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Saigon (1948) June 25, 2007

Posted by jackal in : Films, Film Noir , 2 comments

The fourth and final 1940s Alan Ladd-Veronica Lake outing is easily the most obscure of the quartet. After the tough, memorable noirs This Gun for Hire, The Glass Key and The Blue Dahlia, Saigon trails a way behind: a minor, lazily-plotted, oriental crime caper. It’s still solid entertainment, better than IMDB would have you believe, due in large part to the central duo.

Ladd & Lake in a promo shot for the film

When Major Larry Briggs (Ladd), stationed in Shanghai after the war, discovers that an old army pal is slowly dying from a war injury, he gets together with a third member of his former bomber crew to plan a final vacation. To finance the trip, the trio take on a lucrative job flying the mysterious Mr Maris (Morris Carnovsky) and his secretary Susan (Veronica Lake) to Saigon. Ambushed by police at the last minute, Briggs is forced to leave Maris behind to an uncertain fate, over Susan’s vocal protests. Their ageing plane gives out en route and after an emergency landing, the ex-GIs and their feisty charge make their way on foot to Saigon, attracting the attention of a calculating local policeman (Luther Adler) along the way. Will he discover the mountain of dirty money Susan is carrying for her boss? Will Susan eventually fall for Larry? Will Mr Maris show up unexpectedly in the last reel? Well, duh. Rocket science this ain’t.

Mr Maris and his stone-faced henchman

Saigon works despite its faults. The story is fairly predictable, and suffers from T2 syndrome (a lethargic middle act), but it’s glossy and well-produced; the glitzy, expansive set for the hotel in Saigon is particularly well-realized. Like the similarly studio-bound ‘exotic’ caper Macao, the stars are largely responsible for the fun. Ladd and Lake don’t have the overwhelming charm and sparkling interplay of Mitchum and Russell, but they click just the same. Ladd, a slightly built actor I often have trouble buying as a tough guy, delivers a solid performance here. Lake, not yet 30, but already creeping towards the end of her troubled career as a leading lady, plays suitably hard-to-get as the petulant ice-maiden, always perfectly made-up and dressed in a variety of flattering outfits, most notably the stunning, figure-hugging evening gown she dons for the last act.

Of the supporting cast, Morris Carnovsky makes for a smooth bad guy, and Luther Adler is quite excellent as the suspicious but ultimately honourable policeman Lt. Keon. Much of the pleasure, though, is in watching Ladd and Lake together for the final time, and even the film’s downbeat final scene feels strangely appropriate as a low-key farewell for the screen couple.

Although all four of the Ladd-Lake pictures were made at Paramount, Saigon is the only one that remains under their control, the earlier films now belonging to Universal along with almost all other pre-1948 Paramount films. Surprise, surprise, Saigon remains the only one not available on DVD (all of the other three are out from Universal in R2; This Gun for Hire in R1 as well). As is so often my plea at the end of a piece like this, hopefully that oversight will be rectified sometime soon.

A Mars Bar for Veronica? *UPDATED 10/6* June 7, 2007

Posted by jackal in : TV , 2 comments

OK - it’s stupid. Veronica Mars is dead. I know this. It’s one of the cold, hard facts of life, as miserably true as death and taxes. But what the hell …

Hercules over at AICN has started a campaign to get VM fans to send Mars bars to CW network head Dawn Ostroff. The official deadline for renewing the show apparently falls on 15 June, so the hope is to convince them to exercise the option before then. It’s probably doomed to fail, of course, but hey, it’s only money. If you fancy wasting some of yours, go here, where for a couple of bucks your Mars bar will join the others soon landing on Dawn’s desk. Type in the code VERONICA at checkout and get free shipping. You can also get them direct from the Amazon seller’s website here. If you’re feeling generous, why not send a pack of six? The address you want to send them to:

Dawn Ostroff
President of Entertainment
The CW Network
4000 Warner Boulevard, Bldg 168
Burbank, CA 91522-0002.

You’d be hard-pressed to think up a more noble waste of $2. ;)  According to the Amazon seller’s blog, several thousand bars are due to be delivered to the CW from orders so far, and they’re now branching out into marshmallows (bulkier and cheaper - more bang for your buck). Not a bad start …

*UPDATE - 10 June*

In addition to burying the CW in marshmallows and mars bars, another thing now being planned is for VM fans to head over to itunes this TUESDAY (12th June) and buy the season 3 finale “The Bitch is Back” en masse, hopefully sending it to the top of the download charts. The episode costs just $1.99, so even if (like me) you’ve already got a *cough* illegally downloaded copy, why not just make the gesture anyway? The itunes link is here

*UPDATE - 9 June* 

OK, now that the entire US supply of Mars bars has been exhausted by this campaign (I kid you not), they’ve switched to marshmallows (since in the pilot episode Veronica is referred to as a marshmallow). 350 lbs of the stuff has been bought so far, but MORE is needed. Forget the Amazon links now - go here for details of how to contribute to buying enough marshallows to bury the CW. Part of my brain is aware of how stupid that sounds … but I just don’t care. :P

Also check out Herc’s latest plug for the campaign on AICN here.

 I will get back to posting actual movie-related stuff here soon (honest), but until then, here’s a glossy pic of Veronica herself, Kristen Bell, to relieve the boredom. Yowzzzzzzzza.

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