Okay, Get All Your Jokes Out of the Way Now
To be perfectly honest, I had wanted today to be the second one in a row to have a tribute review, this time to an actual actor. However, I have already reviewed [i]The Green Mile[/i], [i]Daredevil[/i], and [i]Armageddon[/i]. The only three Michael Clarke Duncan movies which are available on Netflix Instant Play are two terrible-looking ones which each costar a different guy who was on [i]90210[/i] and [i]The Land Before Time XI[/i]. I respect both him and myself too much to remember him that way. However, I wasn't sure what I was actually in the mood for, so I did a bit of poking around on my various streaming options, having already decided that I wasn't interested in any of the stuff I had from the library. So I went poking around, and I discovered, while looking at the mediocre noir options available to me, that there was one starring Johnny Cash. It might not be a tribute, but it's interesting.
Sort of. The story as it appears in various plot summaries is wrong. What actually happens is that Fred Dorella (Vic Tayback) has decided to rob a bank. He's done it before, and in twenty years of bank robbery, he's only done a year of prison time. He hires Johnny Cabot (Cash), who is also nicely cautious. The plan is that Dorella will go into the bank and inform vice president Ken Wilson (Donald Woods) that Johnny has Ken's wife, Nancy (Cay Forrester), hostage at home. If Ken does not authorize the cashing of a forged check for seventy-five thousand dollars, Johnny will kill Nancy. All this confirmed, of course, by phone calls back and forth. What Dorella does not find out in his examination of the Wilsons' lives is that Ken is planning to leave Nancy--that very day, in fact--for Doris Johnson (Midge Ware). However, that doesn't necessarily mean that Ken wants Nancy dead, and Dorella convinces him that not going along with what he wants will make Ken complicit in Nancy's murder.
Now, I have to say, I'm not buying the happy ending. (Of course there's a happy ending; why wouldn't there be?) It's not that I think Johnny would necessarily get away with his plan, nor would Dorella. I'm even amused by the trick played by young Bobby Wilson (little Ronnie Howard!) to get away from Johnny himself. However, the ending is enough in touch with the Code that the Wilsons reconcile and go on vacation together. However, whatever problems caused Ken to leave Nancy in the first place are still unresolved. They're probably in part because of her obsessive social-climbing, but even if I thought that was everything, I don't think her social-climbing is going to be resolved by a hostage situation. Her personality is still the way it is, and things like that are seldom changed by a single event. So, you know, they should still see a therapist or something after they get back from their vacation, because they're going to have to work out their problems.
Honestly, this is better than a lot of Elvis movies. It's not a great movie, but it's still better than it could have been. Johnny Cash did a pretty good job playing a crazy crazy killer. You really believe that he's willing to kill Nancy as soon as look at her, and it's not just the obligatory jokes about wanting to watch her die. Though, yes, I was making those jokes in my head as well. And it is a little odd that Johnny spends all his time waiting for the phone call either threatening to rape Nancy or else noodling around on his guitar. However, there isn't the crazy obsessive stopping every five minutes for a cheesy musical number that you got with your standard Elvis movie. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise mt to discover that this is closer to the sort of thing that Elvis himself wanted to make. You know, gritty. Serious. This was the same year that Elvis made [i]Blue Hawaii[/i], which I have not seen in many years, but it was light and fluffy. A standard Elvis movie, in other words.
I watch a lot of forgettable noir. I always have, and I don't generally bother writing reviews of them. There has to be something really noteworthy, usually an interesting star. And say what you like, Johnny Cash was an interesting star. He does with the role what pretty much anyone could have, given that there's not much to it. I've seen a dozen variations of the character played by at least as many actors. There's always a place for the kill-crazy criminal--heck, I've seen this role played by Humphrey Bogart a time or two, and I'm not sure he could have done much more with the role than Johnny Cash did. It's a decent enough film, for what it's worth--worse than some and better than most, I'd say. Noir by definition is a bit of a forgettable genre, and most of the movies in it were made on the cheap without putting a lot of time or money into good actors or good scripts. Johnny Cash wasn't a bad actor, and he did what he could with the script. I guess that's all there is to say about it.