Written by / 9/29/2018 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , ,

JOHN BROMFIELD BEL-AIR PRODUCTIONS NOIR DOUBLE FEATURE

Crime Against Joe and Three Bad Sisters from the YEAR: 1956
"Say, Joe, park the hot rod in the hanger, wontcha," says John Bromfield, here as a small business owner/pilot named Jim in THREE BAD SISTERS before playing another guy named Joe in CRIME AGAINST JOE, both 1956 Film Noir low-budget vehicles by Bel Air Productions, the company behind Bromfield's greatest picture, and one of our personal favorites, HOT CARS...

In THREE BAD SISTERS, only two are really bad, and just one is downright sinister: a gorgeous, manipulating, blonde snake played by Kathleen Hughes as Valerie Craig of the sisters Craig, whose father's killed (off-screen) in a plane crash where only the pilot... John Bromfield's Jim... survived...

Maria English and Sara Shane play Vicki and Lorne; the latter our stock wholesome girl, in this case afraid to take a near-death-defying leap off their beachfront cliff in their mansion's backyard: it's something her sister's have already survived, making Sara Shane's Lorne stand out as both the family underdog and self-loathing, co-called coward..

John Bromfield with Marla English in Three Bad Sisters
And yet she quickly winds up with big, handsome, dark-haired Jim, making both bad sisters' flirtation not mean much more than sultry dialogue that only comes from Film Noir: and while these Bel Air Productions lack the signature lighting and stylistic angles, they wield all the proper formulaic attributes, in spades...

Since the OUT OF THE PAST type of Noir classics were b-movies in their day, these Howard W. Koch produced 1950's programmers were either C's or B's twice-removed, and play out very economically. In this case, story-wise, the plot's a bit too mazy and complicated. It takes several viewings to really center on each of the siblings' motive or lack of. As for Bromfield, he's caught in a triangle that's technically a box being four people are involved, and the most fun's had figuring out each distinctive personality, clinging to the muscular pilot and they pose in various locations... from land to sea to miles in the air... A cemented, determined hero unlike his bizarre title role in...

Patricia Blair & John Bromfield in Crime Against Joe
CRIME AGAINST JOE, taking the popular Film Noir "Wrong Man" template to the hilt, and beyond. This isn't the picture to turn people onto John Bromfield since, during the first act, he slurs in the exaggerated manner of those "old movies" where "town drunks" speak from the side of their mouths in the same annoying, garbled, haranguing manner...

Although the content during the blackout binging set-up is intriguing, half occurring in the day-lit hours as Joe, after being established as a complete mother's boy loser despite heroic Korean War experience, isn't quite playing with a full deck. Ma supports his dreams of becoming a professional painter, and he attempts painting beautiful women but can't seem to get them just right: think Norman Bates meets Vincent Van Gogh...

The fact each and every dame he comes across takes to him instantly... from nice girl Julie London as "Slacks," a carhop with a heart of gold, to torchlight lounge singing Alika Louise as Irene Crescent... is a reminder that he's a very handsome fella, and a strong "real man" type despite the fact his character's personality, drunken or otherwise, borders on mental retardation: which altogether feels contrived and awkward.

John Bromfield in Crime Against Joe
But JOE is an intriguing melodrama that works despite the fact it's completely miscast.

Bromfield fits more into the womanizing diver role in perhaps his most well-known mainstream venture, Jack Arnold's BLACK LAGOON sequel REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, which came out around the same time he was reigning here in proverbial movie hell...

His easy, non-sleazy way of flirting with scream queen Lori Nelson gave the otherwise mellow and passive scream king John Agar a reason to worry. Bromfield not only has that tough guy ladies man look, he walks it and talks it too, and seemingly without trying. And yet, his cool cat characters, which also includes a TV show lawman and a trapeze artist in RING OF FEAR married to gorgeous Marian Carr, have brains and a genuine soul while this CRIME AGAINST JOE regular Joe's creepy, whining loser lacks the usual inborn charm he's more comfortable with as an extremely affable and comfortable actor...

Nice artistic title sequence with Noir lighting and neat font
Despite holding onto that cliché soused slur, even through some of the police procedural process of being semi-accused of the singer's murder while hungover the next day...

His performance and the picture itself narrows into a decent little thriller where Joe, with faithful Julie London, goes on a makeshift investigation and, thankfully, is sober soon enough...

The culprits are a handful of his former high school classmates (one had left behind a class ring), who seem to make up half the town: a friendly cab driver; a quiet, timid lawyer; a shallow politician; a jealous, ticked-off bartender; and mysterious "cowboy" Rhodes Reason (brother of THIS ISLAND EARTH actor Rex Reason), who is a temperamental "obvious choice" in what also dips into the Mystery genre (which the IMDb main photo spoils completely)...

Kathleen Hughes facing Marla English and John Bromfield
This blind spot ups the suspense despite a lack of urgency since there's no real "race against time" element (despite Joe's stress that there is); but at least some of Bromfield's edginess (his voice sounds like Ralph Meeker here) creeps into the tight, new improved 11th hour. There's also an underlined theme of the battle fatigued war veteran's awkward and painful return to hometown life...

Overall, CRIME AGAINST JOE is Bromfield's weirdest role, and yet it's a decent if standard venture for Bel Air Productions. What really stands out about these forgotten, neglected, backroom Noirs, including and especially HOT CARS, are the bleak yet sunny California exteriors of sparse industrial tracts and suburbs that were most likely barren desert terrain or orange groves a mere decade earlier.
John Bromfield with Kathleen Hughes in Three Bad Sisters ***1/2 CRIME AGAINST JOE: ***
John Bromfield tempted in the Noir fashion by a pair of lovely gams in THREE BAD SISTERS
THREE BAD SISTERS Kathleen Hughes would become Col. Blake's flashback wife on MASH
John Bromfield with two bad sisters in THREE BAD SISTERS, Marla English and Kathleen Hughes
One good one bad of THREE BAD SISTERS Sara Shane w/ Kathleen Hughes and John Bromfield
Now further back add a teasing eating Marla English as the third of THREE BAD SISTERS
Kathleen Hughes listening in in the Bel Air Production of THREE BAD SISTERS
Marla English Three Bad Sisters Kathleen Hughes Three Bad Sisters John Bromfield Three Bad Sisters
What's Noir without a good slap: Marla English and Kathleen Hughes in THREE BAD SISTERS
From CRIME AGAINST JOE as you can see John Bromfield's sheepish change (w/ Julie London)
Alika Louis plays the victim lounge singer in her only role in CRIME AGAINST JOE
Alika Louis John Bromfield Crime Against Joe Alika Louis Crime Against Joe John Bromfield
Which leads us back to John Bromfield in CRIME AGAINST JOE lighting up
John Bromfield and Sara Shane in Three Bad Sisters
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