I’m no more skilled with my DVR than I am with software installations or DIY furniture assembly, which means not at all. But getting by these days without ol’ reliable TCM and Eddie Muller’s Noir Alley, I have to make do with other channels like MOVIES! And it’s Noir To Die For and Sunday Night Noir showcases. To be fair, there are some true classics to be seen there like Peggy Cummins in 1950’s Gun Crazy, Gloria Grahame in 1953’s The Big Heat, Mitchum, Ryan (and Grahame again) in 1947’s Crossfire, Joan Bennett in Scarlet Street or Lizabeth Scott and Robert Mitchum in The Racket.
And then there are some ‘less-than-classic’ films like Night Editor (1946), Two of A Kind (1951), Murder By Contract (1958), Human Desire (1954), The Hoodlum (1951)…and Leslie Brooks in Jack Bernhard’s 1948 Blonde Ice.
The thing is, these movies air during weeknight wee hours often as not, and I’m still on-the-job and full-time (thank goodness) during the sheltering-in. Hence, the need to bone up on those DVR skills so I don’t end up with two hours of some informercial instead of a juicy noir classic or at least a near-classic B-movie crime melodrama.
As for Blonde Ice: Consider it a lost film noir or one of a zillion 1930’s – 1950’s B-movies gone missing without anyone noticing. But the film was rediscovered and restored in 2003, though fresh viewings and subsequent critical reassessments still seem to regard it as a so-called ‘minor noir’. The look is strictly low-budget B-movie throughout. The acting wasn’t going to garner any Oscar nominations (Brooks included), though the script is brimming with some nifty noir-ish lines. What makes Blonde Ice worth a viewing is seeing such a thoroughly amoral, greedy, and murderous female character from the postwar era. Leslie Brooks’ society reporter Claire Cummings Hanneman isn’t interested in engaging the audience’s sympathy, and the script makes little attempt to justify the cold and calculating way Claire goes for one man after another (and another and another)…leaving most of them dead. I’ve no idea if this is a faithful adaption of Elwyn Whitman Chambers’ 1938 novel Once Too Often or not, but I will suggest that Leslie Brooks’ Claire ranks up there with Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson, Jane Greer’s Kathy Moffat or Peggy Cummins’ Annie Laurie Starr…or Linda Fiorentino’s Bridget Gregory for that matter…if only for sheer malevolence.
I surmised that Blonde Ice wasn’t an ‘A’ release since I first noticed it on the cover of Arthur Lyons’ 2000 Death On The Cheap – The Lost Movies Of Film Noir (link below for a bit about that excellent book). Now there’s a memorable image: One dead guy, one revolver and one smirking woman counting her folding money. Kinda says it all when it comes to a true femme fatale.