Power of the Press (1943)

powerofthepress_1Starring Guy Kibbee, Gloria Dickson, Lee Tracy, Otto Kruger, Victor Jory, Larry Parks, Minor Watson

Directed by Lew Landers

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


Power of the Press doesn’t bother with subtlety. It’s a film that focuses like a laser on the power that the press can wield and how constructive/destructive it can be in the right/wrong hands. It’s a story and a setting that makes the Sam Fuller connection seem like a given, but unfortunately little of Fuller’s biting social commentary or affecting dramatics make it to the screen here. Power of the Press is an enjoyable little movie, but it’s one so straightforward and obvious that it’s almost pointless to watch.

The film opens as John Carter (Minor Watson), the publisher of the New York Gazette, is about to give a speech about the freedom of the press. What stops him from heading out and delivering the speech is an editorial in a small Nebraska newspaper that was recently sent to him. The editorial was written by an old friend, Ulysses Bradford (Guy Kibbee), and it takes Carter to task for being at the head of a completely corrupt newspaper that cares little for the truth. Bradford writes that freedom of the press means freedom to tell the truth, not the freedom to twist the truth.

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Coming Soon: Sam Fuller’s Brainquake!

In 1993, director Sam Fuller published his final novel, Brainquake. But while the book was released in French and a few other languages, it was never released in English. Until now! Err — September! English speakers will finally be able to enjoy this “lost” novel from a true storytelling master, as this September Hard Case Crime and Titan Books will be publishing Brainquake in English for the first time ever! If that’s not enough to sell you, here’s the synopsis!

The bagmen who transport money for organized crime live by a set of rules: no personal relationships, no ties, no women…and never, ever look inside the bag you’re carrying. Paul Page was the perfect bagman, despite suffering from a rare brain disorder. But that ended the day he saw a beautiful Mob wife become a Mob widow. Now Paul is going to break every rule he’s lived by–even if it means he might be left holding the bag.

Still not enough? How ’bout the intro to the book, featured in A Third Face, Fuller’s memoir?

Sixty seconds before the baby shot its father, leaves fell lazily in Central Park. Sparrow-weight with bulging jugular, the balloon peddler’s face appeared coated in white ashes of cow dung used against flies, but the pallor was really from his anemia.

Sounds like a must-read book to me! Brainquake releases on September 9, 2014, and you can pre-order it now from Amazon (and presumably other major book retailers)! Below you’ll find the cover and a link to the Amazon pre-order page! Enjoy!

116-Brainquake


Confirm or Deny (1941)

confirmordeny_2Starring Don Ameche, Joan Bennett, Roddy McDowall, John Loder, Raymond Walburn, Arthur Shields, Eric Blore, Helene Reynolds, Roseanne Murray, Stuart Robertson, Queenie Leonard, Jean Prescott, Billy Bevan

Directed by Archie Mayo

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Confirm or Deny is an interesting film because it’s so unique. It’s hard to classify as it’s kind of a thriller, it’s kind of romantic, and it also has an almost fly-on-the-wall, documentary-like feel in its depiction of the war correspondents working in London during The Blitz, a series of Nazi air raids on British cities during World War II. These air raids happened from September 1940 to May 1941, so with a release date in December 1941, Confirm or Deny was also quite the topical film.

The original draft of the story was written by Sam Fuller and star journalist Hank Wales (who, according to Fuller, was the basis for the Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent). The two newsmen caught wind of the Associated Press offices getting bombed during the Battle of Britain, so they decided to write a film about newsmen doing everything in their power to get the news out despite these incredible, extraordinary circumstances. The finished film reflects a lot of this general feeling, although like all of Fuller’s early scripts, the studio heavily re-wrote Confirm or Deny to fit their desires more closely. I’m guessing they added the romantic angle, as it really doesn’t fit at all, nor is it very believable or romantic.

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Bowery Boy (1940)

boweryboy2Starring Dennis O’Keefe, Louise Campbell, Jimmy Lydon, Helen Vinson, Roger Pryor, Paul Hurst, Frederick Burton

Directed by William Morgan

Expectations: Moderate.

On the general scale:
twostar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar


In the grand scheme of things, Bowery Boy is just a forgettable piece of entertainment that time forgot. It’s a well-made B-picture, and it is never once boring in its short 53-minute runtime, but it lacks that special quality which makes an older film attract new fans over the years. Bowery Boy is not unique in this situation; there are literally hundreds of films like this that fade away from our collective consciousness with each passing moment. So what caused me to dredge up this film that never even rated a VHS release? Sam Fuller.

