Pistol Packin’ Femme Fatales

Mara Corday is Vera, the mastermind behind a gang of female bandits, in GIRLS ON THE LOOSE (1958), directed by Paul Henreid.

Juvenile delinquent films in the 1950s were so plentiful that they became a major B-movie subgenre and the surprisingly thing about that was the number of movies featuring female hooligans. Among some of the more famous titles are Reform School Girl (1957), Runaway Daughters (1956) and Teenage Devil Dolls aka One Way Ticket to Hell (1955) but Girls on the Loose stands out from the pack as a little known and ingenious B-movie delight. For one thing, these aren’t gum-chewing high school delinquents but a quartet of hardened professionals and damaged goods. Equally surprising is the tough, no nonsense story arc which makes the most of its low budget sets and noir lighting schemes in a compact 77-minute programmer directed by Paul Henreid. Yes, THAT Paul Henreid, the former Warner Bros. heartthrob from Austria-Hungary who performed that romantic cigarette seduction of Bette Davis in Now, Voyager (1942). Here he is below, directing his incognito cast of Girls on the Loose.    

GIRLS ON THE LOOSE, director Paul Henreid on set with masked robbery gang Mara Corday, Joyce Barker, Lita Milan and getaway driver Abby Dalton at rear, 1958 Courtesy Everett Collection.
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Robert Altman and the Cult of James Dean

A young Robert Altman ponders a camera set-up.

A young Robert Altman ponders a camera set-up.

While it is rarely shown in retrospectives of his work, Robert Altman’s The James Dean Story (1957) is easily one of the more offbeat and poetic examples of documentary filmmaking. Officially cited as his second feature (Altman’s first was The Delinquents, 1957), The James Dean Story was co-produced and co-directed with George W. George, a former writing partner of Altman’s, as a serious exploration of the young actor’s mystique and impact on the youth culture of the fifties.   Continue reading