Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monkey On My Back

(1957, USA, 94m, b/w)
d André de Toth p Edward Small sc Paul Dudley, Anthony Veiller, Crane Wilbur ph Maury Gertsman ed Grant Whytock ad Frank Hotaling m Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter cast Cameron Mitchell, Dianne Foster, Paul Richards, Jack Albertson, Kathy Garver, Lisa Golm, Barry Kelley, Dayton Lummis, Lewis Charles

Beaten to the punch by The Man With The Golden Arm, de Toth’s junkie film stands in gritty contrast to Preminger’s typically self-important A-flick. There’s nothing flashy or self-aggrandising about this (true) story of champion boxer, marine and morphine addict Barney Ross, and it is told with the efficiency and immediacy of a Fuller exposé. Mitchell was firmly B-list but he grabs the role with both hands; even if he can’t match Sinatra’s charismatic star-power, an everyday mug and indefatiguable optimism make his desperate descent into the gutter of addiction all the more affective. An eerie staging of Guadalcanal – silent but for rain and bursts of gunfire – is the hell from which his addiction is born, and the back-alley world of the jonesing junkie rings grubbily true. With strong support from Foster as his wary wife and a louche and laconic Richards as his dealer, it plays like the heartfelt, street-level version of Preminger’s tentpole.

© Time Out Film Guide

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