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The Cry Baby Killer

USA 1958
produced by
David Kramarsky, David March, Roger Corman (executive) for Allied Artists
directed by Jus Addiss (as Joe Addis)
starring Harry Lauter, Jack Nicholson, Carolyn Mitchell, Brett Halsey, Lynn Cartwright, Ralph Reed, John Shay, Barbara Knudson, William A.Forester, John Weed, Frank Richards, Bill Erwin, James Fillmore, Smoki Whitfield, Ed Nelson, Mitzi McCall, Herb Vigran, Ruth Swanson, Claude Stroud, Roger Corman
written by Leo Gordon, Melvin Levy, music by Gerald Fried

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Manny (Brett Halsey) a local teenaged wannabe bigshot, has made Carol (Carolyn Mitchell) his girl, and this night at the diner, he's very publicly spiking her drink, just to show what a bigshot he is. Of course, he's nothing but hot air, as when Carol's former boyfriend, the much more modest Jimmy (Jack Nicholson), confronted him, he managed to beat him up only because two of his sidekicks were holding Jimmy. Jimmy's hurt bad, on the inside and the outside, and exactly because of this he needs to go to the diner to challenge Manny for a rematch. Manny's of course the same coward as always, so he drags his sidekicks along again ... but one of them's packing heat, and when Jimmy gets his hands on the gun he fires it - and Manny's hit and breaks down. Thinking he has shot Manny dead, Jimmy takes hostages - cook Sam (Smoki Whitfield) and Mrs Maxton (Barbara Knudson) and her baby boy - and locks himself in a storage room with them to ... well, he hasn't really thought that through. On the outside though, the police is quick to arrive, as is a mob of angry onlookers, as is the local TV station, and all of this only adds tension to the situation.

While in the storage room, Jimmy is losing his cool more and more, police Lt Porter (Harry Lauter) tries to piece together what has happened and who's the actual baddie of the piece. But knowing what has actually happened and convincing Jimmy to give himself up are two different things entirely, and in the end, Jimmy only lays down his weapons and releases his hostages thanks to Carol's pleas to Jimmy's conscience. And yes, everybody so far has figured Carol as one of the baddies of the piece ...


Today this film is of course mainly significant for giving a very young Jack Nicholson his first lead - and he really shines in this one, too -, but it's also interesting in other departments, like that it doesn't simply relie on a genre formula but does instead create an interesting situation restricted to only a handful of locations and revolving mainly around two characters, Jimmy on the inside and Porter on the outside. In a way, this movie almost feels like a post-modern thriller with traces of neo-realism rather than your typical juvenile delinquency piece ... but only almost, because a rather lazy directorial effort kills all the artistic aspirations the film might have had, and the script itself could have done with a bit of polishing up and without quite a few scenes that are nothing but boring genre mainstays.

That's not to say that The Cry Baby Killer is a particularly bad film, it clearly isn't, it's just never allowed to live up to its potential ...


review © by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD