Video of the Week: “Crime Wave”

If you have an extra $2 lying around that you don’t know what to do with, you can spend it right here on a viewing of Andre De Toth‘s Crime Wave (1954). It would certainly be $2 well spent.

Timothy, uncredited as twitching, giggling Johnny Haslett, doesn’t appear until the last half hour or so, but you’ll barely notice. This is one incredible film from start to finish. Tim is just the icing on the cake. Enjoy!

Pics of the Day: “Crime Wave”

Every now and then I peruse Tumblr for pics tagged with Timothy’s name, especially animated .gifs. That’s where I found these (!), and today I found a few more. If I knew how to make these things I would, but for now I’ll leave it to the professionals. These were posted by an individual known only as phb256, and they’re from Andre’ De Toth‘s Crime Wave (1954).

Crime Wave

Crime Wave

Crime Wave

Non-animated are Charles Bronson, Ted de Corsia, Gene Nelson and Jim Hayward. Many thanks to whoever was clever enough to make these. I salute you! You may also want to check out my own Tumblr, run by my burlesque persona Loxie Arcane (guess where that name came from?).

Quote of the Week

That’s particularly true for his film noir roles. Few debuts in the genre have been more striking or unnerving than Carey’s brief interludes in Andre’ de Toth‘s atmospheric Crime Wave (1954). In the uncredited role of pervert-punk Johnny Haslett, who lives in the seedy Chinatown hideout used by crooks Ted de Corsia and Charles Bronson, Carey’s first appearance (more than 50 minutes into the film) is like a bucket of ice water hitting your face at high speed.

De Toth aims the camera directly at Carey, who flips on his psychotic high beams and blows the scene away. He sustains a deranged grin while uttering dialogue through gritted teeth, then goes into a series of goofy facial contortions, all the while nervously fiddling with a deck of cards. It’s warped, it’s wild – but it’s also wonderful.

It gets better, too, when Carey moves into the background in the next scene at the hideout. With de Corsia, Bronson, and Gene Nelson in the foreground discussing their plans, Carey draws attention to himself sitting on the floor nearby. He’s mugging for all he’s worth, puffing furiously on a cigarette and blowing smoke rings through his teeth. Then, when Nelson frets that he must leave his girlfriend (Phyllis Kirk) with this cretin while they all go out on a caper, Carey slurs a deranged, menacing one-liner while still hunched on the floor, smoking away: “I’ll give her your love, Steve!” Priceless.

Carl Steward, “Timothy Carey: Noir’s Wildest Card,” Noir City Annual #2: The Best of the 2009 Noir City Sentinel (Film Noir Foundation, 2010)

Crime Wave

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” key set photo

Today’s pic is one of two key set photos from Andre De Toth‘s Crime Wave (1954) that I recently scored on eBay. Key set photos were often used by script supervisors to help with shot continuity; they were put into a binder for easy reference. Both of the photos feature Timothy menacing Phyllis Kirk. This is by far the creepiest one.

Crime Wave

I will probably be posting sporadically for the next week. We are leaving later this morning for another trip to California, where Romeo Carey and I will hopefully be conducting some interviews. Exciting stuff! Watch this space!

Quote of the Week

Whether looming over the strangely invertebrate James Dean as the muscle of the local brothel in East of Eden or buying the farm in a whisker-quick saloon shoot-out with Marlon Brando in One-Eyed Jacks, the disheveled, vertiginous Timothy Carey performed, through much of his career, as the kind of thespian rarity whose flickering presence, even when bereft of a fleshed-out “character,” struck a loud, long-resonating note in the frequently seam-riddled “seamless narratives” it embellished. Like a portal into a reality hidden from view by scopophobic hysteria, Carey materialized from an alternate universe devoid of heroes and legible story lines.

Available accounts and filmographies of Carey’s early career typify his roles in exploitation pictures as “oozing malevolence,” citing creepy gangster turns in Andre de Toth‘s Crime Wave and Harold D. Schuster‘s Finger Man, as well as uncredited parts in Billy Wilder’s The Big Carnival [aka Ace in the Hole – ed.] and William A. Wellman‘s Across the Wide Missouri. In 1953’s The Wild One, he got to spray Brando in the face with a shaken-up carbonated beverage – some say beer, others soda pop. He was physically attacked by Richard Widmark during the filming of The Last Wagon in 1956, and pummeled by Karl Malden on the set of One-Eyed Jacks, or so the legends go; according to some of Carey’s enthusiasts, his parts got progressively bigger in B-circuit pictures for a time, then shrank as his uninhibited behavior off-camera, and scene-swiping on, earned him the poisonous sobriquet of being “difficult.”

