Guns Girls and Gangsters (1959)
There are plenty of guns and gangsters in this Edward L. Cahn directed “B” and as for girls …. well the male cast get all they can handle in one package, the blonde bombshell Mamie Van Doren, who scores top billing above her costars, Gerald Mohr and Lee Van Cleef.
To get this black and white 70 minute United Artists release rolling we’ll cue up the dreaded narrator (not a fan) and take advantage of some vintage stock footage of Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s here that we’ll learn Mr. Mohr is an ex-con studying the transportation of Casino money via armored trucks to the banks of L.A. He’s looking to put a gang together and already has the recognizable character actor, Paul Fix, in his employ as a radio specialist who can monitor the movements of the armored vehicles and reproduce their call-ins while on the road.
In order to get on the inside with local gangland figure, Grant Richards, Mohr figures on making a play for the featured performer in Richards’ nightclub. If you said Miss Mamie, you’d be right. Time to introduce our blonde attraction to the paying customers. In a form fitting, silky low cut outfit, Mamie, hits the dance floor for a sexy number to the appreciation of the male members in the audience. Following the show she’ll find Mohr in her dressing room.
He’s got free roaming hands and she’s not exactly receptive to his advances. Not yet at least. He let’s her know that not only does he want her to connect him with her boss/lover but he was also the cellmate of her incarcerated husband, Lee Van Cleef. For the past few years he and Van Cleef have been hatching this heist plan and even though Van Cleef is still in the state pen, Mohr fully intends to give him a fair cut of the two million he intends to steal over the New Year’s Holiday.
Soon after meeting Mamie, Mohr, will have the cooperation of Richards in pulling the heist and a fence who is willing to unload the cash overseas. Now with the gang in place and Mamie joining in and beginning to like what Mohr is selling her for a future in Mexico, she’s staking out the small roadside motel and garage where the heist is to take place. It’s here Mamie meets and befriends the couple who own the roadside establishment taking pride in their work running the motel played by Elaine Edwards and John Baer.
All plans for a smooth hijacking are tossed aside when Van Cleef breaks out of prison and is the focal point of an intense manhunt. The eventual icon of spaghetti westerns wants nothing better than to catch up to his wayward wife and any lovers she’s taken. He’s more interested in killing then he is the two million dollar take. Looking for information on Mamie’s whereabouts he’ll beat one of our leading characters nearly to death before finishing the job with a knife. Then it’s on to the next lead in locating her. The bodies are piling up quickly and when he finally reaches Mamie and Mohr at the roadside motel an uneasy alliance is formed until the money from the heist is secured.
That still won’t stop Van Cleef from killing the armored car guards, one of which is Robert’s brother, John Mitchum, appearing unbilled in one of the many character parts he’d play over the course of a long career in his brother’s shadow. Though Van Cleef scored third billing he doesn’t appear on camera till the film is half over so it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting all that much. WRONG. Without consulting a long list of his 1950’s bit roles and back shooting cowboys, this might be his most impressive role in a non western during the decade. His presence is one of brute force and makes it easy to see why he was one of the premiere villains of the era though admittedly on the “B” circuit. I’d like to have seen what he could have done in a superior Noir as the lead hood.
“Give me plenty of room men. I take deep breaths.”
This from Miss Mamie on New Years Eve as she treats the party goers staying at the Motel to a song and dance routine. I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that Mamie has a minimum 8 different outfits I counted in the 70 minutes the film lasted. Everything from that slinky Vegas number to a one piece swimsuit. There’s no doubting where the advertising campaign fell upon this film’s release.
I guess there are no surprises down the stretch and as this isn’t Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw in The Getaway, don’t expect much of a future in Mexico for Mohr and Mamie. That’s the couple’s intentions if they can only get the cash and do away with Van Cleef who is charging hard at them as we approach the final reel.
There’s little doubt that the late 50’s were the days of the blonde bombshells led of course by Marilyn Monroe. Jayne Mansfield, Miss Mamie, Joi Lansing etc. were all enlisted to bring young men into movie houses of the day. Got a favorite? Did I miss yours? Send me a message below. As for Mamie Van Doren, I thought she was fine in this “B” flick and held her own in the acting department. I think we can all agree that far too often the good looking gals had their performances overlooked thanks to their stunning figures. So while Van Cleef steals the film for me, Miss Mamie held her own for director Cahn.
Looking to see this one? It was recently released in a three pack of Mamie Van Doren titles via Kino Lorber on blu ray. 1 down and 2 to go…..