Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

September 26, 2021

Dean Jagger in C-MAN (1949), with John Carradine

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:50 am

offbeat but interesting indie crime-noir film

The few who know this film are probably either hardcore film-noir completists or hardcore John Carradine fans who must have every film “the master” appeared in. I’m glad I recently had an opportunity to view the film, because it is a fascinating independently-made crime-noir film with a number of unique touches. Most of the film is shot either on location on the streets of New York or in VERY small low-budget sets. The location shooting is quite interesting, using unexpected camera angles and giving the film a kind of documentary feel–one suspects that director Joseph Lerner and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld were familiar with the Italian neo-realists. I could watch hours of this kind of footage, capturing 1949 New York, as it was experienced by people on foot, through great low-angle shots. And the musical score, by Gail Kubik, is quite avant-garde–sections of it sounding like early John Cage or Stan Kenton at his most atonal. Ms. Kubik was obviously a fine composer who adapted her avant-garde music well to a crime film–I’m anxious to hear some of her other work. Dean Jagger is not the most convincing tough guy, but he is a good enough actor to handle the expository dialogue and unnecessary voice-overs and make them sound SOMEWHAT natural! Lottie Elwen, playing a woman from Holland whom Jagger meets and who gets the mystery, such as it is, in motion, is quite seductive and was an excellent choice for the role. John Carradine can create a distinctive supporting character in his sleep, and once again he does that here as a fallen, now-crooked doctor who has had his medical license revoked (he’s only in a few scenes). We should, with hindsight, give credit to the filmmakers who were obviously working on a VERY low budget, yet created a distinctive looking film and a film with lots of atmosphere. Fans of obscure noir-crime films should seek it out; although it’s certainly not a flawless classic, there’s something real and raw and spontaneous about it, and that quality transcends any other limitations the film has.

(review originally published in 2002)

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