Geezer’s Woven Fixtures

GWFby El Topo

Sâsvári Farkasfalvi Tóthfalusi Tóth Endre Antal Mihály

Hello everybody, this is El Topo here and I’m going to write about a few old films which, although ancient, dusty and full of cobwebs, are still worth your consideration.

Since this is my first post here please don’t be too alarmed if I defy convention and commit numerous faux-pas in the process. I pray that you might forgive me for any transgressions.

You see, I’ve got a bit of a problem. I have a difficult time watching films which are either new, relatively new, or maybe even slightly stale and crusty. So, if you can tolerate my bouts of cantankerous bloviation, it shouldn’t be too unpleasant.

Concerning cinema, perhaps the first name which might pop into my head today would be the name, André de Toth, which is much easier to pronounce than his given name, which was Sâsvári Farkasfalvi Tóthfalusi Tóth Endre Antal Mihály. I suppose he omitted, truncated and reversed parts of his name to create an appellation more user-friendly, as one might say.

So why should I be interested in the work of a lesser-known film director, originally from Hungary, who made a small dent or two in Hollywood in the fifties, with films like the 3-D House Of Wax, for example? Well, I should say, upfront, that I won’t be talking here about House Of Wax, but 2 other films, one a film noir, Crime Wave and a western noir entitled, Day Of The Outlaw.

So again, I say, why? Really, I would be saying, ‘why not’?

OK, here we go.

What makes the work of André de Toth special was the combination of a thorough knowledge of filmmaking, mixed with a disdain for shooting within the confines of the artificial world of the movie studio. He loved to make his films on real locations, with natural lighting. He made this possible through an awareness of the balance between precision camera work and creative lighting. And what finally strikes a chord with yours truly is that he loved to do this on the cheap. He shot his movies fully prepared, and at almost a breakneck pace.

By being what is known as a director of Hollywood ‘B-Movies’, de Toth was able to operate ‘under the radar’, and out of the scrutiny of the Hays Office and the Breen Code. Through obscurity, his creativity and experience came together to produce some memorable films.

Now I have been rambling on for some time, so I feel a wee bit guilty because I haven’t talked about the films yet. So, here we go:

The Day Of The Outlaw is a black-and-white film from 1959, which is a Western with a decidedly ‘noir’ feel to it. It stars Robert Ryan, Tina Louise and Burl Ives, among others.

Andre de Toth Day of the Outlaw

Day of the Outlaw Poster

It was based on a well-written story, and despite the low budget of the film, all of the feelings and ideas come through, beautifully. Robert Ryan, a top-notch actor who played tough guys, either good or bad, starts out looking like the villain, but ends up the hero, by film’s end. Young and lovely, Tina Louise is probably best known today as ‘Ginger’ in the sixties TV sitcom, Gilligan’s Island, but here she is very helpful in a critical dramatic role. Finally, of the main players, Burl Ives was primarily known as a folk singer, but here he acts against character, as the bad guy.

In 1954, André de Toth directed the film noir entitled Crime Wave. It should be stated that an alternate title for this film was The City Is Dark. Again, it is a low-budget, black-and-white B-movie, but this time it takes place in the Los Angeles of the early fifties. It stars Sterling Hayden, Charles Bronson, Timothy Carey, and Ted de Corsia, among others.

Andre de Toth Day of the Outlaw Screencap

Andre de Toth Day of the Outlaw Screencap

It is a dark tale of 3 convicts on the run in California, after a jailbreak, the crimes they commit and detective Sterling Hayden’s dogged pursuit of these reprobates.

Crime Wave (Italian Promo)

Crime Wave (Italian Promo)

You know, I don’t really want to spoil this for all of you by divulging too many details, but I can say that this film has an incredible combination of good casting, great cinematography, and a spellbinding tale of crime in the City of the Angels, alias L.A. We see some early performances by several actors who later made their mark in various films by the auteur, Stanley Kubrick.

In fact, this film influenced Kubrick to the point that Kubrick later preferred location shooting over studio work, used natural or non-conventional lighting techniques, and also we can see a creative and innovative use of cinematography. Also, Kubrick used quite a few of the actors here in his next film, The Killing, a flick about a racetrack heist gone awry. namely Sterling Hayden, Elisha Cook Jr., Timothy Carey, and Ted de Corsia.

Now, since I’m writing to an international audience, many of you might be wondering, just where do I find such films? How can I see them, perhaps. Well, it looks like that these are both available for purchase through the Amazon website, and perhaps one may also find them via Youtube, and other similar entities. I should finally state that both of these films might only be available as DVD’s in the NTSC format, favoured in North America. But fear not! Grab VLC. No worries.

Thanks again, and this is El Topo signing off.

Crime Wave Screencap

Crime Wave Screencap

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