1955 - Otto Preminger
The monkey's not dead. The monkey's never dead. It just sits in a corner and awaits its turn.

Spoiler forecast: light drizzle.

The cast

Frank Sinatra - Frankie Machine
Eleanor Parker - Zosch Machine
Kim Novak - Molly
Arnold Stang - Sparrow
Darren McGavin - Louie

The setting

This film stars Frank Sinatra as recovering heroin addict Frankie Machine, trying to keep to the straight and narrow after serving a six month sentence for dealing an illegal cardgame. His ambition is to play the drums (which he learnt how to do in jail) in a jazz-band and make enough money to have his wheelchair-bound wife Zosh treated. After getting out, he is blackmailed into returning to his old job as a dealer.

The verdict

Certainly not a great movie. The characters are 2d (Frankie, Zosh) at best and caricatural at worst (Louie, Frankie's old junk-dealer, who is unrelenting in his efforts to get Frankie back on drugs, his comedic servile, bespectacled sidekick Sparrow, who makes Jar Jar Binks look good.) The message that drugs like heroin are dangerous and addictive, can't have been a great deal more revolutionary in the 1950s than it is today. So, why, you might well ask, would I want to see this movie? Its foremost, but not inconsiderable, redeeming feature, I would say, is Kim Novak as dancing girl Molly, who may not have better dialog than any of the others, but at least she makes a very believable object of Frankie's affections, and other than that, sure is easy on the discerning eye.

The marathon poker game brings to mind the exhausting pool match in the 1961 film The Hustler, which resembles this movie in other ways, and which I would recommend over it, if you're in the mood for some black and white urban drama about society's lower end. It's much better written, and of course Paul Newman is a number of times the actor Frank Sinatra is.

Incidentally, IMDB recommends Pulp Fiction to people who like this movie, presumably on the grounds that they watched this one just to see someone with both an acting and a singing career shoot up.

Source for the cast-info:


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