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« on: November 14, 2011, 06:18:57 AM »

Slightly Scarlet (1956) Pulp Cover Noir



WOW! It's Pulp Cover Noir, it's one of those films designed to be in direct competition with TV, an RKO film shot in Color in "Superscope" a 2:1 aspect ratio. Something to get 'em out of their easy chairs and La-Z-Boys and down to the theater.

The Color Film Noirs that were produced between the 1940-1967-68 time frame ('67 was the last year for Major Studio Black & White Film production, I throw 68 in there to cover a few Exploitation films post '67) were actually the first Neo Noirs (let's call these first phase neos or proto neos) so that the two sub genres/styles  Classic Film Noir and Neo Noir actually overlap. But until the Motion Picture Production Code weakened in the mid to late 1950s the only significant difference between Noir and Neo Noir was basically the use of color film.

Post say 1955 the Neo Noirs (second phase neos) both Color and Black & White began to drift away from the Code and away from predominantly crime centric stories into more previously taboo "dark" subject matter and employing various salacious visual depictions not possible before.

Slightly Scarlet is an interesting film. First, the film is based on James M. Cain's "Love's Lovely Counterfeit." Cain had a penchant for writing about criminals, lost souls, disenfranchised individuals who will take any chances. When he was eighteen, he worked six months for a gas company in Baltimore. After work he used to hang around the whorehouses in the red light district on Josephine Street. He used to lounge around in the parlor, joke around with the girls, and he he used to listen a lot. I'm sure he got an ear full and developed a flair for the hard boiled lingo, and the hard luck, desperate, convoluted sleazy situations. He was described by his ex wives as being morose, sarcastic, insulting, moody, melancholy and grim, and yet he portrayed his losers with compassion, and believability.



"I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."

James M. Cain's Preface to Double Indemnity

Shadows And Colors







Second, the film has a weird juxtaposition of color, light & shadow. Its this Lynchesque look that is sort of indescribable, unless you've seen it, the the set designer, flamingly went overboard, (even in the extremely noirish segments) and filled the screen with a pallet of colors, it's like "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" meets "Blue Velvet, except where Blue Velvet and Niagara used color, the colors were somewhat muted, in this film they basically run riot. It's as if somebody asked, "hey can we get another shade of blue between that prussian blue and teal shadow?" There's a shot in a mansion with a number of suits crowded around a TV set, in a Black & White film they'd all all look gray, in Slightly Scarlet none of them are wearing the same shade of color. It's pretty impressive Cinematographer John Alton created some movie magic. The film even recalls somewhat the bold primary color pallet of Warren Beatty's comic book film "Dick Tracy."


June Lyons (Rhonda Fleming)


Dorothy Lyons (Arlene Dahl)

Third, it has Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl playing two gorgeous, smoldering, redhead sisters one "good" the other BAAAAAAAD. I say "good" in quotations because Fleming plays June, she's hinted at as obviously the mistress/secretary of the reformer mayoral candidate. She's living quite lavishly for a secretary (even having a maid) in a perfect "Leave It To Beaver" suburbia with kept woman undertones.


A pretty revealing nightgown there Rhonda

Dahl plays over the top kid sister Dorothy just of of prison for a kleptomania relapse, she's also a bit of a nymphomaniac but one excusable flaw in the screenplay is that this is not hinted at sooner. It's supposedly a big improvement over Cain's novel where the Dorothy character arrives much later. For the film I can understand that for the fifties the revelation of her tendencies must have been quite extraordinary, but looking back through the prism of time, realistically she should have been shown more open about it, as it is, its hinted at symbolically, i.e. in one scene Dahl flicks a lighter flame under the palm of Payne's hand, in another she playfully brandishes a speargun in a third she's using a back scratcher but not on her back.





Regardless both actresses are stunning in their beauty and provide quite a bit of eye candy throughout the film and you wonder how each will upstage the other next. Another plus, their costumes, their body language, and the backdrops provide a living pulp fiction magazine/paperback book cover shot extravaganza.


notice the phallic banister behind June

June: I gave you everything I could.
Dorothy: Because you felt guilty, you had a bad conscience, you know how it started. That charm bracelet, the one moma gave to you. I had to have it. So I stole it. I liked taking it. I liked the sensation It was fun. So it was you June, you!  And all the things you bought me they pay off  a lot of years don't they.
June: A lot of years, what do you think I've been through a lot of years. Holding my breath every time I saw a cop pass by the house. Trying to fix things, and square things, and pay things off all because my sister didn't have any more morals than an alley cat. Oh you're a fine one to tell me how I should live my life. If I didn't earn money who'd get you out of trouble. And who would pay off those wonderful friends of yours that you seem to attract like garbage does flies.

