Written by / 11/15/2016 / No comments / , , , ,

MERRY ANDERS CINEMA: SPEED KILLS IN DEATH IN SMALL DOSES

Animated Image of Little Orphan Anders all strung-out YEAR: 1957
We finally have what seems to be — or at least what's described on the DVD cover — as a bonafide Film Noir featuring Merry Anders, our starlet-spotlight who appeared in a string of crime thrillers and semi-horrors that share particular traits of the famous genre but were never quite 'all there'...

Centering on truckers who strategically stay awake for long hauls by use of amphetamines, you could say this seems written by A.I. Benzedrine... as opposed to THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT and THIEVE'S HIGHWAY scribe A.I. Bezzerides: And if you have to explain or in this case, repeat a joke it isn't funny — but the speedy shoe fits as DEATH pushes the pedal to the metal like the author's idealistic truck driving Noir films during the rudimentary stages of the genre, only kicking it up a few notches, and is more of yet another late 50's anti-drug crime melodrama the likes of PICKUP ALLEY and STAKEOUT ON DOPE STREET, and stars a man who's ultra-serious tone would eventually be parodied, by himself: Peter Graves, who fits the undercover Noir template pretty good despite seeming too much like The Man in whatever clothes he has on: a sort of b-side Charles McGraw here...

Merry Anders lets the cop in the room
While drug-users were shown more sympathetically in the early sixties, and were heroes a few years later, the 50's only saw the drug addict as a crooked, snarky Beatnik type — in this case, one of the revved-up heavies is Chuck Connors, only he's a fun guy since speed is his thing, and any movie combining Connors and Graves is a must-see no matter how it turns out...

And this one starts out just fine... Learning about the pros and mostly cons of long haul trucking from an old timer, also an addict but more uppity and cranky than the constant party animal, Connors, who shares a great scene with our title starlet, Merry Anders, playing a lady with,  based upon her introductory scene, a far more interesting name than character... Her Mary 'Miss Diesel of 1958' Phillips is the pivotal truckstop waitress, also addicted to "Bennies" and trying to dodge playful advances by Chuck's character, Mink Reynolds... Sadly, the movie leans too far in the anti drug position, straying from the good times that would need the inevitable come-down to truly learn the arc of a drug addict's ride — for to learn why drugs are bad other than just being drugs... Like in movies about alcoholics, who painfully lift the bottle to their lips instead of realistically drinking upon the only thing they enjoy, with eager happiness, like a deserted man with a single canteen of water: with an exception of Connors there's not much realism about the drug of choice — then again, one must consider the era of which it was made... Drugs were not a laughing matter yet, and no one was supposed to just relax and "go with it."

Merry Anders at work with Chuck Connors at play YEAR: 1957
When our squeaky-clean hero reluctantly goes out dancing with Connors and a few dames, he says Yes to Drugs, and only feigns popping a pill that, as we can see by Chuck's zany bop dancing, goes a long, long way...

A film's lead in a cautionary tale couldn't take part in getting loaded just like a genuine Noir antagonist wouldn't blow another gangster's head off without proper reason... Gratuitous drug-taking would definitely be a no-no, as we've already covered... But had Graves been, say, slipped a Mickey unaware, what a scene that would be: one can imagine a tweeked-out Graves and Connors partying together... The cop would know a thing or two about what the people around him, the good and bad, are literally dying for... But we'll continue with the movie that's there...

Chuck meets Peter Graves
Gliding breezily through the second half of conversations with Graves and the pouting yet flirtatious wife of one of the deceased truckers, which leads to a few stolen kisses where the jazzy score turns fitfully heartfelt and romantic, there's a nice scene with Merry Anders, who, having not shown up to work at the diner, Graves pays a visit to her room where we learn more about addition through her strung-out soliloquy than anything prior...

SCORE: ***
Unlike other of her movies where she's only shown in medium shots, we get about five minutes of closeups of her lovely face including a small mouth with a terrific pout from semi-full lips and a natural, classic beauty only hindered by that time's 1950's hairdo resembling someone's contentedly aged, unmarried aunt: And while this is not her film... in fact, of the stuff covered, only Maury Dexter's HOUSE OF THE DAMNED and AIR PATROL has her in the proverbial co-pilot seat...

Merry Anders coming down smoking
Anders is not only the most vulnerable, sympathetic, and prettiest on board, she brings the most urgency... or that overused acting term, motivation to Grave's character that, in an undercover operation, has little to no worries like should happen as a cop surreptitiously swims in a pool of sharks: Until a gun-pointing finale, they're mostly all dolphins here, while Connor is a frolicking  seal till the inevitable crash: And you know that doomed expression on Tim Roth's face when, during the opening credits when "And Tim Roth" appears while surrounded by those jokey yet formidable RESERVOIR DOGS... Peter doesn't have it here, not once, and is never put in any... let's just say, grave danger, despite the fact the movie has DEATH in the title. And while this is an entertaining enough time-filling programmer of what's more a Near-Noir than the real thing, the suspense is handed out in rather SMALL DOSES.
If you're reading this than all the movies in this Merry Anders boxset have been reviewed here
Undercover cop Peter Graves with a motel-dwelling Merry Anders
Merry Anders holds back the bitter truth to Peter Graves
Click the TAG for Merry Anders on top of the post to see all Merry Anders Cinema
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