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Decoy (1946) and Blonde Ice (1948)

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Decoy (1946) and Blonde Ice (1948)

Postby moira finnie » March 6th, 2009, 12:24 pm

I've been on a film noir jag for the last month or so. Two "B" movie standouts among the new movies I've seen lately happen to be the work of Jack Bernhard. If his name is unfamiliar, welcome to the club. Mr. Bernhard, who's still alive at age 96, had neither a long nor, uh, exactly distinguished career in terms of normal measures of success as a director, though his movies certainly have a similar vibe. However, his usually low budget movies, among which are Decoy (1946), starring his then wife, Jean Gillie, and Blonde Ice (1948) starring Leslie Brooks--both of whom play femme fatales to the tenth power--are fascinating because of the outrageous behavior of all parties and the strange combination of brisk pacing of the storyline blended simultaneously with characters who seem to be moving underwater. Also, the villainesses really have no redeeming qualities nor are we given any real reason for their brazen behavior, other than the desire to have money and social position. I guess such niceties as a backstory weren't in the budget, and besides, it makes the story more amusing and strangely lifelike.

If you like your film noir gritty, (these movies stretch the PCA envelope quite a bit, especially with Miss Gillie behind the wheel) unlikely, (a person come back from the dead in Decoy) and at times hilarious--even though in a way, I guess you could say they are also "female empowerment" movies--you must see these flicks.
The men, btw, particularly Herbert Rudley in Decoy, (poor Herb is seen above in the crackerjack first scene) and Robert Paige, (below with Miss Brooks) in Blonde Ice all have reason to regret being born. On reflection, though, I must say that my favorite performance in Decoy must be the odd reading that the immortal tough guy Sheldon Leonard gives his cop character, "Jo Jo", and the appearance of Robert Armstrong (yes, the guy from King Kong), as a guy on death row, (but not for long.)
Jay Fenton, who helped to restore Blonde Ice has quite a bit to say about it on his dvd commentary and here. Glenn Erickson of DVD Savant and Stanley Rubin (the bemused author of the story of Decoy), put together a genial dvd commentary on the Decoy disc.

Hope you'll chime in with your comments on these little known movies.
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Re: Decoy (1946) and Blonde Ice (1948)

Postby Dewey1960 » March 7th, 2009, 6:03 pm

DECOY ranks, in my opinion, alongside Edgar G. Ulmer's DETOUR as probably the most astonishing example of poverty row noir, a potent highball of resolute darkness and perversity---best viewed in the early morning hours, and preferably in the seventy-three minutes just before dawn. This Monogram oddity first came to me a number of years ago on a ratty VHS tape with Serbo-Croatian subtitles (!!) which only served to heighten the Eastern European feel and flow of this bullet-to-the-brain exercise in fate and futility. 

I won't bother to go into the plot (I did so in our Film Noir forum a while back) but I believe it is safe to say that no other American narrative film from this period comes quite as close to pure and undiluted surrealism; a mind-numbing fusion of audacious cinematic technique and pulp nastiness. The director, Jack Bernhard, as Moira points out, had a rather spotty Hollywood career. Apart from the already mentioned BLONDE ICE (1948), his other formidable noir film is VIOLENCE (1947), another Monogram production. While nowhere close to the perfection that DECOY is, it's nonetheless a provocative film about a subversive pseudo-patriotic hate group trying to recruit disillusioned war veterans into its fold. Sheldon Leonard appears in this one, too, as the sadistic henchman of the group's leader.

I've ranted about DECOY quite a bit over the past couple of years here (it placed at lucky #13 in my "Bestavorite Noir" list last spring). I can't recommend it highly enough. It's part of the last Warner FILM NOIR box set which features ten films on five discs, available separately or as a group. The fact that it comes packaged on the same disc as De Toth's CRIME WAVE makes it all the more crucial for hardcore noir fans to snag.

Here's the short documentary, "A Map To Nowhere" which is featured on the DECOY disc:

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