Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

PICKUP ALLEY

Anita Ekberg and Trevor Howard
PICKUP ALLEY (1957). Director: John Gilling.

Drug enforcement agent Charles Sturgis (Victor Mature of Kiss of Death) is still recovering from the death of his sister, Helen (Dorothy Alison) -- who was working undercover and wound up strangled by dope smuggler Frank McNally (Trevor Howard) -- when he learns that McNally is now in London. Sturgis discovers that McNally is using a beautiful woman named Gina (Anita Ekberg of The Killer Nun) to run certain errands for him, so Sturgis decides to follow her. The trail goes to Lisbon to Rome to Athens -- the film is an exciting scenic travelogue with location shooting -- until he catches up to her and tries to convince her to tell what she knows. The trouble is, she thinks she murdered an associate of McNally's who tried to rape her in London. Pickup Alley  -- a lousy title for a good movie -- is borderline film noir, proceeds at a fast pace, and is very well-acted, with Howard underplaying as the slimy drug dealer. Gorgeous Ekberg has little to do but look uncertain and frightened and sometimes a little defiant, and she pulls if off competently. Victor Mature is quite good as the battered, sad and obsessive drug agent. Pickup Alley is also distinguished by first-rate widescreen photography by Ted Moore, and there's a good score by Richard Bennett, although one might have wished it was a little more intense at times. A problem with the picture is that most of the characters are completely one-dimensional, with Ekberg in particular never developed beyond a shadowy femme fatale type. Bonar Colleano [Pool of London] scores as Amalio, a transplanted New Yorker trying to make a living selling souvenirs at the catacombs in Rome and who tries to pick up some extra money as a leg man for Strugis; Martin Benson and Andre Morell also have smaller roles and are typically adept. In an early scene in a nightclub the beautiful singer Yana does a very nice rendition of the snappy "Anyone For Love."

Verdict: Vivid crime thriller with very interesting settings. ***.

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