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PRISCILLA LANE DOUBLE & LAWRENCE TIERNEY CINEMA

Title: SABOTEUR Year: 1942
In keeping with our LAWRENCE TIERNEY CINEMA posts, covering anything either starring or featuring the gruff Noir turned Crime Exploitation actor one at a time, a collection that already includes write-ups ranging from KILL OR BE KILLED to RESERVOIR DOGS, there's an opportunity for another highlight...

LT is a BODYGUARD
That being Priscilla Lane, best known as the apple of James Cagney's eye in ROARING TWENTIES, so she can hold her own; despite a limited acting range, she's paid some dues... And the second in the Lane Double Feature, she's the co-starring good girl ingenue to Tierney: one movie directed by the iconic Alfred Hitchcock; the other by the underrated Richard Fleischer, and written by a young future film-making genius, Robert Altman.

SABOTEUR: Although he fits as a preppie, not so nice third banana hired-hand in Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER, it takes a little bit getting used to Robert Cummings in a starring turn as The Wrong Man in yet another Hitchcock Wrong Man thriller, his blue color airplane mechanic thrust in an adventure that could be called NORTH BY NORTHEAST... He has a breezy, affable charm of a cross-country pawn, intended and believable for this arduous task with as much dialogue as pandemonium.

Title: Bodyguard Year: 1948
The ball really gets rolling with the aid of Priscilla Lane, who's not so helpful when they first meet up. Her constant attempt to run off and tell the authorities makes him more edgy than before. This after, like Boris Karloff in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, he passes the inner-innocence test with flying colors by a blind man, who Lane is the paranoid daughter of. And with a day job as a billboard model, her Americana cherubic face adorned across the landscape of long roads between small towns, makes for plenty of wonderful aesthetic Hitchcock punchlines...

She eventually comes around like an ingenue should, but her stubborn drive from the onset also leaves a residual of suspense, the reluctant, thrown-together couple making their way across mountainous climbs, winding up in one of the most memorable scenes aboard a train full of traveling carnival freaks.

Insert Poster
Made in 1942, the villains are of course Germans, who want to take out America by moving in, as Cummings, the scapegoat accused of blowing up an airplane hangar (where he works), along with the lovely and stubborn co-star, goes from eclectic fast-paced gritty exteriors to classy mansions where not only the action, but the overall momentum wanes considerably with too many talky backroom meetings: although we get a glimpse into a future Mount Rushmore-style finale, where Cary Grant is followed by James Mason and Martin Landau years later – high atop a construction girder as Cummings ends the picture like he began, alone and without a paddle.

BODYGUARD: With such a flowing, improvisational directing style, it's difficult to imagine Robert Altman's vision hindered only to the page... But even when starting out, Richard Fleischer knew how to move a Film Noir thriller, from ARMORED CAR ROBBERY to NARROW MARGIN, to this, his very first feature-length film, with a story created and co-scripted by Altman, simply titled BODYGUARD where, like SABOTEUR, once the movie really begins it never lets up: a location to location Noir/Action vehicle, and yet the characters initially build in a subtle manner.

Tierney
DILLINGER himself, Lawrence Tierney, is a good guy this time (like the following STEP BY STEP, KILL OR BE KILLED and FEMALE JUNGLE), which doesn't mean he's not perturbed and edgy – a decisive cop, reminiscent of Dana Andrews in WHERE THE SIDE WALK ENDS, who doesn't follow orders but gets the job done right, his way, much to the chagrin of a moody captain or anyone in charge, each following rules and strict guidelines while Priscilla Lane isn't as important this time, but equally as effective. And it's more than the standard inside-glass-office lecture: Tierney's Mike Carter gets canned in his first scene. With Lane's good girl by his side, a precinct secretary who, unlike SABOTEUR, needs no convincing of her man's... not innocence, but reasoning to stretch the law (a theme that would be used in many cop flicks)...

But here the potential and possible villains aren't the typical lowlife bank robbers, but a classy, rich family in a mansion hires Mike protect their grandmother – the mystery unfolds on how this society clan might be in-cahoots with the streetwise criminals, and who exactly is calling the shots, making Mike, and not anyone he's protecting, a target.

Scores for SABOTEUR: ***1/2 and BODYGUARD: ***1/2
Lane must weather the storm all over again – her Wrong Man is falsely accused and, like any Noir outing, his curse is having (very reluctantly) taken the gig in the first place. And while Altman's tale is fast-paced and intriguing, after a while the plot, getting more and more convoluted, is less relevant than our leading man, always fun to watch by his reactions alone, making this particular role stand out for Lawrence Tierney, who, although working till his dying day (after an important Quentin Tarantino comeback), had a hit/miss career thanks or no thanks to his clashing with producers and directors, barroom brawlers, girlfriends and anyone else unlucky enough to cross his temperamental path (he took a long "semi-break" from the mid-sixties to the early-eighties). And in BODYGUARD, having absolutely no control over what direction he's in – that's where Fleischer proves he can carry a piece written by and starring headstrong men who usually don't take a backseat to no one, and nothing.
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