5 October 2002 | bmacv
Ingster's second go at noir just a ho-hum rehash of tired themes
Southside 1-1000 has to work hard to wash out the sour taste left by its obligatory, patriotic opening: Stock battle footage runs under a voice-over linking the importance of a sound national currency to the Korean conflict (then playing at a theater of war near you) and the diabolical, all-encompassing threat of Communist domination. Whew! (It was the early cold-war era, and viewers were all but required to swear a loyalty oath before they could enjoy even a B-programmer.) Unluckily, it doesn't work hard enough.
Locked up in a federal pen, a top-notch forger pores over his Bible until lights out, when he whisks out his engraving tools and etches the plates for `queer.' Smuggled out, they go on the presses turning out counterfeit bills to be uttered at race tracks and Vegas poker parlors. G-Man Don DeFore (an avuncular figure familiar from television - Ozzie and Harriet, Hazel) goes undercover to track down and infiltrate the source of the funny money. Middleman Barry Kelley goes down (literally, through a window) but the brains of the operation stay at large. Then, as a big-spending good-time Charley, DeFore catches the eye of Andrea King, daughter of the old jailbird. But his cover is blown at his moment of greatest peril....
The director, Boris Ingster, occupies a curious niche in Hollywood lore. In 1940, with Stranger on the Third Floor, he gave the public an elliptical, dreamlike suspense movie that came to be regarded by many fans as the very first film noir. That's a tough call to make, and at any rate Ingster can hardly be counted among the noir maestros (in fact, he directed but three movies). He returned to the cycle as it was peaking and had even begun to cannibalize earlier successes.
Despite two or three sequences that rise a notch or two above the pedestrian, Southside 1-1000, can only be graded ho-hum. The best thing in it has to be Andrea King, but she's allowed to bare her fangs fully only too briefly at the end. And while its numerical title remains so evocative of the noir series as a whole (Call Northside 777, Dial 1119, 99 River Street, 711 Ocean Drive), Southside 1-1000 simply warms over material than had been often traversed over the few years previous, most remarkably by Anthony Mann in T-Men.