Criss Cross – Dancing at the Round-About

I’m a fan of Richard Siodmak noirs, particularly The Killers (1946) and Criss Cross (1949), and recently I was talking about the dance scene from Criss Cross at the Round-Up club, which for me is one of the most compelling scenes from just about any noir I can recall. I mean where else can you hear someone rocking out on the flute so hard?

The scene features the orchestra of Puerto Rican musician Esy Morales performing “Jungle Fantasy,” and it captures a spirit of LA—whether it as real or not makes no difference—that makes me nostalgic for a moment in that city’s history I never experienced. And Yvonne De Carlo (who hails from the venerable Vancouver, BC) is stunning in her coy play with the tortured voyeur Burt Lancaster as she’s floating to the Rhumba. In fact, I would argue De Carlo even rivals the great Ava Gardner’s role as Kitty in Siodomak’s The Killers (1946). What a magical scene!

Some trivia that may be of interest is that Tony Curtis is the cat dancing with DeCarlo in this scene, and this just so happens to be his first bit part in a film which goes uncredited—who knew that in less than 10 years he would become an icon with his role in Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

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12 Responses to Criss Cross – Dancing at the Round-About

  1. Mikhail says:

    Oh, bava. If you only knew how many times a day I think of you.

    Thanks for posting this, Rev. Such a great reminder of the fact that Yvonne DeCarlo had a career beyond her role as Lilly Munster and was quite an accomplished and formidable actor.

    This scene is a wonderful example of making meaning — of establishing interiority — through montage. Siodmak was a master of this in the Eisensteinian mode. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Chad Black says:

    “I mean where else can you hear someone rocking out on the flute so hard?”

    http://biddieboy.multiply.com/video/item/123

  3. Reverend says:

    Mikhail,

    And you know the bava thinks of you several times daily as well. You also know that this scene is particularly poignant because every hipster in LA during the 90s is trying to re-visit the moment envisioned in this scene, and a couple of times I got close when i was there—which makes it all the more beautiful.

  4. Reverend says:

    Chad Black,

    Fair enough, but too much irony at the idea kinda kills the magic of a straight, real flute jam.

  5. Chad Black says:

    Speaking of Eisenstein, I once made my students watch Que Viva Mexico, which has some spectacular shots, and Soy Cuba– which is the defining moment in simple-technology tracking shots–in back to back weeks. The club and street scenes are so good, but the roof-top track, ending in the pool is still incredible.

    Here’s part of it, and here’s a remix with the longer shot.

  6. Reverend says:

    @Chad,

    Nice finds, that is masterful, I never saw any of this Eisentstein stuff, brilliant!

  7. Chad Black says:

    Rev– Soy Cuba was directed by Mikhail Kalatozov, and the cinematography was done by Sergei Urusevskky, who was the heir to Eisenstein’s vision. If you’ve never seen what’s left of Eisenstein’s Que Viva Mexico, it’s worth finding. The pulque scene alone is fantastic.

    By the way, I love the old noir too. My wife and I named our kid Dashiell in homage.

  8. Reverend says:

    @Chad

    My bad, I was speaking at two points at once, and wrongly at that 🙂 I heard of Eisenstein’s Mexican film, but never saw any of it. Off to BT (if there is still such a technology after it has been ravaged by copyright vultures and their lawyers) to find some of it.

    And I agree with the old noir, and what is even more amazing is how many films were made. it seems like I hear about a new one every other day. It seems like a massive amount of films in made in less than a decade’s times. And didn’t your kid get a cool ass name 🙂

  9. Tom says:

    I’m still waiting for an homage to backwards clothing and the unsung masterpiece “I missed the bus.”

  10. Reverend says:

    @Tom,

    You freaking TV babies are killing me. What do I have to do to breath some culture into Alabama??!

  11. Scott Leslie says:

    Our viewing habits seem to be converging unintentionally – my own, spurred on by a recent viewing of “A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112120/) had me viewing both ‘The Killers’ and ‘Sweet Smell of Success’ (and a bunch of other Burt Lancaster films, man he was a dude!) This comment is a bit of a non sequitar, here’s another: did anyone else think the opening scene of ‘The Killers’ has got to be the source for the opening sequence of Cronenberg’s ‘A History of Violence’? I mean I know that’s based on a graphic novel, but it seems like almost a shot by shot homage to the opening sequence. Like I said, just another of my fine non sequitars.

  12. Reverend says:

    Scott,

    Yeah, that’s an interesting relationship, and I think you are right, Cronenberg has got to be quoting Siodmak, and that doesn’t surprise me one bit because Cronenberg is so smart, I love hearing him talk about film. And while the History of Violence is not one of my favorites by him, that allusion you point out gives me a new found respect for the film. It may be worth re-watching.

    On another note, I could listen to Scorsese talk about film all year. He’s awesome to hear go on and on, his love of the medium is so unpretentiously apparent. If you want a nice movie experience, get the version of Robert Wise’s The Setup wherein Scorsese gives the commentary, it’s quite good.

    Also, as for the beginning of the Killers, that is occasion of one of my favorite early posts on the bava, wherein I discovered the beauty of breaking copyright on youtube: http:///the-killers-1946-whats-the-idea/

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