Illegal – Edward G Robinson plays a brilliant lawyer who is traumatized when he sends an innocent man to the chair. He decides to become a defense attorney, and finds himself drawn into dealings with the mob. This one is kind of a mixed bag for me. I generally don’t like courtroom dramas, but I almost always like EGR, and this one has some good stuff. I like the way Robinson puts a bit of an edge on his character – He definitely has an ego, and that is refreshing to see. The screenplay is by W. R. Burnett who also wrote The Asphalt Jungle, and it is first rate. A trivia note: Jayne Mansfield has a small role as a gangster’s moll.
The Big Steal – This Don Siegel film from 1949 is a bit of everything. Its part Noir, part chase film, and a little bit Rom-Com. Robert Mitchum plays an Army payroll officer on the trail of a guy (Patrick Knowles)who ripped off $300,000 and is letting him take the rap for it. William Bendix is an officer on Mitchums trail. Jane Greer plays Knowles fiancé, who gets involved with Mitchum in his chase. On top of all this are the Mexican police, who are chasing everybody else. I generally liked this due to Mitchum and Greer, and some great locations in Mexico, but there are a couple of quibbles. Knowles is not well cast as a heavy here. You assume Mitchum should be able to break him in half, because he looks more like a math teacher than any kind of bad guy. In addition, the mixing of genres makes it feel uneven in spots. Still, an overall recommendation.
Bullets or Ballots – Another Edward G Robinson vehicle, this one from 1936. Robinson plays a cop who tries to infiltrate the mob. Humphrey Bogart is a mob lieutenant who suspects that something is fishy about him. Bullets in interesting for the dynamic between the two Hollywood titans, but overall, it fell a bit short. The title is a bit mystifying, as well – There’s no ballots here at all.
The Cowboys – John Wayne film from 1972 tells the story of a cattle rancher who is forced to take on a group of young boys for a huge cattle driver. There is never any real mystery as to where this story is going to go, but I recommend it nevertheless. The Duke is good here as a man who is trying to rectify failings with his own two dead sons. There is some good photography by Bruce Surtees and an entertaining turn by the great sneerer himself (Bruce Dern) as the bad guy.
“Who’s gonna help you? These little bitty boys?”