Category Archives: Douglass Dumbrille

Blu-Ray Review: A Life At Stake (1955).

Directed by Paul Guilfoyle
Produced by Hank McCune
Screenplay by Russ Bender
From a story ideas by Hank McCune
Director Of Photography: Ted Allan
Film Editor: Frank Sullivan
Music by Les Baxter

Cast: Angela Lansbury (Doris Hillman), Keith Andes (Edward Shaw), Douglass Dumbrille (Gus Hillman), Claudia Barrett (Madge Neilan), Jane Darwell (Landlady), Gavin Gordon (Sam Pearson), Charles Maxwell Lt. Hoff), William Henry (Myles Norman)

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Between my two blogs, I’ve said this about a thousand times (and I’m sure you’re all sick of hearing it) — it makes my heart feel good to see low-budget movies get the high-end treatment on DVD and (especially) Blu-Ray. One of the companies making these happen is The Film Detective, and their new Blu-Ray of A Life At Stake (1955) joins their growing (and very interesting) list of great-looking pictures.

A Life At Stake (1955) is an independent mini-noir starring Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes and Douglass Dumbrille. It was shot in about a week in 1954, then it sat for nine months or so before finally making it to theaters. This delay explains why a 1955 release is still in the 1.37 aspect ratio.

Andes is a down-on-his-luck architect who ends up part of a life insurance caper cooked up by a wealthy couple (Lansbury and Dumbrille). They take out a hefty policy on Andes as part of a large development project, then plan his lucrative demise. (Her first husband croaked off under kinda shifty circumstances and with a nice insurance payoff.) As you’d expect, once Andes finds out about all this, he’s not in favor of it.

Of course, life insurance thing may sound like a riff on Double Indemnity (1944), which I’m sure it is, but writer Russ Bender steers clear of obvious imitation and his ending is a bit of a surprise.

Angela Lansbury is lovely and diabolical as the femme fatale. Her career was in a bit of a lull here, not too long after she left MGM. After years of making movies there, the budget and schedule for A Life At Stake must’ve been quite a shock. She did A Lawless Street (1955) at Columbia not long after this. 

Keith Andes is pretty good as the sap who gets involved with people he shouldn’t, namely Lansbury. He was a stage, radio and movie actor. He appeared in Fritz Lang’s Clash By Night (1952) at RKO, then like a lot of others at that studio, went a long time between pictures, which might’ve hurt his career’s momentum. He wound up at Universal International where he was in pictures like Pillars Of The Sky and Away All Boats (both 1956).

Douglass Dumbrille is, of course, Douglass Dumbrille, and that’s about as good as it gets. He doesn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time here. The great Jane Darwell — from Ford’s The Grapes Of Wrath (1940), My Darling Clementine (1946), Wagon Master (1950) and The Sun Shines Bright (1953) — plays Andes’s landlady. She’s always a treat.

The picture’s director was character actor Paul Guilfoyle. He only directed three features, but did quite a few TV shows. As an actor, he’s the guy in the trunk in White Heat (1949).

By the way, Lansbury’s crazy-looking convertible is a 1954 Kaiser Darrin. They had fiberglass bodies and pocket doors. Only 435 production cars were built.

The Film Detective has done a terrific job with A Life At Stake. It looks and sounds quite nice, with a few blemishes (and perhaps some warping) that happily remind us we’re watching an old movie. With something like this, you have to work with what you can track. In this case, they gave it a 4K restoration. Les Baxter’s score has a nice range.

You can always count on The Film Detective for an extra or two (or three). There’s a commentary and essay from “film noir scholar and critic” Jason Ney, along with a short documentary on The Filmmakers, Ida Lupino’s production company that had a hand in A Life At Stake. All are top notch.

There was a film at stake, a pretty good one, and The Film Detective came through. Recommended.

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Filed under 1955, Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, The Film Detective

Blu-Ray News #281: Jungle Queen (1945).

Directed by Ray Taylor & Lewis D. Collins
Starring Edward Norris, Eddie Quillan, Douglass Dumbrille, Lois Collier, Ruth Roman, Tala Birell, Clarence Muse

Anything with Douglass Dumbrille as a Nazi, Ruth Roman as the Jungle Queen and Clarence Muse as anything is worth a few hours of your time. And since the Universal serials VCI has been bringing to Blu-Ray lately are absolutely beautiful, I’m really looking forward to this one.

It’s 1939, and the Nazis are trying to take over Africa. They’re looking for the fabled Sword Of Tongu, which will help them win over the natives and have them join the fight against the British. It’s up to a couple of Americans (Edward Norris and Eddie Quillan), a British agent/archeologist (Lois Collier) and the beautiful, mysterious Jungle Queen, Lothel (Ruth Roman), to stop them.

Directors Ray Taylor and Lewis D. Collins did a ton of serials, and Collins went on to direct a few of the terrific William Elliott B Westerns at Monogram and Allied Artists. Universal’s serials boast better production values than other studio’s chapter plays, though this one is a bit talky and makes liberal use of stock footage.

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Filed under Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray News, Lewis D. Collins, Ray Taylor, Ruth Roman, Serial, Universal (-International), VCI

Blu-Ray News #250: Abbott & Costello – The Complete Universal Pictures Collection (1940-1955).

The Abbott & Costello movies offer up some of the great joys to be had in this world. Their “Who’s On First?” routine (found in The Naughty Nineties) is timeless — and runs constantly in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Me, I simply cannot be down if Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is on.

Shout Factory has announced The Complete Universal Pictures Collection, that puts their 28 Universal pictures (they say they saved the studio from bankruptcy) on 15 Blu-ray Discs, packed with hours of extras and a collectible book. It’s coming in November. What a great big box of Wonderful this will be!

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Filed under Abbott & Costello, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Douglass Dumbrille, DVD/Blu-ray News, Frank Ferguson, Glenn Strange, Hillary Brooke, Jack Pierce, Lon Chaney Jr., Mari Blanchard, Marie Windsor, Shemp Howard, Shout/Scream Factory, Universal (-International), Vincent Price