DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD [1954] [Limited Edition] [Blu-ray] [1954 / 2020] [UK Release] The New and Great Mickey Rooney in a Surprising Dramatic Role!

Eddie Shannon is an undersized, sports-car mechanic who dreams of racing an expensive car in a European meet. Eddie Shannon meets and falls in love with Barbara Mathews, and thinks she loves him. Barbara Mathews introduces him to Steve Norris and Harold Baker, who asks him to drive the getaway car in a bank robbery they are planning. Eddie Shannon refuses, but changes his mind after some gentle persuasion from Barbara Mathews. The job is pulled off and, following a wild getaway, Eddie Shannon learns that Barbara Mathews was just using him and that Steve Norris and Harold Baker have plans to kill him. Gritty retribution is just around the corner.

FILM FACT: TV Guide called the film “A crisply done “film noir” with Mickey Rooney taken in by the universal emotional state that was at the root of many noir heroes’ problems, loneliness.” The Philadelphia Inquirer was complimentary: “Apart from being a very fair melodrama ... [the film] ... serves as a reminder that, given the right role and good direction, Mickey Rooney is a talented young actor ... The film, as well as Mickey Rooney, stands out all the way to the end. So do all the others in Columbia Pictures small, but handpicked cast ... first honours go uncontested to the 32-year-old star Mickey Rooney for a fine, affecting, and unaffected performance.”

Cast: Mickey Rooney, Dianne Foster, Kevin McCarthy,          Jack Kelly, Harry Landers, Jerry Paris, Paul Picerni, Dick Crockett, Irene Bolton (uncredited), John Close (uncredited), Richard H. Cutting (uncredited), John Damler          (uncredited), Linda Danson (uncredited), Diana Dawson (uncredited), Jean Engstrom (uncredited), Mike Mahoney (uncredited), Peggy Maley (uncredited), Patrick Miller (uncredited), Mort Mills (uncredited), George Paul (uncredited), Jeffrey Stone (uncredited), Amzie Strickland (uncredited) and Howard Wright (uncredited)

Director: Richard Quine

Producer: Jonie Taps

Screenplay: Blake Edwards (screenplay), Richard Quine (adaptation) and James Benson Nablo (from a story)

Composer: George Duning (uncredited)

Music Department: Arthur Morton [Orchestrator] (uncredited), Ross DiMaggio [Musical Director] and Will Beitel [Composer: stock music] (uncredited)

Cinematography: Charles Lawton Jr., A.S.C. (Director of Photography)

Image Resolution: 1080p (Black and White)

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio
Audio Description: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio
Audio Description: 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 82 minutes

Region: Region B/2

Number of discs: 1

Studio: Columbia Pictures / Powerhouse Films / INDICATOR

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ [1954] has a great performance Mickey Rooney. I’m never ceased to be amazed by this man’s talents. As a child I used to watch his films and he always amazed me then and always will. I recently discovered this classic gem and is one of the best performances of Mickey Rooney who always gives a good performance. Mickey Rooney plays an auto mechanic Eddie Shannon who is framed by the girl he thinks loves him. Mickey Rooney did a lot of great “film noir” in the 1950’s, and you will not be disappointed.

‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ is as predictable as they come. Dumb guy meets femme fatale, falls for her and then falls into criminal scheme that seems to get pulled off… but then goes ass up just before anyone can get a happy ending. We’ve seen it hundreds of times. But the difference here is our hero Eddie Shannon [Mickey Rooney] is a slightly disfigured mechanic who dreams of winning the big car races in Europe. One day femme fatale-with-a-soul Barbara Mathews [Dianne Foster] walks into his life and he’s immediately putty in her hands.  Barbara Mathews seduces him, and then introduces him to her “friend” Steve Norris [Kevin McCarthy], who is properly a very unpleasant sleazy character, and before you know it, Steve Norris had Eddie Shannon driving his getaway car from a bank robbery, because they have to get 20 miles away and to pull off the bank robbery, and Eddie Shannon has to drive a crooked road.

Genius Blake Edwards penned the screenplay and takes his time developing Eddie Shannon’s lonely life. The character Eddie Shannon has high hopes, because of his dreams and his kindness, and the sad fact is that he doesn’t have many friends, and those he does have don’t understand his eccentricities. Mickey Rooney is ideally cast, stripping away all of his characters he appeared in those M-G-M musicals and comedies he starred in, whereas, instead doing a deep dive into Eddie Shannon’s stillness and quiet demeanour. Mickey Rooney is so much better than I expected him to be, and even when you can see the plot starts to twist and turn, you find yourself hoping and praying that somehow this won’t go bad for Eddie Shannon and hopefully have a happy ending.

