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JACQUES TOURNEUR'S 'THE FEARMAKERS' WITH DANA ANDREWS

Year Released: 1958 
THE FEARMAKERS: Of the three motion pictures actor Dana Andrews starred in under the direction of Noir-Horror guru Jacques Tourneur, we'll cover two, made a year apart: CURSE OF THE DEMON and THE FEARMAKERS... So let's begin with the most obscure, and perhaps it's for a reason...

"What is it?" Dana Andrews snaps politely at Mel Torme
Very rare a film go after the "Peace at any price" groups even and especially the 1950's when not a (for example and unrelated to this particular movie) science-fiction flick played out without a hidden or not so subtle message against nuclear weapons – and FEARMAKERS is a reverse sermon in a vacuum, beginning with a low-budget, rushed version of patriotism about as obvious as Michael Rennie leaving Earth following his Martian State of the Union Address...

Dana Andrews gives to faint spells no thanks to Korea
But enough of all that... FEAR is no space movie or a Film Noir despite one of that genre's signature leading men from LAURA, FALLEN ANGEL, BOOMERANG, DAISY KENYON, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, and especially OUT OF THE PAST director Jacques Tourneur, who Andrews requested after the surprise success and worthy turnout of their first collaboration (reviewed below) the year before, CURSE OF THE DEMON...

Our heroic when tortured after being captured in Korea war-vet Andrews has a horrible fake-looking beard in the prologue – and thereafter flashbacks – and it's nice to see him all cleaned up and suited, back home, processed by the Army as sane (despite reoccurring dizzy spells), ready to dive back into work – his own business: A somewhat complicated operation that has a big surprise waiting, and it's no party...

Korean War Flashbacks
At first viewing the plot runs in talky circles and depending on prior knowledge of the "Public Relations Business" of Public Opinion Polls, Consumer Analyses, Industrial Research, Census and Surveys, it really needs some paying attention to...

The movie does almost entirely through dialogue what Noir handles with guns and shadows, alleyways and romantic entanglements: After finding out that, while imprisoned overseas, his business partner died in a car accident right after selling the company to a man so obviously crooked he'd need a spinal shoehorn to stand erect, Andrews spends the rest of the picture figuring things out: When he gets word at a restaurant that his new boss may have something to hide, it takes two conversations with two different men – both very similar except one really gets the ball rolling, involving a possible murder...

Mel Torme as Bond... Barney Bond
The pace picks up later as the plot clears, and it's not Andrews, looking much healthier and somewhat back to his 1940's dapper style than most of his other 50's B-Pictures, nor is it moon-faced beauty Marilee Earle as secretary/inside-gal Vivian that truly makes this flawed yet entertaining programmer shine...

FearMeter: ****
Musician Mel Torme as office dweeb Barney Bond completely owns his scenes, which happen to be the most intriguing as they involve either Dick Foran as the gentleman heavy, or Vivian, or both – with Andrews playing a kind of parenthetical cat and mouse in-between, knowing the business better than anyone and realizing those otherwise kindhearted D.C. idealists are being used as pawns ("useful idiots"), selling their own in-pocket politician through the manipulation of public opinion: Thus,  Mel Torme's Barney (foreshadowing Rick Moranis in GHOSTBUSTERS, only more mellow and subtle) knows almost as much as Andrews, and far more than Foran (aided by a big thug henchman), who uses the put-upon, spectacle-wearing underling to weasel back information – but what makes Torme's character stand-out also sets him over the edge, and in that, he eventually "chews up the scenery" yet in a wonderful b-movie fashion...

The dwarfish geek lusts for Dana's smitten Girl Friday, while feeling sorry for himself, with a shaky gun at one point, and don't expect a bombastic climax: FEARMAKERS, unlike most of Tourneur's more atmospheric, multi-layered ventures, is basically a Cold War Thriller's desk job. But how the papers are shuffled, as described smoothly by Andrews, is the key in this obscure vehicle that's much better the second or third time around.
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