Directed by Mark Stevens
Written by Warren Douglas and George Bricker
Starring Mark Stevens, Martha Hyer, Skip Homeier, Joan Vohs, Douglas Kennedy, Don Haggerty, Cheryl Callaway, Warren Douglas, Mort Mills, John Doucette
This is an entry in The Allied Artists Blogathon, a celebration of the studio’s rich and varied output.
The writer/producer team of Warren Douglas and Lindsley Parsons made some interesting Westerns and Noirs for Allied Artists in the Fifties. Their impressive roster includes Jack Slade (1953), Loophole (1954), Finger Man (1955), The Come On (1956) and Dragoon Wells Massacre (1957).
Douglas was a B Movie lead actor who became a screenwriter, later working on many classic TV Western series. Cry Vengeance is a follow up to the stark Jack Slade, which was a surprise hit for Allied Artists. This time, Jack Slade’s leading man, Mark Stevens, also directs.
Stevens plays ex-cop Vic Barron, just released after three years in San Quentin, having been framed by the mob with a hoard of “dirty money.” Worse still, the car bomb intended for Stevens killed his wife and daughter — and left Stevens with half his face blown away.
Upon release, Stevens buys a gun and heads for Ketchikan, Alaska, where his intended quarry (Douglas Kennedy) now resides. Ex-mobster Kennedy is now a respected member of the small Alaskan community.
In an unexpected plot twist Stevens actually bonds with Kennedy’s young daughter (Cheryl Callaway). On their first encounter, the child asks, “Does your face hurt?” “Sometimes,” is Stevens’ terse reply. In a chilling scene Stevens gives the child a bullet — a present for her father. Stevens clearly intends to make Kennedy sweat before he moves in for the kill.
Stevens plays his part with unblinking intensity and gets great performances from his cast. Standouts are Skip Homeier as a sadistic hit man and Joan Vohs as his abused, alcoholic girlfriend. There’s a great scene where an already-sozzled Vohs enters a bar and asks for a tumbler full of whiskey.
Lovers of the work of Don Siegel will find much to enjoy in this film. The way it’s shot and cut, the feel for the location and sense of community — these are constant reminders of elements in Siegel’s later work. The scene where Homeier casually skims a stone across a lake after dispatching one of his victims is a pure “Siegel” moment. I’m not saying anyone influenced anyone — these are merely observations or miscellaneous musings (thanks, Laura :)), if you will. Homeier’s Roxey seems to prefigure the bad guys in later Siegel films who are by turns florid, psychotic or misogynistic — or in the case of Homeier and Joe Don Baker in Charley Varrick (1973), all three!
It’s great fun to compare Homeier’s performance to those in Siegel’s wonderful version of The Killers (1964), in which Siegel artfully contrasts Lee Marvin’s hardboiled stoicism with Clu Gulager’s fidgety scene-stealing antics.
This abrasive revenge thriller is available on DVD or Blu Ray from Olive Films.