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Author Topic: I Walk Alone (1948)  (Read 419 times)
Jessica Rabbit
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« on: May 06, 2017, 05:18:06 PM »

I Walk Alone was directed by Byron Haskin for Paramount. Haskin made only one other Noir, the vastly superior Too Late for Tears. Large parts of I Walk Alone take place exclusively in one venue, a nightclub, and that shows the film's beginnings as a stage play.
Unfortunately, there is too much pondering going on here, the film would have benefited from a much tighter script. The soundtrack too is often overly intrusive and overwhelms the action at times.

I Walk Alone is a solid entry into the Noir canon, but no more. The movieís appeal lies mainly in its star power. Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Lizabeth Scott are always fun to watch, and the film is worth seeing mostly as the first on-screen pairing of legendary duo Lancaster and Douglas. Seeing those two fight it out with the gloves off is a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes. Thereís always a ferocious intensity and flamboyance about both actors, itís the battle of the snarling alpha males.

The picture follows the well-worn storyline of two friends who are no longer friends due to a little thing called money. Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) and Noll ďDinkĒ Turner (Kirk Douglas) had a successful  bootlegging business going during prohibition, running illegal booze across the Canadian border. One night the police is waiting for them, Noll gets away, Frankie is caught and has to take the rap. Heís jailed for 14 year while Noll hits it big and opens a swanky nightclub in New York City. Heís raking in big money. After Frankieís release he visits Noll with the intention of collecting his half of the nightclubís profits, as was agreed upon years earlier with a verbal fifty-fifty agreement. But Noll has no intention of honoring their understanding and uses his mistress Kay (Lizabeth Scott) to bamboozle Frankie. When Noll on top of that kills Frankiesís old friend Dave who wanted out of the racket, Frankie is out for revenge.

Frankieís and Nollís partnership must always have been an unequal one.
Douglas was the brains behind the operation, clever, devious and sly. Heís a snake charmer with plenty of charisma that makes people think heís a nice guy.
Lancasterís Frankie is a blunt instrument, he was the muscle in the organization. Heís a volatile brute who knows how to use his fists but not his head. He was born in a tough neighborhood and can handle himself though heís like an elephant in a porcelain shop when out of his natural habitat.

What is of real interest here is the portrayal of Frankie as a career criminal. This is not a man trying desperately to go straight after his stint in jail, instead we have a man who is simply determined to claim what he believes to be his, by any means possible. He has no compunction about returning to a life of crime as long as he gets his due. He does have his own brand of integrity though, even if itís just honor amongst thieves.

But while Frankie was inside, the world had changed and with it had crime. Crime had gone corporate, it was strictly Big Business now, organized, semi-legitimate and faceless. Back in the days Frankie and Noll ruled things by force, but now Noll deals with banks, lawyers, dummy corporations, legal technicalities and loopholes in the system.
In the best scene of the movie the audience gets a little history lesson on the ins and outs of modern-day racketeering. Itís completely unexpected and unlike anything you see in 40s Noir.
Frankie busts into Nollís office with a bunch of goons to force him to hand over his share. Frankie only remembers the strong-arm methods of Prohibition times, for him a loaded gun is an unbeatable argument. He has to learn the harsh lesson that he canít simply pick up life where he left off. Heís still the same guy as on the day he went to prison, but the world has moved on. Every one of Frankieís threats is answered with double-edged business talk. Frankieís force is no match for that.
Itís a shocking, funny and oddly educational scene all in one when Frankie finally has to realize that violence doesnít get him what he wants from Noll, and his humiliation is almost painful to watch.
After this disaster Frankie is forced to use his brain for the first time in his life.

Lizabeth Scott is good in her role as torch singer Kay Lawrence. Not a great actress by any means, given the right role she was a very effective one. Here she plays yet another good-bad girl, a tarnished angel, and her performance is sincere and warm. Sheís the pawn in the fight between two men, torn in her conflicted loyalty between both of them. Noll wants her to be the femme fatale who hooks and ensnares Frankie, but Kay spurns that role. Sheís had enough of this life.

