Lew Landers | Subjects | Structure and Story Telling | Visual Style | Rankings | Comparison with Howard Hawks | Detour

Feature Films: Night Waitress | The Man Who Found Himself | Twelve Crowded Hours | Conspiracy | Alias Boston Blackie

Bat Masterson: Dead Men Don't Pay Debts

Cheyenne: Riot at Arroyo Seco

Classic Film and Television Home Page (with many articles on directors) | Television Western Articles

Lew Landers

Lew Landers is an American film and television director.

Lew Landers: Subjects

Some common subjects in the films of Lew Landers: Crime and Justice: Impersonation and Disguise: Jobs: Transportation: Technology: Nature: Food: Performers:

Lew Landers: Structure and Story Telling

Tone: Story Structure:

Lew Landers: Visual Style

Staging: Camera Movement: Costumes:

Rankings

Here are ratings for various films directed by Lew Landers. Everything at least **1/2 is recommended.

Feature films:

Mr. and Mrs. North: Bat Masterson: Maverick: Cheyenne: Much of what public interest exists today in Lew Landers centers on his horror films, such as The Raven and The Mask of Dijon. If it were better distributed, Murder in Times Square about a serial killer who seems to strike through a poisonous snake and curses, might also attract interest. This is a favorite of Bill Krohn's. I like Murder in Times Square due to its mystery elements. This script is partly by great mystery writer Stuart Palmer, and shows his gift for Howdunit mysteries (plot in which the very manner in which the crimes are committed is a mystery).

Dave Kehr talked in one of his video appearances recently about how the horror-fantasy fans are the center of the DVD market. This group is perhaps the strongest element of interest in pre-1970 films.


Comparison with Howard Hawks

Lew Landers shares a number of interests with the great director Howard Hawks: There can be a feel of snappy adventure in both director's films.

A Note on Detour

Detour (1945) is a famous film noir directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.

Bill Krohn writes, at a_film_by: "Lew Landers' name is on the script for Detour as its original director."

Detour is much more noir like than Landers' earlier work. Landers' characters often do wind up dropping through the cracks in society, just like the hero of Detour. They often emerge in strange places at the bottom of the social order.


Night Waitress

Night Waitress (1936) is a crime thriller, set in a waterfront cafe. It is a film I've never been able to enjoy.

Harassment

It is unfair to say that the cafe in Night Waitress is a dump. Proprietor Billy Gilbert tries to set standards, and the waitresses work hard. This modest cafe could be a decent restaurant, except for one thing: the customers. These men all seem to have majored in sexual harassment in college - and that's assuming they went to college. They spend all their time making offensive sexual remarks to the waitresses. Clearly, none of these women would be working there, if they weren't starving in the Depression. It is unpleasant to watch these women relentlessly hounded by their sleazy customers.

The alleged hero of Night Waitress also harasses the heroine. It is hard to find him at all likable. It is wrong-headed for Night Waitress to eventually reward his behavior, by having the heroine agree to go out on a date with him.

Camera Movement

There are several fairly complex camera movements, that follow various characters as they walk around inside the cafe.

The Man Who Found Himself

The Man Who Found Himself (1937) is a combination medical and flying drama.

Like Another Country

The hero works as a surgeon in New York City, then runs away to California and goes to work for an airline. This feels a bit like Conspiracy, where the hero visits another country. The other country is an enemy of the USA, and the hero eventually infiltrates it by putting on an enemy uniform. There is no war in The Man Who Found Himself, but otherwise there is something of a similar feel:

Food: Working Class

When the hero's greedy upper class fiance rejects sharing working poverty with him, one of her reasons is that she wouldn't be able to afford to eat "expensive food".

By contrast, we later see the hero and heroine sharing coffee and donuts at a lunch counter. This is perhaps a "working class food". Coffee and donuts will return as the food of the poor in Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1942).

A Beautiful Friendship

When the hoboes joke about being separated from each other, one says the other is "breaking up a beautiful friendship". This anticipates the final line of Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942). A similar phrase also appears in the mystery novel The Dragon's Teeth (Ellery Queen, 1939). It always refers to a close relationship between two men.

