Taking on his third directing effort in the Short Film arena, New York City-based Ed Hellman delivers a well-paced, cleverly written mixture of drama, dark comedy, and throwback style with “Dime Crimes #34”. Doll (Ashlee Mundy), a rather disheveled young woman, is living in a untidy, shades-drawn home and passing the time by losing herself in old pulp fiction comic books. It is soon established that a decision was made by Doll and her fiancé Jack (John Michael Wagner) to invite a new tenant, Bug (Jimmy Dalton), to rent a room in the residence. Carrying a look that is classic 50’s motorcycle bad boy, Bug wastes no time proving he has the ego-driven swagger and smooth talk to accompany it, much to the hesitant and nervous delight of Doll. As Bug settles into his room, Doll continues to realize how much her new houseguest reminds her of the pulp stories she relishes, and this is even moreso brought to bear when she secretly observes him unpacking his things. Jack arrives home in a swirl of initial unrest until seeing Bug, which actually only makes his anger flow into an awkward and uneasy state of being, especially seeing how Doll reacts to everything Bug says. Deftly using this to his advantage, Bug relentlessly infuses the idea into Doll’s head that adventure awaits should she come away with him, creating a palpable tension and undeniable attraction between the two, building and building until events play out exactly like a certain bit of reading material.
Once again, there is continued proof that so much can be said and enacted within the confines of an 18+ minute timeframe and still be completely effective! Thanks to the writing of co-star Wagner and the Executive Production talent of veteran film and TV actor John Benjamin Hickey, the final product grants the viewer a wonderfully engaging tale that, while being set in a modern age, is steeped heavily in the pulp world it harkens to. Dalton absolutely steals the show as Bug, bringing the whole James Dean-inspired look to life in a fantastically entertaining way, made whole with the self-assured demeanor and darkly witty wordplay that truly hides a more devious nature and intention. Likewise, Mundy’s Doll is a perfect picture of the reclusive and fantasy-based life she finds herself immersed in, only so much so that when this fleshly representation of that imaginary existence enters her sphere, the line between fiction and truth begins to blur rapidly. Watching Doll become slowly and increasingly taken in is a treat to watch, and it successfully builds to a solidly executed “wink wink” finale. Wagner’s Jack also shines in the little overall screen time he receives as Doll’s rather uncaring, if simply feeling out of his depth, fiancé. With only a few flashing moments of language and one moment of violence, it was refreshing to see a film not have to over-utilize the too often seen crudeness and vulgarity common to modern filmmaking. Folks, we have a winner in “Dime Crimes #34”!
As always, this is all for your consideration and comment. Until next time, thank you for reading!