Continued below first original comments after fixing images screwed up by Photobucket  so scroll down. Afro

« Last Edit: November 08, 2017, 06:23:48 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2011, 08:58:52 AM »

Thanks for posting CJ.

Definitely one to look out for!

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« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2012, 07:12:43 AM »

I just watched this movie. It's kind of ridiculous.

5.5/10

Yes, Fleming is wonderful to look at. It's great that they shot it in color, so you can see Fleming's fiery red hair and green eyes. (And yes, Arlene Dahl is not a bad looking sidekick). I've always loved Fleming. She has about fascinating a pair of tits as this world has ever seen.

 But this movie gets pretty annoying pretty quickly; and no girl in the world is hot enough to justify sitting through a bad film. The story starts off with potential, but kind of falls off toward the end. Payne delivers basically the only good performance of the movie; the other actors, including Fleming and Dahl, are not very good. A hot girl can make watching a good movie better, but never makes watching a bad movie worthwhile. Eventually it becomes obvious that the only attraction in this movie is seeing how many different ways they can try show off the girls' assets. If you're happy sitting through 94 minutes just so you can see Fleming in a nightie, go right ahead  Roll Eyes

« Last Edit: May 10, 2012, 11:49:47 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2012, 01:44:42 PM »

Eventually it becomes obvious that the only attraction in this movie is seeing how many different ways they can try show off the girls' assets. If you're happy sitting through 94 minutes just so you can see Fleming in a nightie, go right ahead  Roll Eyes
Right. Bring on the Blu-ray!

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« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2012, 02:25:56 PM »

Right. Bring on the Blu-ray!

or you can just watch porn, which I'd guess doesn't make you sit through all sorts of dumb scenes before getting to what you are looking for. Not to mention that it shows more than just a nightie (or, differently stated, shows the girl in less than a nightie).
Seriously, I never got how some guys will happily watch a bad movie just cuz there is a hot girl in it in various states of undress. There are plenty of movies out there with hot chicks, which are actually GOOD, besides for the scenes with the women. I particularly don't appreciate it when I watch a movie based on a friend's recommendation, only for it to turn out to be a dumb movie which he only recommended cuz of some chick that was in it. (Although to be sure, I far prefer that to the time a girl once enthusiastically recommended a movie to me (Bad Boys) which turned out to be awful; when I complained to her that she wasted my time with a terrible movie recommendation, she responded "Any movie that has Will Smith without his shirt on is worth watching!" Somehow, she must have gotten the wrong impression, haha, surprising considering she was my first kiss.... Well, the bad movie recommendation turned out to be the least of the bad things she did to me, but I digress....  Wink )

« Last Edit: April 10, 2012, 02:35:30 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2017, 06:21:18 AM »

Continuing....

Fourth, Payne and De Corsia wonderfully reprise (for me anyway, since I've seen their other outings first) some of their roles in other Noir films so they bring that cinematic memory factor into their characters, some of De Corsia's lines recall William Conrad's in "The Killers", all in all giving that slipping into a comfortable pair of old shoes feel to the film which adds to the mix making Slightly Scarlet what it is.


Ben Grace (John Payne)


Solly Casper (Ted De Corsia)  center

The story line is that crime boss Solly Casper does not want the reformer Jansen winning the upcoming election against his man Robbins for mayor. He sends his operative Ben Grace out to get dirt on Jansen, Ben concentrates on Jansen's secretary June Lyons, figuring eventually he'll snap some compromising photos of the two.



When we first see June, Ben and Dorothy, Dorothy is just getting a medical release out of prison. Ben is there taking photos. He follows up with a visit to a cop he knows Detective Lt. Dave Dietz, to get Dorothy's criminal record. He then heads over to Solly's place to make his report.


Detective Lt. Dave Dietz (Frank Gerstle)




What kind of secretary is she?

