Pulp Fiction Thursday: Dial 1119

Dial 1119 is a nifty low budget 1950 noir produced by MGM. The glossiest studio hired noted Hollywood liberal Dore Schary to bring a new touch to the studio. Schary’s ascension led to a string of socially aware crime movies among them, Dial 1119.

A psychotic killer played by Marshall Thompson has escaped from custody. He takes control of a watering hole called The Oasis Bar after being aggravated by the barflies. Perhaps he was an early anti-smoking zealot because everyone else in the movie smoked as if they were on the Philip Morris payroll.

The bar is populated by types familiar to viewers of old movies. There’s the grizzled “ink-stained” wretch of a reporter. There’s an older woman played by Virginia Field who has been marinating in booze for so long that she seems attached to the bar. There’s a mouthy salesman and his latest extramarital squeeze. You catch my drift.

The character I like the most is played by one of my favorite character actors, William Conrad. He would go on to unlikely teevee stardom as Cannon. Conrad had the deepest voice in the business. He played the surly bartender of The Oasis with the ironic nickname of Chuckles.

I’ve always wanted an ironic nickname but have never had one. Some call me Shecky after the old school Vegas comedian. I’m funny so it’s not ironic or even iconic. The latter is one of the most overused words in the journalistic lexicon. Just call me Shecky the Iconoclast.

Back to Dial 1119. The performances are swell, especially Marshall Thompson who underplays his role so much that he appears to be a sleepwalker. Sam Levene should be a familiar face to Noiristas. He plays the killer’s shrink and has some nifty banter with the cop who arrested the escaped con and is bitter than he wasn’t executed.

The movie has a semi-happy ending as the barflies are liberated after their captor is gunned down; something Sam Levene tried to prevent. Oh well, what the hell.

Dial 1119 was directed by ousted MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer’s nephew, Gerald. The taut and tight script was written by John Monks Jr. who was not related to Louis B. Mayer.

Paul Vogel’s cinematography is excellent befitting a guy with 123 movies and an Oscar to his credit.

Grading Time: I give Dial 1119 3 stars and an Adrastos Grade of B. A solid movie with a solid cast.

It’s time to get all arty and shit and see Gunther Wyckoff’s face on a poster. That’s Thompson’s characters name. I, for one, am glad I’m not named Gunther.

Now that we’ve seen the cast, it’s time to venture into the lobby:

Let’s move from cokes and candy to cards; lobby cards.

Crazy, baby. The movie has one major flaw: William Conrad got killed too early. Free Chuckles, the barkeep. It’s what Frank Cannon would want. Never argue with him.

Let’s get trashy with the trailer for Dial 1119:

The last word goes to Eddie Muller with his Noir Alley intro and outro: