Friday, June 10, 2011

This file could probably have stayed hidden

Secret File: Hollywood (1962)
Starring: Robert Clarke, Francine York, Sydney Mason, John Warburton, Bill White, and Maralou Gray
Director: Ralph Cushman
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A former private detective (Clarke) is hired by a scandal sheet to take pictures of celebrities for the publication. However, he soon discovers there is a dark and deadly side to the magazine's activities, and he find himself in the middle of blackmail schemes... and ultimately having to prevent his own murder.

"Secret File Hollywood" is a film that reminded me of the crime dramas from the old time low-budget studio PRC, an outfit that one could say was making film-noir movies before the subgenre existed. Like those films, "Secret File Hollywood" is populated almost exclusively by deeply flawed and unpleasant characters, living in a dank version of Los Angeles that feels all the more dirty and sleazy because of the cheap sets and low production values of the films. Glamour is the last thing you'll find in most PRC movies, although nihilism is present in large amounts.

The film's villain also shares a trait with many of those who moved through the plots of the PRC films with sneers, growls, and maniacal laughter; he is executing an insane revenge scheme in an unnecessarily complex fashion. And then there's the fact his secret identity isn't so secret, because the cast of characters is so small that there's only really one possibility as to who he might be.

The acting is decent and what you might expect if you consider the aura of a 1940s low-budget quickie that surrounds this picture. There isn't a scene where I wish they didn't pick up the pace a bit, but the actors generally provide solid performances of their stock characters.

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