Try and Get Me! (Blu-ray Review)25 Apr, 2016 By: Mike Clark
$24.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray
Stars Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, Kathleen Ryan.
Except for some preachy soap-boxing that does its best to undermine inherent dramatic punch at every turn, the esteemed ‘B’ initially known as The Sound of Fury is one of the toughest and least compromised movies from the entire noir era. I saw it on TV as a child in 1959 and never forgot it, though until its recent restoration, modern showings have been relatively rare — notwithstanding a release by Republic Home Video in the VHS caveman era. If you think you’ve followed Lloyd Bridges’ career, we’re a long way from "Sea Hunt" here.
This is a California underbelly saga about the veterans who came back from World War II and did not go to school on the G.I. Bill or reap the benefits of having done so. Married father Howard (Frank Lovejoy, in the standout performance of his career) is struggling to get any kind of job as a laborer and opens the movie by hitching a ride home with a trucker after striking out on a trek to find work. Smoothie Jerry (Bridges) seems always equipped with wads of cash but has no visible means of support — seeming to live day to day in a not quite efficiency apartment is about on par with the minimalist room that social services at arranges for Elvis to take right after he gets out of the slammer in Jailhouse Rock. Howard is desperate to support his wife and pre-teen son, while closet psychotic Jerry is just looking for the next chippie he can take to a nightclub after a few pops. The two meet in a bowling alley where Howard is himself having a drink, a rare enough occurrence given his circumstances.
Beware of slick bowlers when they tell you they “know a guy” who might be able to find you employment — sage advice that Howard fails to follow even after he learns that the guy is Jerry himself. Soon, they’re knocking off mom-and-pop gas stations and splitting mostly meager rewards — though they do raise Howard’s standard of living enough that he can splurge for luxury groceries and promise his son that soon they’ll have a TV. (The film has a great time capsule scene about Howard’s wife and kid going over to view some ‘B’-Western with the only neighbors who have a set — which is just how it was for me around the time this picture was released.)
The story’s other and less-effective half has to do with a local newspaper columnist (Richard Carlson) egged on by his editor to view all of these $27 gas station takes as a “crime wave” gripping the town — all in the name of increased circulation. From the looks of it, Carlson lives a little higher on the hog than you’d expect a small-market news guy, and I get a mild unstated sense here that his attractive wife might be pushing him a bit in his career. If so, it’s a nice subtle touch — and certainly more subtle than having the foreign philosopher who happens to be visiting the couple offering advice about how criminals should be treated (that is, more humanely). We get it, we get it — and continue to get it after our two petty thieves, under Jerry’s initiation, vastly up the stakes on the kind of crime they’re willing to commit. At this point, they get in way over their heads, and Howard is miserable every step of the way.
Cy Endfield directed this Joe Pagano script, from the latter’s own novel, on his way to Blacklist-mandated Brit exile amid a spotty and only semi-unrealized career — though he did score a robust international hit in 1964 with Zulu. Like a lot of low-budget independents of the day, Get Me! is aided immensely by location footage that adds great immediacy to a story of haves-and-have-nots; the print is also excellent, due to the efforts of the funding Film Noir Foundation and other restoration experts (by the time I ran this at the AFI Theater in either the ’70s or early ’80s, we were talking a strictly 16mm affair).
The dramatic payoff here is the still brutal finale after the picture evolves into an anti-lynching tract. Given what the budget on this must have been, I’m amazed at the number of extras who got hired to play yahoos threatening to storm a jail; Pagano based his book on the same 1933 real-life incident that inspired Fritz Lang’s first American film (Fury), and producer Robert Stillman apparently recruited students from Arizona State to play the mob. As mentioned, the original title here was The Sound of Fury, which was changed to its permanent identifier after the movie underperformed (it didn’t even reach my hometown until nearly a year after release). Not exactly helping matters was The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther, who made a career of panning films that even then were destined to stand the test of time. Just a tenth of the boats he missed could have sunk the Spanish Armada.