The Hoodlum

Year 1951

Lawrence Tierney   as  Vincent Lubeck
Allene Roberts as Rosa
Lisa Golm as Mrs. Lubeck
Edward Tierney as Johnny Lubeck
Gene Roth as Warden Stevens  
Director - Max Nosseck
Screenwriters - Sam Neuman
  - Nat Tanchuck

Another of the thirty-centers, I wanted to watch this one because it had Lawrence Tierney in it in a starring role. Who's Lawrence Tierney? He's a screen presence, that's who.

There's a movie, soundly panned by critics, called Tough Guys Don't Dance and it's as over the top as the name suggests. It's about ghosts and cheating girlfriends and a head in a satchel. It's very sleazy and written by Norman Mailer, who was hailed as being one of America's best novelists. I saw one critic rename the movie Tough Guys Shouldn't Write Screen Plays. My favorite character was the protagonist's father who just dropped in to say good-bye before he died of cancer. (It's that kind of movie.) This guy, the real tough guy, this quietly threatening force of nature, was played by Lawrence Tierney. So, I wondered. If this was what he was like in his later years, what was he like in his prime?

Thanks to The Hoodlum I now know. When he was younger, he was a beligerent threatening force of nature. Think of Gary Busey in Lethal Weapon. Now think of a smoldering Gary Busey. Give him dark hair and smaller teeth. Poof! You've got Lawrence Tierney.

The difference between Tierney and Busey is that maybe you can distract Busey and save your skin. Tierney would see through your ruse and then kill you for fun, with a gun. No mano-a-mano stuff with Tierney 'cause that's for suckers.

The titular hoodlum, Vincent Lubeck (Lawrence Tierney) is self-centered. How self-centered? After his mom gets him out of prison on parole, he comes home and while sullenly working for his brother Johnny (Edward Tierney), he beds his brother's fiancÚ, gets her pregnant, discards her, takes up with another woman named Eileen from the bank he plans on robbing just so he can get information from her, grouses all the time, kills a few people, and blames everyone around him for his misfortunes.

Only after his own mother, the one who begged to get him paroled, turns against him does he wake up to the fact that he might be the cause of his own troubles. (Democrats and Republicans take note!)

As for the movie itself, it's kind of run of the mill. There are a few nice touches and some decent lines, but it has the been-there-done-that feel to it.

Nice touches include things like using a fake funeral to get through a road block.

Decent, but not great lines can be found.

Vincent about working in a gas station: You get dirt under your nails.
Johnny: But it's the kind of dirt you can wash off.

Vincent: Ma, the Bible gives you 70 years to live. The insurance companies tell you it's 65. The big companies tell you that after 40 years you can't make a buck. Well, I haven't got far to go. When you die, you're a long time dead.
Mrs. Lubeck: And when you are in jail? Are you alive?

Eileen: You handle the truth carelessly, don't you, Vincent?
Vincent: That's what I like about you...class. Never come out and call a man a liar.

The last line by Eileen is one that I'll probably use from time to time.

One cool thing about the movie is the casting. Johnny is played by Lawrence Tierney's real life brother. For the warden at the prison, it had to be someone as imposing as Lawrence Tierney. The man they found is impressive.

There was a Batman cartoon in the mid-eighties where every male figure was square in a way that suggested dense power. The artists could have used the warden as a model. The guy looks like he's made of cinder blocks.

Two Square Joes

Finally, there's Vincent's mom. When I first saw her, I though she was every lame stereotyped immigrant mother wrapped up in one package. You know the type. She was short, hunched over, wore an ugly print dress, had rheumy eyes, an accent you could cut with a knife, and was grateful for what she had. But, Mrs. Lubeck (Lisa Golm) had strength and a nearly indomitable spirit. Lisa Golm gave this character an extra spark that elevated her above the tawdry while still keeping her anchored in the lower economic stratus.

Like I said, though, it's nothing special. The pacing is a bit uneven and events occur to just move things along. For example, as the gang is making their getaway, papers are printing special editions about the bank robbery. Now that's fast!

And how could a service station be busy when it's at the far end of a cul-de-sac?

My favorite, though, is the "Shoot to kill!" order (also printed in the paper for the fifth or sixth special edition of the hour).

Also, I wish Mill Creek would quit putting their logo onto the screen! It's distracting.

Don't watch it for plot. Don't expect a lot. But, if you want to watch Lawrence Tierney in an over the top, nearly campy, performance, The Hoodlum will fit the bill nicely.

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