Solly Casper: You must have a file this thick on Jansen and his girlfriend.
Ben Grace: I got a file Solly.
Solly Casper: Heh, heh, and I'll knock the boyfriend right out of the box. I told you there was a way to get to anybody. And the way to get to a reformer is to prove that he is not a lily white angel himself.
Ben Grace: That figures.
Solly Casper: Well what do we use genius, pictures of 'em, tapes, checks he wrote?
Ben Grace: I got a file on Jansen's girlfriend, all it proves is that she's clean as a whistle.
Solly Casper: You've been working on 'em a week.
Ben Grace: She's clean, she's clean, I can't help it if Jansen's too smart to leave any tracks.
Solly Casper: Oh, this is great... this is fine news to get Tuesday night a week before election. You know what happens to bright boys, like you, and us if Jensen gets in? You can take all your fancy gimmicks and your camera rifle and st.... A dame's a dame, there's bound to be something you can nail her on.
Ben Grace: I couldn't get one picture on June Lyon.
Solly Casper: You mean you didn't even get a picture of her coming out of his house at two in the morning... what kind of secretary is she?

When the newspaper editor Marlowe makes an endorsement on TV for Jansen, Solly decides on a plan to pay him a visit, and try an get him to retract it. Ben tells him he's not going along. Ben tells Solly that a smart operator doesn't have to get rough. Solly calls in his crew and smacks Ben in front of them.

Ben then decides to play both ends against the middle. Ben schemes out in advance of the confrontation, and plants a tape recorder in the room they are going to brace Marlowe in. Ben records Solly inadvertently, killing Marlowe by giving him a heart attack. Solly slightly pissed that Marlowe got out so easy, tells his muscle bound henchman Lenhardt (Buddy Baer) to "give him some air." They open the window and sit Marlowe on the sill. Solly then says "give him a lot of air" and flings him out the window. Then turning to his henchmen says "come on let's see if we can beat him down."




"give him a lot of air"


When they leave Ben retrieves the recorder microphone. He pays a visit to June, tells her that he can help Jansen and plays the tape. She at first doesn't know how to handle the dirt, she thinks it's a trick. Ben brings up Dorothy's incarceration, She tells him to leave, he pulls out a picture of Dorothy, indicating that that information could hurt Jansen. June slaps his face and tells him that she doesn't like blackmail, and that she and her sister want him out. Dorothy who has been listening on the patio enters the room.


"Oh please call me Dor, won't you, a frank and open door."


Sisterly competition for Ben Grace

Dorothy: Somebody talking about me? I'd much rather do the talking for myself.
June: Good-bye Mr. Grace.
Dorothy: Hello Mr. Grace meet June's little sister Dorothy.
Ben Grace: Hello Miss Lyons.
Dorothy: Oh please call me Dor, won't you, a frank and open door.

He gets the tape to Jensen, and Solly is forced to leave for Mexico. Ben takes over Sollys operations, and Jansen's girlfriend June.



June finds herself attracted to bad boy Ben rather than Frank Jensen, and the two become an item. Ben tells her that now that Jansen's elected mayor to tell him to make Dietz Chief of Police as a sort of thank-you.  With Dietz chief Ben tells him to go after the grifters and prostitution, all be wants are 30 nice clean gambling locations around the city where suckers can bet.

Continued......

« Last Edit: November 08, 2017, 06:26:02 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2017, 06:21:53 AM »

Continuing.....

John Alton's color Noirsville
















Dorothy's got a big itch














Later when June is lured to the beach house instead Ben she meets Solly and Dorothy.

June: Leave her alone Casper can't you see she's sick.
Solly: Sick that's a terrible way to talk about a cute kid. Come here honey. Sick I think she nothing but laughs.
Dorothy: He doesn't think I'm sick.
Solly: So you're that smart girl Jenson always had on the side. I got a real good reason to kill you. I got you to thank for Mexico, you and Ben. Back up smart girl.
Dorothy: Are you really going to give it to her?
June: Run Dorothy run.
Dorothy: Why should I honey bunch?
Solly: Yea why should she? The boys will be here about nine and we'll have ourselves a barrel of laughs. Then I'm taking little Dorothy and flying down to Mexico with her. We'll be flying like bats, upside down and every which way.


"We'll be flying like bats, upside down and every which way."

The director was Allan Dwan, Cinematographer John Alton  Writers: James M. Cain (novel "Loves Lovely Counterfeit"), Robert Blees (screenplay), Stars: John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl and Ted De Corsia. Again here a an unexpected diamond in the rough, a color Noir that slightly surpasses "Niagara,"  that has got a Lynchesque feel to it.

