(director/writer: Russell Rouse; screenwriter: Clarence Greene; cinematographer: Edward Fitzgerald; editor: Chester Schaeffer; music: Buddy Baker; cast: Beverly Michaels (Billie Nash), Richard Egan (Matt Bannister), Percy Helton (Charlie Borg), Evelyn Scott (Dora Bannister), Robert Osterloh (Larry Lowry), William ‘Bill’ Phillips (Gus), Frank Ferguson (Bill Porter, lawyer), Bernadene Hayes (Mrs. Walters); Runtime: 77; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Clarence Greene; United Artists; 1953)
“A wonderfully lascivious B film noir directed by Russell Rouse.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A wonderfully lascivious B film noir directed by Russell Rouse (“The Well”/”The Thief”/New York Confidential”). Rouse is co-writer with Clarence Greene. Its plot might not be fresh, but it’s finely acted, the characters are well-drawn out and the small-time cheats provide unanticipated pleasures by their banal appetites and inability to be anything but small-time operators.
Unlucky blonde floozy Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels) gets off the bus at some unnamed Western town and checks into a low-rent boarding house with a hallway bath. While checking in she’s leered at by her balding, diminutive neighbor from across the hall and the downstairs tailor Charlie (Percy Helton, a fine character actor, who has one of his bigger parts). Billie doesn’t respond to his friendly welcome, as she chooses to lie on her bed smoking, drinking booze, reading an astrology ‘zine and listening over and over again on the phonograph to her favorite song “One Night in Acapulco.” When going out to make a call on the hall phone, she smells steaks cooking on Charlie’s stove and turns on the charm to get invited in for a meal. When through, she doesn’t respond to his advances and icily leaves him panting after her while throwing out this zinger: “That dinner don’t entitle you to no special favors, buster!”
Billie is hired as a waitress in a local neighborhood bar by the alcoholic Dora Bannister (Evelyn Scott), and falls instantly for her hunky bartender partner hubby Matt Bannister (Richard Egan). In no time flat she gets her lovely hooks into him and convinces Matt to dump his wife of six years and run off with her to Mexico. They scheme to get enough money by selling the bar, which requires forging his wife’s signature. But things get fouled up by a snooping Charlie, who overhears Billie discussing their scheme with Matt and blackmails her into spending the evening with him or else he’ll squeal to Mrs. Bannister. Charlie turns mean-spirited and perverted as he makes the trashy blonde pay for calling him a repulsive undersized runt she wouldn’t be caught dead going out with. She did promise to go out with Charlie after she borrowed $20 from him, but has been giving him the bum’s rush since. Willing to do anything to keep Charlie’s mouth shut, the two are caught in bed in her room by Matt. Matt calls her a “dirty rotten tramp” and angrily storms out, and goes crawling back to his nagging wife. They go together the next day to the prospective new owner (Robert Osterloh) and his lawyer, and everyone agrees to void the deal with no consequences. On that same day Billie clears out of town, taking a bus to Kansas City and seemingly none the worse for her experience as she wiggles her behind and catches the attention of a man traveling alone who seems ready to be seduced by the femme fatale.
This seedy noir can be summed up the elderly boarding house landlady played by Bernadene Hayes and her anguished war cry to the hard-boiled slutty Billie Nash: “I run a respectable place!” Whatever that means, this pic was wild in its day but seems relatively tame by modern standards. What it still has, is a crazy sense of humor over how the low-life hateful characters try to get over their miserable and tawdry lives by adultery, sex, blackmail, and alcoholism. Come to think of it, maybe it’s not as tame as I first thought!
REVIEWED ON 4/18/2005 GRADE: B