Saturday, July 06, 2013

Most Dangerous Man Alive

[The film was not released in Finland.] US © 1961 Columbia Pictures. D: Allan Dwan. Dal racconto The Steel Monster di Phillip Rock e Michael Pate. SC: James Leicester, Phillip Rock. DP: Carl Carvahal. ED: Carlo Lodato. M: Louis Forbes. C: Ron Randell (Eddie Candell), Debra Paget (Linda Marlow), Elaine Stewart (Carla Angelo), Anthony Caruso (Andy Damon), Gregg Palmer (tenente Fisher), Morris Ankrum (capitano Davis), Tudor Owen (dottor Meeker), Steve Mitchell (Devola), Joel Donte (Franscetti). P: Benedict Bogeaus per Trans-Global Films. 35 mm. 82'. Col. Da: Sony Columbia per concessione di Park Circus. Cinema Jolly (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti, 6 July 2013

Peter von Bagh: "As only with Dwan, we are in medias res in a couple of minutes. A man called Eddie Candell escapes from a death convoy to San Quentin; he is non-descript in appearance but not without importance, as this self-made man built an economic empire that was robbed while he was in prison - a modern success story topped by a still more modern one in a world run by ever dirtier hands. The successful people, Eddie's followers, are plain crooks whose own ideas wouldn't accomplish a thing - they can only steal, murder and destroy. Official society, starting with the police, completes the grim view; their faces in this lucid film are almost like the personification of the  military-industrial complex that was to be- come Eisenhower's nightmare vision in his farewell speech, in 1961. So Eddie is first framed and will soon have killed a man, almost like an automaton, nicely assisted by those who want to finish him off - which means everybody, from the officials to criminals (if they can be separated). He doesn't choose to become a killer but clearly he is not sympathetic or harmless either; he's armed and dangerous, but of course a small fish compared to those after him. Except in what Eddie becomes materially: he is shellshocked by radiation and becomes invincible: he might be dead already (perhaps there are echoes of the strange Michael Curtiz-Boris Karloff collaboration called The Walking Dead) so weapons don't hurt him; he's just a pathetic guinea-pig in the service of progress. His 48-hour walk toward death takes place in anonymous offices or in the desert, the best in modern film. What would become a set for Antonioni is here burning, concrete, crushing reality - a soulscape. Eddie is the kind of trapped nondescript non-person that Dwan understands so well; he even had a special type of actor, almost non-actors, perform those roles in the final (and arguably greatest) part of his career: John Payne, Ronald Reagan, here a guy called Ron Randell whose name doesn't ring a bell from any other film. His face - as with the heroes of Edgar Ulmer's films - is perfect for a man who seems to have walked among us from the realm of death, presenting a last look at earth and its present inhabitants and encountering a not very consoling view. The vision has an erotic tension also, as it happens in Slightly Scarlet or River's Edge. Eddie stands between two women - a sweet Elaine Stewart and the more threatening gangster moll Debra Paget who promises: "I will make you the same..", answered memorably by the man: "Can you make me flesh and blood again?" The strange finale caps Eddie's  trapped life with an enormous explosion and fire storm where our non-person simply explodes. He survives as dust amid nuclear dust, alienated by and distanced from other people, dangerous to them and himself. His touching post-mortem is also director Allan Dwan's farewell.  This  might be the most amazing postscript to a fabulous film career - a film with no sympathy whatsoever for society, coming from an optimistic man who directed hundreds of films with touching confidence about the integrity of citizens." Peter von Bagh

My cinephile friends were ecstatic at Cinema Jolly after the screening. I cannot share their excitement, but I was impressed by the spirit and the energy shining through what in my opinion is a ruined production.

A science fiction story about an escaped convict. Eddie Candell has been framed by gangsters for a killing he was not guilty of. During his escape he is exposed to a lethal nuclear test, but instead of dying he undergoes a transformation and becomes a hybrid "man of steel" resistant of bullets, and able to hold burning cinder without feeling anything. "Your skin is ice cold". "I'm not the same inside". The treacherous Linda at her last breath confesses that Eddie didn't do it.

Pulp fiction with affinities with contemporary Sam Fuller films such as Underworld U.S.A., also discussing fantasies of omnipotence on a tiny budget.

Pulp fiction with negative overtones, unique in Allan Dwan: "This spot is wired to the negative side". "I'll rip that rotten world apart and throw it to the wind". "I'll tear the world apart" shouts Eddie as he exposed to two flamethrowers. He turns into ashes until there is nothing but dust.

The picture was screened in the Academy ratio, as Pierre Rissient had forwarded to the Festival Allan Dwan's remark that he shot all his films in full frame except for the ones that were shot in scope. There was no problem with the Academy ratio, but it was evident that the film would look better at 1,85:1.

The performances are wooden and absent-minded. Before blaming the actors and the direction of actors it is useful to read Allan Dwan's remarks.

Allan Dwan: "That again was a synthetic thing. In the first place, there was a deception about it. Even I got hooked. Bogeaus said that it was to be a pilot for a television series - in two episodes - and employed everybody on that basis. But when he presented the two parts to the syndicates in Mexico, they said, 'This is a script that's cut in half. It's a continuous story, so it is not a television film but a feature. Therefore you can't make it on TV terms, with a skeleton crew and everything at much lower rates. You must take a full crew and do it at full feature rates.' Well, as a matter of fact, that's what it was. He had just cut the script in half and was making the two parts. Pretty soon the actors got on to that and then the whole roof fell in on him and he didn't get away with his cheater. Which threw the budget completely out of the window - tripled it; to counterbalance that, it had to be done wham - fast. What should have been shot in five weeks was done in one. And everything in interiors - nothing built. The actors didn't want to stay. All they wanted to do was get home. And I was in the awkward position of trying to keep it together with all this schism going on around us. So I gritted my teeth and battled. And that's no fun. Nobody cared a damn. So it was just get it in the box and get home. A misfit from start to end." (Allan Dwan in Peter Bogdanovich's book, p. 167 in the London, 1971, edition). The film was made in 1958 and released first in 1961, the last film produced by Bogeaus. And the last film directed by Allan Dwan.

On the dialogue track there is often an obvious post-synch room sound. The soundtrack does not sound very good.

The print is complete and clean, like never before projected, but the contrast is high. The grading of the light is tuned too dark and somewhat stuffy.

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