Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Endangered List (Case File #22)

“’Hangup’ is a film which I believe will be equally popular with black and white audiences alike. One of the reasons I did ‘Hangup’ is because I believe there’s an even greater need for pictures that appeal to both audiences. ‘Hangup’ is made with black actors and white actors but it doesn’t matter all that much who plays whom. What matters is that the story is about PEOPLE.” -- Henry Hathaway, director

HANGUP (1974)

William Elliott (Ken Ramsey)
Marki Bey (Julie Turner)
Cliff Potts (Lou Tillman)
Michael Lerner (Richards)
Wally Taylor (Sergeant Becker)
Timothy Blake (Gwen)
Fredd Wayne (Felder)
Midori (Sally)
David A. Renard (Bud)
Pepe Serna (Enrqiue)
Rafael Campos (Longnose)
Lynn Hamilton (Mrs. Ramsey)
William Bramley (Simpson)
Bob Delegall (Jennings)
Barbara Baldavin (Beverly)
Morris Buchanan (Dave)
Danny “Big” Black (Jim Jim)
Herbert Jefferson, Jr. (Ben)
Jerry Ayres (Jerry)
Joe Renteria (Paul)
Sy Prescott (Morton)
George Murdock (Captain Gorney)

Directed by Henry Hathaway
Screenplay by John B. Sherry and Lee Lazich
Based on the novel “The Face of Night” by Bernard Brunner
Director of Photography: Robert Houser, A.S.C.
Art director: Jim Halsey
Edited by Chris Kaeselau
Sound: Harold Lewis
Set Decorator: Robert Benton
Music Editor: John Caper, Jr.
Music by Tony Camillo
Title Song, “Hangup,” written by George Barrie
Associate Producer: T.W. Sewell
Production Manager: Byron Roberts
Costume Supervision: Nedra Rosemond Watt
Makeup Artist: Rolf Miller
Cosmetics by Polly Bergen
Script Supervision: Lloyd Nelson
2nd Assistant Director: Anthony Brand
1st Assistant Director: Pepi Lenzi

94 minutes
MPAA rating: R

A Brut production
Released by Warner Brothers


Ken Ramsey (WILLIAM ELLIOTT), a handsome, 25-year-old middle-class black rookie on the Los Angeles Police Department undercover narcotics squad, works with Lou Tillman (CLIFF POTTS), a 27-year-old white officer in the same capacity. The team is investigating the death of a cocktail waitress, Sally (MIDORI), found dead in her apartment with a needle in her arm. The officers believe she may have been given a lethal dose of “pure.”

Sally had a roommate named Julie Turner (MARKI BEY). Ken goes to a sleazy model studio and finds Julie, age 23, who was once the most popular girl and cheerleader in high school. At one time she had everything going for her. Now she’s an addict. Ken knew Julie when they were in Venice High School. He felt something for the girl then, and he still does.

Initially, Julie thinks Ken is there to take pictures of her. His purpose is dual: he’s a cop with a job to do, but he is also young and pent up.

Ken invites Julie to dinner ostensibly for old times’ sake. He also informs his boss, Sergeant Becker (GLYNN TURMAN), that he has found Julie and she is a hype.

After dinner they go to Julie’s apartment and Ken shows her a picture of Sally – dead. Julie suddenly realizes he is a cop. Ken needs information from the girl.

Julie says Sally’s connection was a guy named Johnny, but is vague about him. Under tremendous emotional pressure she admits that her habit is “two bags a day,” and she needs help. Ken agrees to take time off from the force and his school and stay with Julie while she kicks the habit, knowing full well that being connected with a junkie could mean the end of his career.

During a romantic idyll at the beach, Ken pries the name of Julie’s connection from her – a man named Fred Richards (MICHAEL LERNER). He then talks the girl into setting up an appointment to make a purchase with the man.

Ken is taped with a microphone and Lou waits some distance away in the car with the recorder. Ken returns to the model studio where he took pictures of Julie and enters Richards’ quarters in the back.

After satisfying himself that Ken is “cool,” Richards accuses Ken of wanting to turn Julie out to hustle for him.

“…If you have any such notion, you are going to find yourself hanging on a meat hook in the morgue.

“I’ve built up a whole string of high-paying white johns that are just crazy for that…”

Richards then delivers the heroin to Ken who forces the marked money upon him, and in a wild rage, attacks Richards with such intensity and fury that he doesn’t hear the door shatter. Lou stops the outraged Ken from kicking the unconscious Richards to death.

Ken faces Julie with the knowledge he now possesses concerning her past. She earnestly tries to explain that she only lived the life of a hooker to support her habit and that Ken is the only man she ever loved. Ken can neither accept her explanation nor cope with the situation as it is. After harsh words, Ken packs a suitcase and leaves the grief-stricken girl.

Becker confronts Ken with his irrational actions: “Two broken ribs, three teeth that had to be surgically extracted, twelve stitches upper right cheek…besides everything else, you blew us a peddler we never knew about.”

The distraught Julie goes to Richards, claiming that Ken never came back with the “h,” has done a con job on them both, and pleads with him to get her some heroin. Richards seemingly believes the girl and promises to see that she is supplied if she agrees to work under the same conditions as before. Julie calls Ken and tells him that she is shooting up, and a piercing scream of agony from her sends Ken rushing to her apartment, but he is too late. Julie is dead from mainlining a dose of heroin that has been mixed with strychnine.

Ken tells Lou that he is certain Julie has been killed by Richards, and asks Lou to help him prove it. Staked out in a furniture store across the street from Richards’ studio, Ken and Lou keep many nights’ vigil on Richards’ activities. Finally, the pair become certain that Richards is selling, and through a hype, set him up for a buy.

A wild auto chase and gunfight ensue. Richards is killed, and the policemen seriously wounded.

“You blew it again. What a lousy cop,” Lou says to Ken. Ken’s infatuation with Julie has been his “hangup,” and he faces an uncertain future.

For a review of Bernard Brunner's source novel, The Face of Night, visit The Paperback Film Projector.

1 comment:

Booksteve said...

Henry Freakin' HATHAWAY??? Amazing.