It was a packed house at the Castro Theatre last night for the "Bad Girls" Noir City X double feature, Naked Alibi (1954) and Pickup (1951) and worth every yawn and creaking joint this morning. What a wacky picture Naked Alibi is. Everyone was slapping somebody or shootin' 'em or stabbin' 'em or kissin' 'em...hard. Sterling Hayden plays a seemingly-psycho cop who is convinced that the seemingly-innocent Gene Barry, local baker and family man, has murdered a few cops (one of whom was the ubiquitous Max Showalter) and becomes obsessed with proving it even after he is dismissed from the police force for brutality. Then for some reason they all go to Mexico.
Once over the border, we learn that Gene Barry has a hot cookie on the side in the form of Gloria Grahame and that Sterling Hayden has virtually no police instincts, as he is lured into a dark alley, stabbed and robbed within an hour of arriving. Billy Chapin, shoeshine boy, becomes the catalyst for Hayden meeting Grahame so they can begin their doomed romance. Eventually everyone (except Billy Chapin) goes back over the border and Gene Barry is revealed to be the murderous heel Sterling Hayden always knew he was. Gloria Grahame doesn't make it, sad to say, and I'm sorry, but Sterling Hayden is still psycho.
* The singing was done by Jo Ann Greer, says the excellent site "Movie Dubbers" and the angel who posted the song on YouTube (it starts about a minute in).
Hugo Haas starred in, wrote, and directed this picture. Apparently, this was the first in a series of films Haas made throughout the 1950s on exactly the same topic — hot, mean girl takes shlubby middle-aged man for all he's worth (this from Eddie Muller, the Czar of Noir, who gives a short lecture before each movie. Muller, bless him, is kind of a toolbag, but he really knows a lot, so it's worth sitting through the smarm). I'll be trolling for more of Haas's pictures, so stay tuned.
Contrary to what the posters would have you think, Pickup, isn't especially hardboiled. Each character is believeable and flawed; their choices stupid and human. Yes, it's a B noir, but the story is ultimately about loneliness, companionship, and forgiveness — even "Betty" (Beverly Michaels) isn't completely rotten. I'm not going to elaborate, because you really should see it if you can.