Monday, September 13, 2010

The Unseen #39: Angel Face

Why I Bought It?: Came in the Robert Mitchum boxset I bought.

Why Haven’t I Watched It?: I don’t know, why haven’t you? Oh you have? In that case I have absolutely no excuse.

How Was It?: Is there an actor whose collective poon hounding has gotten him into more trouble then Mitchum?

Oh sure, there are plenty of movie characters led to their doom by a pretty face, but only Mitchum seems to go out of his way to do so. Time and time again he leaves the nice girl he has at home to forcibly attach himself to man devouring succubae who drag him down to his doom.

It might be misogynistic, but that’s just how they rolled in back then and you can’t say that Mitchum wasn’t asking for it.

Angel Face follows Mitchum as a hapless race car driver turned paramedic, who ends up called to the house of a rich lady who left the gas on. Its somewhat obvious that the accident wasn’t really an accident, or for that matter an “accident”, but instead an attempted murder by the victim’s daughter. Mitchum reacts to this news by falling head over heals with the crazy leaving his nice fiancé for a chance at fame and fortune, and owning his own maintenance garage (?) . The results go predictably awry, given you know, bitch be crazy.

The film is directed by Otto Preminger. A director whose reputation has been somewhat on the wane lately despite having a few bonafide classics, and a whole lot of interesting messes under his belt.

Preminger’s hand is evident both in the story’s cynicism, Mitchum is charming as always, but his character is kind of a shit, and the passive aggressive boundary pushing that was his forte. Incest, homosexuality, premarital sex, and other things not considered polite subject matter for dinner conversation in the nineteen fifties are all hinted at. But that’s all they are, hints, inferences, its what drove the Code folks crazy about Preminger, and part of why so many of his films have aged so badly.

Preminger’s great skill was shredding taboos, that are no longer taboos, ironically thanks to in a large part him. But it takes all the gas out of his films today, like Anatomy Of A Murder, whose entire existence is based around the fact that it allowed Preminger to have his characters say “Sperm” and “Panties” on film. All very shocking then, but hardly a suitable payoff for a two hour movie today.

While Angel Face does incorporate this technique it is not dependant on it. Mitchum as always is a heavy lidded source of charisma, the plot is pretty tightly wounded, hinging on the character’s neurosis’s rather then fate (same difference). It also features two spectacular car wrecks which make such fantastic use of its dummies that I can only hope that The Flying Maciste Brothers, the folks behind The Destructible Man spontaneously ejaculate whenever someone watches this film.

I mean come on. That's a car wreck!


(I couldn't in good conscience not show this beautiful poster)


Rob said...

The ending of this movie is INSANE! I actually couldn't believe it when I saw it-just, WTF?

Bryce Wilson said...

Its like the Enigizer Bunnie it keeps going and going...

The Flying Maciste Brothers said...

We can only hope that you come and spontaneously clean us up whenever someone reads this blog entry! Well done, Hoss! We like the cut of your Jib.