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Those darn juvenile delinquents! Unintentionally comedic cult drama stars Dana Andrews and Jeanne Crain as a married couple traveling with their two children through the California desert. After having a run-in with some no-good hoodlums, they arrive at the motel they recently purchased and discover that the property has been vandalized by the teens. Pushed to his breaking point, Andrews takes drastic steps to stop the punks. Mimsy Farmer, Laurie Mock co-star. AKA: "52 Miles to Terror."
Because a serious automobile accident has left him with a back injury, Tom Phillips (Dana Andrews)
is advised by his doctor to move to a warm climate. After buying a combination motel-restaurant in the California desert, he sets out for his new home with his wife, Peg (Jeanne Crain of "Pinky"), his daughter, Tina, and his small son, Jamie. Since Tom has not yet regained his confidence behind a wheel, Peg drives the family car. As they near their destination, they are passed by three thrill-seeking teenagers--Duke, Ernie and Gloria--who toss a beer can into the Phillips' sedan. Sometime later, Tom encounters one of the boys at a filling station and threatens him with police action. As a result, the young toughs alert their friends and a number of youths soon converge on the Phillips for the remainder of their trip.
Once they have reached their destination, they learn that the former owner of the motel allowed the place to be used for teenage drinking orgies. After Duke has tried to seduce Tina, Tom calls off the motel deal and heads for his brother's home, 52 miles away. They are pursued by Duke and Ernie, who are determined to prevent Tom from contacting the police. But the constant hounding eventually proves too much for Tom, and he decides to hold his ground. He parks his car, leaves the headlights on, and causes Duke's souped-up sports car to crash. Suppressing the urge to kill the two hoodlums, Tom offers them the choice of being turned over to the authorities or changing their ways. When a police car pulls up, Duke and Ernie promise to behave like sensible adults in the future. And Tom--his self-confidence restored--goes back to the motel to give his business venture another try.
Carver Daniel Andrews (1909-1992) was a solid (sometimes to the point of being wooden), average-Joe leading man of the 1940s who specialized in earnest, embittered and/or disillusioned characters. Having worked as an accountant and a singer, Andrews entered films in the early 40s as a supporting player in Westerns. After portraying the victim of a lynch mob in "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), his career took off and he starred in a succession of strong vehicles, often as flawed heroes. Most memorable in urban settings, Andrews successfully teamed up with director Otto Preminger and co-star Gene Tierney for "Laura" (1944) and "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1950); he was equally superb as the re-adjusting bombardier in "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) and as the unflinchingly honest prosecuting attorney in Elia Kazan's "Boomerang!" (1947).
With his big-screen career on the wane, Andrews starred in prestige TV showcases in the 50s and headlined a daytime soap opera, "Bright Promise", in the late 60s. He starred in The Pilot (1979) and had previously played a small plane pilot who collides with the airliner in Airport '75 (1975), as well as The Crowded Sky (1960, as the pilot of an airliner that collides with a fighter plane), and played Ted Stryker in "Zero Hour" (1957, the character & movie spoofed in "Airplane"). Dana was the son of a Baptist minister, his second wife, Mary Todd, was an actress and his brother, Steve Forrest (SWAT TV-series in 1970s), is also an actor.
Hot Rods To Hell has been scheduled recently on Turner Classic Movies
Director: John Brahm (The Lodger, 1944)
While investigating the brutal murder of Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney), New York police lieutenant Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) calls on erudite columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a close friend of the dead woman. Waldo knows of Mark from his heroic battles with gangsters, and Mark points out that Waldo once wrote a story about a murder committed with a shotgun loaded with buckshot--the very way that Laura was killed. Claiming to be intrigued by crime, Waldo asks to accompany Mark on his investigation, and the two men call on Laura's aunt, the wealthy Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson). Mark inquires about Ann's relationship with Laura's fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), citing evidence that she has been giving him money. Just then, Shelby, a charming Southerner, arrives and says that he and Laura were to have been married that week, but Waldo insists that when Laura canceled their dinner date on the night of the murder, she had not yet decided whether to go through with the wedding. Shelby accompanies Mark and Waldo to Laura's apartment, where the murder occurred, and after Shelby reluctantly hands over the key to Laura's country home, Waldo accuses him of the murder. Later, Waldo takes Mark to a restaurant and recalls how he met Laura five years earlier: Waldo is dining alone at the Algonquin when he is approached by Laura, an eager young employee of an advertising agency.
Laura asks Waldo to endorse a pen for her company, and is hurt and disillusioned when he rudely dismisses her. Unable to get her out of his mind, Waldo later goes to see Laura at the agency, where he apologizes and agrees to the endorsement. They become friends, and under Waldo's tutelage, Laura rises in her profession and society. Although their relationship is platonic, Waldo is jealous of her suitors, and uses both his column and his influence over her to keep any rivals for her affections at bay. One night, at one of Ann's parties, Laura meets Shelby, who confesses that his family has been bankrupt for years. Laura gives him a job at the advertising agency, and they soon become romantically involved. Waldo has Shelby investigated and informs Laura that her fiancé is seeing a model, Diane Redfern. Laura is furious at Waldo's interference and dismisses the accusations until he produces a gold cigarette case that she gave Shelby, saying he retrieved it after Diane pawned it. Back in the restaurant, Waldo tells Mark that Laura had lunch with Diane the day of her death, and had planned to go to her country home for a few days. The following night, Mark, who is growing obsessed with Laura, returns to the apartment and continues searching through her personal effects. Waldo stops in and says he knows Mark has secretly put in a bid for Laura's portrait, and chides him for falling in love with a corpse. After Waldo leaves, Mark falls asleep under the portrait. He awakens to the sound of someone entering the room, and looks up to see Laura standing before him. Laura, who has been isolated in the country, is stunned when Mark shows her a newspaper story about her "murder." Laura then discovers one of Diane's dresses in her closet, and Mark concludes that the murder victim, whose face was damaged beyond recognition, was actually Diane.
Mark questions Laura, brightening when she says she had decided not to marry Shelby, and instructs her not to leave the apartment or use the phone. As soon as Mark leaves, however, Laura calls Shelby, unaware that the police have tapped her phone. Shelby and Laura meet briefly, and Mark follows Shelby to Laura's country home, where he finds him removing a shotgun from a rack. Shelby claims that he had brought Diane to Laura's apartment to talk, but when Diane answered the door and was shot to death, he panicked and fled. Later, at a party to celebrate her return, Laura asks Shelby why he went to the cottage, and when he replies that he went to hide the shotgun, she realizes with horror that Shelby believes she is the murderer. Mark takes Laura into custody in front of her guests, but after questioning her at the police station, is convinced of her innocence. After taking Laura home, Mark searches Waldo's house and discovers a hollow compartment in his grandfather clock. He then goes to Laura's apartment and announces that her gun was not the one used in the murder. Resentful of the growing bond between Laura and the handsome detective, Waldo insults Mark, and Laura coolly sends her old friend away. Mark examines Laura's clock, which is a duplicate of the one in Waldo's home, and finds a shotgun hidden inside. He tells Laura that Waldo killed Diane, thinking it was Laura, and hid the gun in the clock after Shelby ran out. After kissing Laura goodnight, Mark locks her in and leaves, and Laura prepares for bed, unaware that Waldo has come back into the apartment through the service entrance. Waldo enters Laura's room and is about to shoot her when Mark and his men break in. Waldo is shot by the police and dies with Laura's name on his lips.
Producer/Director: Otto Preminger