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Another film viewed by the subcommittee was entitled "Crashout." This film was produced by Film Makers, Inc. In a review in the Motion Picture Herald of April 2, 1955, the following description of the film was presented:
Bendix (William) heads a vicious band consisting of Arthur Kennedy, Luther Adler, William Talman, Jean Evans, and Marshall Thompson. The desperate team breaks out of prison and heads for a cache of hidden money. As anticipated, their adventurous exploits en route to the loot terrorize the countryside, as, one by one, the group decreases in quantity and increases in brutality. This is not recommended for squeamish audiences."
This is felt to be another film that violates that section of the Motion Picture Production Code which reads:
There must be no suggestion at any time of excessive brutality.
The opening scene of this film depicts the escape from prison of a group of criminals. In this scene a prison guard is shown being shot. Regulation 10 of the Special Regulations on Crime in Motion Pictures
There must be no scenes at any time showing law-enforcement officers dying at the hands of criminals unless such scenes are absolutely necessary to the development of the plot. This includes private detectives and guards for banks, motortrucks, etc.
Another scene in the film shows a motorcycle policeman standing in the middle of a parking lot and being run down by an automobile driven by one of the escaped convicts.
The following scenes of a brutal or sadistic nature appear during the course of this motion picture:
(1) Two of the escaped convicts are shot by a prison guard who then lay perfectly motionless in an attempt to deceive the guard into believing that they are dead. Their attempt is made more difficult when we see a swarm of ants crawling over the bloody arm of one of the wounded criminals.
(2) In another scene a doctor is abducted and brought to the cave where the criminals are hiding out in order to minister to a wounded escapee. When the criminals decide to leave the cave the doctor is left behind bound and gagged. However, the gang leader sends one of the criminals back to erase any evidence of their having been there and the possibility of the doctor talking. The criminal picks up a large rock and as he enters the cave, a muffled scream is heard and then a loud thud as, presumably, the rock is smashed on the doctor's head.
(3) One of the criminals is shown being murdered by another of the group as a knife is thrown into his back. He is then shown twitching on the ground for a few seconds until he dies.
(4) In another scene, the convicts terrorize a roadside restaurant. A young female patron is passed from one criminal to another and is forcibly kissed. The male patrons are forced to remove their outer clothing to give to the criminals. Two State troopers arrive and the seminude males are forced to lie down on a second-floor stairway. Several of the criminals break bottles to make weapons and threaten to kill the patrons if any of them shout out to the State troopers or indicate that anything is wrong. The scene shows one convict holding the jagged edge of his bottle against the neck of one of the patrons and
Review of Crashout, in the Motion Picture Herald, vol. 199, No. 1, April 2, 1955, p. 386.
another convict has the jagged edge of his bottle pressing on the closed eyelid of still another.
(5) A hostage of one of the convicts throws a kerosene lamp at one of the escapees whose entire body becomes engulfed in flames as he runs screaming from the house where they had been hiding, and is seen as he falls to the ground and burns to death.
(6) In a brutal fight, the gang leader is shown smashing a large wooden box over the head of the last remaining convict several times. The following review of the motion picture Kiss Me Deadly, released through United Artists, appeared in the Motion Picture Herald of April 23, 1955:
Mr. Spillane's notorious brutalities seem forced and artificial, his sex is not pornographic, hardly even photographic, and the action is so disconnected as to leave an impression of nightmarish nonsense. The picture is exploitable only on the questionable reputation of the author and his dime novel books, and there is some danger that its only appeal will be to that sector of juvenility who already are worrying the sociologists and the courts.
In this episode of the Hammer epic he tangles with gangsters in the employ apparently of a foreign espionage agent, the object being a mysterious box containing an extremely valuable substance presumed to be, from its behavior, a sort of atomic fire bomb. Along the way he meets mysterious girls who invite him to dally; or who get murdered by automobile, gunshot or fire; is beaten up and in turn beats up odd characters at every turn, seems occasionally to be blundering on the side of the FBI, and finally rescues his more or less permanent girl friend from the clutches of the gangsters and from a holocaust of fire set off by the agent's murdering girl friend.3
While an adult may perceive the artificiality and many times ludicrous situations that appear in Kiss Me Deadly, as stated previously, the juvenile mind is not as critical or perceptive as the adult mind. There is also the possibility that this type of film may appeal to the type of juvenile this reviewer indicates.
Mr. Shurlock stated that Kiss Me Deadly is a rather low-toned type of literature to bring to the screen. He did defend the film on the grounds that it did portray officers of the law in a very admirable manner. He also felt that the sex situations portrayed in the film were very mild which, on examination by the subcommittee, seemed highly sex-suggestive.
