A small entry this week, because the movie’s actually pretty good. It takes place in a town settled by adverb enthusiasts:
As the movie opens, we meet Officer John Kerry, explaining the town’s name to a fellow seeking directions:
Actually, he doesn’t explain it. No one does. It just hangs there: “Suddenly, California.” Perhaps its sister city was Abruptly, PA.
Some inadvertant documentary of the small Calilfornia town - Newall and Saugus were the locales:
Love the modern streamlined . . . thing on the roof. We soon meet the cast of characters. First:
Sterling Hayden, he of the BOOMING VOICE. A nice-guy policeman who’s a pillar of the community, a friend to all, role-model to a boy whose father died in the war, and wooer of the Town Widder-Lady, who’s the mother of the aforementioned boy. He wants to date her - offers to take her to church, just to the audience he’s not a wolf - but she’s still damaged goods.
She lives with Pops, her husband’s dad, and Pops sets forth the movie’s basic themes quite bluntly. (flash video; mouse over for controls.)
If you suspect she’ll end up not only renouncing her opinions but plugging someone with a revolver, well, you’ve seen a few movies from the 1950s.
Plot: the president is making an unexpected stop in town. The Secret Service shows up to check out Pops’ house, because it has a nice view of the train station. They seem nice enough.
When I saw this movie as a kid, it terrified me. The main killer - shown above - was a hella scary headcase, a born killer, a weakling who only found self-purpose when he was taking a life. This was my first exposure to the actor, and may explain why I’ve been indifferent to him ever since - his other skills aside.
He's very good. It’s a tight, nervous piece of work. It was withdrawn eight years after it was made, due to the JFK assassination; stories that Frank demanded it be hidden away are apparently untrue. In any case, it lapsed into the public domain, which is why something of this quality is on the “100 Mysteries” selection.
One fellow I didn’t notice until the credits rollled:
I hardly recognized the voice, which is unusual - it’s one of the most distinctive voices of his time. And ours: at this very moment, in California and Florida, his prerecorded voice speaks from beyond the grave in Disney’s “Haunted Mansion.” Paul Frees.