key (1942)

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This is a solid remake of the 1935 film of the same name about big-city political corruption, and it starred Edward Arnold as the corrupt political boss and George Raft as his loyal lieutenant. Stuart Heisler directs this film noir in a workmanlike manner (though, the changed hard-edged ending from the novel is a copout). It is similar themed but less effective than The Maltese Falcon, which was also based on a Dashiell Hammet novel. The Glass Key was supposedly the inspiration for Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The title refers to the political boss backing a candidate based on the expectation of being rewarded with the key to the governor’s house if all goes according to plan, but is breakable if there’s a betrayal. For Paramount this was a big box-office film because of the star team of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, who sparkled as lovers with opposite personalities. Continue reading

Max Ophüls, Stuart Heisler, Mel Ferrer, Preston Sturges, Paul Weatherwax – Vendetta (1950)

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Max Ophuls’ first American film. Fired by Howard Hughes after falling behind schedule, Ophuls was replaced by Preston Sturges, who had written the script. Sturges was then fired also. Over the next four years, Hughes tinkered incessantly with the project, and an array of writers and directors had their way with it. Finally editor Don Siegel attempted to put the thing together and make sense of it.

So the movie is messy but with stunning sequences. Most sources credit Mel Ferrer with directing the ending, but it’s clear he only shot the leaden coda. The actual climax is a beautifully orchestrated, stunningly lit stalking scene with the principal characters hunting each other through a misty wood. Absolutely beautiful, and if this is what made Ophuls go over schedule, as seems likely, he was right to take the time to get it looking this amazing. Continue reading

Stuart Heisler – Chain Lightning (1950)

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Matt Brennan knows how to open eyes to the potential of the experimental jet, the JA-3. He’ll pilot it from Nome over the North Pole to Washington, DC and land it on the Pentagon’s lap. The distance is beyond the JA-3’s tested range. Nor can the craft provide the pressurization needed for flight at 80,000 feet. But Brennan has some modifications in mind. And the courage to put them to the test. Humphrey Bogart plays Brennan in Chain Lightning’s lofty mix of adventure and romance. Eleanor Parker, as a World War II flame who reenters Brennan’s life, fuels the romance. And the adventure takes wing with a story that, like Breaking the Sound Barrier, The McConnell Story and other postwar films, taps into the era’s fascination with jet aviation. Cleared for takeoff. From Warner Brothers! Continue reading