You really canít go wrong with a Lancaster/Douglas picture but it could have been so much better. Despite a great cast, good dialogue and nice cinematography, that last final spark that elevates a film to great is missing. Not a wasted opportunity, but certainly no classic either.

« Last Edit: May 06, 2017, 05:25:54 PM by Jessica Rabbit » Logged

Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2017, 05:25:16 PM »

I saw this quite a while ago on TCM I think, I remember liking it and wanted to see it again, but I never got around to it. How did you catch this?

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2017, 05:29:23 PM »

I have an old recording of it. The print is so so. It doesn't look as if it's even out on DVD, only on VHS.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2017, 05:42:56 PM »

https://archive.org/details/phumepafri_thrma_56

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2017, 06:14:11 PM »

The archive.org copy is a lot better than mine. Thanks.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2017, 07:08:52 PM »

I Walk Alone (1948) 8/10. Noir gold: Lancaster, Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey, Mike Mazurki. The dialogue might not seem like much on paper, but when delivered with enough attitude--as it is here--it really sings. The love story is cloying and stretches things out, but the dick-measuring scenes are frequent and first-rate. I can see why Scorsese included this in his documentary.

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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2017, 10:20:07 AM »

The dialogue might not seem like much on paper, but when delivered with enough attitude--as it is here--it really sings. The love story is cloying and stretches things out, but the dick-measuring scenes are frequent and first-rate. I can see why Scorsese included this in his documentary.

Partly agree. Dick-measuring scenes are what the first part is made up of and are excellent: this was a theatre play originally. Unfortunately they are missing in the second half, left to the usual and irrational plot turns like Corey suiciding  (but a couple of good scenes: the shooting in the dark and the final trick of the pen for the pistol). I blame myself for having wondered all the time whose face was the one belonging to the majordomo. But I had always seen it in euro movies made 20 years later and with white hair. Anyway, it is very good in the first part, but too stretched up, as Jinx remarked, with the love story, in the second. Douglas and Scott, for once, are excellent. Lancaster not up yet to his later pars. 7/10 

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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2017, 11:57:49 AM »

Dave, I wouldn't rate it as high as you do, but the "dick-measuring scenes" are certainly the best.

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Jessica Rabbit
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2017, 01:56:50 AM »

Saw this recently - rented the digital copy on Amazon. I think it costs $2.99 for the rental and $9.99  to purchase. With the rental, you have 30 days to begin watching it, and once you begin, you have 48 hours to watch it; after 48 hours it is no longer available.

 The movies that are available via digital download from Amazon are usually also available via iTunes, at the same price. But with iTunes you only have 24 hours to finish watching it, not 48. And I can watch Amazon stuff on my Smart TV, but not iTunes stuff; iTunes I can only watch on my computer, which is a smaller screen than my TV. On the other hand, iTunes is a download whereas I believe Amazon is only streaming, so if your internet connection is interrupted, you may have a problem.)

I give the movie 7/10

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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2017, 07:17:45 AM »

Saw this recently - rented the digital copy on Amazon. I think it costs $2.99 for the rental and $9.99  to purchase. With the rental, you have 30 days to begin watching it, and once you begin, you have 48 hours to watch it; after 48 hours it is no longer available.

 The movies that are available via digital download from Amazon are usually also available via iTunes, at the same price. But with iTunes you only have 24 hours to finish watching it, not 48. And I can watch Amazon stuff on my Smart TV, but not iTunes stuff; iTunes I can only watch on my computer, which is a smaller screen than my TV. On the other hand, iTunes is a download whereas I believe Amazon is only streaming, so if your internet connection is interrupted, you may have a problem.)

I give the movie 7/10

What's wrong with watching it or dling it for free at the link I posted  above?

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« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2017, 08:43:49 AM »

I rented it before I saw this thread  Smiley

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