Written by / 6/28/2016 / No comments / , , , ,

IRVIN KERSHNER DIRECTS 'STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET'

Year: 1958 Cast: Steven Marlo, Jonathan Haze
By the time George Lucas went to USC Film School, one of his favorite teachers, Irvin Kershner, who would direct the followup to STAR WARS titled THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK years later, had directed a few things including a B&W Film bordering on but not quite Noir that, right on the verge of that genre's end and liken to CRIME IN THE STREETS, is more a precautionary adolescent tale than melodrama, and yet there's plenty of melodrama to go around...

Yale Wexler in SODS
Especially one ponderously overlong sequence where an old junky's telling one of three teens all about kicking heroin. The momentum leading to that point, especially by the group's muscular, instigative Steven Marlo as Nick ("The Medic" in GARRISON'S GUERRILLAS), who had just gone through his own diatribe about getting the guts to sell the stuff, which his buddy Ves, played by Roger Corman stock actor Jonathan Haze, found in a bag while the buried lead seems initially the most unimportant, a mellow cat named Jim – good looking Yale Wexler is the brother of famous cinematographer Haskell. Little did the guys know this bag was left over from a gritty prologue where cops are shot down (in the same grungy, off-road locale the kids hang) while busting the junky who had that bag in the first place. And while Found Money is a sort of Noir genre all by itself, Found Drugs is, in this case, more intriguing since the boys have no idea how to make bundles out of the powdery potential goldmine. Plus there's a strict cop narration, par for the course in these kinda morality tale crime flicks.

Steven Marlo steals the show MOVIE SCORE: ***
Scored by a hip jazz as if catered to the boys it follows, we see them through curious innocence of finding the bag, not taking it seriously till reading about the bust, and then jovially hunting down the important "tin can" all the way to the junkyard, as if their adventure were something on Tom Sawyer's Island, leading to what can only be tragic consequences and yet, while it plays out, there's a breezy vibe like nothing can go wrong. But, predictably and obviously, it does...

Falcon Crest's Abby Dalton
The cops are moving in and of course more dangerous are the drug dealers. It's too bad with a sudden guilty-conscious lecture from our young leading man, Jim, even longer and more boring than the withdrawal monologue, the movie hits a wall and never quite recovers... Although there are still some terrific shots and editing, cutting from where a few of the kids are in jeopardy to a noisy, beatnik jazz-blasting bowling alley where girls want more money spent on them: If only the suspense kept in the same pace as the initial set-up since the money-making scheme had a lot of potential, had it not been so conveniently figured out by the old-timer. Then our three main characters could've gotten deeper into trouble before they had to ultimately pay for it. If anything, DOPE STREET is a venue to see Steven Marlo ruling scenes, and a tragedy that, although he's kept busy throughout the years, he never hit it really big, where he belongs. A visual cross between Robert DeNiro and James Caan, he could easily have played either's tough guy friend.
Ida Morgan as the Pretty Bowling Girl, who one guy sees and realizes the importance of having all that cash!
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