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: 20,000 Eyes (1961) Jewel Caper/Tail Fin Noir  ( 65 )
cigar joe
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« : July 30, 2018, 04:10:01 AM »

Never heard of this film before. A definite "C" Noir.

"The lights of the City are its eyes... Ever watchful... Ever curious... Ever ready to betray the secrets of the night."

There are probably a few more of them out there because one, they don't fit into the established, though quite arbitrary, parameters, and two, they are invisible, never shown anywhere anymore. Noir for Neophytes or for those that learn subjects by rote usually shoehorn Film Noir into a roughly 1940 to 1959 time frame. Visual evidence points to a much larger interval(s).

On one hand you can define Film Noir as dealing in dark subject matter, being shot in Black & White, filmed in a certain visual style that emphasized claustrophobia, entrapment, with a world spiraling under control with characters that are usually alienated and obsessed. This would stretch the Noir time frame from the French Poetic Realist films of the mid 1930s to the end of Black & White film production in 1967-8.  A time stretch of over thirty years.

On the other hand you can say Film Noir includes all of the above plus the Color Film Noirs starting with Leaver Her To Heaven (1945), with virtually no difference between the two aside from being shot in color, no difference that is until the demise of the Motion Picture Production Code, when formerly taboo subject matter and story lines could be exploited and began to slowly change Classic Film Noir into what we now call Neo Noir, which are continuing to be made to the present. A time stretch of eighty plus years and counting.

Directed, in supposedly six days, by Jack Leewood who is mainly known for producing films (27 credits). The film was written by Jack W. Thomas (Lone Texan (1959)) whose last credit was for Embryo (1976). The cinematography was by Brydon Baker who lensed a few low budget Crime and Noirs (Walk the Dark Street (1956), Wetbacks (1956), Scandal Incorporated (1956), a lot of Oaters, some SyFy (Return of the Fly (1959)), Horror and TV). The music was by Albert Glasser.

Dan Warren (Gene Nelson)

The film stars Gene Nelson (who has a great role playing ex con Steve Lacey in Crime Wave (1953), The Atomic Man (1955), Oklahoma! (1955)) as Dan Warren, the mostly TV actress Merry Anders (The Night Runner (1957), Death in Small Doses (1957), The Hypnotic Eye (1960)) as Karen Walker, James Brown who did a lot of Westerns, War films, and Noirs (The Big Fix (1947), Missing Women (1951))  along with a long career in TV,  as Jerry Manning, Austrian born John Banner (The Fallen Sparrow (1943), and for his memorable portrayal as Sergeant Schultz in Hogan's Heroes TV Series (19651971)) as Kurt Novak. Paul Maxey (Shed No Tears (1948), All the King's Men (1949), Highway 301 (1950), The Narrow Margin (1952), The Big Heat (1953), City of Shadows (1955)) "nobody loves a fat man," plays an insurer.

Karen Walker (Merry Anders) and Dan

Kurt Novak (John Banner)

Jerry Manning (James Brown) and Dan

Insurance Man (Paul Maxey) lt.

Dan (Nelson) is a sort of investment advisor/mine promoter. He's been pushing a South American diamond mine he's partners in with Jerry Manning (Brown) an old fellow Korean War pilot buddy of his. He's been funneling a lot of other people's money into the venture. One of them is mobster Kurt Novak (Banner). Novak wants his money $100,000. Dan figures he can promote the mine with samples that Jerry brings back and raise the money to pay back Novak. But Novak wants his money out immediately. Dan stalls him. Novak is pissed off but gives him five days to get his money. For collateral Novak makes Dan take out a life insurance policy with the beneficiary being Novak in case of death, this way Novak will get his money even if he has to kill Dan to get it.

Meanwhile Dan has been two timing Jerry. Dan and his secretary Karen (Walker), Jerry's girlfriend,  have become an item since Jerry has been away in South America.

1961 Chrysler New Yorker convertible

Scrambling for money, Dan come up with an ingenious idea to steal some uncut diamonds, in an overnight burglary, out of The Los Angeles County Historical and Art Museum, replace them temporarily with the low grade but similar looking sample from his and Jerry's mine. Which he has stored in a safety deposit box at his bank. He then arranges with the bank manager and an insurance company to have the museum display diamond sample appraised at the bank before opening hours, and insured as the mining sample from his and Jerry's mine.

Just after the insurance papers are signed. Jerry, with a stocking covering his face and brandishing a revolver, forces his way into the bank behind Karen, let in by the bank manager. She, as preplanned,  is coming to meet Dan. Jerry pulls out a pillow case and  makes a show of having the bank manager filling it up with money from the vault. Jerry then notices the diamond sample on the table and also grabs them. Dan, as preplanned, makes a lunge at Jerry, grabs the pillowcase full of money, and a shot goes off grazing Dan's arm. Jerry runs out of the bank with the museum diamonds. Dan looks like a hero. After Jerry and Karen are done with questioning by the police they head to a rendezvous with Jerry who passes the museum diamonds back to Dan. Dan then goes back to the museum right after it opens and it is relatively empty, and he quickly replaces the mining sample with the real museum display before it gets too crowded.

Everything goes Noirsville when Dan finds out that the insurance won't pay off for sixty days.


Tail Fins

Low budget "tail finner" lots of cool shots of Dan's 1961 Chrysler New Yorker zooming around Los Angeles like a small jet plane.

The film moves along at a good pace and is entertaining enough. It's nice to see Nelson in another Noir, Banner in a villain role and Maxey is a bonus. Screen caps are from a streaming site, could use a restoration somewhere down the line. 6/10

« : July 30, 2018, 04:13:11 AM cigar joe »

"When you feel that rope tighten on your neck you can feel the devil bite your ass"!
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« #1 : August 06, 2018, 04:31:23 AM »

Never heard of this film before. A definite "C" Noir.

Sounds like something I need to hunt down. Thanks for the review!

'I feel all dead inside. I'm backed up in a dark corner and I don't know who's hitting me.' - The Dark Corner (1946)
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