Welcome to Noirvember 2020! Do you ever feel like you've seen just about every film noir there is to see? I don't, but I have seen most of the big-name noir titles, so this year I'm focusing on the lesser-known films, many of them lower-budgeted ventures, so don't bring along your furs and diamond cufflinks. A cheap thrift store suit will do you just fine. But when Noir City International hits virtually on November 13, I'll be exploring many of those films, so I hope there'll be something for everyone. But for now, let's get started with a nifty low-budget affair with Lawrence Tierney...
The Hoodlum (1951)
Directed by Max Nosseck
Produced by Maurice Kosloff
Written by Sam Neuman, Nat Tanchuck
Cinematography by Clark Ramsey
Edited by Jack Killifer
Music by Darrell Calker
Jack Schwarz Productions
Distributed by Eagle-Lion
(1:01) Alpha Video DVD
“Now you cry, when it’s too late for tears.”
The opening of The Hoodlum takes great pains to tell us (via voiceover narration, of course) that Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney) is one bad dude. The implication is that Vince not only is a criminal, but has no regard for human life, even for those closest to him. When Vince comes up for parole, Warden Stevens (an uncredited Gene Roth) thinks it’s a bad idea to parole him after only five years of a ten-year sentence, but the parole board and Vince’s mother (Lisa Golm) overrule him.
The warden argues to Mrs. Lubeck that Vince cares for no one, not even her:
Warden: “Did he ever bring home a paycheck? Buy something for you?”
Mrs. Lubeck: “Good times, they don’t prove anything.”
But Vince needs a job, and fortunately his brother Johnny (Edward Tierney, Lawrence’s younger brother) owns a gas station where Vince can earn an honest living. Constantly reminded that he grew up smelling the rancid odors of the neighborhood dump, Vince wants nothing to do with the grease and oil.
He hates the gas station, but things are looking up: There’s a bank right across the street, and Vince learns exactly when the armored car comes around and how he might hijack it.
What keeps this film in noir territory (rather than the gangster genre) is Vince’s refusal to think that the connections in his life - family or otherwise - mean anything in this world other than the means to an end. Vince even has no regard for Johnny’s girlfriend Rosa (Allene Roberts), seducing her behind Johnny’s back. In the film’s best scene, Mrs. Lubeck realizes what an absolute louse Vince is and tells him so.
The Hoodlum isn’t a great film, but it’s far better than I was expecting. Although his better films were already behind him, Tierney delivers a very good performance. (His brother Edward isn’t bad, but he didn’t have a very distinguished career, unlike Tierney’s other more famous brother, Scott Brady.) The elements of family, combined with an anti-hero, make The Hoodlum worth an hour of your time. I watched it on the Alpha Video DVD, but you can also find it on Amazon Prime.
Next up: A film noir that was popular in 1946 that's largely forgotten today. Should it be? Find out tomorrow!