On viewing the motion picture Kiss Me Deadly, there is no doubt that this film combines vicious criminal brutality and sex salaciousness in violation of the Production Code. Although the producers argue that the book, with exactly the same situations portrayed in the film, sold to over 60 million people, nevertheless it can be said that the brutalities and sadistic scenes portrayed in the book, when combined with a large screen and stereophonic sound, produce a manifold increase in the impression and the impact that the senses receive. For example, the following scenes are vividly portrayed on the screen:
(1) In one sequence the camera is never raised above the hips of anyone shown in the scene except the detective, Mike Hammer, who is tied to a bed. The nude legs of a girl are seen hanging over a table and the impression is given that the rest of her body is also nude. She is wildly screaming and her legs are moving in a manner that would indicate she is going through great pain. When her
Review of Kiss Me Deadly, in Motion Picture Herald, April 23, 1955, vol. 199, No. 4,
screaming finally stops, one of the gang urges that she be revived. The leader of the gang, however, suggests that it is impossible to revive someone who is dead. One of the gang members then walks into camera range and we see him grasping a pair of pliers in his hand, giving the unmistakable impression that the girl had been tortured to death.
(2) In another scene, Mike Hammer is being followed by someone who is never identified in the film. Hammer literally beats this man's brains out against a brick wall. The man slides to the ground, his eyes following Hammer, as he descends. However, the man is not quite finished off and he rises several seconds later to engage Hammer in a fist fight. Hammer then knocks the man down a flight of concrete steps and the camera follows the body all the way to the bottom, the face coming full into the camera several times. The stairs are approximately one block long. As this is happening, Hammer stands at the top of the steps smiling sadistically.
(3) In another scene, a mechanic friend of Hammer's is shown lying underneath an automobile that has been raised several feet in the air with a jack. The killer walks in and releases the jack. The mechanic is shown screaming as the automobile falls on him and crushes him to death.
(4) Hammer goes to the city morgue to retrieve a key from a dead girl. She had swallowed it just prior to being murdered. We see the body pulled out of the icebox and sheet removed exposing the corpse to view. Hammer asks the morgue attendant who performed the autopsy if he found the key and he indicated that he had. Hammer asks the attendant for the key, but the attendant refuses unless he is given money. After giving the attendant some money, Hammer again asks for the key but the attendant throws it in a drawer, stating that the key represents a large sum of money and that he wants all of it. Hammer then smashes the attendant's hand in the drawer by pressing on it with his knee. The attendant screams wildly for several seconds as his hand is crushed in the drawer and Hammer once again laughs gleefully.
(5) In this scene, Hammer is tied to a bed and sodium pentothal is administered in an attempt to force him to reveal the hiding place of the much sought-after secret goods. Hammer escapes from his bonds when he awakens, and forces one of the other criminals into them, lying face down. He then forces the prostrate criminal to call one of his associates from the next room. This individual walks in, snaps open a switchblade knife several inches from the side of the man in the bed. Then the camera moves to the prone man's face as he lurches and gurgles several times when the knife is plunged into his side. The camera then goes to still another henchman in the other room, as he hears a blood-curdling scream. When he runs into the adjoining room, we see the criminal who has just knifed the man on the bed and he has just been killed, presumably by Hammer. His mouth is open as he, too, stares into the camera.
(6) In the final scene, the girl friend of the gang leader shoots him in the stomach, and as he falls to his death he admonishes her not to open the box for which so many people have been murdered throughout the film. Hammer enters the room and the blond asks him to kiss
her. As he approaches her, she shoots him in the stomach also. She then opens the box, and there is some sort of violent radiation from within that sets her on fire. As Hammer crawls out of the room, the camera goes back to the girl several times as she is seen holding the box, enveloped in flames and screaming wildly. As indicated before, there are many scenes with highly suggestive dialog. The dialog is not double meaning, however, but is quite blunt and to the point.
Another film viewed by the subcommittee that seems to be a borderline case was the Columbia release called Women's Prison. The following description by the Joint Estimates of Current Entertainment Films adequately describes the general mood and intent of the film. It reads as follows:
With all the not inconsiderable talent at her command, Ida Lupino has produced a morbid, synthetic, and sensational melodrama of prison life. Here is no valid exposé of prison conditions; here is a fictional excursion into the revolting abuses practiced by a sadistic woman warden upon her helpless charges. All matrons are harshly brutal; all prisoners unrealistically kind, sympathetic, and attractive. From the solitary confinement of a distraught girl who has accidentally run over a child to the brutal beating of a pregnant woman, the excesses in this picture are deliberately contrived to shock the audience and to justify antagonism toward the forces of law and order. Skillful acting and direction build up a nightmare of horror that ends with the female warden herself in a straitjacket.40
This film has already been referred to in regard to the advertising campaign that accompanied it. As stated previously, the highly sexual nature of the advertising in terms of male-female relationships was not borne out by the content of the film. However, the extremely sadistic nature of the female warden, without any stretching of the imagination, could be interpreted with a sexual connotation.
