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Recently watched Noir

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The Violent Years (1956) Juvenile Delinquent Noir

 
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Like Jail Bait (1954) This film fits the JD exploitation, "C-Z" Noirs popular with the Beach/Surfer/Horror/SiFi movie demographic of the late 50s early 60s.

Directed by William Morgan, written by Ed Wood, and cinematography by William C. Thompson. Music by Manuel Francisco

The film stars Jean Moorhead as Paula Parkins, Barbara Weeks as Jane Parkins, Arthur Millan as Carl Parkins, Theresa Hancock as Georgia, Glen Corbett as Barney Stetson, Joanne Cangi as Geraldine, Gloria Farr as Phyllis, Lee Constant as Sheila, I. Stanford Jolley as Judge Clara, Timothy Farrell as Lt. Holmes.
F. Chan McClure as Det. Artman, Bruno Metsa as Manny, and Harry Keaton as the Doctor.

Paula Parkins (Moorhead) rich brat. A female Eddie Haskell. Devious daughter of newspaper editor father and a high profile blueblood mother. As soon as mater leaves for some charity event Paula is on the phone organizing her posse, her bullet bra wearing girl gang, Georgia (Hancock), Geraldine (Cangi), and Phyllis (Farr).

Screenshot%2B%25286744%2529.png Paula Parkins (Moorhead) For kicks the gang knocks over filling stations. The gang's M.O. is driving up to a full service gas station in an very conspicuous black four door 1954 Caddy series 62 sedan, pulling a gat on the attendant and emptying the cash drawer.
 

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 For more thrills they also terrorize a lovers' lane couple smooching in a 1955 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible. They take all their jewelry and money. They strip the woman of her cashmere sweater. Tie her up with her own ripped up in strips skirt and toss her partially clothed in a slip in the back seat of her convertible.
 
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For the almost back seat romeo they have other ideas. They pull him off into the woods and begin to remove his clothing. We cut to a shot of a leering Paula taking off her sweater. The film cuts away, after all it's 1956. We find out through a newspaper headline that they "assaulted" the unfortunate guy. The fact that later Paula has "a bun in the oven" leaves no doubt what  the gals did and, thanks to the MPPC, anything else your wildest imagination can come up with, with him.

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Screenshot%2B%25287016%2529.png Paula getting ready
 

Paula finds out from her father, after she feigns innocent curiosity, that the cops are going to stakeout all gas stations that stay open after 10PM with a cop disguised as a gas jockey or mechanic. So Paula tells her crew that filling stations are out.

The gals have an enabler Sheila (Constant) a female fence, who tells the girls that there is a group of people interested in having the girls knock over a school. A what? ****? This is never explained, probably a commie plot, but it doesn't really matter because if you are still watching at this point you're sticking it through for the outrageous ridiculousness of it all.  A watchman spots the gals breaking in.  While the gals are horrendously trashing a classroom, lol, i.e. ripping the blotter on a desk, erasing tomorrows lesson from the blackboard, throwing a globe through a window, the cops show up driving their 1956 Ford Mainlines, and the girls start immediately shooting. A cop and two of the girls Phyllis and Geraldine are killed, but Paula and Georgia get away driving the Caddy through a hail of bullets.

Detective: These aren't kids. These are morons!

 

Screenshot%2B%25287003%2529.png Lt. Holmes (Farrell) far left

 

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The film ends with a long moralizing monologue by the judge to Paula's parents, who sentences their grandchild, Paula's illegitimate daughter (yes Paula dies in childbirth) to life in a state institution rather than let them adopt her.

Again, this film is another example of Classic Noir unraveling. Crime stories were syphoning off to TV.  Major Studio B production stopped, and as the Motion Picture Production Code weakened, independent poverty row and low budget film creators were taking more artistic liberties. So those Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as HorrorThriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Those that went too far depicting sexual, drug, torture, juvenile delinquency, etc., storylines and situations were being lumped into or classed as various Exploitation flicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The the noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental. Some films are so so bad in all aspects that they acquire the "so bad it's good" Cult status.

The Violent Years is an interesting example of a film that's achieved cult status as an Exploitation Juvie Noir, 6/10. Screencaps are from a Youtube stream. Full review with more screencaps here: https://noirsville.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-violent-years-1956-juvenile.html

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Shock Corridor (1963) Nutter Noir

 
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Sam Fuller's shot in 10 days in studio Neo Neo Noir.

Fuller (Pickup on South Street (1953), House of Bamboo (1955), The Crimson Kimono (1959), Underworld U.S.A. (1961), The Naked Kiss (1964)) also wrote the script back in the forties under the title Straitjacket for Fritz Lang. But Lang wanted to cast Joan Bennett in the lead. Cinematography was by Stanley Cortez (The Underworld Story (1950), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), The Three Faces of Eve (1957), Vice Raid (1959), and uncredited for Chinatown (1974)). Additional color footage sequences by Sam Fuller from The House Of Bamboo and the unfinished film Tigrero,  the Music was by Paul Dunlap.

The film Stars Peter Breck (I Want to Live! (1958)) as Johnny Barrett, Constance Towers (Over-Exposed (1956), The Naked Kiss (1964), as Cathy, Noir vet Gene Evans (Berlin Express(1948), Criss Cross (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Armored Car Robbery (1950), Storm Warning (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), The Long Wait (1954), Crashout (1955) ) as Boden, Western Vet James Best (One Way Street (1950), ) as Stuart, Hari Rhodes (The Satan Bug(1965) as Trent, actor and writer Larry Tucker (Blast Of Silence (1961) as Pagliacci, Paul Dubov as Dr. J.L. Menkin, Chuck Roberson (Hi-Jacked (1950)) as Wilkes, Bill Zuckert (Kiss of Death(1947), ) as 'Swanee' Swanson, and Philip Ahn (Impact (1949), Macao (1952), Hell's Half Acre(1954)) as Dr. Fong.

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Johnny Barrett (Breck)
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Stuart (Best)

Wanna be hot shot reporter Johnny Barrett (Peter Breck) gets a bug up his **** to break a story about a murder that took place in the kitchen at a mental hospital. With the blessing of his editor, he gets coached for a period of time by Dr. Fong (Philip Ahn) a psychiatrist so that he can conceivably pass re great as insane. His girlfriend exotic dancer Cathy is going to file a complaint posing as his sister. Cathy is going to claim that Johnny is molesting her. Cathy thinks the whole idea is disgusting. Getting committed is a breeze.
 
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Pagliacci (Tucker) midnight opera

 

Johnny is in like Flynn, but the nut jobs, and wing nuts are beginning to wear him down. Pagliacci, (Larry Tucker) his next over ward mate sings gibberish opera at all hours of the night.

The three witnesses to the murder are Johnny's targets, Stuart was captured in the Korean War and was brainwashed. Stuart now thinks he's Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, Borden (Gene Evans) is a brilliant nuclear scientist who's gone mad. Trent is a blackman who thinks he's the head of the Klu Klux Klan. Trent starts race riots among his ward mates.
 

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Added to Johnny's dealings with the loonies are the sadistic guards and various forms of institutional therapy that he's subjected to after his confrontational altercations. All the sequences in the asylum are great with some outstanding acting sequences on display especially from James Best. The area where the film goes laughingly off track are in the Constance Towers' Cathy stripper sequences. I don't know if it was written in the original script but as it comes out on the screen Towers plays a singing stripper with a brain who sticks out from the other strippers like, as Chandler put it in Farewell My Lovely, "a tarantula on a piece of angel food.

Cathy: Do you think I like singing in that sewer with a hot light on my navel? I'm doing it because it pays more than shorthand or clerking or typing.

Yea sure. In real like she wouldn't last a set. She comes off utterly ridiculous doing a very lame strip routine. Her head at one point is completely covered with a feathered boa. You can picture what a real real hardcore reaction of the audience to her would be, i.e. jeers, boos, and shouts of, "****!" "shut up and strip," "take it off," "show us your ****," and "get the **** off the stage."  It's almost as bad as Anita Ekberg's set in Screaming Mimi.

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****?

 

You gotta wonder if Towers had some input into that disastrous decision, did she not want to play a common stripper?, or was it the sway of the MPPC that dictated it so, but in contrast, other films got away with a lot more doing a way better job with more believable burlesque related sequences, i.e., Girl On The Run (1953), The Man With Golden Arm (1955), Hell Bound(1957), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), the way ahead of it's time and also BTW, the real deal a strip show circa 1960 in The Savage Eye (1960, Satan In High Heels (1962), and Angels Flight(1964). It's not until Rita Moreno's stripper routine in 1969's Marlowe do we get an actually believable classy strip in a mainstream film. The best Black & White strip recreation is Valerie Perrine's as Hot Honey Harlow in Lenny -Bio Noir .

It also doesn't help having Cathy show up in miniature in repeat performances to reinforce the cheesiness of her act during some hallucination sequences. 
 

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In another scenario Barrett walks accidentally into the male graffiti covered walls of the  **** ward, the ****'s go out of control and attack, taking Barrett down like a pack of wolves taking down a deer, apparently trying to "bite" Barrett to death, it's a hoot.

Screenshot%2B%25287195%2529.png **** Another chuckle inducing sequence is when Barrett wanders into the **** Ward. You kind of wish that rather than 1963 Fuller would have made both this and 1964's The Naked Kiss, after the complete demise of the Motion Picture Production Code, say post 1967. He could have made a more realistic adult features.

After one of Trent's hospital race riots, Barrett is straitjacketed and cared off for shock treatments. He  begins imagining that Cathy really is his sister.

Barrett still manages to learn the identity of the killer and during a fight with a guard violently extracts a confession from him in front of witnesses and gets to write his story. But consequences send this directly to Noirsville.

Noirsville

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Shock Corridor is good in some sequences with some powerful acting but in others not so much and not because of anything controllable, it was a victim of the restraints of the times. 7/10 

 

Review with more screencaps here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2017/10/shock-corridor-1963-nutter-noir.html

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Psychic Killer (1975) Supernatural Noir

 
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Supernatural, SiFi, and Fantasy based Noir. along with Western and Period Piece Noirs have been around since the beginning.

 

It's going to be subjective, each individual viewer will have to be their own judge, some of these films will be on the cusp between genres and depending on your individual tastes you will either tune to them as Noirs or not.

 

During the Classic Film Noir Era films like Val Lewton's Cat People (1942), The Seventh Victim (1943) and others have Noir stylistics. Others,  Decoy (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), Alias Nick Beal (1949), , The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Fear in the Night(1947), The Night Has a Thousand Eyes(1948), Dementia (1955), Nightmare (1956), Indestructible Man (1956), I Bury the Living(1958) all covered roughly the same Supernatural, SiFi, and Fantasy territories, there are probably a few more to be discovered. Another that comes to mind is Angel On My Shoulder (1946) and you can possibly even include It's a Wonderful Life (1946) for it's Noir-ish sequence. Add to the mix in the 60s Experimental, and various Exploitation Films.

