Hell (2011)

Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

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Hell’s Half Acre

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Hell’s Half Acre is an American action film first released in 1954, directed by John H. Auer. The film stars Wendell Corey, Evelyn Keyes and Elsa Lanchester. Our overall rating for this film is: good. 
Director John H. Auer and writer Steve Fisher collaborated on a couple of interesting films noir at Republic Pictures, the nifty police drama City That Never Sleeps and this interesting pulp fiction tale filmed in Hawaii, Hell's Half Acre. One wonders if Republic honcho Herbert J. Yates green-lit the picture to give himself a working vacation in the Island Paradise, as we see a lot of Honolulu in the still relatively undeveloped year of 1954. The idea of a film noir set in sunny Waikiki shouldn't be a contradiction in terms: remember the previous year's From Here to Eternity, with its shady 'serviceman's clubs' and knife fights in back alleys? Hell's Half Acre gathers an interesting cast for a tale that evokes the old Duvivier classic Pépé le moko, with its Algerian Casbah.
The sordid story seems an odd fit in the gorgeous setting. This must be before municipalities became Public Image- conscious, as the show makes Honolulu look like a den of thieves, with nightly shootouts and stabbings. And who expects a movie called Hell's Half Acre to take place on Waikiki Beach?
Steve Fisher's screenplay is packed with colorful characters. When she finds out that her lover, ex- Honolulu gangster Chet Chester (Wendell Corey of The File on Thelma Jordon) is being threatened by an old partner in crime, beautiful Sally Lee (Nancy Gates) murders the interloper. Chet takes the rap, convinced that his lawyers can get him off with a light sentence. Chet is now a well known nightclub owner and songwriter, and when a lyric on one of his new songs reaches the states, Donna Williams (Evelyn Keyes) hears it. She's convinced that Chet is really the sailor-husband she knew only a few days back in 1941, before he was killed on the Arizona. Newly arrived in Honolulu, Donna makes fast friends with taxi driver Lida O'Reilly (Elsa Lanchester), and runs into another of Chet's ex-partners, Roger Kong (Philip Ahn), who has just beaten Sally Lee to death. When Chet finds this out, he breaks free from police custody to track down Kong in a warren of tenement apartments known as Hell's Half Acre, or just "The Acre". Police Chief Dan (Keye Luke) reluctantly allows Donna to stay in town. Kong still wants to find and kill Chet. Realizing that Donna is now part of the deal, Kong enlists the alcoholic Tubby Otis (Jesse White) to kidnap her to bait a trap. The four-way search is even more complex. 
Tubby's wife Rose (Marie Windsor of The Killing, The Narrow Margin and The Sniper) is also Kong's lover. When Donna finally meets up with Chet, he pretends that he's never seen her before.
Nobody in the film says, "Forget it, Chester, it's The Acre", but this moderately expensive Republic Picture comes very close to being a great film noir. For originality it can't be beat. It is unusual to see the expected generic double and triple-crosses carried out on sun-bathed streets, or in the dark of night with everyone wearing Hawaiian shirts, even the police detectives. The atmosphere says Honolulu in the '50s, a place not yet overrun by giant hotels. Chet Chester runs a swank Waikiki restaurant with a hula floor show, either based on or filmed at Don the Beachcomber's (he's credited as a technical advisor).
In keeping with the changing face of noir thrillers, Steve Fisher's screenplay stays clear of hardboiled dialogue clichés. The cast meshes well, although the lack of a big star must have been a limiting factor at the box office. Wendell Corey is often disparaged for a perceived lack of masculine assertiveness; here he's perfect as Chet Chester, a crook trying to secure an honest lifestyle. Chet's violent background is suggested with a facial scar. We feel his love for Sally Lee, and his regret over his long-ago past with Donna. 
You dirty rotter!!!
Evelyn Keyes another noire favourite.
Hell’s Half Acre/Hell’s Half Acre.avi 1.12 GB
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