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Author Topic: Decoy (1946)  (Read 1145 times)
drinkanddestroy
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« on: May 30, 2012, 10:27:59 PM »

Decoy (1946)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0038462/

Cast and plot synopsis, courtesy of imdb




Jean Gillie    ...   Margot Shelby (as Miss Jean Gillie)
    Edward Norris    ...   Jim Vincent
    Robert Armstrong    ...   Frank Olins
    Herbert Rudley    ...   Dr. Craig
    Sheldon Leonard    ...   Sgt. Joe Portugal
    Marjorie Woodworth    ...   Nurse
    Philip Van Zandt    ...   Tommy (as Phil Van Zandt)
    Carole Donne    ...   Waitress
    John Shay    ...   Al
    Bert Roach    ...   Bartender
    Rosemary Bertrand    ...   Ruth


A mortally wounded female gangster recounts how she and her gang revived an executed killer from the gas chamber, to try and find out where he buried a fortune in cash.

------------------------------


Previous discussion on this movie from the Film Noir Discussion Thread, beginning here http://www.fistful-of-leone.com/forums/index.php?topic=1822.msg145443#msg145443

cigar joe:

Decoy (1946) dir by Jack Bernhard on a double disc with "Crime Wave" a pretty ridiculous Noir revolving around bringing the dead back to life to find out where he hid the loot Jean Gillie plays the over the top  femme fatale with Edward Norris,
Robert Armstrong, Herbert Rudley, and Sheldon Leonard. 5/10




T.H.:

I love, love, love this movie but it certainly is ridiculous - which is why it's a favorite of mine. imo it's a camp classic and I love the sci-fi angle. I can't think of anything like it.



cigar joe:

Yea, Sheldon Leonard camps it up pretty well I'll admit.




« Last Edit: May 30, 2012, 10:58:54 PM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2012, 10:56:29 PM »

As for T.H.'s mention of "the sci fi angle": I just watched a few minutes of the film commentary, it's with Glenn Erickson of DVD Savant and Stanley Rubin, who wrote the story for the film. Rubin says that he actually read about Methylene Blue in a magazine, it was a real thing that could counteract certain poisons. (They eventually stopped making it cuz it would turn people's piss green and their tears blue or something like that!) Of course, the film takes significant liberties in depicting how Methylene Blue was administered (for one, in order to be effective,  it would have to be administered long before it was done in the film!), but it was actually based on a real product so I don't know if should be considered sci-fi. Sorry if that ruins the film for you  Tongue
(If you want to know more about it you can watch the film commentary; I only watched the first few minutes of it; this discussion comes up early in the commentary).

----


I saw the movie on the Warner dvd; it's a double feature along with Crime Wave (1954). Both films are IMO the sort that would appeal to a hardcore noir fan; I am surprised that cj gave it such a low rating.

(Much of my discussion here is courtesy of what they say on the special features documentary on the dvd, and the few minutes of film commentary I saw).

Apparently this film was insanely violent for 1946, and one of the rare noirs in which the femme fatale has absolutely zero redeeming value whatsoever, and has absolutely zero interest in any man or anything whatsoever besides the money. There are many femmes fatale who will do anything for money, including commit violence and double crosses, etc., but they actually do show some care for a guy or something. It's rare to have one as purely evil as Gillie is here.

I give lots of credit to the wardrobe people on this movie: Gillie was not a pretty woman, but she actually looks enticing, and therefore you believe that these men would do anything for her, with some really hot shoes, skirts that do a real good job of showing her great legs, and this brilliantly cut dress that she wears on the big fateful night that takes up about half of the movie. (One exception to the great clothes: she wears some awful hats, including some fur ones,  that may be expensive but look absolutely atrocious, but thankfully those scenes with the hats are basically all done in the earlier part of the movie)
For the sort of greedy femmes fatale that can drive a man crazy and make him to engage in self-destructive behavior against his better judgment, it is absolutely crucial that she be convincingly enticing; and this movie does as good a job as can be done in that regard with a woman that is not pretty. Oh, and the English accent doesn't hurt  Wink


Sadly, Gillie died of pneumonia only 3 years after this movie was made, at the age of 33  Cry


« Last Edit: September 10, 2017, 01:20:45 AM by drinkanddestroy » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: February 24, 2017, 12:44:46 PM »

This is one of Noirís most bizarre stories and I absolutely love it. I see cigarjoe only gave it a 5/10. OK, it's crazy but that's the best thing about it.