 

Even television in the mid fifties and early sixties with anthology programs like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Suspense, The Twilight Zone, One Step Beyond and The Outer Limits also blurred the lines between Crime, Noir, Suspense, Horror, SiFi, and Thrillers.

 

During the Transitional Noir period (1960-1968), films like The Hypnotic Eye (1960), Carnival of Souls (1962) Repulsion (1965) and Seconds (1966) continued the trend. Neo Noirs from 1969 to the present with these elements occasionally crop up also, TV film The Night Stalker (1972), this film Psychic KillerAngel Heart (1987), Siesta (1987), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me(1992), A Gun, A Car, A Blonde (1997), Lost Highway (1997), and Dark Country (2009), again, there are probably others out there that will fit either your or my parameters that are forgotten and off the current radar and yet to be identified.

 

Psychic Killer has some heavy noir credentials in cast and crew, which endows the film with cinematic memory. It's directed and co written by Raymond Danton aka Ray Danton, who starred in I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), The Night Runner (1957), beatnik Noir The Beat Generation(1959) and Budd Boetticher's The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960). He turned to directing in 1972, predominantly in TV ending with The New Mike Hammer TV Series 1984-1989. Like most of the Hollywood Studio B Production stars at the end of B Productions, who seemed to disappear off the movie screens of the 60s, Danton migrated over to television to finish out his career.

 

The film was written Greydon Clark, Mikel Angel, and Danton. The cinematography was by Herb Pearl. and music was by William Kraft.

 

The film stars Paul Burke an early TV star probably best known to Noiristas for playing Det. Adam Flint in the noirish Naked City anthology TV series (1960-1963), Jim Hutton best known for A Time to Love and a Time to Die (1958), Where the Boys Are (1960), Period of Adjustment(1962), and Major Dundee (1965), Julie Adams Creature from the Black Lagoon(1954), Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957), The Killer Inside Me (1976)

 

Screenshot%2B%25287300%2529.png Lt. Jeff Morgan (Burke)

Screenshot%2B%25287223%2529.png Arnold Masters (Jim Hutton)

Screenshot%2B%25287281%2529.png Lt. Morgan (Burke) Lt. Dave Anderson (Aldo Ray) and  Dr. Laura Scott  (Julie Adams ) Screenshot%2B%25287295%2529.png Lemonowski (Neville Brand)

Noir vets Neville Brand Port of New York (1949), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1949) D.O.A.(1949) Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950), Kansas City Confidential (1952), Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Cry Terror! (1958), The Mad Bomber (1973), and  Eaten Alive (1976),  Aldo Ray from Nightfall (1956), Whit Bissell (Somewhere in the Night (1946), Brute Force (1947), Raw Deal (1948), He Walked By Night (1948), Side Street (1950), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950), The Sellout (1952), Shack Out on 101 (1955), and Nehemiah Persoff The Naked City (1948), On the Waterfront (1954), The Harder They Fall (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Al Capone (1959), provide the cinematic memory. Rounding out the rest of the cast are Rod Cameron, Mary Charlotte Wilcox, veteran Blaxploitation actor Stack Pierce (Cool Breeze (1972), A Rage in Harlem (1991))  Della Reese (Harlem Nights (1989),) and John Dennis (Battle Taxi (1955), Marty (1955), The Night of the Hunter (1955), The Naked Street(1955), My Gun Is Quick (1957), Mister Buddwing (1966)).

 

Los Angeles a state mental hospital. Arnold James Masters (Jim Hutton) is in the looney bin for killing his mother's doctor. The Doc had refused to operate on a tumor she had because they had no money.

After he's arrested his mother dies and they didn't find the body for four days. Now he goes on a periodic violent binges, resulting in getting dumped in a padded cell.

 

He meets an inmate Emilio (Stack Pierce) in the exercise yard who is staring through the chain-link fence doing time for killing his own daughter, because she was a ****. Emilio is a voodoo practitioner.

 

Emilio: (to Arnold) The day before I die I will kill the pimp that made my daughter a ****, and I will carve my initials in his body,  the day after I die I will help you get justice.

 

A few days later Emilio runs across the exercise yard climbs the fence and falls to his death. Frank (John Dennis) the guard brings Emilio's possessions to Arnold telling him that Emilio left them to him. It's a book, a box with beads, an amulet, and a picture of Emilio's dead daughter all wrapped in a scarf. A letter also arrived addressed to Emilio, with a news clipping about a pimp who was ritually carved up in his downtown apartment last night. It means nothing to Frank, but to Arnold it was predicted by Emilio.

 

That night while Arnold is holding the amulet he gets a severe headache sees a vision of Emilio goes into a trance, and basically dies.  Declared dead Arnold is sent to the morgue for an autopsy. The moment the coroner makes an incision Arnold wakes up. The next day Arnold is summoned into the Warden's office and told that last night a man confessed to killing the doctor. So Arnold is free to go. Arriving back at his mother's house Arnold cleans out some cobwebs, sets up housekeeping, and goes on an out of body killing spree of all those that did his mother and him wrong.

Whit Bissell is a hoot as the seriously suave Dr. Paul Taylor (the court appointed psychiatrist in Arnold's case), making the moves on a patient up in a secluded hunting cabin. He's rounding third and just about to slide into home when he begins to hear voices. He grabs a hunting rifle, runs out into the woods and ends up breaking his neck. His mother's incompetent ex-visiting nurse mysteriously scalds herself to death in a shower at a patient's home.

 

Trying to make sense out of the weird and suspicious accidental deaths are Police Lt. Jeff Morgan (Paul Burke) and Lt. Dave Anderson (Aldo Ray). The next victim is close to home, it's the arresting officer in Arnold's case. He dies in a speeding accident. When the police connect the dots to Arnold, psychiatrist Dr. Laura Scott (Julie Adams) from the institution is brought in. After she sees Arnold appear to her in his out of body state after she's shacked up with Morgan, she demands that Morgan bring in an old colleague of her's, an expert in parapsychology Dr. Gubner (Nehemiah Persoff).

 

For anybody who has watched a lot of noirs and Naked City and other TV anthology programs, the cinematic memory provided by all the Classic Noir stars front loaded in this piece will propel it easily into a small Twilight Zone corner of Noirsville.

 

Noirsville

 

 

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Screenshot%2B%25287261%2529.png Arnold in his out of body trance

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Paul Burke and Jim Hutton are great, Aldo Ray looking a bit chunkier than he did in Nightfall plays Burke's second banana. Whit Bissell looks like he's having a blast playing a lecherous doc. Julie Adams and Jim Hutton shine. Nehemiah Persoff does his competent usual bit, and Neville Brand in his small part as a butcher arguing with a customer Mrs Gibson (Della Reese) is chuckle inducing.

 

The film is entertaining enough for me, it's the equivalent of an old "B" movie, no more no less. Again some of these non straight up traditional Crime films, both in cinema and TV, that combine noir stylistics with elements of supernatural, horror, and exploitation, are part of the fog shrouded, teetering bridge, between Classic Noir and the Neo Noir resurgence in the late 70s and again in the 90s. 7/10. Full review with more screencaps at Noirsville

 

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Cidade Baixa (Lower City) (2005) Beautiful Brazilian Noir

 
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A  Brazilian Neo Noir masterpiece, directed by Sérgio Machado, written by Karim Aïnouz, Sérgio Machado, Adriana Rattes, and Gil Vicente Tavares.

 

The excellent cinematography was by Toca Seabra and music was by Carlinhos Brown and Beto Villares.

 

The film Stars Alice Braga as Karinna, Wagner Moura as Naldinho. Lázaro Ramos as Deco, Dois Mundos as Dois Mundos, Harildo Deda as Careca, Maria Menezes as Luzinete, João Miguel as Edvan, Débora Santiago as Sirlene, José Dumont as Sergipano, and the beautiful locations around Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.

 

The beginning of film is like a riff on all the truck driving and road noirs, They Drive by Night (1940), Thieves' Highway (1949), Highway Dragnet (1954), and particularly Road Movie (1973) and then adds bits and pieces of other noirs, and every film you ever saw about two guys fighting over one girl, making the whole something new.

 

The films femme fatale is Karinna a ****/stripper who needs a ride to Salvador. Two "brothers" Naldinho and Deco, childhood friends, own a cargo boat. They overhear Karinna asking a bodega owner about any trucks going to Salvador. Naldinho offers her a ride if she'll put out for the two of them. Karinna dickers the price and agrees to go. Naldinho and Deco draw straws to to see who goes first with Karinna, Naldinho wins. The next day the brothers are in both love with Karinna which sends the tale and the crew sailing off to Noirsvilleas as jealousy begins to gnaw at their relationship.

 

Screenshot%2B%25287317%2529.png Karinna (Alice Braga)

Screenshot%2B%25287329%2529.png Deco (Lázaro Ramos) 

Screenshot%2B%25287326%2529.png Naldinho (Wagner Moura)

 

After tieing up for the night they all go to a bar where a cockfight is taking place, they lose 100 on the bet they made with their chicken but the winner continues to torment them. A fight starts Deco grabs a bottle breaks and kills the guy. Deco picks up Naldinho and the brothers run out of the place back to their boat and cast off. In Salvador, a Doctor patches up Naldinho, but the brothers need rent and eating money.

 

Deco looks for a job, getting some work as a sparring partner at a boxing gym. Karinna takes off to work for Xanadoo, a strip joint/**** house. Karinna get's the brothers a job using their boat to ferry hookers out to the various ships anchored out in the harbor. They also got a con scam working where Karinna fakes ODing and in the panic the captain of the ship offers them money to clean it all up.

 

As things heat up between Karinna and both Naldinho and Deco, each brother jockeys for the upper hand, Deco concentrates on boxing, Naldinho goes to local mobster Dois Mundos (Dois Mundos) and begins to rob pharmacies for the Brazilian equivalents of Cialis, Viagra, etc. When Karinna finds out that she is pregnant, as you would expect, things build to an explosion.

 

Noirsville 

 

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A 10/10, and a good example of what can be done without spending tons of dough, a Neo Noir about simple people in convoluted situations. Bravo! Full review with more screencaps at Noirsville

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Dementia aka (Daughter Of Horror) (1955) Beat Noir Nightmare

 
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Directed and written by John Parker (uncredited).

Produced by John Parker, Ben Roseman, and Bruno Ve Sota. The cinematography by was by William C. Thompson. Music by George Antheil an avant-garde composer, and Shorty Rogers and his jazz band the Giants in the nightclub sequence.

The film stars Adrienne Barrett, Bruno VeSota as Bruno Ve Sota (The Long Wait (1954), Female Jungle (1956), Night Tide (1961)), Richard Barron (Union Station (1950), The Hoodlum (1951)), Lucille Rowland, Ben Roseman (Night Tide (1961)), Angelo Rossitto (Freaks (1932), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)) and filmed in Venice, California in 1953.

