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: The Human Jungle (1954) Cop Shop Noir  ( 1028 )
cigar joe
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« : May 22, 2020, 05:44:10 AM »

I love it when I find a diamond in the rough.

The director Joseph M. Newman didn't readily ring any bells so looked him.up. Newman is responsible for 711 Ocean Drive, and a recent discovery Death in Small Doses. Both pretty good Noirs. He also directed the studio bound Dangerous Crossing and later some twilight Zone episodes. The cinematographer Ellis W. Carter did a couple of Noirs I've never heard of Big Town After Dark and Waterfront at Midnight. The well polished screenplay was by Daniel Fuchs and William Sackheim.

Fuchs has a pretty good pedigree in noir responsible for The Gangster, Hollow Triumph, Criss Cross, Panic in the Streets and Storm Warning. Sackheim adapted 3D Noir Man in the Dark.  The music was by Hans J. Salter.

So who starred in it?, is probably your next question. Garry Merrill he really impressed me with his portrayal of wise ass hood Tommy Scalisi opposite Dana Andrews in Where The Sidewalk Ends.

He didn't have to go over the top like Widmark doing that other Tommy, "have a nice trip down the stairs Mrs. Rizzo," Tommy Udo. Merrill sold Scalisi with his cool delivery and his stance. He sold it and you bought it. What Merrill does here is portraying his range. He's equally believable to me as a smart hard as nails police reformer Police Capt. John Danforth. Then watch his broken on the wagon wino in the Transitional Noir The Incident.

What also makes you wonder why The Human Jungle isn't more well known is the equally exceptional performances of rest of the cast.

Jan Sterling plays a stripper/hooker Mary Abbott, I've never seen her look better and she was a veteran of seven noirs prior to this role (she is also in The Incident). Regis Toomey fits the part of Det. Bob Geddes like putting on an old pair of comfortable slippers.

Chuck Connors really sines as meathead, gang muscle Earl Swados. Then you have, perennially popping up as a cop, Emile Meyer as Police Chief Abe Rowan and the equally adept James Westerfield as Police Capt. Marty Harrison.

Claude Akins is the mob connected owner of the Hutch, George Mandy.  The rest of the cast just add to the realism. Lamont Johnson as Det. Lannigan is great and looks amazingly like Tom Hanks, Patrick Waltz as Det. Strauss, Paula Raymond as Pat Danforth, Gary Merrill's wife. The rest, George Wallace as Det. O'Neill, Chubby Johnson as Greenie and, Florenz Ames as Leonard Ustick are equally believable.

Its a well executed film from Allied Artists, and when you're not expecting too much going into it you get a pleasant surprise with what was achieved.

The story is more about cleaning up a troublesome police precinct than solving the crime of who bludgeoned the floozy in the alley. The atmosphere of a lackadaisical precinct full of cops who don't give a shit is well executed. An old New York Times review from 1954 mentions that the film was full of "generally unfamiliar faces." It's full of faces that subsequently became quite famous and familiar on TV.

An anonymous  New York Times review at the time, goes on to say that "Unfortunately, the color of this hard-bitten canvas surpasses its substance. Mr. Merrill's campaign is valiant but predictable, hinging on the inevitable platinum blond cutie, excellently played, as usual, by Jan Sterling."

This just goes to say that back in the day (the 50s) they were churning out these cops and criminal features like they were going out of style. From 1949 to 1954 they produced 52 in '49, 57 during high water mark  '50, 39 in 51 then 26, 21, and back up to 26 in 1954. That's 221 Crime features a lot of the great Film Noir. It's easy to see how this gets lost in the shuffle.

The Times also went on to say "And Emile Meyer, Regis Toomey, Chuck Connors and most of the other supporting roles are expertly ticked off."Sounds like he's writing a four star review. He goes on "Furthermore, for once we get a rather unorthodox fa?ade for evil in Florenz Ames' chilling milquetoast."

I think the final lines display a somewhat jaded attitude "Alas, none of them, including Mr. Merrill's hero, is particularly intriguing. For all the picturesque puttering and sputtering, "The Human Jungle" lodges unimportantly somewhere between "The Asphalt Jungle" and "Detective Story.""  Its important now because of the new interest in Films Noir, and sitting between The Asphalt Jungle and Detective Story ain't to shabby a spot, don't ya think?

