Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fathers and Sons

This capture, courtesy of DVDBeaver, shows Wallach and Keith, and another of my favorite tough guys, Richard Jaeckel (looking quite youthful) as the wheelman

Was just finally looking at Don Siegel's crackling The Lineup (1958) yesterday, via that Columbia Noir boxset that came out a few years back.  I was most impressed by the striking compositions of d.p. Hal Mohr, Siegel's ingenious use of practical San Francisco locations, such as the then-under construction Embarcadero Freeway, and the writing and unique interplay of the two killers played by Eli Wallach and Robert Keith.  Wallach does all the killing while the older, ostensibly more refined Keith provides hitman "coaching," and perversely asks Wallach for the victim's last words after each murder for use in an eventual book of some kind, the details of which are sketchy.

Keith takes aim at Aldo Ray

Watching these two, I was reminded of the oddball relationship of the two killers in Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall (from Volume 2) released the year prior, also by Columbia.  In that film, one of those killers--the primary adversary to hero Aldo Ray--is played by Keith's son Brian.  He is an unusually verbose, intelligent, and philosophical hitman, partnered with a much thicker, more hot-headed goon, portrayed by Rudy Bond.  Bond's Red is reminiscent, in his viciousness and stupidity, of George Kennedy's Red from the much later Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.

The tagline refers to The Lineup's origins as a television program

A contract player at Columbia at this time, Brian Keith acted in a few of the studio's notable noir efforts, in addition to Nightfall, including Phil Karlson's Tight Spot (with an equally great alternate title--Dead Pigeon) and Karlson's 5 Against the House.  He worked in character roles up until his death in '97, a favorite of mine being Papa in Sharky's Machine.  The elder Keith was quite good in a much quieter part--mute, in fact--as the catatonic "the Colonel" in Anthony Mann's superlative Korean War pic Men in War (also with Aldo Ray).

Anyway, these are both great late-era noir entries, Nightfall and The Lineup, and I like that they are connected by the under-recognized Keith pere and fils.

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