The original production had no dialog. It used music and sound effects. The avant-garde score featured soprano Marni Nixon (who provided voice dubs for actresses in many Hollywood productions).

Night. Venice, California. A neighborhood in Noirsville section of town. A flea bag residence hotel. A flop. A young woman on a bed. She awakes, looks in the mirror. She grabs a stiletto knife. Heads downstairs and out into the shadows.
 
 
 
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Adrienne Barrett

She meets a dwarf selling newspapers. Headline "Mysterious Stabbing," She continues on. Alleyways. She gets accosted by a wino. A police cruiser stops. The wino is beaten down by a policeman.
 
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She walks on. A pimp propositions her. She accepts. She becomes the escort of a rotund rich man, getting into the fat cat's chauffeured limo.
 
 
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The Pimp
While riding through the night the woman sees a Dickensian "A Christmas Carol" style flashback of a ghost holding a lantern beside gravestones. The first headstone is of her drunken abusive father, the second is of  her floozy mother. She relives her father shooting her cheating mother. The woman then sees herself stabbing him to death.
 
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Bruno Ve Sota

 

The fat cat wines her and dines her. He takes her to bars and to a girlie show nightclub. He constantly leers between the rumba dancer and his "date." When he takes the woman up to his high rise she expects him to make a move. Fat cat however is more interested in eating than in sex. A butler brings him a roast chicken dinner which he eats grotesquely with his face. Dripping grease he approaches the woman with a money roll in one hand.  She is standing by an open window. When he grabs for her she stabs him with her stiletto and pushes him out the window, as he falls he rips a pendant from her neck.

 
The women runs out of the building to the body. The pendant is clutched in his fist. She uses the knife to cut off his hand. A police cruiser approaches and she runs off into the night. The policeman following her shining the spotlight has her dead fathers face. She has serious daddy issues.
 

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Turning a corner the pimp from earlier grabs her and drags her into a cellar jazz club. The club sequence is somewhat reminiscent of the frenzied basement jazz jam sequence in The Phantom Lady (1944). The jazz band and it's appreciative crowd is equated with a wild, bohemian, let it all hang out, doped up, irresponsible hedonism. The woman is transformed into a torch singer, but soon policemen appear. At a barred window the the dead fat cat points at her with is bloody stump. The crowd manically laughs as they closing in around her .
 
 
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The woman awakens in her flop. Was it all a nightmare? She opens her dresser drawer and finds the severed hand clutching her pendant. The POV back out through the window. A shriek. Then blackness.

Noirsville 
 
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The roots of these types of films can be traced back to Un Chien Andalou (1929).

The film is an entertaining prelude of the supernatural, thriller, experimental, noir-ish explosion to come i.e.,  Vertigo (1958), The Savage Eye (1960) Carnival Of Souls (1962) The Glass Cage(1964), and Seconds (1966), Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962), The Twilight Zone (1959–1964), and One Step Beyond (1959–1961).

Screencaps are from a Youtube streamer. 7/10 Full Review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
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Mikey And Nicky (1976) Friend Fatale

 
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Philadelphia Noir. Lost Neo Noir.

Let's be blunt. Where the hell has this been hiding all these years? Yea, yea, yea, I know it sounds like a some lame, stupid comedy, and with Peter Falk's name attached you just assume it is. For me the other negative was the costar John Cassavetes. Let me explain.

When I was on my Western binge about ten years ago I came across Cassavetes in Saddle The Wind. Man, did this guy grate against the laconic nature of the Western Genre. I mentioned in a review that he comes off like some manic demented Jerry Lewis. He had this hair trigger out of control intensity. In his early films, you can see it in his face, the mechanical wheels turning in his brain. The hellzapoppin' school of acting, lol. It was distracting.

Reading his wiki biography, I quote "He studied acting with Don Richardson, using an acting technique based on muscle memory." Was that **** it was? In this film however I discovered a different Cassavetes, age rounded the sharp edges, slowed him down abit. The intensity is still there but now it's just more natural and convincing.

Mikey and Nicky is a nice surprize, and a heads up to all aficio-Noir-dos and Noiristas, there are undiscovered Noirs out there, even Silver and Ward's "An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style Film Noir " misses this one and that's a real head scratcher. It's an extremely well acted, one off, by a notorious hit and miss director that delivers. So what happened? Sabotage.

Directed and written by Elaine May. May directed two Oscar nominated performances in The Heartbreak Kid (1972) and later the disastrous box office failure Ishtar (1987). The filming of Mikey And Nicky proved contentious and somewhat prophetic. May ran the film's original $1.8 million budget up to $4.3 million. Paramount sabotaged the films initial release, booking it into theaters for a very limited run guaranteeing a box office bomb. The rights to the film were eventually purchased in 1978 by Julian Schlossberg Peter Falk and Elaine May.  In 1986 a new version of the film approved by May was screened at the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City.

The cinematography was sort of an ensemble affair (due to onset difficulties) with five cinematographers listed in the credits, Lucien Ballard (Laura (1944), Berlin Express (1948), Don't Bother to Knock (1952), Inferno (1953), The Killing (1956), A Kiss Before Dying(1956)), along with Bernie Abramson, Jack Cooperman, Jerry File, and Victor J. Kemper (The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)). The music was by John Strauss.

The film stars Peter Falk (The Bloody Brood (1959), Murder, Inc. (1960), Wings of Desire(1987)) as Mikey, John Cassavetes (Fourteen Hours (1951), The Night Holds Terror (1955), Crime in the Streets (1956), The Killers (1964), Capone (1975)) as Nicky, Ned Beatty (Deliverance (1972), The Big Easy (1986), The Killer Inside Me (2010)) as Kinney, Rose Arrick as Annie, Carol Grace (Gangster Story (1959)) as Nellie, William Hickey (Something Wild(1961)) as Sid Fine, Sanford Meisner as Dave Resnick, Joyce Van Patten as Jan, M. Emmet Walsh (Midnight Cowboy (1969), Blade Runner (1982), Blood Simple. (1984), White Sands(1992)) as bus driver and Peter R. Scoppa, as the counterman.

Once Upon A Single Fatal Night
 

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Nicky (Cassavetes) lt. & Mikey (Falk)


City of Brotherly Love. Center City neighborhood.  Nicky (Cassavetes). Hood. On the lamb. Holed up like a cockroach behind a baseboard. Hotel Royale. Downtown flea bag. Sick. Desperate. Paranoid. Chain-smoking cigarettes. His partner Ed Lipsky a small time bookie has been whacked. They skimmed money from mob boss Resnick (Meisner). He's in a jam. He's next. He knows it.

He calls Mikey (Falk). His childhood best buddy. They grew up together, boosted the same candy stores together. Friends for thirty years. Mikey's always around to help. He tells Mikey he's calling from a phone booth. Tells him to bring smokes. Tells Mikey he's at Martell & Grand.

Nicky scopes out the intersection from his corner hotel room. Mikey shows up. Looks around puzzled. Nicky drops a booze bottle wrapped in a hotel towel out the window at Mikey's feet.

Mikey (outside Nicky's hotel room): Nicky, it's me Mikey from the corner, I came as soon as I got your towel.

 
When Mikey finally gets in the room he see's that Nicky is a wreck. He hasn't eaten. He's got stomach ulcers. He gives him some ulcer medicine. He tells Nicky that he'll run down to the A&P Hot Texas **** Shoppe and get him some half and half for his stomach. The exchange in the shop is a riff on Jack Nicholson's dialog in Five Easy Pieces (1971)
 
Mikey: Give me some milk and some cream and separate coffees to go.
Counterman:  I just have milk.
Mikey:  No cream?
Counterman:  Naaah. not to go.
Mikey: What do you put in in the coffee here? You have any cream?
Counterman (pulling up a miniature glass cream bottle): In these little bottles here.
Mikey:  OK gimme fifteen of those little bottles to go, and gimme a couple of cartons of milk.
Counterman:  Aaah, we can't do that we don't give these bottles to go, if you want coffee to go I put the cream in it right here and give it out of the dispenser right back there.
Mikey:  OK, give me a carton of cream from the dispenser.
Counterman: How many coffees?
Mikey:  No coffees, just fill up a carton of cream.
Counterman: Can't do that I wouldn't know what to charge you. Cream is for the coffee only.
Mikey:  OK charge me for fifteen coffees and give me the cream.
Counterman: Fifteen coffees.
Mikey: That's right. (smashing plates as he jumps over the counter): You give me that in thirty seconds or I'll kill you you hear me,?
Counterman: OK!
Mikey:  Cause I'm Crazy!
Counterman:  OK!
Mikey:  Now give it to me!
Counterman: Yes Sir!
Mikey (pushing the counterman out of the way): Now give it to me. Come at me and I'll kill you!

Back in Nicky's room Mikey tells him he should get out of town, catch a flight from the airport. Nicky first doesn't want to leave then he yells out that there is no air in here, he opens a window, He says he can't breath and wants to go outside. Nicky grabs his coat and runs out the door and down the stairs to the lobby with Mikey following. At the doorway to the lobby Nicky stops.

Nicky: Will you go out there?... first?
Mikey:  Yes I'll go out first.
Nicky:  You will go out first?
Mikey:  Yes I will go out first... but there is nobody there. I'm the only one that know's you're here.
Nicky:  Then why don't you go out first?
Mikey (heading towards the door): I am going out first.
Nicky:  Wait a minute, would you mind wearing my jacket?
Mikey:  Eeh?
Nicky: Will you wear my jacket?
Mikey:  What do you think, I'm fingering you?
Nicky:  No, but you don't believe they're out there and I do.
Mikey:  So if I'm right why don't you wear my jacket?
Mikey: Give it to me.
 
They exchange jackets and overcoats.

Mikey:  Make sure you put on the coat it's damp outside. You want me to leave this open so that they can see the jacket?
Nicky:  No, that won't be necessary, why bother there's no one out there anyway, right? Can I have your watch?
Mikey:  You want to wear my watch?
Nicky: I'll be very careful, I just want wear the watch for luck.
Mikey:  I'll let you wear my watch, will you let me carry your gun?
Nicky:  What for.
Mikey:  For luck, look if somebody thinks I'm you and they shoot at me it will be lucky if I could shoot back.

They head out the doors and into Noirsville.
 
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Out on the streets together, Nicky sets the agenda. They go to The B&O Tavern. They have beers and milk. Mikey makes a call to a motel, he tells Kinney (Beatty) the hit man where he has Nicky. Kinney tells him he'll be there in fifteen minutes. When he hangs up Mickey rattles off flight times to Nicky.

Kinney gets stuck in a traffic jam he's forty-five minutes late. When Nicky catches Mikey watching the clock, Nicky gets suspicious. He's not sure he can trust him. He tells Mikey he's leaving. Outside Nicky wants to go to a movie. They hop on a bus.

