EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|DESERT FURY (aka: DESERT TOWN) (director: Lewis Allen; screenwriters: Robert Rossen/from the novel by Ramona Stewart serialized in Colliers Magazine; cinematographers: Charles Lang/ Edward Cronjager; editor: Warren Low; music: Miklós Rózsa; cast: John Hodiak (Eddie Bendix), Lizabeth Scott (Paula Haller), Burt Lancaster (Tom Hanson), Wendell Corey (Johnny Ryan), Mary Astor (Fritzie Haller), Ray Teal (Bus Driver), William Harrigan (Judge Berle Lindquist), Kristine Miller (Claire Lindquist), Jane Novak (Mrs. Lindquist), James Flavin (Pat Johnson—Sheriff); Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: ; Paramount; 1947)|
film noir, shot in a snazzy Technicolor."
by Dennis Schwartz
Underrated studio director Lewis Allen ("Suddenly"/"The
Uninvited"/"Illegal") films this mordant film noir,
shot in a snazzy Technicolor. It's written by Robert
Rossen, who based it on Ramona
Stewart's serialized articles in Colliers
melodramatics are overwrought and the romance story
absurd and the casting of the husky voiced Liz Scott
as a teenager is not credible, but Wendell
Corey and Mary
Astor thrive as
supporting characters to provide an oasis for a film
that lost its way in the desert.
In the small desert town of
Chuckawalla, Nevada, outside Reno, big-time LA
Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak) and Johnny Ryan (Wendell
Corey) return to
their former gambling location for the first time
since Eddie's wife died in a supposed accident a few years ago when her car went over the
local bridge. Eddie's latest racket has him involved
in Las Vegas, but he has come here to think things
over as things have seemingly gone wrong there.
Meanwhile the 19-year-old Paula Haller (Lizabeth Scott, 24 at the
rebellious daughter of Fritzie (Mary Astor), the
widowed owner of the biggest local casino, The Purple
Sage, has been booted out of her fifth boarding school
and returns to live with her pushy mom. Fritzie runs
the town, as the milquetoast judge (William
political-minded sheriff Pat Johnson (James Flavin) are bought
men. Mom is unhappy that the respectable townies have
not accepted her, and wants to keep her foolish daughter from following in
her footsteps so she can have a better life. The hard-assed New Jersey
transplant was a former bootlegger with her hubby, and
has lived here for ten years or ever since the mob
bumped off her hubby and she had to move west for
The only really good person
in town is the straight-arrow athletic deputy, Tom
Hanson (Burt Lancaster), a transplanted Texas champion
rodeo rider, who can't ride the rodeo circuit any more
because of a severe injury from a horse fall.
When Fritzie sees her
daughter falling for the cheap gangster Bendix, she
makes Tom an offer that if he marries Paula she'll buy
him the ranch he always wanted. Tom reveals this
proposition to Paula, who freaks out that her mom is
trying to run her life and rushes foolishly into the
arms of the big-talking nasty tough guy Bendix.
The story is such a bummer
that the pic really doesn't stand much of chance, and
its contrived happy ending seems a travesty. That it
succeeds somewhat is only because Astor and Corey both
give fascinating crazed hyper performance as pervs.
Lancaster is a fine presence, but is not asked to do
much in his hero role except show us that a real man
is brave and honest and treats women decently. Hodiak
is the weakest link in the pic, who portrays a
neurotic and always angry racketeer in a
one-dimensional emotional tone and maybe he's so
screwed-up because he's hiding his homosexual
relationship with the Corey character. But the Hodiak
character has the film's snappiest one-liner--telling
his nagging nursemaid mentor Johnny that he always
keeps the blinds drawn in his room because "I like the
sunlight in its place, outside."
REVIEWED ON 7/22/2013 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