The film was directed by Jack Bernhard, then-husband of the female star Jean Gillie, who made two other low-budget Noirs, The Hunted and Blond Ice. Decoy was produced for Monogram and is only 76 minutes long, but it is a doozy and textbook Noir all the way. It ticks all the right boxes.

Poverty Row pictures never tried to hide what they were, they did not have, and did not need, any pretensions at intellectual filmmaking. And thank God for that. Because of this lack of pretense we get one of Noirís greatest Bís, with craziness, pulp and a bit of horror and sci-fi thrown in. One may be afraid of this turning into an Ed Wood picture, but not to worry. Itís classes better than that.

The film obviously had a low budget, but the cinematography is beautiful, pure Noir, especially in the prison scenes. So much can be done with so little.

The plot is utterly implausible and hard to swallow. Never mind, it doesnít matter at all.
Old gangster Frankie Olin is supposed to die in the gas chamber. His girlfriend Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie) is quite cut up about it, not because of him but because of the $400,000 he had stashed away and doesnít want to divulge the location. So she seduces another gangster, Jim Vincent, to help her spring Olin and furthermore seduces the prison doctor Craig, so he can administer the antidote for the cyanide poisoning from the gas chamber! After Olin has died! Olin indeed comes back from the dead (with a little nod to Frankensteinís monster: ďIím alive!Ē) and things get more and more complicated as greedy Margot really doesnít want to share the loot with anyoneÖand anyone who stands in her way must die.

The story is told in flashbacks with a voice-over by mortally wounded femme fatale Jean Gillie who gives an outstanding performance. The movie is what it is because of Gillie. Like her contemporary Poverty Row femmes fatales Peggie Cummins, Ann Savage and Janis Carter, she never had much of a career. Itís hard to find a reason for this. She looks absolutely fabulous in her wardrobe and plays the spider woman with utter relish. Itís hard to believe she would even need Methylene Blue to revive a corpse, her perfume alone should do it.

It seems only Poverty Row was capable of bringing out the absolute worst in its deadly dames. Never again have they been so utterly depraved, evil and unredeemable. Thereís not even a touch of sympathy or remorse about them.
If the movie hadnít been produced by Poverty Row, this role should have guaranteed Gillie a great career. As it was, she died at the age of 33 of pneumonia.

The voice-over here, as in other Noirs, stresses the sense of fatalism and powerlessness of the narrator as the audience sees and hears an already determined series of events play out. One can only philosophically accept oneís fate.

As a femme fatale Gillie is as ice-cold, ruthless and lethal as they come. Sheís bad through and through. She doesnít bat an eyelid when her gangster lover No. 2 shoots gangster lover No. 1 and a short time later runs over lover No. 2 with a car. After lover No. 3, the prison doctor, has dug up the loot he also gets a bullet while she laughs hysterically. Life is cheap and death is brutal, nasty and pointless.
But like the smart girl that she is she lets the boys do all the work for her to reap the rewards all by herself.

This movie is one of the few times where the motivation of the main protagonist for her greed is explained. Gillie spits out her contempt for poverty in a passionate speech about the 'dingy, dirty street' in England where she came from. She has vowed never to go back, and her greed is her unstoppable driving force. Itís the same kind of street that her doctor lover lives on now and it is nothing she could ever accept.
Whatís more, she knows exactly that the supposedly devoted-to-his-work-amongst-the-poor doctor is just waiting for his chance to break out and be corrupted. She knows he has been waiting for that moment his entire life. She knows that he likes her apartment, loves the clothes and the perfume she wears, loves everything she has to offer.