Nicky (riding on a city bus with Mickey): You got a cigarette?
Mikey:  You're not supposed to smoke on these things.
Nicky: Who's gonna stop me? This guy here?
Mikey:  Hey, hey, take it easy here's a cigarette. It's just one bus driver. Save yourself for a crowd.
Lady on the bus:  Excuse me... no smoking on the bus.
Nicky:  Hey shut up, will ya!
Lady on the bus:  I'm going to tell the bus driver.
Nicky:  I'm gonna tell your mother. (gives her a raspberry)
Lady on the bus: You know I don't want to start up with your element.
Nicky:  My element, (looking to his lap) let me check it out. It's all right, my element's OK
 
The downtown bus is passing a cemetery. Nicky decides that he wants to visit his mother's grave. The film leaves it ambiguous as to whether Nicky truly knows that he's being set up by Mikey or not but it's another opportunity for some poignant exchanges and intensely profound observations that Nicky makes to Mikey. And the **** back and forth banter they speak in between these exchanges and observations is real.

Nicky (in the cemetery as Mikey walks away): Hey Ma, Ma! If anything happens to me Ma, Mikey did it!
Mikey:  You take that back. Take that back!
Nicky: Oh you still here?
Mikey:  You ****, you take that back!
Nicky:  Ok I take it back, but if anything happens to me she'll find out anyway.

Standing at Nicky's mother's grave.

Nicky:  Hey Mikey....
Mikey:  I'm trying to remember the Kaddish.
Nicky:  He Mikey.... wouldn't it be great.... I was just trying to say that wouldn't it be great if she was alive? Don't you wish your mother was alive?
Mikey: Of course I wish my mother was alive.
Nicky:  I think that's the reason we're such good friends. Because we remember each other from when we were kids. Things that happened when we were kids that no one else knows about but us in our heads. That's how we know they really happened.
Mikey:  What are you talking about I really know what happened when I was a kid.
Nicky: But nobody else does. I mean everyone we knew when we was kids is dead.

Noirsville
 
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Suspicions
 
 
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The film continues to depict the last night of atonement for a friendship going through revelations of long harbored grudges, envy, betrayal, melancholy, and regret. Once the two wise guys go their separate ways the film loses a bit of steam. It delves into Nicky's failed marriage and his up and down relationship with his slutty girlfriend. Mikey (with Nicky's existential observations from their cemetery jaunt fresh in his mind) tells his wife belatedly about his past family traumas.

Elaine May, despite all the on set controversies hits it out of the ballpark, The film is a Neo Noir
gem. Powerful performances by real life long time friends, Cassavetes and Falk, informs the piece, they got chemistry, the friendship depicted is alive with a vitality that's well, authentic. The rest of the cast  Ned Beatty, M. Emmet Walsh, Carol Grace, Sanford Meisner, William Hickey, Joyce Van Patten, and Rose Arrick round out an excellent supporting cast.  9/10 Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville

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They Made me a Fugitive (AKA I Became a Criminal) (1947) Brit Noir Masterpiece

 
(originally SLWB -  March 08, 2012 revised 10/28/2017)
 
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WOW!!!, I would almost call this the best UK Best Noir, but I'd have to watch Night and the City again, and then of course there are probably many others that are off our noirdar screens here in the U.S. Films never watched. Anyway this has two titles not to be confused with the Garfield flick of the same name. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0039895/
 
This is Visual Art Noir, the team of Brazilian born Cavalcanti and the Czech CinematographeOtto Heller,and the French born Set Designer Andrew Mazzei produced an excellent Looking British Noir on par with the pairings of Siodmak and Franz Planer, Anthony Mann and John Alton, Richard Fleischer and George E. Diskant. The film was written by Noel Langley, based on the novel by Jackson Budd. 
 
The film stars Sally Gray (The Hidden Room (1949)), Trevor Howard (The Third Man (1949)Von Ryan's Express (1965)), and Griffith Jones (The Scarlet Web (1954)).Rene Ray as Cora, Mary Merrall as Aggie, Ballard Berkeley as Inspector Rockliffe, Charles Farrell as Curley, Michael Brennan as Jim, Jack McNaughton as Soapy, Cyril Smith as Bert, John Penrose as Shawney, Eve Ashley as Ellen and
Vida Hope as Mrs. Fenshaw 
 
Ex RAF fighter pilot Morgan (Howard) is bored with civilian life. He's still trying to wind down he's at a club with Ellen  (Ashley). When Morgan is out with his gal Looks up an old pre-war buddy Narcissus "Narcy" (Jones) a slimey grifter.  Jones will remind you a the Brit version of Dan Duryea. 

 

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Narcy's latest scam is a fake undertaking business. He transports contraband instead of corpses. Morgan at first agrees to to the smuggling until he finds out that Narcy is also dealing in narcotics. When he braces Narcy about it and tells him he's out. Narcy reminded him of the coin toss where he agreed to work with Narcy's crew of goons. So Morgan agrees to do one last job. It's a breakin but during the getaway Morgan, the wheel man, runs over a copper with the help of Narcy, who grabbed the wheel steering the getaway car into the officer.  The car continues out of control slamming into a lightpole. The rest of the gang scram leaving the unconscious Morgan to take the rap. 

Morgan is sent to the slammer, but after a visit from Narcy's ex gal pal, Morgan finds out that his squeeze is now playing hide the sausage with Narcy.

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While out on a work gang Morgan slips off in the fog it's almost a white out. These shots will remind viewers of similar snow landscape sequences in the Cohen Brothers Neo Noir Fargo. Along the long trek back to London, Morgan is shown dealing with various "on the run" situations one of which is receiving the help of a woman who as Morgan puts it is "around the bend," she gives him food clothes and a gun the latter with one condition, that he will put a hole through the head of habitually drunk hubby. Morgan refuses  and when he skips out, the woman  fills her spouse full of holes. 
 
When Morgan gets to London it all goes Noirsville.
 
Noirsville
 
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This film is top notch, the acting is flawless, the addictive cinematography continuously interesting,  the final sequences are a maze of dark alleys waterfronts and railroad viaducts, nice job. Its always great to find a Noir off most peoples radar. The final denouement atop the funeral parlor below.
 
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I'll be looking to pick this one up when I can 10/10

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Vice Squad (1982) City Of Angels - Grindhouse - "B" Neo Noir

 
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They were some of the best.

Classical Film Noir that were low budget affairs featuring no name actors produced by "Poverty Row" studios.

Here is a great 1982 version of the above. Directed masterfully by Gary Sherman a Documentary, Horror, Zombie film director.

The executive producers of the film were Frank Capra Jr. Sandy Howard and AVCO Embassy President Robert Rehme and Brian E. Frankish, producer, and Frank Hildebrand, associate producer. The two companies listed in the credits were, Dynamic and Hemdale.
 
 
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Princess (Season Hubley)
 
 Some trivia from IMDb:

Controversial in depiction of its subject matter, this movie obviously had its detractors regarding this and its content. However, Director Martin Scorsese, director of Taxi Driver (1976) and Mean Streets (1973), came out and defended this movie. Apparently, Dawn Steel and Scorsese were at a Paramount dinner function when a disagreement allegedly broke out between them. Scorsese apparently said that the Academy didn't have the guts to nominate the best movie of the year. That picture was this film.

More trivia from Birth.Movies.Death.com

AVCO Embassy President Bob Rehme... put Sherman in touch with his contacts in the department and, instead of simply allowing him to research beat procedure, a local Commander enrolled the filmmaker in an accelerated Police Academy course. Sherman spent his nights riding shotgun in a two-man vice car, where he made arrests, interviewed suspects, spoke with numerous streetwalkers, and then went home and put it all into the screenplay. There were even role playing scenarios, where the cops would arrest Sherman, lock him up in county, interrogate him, and allow the artist to see their world from the other side of a jail cell’s bars. His partner through all this – a now retired Sargent named Doug Nelson – became a technical consultant on Vice Squad, inspecting takes from the sidelines and letting Sherman know “yeah, that’s real” or “yeah, that’s ****”. This is how the finished film so thoroughly owns its level of sleazy authenticity – Sherman was observing the lives of these clandestine midnight marauders from street level.

Cast for the most part with a bunch TV actors from the 1970s. A disclaimer here: I didn't watch much TV at all in the 70s, I was off the grid, out chasing women around the **** tonks of Montana, so these actors are all are pretty much off my radar. However all the players do a great job.

The film stars Season Hubley as Princess the itty bitty titty "Mommy" hooker, she was in Hardcore (1979). I guess she played the guide, (a hooker/porn actress) that helped George C. Scott look for his wayward daughter in the deviant porno-world. I remember the film alright but not specifically her. Gary Swanson (The Bone Collector (1999) is Vice Detective Sergeant Tom Walsh the male lead, he's was in nothing outstandingly remarkable that I remember, aside from this film. Wings Hauser (an actor known at the time for TV's The Young And The Restless), has been around since 1966 and I honestly didn't know who the hell he was either), plays the psychotic rockabilly "Cowboy" pimp Ramrod. Pepe Serna is Detective Pete Mendez (him I know from the original The Killer Inside Me (1976), Beverly Todd (The Bucket List (2007)) is Detective Louise Williams. Maurice Emanuel (Drum (1976) is Detective Edwards, Stack Pierce (Psychic Killer (1975) A Rage in Harlem (1991)), is Roscoe. Jonathan Haze (Dementia(1955), Stakeout On Dope Street (1958)) is the toe sucker. Lydia Lei the femme fatale in Hammett (1982) is a hooker named Coco, Ark Wong is a funny martial arts grandpa and Joseph Di Giroloma is Detective Kowalski.  A good cast of character actors play in excellent vignettes, hustlers, junkies, disco patrons, gogo dancers, pimps, winos, drag queens, bar patrons, Johns, night people, fags, bikers, leather fetish punks, freaks and various flamboyant weirdos.

The film was written by Sandy Howard, Kenneth Peters, Robert Vincent O'Neill, and the (uncredited) director Gary Sherman. The films IMDb page info has nobody credited for music. But there is a soundtracks credit, i.e., the title theme "Neon Slime," with Lyrics by Simon Stokes, Music by Joe Renzetti and  Performed by Wings Hauser.

What the film does have is a cornucopia of,
 
A T M O S P H E R E.

This film is another visual noir lovers wet dream. A sleazy, gritty, vintage 1981 nocturne Hollywood and downtown L.A., glowing with a silvery sheen from street lamps, the incandescent gold of blinking chase lights, and multicolored flashing neon. All this is reflected in both storefront windows and wet city boulevards awash in bleeding colors. In a word it's
 
N O I R S V I L L E !
 
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The Noir stylistics are provided in spades by cinematographer John Alcott who worked with Stanley Kubrick, his credits include (2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange(1971), Barry Lyndon (1975), and The Shining (1980)).

