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Pickup

Posted by martinteller on November 11, 2012

“Look at him, that old spider, how he stares at me.  It makes me sick.”

Jan “Hunky” Horak (Hugo Haas) leads a simple but solitary existence.  He’s a widower, his dog just died, he lives in a remote shack by the tracks where he performs his duties as a railroad worker.  His only friend is a hobo known as “The Philosopher” (Howland Chamberlain) but he’s content with his life.  And then he meets Betty (Beverly Michaels), a statuesque and seductive golddigger.  Betty’s out of funds and desperate for a new sucker to latch onto.  When she learns that Hunky has $7300 in the bank, she hooks him and they get married.  Getting at his money is harder than she thought, but then Hunky suddenly goes deaf, which means early retirement and a fat pension.  Hunky gets hit by a car and miraculously recovers… but for the sake of his wife, he decides to keep up the charade.  But before he can tell her the “good” news, he overhears her talking to Hunky’s hunky replacement — in more than one way — Steve (Allan Nixon) about her contempt for him and her plans to get at his money.  While the disillusioned Hunky continues to play deaf, his scheming wife talks a little too much.

So here we have Haas again, once more casting himself as a warm-hearted sucker who falls victim to a predatory, busty blonde.  This was his first American film, before he began his long association with Cleo Moore.  But the content is just as self-serving (although also oddly masochistic) and misogynist.  Betty is an absolutely ruthless character.  For a moment there’s a glimmer of sympathy for her, but it’s expediently dispatched with as she gets more and more devious and venomous.   Michaels isn’t anyone’s idea of a great actress — her vocal inflections are quite flat — but her imposing physicality gives her a definite presence.  She also gets all the good lines in the movie, particularly in the scene where she viciously mocks Haas to his face, believing him to be unaware.  Haas himself does his usual likable but gullible schmoe, and the other performances are nothing to write home about.

The screenplay was nominated for “Best Written American Low-Budget Film”, a Writers Guild category that sadly no longer exists.  Betty does have some pretty juicy lines, and I must admit the deafness angle is a fairly clever premise.  But ultimately the film isn’t all that satisfying.  It ends on a weird tonal shift that takes the bite out of the relative nastiness that precedes it.  It’s just that not good of a movie, but it has some moments.  I will probably not be checking out any more by Haas, though he is an interesting character, an auteur who slipped through the cracks.  Rating: Fair (62)

IMDb
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