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cigar joe
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« on: January 12, 2015, 07:09:58 PM »



Very provocative opening noir-ish sequence of Elaine Stewart in the "tattered" dress of the title followed by a standard courtroom drama, too bad it fizzled out like it did, with  Jeff Chandler, Jeanne Crain, Jack Carson. 6.5/10


From IMDb
Pretentious courtroom drama can't live up to steamy opening

Author: bmacv from Western New York
28 January 2002

By far the best few minutes in The Tattered Dress occur in its swift, provocative prologue. In filthy-rich Desert Valley, California, there's an illicit tryst (where a bodice actually gets ripped); a fight between the adulterous blonde and her jealous husband; and the stalking and slaying of the popular young man who cuckolded him. When a hotshot mouthpiece from New York rolls into town to defend the killer, on the grounds that he was only avenging his wife's rape, it promises to be down-and-dirty fun, like Anatomy of Murder a couple years later.

No such luck. The trial is but a plot point, winning lawyer Jeff Chandler not only an acquittal for his client but the everlasting enmity of the town sheriff and political boss (Jack Carson). Chandler finds himself framed for bribing a juror and ill-advisedly chooses to defend himself. To his side rushes Jeanne Crain, playing that most thankless of roles, the loyal ex-wife. Though there's some welcome noirish violence, the movie has aspirations to being a big courtroom drama where Chandler fights for his reputation, his self-respect, and "principle."

Turning Chandler into the central character proves a colossal miscalculation. He can't begin to impersonate a legal legend who's been compared to Clarence Darrow; though he sweats and strains to work up a full head of steam in his flat, wide skull, he convinces only the jurors -- never us viewers.

Elaine Stewart, as the trampy trophy-wife, and Gail Russell, as the bribed juror, get tossed aside, as does Crain. Only Carson emerges unscathed; once again, as in a long line of supporting roles, he uses his affable, average-joe persona to hide the ruthless schemer inside. When Chandler turns the ripped dress of the original trial into a metaphor for the "tattered" garb of the blind statue of Justice, it's clear that this movie is giving itself airs because it has nothing else to give.

« Last Edit: January 12, 2015, 07:26:34 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: January 13, 2015, 01:45:43 PM »

I found my write-up from summer of 2013:
Quote
The Tattered Dress (1957) - 7/10. Apparently based on the same trial from which Anatomy of a Murder is derived, here the story receives a more conventional Hollywood treatment. Instead of being set in some jerk-water Wisconsin town, this is set in a Palm-Springs-like resort ("Desert Valley"). Instead of an army officer accused of murdering his wife's bartender-boyfriend, we have a wealthy dimwit in the same situation. And instead of Lee Remick as the flirty wife, we're given a very slutty Elaine Stewart. But the most significant difference: instead of folksy Jimmy Stewart for the defense, we get Jeff Chandler as an amoral, high-priced, criminal lawyer flown in for the event. But wait--the crime, investigation, and trial are all quickly dealt with in the first 30 minutes. That's just a prelude to the film's real concern: the life-and-death contest between Chandler and the local law, friendly-seeming-but-utterly-corrupt Jack Carson (in what must be his greatest role). The murdered man was the lawman's friend, and when his killer walks the sheriff decides to exact an elaborate revenge on the one who sprang him. So the criminal lawyer--irony of ironies--ends up defending himself in a second trial. Oh, the humanity! As per usual, authentic courtroom procedures are modified to enhance the dramatic elements. Well, those elements are certainly enhanced: I enjoyed everything except the deus ex machina ending.

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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2017, 04:57:49 PM »

I pretty much agree with both reviews here.

The Tattered Dress was directed by Jack Arnold, known nowadays mostly as a director of pulpy horror and sci-fi. Arnold usually handled the low-rent stuff, glorious schlock like Tarantula and Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The film starts with a bang of a steamy opening sequence which unfortunately remains by far the best part of the picture.
After a wild night, wealthy and sleazy Michael Reston's adulterous trophy wife Charleen (Elaine Stewart) comes home with her dress ripped to shreds. The story she tells her husband - in a brilliant stroke shown to the audience only through a glass window so weíre kept in the dark as to what exact words are spoken -  seems to be she was raped, but one look at her behavior would make that story more than doubtful. She was clearly a more than enthusiastic participant. Hubby nevertheless sees red, gets his gun and in cold blood shoots the lover dead in the middle of the street. This is pulp in its purest distillation.
Big shot New York defense lawyer James Gordon Blane (Jeff Chandler), whose own marriage is on the rocks, arrives in Desert View, Nevada to defend Reston. Politically powerful Sheriff Hoak (Jack Carson), a friend of the dead man, is distinctly hostile to the Restons and Blane from the beginning. After getting Reston off very quickly by making a fool of Hoak in the courtroom, Blane is all of a sudden accused of trying to bribe a witness, Mrs. Morrow, by the sheriff. Blane winds up having to defend himself in court against bribery charges and things get rather stickyÖ

