DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD(director/writer: Richard Quine; screenwriters: from the book by James Benson Nablo/Blake Edwards; cinematographer: Charles Lawton; editor: Jerome Thoms; cast: Mickey Rooney (Eddie Shannon), Dianne Foster (Barbara Mathews), Kevin McCarthy (Steve Norris), Jack Kelly (Harold Baker), Harry Landers (Ralph), Jerry Paris (Phil), Paul Picerni (Carl), Dick Crockett (Don), Mort Mills (Garage Foreman), Peggy Maley (Marge); Runtime: 82; producer: Jonie Taps; Columbia; 1954)
“It’s the simpleness of this tale and lack of any pretensions that makes it convincing but not necessarily sparkling.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A rather flat film noir. Eddie Shannon (Rooney) is a lonely grease monkey and amateur racing driver, who is cruelly ribbed by most of the men at his workplace and is insecure around women. Suddenly a very attractive lady, Barbara Mathews (Foster), appears out of the blue and lures him to be her steady date. Her boyfriend, Steve Norris (Kevin McCarthy), whom he doesn’t realize is her boyfriend, wants Eddie to drive the getaway car during the robbery of the Palm Springs bank. The gang needs an expert driver to go over a rough road and get to an exit in a precise short time so that the robbers will avoid the police roadblock.
Eddie only does the job because he’s afraid of losing Barbara after only a week courtship. He loves her, even though they have no physical contact. Steve’s strong-arm partner, the wisecracking Harold (Kelly), is ordered by the boss to bump off the poor sucker when he returns to Steve’s place after the successful heist and the guilt-ridden Barbara tells him that he was setup as a chump.
Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.
But Eddie skillfully crashes the car in a secluded Santa Monica beach spot, where Steve is ordering him to go at gunpoint. Harold is killed but the injured Eddie returns to shoot Steve when he sees him beating Barbara. The police arrive, as Eddie comforts Barbara.
The film is best at capturing how lonely and isolated Eddie is, and how his dreams of being a Grand Prix champion rider seem out of the question but are the only tangible things he has going until Foster enters his life. Eddie is portrayed in a sympathetic light, despite his poor judgment. It’s the simpleness of this tale and lack of any pretensions that makes it convincing but not necessarily sparkling.
REVIEWED ON 9/5/2001 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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