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DIAL 1119 (1950) Rare Noir airs 5/31

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Dewey1960
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DIAL 1119 (1950) Rare Noir airs 5/31

Postby Dewey1960 » May 30th, 2007, 6:14 pm

Hello film noir fans...a quick word of reminder that a truly terrific "B" noir, DIAL 1119 airs Thursday May 31 on TCM (check your listings for time).
This seldom seen curio stars the otherwise dull Marshall Thompson as an escapee from the State Hospital for the Criminally Insane who holds a group of bar patrons hostage at gunpoint in downtown Terminal City. Thompson is chillingly believable as a "baby-faced" psycho.
This 1950 film is most unusual for two reasons: 1) there is virtually no music on the soundtrack, heightening the tension with an intense realism and 2) the prominent use of the brand new medium of television in the plot. The bar where they are holed up in has a large screen TV installed for entertainment purposes. Additionally, the presence of television reporters who descend on the bar is eerily foreshadowing of events decades down the line. A really fascinating low budget noir (from MGM) which should prove highly satisfying to aficionados. Also in the cast are: Virginia Field (great as a bar fly), Keefe Brasselle, William Conrad, Leon Ames, etc. Highly recommended!

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Mr. Arkadin
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Postby Mr. Arkadin » June 1st, 2007, 2:17 am

Thanks Dewey, I recorded it. You're right, there's no music at all! :shock:

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Postby Lzcutter » June 1st, 2007, 2:43 am

Dewey,

Caught most of this earlier this evening. Wow! The television press coverage seemed like a harbinger of doom. Hopefully up in heaven, folks were buying drinks for the screenwriters and Paddy Chayefsky.

Though by now, Chayefsky should just have an open tab that never gets collected.

Why did Marshall Thompson have a career? Or did Daktari! save his career?
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Postby moira finnie » June 1st, 2007, 7:25 am

Thanks to Dewey's heads up, I enjoyed every dark moment of this fascinating little movie. The setting, casting and velvety cinematography by Paul Vogel seem to place this movie apart from the usual MGM product, and, as Mr. Osborne indicated in his introduction, this was one of the first productions at the studio under the aegis of Dore Schary. The inner city neighborhood in this film seemed to be right around the corner, spiritually and physically, from the crummy environs of Robert Ryan's stamping ground in The Set-Up.

Set in the oh-so-aptly named Terminal City in a truly seedy bar tended by the sullen William Conrad, the film offered the unusual prospect of Marshall Thompson as a nearly catatonic killer, supported ably by the sharp, morally shady playing of Leon Ames as a would-be adulterer and Virginia Field as a barfly with quick reflexes and a hyena's laugh. It was also fun spotting a very young journeyman actor Paul Picerni as--what else?--a nice guy cop who acted as an Italian interpreter in one brief scene.

I noticed on IMDb that several commentators felt that Thompson was inadequate in the role of the crazed murderer, but frankly, I think his limitations as an actor may have helped to make him more menacing and unpredictable. I was also amused by the huge television that was shown in the bar, (this was a magnification system that enlarged the actual image of a regular tv, and, believe me, having seen a few of these in real life when, as a tyke, I wandered into a tavern with my Dad to catch a ballgame well into the '60s, the images weren't nearly as clear as they appeared to be in the movie). I also found the nearly lascivious manner of the television announcer and the melodramatic exaggeration of the barroom events by the on-site tv broadcast to be unfortunately accurate and prescient, (those clowns at Court-TV would've fit right in here 50 years ago).

I think it's interesting that the director, Gerald Mayer, who labored mostly in tv, probably owed his career initially to his status as a nephew of Louis B. Mayer, created a small but striking little body of work with this film, as well as the western oriented tale, Inside Straight (1951), Holiday for Sinners (1952), The Sellout (1952) and the innovative--for its time--racial drama featuring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, Bright Road (1953). None of these films seem to be fare that would've delighted Uncle Louie, but are worth a look for some of the elements that they blended into their modest storylines.

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Dewey1960
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Postby Dewey1960 » June 1st, 2007, 9:16 am

Mr. Ark, Lynne, Moira -- I'm thrilled you had an opportunity to watch and/or tape DIAL 1119. Without a doubt, one of the great lost treasures of film noir. You may or may not remember that it was included in my "fantasy film noir box set" in the last TCM programming challenge, which further illustrates the need for closer and more dedicated scrutiny on the part of those responsible for releasing these titles on DVD.
As for the vapid Marshall Thompson, I can only assume this role was a result of his finely understated performance in the previous year's BATTLEGROUND (also MGM) where he played a soldier in Wellman's classic war drama. I can't recall any other performance subsequent to these two where he was anything more than mediocre. (Although I kind of liked him in the goofy 1955 faux horror film CULT OF THE COBRA.)
Anyway, thanks for your follow-up comments on DIAL 1119.

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Re: DIAL 1119 (1950) Rare Noir airs 5/31

Postby Mr. Arkadin » September 8th, 2009, 11:38 pm

I thought I'd bump this thread up, as this great little film is showing tomorrow (9/9).

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Re: DIAL 1119 (1950) Rare Noir airs 5/31

Postby Ollie » September 9th, 2009, 4:12 pm

Only having recently availed myself of DIAL 1119, I was surprised that I enjoyed this film so much, particularly because Marshall Thompson is usually an almost 'nothing' character in his performances. But here he is, required to be the central focus of the story - and when he's not, his victims are. I enjoyed the tension that the close-confines of the bar created and while there are plenty of lame or less-than-perfect moments, I ended up giving Marshall a large step up on my ideas of acting career achievement. He COULD be the lead in a film, given the right circumstances.


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