Elaine Stewart makes for a sizzling tramp, she clearly relishes her role. She sashays and wiggles her way through the film. As far as sluts go, sheís the slut of all times and literally throws herself at any man, including her husbandís defense lawyer, right under her husbandís nose. She isnít particularly choosy. All she has is sex for brains and doesnít even make a pretense of virtue. Cue the trampy dame music every time she appears on the screen.
The intriguing thing is hubby knew about her extra-curricular activities but seems to be curiously indifferent to them. He doesnít want to divorce her though he knows that his wife is getting off with other men. Heís feeding some kind of a fetish here. It clearly gave both of the Restons a thrill to kill the lover. Theyíre both pathological cases. Too bad the dynamics of this kinky set-up are not further explored.

This movie should have been fabulous Grade A trash. In the first 30 minutes the film is infused with a steamy and tawdry hothouse atmosphere and enough chemistry to blow up a small country. Sadly the lurid events come to a grinding halt and soon the trampy wife and the husband become a subplot. Restonís trial is over too quickly and we donít get to see any more Charleen and bodice-ripper action. As so often, the title and the film poster promise more than they deliver.
The movie changes gears into serious courtroom drama territory from the first interesting trial to Blaneís own trial for bribery.

Chandler was usually much more at home in action and adventure movies, but heís in good form here and rises to the challenge as amoral criminal lawyer for the mob who gets guilty clients off if the money and ensuing publicity is right. Heís a ladyís man too. When his friend asks him to take the case of a wrongfully imprisoned man, Blane is immediately distracted by some random liquid-eyed dame who happens to walk into the trainís dining car.

Though a brilliant lawyer, Blane gets neatly outmaneuvered twice in his cross examinations. Despite badgering Mrs. Morrow mercilessly in the witness stand, she doesnít change her story and when things get a little too rough, she faints in the approved manner thus winning the juryís sympathies. Sheriff Hoak deflates Blane like a balloon when he, in a well-played ingenious little performance, almost tearfully tells the jury how much he considers Blane a friend and doesnít wish him ill. Heís been made a fool of once in the witness stand by Blane, and he wonít let that happen again.

Jack Carson, playing against type, steals the show as corrupt Sheriff Hoak. Jovial, folksy and affable on the surface, he seems to be nothing but a dumb big lug from a hick town. But heís not such a buffoon as we are made to believe at first.
Turns out heís the good olí boy type of sheriff. He considers himself the law in his small town, and nobody will take that from him.

Jeanne Craine positively has the most thankless role of the movie, the stand-by-your-man faithful wife. She does her best with it.

What is hard to swallow for the audience in the end is the jury acquitting Blane of all charge. His defense is incredibly weak, not to say non-existent, his closing arguments are emotionally appealing but utterly without substance. The only explanation I can come up with is that the jurors, as citizens of the town, knew exactly what type of person Hoak was and so found it easy to believe in Blaneís innocence. People like Hoak donít get the way they are overnight.

Itís a decent enough movie, but it should have stayed in the camp stratosphere.

« Last Edit: May 24, 2017, 05:09:09 PM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2017, 07:02:46 PM »

Heís been made a fool of once in the witness stand by Blane, and he wonít let that happen again.

Jack Carson, playing against type, steals the show as corrupt Sheriff Hoak. Jovial, folksy and affable on the surface, he seems to be nothing but a dumb big lug from a hick town. But heís not such a buffoon as we are made to believe at first.
Turns out heís the good olí boy type of sheriff. He considers himself the law in his small town, and nobody will take that from him.
You and everyone else seems to miss a very important plot point. The murdered man was Hoak's friend, and the sheriff resented (with extreme prejudice) the slick lawyer brought in to get his murderer off. Hoak cunningly arranges matters so that Chandler will get a taste of his own medicine. Hoak very much wants revenge. It's a great bit of motivation, and Carson does a fantastic job with the role. In fact, I don't think he was ever better.

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« Reply #4 on: May 25, 2017, 09:55:44 AM »

Quote
You and everyone else seems to miss a very important plot point.
No, I don't think we do. I know the victim was Hoak's friend and it's perfectly understandable that he's angry about Reston being acquitted of what undoubtably was murder. It's also true that Blane doesn't have much of a conscience, he's in it for the money. And as I said, Hoak is not an idiot at all. He's very smart. But he's not a good guy at all. He doesn't only use Mrs. Morrow and treat her like crap, he kills Blane's friend by driving him off the road. That's a lot of revenge there, with lots of collateral damage.
There aren't really many likable characters in this movie.


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« Reply #5 on: May 26, 2017, 05:41:02 AM »

There aren't really many likable characters in this movie.
Yes. That's what makes it so good.

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« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2017, 10:42:26 AM »

Dave, I just wanted more trash.  Wink

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