If this film has one major weakness it's the score which is a bit too bland, it needed something a bit over the top to compliment everything else. The DVD has some nice special features, a good commentary by writer and James M. Cain enthusiast Max Collins, a James M. Cain bio, a collection of stills from the film, and trailers from other James M. Cain based films. 8/10

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« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2017, 03:52:39 PM »

Right. Bring on the Blu-ray!

+1000, would love to upgrade my DVD... Sure, it's not the greatest noir, I rate it a 7/10 myself... But it's a visual feast in so many ways, and oozes sex from every frame. Imagine if this movie would have the same picture quality as the Niagara disc... Not sure my TV could survive the workout with all those garish colors. Bring the Payne, you lucky SOB.

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« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2017, 04:10:57 PM »

+1000, would love to upgrade my DVD... Sure, it's not the greatest noir, I rate it a 7/10 myself... But it's a visual feast in so many ways, and oozes sex from every frame. Imagine if this movie would have the same picture quality as the Niagara disc... Not sure my TV could survive the workout with all those garish colors. Bring the Payne, you lucky SOB.

It a tad on the campy side, remember that sequence where Buddy Baer (brother of Max Baer) lifts George E. Stone off the floor one handed to light his cigarette.

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« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2017, 07:12:34 PM »

Quote
...oozes sex from every frame.
True. I adore this movie. Smiley It looks great.

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« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2017, 02:30:55 AM »

It a tad on the campy side, remember that sequence where Buddy Baer (brother of Max Baer) lifts George E. Stone off the floor one handed to light his cigarette.

Agreed... That scene reminded me of Mike Mazurki.

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« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2017, 11:53:13 AM »

It's cheeky and I dig it so.

Chiseler's and Smouldering Redheads.

Slightly Scarlet is directed by Allan Dwan and adapted to screenplay by Robert Blees from the novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit written by James M. Cain. It stars John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, Kent Taylor and Ted de Corsa. A Technicolor/SuperScope production, music is scored by Louis Forbes and cinematography by John Alton.

June Lyons (Fleming) is "secretary" to anti-crime campaigner Frank Jansen (Taylor), so with Jansen in the running for mayor, mob boss Solly Caspar (Corsa) looks for a way to smear Jansen. The chance arises by way of June's sister, Dorothy (Dahl), a Kleptomaniac just released from prison. So Caspar puts his main man on the case, Ben Grace (Payne), but bossing Grace around and then putting him in the middle of two fire- cracker sisters could prove detrimental to all.

The story is altered from Cain's source and in truth what reads like a tricky plot, actually isn't all that it can be. Yet it's a feverish Technicolor noir, proof positive that in the right photographic/director hands, noir can thrive away from the monochrome.

It plays out its tale in a whirl of simmering passions and wonderfully lurid suggestions, sparkled by eye scorching photography and a deliriously devilish production design. Psychological smarts are in the mix, with no easy answers put forward to character's outcomes, while in true noir fashion all principal characters are hard to like or are intriguingly flawed.

John Alton is the key hand here, he brings rich colours to the fore whilst ensuring that light and shadow techniques are not compromised. Macho conversations are spun out in darkened rooms, the colour black prominent, foreboding like, while the home of the two flame haired sisters is adorned with purposely garish blues, reds, oranges and greens.

Clothes are important to the sexuality pulsing in the piece. The girls dressed up in a number of fetching (colourful obviously) ensembles, with wide V necked sweaters, figure hugging skirts, bullet bras, leopard skin bikini and see-thru nighties! While a couple of phallic symbols form part of the art design just in case you need reminding that sex is a big issue here.

Suggestive scenes are within, usually involving Dorothy who mixes Kleptomania with an obvious kink for Nymphomania. Watch how she strokes a pillow in the background as her sister engages Ben in heated conversation, how she looks as she holds a Harpoon Spear Gun in her hands (in that leopard skin bikini), or a quite delicious sequence on a couch, legs akimbo and a back scratcher used to tantalising effect. Wow!

It has flaws for sure, mind. The Kleptomania/Nymphomania angle is not fully explored (ineviatbly for the period), Corsa barely convinces as the head villain, Forbes is not sure how to score it! And there are missed opportunities unbound as regards triangles involving Ben, June and Frank and also Ben, June and Dorothy. But this is still a delightful Technicolor noir, lush, lurid and deftly sordid. 8/10

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