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Crime Wave / Decoy (Film Noir Double Feature)
Crime Wave / Decoy
Film Noir Double Feature
Actors: Gene Nelson, Sterling Hayden, Jean Gillie, Edward Norris, Robert Armstrong
Directors: André De Toth, Jack Bernhard
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
NR     2007     2hr 30min

Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 07/31/2007


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Movie Details

Actors: Gene Nelson, Sterling Hayden, Jean Gillie, Edward Norris, Robert Armstrong
Directors: André De Toth, Jack Bernhard
Creators: Nedrick Young, Bernard Gordon, Crane Wilbur, John Hawkins, Richard Wormser, Stanley Rubin
Genres: Drama, Mystery & Suspense
Sub-Genres: Classics, Mystery & Suspense
Studio: Warner Home Video
Format: DVD - Black and White,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/31/2007
Original Release Date: 09/14/1946
Theatrical Release Date: 09/14/1946
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 2hr 30min
Screens: Black and White,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 10
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English
Subtitles: English, French

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Movie Reviews

"Murder is my business and midnight is my beat."
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 05/02/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""You know, it isn't what a man wants to do, Lacey, but what he has to do. Now you take me. I love to smoke cigarettes, but the doctors say I can't have them. So what do I do? I chew toothpicks. Tons of `em."

Developed as The City is Dark and shot as Don't Cry, Baby before being released as Crime Wave, Andre de Toth's still surprisingly tough police procedural is a film that wears its economy as a badge of pride. Offered a big budget and a 35-day shooting schedule if he made it with Humphrey Bogart and Ava Gardner, de Toth held out for Sterling Hayden even though it mean a fraction of the budget and a 15-day shooting schedule - and still managed to come in ahead and shoot the film in only 13 days. It was worth sticking to his guns. The film may have made little splash when it opened in 1954, but it's a near classic that fully deserves its growing reputation, and as the hardboiled cop who's all-knowing judge and jury, Hayden so effectively strides through the film like a colossus in a towering performance (literally: for much of the film he's shot from low angles) that it's impossible to imagine Bogart as being anything but a comparative disappointment in the role. The kind of guy who doesn't need doors because he can walk through walls, he doesn't act tough - he is tough. He's practically the blueprint for L.A. Confidential's Bud White, and it's no surprise that James Ellroy is a big fan of the film, sharing an entertaining, occasionally expletive-deleted audio commentary with Eddie Muller on Warner's Region 1 DVD.

The plot is simple enough: a trio of escaped cons (Ted de Corsia, Charles Bronson when he was still Charles Buchinsky and Ned Young) kill a cop when robbing Dub Taylor's gas station for eating money and involve innocent parolee Gene Nelson, leaned on by cops and crooks alike, in their escape plans. But the execution is what raises the bar here, particularly in the first third when the police bring in all the usual suspects. Shot in an almost verite documentary style, the film has a great look thanks to Bert Glennon's striking cinematography - deep focus, harsh blacks and bright fluorescent whites often sharing the same frame, with such a stark photojournalistic realism that some of the setups could pass for Weegee's classic crime scene photos. It captures the feeling of L.A. at night like almost no other film, with outstanding location work and an unforgiving eye for human weakness and hopeless cases. It certainly takes some of the shine off Kubrick's subsequent The Killing - it certainly got there first in terms of its look, and it's probably no accident that Kubrick hired two of the cast for his own caper movie.

While its undoubtedly Hayden's movie, the supporting cast is for the most part exceptionally strong and well-drawn. Nelson is convincing enough as the bitter ex-con caught in the middle that it's a shame that the former dancer didn't go on to anything more interesting than directing some of Elvis' worst movies, Phyllis Kirk makes more of an impression as his wife than the script would lead you to expect while Jay Novello makes a big impact as a drunken horse doctor who hates people but loves dogs and has no scruples about rifling a corpse's pockets for services not rendered. Not everyone is quite so good, unfortunately: Bronson overdoes his dumb thug and a wildly miscast Hank Worden is barely able to deliver his lines as Nelson's airport boss (is there anyone you'd feel less safe being in charge of airplane maintenance than Hank Worden?). As for Timothy Carey's truly amazing display of psychotic tics as the last guy in the world you'd want to leave your wife with - well, since all his directors maintained Carey was never acting but really was like that offscreen as well, we can let that slide.