Politics

The hoboes also talk about their "Civil Rights". This is perhaps an early use of this politically charged phrase in a movie. The hoboes are all white, and they are referring to their rights under law, not racial integration.

When the hero and hoboes are working on the City project, the dialogue tells us that the hero's job is to wave a "red flag". We see the hero waving the flag - a common symbol at construction sites to wave traffic away - but cannot see the color red in this black-and-white movie. One wonders if someone is sneaking in a little left-wing political symbolism with this red flag.

Windows

When nurse Joan Fontaine leaves in the ambulance with her patient, she sticks her head out the back window to say goodbye to the hero.

Later, a little boy will be rescued from the train, through a broken window.


Twelve Crowded Hours

Paul Cain

Twelve Crowded Hours (1939) was co-scripted by famous hard-boiled pulp writer Paul Cain, who wrote his film scripts as Peter Ruric. Cain/Ruric also wrote Ulmer's film The Black Cat (1934). Paul Cain has been well-known and admired in the mystery community for decades: I read his novel Fast One in 1980. But he is just now being discovered and taken up by the literati, as their big New Thing.

High Tech Phones

In Twelve Crowded Hours the thriller plot exploits the properties of phones that can be plugged into various tables in restaurants.

In the short lived American TV series Middle Ages (1992), one of the characters was a high-powered political consultant (Michael O'Keefe). He was always talking rapid-fire into his cell phone, which he would then fold up and put away in his suit. He was a yuppie with important business. This must have been my first contact with cinematic characters with cell phones. Whenever I see one in a movie, it immediately brings to mind this guy.

What Fritz Lang could have done with cell phones!


Conspiracy

An Imaginary Country

Conspiracy (1939) is international intrigue. It is set in an imaginary foreign country, a vicious dictatorship.

Conspiracy goes to great lengths, to depict its imaginary country. There are building signs everywhere, in a made-up foreign language. The words look like a Romance Language, such as Italian, Spanish or Portuguese, but are not any of the above.

By contrast, when government officials speak, their accents sound German (not a Romance Language). This suggests Nazi Germany. Conspiracy is indeed an anti-Nazi film, with its totalitarian country a stand-in for Nazi Germany.

The soldiers in Conspiracy are in made-up uniforms, that don't directly suggest those of any real country. In a gambit that is common in war or spy films, the American heroes wind up in some of these uniforms, impersonating and infiltrating government installations.

Ships, Planes and Escape

Conspiracy shows Lew Landers' fondness for ships and planes. The hero and other characters are sailors, and much action takes place on boats and ships. SPOILER. A seaplane makes an exciting appearance towards the end.

The last third of the movie has the heroes attempting escape on such vehicles. Lew Landers clearly liked tales of adventure and escape, on such moving vehicles.


Alias Boston Blackie

Alias Boston Blackie (1942) is part of the Boston Blackie series of comedy-detective stories.

Camera Movement

There is a good deal of simple but vigorous camera movement, following characters. The camera follows the clown in the police station. And moves back and forth along the sidewalk.

The Escape from the Police Station

Around two-thirds way through the film, Blackie stages a complex escape from the police station. This is a delightful set piece. It is full of clever plot ideas and twists.

Towards the start, just before the escape, there is a witty section where Blackie and his sidekick are ordered not to talk by the police. This ties in with Landers' interest in communication.

The escape itself recalls the one in Conspiracy. SPOILERS:

The Christmas decorations are sweet and funny. They seem wildly incongruous in a "tough guy" area like the police station. They add to the comic joy of Alias Boston Blackie.

The zany dance of the telegraph messengers is also a highlight. Such public expressions of joy through dance are also in the very end of Easy Mark.


Bat Masterson: Dead Men Don't Pay Debts

Dead Men Don't Pay Debts (1959) is Landers's first episode of Bat Masterson.

Cheyenne: Riot at Arroyo Seco

Riot at Arroyo Seco (1960) is an episode of Cheyenne.

The judge addressing the townspeople at the end, recalls District Attorney Chester Morris addressing the women witnesses in Smashing the Rackets. Both are exhortative, and seeking justice.

Coincidentally or not, Riot at Arroyo Seco shares cast members Wynn Pearce, Frank Ferguson with a previous Lew Landers TV episode Easy Mark.