This is further underlined by Blake Edwards’ masterstroke – humanizing his femme fatale. Actress Dianne Foster has way more chemistry with Mickey Rooney than her actual beau Kevin McCarthy, and Barbara Mathews is very clear in that she feels absolutely terrible about what she’s doing. Barbara Mathews likes Eddie Shannon very much, but Barbara Mathews doesn’t want to see Eddie Shannon hurt. And watching Barbara struggle with how to address this impossible situation is quite engaging. It’s a testament to the writing and Foster’s work that, when Barbara disappears from screen for much of act two, you miss her presence.

That said, the rest of the third act is aces. The way Barbara Mathews confesses her misdeeds to Eddie Shannon is heart- breaking, as is seeing Steve Norris’s abusive response to her confession. Kevin McCarthy can be very charming when he wants to be, so seeing the actor strip all that away to savagely attack her and tell her that Barbara Mathews is totally doomed and Eddie Shannon is hard to watch, but despite this, it is great filmmaking.

I also believe that’s the sign of a well-made film, when the characters live on in your mind after. When you want to give them the happiness the messed-up world cannot. Though it’s imperfect, ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ was a totally pleasant surprise. It’s very much a routine “film noir” in some ways but, more than that, it’s an engaging character piece. But most of all Mickey Rooney and Dianne Foster are just ace actors, and I wish they had been able to do many more “film noir” films like this and it is well worth checking it out.


FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (Written by Fred Karger and Robert Wells) [Played instrumentally as source music]

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Blu-ray Image Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR presents us the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ with a really exceptional 1080p black-and-white image but very surprising it is shown in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The notes indicate the presentation was sourced from a “high-definition re-master” supplied by Sony, not a new 2K restoration like some of the other films in the set. I let my expectations slide a little because this usually means we’re getting an older master that will be dated in some respects, yet much to my surprise and delight and is a great restoration. The image is incredibly sharp, delivering film grain and finer details like there was little-to-no effort to it. It has such a wonderful filmic texture as well, and it keeps it up throughout the film. But whatever was used it's all in an incredible good shape, and the restoration work has cleaned up a lot, with only a few blemishes and scratches remaining. Contrast also looks superb and the greys blend nicely and you have a real stunner of a presentation and another great surprise, which is helped greatly with the wonderful cinematography by Charles Lawton Jr., A.S.C. Please Note: Playback Region B/2: This will not play on most Blu-ray players sold in North America, Central America, South America, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. Learn more about Blu-ray region specifications.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – Columbia Pictures, Powerhouse Films + INDICATOR brings us the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ with a standard 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio. So all in all, the soundtrack holds up incredibly well itself. There can be some background noise but it’s easy to ignore and both music and dialogue sound sharp without coming off harsh. The audio fidelity is also a decent and adds the ambience to the film, but is also helped with the brilliant composer George Duning who brings a lot of atmosphere and dramatic tension to the film.

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Blu-ray Special Features and Extras:

Special Feature: Audio Commentary with Nick Pinkerton [Audio only] [2020] [1080p] [1.85:1] [82:23] With this featurette, we get to hear this audio commentary from Film Critic Nick Pinkerton who gives a very enjoyable in-depth examination of the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ when the film begins and is also gives a very good in-depth conversation about the conventions about future “film noir” and noir-inspired films. Nick Pinkerton also says that he feels this 1954 film is definitely “film noir” style, and you have the fall guy falling for the feme fatale gal, and feels the movie is about speed and how Mickey Rooney is sucked into driving for criminals for a bank raid, but he also feels the feel sympathises towards Mickey Rooney’s character, who again is the fall guy who falls under the spell of the female actress Dianne Foster, who he thinks has a lot of feeling for his character, but sadly he is instead being used. I also liked Nick Pinkerton’s discussion about the actor Mickey Rooney, and about his long acting career, and his performance in the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD.’ But the audio commentary track is at its best when Nick Pinkerton talks about director Richard Quine’s and writer Blake Edwards’ working relationship on this 1954 film. Admittedly Nick Pinkerton does not exude much energy throughout the audio commentary track, but does sometime packs in enough information about the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ that is of great interest and does cover some engaging and interesting topics. As we get near to the end of this audio commentary, Nick Pinkerton comments about the LA Weekly that commented on the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ in saying, “It hinges on a situation, where lonely broken people are snared by desire and is also a warm up for a masterpiece.” Nick Pinkerton then goes onto to say that at one point Mickey Rooney has been made a patsy, but still has feeling for Dianne Foster’s character, and now Mickey Rooney’s character is being abducted by the other sidekick criminal and made to drive the car to another destination to be eliminated, but Mickey Rooney’s character has other ideas to thwart the criminals who get their comeuppance in being nasty towards Mickey Rooney’s character, who is tired of being made a fool and now becomes a little guy who is now a champion because of him being behind the wheel of the speeding car he is driving. Then we see Mickey Rooney on the beach with a gun in his hand and through a mishap, fires the gun and the main criminal gets eliminated and his final comeuppance, but still does not get the dame of his dreams. As we get near to the last 30 seconds, Nick Pinkerton says, “I hope you have enjoyed my audio commentary in talking about the dramatic film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ and at that point this audio commentary comes to an end.   