One Night In Hollyweird

Hollywood Center Motel. Ho' Boulevard. A hooker Ginger (Nina Blackwood) is hiding from her sadistic pimp Ramrod. She calls Princess (Hubley) the "Mommy" hooker for advice. Princes tells her to stay put and don't let Ramrod (Hauser) in if he shows.
 
Princess has a young daughter who she ships off to her mother in San Diego before she goes on the prowl. She uses the ladies room at the bus station as her changing room. She transforms from mild mannered housewife into a glitter flecked, chic, fashion model-ish, lady of the night.
 
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"what'll fifty dollars get me?"

There is no moralizing here, no messaging, Princess is a bit kinked, it's a job, she makes a lot of money, and she likes what she does.

Princess: Hey honey you just out cruising?
John in Mercedes: Sort of.... what'll fifty dollars get me.
Princess:Well a, a whole lot of pleasure... half and half, straight, head...
John in Mercedes: Have you ever golden showered, it doesn't hurt or anything...
Princess:Sorry lover I just went to the restroom.
John in Mercedes:I have a six pack and a hundred dollars....
Princess:You also got yourself a date with Princess Running Water.

Working the other side of the law is LAPD Hollywood Division Detective Sgt. Walsh (Swanson) his "**** posse" is working Sunset and Hollywood Boulevards, rounding up the streetwalkers, trannys, homos, etc., etc.

After making a bust, Walsh and his partner Edwards (Emanuel) get a call to County Medical. Ginger is in emergency, we know that she's been viciously beaten with a "pimp stick," and vaginally mutilated by sadistic Ramrod, but Ginger dies before she can actually name Ramrod. 

When Princess gets pulled in, in a drug bust, Walsh has her brought over to the morgue. He wants to make a deal, he wants Ramrod. He tells Princess that when the judge sees her rap sheet she won't get out of the slammer until her daughter is out on the streets pulling tricks. Princess ain't buying it.
 
 
Princess: Twentyfour hours after he's in he's out. The (expletive) jail you're operating there is a hotel with a revolving door.
Walsh: I don't need no (expletive) bimbo telling me what's wrong with the system.

For emphasis, he flips the sheet off the nearest corpse and she see's it's her friend Ginger. Walsh sticks her face down to get a good look. Princess agrees to carry a recorder in her handbag and sets out to get Ramrod. She finds him at The Balled Eagle, a pimp bar and goes back with him to his apartment. When Ramrod tells her that "you just turn a few tricks for me and give me the money, I'll take care of everything you need honey." The police move in and arrest him.
 
Princess her good deed done takes off into the night to turn more tricks on the main stem. While escorting Ramrod to bookings in their unmarked car, he manages to overcome Kowalski and causes Menendez to crash and flip the cruiser, he escapes the wreck, and runs off into the night. Ramrod is now obviously obsessed to find Princess.

Now, Princess' life is in jeopardy. Now, Walsh puts out an all points bulletin for either Princess or Ramrod. The rest of the film follows the three through the tinseltown night. Ramrod on his search to track down Princess using his underworld connections. Princess, oblivious to the danger she's in, trolling the concrete stroll for more tricks, and Walsh and his squad on their comb of the streets for whoever they can get to first.

Tinseltown
 
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As a Neo Noir, the film is gorgeous to look at. It ups the game a notch. The camera in John Alcott's hands creates magic, as in Barry Lyndon practically every frame is a work of Noir art. It's a gritty, slimy, sleazy, dose of reality, you can almost smell the **** in the alleys. There is one cool sequence in particular that quotes the visual candlelit interiors look of Barry Lyndon. Princess has a John who wants her to dress as a bride for his own funeral, She descends a staircase, lit solely by candelabras,  accompanied by the wedding march. This film demands to be seen for its visuals alone. Gary Sherman's informed research of both the workings of vice squad and the sleazy street nightlife give the film a high degree of gravitas.

A quality film on a shoestring budget, up there with the best crime thrillers ever made. Nowadays it's practically forgotten (except in Grindhouse and Exploitation circles), I think, for two reasons, number one because of it's lack of "A" list actors. If it had starred say Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, or Jack Nicholson, and Jane Fonda, Valerie Perrine, Karen Black, or Goldie Hawn, it may have stayed on the registers. The other contributing factor to its obscurity is of course, it's deviant adult, not for prime time, broadcast TV movie of the week, subject matter. It however, most likely did play on cable. Though for a film about hookers, I have to stress it has very little sexploitation nudity, a shame, that would have just been an added bonus. Screencaps are from the OOP Anchor Bay DVD, a definite keeper, bravo. 8/10 Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
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Wings Hauser garnered a bit of attention for Vice Squad, and it led to his steady B-movie career throughout the 80's. I saw Vice Squad on home video back in 83 or 84, and liked it, but haven't seen it since. I'd like to revisit it.

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1 minute ago, LawrenceA said:

Wings Hauser garnered a bit of attention for Vice Squad, and it led to his steady B-movie career throughout the 80's. I saw Vice Squad on home video back in 83 or 84, and liked it, but haven't seen it since. I'd like to revisit it.

Like I mentioned, once I moved out to Western Montana at the beginning of the 1970's I was out at nights chasing women, hanging out in flyspeck towns and off the grid. I didn't watch TV or see a whole lot of films between 74-75 and the late 80s. over a decade. The Anchor Bay DVD is pristine, if you can find it.

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The Man With The Golden Arm (1956) Junkie Noir

 
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Originally it was going to be a John Garfield film. He acquired the rights in 1949 to the novel but couldn't get approval from the MPPC. Garfield died in 1952 the film was bought from his estate by director Otto Preminger. Preminger set up his own company to handle distribution.

This film has a strange look. It's a throwback to the 1940s. It's shot completely on the RKO lot and looks it. Perhaps it was to cut down on costs. You get the same overall feeling when watching 1982's Hammett (a alcoholic's dream-like San Francisco). The studio set gives the film a off look, a throwback look, a cheap look, it reminded me of a typical TV teleplay, especially since quite a few noir by 1956 were opening up, were using imaginative on location work. It's supposed to be Chicago but it oozes backlot. This detracts a bit from it's effectiveness. Using real ghetto Chicago neighborhoods as Call Northside 777 (1948) did, greatly enhanced its realism and grittiness.  As is you are watching an uninteresting film, visually unexciting, just one step up from a filmed stage play.
 
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Club Safari and Molly-O (Kim NovaK)
The novel, by Nelson Algren, was substantially changed in the screenplay. Instead of Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) being hooked on morphine from a WWII wound, in the film he is a heroin junkie. The film starts with Frankie's return from the prison hospital. He was sent up for dealing for a pusher named Louie (Darren McGavin). Frankies other "job" was dealing cards for an illegal poker game run by Louie & dive bar owner Schwiefka (Robert Strauss).

 
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Frankie (Frank Sinatra)
and Louie (Darren McGavin)

Getting off the bus carrying a drum, Frankie passes Schwiefka's bar and looks in the window. Louie is tormenting a one armed alkie floor sweeper with a glass of booze. Louie makes him dance. Frankie runs into his friend, the beak nosed Sparrow (Arnold Strang). Sparrow's racket is stealing dogs, then turning them back to the owners for a reward. While catching up, Frankie tells Sparrow about a drum gig he's going to audition for.
 
Leaving the bar Frankie schleps down the street to his apartment house and his wheelchair bound shrewish wife Zosh (Eleanor Parker). She is pushy, overly possessive, and a conniver, the Femme Fatale of the piece. Frankie tells her that he's clean. He's got the monkey off his back. In the hospital he learned that if he keeps busy, keeps practicing his drumming, he won't be tempted to geeze. But, when he sets up the drum to practice Zosh either keeps interrupting, or tells him the pounding gives her a headache. It takes about five minutes of nagging to push Frankie off the rails. He heads out the door looking for Louie and the needle.

Frankie needing an outlet turns to an old flame Molly O (Kim Novak), who works as a hostess at a strip joint, and asks her if he can set up his drum at her flop. She agrees but all the pressure from Zosh and Louie have Frankie hooked again. Dealing cards in a two day long poker game for Louie and Schwiefka results in a beat Frankie muffing his big band audition.

When Louie looking for Frankie walks into the apartment he discovers that Zosh can walk and has been faking her disability to make Frankie feel guilty. Zosh in a panic pushes him off the stairway landing and he falls a couple of stories to his death. When the police arrive they suspect Frankie had a fight with his pusher, and Zosh lets them believe so. It all goes Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
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Initially the film was denied a Code seal, but Loews theater chain and others refused to ban the film, especially with the declining theater attendance due to TV. Theaters needed something that you could not get on TV.  Taboo subjects i.e., drug abuse, kidnapping, miscegenation, abortion, prostitution, and eventually nudity were allowed with the decline of MPAA enforcement. However the film looks remarkably tame almost a quaint curiosity piece, by today's standards.

Both Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando were given the script for the part of Frankie.  Sinatra researched the part spending time at rehab clinic watching geezers going cold turkey. He also learned to play drums. If he got the part through mob connections I wouldn't be surprised. The rest of the cast are good, Eleanor Parker (Caged (1950), Detective Story (1951), Darren McGavin (The Case Against Brooklyn (1958), Mike Hammer  TV Series (1958–1959)), Kim Novak (Pushover (1954), 5 Against the House (1955), Vertigo (1958)), Robert Strauss (Stalag 17 (1953)), I Mobster (1959), Emile Meyer (Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), Shield for Murder(1954), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), The Lineup (1958)),  Arnold Stang and Doro Merande vie for the biggest schnozzola in the film, they have a scene together that resembles two toucans having a sword fight.

The Man With The Golden Arm was nominated for three Academy Awards: Sinatra for Best Actor in a Leading Role, for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White and for Best Music (Elmer Bernstein). Sinatra garnered best actor awards by the BAFTAs and The New York Film Critics. 7/10 Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville

The much Noir-er storyline of the novel:

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Often referring to his drug habit as the "thirty-five-pound monkey on his back", Frankie initially tries to keep Sparrow and the others in the dark about it. He sends Sparrow away whenever he visits "Nifty Louie" Fomorowski, his supplier. One night, while fighting in a back stairwell, Frankie inadvertently kills Nifty Louie. He and Sparrow attempt to cover up his role in the murder.

Nifty Louie owed money to politically connected men, and finding his killer becomes a priority for the police department. Sparrow is held for questioning by the police, and he is moved from station to station to circumvent Habeas corpus requirements. Eventually he breaks down and reveals what he knows, and Frankie is forced to flee. 

While on the run, Frankie manages to find Molly at a strip club near Lake Street. He hides in her apartment and beats his addiction, but in the end the authorities learn where he is hiding. He barely manages to escape and gets shot in the foot, leaving Molly behind. He flees to a flophouse, but without any hope of reuniting with Molly or staying free, he hangs himself in his room on April Fools' Day, 1948.

