Whiplash (1948), The System (1953)

whiplash

Two movies directed by Lewis Seiler:

Whiplash (1948) finds Laurie (Alexis Smith) caught between two jerks, crippled ex-boxer Rex (Zachary Scott), and aspiring artist boxer Mike (Dane Clark). Rex traps her in a loveless marriage by holding a malpractice charge over the head of her doctor brother (Jeffrey Lynn). During her brief cross-country escape from Rex, Laurie attracts the persistent Clark, who won’t take no for an answer and ends up stalking her back to NYC. He’s so obsessed and then hurt by the discovery that she’s married, that he decides to go work for her husband, which means accepting Rex’s strange offer to train Mike into his pet champion fighter (named “Mike Angelo”) Both men emotionally manipulate and punish Laurie–at one point Mike astoundingly says to Smith, “why don’t you leave me alone?” When Rex finds the portrait Mike painted of Laurie during his search for her, Rex hangs it up in his office and gets his kicks watching Laurie’s reaction. After all this, a real world woman would be smart to drop them both and run, but Mike slightly redeems himself by finally making an attempt to understand Smith’s tough situation and help her out of it. This is an entertaining, dark and twisted melodrama, a messy love-hate triangle featuring world-class gluttons for punishment with tons of baggage. Glamour comes courtesy of a nightclub setting where Laurie is the chanteuse, the art and boxing worlds are fused with the help of a sassy, self-reliant bridging character played by Eve Arden, stuck with a possessive doofus of her own but making the best of the connections she makes in the nice places he takes her. Nice touch to include a ruined boxer still hoping to collect on Rex’s championship promises; it should have hinted to Mike that he’d be similarly used. Lynn does a nice job with his sad, poetic character, sacrificing himself to set his sister free in a showdown with a clever shocker ending for Rex and his wheelchair.

system

In The System (1953), an expose and government investigation into a gambling syndicate is complicated by the head crook’s decent acts, his romance with the newspaper editor’s daughter, his ties to the community and stubborn refusal to bow to mob pressure and violent tactics. Merrick (Frank Lovejoy) is the head of a local gambling syndicate, but he has a conscience, which we discover as soon as the fuse on this bomb is lit by fed-up veteran reporter Allen (Don Beddoe). As the scandal ripples through Merrick’s social, professional and criminal circles, as the testimony and negotiations unfold, a picture is painted of Merrick as a kind family man who’s raised a smart, successful son and done good in the community. Casting as good and likable an actor as Lovejoy is a big plus when the movie asks: how bad is a man who does some good things? Is a mobster in a cushy office responsible for the death of a gambling-addicted teen or the actions of a trigger-happy gunman? Should he care about the fate of a longtime loyal and honest employee who suddenly feels he must perjure himself to protect the boss who’s only ever been good to him? As many questions as there are small juicy roles. Rob Arthur plays Merrick’s son, who seems to have always known in his gut that dad’s income wasn’t legit, but is shattered beyond repair after the hit on his friend’s father. That murder is nicely shot, from a distance, with barely heard dialogue and a matter-of-fact view of a panicked impulse killing and the neighbourhood’s shock. The movie is bookended by losses of sons, tragedies which spur men, once on opposite sides of the issue, to do the same right thing.

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9 thoughts on “Whiplash (1948), The System (1953)”

  1. Two new ones for me. Whiplash sounds right up my street so I’ll try to look out for it. The System is a title I have but I’ve yet to see it – I’ll try to remedy that some time in the summer though.

    1. One more soapy, the other a gritty expose, in both I enjoyed some unusual, even sweeping camera work, and nice visuals. Good-looking movies and nice casts, hopefully you enjoy when you get to them.

  2. I don’t think I have ever seen “WHIPLASH” and I KNOW I had not even heard of “THE SYSTEM”. Both sound very much like my kinda movie with a number of actors I rather like. Really interesting.

    1. They’re interesting, good casts for sure. Glad I can bring something to your attention in return for all the great recommendations I get from you and other readers! After these 2 I pulled out some more Seiler titles–fun thread to follow. I really like Frank Lovejoy and he gets to do a complicated, tragic character here. Lots of nice little character moments in The System.

  3. THE SYSTEM is in my “hot stack” after having seen Joan Weldon in a couple other movies in recent months. Sounds fun! I enjoyed WHIPLASH at Noir City a few years ago. Messed-up characters in an entertaining soap, you captured it well.

    Best wishes,
    Laura

    1. Weldon doesn’t get too much to do in this one but be a supportive girlfriend, but then the whole thing is kind of split up among many actors. Each one gets a moment, and some pretty memorable ones, too. Whiplash was very soapy, poor Alexis Smith! She needed a time out before going back to Clark lol. I just saw Smith in the very creepy The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, and was she ever nasty!

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