The film does briefly give into sentimentality at the end - though very, very begrudgingly - and it's never quite as good as that powerhouse first third, but it's certainly a sharp punch below the belt to the cop movie that you won't forget in a hurry. Along with a brief adulatory featurette with various noir historians and Oliver Stone waxing lyrical about the film, the DVD also includes the original trailer introduced by an in-character Hayden telling us "Murder is my business and midnight is my beat." Great stuff.

Neither Decoy nor its short-lived star Jean Gillie are great rediscoveries waiting to happen, but this Monogram Poverty Row effort makes for a satisfying enough second feature. The plot is absurd - Gillie's displaced British femme fatale romances prison doctor Edward Norris into reviving Robert Armstrong an hour after his execution with `Methalyn Blue' so she and her partner in crime Herbert Rudley can find out where he buried $400,000 in stolen loot - but even by noir standards Gillie's character is stunningly ruthless as she destroys everyone in her path. But striking moments, such as Armstrong's dazed reaction to his own revival, are few and far between and aside from Sheldon Leonard's cop, charisma and acting ability are in similarly short supply. Norris is a disastrous lead, a zombie-like blank slate long before his character slips into near-catatonic shock for the last third of the film, while as his secretary the startlingly awful Marjorie Woodwarth gives a practical masterclass in the difference between acting and more or less remembering her lines. Still, there's a neat dying kiss off before the payoff and it doesn't outstay its welcome at a brisk 76 minutes.
WOW film noir masterpiece....made better!
Richardson | Sunny California USA | 08/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Being a fan of film noir....and a fan of Sterling Hayden, Charles Bronson, and dancer Gene Nelson...I'd seen this little film show up in all their filmographies...without much mention.

Just watched the new part of the Excellent Film Noir vol. 4 set by Warner Bros...and was blown away!

1)tight story..only about 74 filler
2)Sterling Hayden is great..hard boiled , hard bitten , toothpick chomping!
3)the supporting perfect...Charles Buchinsky(pre Bronson)is a presence and Timothy Carey's small role defines scenery chewing..
4)the LA locations of 1952 are super cool
5)the cinematography is first rate...and the transfer dead sharp!

the bonus featurette is informative and the commentary by Eddie Muller (noir historian and author) and the great James simply the most fun commentary I have EVER enjoyed ...and I own a couple thousand DVDs...
these guys know the turf...are fans and Ellroy is bleeped for his blue language over and over ...just ridiculous.

The director Andre De Toth and cinematographer Burt Glennan deserve High Praise...this was kick butt..
and pretty boy Dancer Gene Nelson (from Oklahoma and Doris Day movies) is a very credible pre-James Dean getaway driver...stool pigeon.."
Two Good Film Noirs For The Price Of One
Craig Connell | Lockport, NY USA | 09/05/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Crime Wave" is excellent example of film noir: almost everything you'd want in this genre. Right from the opening shot, this had noir written all over it by cinematographer Bert Glennon, and from opening holdup-murder scene at the gas station, you knew you were in for a rough ride.

Speaking of "rough," I can't think of too many actors who were better and more suited for noir than Sterling Hayden, who delivers yet another uncompromising hard-headed, tough- guy character. This time he's a cop, "Det. Lt. Sims," and one with no use for any "con," even if the guy (in this case, Gene Nelson's "Steve Lacey") has cleaned up his act.

It wasn't just the photography and Haden, the entire cast was fascinating, and it's simply a fast-moving, entertaining film. Andre de Toth's direction also was terrific. He directed only one other noir: Pitfall, another great film that we are still waiting to see on DVD. At least this film finally made it to disc.

As for Decoy, it gets points for originality. I mean, how many movies - much less film noirs - do you see someone executed, then brought back to life, then shot in the back minutes later? Now that's what you call having a rough day!