In the beginning the doctor is portrayed as one who serves the poor and unfortunate almost sacrificially in a run-down little office, but one look at Gillie and his world changes forever. His existence so far, that is clear to him, has been stultifying and banal.
The doctor is just one of a long line of Noir characters who, until opportunity and temptation knocked, had been a righteous and stable paragon of duty and responsibility. In a short time these characters are seamlessly but very believably transformed into reckless, dangerous and sometimes even murdereous types, all suggesting that anyone, in the right or wrong circumstances, was capable of almost anything. And only self-deception would make them deny it.
In true Noir tradition, having an upright character just means that a person has never encountered temptation, the temptation that would reveal how unreliable their noble principles were all along.
At the start of the movie we see the doctorís face in a shattered mirror with a jagged edge, hinting at another darker side of him. His alter ego is not quite as straight-laced as he thinks. A harsh reality so often looks back at us from the mirror.

If Gillieís driving force is money, for the men it is simply lust. Dark sexual motivations are essential here. The entire male cast loses their heads, and their lives, bar one. Suckers always die.

The actors of the three main male characters are not too memorable, however the same cannot be said about Sheldon Leonard as Sgt. Joe Portugal, the only man who does not succumb to Gillieís charm. He doesnít let her cloud his judgment, though he is tempted, and thatís why his is the last man standing at the end of the movie.
Leonard was a strong actor with a great screen presence and a good antagonist for Gillie.

Thankfully the ending of the film is not a cop-out but stays true to the nature and spirit of Noir. Gillieís death scene plays exactly the way it should. She is unrepentant to the end, still thinking only about the money that is all hers now, daring the cop to kiss her and then laughing in his face. Here we can see the essence of her character. Her only goal in life has always been to control and tear down as many others as possible before she herself has to go the same way.

The ending features a nice ironic twist and emphasizes another important Noir theme: you can try to play the game, but you canít win against the house. There are no winners, ever, only losers. Itís what counts as a healthy moral in Noir.

But, as always the case with good Noir, the audience roots for the morally corrupt and one almost hopes Gillie to get away with her schemes.

Cynicism runs through the movie from beginning to end. Nobody can escape his and her fate. Redemption is not possible.

« Last Edit: February 24, 2017, 01:24:58 PM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2017, 12:51:10 PM »

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Gillie was not a pretty woman

What?? I thought she is stunningly beautiful, but I agree her fabulous wardrobe helped. I'd kill for her dresses. To me she's up there with the most beautiful and best femmes fatales.

As for a femme fatale that wasn't believable, Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon comes to mind. The one misstep in an otherwise perfect film.

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« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2017, 04:10:38 PM »

What?? I thought she is stunningly beautiful, but I agree her fabulous wardrobe helped. I'd kill for her dresses. To me she's up there with the most beautiful and best femmes fatales.

As for a femme fatale that wasn't believable, Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon comes to mind. The one misstep in an otherwise perfect film.

Well D&D is sort of an off the wall personality, I'll give this another go round Jess, I may up my rating.

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« Reply #5 on: February 24, 2017, 04:24:12 PM »

The story is told in flashbacks with a voice-over by mortally wounded femme fatale Jean Gillie who gives an outstanding performance. The movie is what it is because of Gillie. Like her contemporary Poverty Row femmes fatales Peggie Cummins, Ann Savage and Janis Carter, she never had much of a career. Itís hard to find a reason for this.
She died young, I believe.

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« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2017, 04:56:02 PM »

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She died young, I believe.
Yes, I know, it's just that she was in only one more movie after Decoy, before she died three years later. In those three years, some good roles should have come her way.

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« Reply #7 on: February 25, 2017, 05:15:46 PM »

The movie is shit

Jessica's review, as usual, is a 10/10. Keep 'em coming  Afro Afro

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« Reply #8 on: February 25, 2017, 05:27:51 PM »

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The movie is shit
What, what, what? No way dude.  Cry
I guess we have to agree to disagree. I love it.

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« Reply #9 on: February 26, 2017, 02:27:10 AM »

What, what, what? No way dude.  Cry
I guess we have to agree to disagree. I love it.

Don't worry, for D&D every second film is utter shit, you'll get used to that soon.
We like him for that.

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