The American poet Will Smith once declared, “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble.” Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 2 contains four films that remind us the trouble that can emanate from the hard-boiled dames and the sweet ones. Instead of a variety of actresses that took on roles in these low budget underbelly films, the harsh contrast light shines on actress Cleo Moore with three of her finer films. She became a second tier icon of the Poverty Row crime flicks after a part in the legendary Film Noir On Dangerous Ground with Robert Ryan.
Night Editor (1946 – 66 minutes) takes us back to a thrilling time when people actually cared about newspapers. This isn’t a dynamic tale involving a reporter fighting to expose the truth. What happens is night crew of the newspaper are dealing cards and stories. The winning hand involves a tale of a married detective (William Gargan) and his socialite mistress (Janis Carter). While they’re on illicit date, he witnesses a murder. She convinces him to forget what they’ve seen since their love can’t be exposed. It would ruin her reputation and his marriage. How long can he hold back the truth while watching an innocent man get snared in the police dragnet? The mistress does her best to make sure the detective doesn’t become a hero. This is a feisty low budget crime flick. This is the only film to not feature Cleo Moore in this boxset.
One Girl’s Confession (1953 – 74 minutes) brings us Cleo. She wasn’t the typical siren luring the weak willed onto the rocks. Sure she was a buxom blond, but her characters were sympathetic. She wasn’t too happy being trapped in the underbelly. For this film she embezzles $25,000 from a boss that cheated her late father. She buries the cash and serves time instead of surrendering a map to her booty. When she gets out, she ends up trusting her latest employer too much. He hits a rough spot and she gives him directions to the cash. He returns claiming to have found nothing. She suspects he’s secretly living large on her gain. She’s not happy getting used and abused. Never cross a woman that knows how to fill out a sweater.
Women’s Prison (1955 – 80 minutes) gets my attention just because it’s about women behind bars. In the era of the Donna Reed wife, we get the ladies who have not merely broken the law, but are serving their punishment to society. Ida Lupino (also in On Dangerous Ground) is the sadistic female warden. Phyllis Thaxter is hysterical when she’s brought inside to serve her time for motor vehicle manslaughter. Can she handle life behind bars? She gets a little protection from Cleo Moore. Audrey Totter and her husband are both serving time in opposite sides of the facility. He keeps finding ways to sneak over into the women’s section. This leads to Audrey getting knocked up. Lupino doesn’t appreciate conjugal visits and takes her anger out on the mother-to-be. A riot follows her extreme punishment. This ladies behind bars tale gets as tawdry as a movie could get for the era.
Over-Exposed (1956 – 80 minutes) has Cleo learn the secrets of photography to rise from her sad state. Her gig at a nightclub goes bad when the cops raid it for being a clip joint. She finds refuge with an old photographer. She’s an eager student in learning the camera and darkroom. This leads to her getting a gig as a photographer at a swanky restaurant-nightclub. This leads to her getting professional gigs and commercial work. She’s really going places. But things go wrong when she gets stuck as an alibi for a mobster. Can she get untangled or will she be dragged back down into the sewer? You can tell this film has a tight budget during an action scene. Instead of smashing a guy into a wall using a truck, they stop a few yards short and let the guys fight it out. No worry about the cost of repairing the prop truck’s bumper. At least they spent a little cash to make Cleo Moore’s bumpers shine.
Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 2 is a fine tribute to Cleo Moore’s short time as a low budget star. The Louisiana born beauty rose to quality of these films without looking like she was artistically slumming. She seemed like the kinda woman who would end up in these situations. Although it is hard to describe her as a bad girl. She’s more misunderstood. Although she was always a magnet for trouble.
The video for Night Editor and One Girl’s Confession are 1.33:1 full frame. Women’s Prison and Over Exposed are 1.85:1 anamorphic. All four black and white transfers keep the gritty elements to the action and off the frame. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. You’ll hear the clank of the cellblock doors in the women’s prison.
Remember to Live – All Star Theatre Episode (24:14) is a TV episode.
One Girl’s Confession Trailer (1:47) teases us with the line “Maybe I’m Bad, but what Makes You So Good” while Cleo Moore is sunbathing on the beach.
Women’s Prison Trailer (2:04) gets my attention with the promise of “Prison Love Nest Scandal!”
Over-Exposed Trailer (1:41) is Cleo Moore at her bad girl best with her deviant lifestyle. She’s the “Camera Queen of Clip Joints!”
Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 2 keeps up the good work found on Volume 1. Cleo Moore deserves this semi-career retrospective. She’s a low budget gem in these low budget crime flicks. She looks so tempting behind bars. Volume 2 also deserves the Raymond J. Regis Memorial Vintage Vintage Titles of the Month Award.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment presents Bad Girls of Film Noir, Volume 2. Starring: Cleo Moore, Raymond Greenleaf, Phyllis Thaxter, Ida Lupino and William Gargan. Boxset Contents: 4 feature films on 2 DVDs. Released on DVD: February 9, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.
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