Wednesday, November 6, 2013

From the treasure trove of classic, "disappeared" B films: Budd Boetticher's THE KILLER IS LOOSE

Unless you're a connoisseur of Hollywood's B movies of the 1940s and 50s, you might not have noticed that Netflix streaming is offering of late quite a selection of these, some of them I've not been able to find anywhere else. One excellent example of this genre from the late 50s, around the time Bs were beginning to disappear: THE KILLER IS LOOSE, written by Harold Medford from a story by John Hawkins and directed by a guy film buffs will certainly know and love, Budd Boetticher (shown below).

A great watch for nostalgia buffs; lovers of  tight, 50s crime flicks; folk who want the chance to see the voluptuous redhead Rhonda Fleming in black-and-white (many of her films were in color, and why not? Her peaches-and-cream complexion against that red hair: Whew!); or anyone who'd like to view a Boetticher movie that's not a western (the genre he's best-known for) -- if any or all of the above entice, then The Killer Is Loose is made for you. TrustMovies is offering a double dose of poster images this time (see above) -- partly because there are so few decent images available from the film but also to point up how badly designed some of the poster art from the 50s could be. (These were the days when the designer had to pack in an awful lot of information the best he could.)

The film runs but 73 fast-paced minutes and was most likely considered quite violent for its time. (Boetticher knew how to do the most with the least.) Think of this one as kind of police procedural of its time. The tight plot begins with a bank robbery in which not all is as it first appears. When our star policeman (the usual OK work from stolid Joseph Cotton) and his crew accidentally shoot the wife (above) of the robber (Wendell Corey, the  film's stand-out), the already unstable fellow goes full-out nuts -- but in his own quiet, mild-mannered-but-scary way (below).

Within the short running time,  Boetticher and Medford manage to work in the old "I-can't-bear-my-husband-being-a-cop routine, which helps lead to the movie's climax, along with several scenes that give Corey the chance to shine -- making us fear him but also understand where all this is coming from (his wartime service and a history of bullying). If the points scored aren't exactly subtle, neither are they driven home in any overly melodramatic way. This director was too smart for that, which makes so many of his films so surprising and so much fun to view.

One of the movie's best scenes has actress Virginia Christine (above, playing the wife of another cop) giving Fleming's character a good dressing-down for her selfish attitude. One of the later examples of the fine B film that often outshone the A film with which it was paired, The Killer Is Loose is available now via Netflix streaming -- another reason why this very affordable service is currently the best deal going for movie lovers of all kinds (except mainstream, would-be blockbusters).

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