Thursday, February 3, 2011
DESERT FURY (1947). Director: Lewis Allen.
"I'd hate to be left alone on a desert road at night."
Fritzie Haller (Mary Astor) is the owner of the Purple Sage gambling den in Nevada. Home from yet another school is her 19-year-old daughter Paula (Lizabeth Scott). Mother and daughter's difficult relationship is further put to the test when Paula falls for bad boy Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak), but the one who's even more upset by this development is Eddie's right hand and major domo, Johnny Ryan (Wendell Corey, in his film debut). Years ago Eddie was essentially picked up by Johnny at an automat at two in the morning, but since then Eddie has been married once to a woman who died in a mysterious accident. This is a "small town with secrets" melodrama with some interesting characters and dialogue. Ryan could be taken merely as the stereotypical tough guy who thinks dames and business don't mix, but the movie seems determined to add a suppressed homoerotic subtext. At times Ryan seems in love with Bendix and at others merely determined to keep a girl away from a scumbag. The psychological underpinnings to the story are intriguing even if they generally don't jell. Burt Lancaster plays a cop that Astor tries to pair off with her daughter. The acting is quite good, especially from Corey and Astor, although Scott and Hodiak are no slouches, and Lancaster is swell. Good score by Miklos Rozsa and an exciting climax.
Verdict: Half-baked and perhaps hollow at the center, and yet ... **1/2.