Saturday, June 20, 2015

Errol Flynn + Film Noir + Netflix = "Cry Wolf" and "The Big Boodle"

Since today is Errol Flynn's birthday, and it's all about Film Noir over here because of TCM's Summer of Darkness, and since I've only reviewed one Netflix movie on this blog (I've changed it from a weekly to a monthly feature), I thought I would talk about two films (one of which is on Netflix) that are as close to Film Noir as Flynn ever got.
The first film is Cry Wolf (1947), a horror mystery starring Flynn (his part was originally supposed to go to Dennis Morgan) and Barbara Stanwyck in their only screen pairing.
Here is the plot synopsis from TCMDb
After Sandra Marshall (Stanwyck) learns that James Demarest has died, she surprises his uncle, Mark Caldwell (Flynn), with the news that she and Jim were secretly married. Although Sandra shows Mark a marriage license, he refuses to believe her claim because Jim never mentioned it. Sandra reminds Mark of the conditions of Jim's mother's will: Jim's money was to be held in trust until he reached thirty or until he married. She had married Jim as a favor, in exchange for the money which she needed to finish her education. At the end of six months, she was to divorce him, but as only five months have passed since the marriage, Sandra now stands to inherit two million dollars. At dinner, Sandra meets Jim's younger sister Julie (Geraldine Brooks), who berates Mark for opening a letter addressed to her from Ronnie Manning, the boy she loves. Later, Sandra questions Julie and learns that Mark had interfered with Jim's engagement to another woman. Because Jim was buried in a closed casket, Sandra is surprised to learn that he died of pneumonia. She is also shocked by the restrictions Mark places on Julie, who is not allowed to leave the estate and is constantly watched by the servants. That night, an hysterical Julie runs into Sandra's room, frightened by the sound of agonized cries coming from Mark's laboratory. Sandra tries to calm her, then hears the cries herself. The next morning, following Sandra's directions, Julie tells Mark about the sounds, but omits mentioning her visit to Sandra's room. Mark attributes her experience to a vivid imagination. When Sandra later examines Jim's room, she notices that his pipes and sports clothes are missing, and Julie becomes agitated at the thought that her brother might still be alive. When Mark hears this, he locks Julie in her room and orders Sandra not to fill her head with fantasies. That night, Sandra enters the laboratory through the dumbwaiter. She eavesdrops on a conversation between Mark and Jackson Laidell, a servant, about the lodge at Three Hills, but her investigations are cut short by a woman's scream.
Want to find out what happened? Watch the movie or read the rest of the synopsis here (contains major spoilers).
Flynn: May I make a suggestion?
Stanwyck: What?
Flynn: Next time you hear some odd noise in the night, just follow the memorable custom of your sex and stick your head under the bedclothes.

Some remarks from a TCM Article on Cry Wolf by Richard Harland Smith:
"Cry Wolf ... [was] complete with forbidden laboratories, dodgy servants, cries in the night, and a resourceful heroine in Stanwyck's unstoppable Sandra Marshall. Sold as a borderline horror film, Cry Wolf seemed to take inspiration from the Universal Studios school of fear-mongering, while its allocation of heroic deeds to a strong female lead seems influenced by the shockers produced by Val Lewton at RKO... The Gothic ambiance is furthered by Franz Waxman's stormy orchestrations...
"Cry Wolf endures sixty-odd years later as an entertaining experiment, one giving its principal players a taste of something completely different. Flynn clearly relished the opportunity to play a man of high breeding and erudition, yet one guided by hardwired propriety and hobbled by mounting guilt, while Stanwyck was an inspired midlife Nancy Drew, creeping through the shadows at zero-dark-thirty, folding herself into dumbwaiters and spidering across gabled rooftops to gain access into Flynn's forbidden attic laboratory."
This blog post talks about Flynn's unusual darker role and also compares Stanwyck to Nancy Drew.
This one talks about the noir aspects of the film. 
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The second film, The Big Boodle (1957), can be found on Netflix, and is one of the last films that can be classified as a Noir Film, "released on the tail-end of the American trend"(source). It stars an older Flynn and Rossana Rory
Here is the TCMDb entry:
After Ned Sherwood (Flynn), a blackjack dealer in a Havana casino, is passed some counterfeit peso bills, he challenges the woman who presented them, as under the casino's rules, a dealer is responsible for any phony currency he unwittingly accepts. The woman denies knowing that the bills were counterfeit, refuses to change them for others and leaves. That night, on his way home, two thugs attack Ned but run off when the police are summoned. Guillermo Mastegui, Chief of the Secret Section of the Cuban National Police, interrogates Ned about the attack and, because he still has some of the counterfeit bills, accuses him of being involved in a plan to flood Cuba with worthless currency. Mastegui refrains from arresting Ned, however, as he and a U.S. Treasury agent plan to have him followed in the hope that he will lead them to the head counterfeiter. Now jobless and forbidden to leave Cuba, Ned takes measures to clear his name. Ned meets with a young woman, Anita Ferrer, who believes that he has the bills, as well as the engraving plates they were made from, and offers to buy them. After a totally bewildered Ned denies any knowledge of the bills and plates, Anita takes him to meet her father, who is president of the Bank of Cuba. Señor Ferrer explains to Ned that Mastegui suspects that three million counterfeit pesos, manufactured in Chicago, are about to be laundered through the bank. Because this act would destroy confidence in the bank and in the government, Ferrer is anxious to discover who is behind the plot. Ned tells Ferrer that he knows nothing about the matter and is about to leave when Ferrer's other daughter, Josefina (Rory), returns home and Ned recognizes her as the woman who passed him the notes in the casino, but says nothing. When "Fina" agrees to a meeting with Ned, she again denies any involvement in the counterfeiting, but offers to be seen with him in the hope of having the ringleaders show their hand.
To read the rest of the synopsis, go here.

Here is an interesting article about the film. It discusses how it is like the earlier French version of noir. It also talks about the location shooting. Unfortunately the whole article is not available.
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