Only the sharpest and restive of “great” directors, and the most cynically astute hacks, recognized Carey’s innate ability to enlarge a piece of cinema into something beyond cinema. Anecdotal evidence reflects how often even those who perceived Carey’s ungovernable grandeur were either prevented from casting him, or themselves provoked by his antics into tossing him out of a picture.

He was, in effect, too much of what he was, too formidably present to evaporate into a peripheral presence; both his imposing physicality and his avid wish to smuggle something living into something simulated got him scotched from films like Bonnie and Clyde and The Grifters; the insecurity of Harvey Keitel purportedly scrapped a  major role in Reservoir Dogs; Carey, by his own account, sabotaged his own way out of The Godfather and Godfather II.

Gary Indiana, “Timothy Carey: The Refusal of the Repressed,” from Dead Flowers (Participant Press/VoxPopuli, 2011)

East of Eden (1955)

 

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” revisited

Our pic for today revisits Crime Wave (1954), aka The City is Dark, filmed in 1952 by Andre’ De Toth but released in 1954. Timothy and Gene Nelson are being hauled away by Sterling Hayden and Mack Chandler, as Phyllis Kirk looks on. Tim has just taken an epic tumble down a flight of stairs, apparently with no stunt man.

Crime Wave

I can’t emphasize enough what a great film this is. If you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you.

 

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” revisited

Crime Wave (1954), also known as The City is Dark, is one of the greatest examples of film noir that we have. Directed by Andre’ De Toth, it’s got a docudrama feel; the script is tight and snappy; the cinematography is crisp, perfect black and white; the editing is stellar; the cast is amazing; and the characterizations are top-notch. It was shot in 1952 but not released until 1954. Timothy’s giggling hop-head Johnny doesn’t appear until the final half hour or so, but he nonetheless manages to walk away with the film quite handily. He must have really annoyed some of the higher-ups behind the scenes, for he received no screen credit for what can truly be considered his breakout role. Here he is making his intentions toward Ellen Lacey (Phyllis Kirk) unmistakably clear.

When I visited Tim’s studio in El Monte in July, there was a still on the wall from this film, showing Johnny kissing Ellen full on the lips. This shot is wisely not in the film; to me the menace is more effective if he doesn’t actually follow through, or at least is not shown doing so. But it may, however, provide a clue as to why the part is uncredited. As Tim wrote in his remembrance of James Dean, “I affected a twitch like a narcotics addict, I turned on a low, sensual, half-crazy laugh, gritted my teeth and dug my hands into her shoulders – just like the creep I was portraying would have done in real life. But Phyllis wasn’t impressed with my realism. She found me too convincing. She broke and got hysterical. I had to go apologize to her, although I don’t know what I was apologizing for.”

Quote of the Week

Consider Timothy Agoglia Carey, a rough-hewn, riveting beastie who, starting in the heyday of noir, slouched his way toward some backlot Bethlehem. He first hit a public nerve as a slurry-voiced gunsel in Andre’ de Toth’s B-grade sleeper Crime Wave (54) and was last seen in a trifling part in the trifle Echo Park (86). In between he appeared in nearly four dozen films, ranging from the sublime – a pair of Stanley Kubrick’s earlier and arguably best features – to such artsy turkeys as John Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (76).

Usually restricted to playing loathsome genre heavies, Carey’s strongest performances offer the kind of mixed signals associated not so much with art or craft as with pathology or the twisted mysteries of DNA. Paralleling his psycho roles, Carey’s dark personal legend encompasses 40 years of dedicated, or perhaps just helpless, eccentricity – zany behavior shading off into the macabre. Since the era of The Killing (56), Paths of Glory (57), Kazan’s East of Eden (55), and Brando’s One-Eyed Jacks (61), he’d hung in my mind as one of the first Method character actors, embodying all the follies and fevers of that holy-roller theatrical regimen. Even in throwaway parts – opposite The Monkees in Head (68), for Chrissake – you could look into his hooded, jittery eyes and sense real danger. Prankster or madman? Crusader or wise guy? The choice was hard to make when, in the dog days of August 1992, Carey materialized after almost a decade off-screen for an evening of manic schtick and pitiless self-revelation at the Nuart Theatre in West L.A.