Another controversial film viewed by the subcommittee and discussed at some length with motion-picture producers and at the hearings was the film entitled "Blackboard Jungle." The following excerpts are taken from the Joint Estimates of Current Entertainment Films, which read:
Harsh, violent, brutally shocking, and authentic as to individual episodes, this melodramatic film draws its horrifying quality from the nature of the situation it presents. The problem of marginal teen-age delinquency in a bigcity school gains more shocking force in this serious exposé than in the most glaring headlines. *
Faults in the film are the overaccumulation of delinquent actions in a single time and place, the character of the principal, the too blatant sexiness of a female teacher, the scene wherein two teachers get tight in a bar just across the street from the school. * * *
One of the member organizations of the Film Estimate Board described the film as follows:
The positive and constructive aspects of this film, spotlighting a grave social illness, are unfortunately overwhelmed by the brutality and violence in most of the action."
While the subcommittee recognizes and appreciates the artistic excellence of this film, it feels that there are valid reasons for concluding that the film will have effects on youth other than the beneficial ones described by its producers. It is felt that many of the type of delinquents portrayed in this picture will derive satisfaction, support, and sanction from having made society sit up and take notice of them. Although the tough individual portrayed by Artie West is used to
40 Joint Estimates of Current Entertainment Films, February 15, 1955. 41 Joint Estimates of Current Entertainment Films, April 1, 1955.
show the crime-does-not-pay requirement by the end of the film, even the producer, Dore Schary, agreed that the type of individual portrayed by Artie West upon viewing this film will in no way receive the message purportedly presented in the picture and would identify with him no matter what the outcome of the film.
This film was allegedly produced with the idea in mind that it would insulate against delinquency. The subcommittee viewed another film produced in 1948 entitled "City Across the River," which at that time was supposed to expose the problem of delinquency and in some way alleviate the problem. The film was based on the book, the Amboy Dukes, which was the story of a teen-age group of delinquents. This book was subject to much discussion during a congressional investigation of 25-cent pocket magazines.* There was concern at that time of the possible harmful effects that the book may have had on predisposed delinquent youth. Many gangs apprehended by the police at that time had taken on both the gang name and the individual names of members of the gang as depicted in the book. While purporting to be a film to reduce delinquency, we have seen the delinquency rates rising since 1948, and, while we cannot say what effect this film had, if any, we may assume that it was hardly one of reducing delinquency.
A number of motion-picture films have come to the attention of the subcommittee, but were not discussed at great length during the hearings in Los Angeles. The following is the green sheet estimate of the film, Cell 2455, Death Row, produced by Columbia. It reads as follows:
The lurid melodrama based on the autobiography of Caryl Chessman builds up tension through the steady repetition of frantic chases, stickups, stealings, shootings. The criminal is smart enough to act as his own lawyer and to write a best seller, but he is nevertheless an arrogant, amoral misfit, who belatedly states that he blames only himself, and hopes briefly, very briefly, that others will not imitate him. One is not sure up to his last day of execution whether or not he is guilty of the red-light crimes which finally convict him. Neither is one sure that he would not do it all over again."
Mr. William Mooring objected to this motion picture as a violation of Special Regulation 13 which reads:
No picture shall be approved dealing with the life of a notorious criminal of current or recent times, which uses the name, nickname, or alias of such notorious criminal in the film, nor shall a picture be approved if based upon the life of such a notorious criminal unless the character shown in the film be punished for crimes shown in the film as committed by him.
Another film, The Big Combo, produced by Allied Artists, received this review in the February 19, 1955, issue of the Motion Picture Herald:
You've gotta go back to Scarface, to Public Enemy, and to the early Bogart and Robinson gangster pictures for metropolitan melodrama comparable in malevolence, cruelty, and violence to this well-written graphically produced story about a big city gang leader and the police officer who takes him in. With Cornel Wilde, Richard Conte, Brian Donlevy, and Jean Wallace on an exhibitor's marquee and excellent performances on his screen, the attraction promises big returns in all the country's cities, and most of its towns. It's grim, sordid, sexy, and candid, and it's a convincing eyewitness account of a syndicate murder.
In the course of the steadily interesting and skillfully developed incidents that ensue there is a good deal of killing, a considerable amount of grilling, both mental and physical, and the unorthodox amatory activities and relationships of the gangster, his girl, the police officer and a burlesque performer who com
See, Report of the Select Committee on Current Pornographic Materials, House of Representatives, 82d Cong., 2d sess., H. Rept. No. 2510. pp. 107-110. is Joint Estimates of Current Entertainment Films, May 1, 1955.