Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thursday Movie Picks #160: Crime Families

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of "Thursday Movie Picks", the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is crime families, and I'm actually selecting four movies this week since one of them is a remake of another:

House of Strangers (1949) and Broken Lance (1954). In the original, Richard Conte plays a young man who's just returned home from a stretch in prison, having been induced into taking the fall at the behest of his older step-brothers. However, he knows a lot about what his older brothers did, and they want to get him out of the way. Meanwhile, Mom dotes on him and he's got a new girlfriend (Susan Hayward). Broken Lance moves the action out west, with Robert Wagner playing the youngest son, and Spencer Tracy the father. Both of them are good although rather different in tone thanks to the radically different settings.

Young Jesse James (1960). Ray Stickland plays the title role in this quickie that looks at the Civil War period in Jesse James' life. The movie ends before the era in which Jesse becomes the leader of the James gang, something that makes this one interesting. Oh, and there's also a robbery in which Jesse plays the decoy by going in drag. Fox distributed a bunch of shortish movies like this one during the era when Cleopatra was hemmorhaging money, and this might be one of the best.

Animal Kingdom (2010). James Frecheville plays a young man in Australia whose mother ODs to death, so he moves back in with his grandmother (Jacki Weaver). His uncles are living with her too, and they're a gang of criminals in an era when the cops are going vigilante. Grandma may just be spoiling them, or she may be much more malevolent. Weaver got a well-deserved Oscar nomination, and the story is excellent.

Now to see what everybody else has selected.


joel65913 said...

Love both House of Strangers and Broken Lance! The tonal differences that you mention are very helpful in making each their own distinct picture. Great casts in both, though Katy Jurado's Oscar nomination was surely a makeup one for her snubbing in High Noon previously.

Young Jesse James is a nice out the main choice even if the film is so much bottom bill fodder.

Everybody loved Animal Kingdom more than me. I thought it was an okay film with decent performances but I have zero interest in ever watching it again. I does fit very well today though.

I saw you mention Bloody Mama elsewhere and wish I had thought of it. I could have done a mini theme of just films about her using this, my pick and Guns Don't Argue. Shelley certainly chews the high grade ham in the film.

Oh well instead I picked these three.

Bonnie & Clyde (1967)-Seminal, trend-setting drama of the criminal pair who terrorized the heartland during the depression with Clyde’s brother and his wife. Stylish and ultra-violent this made Warren Beatty a major player in Hollywood, a star of Faye Dunaway, moved Gene Hackman considerably up the ladder as Buck Barrow and won Estelle Parsons a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as Buck’s screeching wife Blanche.

White Heat (1949)-James Cagney stars as Cody Jarrett a psychotic gangster with a mother fixation in one of the best crime noirs of the 40’s. An utterly ruthless man who thinks nothing of gunning down an unarmed man he is prone to violent headaches, an incipient signal of total madness, that can only be soothed by sitting on Ma Jarrett’s (a chilling Margaret Wycherly) knee as she strokes his head. Sent to prison after being caught during their last job Cody is a targeted man both by the undercover agent (Edmund O’Brien) who has been planted to befriend him and one of his henchmen (Steven Cochran) and Cody’s grasping wife Verna (Virginia Mayo) who want to take over the gang. Breaking out he sets out to reassert his dominance during the robbery of a chemical plant payroll but things spiral out of control leading to a fiery climax. Classic Cagney.

Ma Barker’s Killer Brood (1960)-Exploitation version of the Barker clan headed by the ruthlessly murderous Ma (Lurene Tuttle). Revisionist in the extreme showing the gang working with John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd and Baby Face Nelson though there’s no proof that they knew any of them in reality. Still it’s a trim little crime caper with Lurene Tuttle, who usually played sweet best friends and sensible mothers, having a grand old time tearing into the merciless and deranged mastermind. She rules her boys with an iron fist mocking any sign of weakness and not sparing the corporeal punishment to all if she thinks it necessary.

Birgit said...

I have only seen Broken Lance and this is a great pick for this week. I'd love to see the others except for the last one. It is popular today and I have no desire to see Animal Kingdom

Dell said...

I'm feeling like I really missed the boat since almost everyone has picked Animal Kingdom, but I haven't seen it yet. Haven't seen your other picks, either. Man, I'm struggling this week.

Wanderer said...

Have only seen one of your picks, Animal Kingdom which I thought was great.