I first saw The Window as a kid in the 1960s when it was shown as part of New York's legendary Million Dollar Movie broadcast. I can't recall seeing it many times since then, so I was all the more astonished at how well I remembered virtually every seen when I viewed the DVD release through Warner Archive. The film must have made a tremendous impression on me to have an impact that has lingered so long. What also strikes me is that the impact has not been diminished at all. The low-bduget RKO release was shot on location in Brooklyn and conveys a real feel for life in the tenemants during one particularly scorching summer. The 1949 movie stars Bobby Driscoll, a Disney discovery, as Tommy, a small boy with a penchant for telling tall tales. His loving, but frustrated parents (Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy) are exasperrated by their inability to teach Tommy about the dangers of crying wolf. One night when Tommy seeks to nullify the searing heat by sleeping on the fire escape, he looks through the window of a neighboring apartment- and witnesses the resident husband and wife (Paul Stewart and Ruth Roman) murdering a man in a bungled robbery attempt. Because of his constant fabrications, Tommy finds know one believes him. An ill-advised trip to the police station only results in sullying his reputation even further. When the murderous couple learn that Tommy has witnessed their crime, he realizes it's only a matter of time before they kill him, as well. The opportunity presents itself when an emergency requires that Tommy be left alone in the apartment. This sets the stage for a nail-biting confrontation when the murderers kidnap Tommy and attempt to do away with him.
It's ironic that only weeks before her death, Warner Archive released the obscure Girl of the Night which afforded Anne Francis a rare starring role in a theatrical feature. The 1960 modestly-budgeted movie purports to examine the pitfalls of a young woman who becomes a high-priced call girl. Francis plays Robin Williams (not the hairy guy from Mork and Mindy), a charismatic 24 year-old trying to carve a life for herself in New York City. She soon falls in love with Larry Taylor (John Kerr), a charismatic cad who pretends to love her while acting as her pimp. For a while, Robin seems content. She's pulling in enough loot to maintain a high lifestyle for herself and Larry, taking "appointments" from floozy madame Rowena (Kay Medford.) When she learns Larry has been cheating on her, she despairs and seeks advice from psychiatrist Dr. Mitchell (Lloyd Nolan in typically stoic Lloyd Nolan mode.) Much of the story unfolds as Robin relates to Dr. Mitchell how a troubled childhood of abuse and neglect led her to prostitution. Mitchell tries to convince her she is still being used and abused by Larry, who she consistently forgives, against her better judgment.
Cinema Retro readers know that columnist Tom Lisanti wrote a piece for issue #17 about the little-seen 1969 thriller Once You Kiss a Stranger that included comments from the film's star Carol Lynley. At the time, the film was unavailable on DVD, but lo and behold, yet another cult movie we've written about has now been released to home video. We're starting to think we have a crystal ball that influences studio executives. In any event, the movie is a minor trifle, but a fun one, that is primarily distinguished by Lynley playing against type as an outwardly charming and seductive young woman who is, in fact, a mentally unstable person with a penchant for violence. Curiously, the movie is a loose remake of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train, as both films were inspired by Patricia Highsmith's source novel.
Lynley plays Diana, a consistently perky type who hides her emotional turmoils within her. Distraught by the possibility that her aged aunt and psychiatrist might re-commit her to a mental asylum, she concocts a scenario for the perfect crime. She seduces a married, famous golf pro (Paul Burke) and in playful pillow talk, tells him she will kill his main rival on the golf circuit, thus ensuring he will become a champion. In return, Burke is expected to kill the psychiatrist before he can have her committed to the asylum. Burke jokingly plays along, unaware the bedroom chatter is being secretly videotaped. (This is probably one of the earliest uses of a home video camera to figure into a motion picture storyline). When Burke discovers Lynley has actually carried out the murder, he is blackmailed by her. He faces a Hobson's Choice: either kill the psychiatrist or face the gas chamber for his role in the killing of the golfer.
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