Dial 1119

Released Nov. 3, 1950: DIAL 1119, starring Marshall Thompson, Virginia Field, and Andrea King. Directed by Gerald Mayer (Inside Straight, The Sellout, The Marauders). Thompson plays a mentally unstable man who escapes a mental facility and goes in search of the police psychologist (Sam Levene) who was involved inDial1119 his murder trial three years earlier. While traveling on a bus, he steals a gun, kills the bus driver, and eventually ends up in a bar, where he takes five people hostage and demands the psychologist make an appearance. This is a well-produced and competently shot film that’s undercut by a lack of meaningful movement in the story and a bland performance by Thompson. The supporting cast are all very good, including William Conrad as the bartender, and the early part of film skillfully alternates between conversations among the bar patrons and Thompson’s journey towards the bar, giving us an opportunity to learn about each character before they become locked together in crisis. But once the hostage situation is established, the story stagnates. Yes, there’s the inherent tension that’s present in any hostage situation, including the point of view of the police, but the story never explores the potential dynamics that are possible when six distinct personalities are stuck in a room together under duress. Except for a few short-lived outbursts, the hostages pretty much sit quietly and so does Thompson. Thompson’s ultra low-key performance is a missed opportunity to really shine in the role of a deranged killer. We get that he’s dangerous. After all, he has a gun and is certainly willing to use it, but it’s not until late in the film that he finally starts to go to pieces. Up to that point, he’s a fairly somber and generic villain. It’s the lack of real character examination and interaction that keeps this film from rising above just average. It’s not a bad film, but it had the potential to be so much better. Incidentally, look for brief cameos by Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver of Leave It To Beaver fame) as the secretary in the newspaper office, and Frank Cady (Sam Drucker of Green Acres fame) as a man being interviewed on the street. And get a load of that big screen TV on the wall above the bar – pretty impressive for 1950. We give Dial 1119 2.5 out of 5 fedoras.

2.5 Fedoras

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