The 49th Man (1953)

The 49th Man
Type Feature Film
MPAA Rating N/A
Runtime 1hr 13mins.
Genres Drama, Spy
Keywords N/A
Status Released
US Release Date
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  • Joe the King Review

    "Joe the King" isn't your usual coming-of-age tale. The movie's 14-year-old hero doesn't get the girl. His experiences growing up in the '70s aren't nostalgic. And his role models are non-existent. What makes Joe memorable is his tenacious spirit, something emphasized by this film's unsentimental approach to his vulnerability. Frank Whaley, an actor making his writing-directing debut, has cast this indie feature with some stars, although the true standout is Noah Fleiss in the title role. From the opening sequence, it's clear that Joe is one of those troubled kids destined for the detention center. In a cameo as a monstrous school teacher, Camryn Manheim proceeds to pull down Joe's pants and spank him in front of his peers after he refuses to acknowledge his father's occupation as the school janitor. Home life isn't getting any better for the youngster. Val Kilmer co-stars as the boy's drunken and abusive dad, and Karen Young plays his absentee mother, who works too much to watch over her family. The boy's closest companion is an older brother (Max Ligosh) who'd rather spend time with his own pals and girlfriends. Ethan Hawke plays a guidance counselor trying to interest Joe in something more substantial than comic books. And John Leguizamo co-stars as the teen's closest thing to an adult friend, a scheming employee at the restaurant where he washes dishes. It would be tempting simply to feel sorry for young Joe. When he's not being berated by his intoxicated pop, he's hounded to cough up the money his dad owes some of the town's less-than-stellar citizens. His employers at the restaurant like to call him all sorts of colorful profanities, and the authorities think he's a criminal in training. But filmmaker Whaley has other designs for his protagonist. For one thing, Joe is a skillful and intelligent petty thief, able to steal candy for his classmates as easily as he pulls off heists to pay for valuables his father has destroyed. Joe's never a total victim, or innocent. The youngster initiates several small crimes, and spends little time trying to channel his energy into more socially acceptable efforts. With pathos, longing and keen instinct, Fleiss endows the young king of the streets with a certain nobility and sadness. Despite his father's abusive behavior, Joe is shown to care deeply about him, just as Joe cares about his mother and brother. The filmmaker's refusal to sentimentalize the boy's nature allows him to develop within a dysfunctional dynamic. At times, Whaley's determination to keep things as raw as possible comes across as hip cynicism, and the film's brutal secondary characters are drawn especially starkly. And although Kilmer conveys the beer-bellied force his role requires, his performance doesn't delve beneath the surface of a man whose destructive tendencies overwhelm his better notions. Leguizamo and Hawke are more affecting in their minor roles, and Young, as Joe's mother, is able to convey both exasperation and affection for her children. Complimenting his smart performance is Whaley's understated direction. As with the screenplay, the filmmaker and his collaborators choose not to lard their drama with unnecessary flourishes. The music by Robert Whaley and Anthony Grimaldi is spare and introspective, which perfectly complements Michael Mayers' simple, effective cinematography. Anchored by Fleiss' strong performance, the film captures a slice of growing up rarely seen in today's adolescent films, and one that's genuinely moving. * MPAA rating: R for language and abusive situations concerning a child. 'Joe the King' Noah Fleiss: Joe Henry Val Kilmer: Bob Karen Young: Theresa Ethan Hawke: Guidance Counselor A 49th Parallel Productions/Forensic-391 Films/Lower East Side Films production; distributed by Trimark Pictures. Director Frank Whaley. Producers Robin O'Hara & Scott Macaulay and Jennifer Dewis & Lindsay Marx. Executive producer Janet Grillo and John Leguizamo. Screenplay Frank Whaley. Cinematographer Michael Mayers. Editors Melody London and Miran Miosic. Costumes Richard Owings. Music Robert Whaley & Anthony Grimaldi. Production designer Dan Ouellette. Art director Mylene Santos. Set dresser Bernadette Jurkowski. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.

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Name Credit Credited as Role Id Sort Order
George Dee Actor Pierre Neff 1 1000018
Fred F Sears Director n/a 2 2000001
Jean Del Val Actor Maurice Ledouz 1 1000017
Michael Colgan Actor Gray 1 1000016
Cris Alcaide Actor Manning 1 1000015
Sam Katzman Producer n/a 3 3000001
Harry Essex Screenplay n/a 120778 4000001
Paul Palmentola Art Director art direction 183 9000001
William A Lyon Editor n/a 172 7000001
Lester White Director of Photography n/a 120780 6000001
Ivan Tors From Story n/a 120870 4000002
Genevieve Aumont Actor Singer 1 1000014
George Milan Actor Dave Norton 1 1000013
Mike Connors Actor Lt Magrew 1 1000005
Richard Avonde Actor Buzz Olin 1 1000006
Robert Foulk Actor Commander Jackson 1 1000004
Suzanne Dalbert Actor Margo Wayne 1 1000003
Richard Denning Actor Paul Regan 1 1000002
William Klein Actor Lester 1 1000007
Cicely Brown Actor Blonde Woman 1 1000008
Peter Marshall Actor Leo Wayne 1 1000012
Robert Hunter Actor Andre 1 1000011
Joseph Mell Actor Man 1 1000010
Tommy Farrell Actor Reynolds 1 1000009
John Ireland Actor John Williams 1 1000001
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