Capital Celluloid 2023 — Day 110: Thu Apr 20

Desert Fury (Allen, 1947): Cinema Museum, 7.30pm

Time Out review:
This odd little drama usually gets labeled a film noir, with the caveat that it’s filmed in Technicolor. It would be more accurate to say that it’s a genre hybrid, an uncategorizable whatsit from an era when films didn’t always have to be tidily slotted. The action takes place in a small Nevada town called Chuckawalla, where tough dame Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor) runs the local casino. Fritzi’s bad-girl daughter Paula (Lizabeth Scott) starts a romance with gangster Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak), who’s got a shady secret involving his wife’s death. He’s also got a gun-toting sidekick (Wendell Corey) whose closeness to Eddie can’t help but raise an eyebrow for contemporary audiences. Lewis Allen’s fondness for the landscape suggests a Western transplanted to the postwar era. There’s even a scene with local cop Tom (Burt Lancaster) breaking in a horse. But the script also feels like a melodrama, with mother/daughter tensions and a love affair as the central plot element. It could easily have been a horrible jumble, but in fact it’s compulsively watchable. Maybe it’s the great supporting cast, all of them more interesting than Scott or Hodiak. Maybe it’s the gorgeous but not garish use of Technicolor. Or maybe Allen, an all-but-forgotten studio director, deserves more credit for holding it all together.
Hank Sartin

(and above) is the trailer.

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