Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Killer is Loose (1956)

I must admit that it’s very rare that I review a movie of this kind, a crime thriller from 1956. But the thing is, The Killer is Loose is damn fine movie and what really attracted me to it is the simple execution, obviously made that way because of a low budget and fast shooting-schedule. Directed by western-director Budd Boetticher, a veteran with many bleak and smart “b-movies” in his career, this could also have been a perfect western, but if that was the case I would probably never seen it – so I’m happy he decided to make a modern story.

Wendell Corey plays Leon 'Foggy' Poole, a mild-mannered bank clerk with thick glasses and a calm personality. One day the bank he works at gets robbed and soon the police, lead by Detective Sam Wagner (Joseph Cotton) discovers that Poole is involved in the robbery. When they try to arrest him they accidentally shoot his wife to death and he gives up. He’s sentenced to ten years and swears to get back on Wagner. A couple of years later he escapes, close to him being released because of good behaviour, and sets out to get his revenge…

I think many filmmakers strive to find the ultimate simple story with out too much intrigues but with a good amount of complex characters and interesting twists. The Killer is Loose is one of those few movies that makes that happen in an almost perfect way. Sure, the script is sometimes almost too simple and some of the solutions (to make the drama bigger) feels a bit unrealistic (Poole and Wagner and his wife standing and talking together in the court room after the sentence being set for example) but these small pieces of storytelling freedom is just there to make a better story and to set up for the second half of the movie when the psychotic Poole escapes and plans his revenge.

Joseph Cotton and Rhonda Fleming are both fantastic performers, but this movie belongs in its entirely to Wendell Corey who makes a character before his time, a bad guy who is polite and quite, with a nerdy looks and very far from the typical Hollywood-baddies of the time. He’s so calm that just his personality and his nice look, make him dangerous. Picture Norman Bates, but even more fucked up. Corey, another actor who died way too early because of alcohol addiction, never shows any emotions outside – it’s just in his eyes, and damn he’s good at it. I don’t think he ever played a serial killer, but he must have been one of the first to have portrayed a psychopath this way.

The Killer is Loose is packed with great scenes. My favourite is when Poole is visiting his old military-buddy and terrorizes the family with – at first – doing absolutely nothing. He just wants food, until his old friend is starting to provoke him…

I’ve heard this flick is out from MGM’s DVD on demand service, but I’ve seen a copy from TCM. But not matter how you see it, I’m sure you won’t get disappointed. A great movie, a great thriller.

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