There are times when it’s hard to tell the difference between Lewis R. Foster and Lewis D. Collins, but “Crashout,” Foster’s powerful, independently produced film noir from 1955, isn’t one of them. The film unites practically every great supporting player in the genre — William Bendix, Arthur Kennedy, Luther Adler, William Talman, Gene Evans and Marshall Thompson, with no-extra-charge appearances by Beverly Michaels, Percy Helton, Tom Dugan and Morris Ankrum — for a jailbreak story that might have been written by Jean-Paul Sartre, but is actually credited to Foster (an Oscar winner for the dubiously “original” story of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”)and the producer Hal E. Chester. One suspects that other, invisible hands may have been involved. Suspect number one is Cy Endfield, a longtime associate of Chester (from his debut with the “Joe Palooka” films to the major “Underworld Story” of 1950), who at the time of “Crashout” was living in London to escape the blacklist; number two is Ida Lupino, whose production company, The Filmmakers, originally distributed “Crashout,” and whose influence can certainly be felt in the casting of Talman (so brilliant as the psychopathic killer in Lupino’s 1953 “The Hitch-Hiker”) and the stoic resignation of “Crashout”‘s two primary female characters, a failed singer played by Gloria Talbott and a single mom played by Michaels (usually cast as a floozy, but quite affecting here as a woman who’s seen it all). The film has just been released in a good Blu-ray edition from Olive; my New York Times review is here.
I’ve also slipped in a couple of paragraphs on “In Old Arizona,” the 1928 western that was among the first features to take sound technology on location, and also happened to cost Raoul Walsh his right eye. Walsh was set to direct and to star as the Cisco Kid (his long dormant acting career having been revived by the success of “Sadie Thompson” earlier that year), but left the film after a few days when a jackrabbit jumped through the windshield of his car and forced him off the road. In a development as unexpected as it is encouraging, Fox Home Entertainment has released a beautifully restored Blu-ray of the film (though one suspects that the studio’s interest was driven less by appreciation of Walsh than the fact that the film won a best actor Oscar for his replacement, Warner Baxter). I’d be willing to bet that the openings sequences, which establish the small western town where much of the action is set with the kind of brilliant foreground-background tension Walsh would go on to exploit in “The Big Trail”) are Walsh’s work, and the better definition of the Blu-ray reveals what sure looks to me like Walsh himself, demonstrating some fancy horsemanship in some long shots during a round-up scene.
Speaking of Walsh, I’ll be at the Pacific Film Archive this Thursday to introduce his magnificent 1932 western romance “Wild Girl,” and participate in a conversation with the critic Michael Fox. Please do stop by if you’re in the area — I can’t vouch for the chat but I can promise that the movie is good. I’ll be back on Saturday for screenings of “The Lawless Breed” and “Pursued.”