Friday, June 11, 2010

Girls on the Loose (1958)

It surprises people to learn that this film and a few others were directed by none other than Paul Georg Julius Hernreid Ritter Von Wassel-Waldingau of Casablanca fame (maybe I should have just gone with Victor Laszlo?). But Paul Henreid segued quite well from his career as an actor to one behind the camera, directing a few low-budget second features and going on two decades worth of television programs, all the while maintaining a modest career as a performer.

That Henreid directed a trashy B film such as Girls on the Loose seems somewhat incongruous with his polished screen persona, but it also serves as a reminder that an actor’s screen image is exactly that: an image, an illusion. We think of the term typecasting in a negative light, but we need to remember that Hollywood then and now is built around the idea, whether the actor is George Clooney or George Dzundza. It isn’t that Henreid wasn’t a sophisticate in real life — it’s just that we shouldn’t assume he was simply because he often played one in his films. Considering that I’ve already brought up Casablanca we won't even go near the off-screen Humphrey Bogart. Bing Crosby anyone?

Girls on the Loose stars Mara Corday as Vera, the leader of an all-girl heist crew. The film actually kicks off with the girls knocking over a payroll. The bulk of the story is concerned with how the gang unravels in the wake of the crime. One after another Vera’s chums give her a reason to knock them off, until there’s a climactic showdown between the remaining heisters. This is a very low-rent B that strays close to exploitation territory — sex and violence all the way down the line. It’s in this sense that the movie is spoiled by its B roots: it relies on the sex appeal of the all-girl crew, yet the seemingly seven-foot tall Corday is the only member of the cast I found attractive. Corday’s on-screen sister, played by Barbara Bostock in a tepid impersonation of Shirley MacLaine, is the film’s triple threat: her acting, her singing and her looks all stink.

Nevertheless, at only 77 minutes the film is just entertaining enough to get through, and silly enough to generate some laughs — intentional or otherwise.

Girls on the Loose (1958)
Grade: D
Directed by Paul Henreid
Starring Mara Corday and Barbara Bostock
Released by Universal-International
Running time: 77 minutes.
Availability: Airs on TCM

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