Noir? Nope. Kinda-fun vintage sleaze with a dark veneer? You betcha.
Over-Exposed is a 1956 low-budget Columbia Cleo Moore leer-fest from director Lewis Seiler. If Moore’s collaborations with writer-director-actor Hugo Haas teased and titillated (with more sizzle on the films’ posters and lobby cards than on-screen), this one makes no excuses about being an exploitation flick. And yet, it’s pretty engaging and written/shot/acted much better than it had any need to be.
The film opens with Cleo Moore dragged from a paddy wagon along with a group of fellow clip-joint B-Girls and (we’re to assume) hookers while a crime photographer snaps away. The cops tell her to be on the next bus out of town if she wants to stay out of jail, but she ends up bunking down at the crime photographer’s dumpy home studio. He may be old and a drunk but they become pals and he teaches her some studio basics from both sides of the lens. Gifted with some of his old camera gear, she finally buys that bus ticket and heads for the big city, anxious to become a news photographer, but unprepared for the cut-throat competition.
She hooks up with a young, handsome reporter played by Richard Crenna (on a break from the last season of his long-running radio/TV role as geeky high-schooler Walter Denton on Our Miss Brooks). He’s smitten right from the start, but Cleo’s not looking for love, she’s looking to make it big in the big bad city. She’s working soon enough, but only as a mob-connected cocktail lounge’s “flash girl” where the fit of her skimpy costume is more important than her camera skills. Ambition gets the best of her, though. “Green becomes me,” she says, and soon enough her camera’s got her tied up with a sleazy columnist, mobsters and blackmail schemes, ultimately kidnapped by the mob.
Cleo Moore’s not Ida Lupino or Lauren Bacall. Richard Crenna’s not Bogart or Mitchum. And director Seiler (who started out in the silent era) isn’t Fritz Lang or Nicholas Ray, though he did direct Whiplash in 1948. This is pure exploitation drive-in fare, ripe with leering mid-fifties naughtiness (which means it’s kind of tacky). But Moore delivers this time, the story moves along at a decent clip and there’s a nicely crafted shot or two along the way. And by that I don’t mean all the ogling of Cleo Moore prancing around her apartment studio in a black leotard and mesh hose or tussling with lushes in in her “flash girl” costume. Over-Exposed is in rotation on the Movies! Network’s two night’s of sorta and sorta-not noir films, and if you have that channel, I’d give this one a try.