Vintage Pulp Apr 12 2023
Meet the new fascists, same as the old fascists.

Above is a blazingly colorful poster for Violence, starring Nancy Coleman and Sheldon Leonard, a curious little b-flick about Coleman's reporter character inflitrating a Los Angeles based fascist organization that calls itself United Defenders. The group is a fraud, run by man named True Dawson who uses incendiary populist rhetoric to sign up military veterans, while the organization exploits those same veterans by using their membership dues for secret aims. Coleman has gathered some damning evidence, but when she's tailed by fascist thugs her cab crashes, all her evidence burns up, and she comes out of the fiery accident with amnesia.

To compound the major complication that Coleman has now forgotten she's an undercover operative, United Defender member Michael O'Shea shows up in the hospital the next day and convinces her that he's her fiancée. Yipes. We should mention here that part of Coleman's clandestine work has involved romancing United Defenders' oily number two man Sheldon Leonard, but because the movie was made during the 1940s the directions that sticky subplot could go—esentially she's been passed from one man to another—never really materialize. Maybe it's better that way.

Once out of the hospital Coleman is turned into a spokesperson for United Defenders, but her bruised psyche doesn't take to it smoothly. She faints during a speech and is generally out of sorts. Meanwhile the wheels keep turning. The fascists cultivate dark money—literally dark, as a character promising a boatload of new capital appears only in shadows. It's clear by this point that the purpose of the group is to amass wealth and power. The vets are just window dressing, occasionally to be used as shock troops. Asked how he plans to control these dupes, True Dawson encapsulates his amoral aims with this: “We get 'em young and tough, the kind that's already wearing a chip on its shoulder. And then we'll prime them for the payoff. We'll prime 'em with hate. Hate for labor. Hate for management. Hate for the party that's in. Hate for the party that's out. We'll keep 'em so busy they won't have any time to [uncover the truth].”

Objectively, Violence is cheesy. Hell, even the poster is sort of cheesy, with Coleman, O'Shea, and Leonard looking more like an alternate Three Stooges than intrepid political operatives. But certain aspects of the movie are uncomfortably close to reality: the patriotic rhetoric relied upon by Dawson and his fascist lackeys, the exhortations to manhood designed to inflame the membership, the vocal support for workers while the group's actual aims are pro-corporate, and the harangues about what real America is supposed to be. Overall the movie is too b-level to compare to predictive masterpieces like 1976's Network, but it has its disconcerting flashes of insight just the same.

Obviously, Coleman has to get her memory back at some point, and to make that happen the movie relies upon the old screenwriting chestnut that a second blow on the head can fix amnesia brought on by a first. That second blow comes when Leonard accuses her of being a spy and slaps her around. The first slap is accompanied by the sound of a cymbal crash. Better than a glockenspiel, we guess. Another symphonic slap or two and Coleman goes down hard. When she awakens, her memory is restored and United Defenders again have a spy in their midst. Even so, you figure these badass fascists should be able to handle one nosy reporter.

We'll stop there to avoid more spoilers, but there's one additional minor plot twist we will divulge. Coleman never finds out who the dark money guy is. It seems like a nod to the fact that the string pullers, those corporate quasi-humans with evil aims, are rarely exposed, and certainly never punished. It's a point we liked, but in the end we can't call Violence a good movie—it's too cheap, too shallow, and ultimately minimizes its subject matter. But those few moments when its dialogue sounds like it came directly from 2023 politicians or cable news mouthpieces are highly, highly interesting. Maybe they even make the movie worth watching. Violence premiered today in 1947.


Femmes Fatales Nov 18 2022
It's not that I want to do it. It's that I have to do it.

Above is a photo of American actress Nancy Coleman made for her 1947 thriller Violence. She starred in the film with Michael O'Shea, but it was her vehicle all the way, as she plays a reporter out to expose a fascist group called United Defenders that uses populist and militaristic propaganda to fill its ranks with veterans. Coleman had a pretty nice career, appearing in such films as Dangerously They Live, Edge of Darkness, and Mourning Becomes Electra before making the usual transition into television roles. We'll probably revisit the subject of Violence, so you may see Coleman here later. 


History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
September 23
1952—Chaplin Returns to England
Silent movie star Charlie Chaplin returns to his native England for the first time in twenty-one years. At the time it is said to be for a Royal Society benefit, but in reality Chaplin knows he is about to be banned from the States because of his political views. He would not return to the U.S. for twenty years.
September 22
1910—Duke of York's Cinema Opens
The Duke of York's Cinema opens in Brighton, England, on the site of an old brewery. It is still operating today, mainly as a venue for art films, and is the oldest continually operating cinema in Britain.
1975—Gerald Ford Assassination Attempt
Sara Jane Moore, an FBI informant who had been evaluated and deemed harmless by the U.S. Secret Service, tries to assassinate U.S. President Gerald Ford. Moore fires one shot at Ford that misses, then is wrestled to the ground by a bystander named Oliver Sipple.
September 21
1937—The Hobbit is Published
J. R. R. Tolkien publishes his seminal fantasy novel The Hobbit, aka The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Marketed as a children's book, it is a hit with adults as well, and sells millions of copies, is translated into multiple languages, and spawns the sequel trilogy The Lord of Rings.
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