Special Feature: The Guardian Interview with Mickey Rooney [Audio only] [1988] [1080p] [1.85:1] [82:23] With this featurette, we get to hear this archival audio recording of the much-loved actor Mickey Rooney in conversation with English Film Producer and Screenwriter Tony Sloman at the National Film Theatre in London on the 11th September, 1988 and the following audio presentation was recorded for archival purposes, rather than for commercial distribution, and exhibits a range of technical problems as a consequence, but most of all, its importance is a unique archival document  that makes its inclusion here essential. Throughout this archival audio recording we also at the same time get to view the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD.’ As always the actor Mickey Rooney is a great “character” and he keeps the whole thing very entertaining, thanks mostly to little segues away from whatever topic they are covering. The conversation aims to cover his career as a whole, talking about his child acting, comedy work and then how he worked to widen his acting performances with dramatic turns and mentions director Richard Quine and the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD,’ but doesn’t get into too much detail about the film. But the best and funniest moments are where Mickey Rooney reflects on very bad decisions, whether personal, like his failed marriages or aspects of his long acting career. For the latter Mickey Rooney talks about the film choices he regrets, like the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany,’ which he admits he needed the money then, and of course with the film ‘It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,’ which he calls “one of the worst comedies in the world.” Mickey Rooney also talks about his issues with the media and he of course does get especially irate during this conversation but also talks about his joy in working with several directors and especially John Frankenheimer. Mickey Rooney does have a tendency to exaggerate and take credit for a lot of things, whether it be around films he worked on or things you would never imagine him being tied to, and while he makes some certain claims, which for some unknown reason Mickey Rooney does not go into in great detail. But despite this, the conversation is still an absolute delightful Mickey Rooney interview, and all of that just adds to the charm of it, but of course is also helped with the delightful and interesting interviewer Tony  Sloman. So all in all, this conversation with Mickey Rooney is a wonderful rare treat and definitely well worth checking it out.

Special Feature: Introduction by Martin Scorsese [2012] [1080p] [1.37:1] [1:56] With this featurette, Director Martin Scorsese does a wonderful introduction to the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD,’ and Martin Scorsese also praises Mickey Rooney’s performance in the 1954 film and also about the Richard Quine and Blake Edwards partnership.

Special Feature: Theatrical Trailer [1954] [1080p] [1.78:1] [1:56] With this featurette, we get to view the Original Theatrical Trailer for the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD.’

Special Feature: Image Gallery: With this featurette, we get to view 20 wonderful 1080p black-and-white and colour publicity and promotional material related to the film ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD.’ They inform us that to advance the images you have to press the right hand NEXT button on your remote control. To Exit the featurette, you have to press either MENU or TOP MENU.

Special Feature: Screen Snapshots: ‘Mickey Rooney, Then and Now’ [1953] [480i] [1.37:1] [9:51] With this featurette, we get to view a Columbia Pictures promotional short featuring the famed performer and actor Mickey Rooney looking back at one of his childhood roles.

Special Feature: Higher Than a Kite [1943] [1080p] [1.37:1] [17:32] With this featurette, we get to view a so called comedy starring the Three Stooges, in which the trio play auto mechanics working for the Royal Air Force in England. After wrecking an officer's car they need a place to hide, but their choice is a sewer pipe, but it turns out to be a bomb which is dropped on the enemy. Finding themselves behind enemy lines, Moe and Curly disguise themselves as German officers and Larry dresses as a seductive Fraulein. While General Bommel chases after Larry, Moe and Curly steal the secret plans from the German high command.

Finally, ‘DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD’ [1954] is without a doubt Mickey Rooney’s best movie as an adult. It would seem that after the war and the Andy Hardy series wound down where Mickey Rooney was having a difficult time finding his niche in Hollywood. He did score very well with the film ‘Quicksand’ [1950] but in this one he pulls out all the stops. Constantly he is referred to as “the little freak” and several comments are made concerning his manhood, or lack thereof. We slowly watch as Mickey Rooney is played off by the gangster’s moll, lured into the web of robbery and deceit; this is NOT a pretty movie. The movie builds slowly to an unforgettable, unexpected climax. Still despite this, it is a great movie after almost 50 years. Another solid entry in the set, delivering a superb look presentation and a fun set of features. Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Aficionado
Le Cinema Paradiso
United Kingdom

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