Bowery Boy tells the story of Oklahoman Dr. Tom O’Hara (Dennis O’Keefe) who lands a job managing a public health clinic in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City. The people there are poor, and the streets are filled with shady individuals and a whole mess of young hoodlums. On his first day on the job, O’Hara is hit in the face with a hurled tomato and the kids completely strip his car of anything worth selling. When he should be angry at the injustice of the situation, O’Hara is the ultimate selfless doctor. He doesn’t care much for his pride or his possessions, as long as he is able to serve the members of the community. His confidence that he can win their respect through quality medicine is strong. But things really start to turn sour when a gangster asks O’Hara to approve delivery of rotten food products to the Bowery. O’Hara flatly refuses, but as we all know from watching films, gangsters have ways of getting what they want.

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Federal Man-Hunt (1938)

federalmanhunt_1Federal Man-Hunt (1938)
AKA Flight from Justice

Starring Robert Livingston, June Travis, John Gallaudet, Charles Halton, Ben Welden, Horace McMahon, Gene Morgan, Matt McHugh, Jerry Tucker, Sibyl Harris, Margaret Mann, Frank Conklin, Gene Pearson

Directed by Nick Grinde

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


If the second half of Federal Man-Hunt was as enjoyable as the first half, we’d have a real barnburner on our hands. Instead, the second half decides to let almost all the air out of the balloon before redeeming itself by ending on a high note. And when I say “high note,” I’m talkin’ about a gangsters and coppers high-speed pursuit to a nondescript, mafia-run airfield. As you would expect, some of the cops are in standard police wagons, but it’s the cops who hitch a ride aboard an incredible all-terrain vehicle powered by tank treads that make the scene one to remember. Oh, and one of the cops is literally hanging on for dear life as the machine scales small hills and bounces towards the film’s conclusion.

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Adventure in Sahara (1938)

adventureinsahara_2Starring Paul Kelly, C. Henry Gordon, Lorna Gray, Robert Fiske, Marc Lawrence, Dick Curtis, Stanley Brown, Al Bridge, Ray Bennett, Charles R. Moore, Dwight Frye, Stanley Andrews

Directed by D. Ross Lederman

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


Adventure in Sahara opens with a lot of mystery. In Paris, a man on a runway receives a telegram just before he is to board a plane. The telegram states that his brother is dead and that he “would know the details.” Indeed, our man Jim did know the details, but he does not share them with us just yet. That’s where the mystery comes in! Anyway, he immediately leaves his job at the airport to join the Foreign Legion, and he asks the recruiting officer to station him under the command of Capt. Savatt. The officer agrees, and with that his Foreign Legion adventure begins!

By focusing on the trials of an entry-level soldier in the Foreign Legion, the film has something of a military vibe, but it actually feels like more of a western than anything else. The film is based around the solitary Fort Agadez in the middle of the Sahara desert, which is constantly under threat from savages Indians Arabs. Of course, this leads to a climax resembling a “Defend the Alamo” situation as the Arabs storm the fort, although in this “western” there are machine guns and hand grenades. Pretty fun stuff. Adventure in Sahara doesn’t necessarily live up to the adventure in its title, but it definitely delivers an interesting story and a fair amount of exotically skinned western action.

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Gangs of New York (1938)

gangsofnewyork_1Starring Charles Bickford, Ann Dvorak, Alan Baxter, Wynne Gibson, Harold Huber, Willard Robertson, Max ‘Slapsie Maxie’ Rosenbloom, Charles Trowbridge, John Wray, Jonathan Hale

Directed by James Cruze

Expectations: Moderate.

onehalfstar


Gangs of New York was the first full script that Sam Fuller wrote and sold on his own, so it’s something of a shame that it’s not a better movie. Of course, as a Fuller fan I can always point to the other writers’ names that appear above Fuller’s in the credits as the ones who screwed up the story, or perhaps director James Cruze. They’re the ones that took Fuller’s script and reshaped it into the film at hand, after all. But Sam Fuller, as great as he became, is not infallible, so I’m sure some of the blame is his too. But what makes me lean away from this notion (other than my fandom) is the opening shot of the film. Fuller included the beginning of his screenplay in his memoir, so this opening is without a doubt the creation of Fuller.

Technically, this wonderful shot is the film’s second, but it’s hard for me to count stock footage of an elevated train as a shot. Anyway, we open on a dingy looking business with a car sitting curbside. The street is silent, until the sound of gun fire ricochets out from the building. Three men quickly descend the stairs exiting the building, jumping inside the car just before it speeds away. An injured man stumbles in pursuit, firing a pistol at the getaway car before keeling over. Some bystanders rush to help him, and a policeman comes from behind the camera, walking into the foreground to blow his whistle. This is all contained in a single, static, incredible shot, dense with action and storytelling to whet the audience’s appetite for a thrilling gangster picture. It’s the first of many fantastic, gripping openings from Sam Fuller’s mind, but unfortunately that’s about all the Fuller influence to be found here… outside of a few shots of story events being broken in the newspapers (which hardly counts).

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