The Girl In Black Stockings (1957)
While the advertising campaign was clearly built around the one and only Mamie Van Doren’s sex appeal, this low budget Bel Air Production has her billed below the title in third place behind leading man Lex Barker and lovely Anne Bancroft.
This multiple murder mystery from director Howard W. Koch takes place at the still standing Parry Lodge in Kanab, Utah. Following a nighttime dance at the resort Lex and Anne stumble upon a mutilated girl along the lake front. As the camera scans the faces gathered around to see the corpse we’ll spot Miss Mamie and Noir bad girl, Marie Windsor.
Arriving on scene is Sheriff John Dehner with his crew in tow that consists of the small town doctor who points out after inspecting the body, “A real psychopath.” in reference to the killer followed by, “They don’t stop with just one.” What struck me in this exchange between Dehner and Richard Cutting as the doctor is the description of the body’s mutilation. Throat cut, slashes to the arms etc…. Not the typical discussion delivered on camera in the late 50’s. At least not in studio productions but as this is a double bill special…..
For his part, Dehner, in cowboy hat, star on his shirt and gun on his hip becomes something of a Sherlock Holmes where everyone staying at the resort is looked at as a suspect including the resort’s owner, Ron Randell. Even if he appears to be a paraplegic in a wheelchair, Dehner isn’t so sure considering Randell is a hard bitten character who has little good to say about the victim or in fact anyone other than his sister, Miss Windsor, who has become his caretaker.
As for Lex, he’s going to drift into playing Dehner’s assistant on the case. He’s a big city lawyer on a vacation who is falling for Miss Bancroft whom he has met at the resort. Now back to our advertising campaign. Miss Mamie is stuck this time out in a cliched role serving as eye candy. Especially in that one piece swimsuit out by the pool. Sadly she’s the “dumb blonde” on the arm of an aging one time movie star played by John Holland. She’s more than happy to help him rehearse that love scene from his latest script. And I’m quite sure Mr. Holland was more than happy with his agent for landing him this role. Minor though it may be.
What stands out is the fact that no one seems overly upset that there’s a killer loose at the resort. And that doesn’t change much when another body is found floating in the resort pool. The only individual who does is Sheriff Dehner. I guess this is as good a time as any to point out that the early part of the film is Dehner’s. He’s easily the best performer on camera and if it weren’t for Barker’s leading man status the script could easily have been tinkered with to give Dehner a bit more screen time and move his name to the top of the billing. It’s a minor film like this one that clearly shows us just how good he was when given a larger role he could make something of.
There is another murder to come and it’s at this point that Dehner’s role falls into the background till the fadeout while Barker’s takes over as he pieces the clues together. Can he get it right? We know the killer has to be someone in our story. But who? Maybe it’s the barrel chested resort bartender. Not billed in the opening credits I was surprised to see Hoss Cartwright himself, Dan Blocker, tending bar. Or how about Stuart Whitman? Yes he’s in here as well prior to becoming a leading man himself.
One time Tarzan, Lex Barker, must still think he’s The Lord of the Apes at times the way some of his lines are delivered. Still, I must add that I’ve generally liked him in the many B’s that he starred in throughout the 50’s and overseas in the 60’s.
Girl In Black Stockings was the second film of 1957 that Miss Mamie starred in for director Koch. Earlier in the year she had the lead role in another film aimed at the exploitation market, Untamed Youth. Aubrey Schenck served as producer on both films. For the most part Mamie would remain in features geared for the drive-in crowd though she did find herself in an “A” budget feature the following year playing support to Clark Gable and Doris Day in Teacher’s Pet.
Anne Bancroft was more or less tied to “B” films in the 1950’s. Some noteworthy titles including The Raid, Nightfall, Demetrius and the Gladiators can be found on her resume. Right alongside the immensely enjoyable Gorilla At Large. Black Stockings proved to be her final film of the decade and she wouldn’t be back on the big screen until her Oscar winning performance in 1962’s The Miracle Worker.
Clocking in at just 75 minutes, I suppose we can call this a Noir entry but for a far better look at what director Koch was capable of in the genre, check out both Big House U.S.A. and Shield For Murder which he co-directed with that film’s star, Edmond O’Brien. Both a pair of hard nosed “B” entries.
Looking to see this time capsule? It’s included in the Kino Lorber release celebrating three Mamie titles. The others being Vice Raid and Guns Girls and Gangsters.