The weekly Ho-Hum: new friends at Golden Age…heaving Ho for the holidays…the Freudian ramifications of Wallace Ford
Rag, Mama, Rag: Juli Reding as a Spirit World Shrew in Tormented
Set on an island with a lighthouse, Gene Roth’s hamburger stand and Joe Turkel’s water taxi, Tormented stars Richard Carlson as a jazz pianist (!), engaged to a Barbie Doll woman with a rather large mouth (Lugene Sanders) and an omnipresent Little Sister (Susan Gordon, Mr. B.I.G.’s daughter). But Richard’s just let his other girlfriend (Juli Reding) fall to her death, and her Possessive, Nagging Ghost starts screwing with his head. “It’s a great concept,” said Nelhydrea, “you can do so much with it—the girlfriend that won’t shut up, even though she’s dead.” On it went to the top of my Netflix queue.
The peril in such foolhardy shenanigans is trusting his memory. (Nelhydrea hasn’t seen it in 43 years—a lot of water under that bridge.) The film emanates from a shallow source. It may run a trim 75 minutes, but nonetheless falls to tedium. There are no surprises, other than to see what a clueless, helpless actor Richard Carlson could be when floundering without a real director. “I don’t want to disillusion you,” I said to Nelhydrea, “but I’ve made a conscious decision to not make a copy of Tormented for you. In fact, I’ve made a conscious decision to not make a copy of it for me to watch, ever again.”
He sagged like a deer taking a bullet. “But…but…it freaked me out!” The Fear started creeping in on his face—the jig, as they say, was up. His youthful romanticism was just another tacky sham.
“Of course it did: you were a stupid little kid. Whatever’s tucked away in that rat’s maze of a mind shouldn’t have to face this Truth. If you have to, revisit Tormented in the Memory Hole. The genuine article may paralyze you for life.
“Now, if you want to talk about being Freaked Out,” I continued, “last night I caught Blues in the Night (1941) on TCM. Anatole Litvak a year after City for Conquest...he must’ve had a thing for unstable musicians. This time it’s white jazz dudes exploiting Negro Suffering. Future director Richard Whorf plays ‘Jigger’ and has the teeth of Hillary Swank, Jack Carson is on trumpet, and Billy Halop’s struggling with homosexual impulses and an acute lack of thespic finesse. Priscilla Lane plays a character named ‘Character.’ It was shot when 40-year-old men looked like Wallace Ford, and has two disturbing dream/hallucination sequences, eerie montages put together by Don Siegel. The thing segues freely from cheapjack musical to low-rent noir to faux Hawksian chatterbox—Elia Kazan jabbering at stroke level—eroticism, a momentary suggestion of Lane knocked up by her husband’s pal, Betty Field looking like she’s auditioning for Detour, and Lloyd Nolan bumming a ride in a boxcar!”
“Hey, don’t knock Wallace Ford,” he said. “Ever see him in The Last Hurrah? He was excellent in that!”
“Of course,” I replied. “But I have a problem with Wallace Ford. It stems back to The Mummy’s Hand. He plays a dude named ‘Babe,’ which was probably quite Hip at the time but now just skeeves me out. He’s always sucking on a blatantly phallic cigar, and he shacks up with Dick Foran. I think he rubs a little hula doll named ‘Boopsie.’ And, I’m sorry, but I look at him and I can’t help thinking: what ungainly, wretchedly ugly feet he must’ve had.”
I could see it in Nelhydrea’s eyes: here we go with The Feet. That, of course, is a Another Story for Another Day…