Robert Armstrong's "Frank Olins" had to endure all that one day. He's the crook who has the money stashed away somewhere and "Margot Shelby" (Jean Gille) is the woman who is bound-and-determined to get it - all of it. "Margot" is one greedy femme fatale...... and she knows how to manipulate men. Of course it helps to be extremely pretty and have a great body, which she does. I thought the ending of this film - the final minute - was especially good. So many times, you get the ending that doesn't stay true to the main character, but this one did.

If you don't want to buy the whole Film Noir Volume 4 package, of which this is part of, I would suggest getting this disc."
Innocence and Guilt. Two Short but Memorable Film Noirs.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 09/06/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Crime Wave" (1954) and "Decoy" (1946) were made 8 years apart, one at the peak of the film noir cycle and the other at its end. Even so, they both have archetypal noir plots -a man wrongly accused and a femme fatale- that are straightforward and uncomplicated. The connection between them is Ned Young. He wrote "Decoy" from an unpublished story by Stanley Rubin, and he played a small part, that of the wounded crook Morgan, in "Crime Wave", which was actually completed in 1952 and shelved for 2 years. Both films run only about 1 hour and 15 minutes. And that is probably the extent of the similarities between them.

"Crime Wave" is a Warner Brothers crime thriller shot in 2 weeks, whose workaday script is elevated by great Los Angeles locations, many shot at night, the spare style of director Andre De Toth, and the imposing presence of actor Sterling Hayden in a role less sensitive than audiences were accustomed to seeing him in. In contrast, "Decoy" is a murder drama made by the Poverty Row studio Monogram Pictures. It is pulp noir, compelling though never actually believable. Since its rediscovery, "Decoy" and its over-the-top villainess have acquired an iconic B-noir status comparable to Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour" (1945). It doesn't have the visceral impact of "Detour", but "Decoy"'s overbearing score and unredeemable femme fatale certainly make an impression.

"Crime Wave" begins as 3 escaped convicts rob a Los Angeles gas station, killing a police officer in the process. One of the crooks, wounded himself, struggles to the apartment of a man he knew in prison years ago, Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson). Steve has gone straight and gotten married, and the last thing he wants is a hoodlum dying in his living room. But die he does, and hard-nosed homicide Detective Sims (Sterling Hayden) is sure that the man's accomplices will show up on Steve's doorstep too. Steve is afraid for the safety of his wife Ellen (Phyllis Kirk). But his former prison-mates, Doc Penny (Ted de Corsia) and Ben Hastings (Charles Bronson), won't take "no" for an answer when they insist that Steve be the getaway man on a bank heist.

"Decoy" begins at the end, as a wounded man fatally shoots glamorous Margot Shelby (Jean Gillie). As she lay dying, Margot recounts the story of the mysterious box that she clutches to police Sgt. Joseph Portugal (Sheldon Leonard). Margot gets what she wants by seducing men, and what she wants is money. Boyfriend Frankie Olins (Robert Armstrong) hid $400,000 from a robbery and is soon to take the secret of its location to his grave. He is scheduled for execution. Margot seduces and threatens Dr. Lloyd Craig (Herbert Rudley) into administering an antidote to the cyanide gas to bring Frankie back to life. Her other lover, unscrupulous lawyer Jim Vincent (Edward Norris), will retrieve Frankie's body. And Frankie will tell them where the money is. At least that's the plan.

The DVD (Warner 2007): "Crime Wave" precedes "Decoy" on the disc. Bonus features for "Crime Wave" are a theatrical trailer, a featurette called "Crime Wave: The City is Dark" (6 min) that interviews critics and directors about Andre de Toth's style, and a feature commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller and crime novelist James Ellroy. Ellroy knows LAPD history, and he adds color and panting to the commentary. They talk about locations, de Toth's style, the cast, and camera work. Bonus features for "Decoy" include the featurette "Decoy: A Map to Nowhere" (5 min) that interviews critics and writer Rubin about the film's production and cult status. There is a feature commentary by critic Glenn Erikson and writer Stanley Rubin. Much of the discussion is about Rubin's career and how he came to write the story for "Decoy". Also discussed are characters and people involved in the film's production. Subtitles available for both films in English SDH and French."