A year after They Drive By Night, Walsh reassembles much of the team from that picture to make Manpower. It’s a terrific movie. The script is maybe a little hokey, and Alan Hale’s maybe given a bit too much comic leash, but for crying out loud: George Raft, Edward G. Robinson, and Marlene Dietrich in a Raoul Walsh movie? What more could you want?
The movie would probably have a much higher profile if its setup wasn’t so weird. Raft and Robinson are electrical linemen. It’s hard to imagine what went on in that pitch meeting; maybe a lot of Martinis were involved. The picture works very hard to make the profession seem dangerous (which it is), heroic (which it may well be), and glamorous (which it isn’t).
But you don’t watch this one for the plot. You watch it to see Raft as the heavy-lidded charmer half-angel half-snake, Robinson as — as always — the tough-as-nails sap, and Dietrich. Dietrich. Dietrich who probably doesn’t have to work too hard at her acting to convey her exquisite Weltschmerz here in the summer of 1941. It’s probably coming quite naturally.
I had to. For reasons likely clear to anyone aware of my recent interests. There are decidedly things to say, but I’ll just say this one. About four of the movie’s 107 minutes take place at Guantanamo, and three of those four are dedicated to forwarding the propositions that the soldiers who guard the detainees force them to perform fellatio on them all day every day, and, further, that the guards there believe themselves to be straight but the detainees to be gay, because you have to be gay to give a blow job, but you can be straight no matter who you’re getting a blow job from.
I fear this could be developed into a metaphor for the way the United States conceives of its relationship to the rest of the world. I’m either unwilling or unable to do that right now, though.
Another thing: The climactic scene depends upon the recitation of poetry.
One more: Incredible scene. The boys meet up with a central-casting redneck in the woods in Alabama. He takes them home to his central-casting redneck shack with rusting appliances in the yard. Opens the door, and inside it’s decorated like a SoHo loft. People, listen: it’s not an entirely inaccurate reading of Alabama. How did they know that?