Vintage Pulp May 5 2021
NICE TRY
Get while the getting is good.


It's the classic film noir pickle: what will a guy do when he can't find a job? Pretty much 100% of the time he resorts to crime, and pretty much 100% of the time he gets in deep shit real fast. The unlucky mug in Try and Get Me! is Frank Lovejoy, who moved with his wife and son to California but didn't realize “a million other guys had the same idea.” Desperation sets in and a chance meeting precipitates his descent into crime, as he becomes a getaway driver for stickup artist Lloyd Bridges. Meanwhile, over in the subplot, a news publisher who wants to move more copies of his paper convinces a reporter to portray the holdups as part of a crime invasion by eastern gangs. Interesting, right? If you're a media outlet that wants to rake in profits, just claim some “other” is ruining your community.

Here's the money quote: “People love to be scared to death. The more you scare 'em the more papers they buy.”

Without putting too fine a point on it, which we'll do anyway, clearly nothing has changed seventy years later, except now cable and radio don't sell fear, because that implies weakness—they sell “outrage,” which sounds macho and proactive, but is nothing more than a fight-or-flight reaction to fear. Would a character in a popular movie made in 2021 casually toss off an observation like that? We mean a line that gets at an essential societal ailment—to wit, people will think exactly what they're told to think, as long as the information comes from someone they like? We doubt it. In Try and Get Me! the newspaper guys use the “eastern criminals” fairy tale until people are so riled up they lose the capacity for rational thought. They even—ahem—form a lawless mob and assault the seat of government.

Too much plot info? Oops. It's less relevant than you'd suspect, though. Anyway, Bridges, who's instigating the crime spree, inevitably tires of taking in twenty and thirty bucks per job and drags Lovejoy along on a prospective big score. How do you think that turns out? Could it possibly be... murder? And now they're both in it up to their noose-sized necks. The audience knows from an earlier scene that Lovejoy's collar size is fifteen and-a-half. Foreshadowing? Possibly, but there's still an hour left in the film at that point, and anything can happen. Later there's an interesting shot of a window shade and its circular pull, which looks sort of like a noose. Hmm... Well, best not to dwell on possible signs and portents too deeply. Try and Get Me!, also known as The Sound of Fury, premiered in the U.S. today in 1950
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Vintage Pulp Nov 30 2020
THE WEB WE WEAVE
The deeper you go the tighter it gets.


We've all seen movies about the long con, the elaborate, drawn-out, multi-participant scam. The Crooked Web, aka The Big Shock, starring Frank Lovejoy, Richard Denning, and Mari Blanchard, is an early example of the sub-genre. The plan is for a group of crooks to sell a cache of gold one of them found in Germany during World War II, but the con takes an unexpected twist early, and we learn that the trap being set is deeper than it first seemed. We can't share more details, but we can tell you the film strives greatly to rise above its b-movie constraints with plenty of exterior shooting and a script with international scope. The plot even takes the principals to post-war Germany—which looks a lot like Southern California even with matte work designed to put the foreign illusion across. But you have to forgive budget woes. The flaw that's difficult to overlook is the unbelievable carelessness of the central scam artists, who are posing as brother and sister, but are really lovers and can't keep their hands off each other even when their mark is just around the corner. They're almost busted while in the clinch multiple times, which is a laughable lack of restraint when there's so much at stake. But the shortest route to dramatic tension is to make characters behave like morons. We've talked about it before. It's lazy screenwriting, but that's okay—The Crooked Web is still a fun movie. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1955

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 27
1964—Warren Commission Issues Report
The Warren Commission, which had been convened to examine the circumstances of John F. Kennedy's assassination, releases its final report, which concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, killed Kennedy. Today, up to 81% of Americans are troubled by the official account of the assassination.
September 26
1934—Queen Mary Launched
The RMS Queen Mary, three-and-a-half years in the making, launches from Clydebank, Scotland. The steamship enters passenger service in May 1936 and sails the North Atlantic Ocean until 1967. Today she is a museum and tourist attraction anchored in Long Beach, U.S.A.
1983—Nuclear Holocaust Averted
Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov, whose job involves detection of enemy missiles, is warned by Soviet computers that the United States has launched a nuclear missile at Russia. Petrov deviates from procedure, and, instead of informing superiors, decides the detection is a glitch. When the computer warns of four more inbound missiles he decides, under much greater pressure this time, that the detections are also false. Soviet doctrine at the time dictates an immediate and full retaliatory strike, so Petrov's decision to leave his superiors out of the loop very possibly prevents humanity's obliteration. Petrov's actions remain a secret until 1988, but ultimately he is honored at the United Nations.
September 25
2002—Mystery Space Object Crashes in Russia
In an occurrence known as the Vitim Event, an object crashes to the Earth in Siberia and explodes with a force estimated at 4 to 5 kilotons by Russian scientists. An expedition to the site finds the landscape leveled and the soil contaminated by high levels of radioactivity. It is thought that the object was a comet nucleus with a diameter of 50 to 100 meters.
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