A program highlight was a screening of The World’s Greatest Sinner, possibly the most bizarre vanity-cum-auteur vehicle on record. the 77-minute black-and-white feature credits Carey as star, writer, producer, director, and distributor. He plays a bored insurance salesman who changes his name to God, develops a youth following and a nasty lust for power, and winds up believing his own con. In the end, he blasphemously challenges the heavenly powers and, I think, realizes the enormity of his hubris. (Make that His hubris).

Finally released in 1964, the picture never found its rightful place in the grind houses and drive-ins of the period, where Carey was at the time being hissed by millions in the exploitation hits Mermaids of Tiburon (a.k.a. Aqua Sex)(62) and Poor White Trash (61). This one-night-only screening was the fifth commercial play date for Carey’s brainchild. At the intermission, the long-legged Carey, wearing his sparkly Sinner getup, loped onto the stage, his big-time weirdo persona ingrained and ageless. His voice was like a meat grinder full of nails. He began speaking about the joys of public farting. In a sort of jive disquisition, he cited Salvador Dali on the benefits of breaking wind as a social activity. “Me, I fart loud – I can’t be a hypocrite. I get these parts, but I never get to play ’em because I fart out loud. Why can’t we all fart together? Let thy arse make wind!” […]

Applause at the end faded quickly. Carey took up a position in the lobby, wearing a fixed smile, ready to sign autographs. But the audience filed silently past him. I walked by close enough to see that he believed his own blather. You could tell he was somewhat twisted in the melon, but not plain gaga – a primitive artist and a primitive human.

Back in the Fifties and Sixties, I’d gone to movies because Jack Elam was in them, or Neville Brand – or Timothy Carey. Perhaps only the camera truly loved these kinds of mavericks and marginals, but I’d always regarded the skull-faced Carey as one of the quintessential hard-boiled actors, and I now found myself savoring his mix of gaucherie and ballsiness in taking on, among others, the sensitivity police of the Nineties. As he held his smile and we made passing eye contact, I thought I’d like to pick his lock. For hours afterward, I wondered at Carey’s cockeyed grace in handling the crowd’s rejection, and I dreamed about him that night in his matchless performances – the condemned soldier who kills a cockroach in Paths of Glory, the feral assassin who fondles a puppy and talks mayhem with Sterling Hayden in The Killing.

– Grover Lewis, “Cracked Actor”, Film Comment Jan/Feb 2004; interview conducted in 1992

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” revisited

Today’s pic honors Sterling Hayden on what would have been his 96th birthday. He appeared in three films with Timothy: Hellgate (1952), Crime Wave (1954) and The Killing (1956). Here we see him and Mack Chandler apprehending Tim and Gene Nelson in the climactic scene of Andre De Toth‘s Crime Wave.

I also want to direct your attention to this great appreciation of Crime Wave over at NoirBabes.com, where Timothy is the featured star this week! Hayden brought any film he was in up several notches, just by his mere presence. He is one of the reasons I love the movies so much.  Happy birthday, General Ripper!

Pic of the Day: “Crime Wave” revisited

Our pic for today takes another look at Crime Wave (aka The City is Dark) (1954), directed by Andre De Toth. Timothy first made audiences exclaim “Who is that guy?” (especially since he wasn’t credited) with his scene-stealing portrayal of giggling hophead Johnny Haslett. Here Johnny is menacing unfortunate Ellen Lacey (Phyllis Kirk).

“I played a heavy again in a picture called Crime Wave, with Sterling Hayden and Phyllis Kirk, and in one scene I was holding Phyllis prisoner in a dingy waterfront room,” Tim once said. “There was low key lighting and the boom was down low. I affected a twitch like a narcotics addict, I turned on a low, sensual, half-crazy laugh, gritted my teeth and dug my hands into her shoulders – just like the creep I was portraying would have done in real life. But Phyllis wasn’t impressed with my realism. She found me too convincing. She broke and got hysterical. I had to go apologize to her, although I don’t know what I was apologizing for.”