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Hard-Hitting Heroes [DVD]

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Overview

Synopsis

Beat the Devil
Humphrey Bogart stars as one of five disreputable adventurers who are trying to get uranium out of East Africa. Bogart's associates include pompous fraud Robert Morley, and Peter Lorre as the German-accented "O'Hara", whose wartime record is forever a source of speculation and suspicion. Becoming involved in Bogart's machinations are a prim British married couple (Edward Underdown and blonde-wigged Jennifer Jones). As a climax to their many misadventures and double-crosses, the uranium seekers end up facing extermination by an Arab firing squad. The satirical nature of Beat the Devil eluded many moviegoers in 1953, and the film was a failure. The fact that the picture attained cult status in lesser years failed to impress its star Humphrey Bogart, who could only remember that he lost a considerable chunk of his own money when he became involved in the project. Peter Viernick worked on the script on an uncredited basis. Beat the Devil eventually fell into public domain, leading to numerous inferior editions by second and third-tiered labels. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Man With the Golden Arm
When Otto Preminger was willing to release his drug-addiction drama Man With the Golden Arm without the sanction of a Production Code seal, it proved to be yet another nail in the coffin of that censorial dinosaur. Based on the novel by Nelson Algren, the film stars Frank Sinatra as Frankie Machine, expert card dealer (hence the title). Recently released from prison, Frankie is determined to set his life in order -- and that means divesting himself of his drug habit. He dreams of becoming a jazz drummer, but his greedy wife Eleanor Parker wants him to continue his lucrative gambling activities. Since Parker is confined to a wheelchair as a result of a car accident caused by Frankie, he's in no position to refuse. Only the audience knows that Parker is not crippled, but is faking her invalid status to keep Frankie under her thumb. Gambling boss Robert Strauss wants Frankie to deal at a high-stakes poker game; terrified that he's lost his touch, Frankie asks dope pusher Darren McGavin to supply him with narcotics. When McGavin discovers that Parker is not an invalid, she kills him, and Frankie (who is elsewhere at the time) is accused of the murder. He is willing to go to the cops, but he doesn't want to show up with drugs in his system. So with the help of sympathetic B-girl Kim Novak, Sinatra locks himself up and goes "cold turkey"-a still-harrowing sequence, despite the glut of "doper" films that followed in the wake of this picture. After Parker herself is killed in a suicidal fall, the path is cleared for Frankie to pursue a clean new life with Novak. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Time of Your Life
After turning down several other Hollywood producers, playwright William Saroyan sold the film rights of his whimsical Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Time of Your Life to James and William Cagney. The scene is a rundown San Francisco waterfront bar, populated by a group of lovable eccentrics. Joe (James Cagney), a philosophical souse, encourages all around him to indulge in their wildest dreams. Joe's pal Tom (Wayne Morris), a born patsy, runs errands for Joe, the only person who has ever shown him kindness. Kitty (Jeanne Cagney), a streetwalker, willingly allows Joe to sponge drinks off her in exchange for a few nice words. Harry (Paul Draper), an enthusiastic but hopelessly untalented dancer-comedian, is hired by bartender Nick (William Bendix) at Joe's urging. And Kit Carson (James Barton), an addled old man who lives in a dream world, is prodded by Joe into weaving his unlikely reminiscences of the Wild West. It is Kit Carson (James Barton) who solves everyone's problems by eliminating a particularly scabrous detective named Blick (Tom Powers). Time of Your Life was originally filmed with Saroyan's bizarrely humorous ending intact, but the preview audiences reacted negatively, forcing the Cagney brothers to shoot $300,000 worth of retakes. Though many historians have written off The Time of Your Life as a brave failure, the film was actually a hit, grossing $1.5 million. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Humphrey Bogart
    Humphrey Bogart - Billy Dannreuther
  • Jennifer Jones
    Jennifer Jones - Gwendolyn Chelm
  • Gina Lollobrigida
    Gina Lollobrigida - Maria Dannreuther
  • Robert Morley
    Robert Morley - Peterson
  • Peter Lorre
    Peter Lorre - O'Hara
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