As I have written before, movies can be unintentionally funny if the writing is poor. Once that occurs, I just can’t take a film seriously. Sloppy scripting is by no means a modern phenomenon, either.
I recently watched A Lawless Street, a 1955 Western starring Randolph Scott, one of the great cowboy actors of all-time, and Angela Lansbury, who’s no slouch of an actress herself. Despite this top-notch acting talent, I was completely distracted during a scene in which Randolph Scott walks into a saloon, the Hired Gun gets the drop on him, and then shoots our hero. The bullet, however, has only grazed him across the top of his head, knocking him unconscious. The sympathetic town doctor pronounces him dead in order to fool the Hired Gun and the Bad Guy who hired him. Doc takes Randolph Scott to the jail where he nurses him back to health. In one day. Why no one in town questions storing a corpse in the jail instead of burying it is beside the point. More miraculous than Randolph Scott’s healing powers are the properties of the man’s hat.
Again, the bullet grazed him across the top of his head, but the next day, he donned his white hat (yes, it really was a white hat) to which there was not only no damage, there wasn’t even a speck of blood on it. If the bullet was low enough to miss the hat altogether, then I suggest that Randolph Scott’s thinking parts would have been pretty well-ventilated, at which point the color and condition of his hat would not be an issue, at least not to him.
If the bullet were high enough to merely part his hair, then the hat should have suffered some consequences. As should have the writers. You would think that someone on set would have said, “Hey, let’s throw some fake blood on the hat.” (Then someone else could have yelled, “Hey! I can’t believe we’re getting paid for this!”) I guess that was too difficult, but for the rest of the movie, I didn’t care if Angela Lansbury stayed true to Randolph Scott (she did) or whether the Hired Gun would get what was coming to him (he did) or if corruption would be expelled from Medicine Bend (it was). I only cared about the hat. A perfect ending to this movie would have been to have the hat ride off into the sunset by itself, but the writers stuck with a more traditional ending, which is strange to me because they certainly didn’t stick to a traditional hat.
Shortly after watching this Western, I watched a 1962 “thriller” entitled, Homicidal, which was a William Castle production and which, Time magazine liked better than Psycho. Homicidal was famous for containing a “fright break” right before the movie’s climax. A clock actually appeared on the screen and people were told they could leave if they didn’t think they could handle the scary ending. Castle offered them their money back, too, but that’s a different story, which you can read about here. This was a clever idea, but my favorite part of the movie is when the main character looks out the window and says, “Miriam Webster is here!” My first thought was that there was a dictionary walking up the driveway, and all during the rest of the picture I wondered if the writers were amusing themselves with this name or if they subconsciously got it from the unused Merriam Webster dictionary that was must have been lying around on the desk.
I’m only speculating that the dictionary was unused. The writers certainly never looked up the word plot. Well, maybe they did look up the word plot before they started in on the script. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt on that. I am quite positive, however, that the word coherent was not referenced.
Movies can be riveting. Sometimes, however, they rivet your attention to the wrong stuff.
You can watch the trailer for Homicidal below: