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Monogram Pictures


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Monogram Pictures, while best remembered for its Chans, East Side Kids, Bowery Boys and Bela Lugosi cheapies, also did some remarkably nice mystery/noir films in the mid and late 1940's. Some of the productions were their own and others were independent productions with the studio doing the release. Some very interesting titles here that are hard to find but worth the effort. Since none of these have been discussed before, I thought I'd post on a few to see if anyone else has seen these (or would like to).


VIOLENCE, from 1947, is a taut little mystery thriller which stars former Warner Brothers actress Nancy Coleman as an East Coast magazine reporter who travels to the West Coast to infiltrate an organization called "The United Defenders". She secures a job as secretary to the head man and is soon massing evidence to prove that the organization is nothing but a front for a gang of vicious racketeers. Also in the mix is Michael O'Shea as an investigator who also penetrates the group and has to deal with head henchman Sheldon Leonard as one of the underlings mysteriously vanishes. Leonard is great in the role of the oily killer and Emory Parnell as the head of the group is particularly nasty. All in all, a neat little film which deserves to be seen.


Another title from the studio, 1948's I WOULDN'T BE IN YOUR SHOES, is based on Cornell Woolrich's novel DEATH CELL NO. 5. This time a married couple, professional dancers by trade, are having a hard time making ends meet. One night during an argument, the husband, played by Don Castle, gets annoyed at a noisy cat outside their apartment window and carelessly throws one of his dancing shoes at the animal. He goes outside to fetch it, but can't find it and returns. The next morning, the shoe is outside his door. But that's where his trouble begins. It seems a recluse who lived close by has been found murdered and a rather large stash of money he reportedly had hidden in his shabby digs is gone. And the only clue is a footprint, made by a professional dancing shoe. As to the rest, the wife, nicely played by Elyse Knox, teams up with a homicide detective to try and save her husband from execution. Regis Toomey gives good support as the detective. This is a well written little noir that will keep you on the edge of your seat.


FALL GUY, from 1947, stars Leonard Penn as a man who is picked up by the police. Full of cocaine and covered in blood, he managaes to escape with the help of his girlfriend and enlists the aid of his police officer brother-in-law in trying to find the only man he can remember from a meeting in a bar and a subsequent party. But the discovery of a murdered girl and the murder of the man who took him to the party only make matters worse for him as he tries to clear himself. This is a well crafted little thriller with a great cast, including Robert Armstrong, Douglas Fowley, Elisha Cook, Jr. Teala Loring and Iris Adrian.


Certainly the darkest of these four titles is 1947's THE GUILTY. Produced by Jack Wrather and starring Wrather's wife Bonita Granville, it is the story of twin girls--one sweet and the other a major piece of work. When one is murdered, the crime looks to be the work of one of two men, friends, played by Don Castle and Wally Cassell. The sets are bleak, almost desolate, giving off an atmosphere of sheer desperation as the murder unfolds with a number of neat twists and turns. Again, the supporting cast is fine and includes Regis Toomey and John Litel. But make no mistake, this is Granville's movie from start to finish as she manages to pull off a dual role and opposite personalities with the panache of a real pro.


Certainly not big budget noirs or mysteries, but well done by a studio sometimes much maligned for the product it put out. Not easy titles to find. You'd need to search the "gray market" for them, but you'll find the effort rewarding as all of these titles will take you on a short journey down the dark corridors of the seedy side of life.

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*The Fall Guy* is the one I have not seen. The other three are wonderful and *The Guilty* is also my favorite of the three. Arguably the best of the Monogram noirs is *When Strangers Marry* aka *Betrayed* (1944), directed by William Castle, a movie much loved by Manny Farber and Orson Welles. A wide-eyed Kim Hunter is newly married to a man she barely knows, a very suspicious Dean Jagger. Her old friend Robert Mitchum keeps appearing to save her from Jagger, who has "murderer" written all over him. Produced by the King Brothers and co-written by Philip Yordan, this is an atmospheric showcase for some stars-to-be.

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