His Kind Of Woman, 1951. 6/10

His Kind Of Woman gives us a widely entertaining, somewhat too clever film noir–and, then, it just implodes with a disastrous ending. For most of the film I thought the batch of negative reviews exaggerated the film’s defects. Unfortunately, no, they didn’t. Mitchum, Russell, Burr, McGraw, Backus, and most of the supporting cast turn in classy performances. The premise is fairly original, and is set up well. The swanky atmosphere lights up with quite a bit of mystery and wonderfully snappy dialogue. Milner (Mitchum) and Lenore (Russell) wisecrack their way to a convincing romance.

And then there’s Vincent Price. As Cardigan, the action-hero actor, he’s having maybe too much fun. But his character fits in well for the most part; after all, everyone here is really on vacation, or pretending to be. Cardigan’s Milner’s opposite in every way: Charming instead of tough, meandering instead of blunt, carefree instead of wary. He’s aware of his pretentiousness, and, given the opportunity to really he heroic, he’s more than capable. The problem isn’t with Price’s performance exactly; it’s with the swashbuckling detour the script shunts him through at the end.

Had the movie ended with Milner and Cardigan overcoming Ferraro’s (Burr’s) men, and the police intercepting Ferraro’s boat–without having to act like clowns–that would’ve worked just fine. The movie had tons of wry, sophisticated humor without the broad slapstick stuff patched in. We already get to see Cardigan in action when the hotel shows one of his movies; that makes the quick point that he’s histrionic and bombastic. Some of the other devices are among the cleverest of the era: Milner ironing his money; then, as Lenore asks him what he does when he’s broke, he replies “I iron my pants.” Then, he ups the ante, so to speak, by plunking down his shoe in lieu of a bet, as though he’s broke–but, no, he pulls a thousand-dollar bill out of it. The shoe device is repeated as Cardigan trips up one of his pursuers with his shoe laces.

For those who’ve grown up on Perry Mason, it can be tough to accept Burr as a hood. But he’s at least as good in his film noir roles as in his signature TV series. He’s a good foil to Mitchum, a dead serious, sadistic persona opposite Mitchum’s equally strong, but essentially good-natured personality. A little more of Ferraro, and a little less Cardigan would’ve made things a lot more consistent.

The fact that Milner, although a shady character, is an unwitting victim of an underworld plot makes him an ideal noir protagonist. He’s vulnerable enough to get into trouble, but knows how to handle himself once he’s endangered. What’s surprising is that most of the hotel guests, despite seemingly having agendas, turn out to be harmless. From the time he first encounters Lenore, Milner thinks she’s up to something; well, she is, but two-timing Cardigan isn’t much of a big deal. Cardigan is definitely a loose cannon, but he’s not only harmless, he’s helpful.

There’s so much good stuff here that a decent review could be put together with nothing but juicy quotes; dialogue itself almost tells the story. But then we’re completely swamped by a very long, very unintelligent ending (Milner has that needle pointing at him for an eternity). The ghastly stuff Milner endures seems to happen in a different dimension than the childish antics of his rescuers.

Some Kind of Woman is worth a look, but switch it off as soon as Price puts on his cape. 6/10.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.