Life and Death in L.A.: Punks, Thugs Rule the City in 'Crime Wave'

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Punks, Thugs Rule the City in 'Crime Wave'

One of the better rediscovered crime films of the past few years is "Crime Wave." Remember James Ellroy's top 10 favorite crime films, which we discussed here a few posts ago? As you may remember, "Crime Wave" made the list, and for good reason.

It should have come as no surprise when I got ahold of the DVD and put on the commentary track it was none other than Ellroy along with author and crime film aficionado Eddie Muller giving the blow-by-blow at ringside. First off, I admire Ellroy, even when he's a bit overbearing on the commentary track. This is a film that's worth viewing. It's got many scenes of vintage L.A. architecture, circa 1952 when the film was shot, even though it wasn't released until '54. Both Ellroy and Muller are fountains of information, so the commentary track is a must once you've viewed the film without it.

Crime wave was shot during the "Dragnet" days, when Jack Webb engineered a cozy relationship between the film and TV industries and the LAPD. That gave filmmakers access to the inner workings of the force like you couldn't dream of these days. They even film in the old L.A. Police Detective Bureau, which used to be located in City Hall. Also, keep an eye out for the many identifiable L.A. landmarks that turn up, like the original Bob's Big Boy in Burbank.

The films stars Sterling Hayden (above) as no nonsense Detective Lt. Sims. Muller comments, and I have to agree, that Hayden WAS Bud White, the fictional L.A. Police detective in Ellroy's "L.A. Confidential," who was played by Russell Crowe in the screen adaptation of Ellroy's novel. Hayden was the real thing, a "knock your teeth down your throat if you give me any lip" LAPD detective.

Also playing a small supporting role is a young Charles Buchinsky, who became better known later as Charles Bronson.

It's not the greatest story ever told, but check out the camera work and all of those L.A. locations. Director André De Toth filmed this strikingly gorgeous portrait of L.A. that makes you forgive and forget the occasional weakly written scene.

Once again, this is a low-budget Warner Bros. knockoff, that almost starred Humphrey Bogart -- De Toth fought for Hayden -- and was shot in 14 days. This might be the only film I've ever seen that I'm grateful did not have Bogie in the cast. It's perfect the way it is.

No comments:

Post a Comment