It's not so much about solving a crime as it is about the change in the characters getting there. From Allied Artist originally Monogram Pictures. Its a bit studio bound and could have used more location shots. 8/10

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dave jenkins
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« #1 : May 31, 2023, 09:36:11 AM »

Here's the trailer, but don't watch it if you haven't seen the film, it's spoiler-rich:

Here's the film itself:

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« #2 : May 31, 2023, 05:38:53 PM »

This is a routine job, pedestrianly directed (no use of close-ups except in the trial scene) with little originality. Yeah there are some contrasted sequences but the rest is badly set-up and more drama than noir I think Merrill is miscast, he doesn't look like one who can rearrange the routine of the cops. Sterling is very good, I agree. But the only good-looking girl worthy to be watched is the one  is the blonde at the bar with Sterling. 6-7/10

« : May 31, 2023, 05:40:31 PM titoli »

dave jenkins
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« #3 : June 01, 2023, 05:08:56 AM »

It's all very fine to talk about lighting and camera angles, but what really distinguishes a film like this is the dialog. Of course, with Jan Sterling in the cast, the writers made certain they had something snappy to put in her mouth:
Mary Abbott: [talking to Danforth backstage at 'The Hut'] And don't go breakin' my heart about those old guys. Did ya ever see one of 'em in action? Like tryin' to argue with a diesel engine.
That kind of thing is more or less standard for hard-boiled dialog, but what makes this film shine is some of the extended routines. The best is this introduction to the villain, Ustick, played with amazing restraint by Florenz Ames. The other characters in the scene are Mandy (Claude Akins) and Lynch (Some Guy). Here is my transcription.

A bowling alley. Close-up on a female bowler's jersey. Camera pulls back to reveal an attractive woman getting ready to bowl . Cut to the spectator seats. Three men are sitting, left to right, Lynch, Ustick, and Mandy. Ustick is the man in charge. Mandy is his lieutenant. Lynch appears to be Ustick's business manager. He keep passing Ustick checks to sign.
We hear the bowler bowl and see Ustick applauding the results. Perhaps he takes a little too much pleasure in the performance.

Ustick: Cute idea, the jerseys. I give them free. That's the way I am. Anyone who works for me, I want them to be happy.
Mandy: Calm Nerves, Incorporated.
Ustick: Can I help it if I have a cheerful disposition?
Mandy: The world's coming down around his ears and he sits there signing checks.
Ustick: The world is good for 200 million years, Mandy. It's a scientific fact. Right, Mr. Lynch?
Lynch: More or less, Mr. Ustick.
Mandy [reading headlines aloud]: Danforth Adopts Get Tough Policy. Police Cracking Down on Jefferson Heights. Offensive Gaining Momentum.
Ustick: Tickles, Mandy. Just tickles. The man is buying himself a reputation in a few headlines. A few more nights and things will be back normal.
Mandy: I suppose he gave you a written guarantee?
Ustick: I know human nature. [Pulls out a cigarette and lights up]
Mandy: Do you have to smoke those stinkin' things?
Ustick: A man lives with his infirmities.
Mandy: So give up smoking if you got asthma.
Ustick: No willpower. Human nature again. Everyone has a weakness. Find it, and you're rich.
[The three men stand and begin walking out]
Mandy: Only some of your bars and poolhalls are gonna close down. Do you realize how much our take has dropped off? Thirty percent!
Ustick: Mandy, when you're in business, you must expect a few ups and downs. Uh, right, Mr. Lynch?
Lynch: There's always a certain calculated risk, Mr. Ustick.
Mandy: I got dealers and collectors in the tank. Tell them about the risks.
[The men cross to a coffee shop, take seats at a table, resume their earlier positions]
Ustick: Maybe it's a good thing. Some of these yokels could stand a cooling.
Mandy: Don't let them get too cold or they might try talking their way out.
Ustick: Umm, let them talk. What are they going to say? That they work for gamblers? Do I run the gambling joints or the bookies?
Mandy: You bankroll them.
Ustick: Prove it, Mandy. I'm no syndicate. I'm just a simple little man who makes a nice living. Fame I don't need. No wire service, no fancy dens, no big overheads. I cater to the dreggs, but I'm happy. So, who can hang me?
Mandy: That Swados. He's sitting in jail right this minute.
Ustick: So?
Mandy: So he slugged Lily.
Ustick: Oh, that was a long time ago, two or three days already. How does that concern me?
Mandy: He'll talk. When it comes to murder they lose their nerve. He'll talk so fast it'll take three stenographers to take it down.
Ustick: Please, I can't stand arguments. After all, we had a good year and should be grateful. As far as this captain is concerned, forget it. Time will take care of him. And if it will make you feel any better, I will take care of this Swados, this hothead.
[to a passing waitress] Oh, miss, would you please bring me a phone? [Perhaps he holds his smile a little too long]
[back to Mandy] Just leave it to my lawyer.
[signs one last check and hands it to Lynch, but keeps talking to Mandy] So, I just made the government 20,000 dollars richer. My gift to Uncle Sam.
Mandy: Leonard, you fracture me. You pocket 50 grand a year anyway, so why pay 20, why not keep it all?
Ustick: Mandy, when you live in such a wonderful country, it's a privilege to pay taxes.
Ames, who knows how to get the most out of the material by underplaying it, steals the picture with this scene.

"McFilms are commodities and, as such, must be QA'd according to industry standards."
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