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JACK PALANCE IN THE NOIR REMAKE 'I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES'

Warner Archives DVD Year: 1955
HIGH SIERRA is a great book that became an even greater film: With Raoul Walsh's tight direction from an adapted screenplay by Humphrey Bogart's (soon to be) most famous collaborator, John Huston, the iconic MALTESE FALCON, KEY LARGO and TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE star was finally, after playing villains in George Raft and James Cagney vehicles (Walsh directed THE ROARING TWENTIES), turned into a bonafide Hollywood A-lister, whose heavies would become anti-heroes thereafter...

Although, just like John Wayne in his career-catapult, STAGECOACH, Bogie takes second-billing to a dame in tough and determined Ida Lupido...

Which doesn't occur in the 1955 remake as Shelley Winters is far more vulnerable and passive, and, while not as pretty, does fit the role – had some knockout bombshell co-starred opposite Jack Palance as Roy Earle, he wouldn't be so initially dead-set on getting rid of her... That is, asking her to split from the woodsy fishing lake locale where four men, including himself, are poised to rob safe-kept jewels in a luxurious hotel not far away...

I DIED Poster
Palance is no Bogart but with a face of granite and cold, narrowed eyes he sure looks the part of an ex-convict who knows more than the dolts he's forced by Lon Chaney's bed-ridden mastermind to work with... In that, the side-characters in I DIED A THOUSAND TIMES are far more important and don't merely serve as muggy wallpaper like in HIGH SIERRA – it's impossible for Earl Holliman and especially Lee Marvin to remain unnoticed... Yet the script, too, gives them more punch while a young, nervous Perry Lopez makes for a good weak link, as the upcoming heist seems more unpredictable in its supposedly "perfectly planned" turnout the more these fellas interact – Palance's Roy is told he could not only trust these jazz-loving goofs, whose importance only lasts a few scenes, but Chaney's ex-cop bodyguard/sidekick as well: SIERRA fans know how that turns out, and you can never trust a cop!

HIGH SIERRA Cover
The original fleshes out a peripheral romance with a young, shy and pretty club-footed farm girl whom Roy Earle met on the highway, and later helped her family out of a jam... Lori Nelson, while absolutely stunning in REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, looks surprisingly bland, and Jack Palance doesn't seem twice her age as intended for a possible relationship to seem farfetched and thus taboo in the first place.

THOUSAND TIMES Score: ***
The last half drags some yet it's also where Palance becomes more relaxed in the role, on the run from cops and especially every gas station attendant who reads a paper – with Earle's mug adorning the front page. He and Winters never really do connect in a believably romantic fashion despite how reluctant their chemistry is in both the book and 1941 film – much like the Priscilla Lane-adoring James Cagney and tough dame Gladys George in ROARING TWENTIES, Palance and Winters have only each other to end up with, which does seem very real.

And, last but certainly not least, the most important side-character, Pard the Dog, who'd eventually turn the tables, seems more like a trained Hollywood pooch while its original cliche black "owner" is now a cliche Mexican only not as embarrassingly dated (yet pretty damn annoying): And really, while DIED is an inferior sequel to a classic Early-Noir, the Cinemascope-shot exterior region the film's named after, with that impossible snowcapped mountain in the backdrop, provides a doomed oasis to a crook with a heart of gold, played smoothly by Palance, who carries a picture that, from the very foundation, is not his own.
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