Sunday, May 25, 2008


Thanks to crime writer James Ellroy's perverse obsession with 1958, the year in which his mother was murdered, I was able to see this odd little juvenile delinquent/noir which would probably otherwise have never seen the light of day on Turner Classic Movies. Ellroy was a guest programmer one night and picked all fairly obscure crime movies from '58. This one was the most obscure so it's the one I watched. Two cops bust in on a drug deal but are shot at by two other crooks who were keeping watch. A briefcase which contains a can filled with heroin winds up in the tall weeds to be found by grocery delivery boy Jonathan Haze. He and his buddies, aspiring artist Yale Wexler and bodybuilding jock Steven Marlo, don't know what they have at first, but when they do, they decide to sell it to raise some money, with some help from drooling junkie Allen Kramer, but soon both the cops and the crooks are searching for the heroin. There's a long scene of Kramer describing the horrors of withdrawal before the poor guy gets worked over by the bad guys. Marlo also gets a fierce ass-whooping in a well-shot scene before the cops corner the baddies, save the day, and teach the boys a lesson. The movie has a very low-rent feel, but it has a nice jazzy score by Richard Markowitz who later wrote the score for the Murder She Wrote series; the director, Irvin Kershner, is best known for helming THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. The cinematography is by the famous Haskell Wexler (under the pseudonym Mark Jeffrey) and lead actor Yale Wexler is his brother. Though the buddies are all dating girls, there is an odd homoerotic tension in an early scene in which the artist is sketching the bodybuilder during his sweaty workout. Haze is best remembered as Seymour in the original LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. [TCM]

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