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Slightly Scarlet (1956) Pulp Cover Noir

WOW! It's Pulp Cover Noir, it's one of those films designed to be in direct competition with TV, an RKO film shot in Color in "Superscope" a 2:1 aspect ratio. Something to get 'em out of their easy chairs and La-Z-Boys and down to the theater.

The Color Film Noirs that were produced between the 1940-1967-68 time frame ('67 was the last year for Major Studio Black & White Film production, I throw 68 in there to cover a few Exploitation films post '67) were actually the first Neo Noirs (let's call these first phase neos or proto neos) so that the two sub genres/styles  Classic Film Noir and Neo Noir actually overlap. But until the Motion Picture Production Code weakened in the mid to late 1950s the only significant difference between Noir and Neo Noir was basically the use of color film.

Post say 1955 the Neo Noirs (second phase neos) both Color and Black & White began to drift away from the Code and away from predominantly crime centric stories into more previously taboo "dark" subject matter and employing various salacious visual depictions not possible before.
 
Slightly Scarlet is an interesting film. First, the film is based on James M. Cain's "Love's Lovely Counterfeit." Cain had a penchant for writing about criminals, lost souls, disenfranchised individuals who will take any chances. When he was eighteen, he worked six months for a gas company in Baltimore. After work he used to hang around the whorehouses in the red light district on Josephine Street. He used to lounge around in the parlor, joke around with the girls, and he he used to listen a lot. I'm sure he got an ear full and developed a flair for the hard boiled lingo, and the hard luck, desperate, convoluted sleazy situations. He was described by his ex wives as being morose, sarcastic, insulting, moody, melancholy and grim, and yet he portrayed his losers with compassion, and believability.

"I make no conscious effort to be tough, or hard-boiled, or grim, or any of the things I am usually called. I merely try to write as the character would write, and I never forget that the average man, from the fields, the streets, the bars, the offices, and even the gutters of his country, has acquired a vividness of speech that goes beyond anything I could invent, and that if I stick to this heritage, this logos of the American countryside, I shall attain a maximum of effectiveness with very little effort."

James M. Cain's Preface to Double Indemnity

Second, the film has a weird juxtaposition of color, light & shadow. Its this Lynchesque look that is sort of indescribable, unless you've seen it, the the set designer, flamingly went overboard, (even in the extremely noirish segments) and filled the screen with a pallet of colors, it's like "Seven Brides For Seven Brothers" meets "Blue Velvet, except where Blue Velvet and Niagara used color, the colors were somewhat muted, in this film they basically run riot. It's as if somebody asked, "hey can we get another shade of blue between that prussian blue and teal shadow?" There's a shot in a mansion with a number of suits crowded around a TV set, in a Black & White film they'd all all look gray, in Slightly Scarlet none of them are wearing the same shade of color. It's pretty impressive Cinematographer John Alton created some movie magic. The film even recalls somewhat the bold primary color pallet of Warren Beatty's comic book film "Dick Tracy."
 
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June Lyons (Rhonda Fleming)
 
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Dorothy Lyons (Arlene Dahl)
Third, it has Rhonda Fleming and Arlene Dahl playing two gorgeous, smoldering, redhead sisters one "good" the other BAAAAAAAD. I say "good" in quotations because Fleming plays June, she's hinted at as obviously the mistress/secretary of the reformer mayoral candidate. She's living quite lavishly for a secretary (even having a maid) in a perfect "Leave It To Beaver" suburbia with kept woman undertones.
 
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A pretty revealing nightgown there Rhonda 

Dahl plays over the top kid sister Dorothy just of of prison for a kleptomania relapse, she's also a bit of a nymphomaniac but one excusable flaw in the screenplay is that this is not hinted at sooner. It's supposedly a big improvement over Cain's novel where the Dorothy character arrives much later. For the film I can understand that for the fifties the revelation of her tendencies must have been quite extraordinary, but looking back through the prism of time, realistically she should have been shown more open about it, as it is, its hinted at symbolically, i.e. in one scene Dahl flicks a lighter flame under the palm of Payne's hand, in another she playfully brandishes a speargun in a third she's using a back scratcher but not on her back.

Regardless both actresses are stunning in their beauty and provide quite a bit of eye candy throughout the film and you wonder how each will upstage the other next. Another plus, their costumes, their body language, and the backdrops provide a living pulp fiction magazine/paperback book cover shot extravaganza.

June: I gave you everything I could.
Dorothy: Because you felt guilty, you had a bad conscience, you know how it started. That charm bracelet, the one moma gave to you. I had to have it. So I stole it. I liked taking it. I liked the sensation It was fun. So it was you June, you!  And all the things you bought me they pay off  a lot of years don't they.
June: A lot of years, what do you think I've been through a lot of years. Holding my breath every time I saw a cop pass by the house. Trying to fix things, and square things, and pay things off all because my sister didn't have any more morals than an alley cat. Oh you're a fine one to tell me how I should live my life. If I didn't earn money who'd get you out of trouble. And who would pay off those wonderful friends of yours that you seem to attract like garbage does flies.
 
Fourth, Payne and De Corsia wonderfully reprise (for me anyway, since I've seen their other outings first) some of their roles in other Noir films so they bring that cinematic memory factor into their characters, some of De Corsia's lines recall William Conrad's in "The Killers", all in all giving that slipping into a comfortable pair of old shoes feel to the film which adds to the mix making Slightly Scarlet what it is.

The story line is that crime boss Solly Casper does not want the reformer Jansen winning the upcoming election against his man Robbins for mayor. He sends his operative Ben Grace out to get dirt on Jansen, Ben concentrates on Jansen's secretary June Lyons, figuring eventually he'll snap some compromising photos of the two.

When we first see June, Ben and Dorothy, Dorothy is just getting a medical release out of prison. Ben is there taking photos. He follows up with a visit to a cop he knows Detective Lt. Dave Dietz, to get Dorothy's criminal record. He then heads over to Solly's place to make his report.


 
 
 
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Solly Casper (Ted De Corsia) What kind of secretary is she?
 
 
Solly Casper: You must have a file this thick on Jansen and his girlfriend.
Ben Grace: I got a file Solly.
Solly Casper: Heh, heh, and I'll knock the boyfriend right out of the box. I told you there was a way to get to anybody. And the way to get to a reformer is to prove that he is not a lily white angel himself.
Ben Grace: That figures.
Solly Casper: Well what do we use genius, pictures of 'em, tapes, checks he wrote?
Ben Grace: I got a file on Jansen's girlfriend, all it proves is that she's clean as a whistle.
Solly Casper: You've been working on 'em a week.
Ben Grace: She's clean, she's clean, I can't help it if Jansen's too smart to leave any tracks.
Solly Casper: Oh, this is great... this is fine news to get Tuesday night a week before election. You know what happens to bright boys, like you, and us if Jensen gets in? You can take all your fancy gimmicks and your camera rifle and st.... A dame's a dame, there's bound to be something you can nail her on.
Ben Grace: I couldn't get one picture on June Lyon.
Solly Casper: You mean you didn't even get a picture of her coming out of his house at two in the morning... what kind of secretary is she?

When the newspaper editor Marlowe makes an endorsement on TV for Jansen, Solly decides on a plan to pay him a visit, and try an get him to retract it. Ben tells him he's not going along. Ben tells Solly that a smart operator doesn't have to get rough. Solly calls in his crew and smacks Ben in front of them.

Ben then decides to play both ends against the middle. Ben schemes out in advance of the confrontation, and plants a tape recorder in the room they are going to brace Marlowe in. Ben records Solly inadvertently, killing Marlowe by giving him a heart attack. Solly slightly **** that Marlowe got out so easy, tells his muscle bound henchman Lenhardt (Buddy Baer) to "give him some air." They open the window and sit Marlowe on the sill. Solly then says "give him a lot of air" and flings him out the window. Then turning to his henchmen says "come on let's see if we can beat him down."

When they leave Ben retrieves the recorder microphone. He pays a visit to June, tells her that he can help Jansen and plays the tape. She at first doesn't know how to handle the dirt, she thinks it's a trick. Ben brings up Dorothy's incarceration, She tells him to leave, he pulls out a picture of Dorothy, indicating that that information could hurt Jansen. June slaps his face and tells him that she doesn't like blackmail, and that she and her sister want him out. Dorothy who has been listening on the patio enters the room.

Dorothy: Somebody talking about me? I'd much rather do the talking for myself.
June: Good-bye Mr. Grace.
Dorothy: Hello Mr. Grace meet June's little sister Dorothy.
Ben Grace: Hello Miss Lyons.
Dorothy: Oh please call me Dor, won't you, a frank and open door.

He gets the tape to Jensen, and Solly is forced to leave for Mexico. Ben takes over Sollys operations, and Jansen's girlfriend June.

June finds herself attracted to bad boy Ben rather than Frank Jensen, and the two become an item. Ben tells her that now that Jansen's elected mayor to tell him to make Dietz Chief of Police as a sort of thank-you.  With Dietz chief Ben tells him to go after the grifters and prostitution, all be wants are 30 nice clean gambling locations around the city where suckers can bet.

John Alton's color Noirsville

 

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Dorothy's got a big itch
 
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Ben Grace (John Payne)

Later when June is lured to the beach house instead Ben she meets Solly and Dorothy.

June: Leave her alone Casper can't you see she's sick.
Solly: Sick that's a terrible way to talk about a cute kid. Come here honey. Sick I think she nothing but laughs.
Dorothy: He doesn't think I'm sick.
Solly: So you're that smart girl Jenson always had on the side. I got a real good reason to kill you. I got you to thank for Mexico, you and Ben. Back up smart girl.
Dorothy: Are you really going to give it to her?
June: Run Dorothy run.
Dorothy: Why should I honey bunch?
Solly: Yea why should she? The boys will be here about nine and we'll have ourselves a barrel of laughs. Then I'm taking little Dorothy and flying down to Mexico with her. We'll be flying like bats, upside down and every which way.
 
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"We'll be flying like bats, upside down and every which way."

 

The director was Allan Dwan, Cinematographer John Alton  Writers: James M. Cain (novel "Loves Lovely Counterfeit"), Robert Blees (screenplay), Stars: John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl and Ted De Corsia. Again here a an unexpected diamond in the rough, a color Noir that slightly surpasses "Niagara,"  that has got a Lynchesque feel to it.

If this film has one major weakness it's the score which is a bit too bland, it needed something a bit over the top to compliment everything else. The DVD has some nice special features, a good commentary by writer and James M. Cain enthusiast Max Collins, a James M. Cain bio, a collection of stills from the film, and trailers from other James M. Cain based films. 8/10  Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville

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The Naked Kiss (1964) Kinky Neo Noir On The Cheap

 
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CHEAP,
      TAWDRY,
           RIDICULOUS.
               STYLISTIC,
                    MELODRAMATIC,
                        CRAP,
                            NOIR!

