The Man With My Face
Barry Nelson plays your average Joe who comes home from work one day to find that his wife and brother-in-law are at home with…the man with his face. Nelson plays both characters in this very disorienting entry. It takes a while for the full extent of the plot to play out in this little prize picture and it keeps you guessing up until everything is laid out in the open. Once the reality of what is going on is revealed, it becomes a Hitchcockian thriller in which the real deal has to prove he’s not the psychotic lookalike.
It’s called Confidence Girl, but this insomniac’s dream movie is really about a couple who are intent on pulling off the ultimate confidence game. This movie starts out very interestingly with Tom Conway going to the local police to warn them of the titular character’s appearance in town. Of course, it’s not long before it’s revealed that Conway is part of the team. Confidence Girl looks like it’s going to be a string of confidence games in which Conway’s girl uses her feminine wiles to trick unsuspecting male dupes. Then the movie takes a very strange twist as Conway and Co. set our Confidence Girl up as a fake psychic. I love the way that the movie shows off Confidence Girl’s abilities as a psychic to make you wonder just what the heck is going on. She knows things about people in the audience that, well, she just should not know. Afterwards, a narrator comes on to reveal just how the fake psychic could be so on-target. It’s fascinating and probably more than a little true. Conway is strong as a cut-rate George Sanders (his brother), as always.
The Big Caper
I love just about any movie with the word “big” in the title and there are more of them than movies with “love” in the title. The Big Caper is the real jewel here and you should not instantly stream this one late at night if you are just the slightest bit sleepy. Watch this one while wide awake to take in all its strange twists and turns. The movie starts out with Rory Calhoun coming to James Gregory’s house to tell him of a huge bank score just waiting for them. Boom, the movie then shows Calhoun and Gregory’s girl buying a service station and setting up house as man and wife. For the next thirty minutes or so, the movie is almost a domestic drama. Then the bank robbing team begins to show up and the movie really takes off on the backs of about three or four supporting performances that are the stuff of midnight viewing. These supporting characters are genuine characters and add a layer of depth to The Big Caper that is so sorely missing from other, bigger-budgeted heist flicks. I promise that you will not be able to predict where this movies goes from one minute to the next. That’s the highest compliment I can pay to a formula flick. Like The Big Combo, The Big Caper is one of those movies that merits a second viewing when you are aware of what’s coming just so you can more fully enjoy its true pleasures.
The Cruel Tower
One of the strangest old black and white movies I have seen. I’m not really sure what’s odd about this movie, but there is just something about it that is a little weird. It starts off with a guy getting attacked by hobos on a train and kicked off. He’s picked up by a gentle giant and falls in with three guys who make a living doing work on top of water towers and stacks. They go to work for a former burlesque queen known as The Babe and there is the requisite love triangle. I think what might be so strange about The Cruel Tower is that the three guys who work atop water towers all seem to hate each other. The gentle giant says just about everyone he meets is evil, but they don’t really seem to be. The movie builds to a climax in which the head of the water tower repair team and the guy from the train fight over who gets the everlasting love of The Babe. She, quite weirdly, thinks that Stretch, the owner of the high-flying repair business, is someone to be admired due to his ambition and drive. There is a lot of talk about Stretch’s ambition and drive, but not much evidence to support. As I said, The Cruel Tower is a strange little duck and is definitely best viewed in the twilight zone between midnight and the witching hour.
The Mystery of the 13th Guest
So many whodunits of the 30s’ felt they had to rely on comic relief that it becomes annoying after awhile. The comic relief almost always seems out of place amid murder and death and that’s true here. The mystery here is almost impossible to figure out because it could be anyone. The one thing this movie has going for it is a dark sense of psychosis that includes the unexpected reappearance of a murder victim. I won’t explain how this is possible, but it’s just a taste of what to expect from this spooky murder mystery comedy.