A la Sam Fuller. My favorite Fuller Noir is Pickup On South Street, a 10/10, a Classic Twentieth Century Fox Noir. A film with the full complement of veteran motion picture studio artists, set designers, art directors, contract players, and with Richard Widmark, Jean Peters, and Thelma Ritter at the top of their game, quality actors. It looks like a quality production, a piece of cinematic ART.

The Naked Kiss has none of this. It stars Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, and Marie Devereux. I don't blame you if you ask who? The studio was poverty row Allied Artists, and they must have rented Samuel Goldwyn Studios back lot and the Columbia/Warner Bros. Ranch, but they forgot to rent the extras, the cars, the  atmosphere and most importantly the studio personnel with the knowhow to make it work.

 
 
Fake Town
 
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Fake Street,  fake buildings (notice the plug for "Shock Corridor")

 

At least in The Man With The Golden Arm, another backlot bound film that I reviewed recently, director Preminger had the doe to cast bigger name stars and was able to clutter up the backlot. When you have Sinatra, Novak, and McGavin, you are going to pay attention to them. This film, with no outstanding actors to distract, looks like a cheapo TV film of the week. There is an opening aerial shot of downtown Grantville. It's of a brownstone type city block with an angle, but it looks instantly phony, i.e.,  glass storefront windows with venetian blinds, blinds hiding the fact that there is probably nothing behind the glass. And hardly a pedestrian, no parking meters, hydrants, street signs, no parked cars, no traffic. Doesn't look like any real small town, it just screams backlot. Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, they knew how to disguise the shots with the right angles and blocking. Pickup On South Street wasn't New York City but they filmed the 20th Century Fox Studios backlot in a very convincing way, no? Here Grantville USA looks phoney.

By the early fifties lighter portable cameras allowed lots of film noir to go to actual locations. Nothing looks better than the real thing, and by the '60s going back and using studio sets without the personnel who knew how to film them and pull it off, was a disaster. Another noticeable Noir of this time period with the same problems is The Money Trap, it uses a back lot and location work and the differences between the two are glaring.
 
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Kelly (Constance Towers)
 
What keeps all the negatives in play is the incredibly bizarre story. The film is like a macabre train wreck, that you got to keep watching. It's opening hook has a frenzied prostitute Kelly (Constance Towers), beating the living **** out of her pimp with a shoe. She is downright crazy eye, dick shriveling scary. While they struggle Kelly loses her wig revealing a cue ball head, nice touch Sam.
 
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Knocking her pimp senseless, she grabs the money, dons her wig, and scoots. She goes freelancing. Three years later Kelly gets off the bus in Grantville ready to peddle her **** in a new market, but she runs straight off at the get go into the Captain of Grantville Police Griff. Griff was waiting for the bus with a punk kid he was running out of town. Griff has her number. Griff propositions Kelly and gets the first "crack" at her.
 
After they are done playing hide the sausage, in Griff's apartment, no less, Griff tells her that his town is clean. It's gonna stay clean. He doesn't want her turning tricks in Grantville. But he also tells her that there's a Madam, named Candy, runs a whorehouse in the town across the river, she can go there join the stable of local talent.
 
He tells her to tell Candy that Griff sent her with his "seal of approval." Griff's got to go out on shift but tells Kelly she can hang there for the night. When Kelly wakes up she takes a long appraising look at herself in the mirror and decides to go straight.
 
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Kelly: I saw a broken down piece of machinery. Nothing but the buck, the bed and the bottle for the rest of my life. That's what I saw.

Kelly finds a boarding house, a nice affable landlady, gets the room and looks for a job. Now here is where the film sort of goes off the rails. Nevermind that Kelly, as played by Towers, is not in any way shape or form believable as a hooker, just like she wasn't believable as a stripper in Shock Corridor.

She gives off a wound a bit too tight, absolutely **** nuts aura on one hand, and on the other, you sense the stuck up attitude of an actress (a hoity toity graduate BTY of the Juilliard School of Music and the American Academy of the Dramatic Arts) who wants you to know that she's better than this part, and is slumming in this particular piece of trash, playing a mere prostitute. So she enhances/inflates the part. Kelly is into classical music and quotes Goethe, fer chrissakes, a high society hooker in a fly speck Mayberry.
 
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I don't know if that all makes sense, but the fairy godmother like shift from **** to handicapped childrens nurse is completely off the wall. Besides, how the hell does she get a nursing job without any education or license?  The film glosses that over with some BS, not ever going to fly in the real world, lines of dialog. After she does get the job, Griff keeps hounding her anyway thinking she's screwing the Docs and up to no good.

Another chuckle inducing sequence is Candy's whorehouse, across the river from Grantville in another state that must be called Candyland. Candy's girls are called Bon Bon's and the whorehouse looks like a cheap roadhouse nightclub with the gals in sort of cigarette girl outfits with trays, but instead of cigarettes they sell "candy," only the "candy" is really sex. 

Continuing further into bizarro world, we get long cringeworthy sequences with Kelly in nurse costume and with  the handicapped children dressed up as pirates altogether singing like the Vienna Girls & Boys Choir (Towers Juilliard School of Music degree put to use here).

Into this mix comes the town's most eligible bachelor Grant (Michael Dante). He and Kelly hit it off after a somewhat rough start and become a definite item.

It all looks as if it's going to be a Cinderella type story ending until Kelly drops by Grant's mansion one day unexpectedly early, and catches him molesting a little girl. Woah! It's, as Kelly explains somewhat cryptically, the "Naked Kiss" of the title, so the audience can let their imaginations run wild as to what exactly is being kissed. The girl runs out the front door and Kelly confronts the apprehensive Grant, who babbles.....

J.L. Grant: Now you know why I can never marry a normal woman. That's why I love you. You understand my sickness. You been conditioned to people like me. You live in my world, and it will be an EXCITING world!  [Now on his knees] My darling... our marriage... will be a paradise... because we're BOTH abnormal.

 

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"My darling... our marriage... will be a paradise... because we're BOTH abnormal."

At this point Kelly grabs the telephone receiver and in one vicious blow crushes Grants skull killing him deader than a doornail.  Griff does not believe the town's namesake was a pedophile and Kelly is arrested. It all goes melodramaticly Noirsville.

Noirsville

 

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An uneven, visually ugly film with a weird score, an absurd plot, told in a warped style. Pure trash. A kinky curiosity to rubberneck, about a 6/10. Full review with screencaps here Noirsville

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Le Samouraï (1967) Death In Paris Has A Price

 
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A grey Paris flop. The hired gun lays on his back. A mattress without sheets. Pale reflected light from the windows makes trapezoids on the ceiling. He's sucking a tar bar. A birdcage sits upon a table. When he exhales, the stream rises diagonally upwards quickly, then as it cools and loses momentum, it begins to settle back down, spreading out into a visible floating layer. Cutting the room in two.

"There is no greater solitude than that of the samurai unless it is that of the tiger in the jungle... Perhaps..."
— Bushido (Book of the Samurai)

So begins Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï

When the time is right Jef Costello (Alain Delon) arises. He leaves the bed fully dressed. At the mirror by the door he puts on a trenchcoat, places a fedora upon his head, adjusts the brim meticulously, then walks out the door.
 
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Jef (Alain Delon)

Out in the rain. On the street he watches. When a Citrone is parked he waits. When the owner leaves, he pounces. He gets in the car, removes a ring of master keys from his pocket, and begins to methodically test the ignition one key at a time. The fifth key starts the car. He drives to a deserted street, and into an open garage. He pays a man to change the plates and to give him a revolver.
 
Jef goes about thoroughly setting up alibi's. He visits a prostitute girlfriend Jane (Nathalie Delon), he explains what he wants, but she tells him she has a client arriving at 2:00 AM so he adjusts his story and tells her he was there that night between 7:15 and 1:45 AM. Next, he heads to a hotel with an all night poker game and establishes a fake alibi with them, he will be there at 2:00 AM. Now it's time for work.

He drives to Marty's, a nightclub. He leaves the Citrone running. He walks in, heads to the men's room. He puts on gloves. He walks up to the private office. He confronts the owner and kills him. Walking calmly out of the office he confronts "La pianiste" (Cathy Rosier). He passes her and heads out of the club.
 
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"La pianiste" (Cathy Rosier)
Jumping in the Citrone he drives first to a bridge where he tosses the gun into the Seine, then to Jane's apartment, arriving there just before 2:00 AM.  He waits in the lobby for next Jane's client. When he walks in Jef walks out passing in in the lobby entrance and making sure the guy sees him leave. Jeff drives the Citrone  to a quiet street and parks it. He hails a cab and heads to the hotel poker game, sitting down to play just past 2:00 AM.
 
The police conduct a wide sweep for the killer, hauling in as many likely suspects as they can including Jef. The detective inspector in charge (Roger Fradet) gets Jef's statement, they haul in Jane and her client and both confirm his alibi, but the inspector is not convinced. Jef is placed in a line up. Marty's nightclub employees are the witnesses. Even though "La pianiste" saw him clearly, she tells the police that he's not the man though he does fit the description. Something is way off there, and Jef knows it. Only two of the rest of the employees think it's Jef, the rest do not. Jef is released.

When Jef goes to collect the rest of his fee he's double crossed. Reacting quickly he just gets nicked in the arm and the contact gets away. Back at his one room dive, he doctors the wound, and plans a revenge that will take him to Noirsville.

Noirsville 
 

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Le Samouraï is a film designed to emphasize the alienated mundaneness, of Jeff's meticulous spartan way of life. This  builds the tension slowly towards flash points of swift release. Director Jean-Pierre Melville, like Sergio Leone and the Hollywood Western, holds a certain loving reverence to American Film Noir and Gangster Films, the "romance of the fedora." After Bob le Flambeur, Melville got to actually film Two Men In Manhattan on location in New York City and he made the most of it. In his sixth gangster epic, Le Samouraï Melville uses the enclosure of an everyday Paris of working man neighborhoods, suburban commuter train stations, nightclubs, industrial ghettos and The Metro, to weave the existential tale of the paid assassin on his last job. The music was by François de Roubaix, and the excellent cinematography by Henri Decaë (Elevator to the Gallows (1958), Purple Noon (1960), ). Screencaps are from the Criterion DVD 9/10. Full review at Noirsville
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Appointment with Danger (1951) Midwest Noir

 

Great opening sequence of a body disposal in the pouring rain I was hooked from the get go.
 
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Although, before you get to the story proper, you get a brief sort of rah rah, backslapping narrated infomercial, praising the US Postal Service. I guess you could say,  instead of what the french would call a "policier" its a postal.

The film can boast highly of some excellent railroad/railyard footage and copious amounts of atmospheric location work around the bleak industrial landscapes and brownfields of the Gary Indiana smelters and steel mills.

The director was Lewis Allen who has a string of Noirs to his name, (Desert Fury (1947), So Evil My Love (1948), Chicago Deadline (1949) Suddenly (1954), Illegal (1955)) before segueing into TV in the 1960s. The cinematography was by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Chicago Deadline (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Rogue Cop(1954)). The music was by Victor Young (Gun Crazy (1950)).
 
 
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George Soderquist (Morgan) and Joe Regas (Webb)
 
Here is a film, that's off most film noir favorite lists that for noir junkies, really delivers. Again, it's got an opening hook that instantly grabs, a cast of characters that all ooze cinematic memory, a Director and DP who make the most out of Iconic decaying Midwest landscapes, and a great story.

Before Jack Webb, and Harry Morgan, were respectively Sgt. Joe Friday and his partner Officer Bill Gannon, They played a couple of **** heels named, Joe Regas a weasley eye-ed, loose cannon creep, and his pal in crime George Soderquist, a diabetic, slow witted, melancholic goon. The Hotel Compton "Gary's Finest,"  Regas has just murdered, by strangulation in his own bed, a snooping postal inspector in Gary, Indiana, who was getting to nosey about a million dollar mail heist. With George's help the two go out in the pouring rain to dispose the body.

With George and Joe you get the types of characters always played by Elisha Cook Jr., doubled. Webb is a vicious skinny scarecrow of a guy, who wears clothes that look one size too big and who talks tough to offset his runt of the litter appearance. Morgan is a bit more fragile, sentimental and given to regrets about the past. A lifetime loser who just wants to score big one time.
 
 
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Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) and George
 
They drive to La Porte, to the deserted downtown. They find an alley and are getting ready to dump the body when the spot a young nun. Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) heading their way. A gust of wind has jammed her umbrella. George goes to help and to also kind of steer her away. He wants to make sure she doesn't see the body that Joe is propping up against the car. She does notice though, and asks George what's wrong. He tells he that their friend is just a little drunk and needs some air. As soon as she gets out of sight they drop the body in on the pavement and split.
 
 
 
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Al Goddard (Alan Ladd)

Alan Ladd is Al Goddard, a USPS special investigator sent to Gary, Ind., to solve a postal detective's murder. He's a tough postal cop with a reputation amongst his fellow inspectors for being stubborn and a loner . His quick retorts are of the 10 minute egg variety, i.e., very hard boiled:

Al Goddard: You can rob Fort Knox and live, but steal a dime and kill a post office man, and they'll spend a million and a lifetime lookin' for you.

Maury Ahearn: You don't know what a love affair is.
Al Goddard: It's what goes on between a man and a .45 pistol that won't jam.

Sister Augustine (Phyllis Calvert) is the sole witness. She agrees to look through police mug books. With her aid Ladd learns the identity of the men and uncovers the gang's plot to pull off a million-dollar mail heist. Goddard later poses as a corrupt inspector, and gains the confidence of the killers' honcho Boettiger (Paul Stewart). Boettiger is the slimy flea bag Hotel Compton's owner/manager.
Boettiger has worked out a plan to steal one million dollar transfer that is being transported between two trains by a U.S. Postal Service truck which is protected by just one man and his .45 during a seven minute drive between the two stations.

Paul Stewart excels in these types of roles, he played a couple of tenement dwelling lowlifes memorably, murdering Joe Kellerson in The Window (1949), and sleazeball track bettor, Mr. Craig in Edge Of Doom (1950), he played creepy mob boss Carl Evello in Kiss Me Deadly(1955).
 
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Earl Boettiger (Paul Stewart)
Once the gang discover the deception, the villains take Goddard and Sister Augustine prisoner. Jan Sterling plays gang leaders flakey, floozy, jazz loving girlfriend Dodie La Verne. Dodie is into Bop Jazz, and it provides the opportunity for Goddard to make some quips.

Al Goddard: Bop? Is that where everybody plays a different tune at the same time?
Dodie: You just haven't heard enough of it.
 
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Dodie La Verne (Jan Sterling)

This film was Jan Sterling's first noir from this meager start she went on to play in Caged, Mystery Street, Union Station, her memorable turn as Lorraine Minosa in Ace In The Hole, Split Second, The Harder They Fall, Slaughter On 10th Avenue, and in one ot the last B&W noirs 1967's The Incident.


Noirsville
 
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The film also stars Stacy Harris, David Wolfe, Dan Riss, Geraldine Wall, and George J. Lewis. A Paramount Pictures Production, filmed in Fort Wayne, La Porte, and Gary Indiana, also in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Very enjoyable romp through Noirsville 8/10. Review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
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Good to see Appointment with Danger get such great coverage.   I haven't seen the film in years but it is solid noir, often overlook as a Ladd noir due to the fame\status of his early noir films; Gun for Hire,  Glass Key,  and The Blue Dahila.    

As a jazz musician I loved the Dodie character and what was a fairly common confusion of the bop musical style.  

I wonder when was the last time TCM showed this Paramount film.  

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Jackie Brown (1997) Soul Noir

 
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A great amalgamation of Blaxploitation, Neo Noir, and Elmore Leonard, by Quentin Tarantino.

This film is a lot of fun to watch, Tarantino weaves his magic in his Tarantinian way. Snappy dialog, check, pop references, check, soul music, check, low life losers, check, bringing back blasts from the past in the forms of Pam Grier and Robert Forster, check. The film is probably one of his more restrained efforts, but it fits perfectly for Film Noir.

Noirs were almost always about small time losers. Low key stories of life on the cusp. Tales that drift to the wrong side of the tracks. It's about poor schmucks who are trying to get by any way they can. And if in the process they have to step over on the dark side occasionally, and make deals with the boogie man, well, in this case, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) is a stewardess who makes the Cabo run from L.A. to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. It's a bottom of the barrel gig. But Jackie makes do. One of her angles is that Jackie is a conduit for money. Money generated from illegal arm sales by one Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). Ordell has been building a nest egg. Current total is a cool half million that Ordell has tucked away in Mexico. Ordell is a cool operator who keeps on the move. He makes a circuit between his various hangouts. He's got a house in Compton, a surfer chick, Melanie Ralston (Bridget Fonda) in Hermosa Beach and a girlfriend somewheres else. Ordell is breaking into his business, Louis Gara (Robert De Niro), a sort of befuddled excon buddy of his who just did four years in stir for bank robbery.
 
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Jackie Brown (Grier)
 
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Louis (De Niro) and Ordell (Jackson)
 
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Max (Forster)

Ordell's world starts going Noirsville when one of his dim bulb employees, Beaumont Livingston (Chris Tucker) gets pulled over for a traffic violation and is busted for carrying an unlicensed gun. When he's booked, he's found to have prior charges and is looking at ten years. Ordell has got to move fast. He heads to Max Cherry (Robert Forster) a bail bondsman to get Beaumonts **** out of the slammer. Max has been in the bonds buiz for twenty years and he deals straight up with Ordell, not putting up with any of his jive-**** talking BS.
 
With Beaumont out on bond, Ordell makes his move. He goes to Beaumont's flop. A converted residence motel. He tells him he needs him to come along right now tonight, on a deal he's got to close. It's a hilarious sequence.
 
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Odell and Beaumont (Tucker)
Beaumont reluctantly agrees and follows Ordell down to his car. Ordell opens his trunk and hands Beaumont a sawed off pump action scattergun. Ordell tells him all he's got to do is get in the trunk with the gum and when he pops it jump up and point it at the guys he's dealing with. Beaumont wants to know why he can't just ride shotgun. Ordell tells him it's about the surprize factor.

This film is full of these amusing vignettes, and it's a fun ride. Everyone is jockeying for position. Odell wants his cash, the ATF and LAPD want Odell, Max wants Jackie, and Jackie wants her freedom and a payback from Odell. How all this plays out is part of the magic of the movie and it's the getting there with wonderful fleshed out characters that's a hoot.

Noirsville
 
 
 
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The film stars Pam Grier as Jackie Brown, Samuel L. Jackson as Ordell Robbie, Robert Forster as Max Cherry, Bridget Fonda as Melanie Ralston, Michael Keaton as Ray Nicolette, Robert De Niro as Louis Gara, Chris Tucker as Beaumont Livingston, Michael Bowen as Mark Dargus, Lisa Gay Hamilton as Sheronda, Tommy "Tiny" Lister Jr. as Winston, Hattie Winston as Simone and Sid Haig as the Judge.

Cinematography was by Guillermo Navarro and the soundtrack has cuts by Bobby Womack, Smokey Robinson, Brothers Johnson, The Supremes, Pam Grier, Bloodstone, Roy Ayers, Johnny Cash, Jermaine Jackson, The Delfonics, Minnie Riperton, Foxy Brown, Isaac Hayes, Bill Withers, The Meters, Elliot Easton's Tiki Gods, Elvin Bishop, The Guess Who, The Grassroots, Randy Crawford, The Vampire Sound Incorporation, Orchestra Harlow, Umberto Smaila, Snakepit
Brad Hatfield and Dick Walter.

Screencaps are from the Collectors Edition DVD 9/10. Full review with nore screencaps and dialog at Noirsville
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Fallen Angel (1945)

 
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I rewatched Fallen Angel today.

It's a Noir with all of the right ingredients. An out of money drifter named Eric who gets thrown off a Pacific Coast Highway bus in a California seaside flyspeck called Walton. He has one dollar to his name, the fare to San Francisco is $2.25. Out a luck buddy.

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He walks to a beanery called Pop's. Pop is an old **** infatuated with his sultry waitress. a doll named  Stella. Another patron under steamy Stella's spell is an ex NYPD cop named Mark Judd.

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Stella's character is embodied with a ton of subtext. To have that many guys hanging and sticking around her, is not simply because she's just a very desireable woman. The way it's depicted is as if she's a cat in heat. They way I read it, as a man, is, that, this  dish Stella is, to put in the terminology of the day "a broad who's good for a blast, a cookie who likes to make it with the whoopie, basically  "putting out.," To what extent exactly she is doing so or letting get done to her is never spelt out, but she seems to be a tough cookie, juggling various horney tomcats.

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A free spirit up to a certain point. She'll let any dreamboat eager beaver have a shot at it. A "hotsy totsy, hot diggity dog!, a  share-crop, Wow!" You can, in the best noir tradition, let your imaginations run wild.

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Getting back to Eric. After a cup of joe, he then heads over to a local dive hotel and cons his way into the room booked by a traveling "Spook Show," by claiming he knows Professor Madley the spiritualist. And this in turn leads to Eric worming his way into the good graces of two rich spinsters June and Clara Mills. The chiaroscuro cinematography throughout the film is breathtaking.

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Screencaps are from the Fox DVD, full review with more screencaps at Noirsville

 

 

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The Killing Of A Chinese Bookie (1976) Cassavetes' Jazz Noir

 
 
 
 
 
 
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Until I saw Mikey And Nicky a few weeks ago, I honestly have never been that big a fan of John Cassavetes as an actor. He was always a bit too intense, wound a bit too tight, reminding me a demented Jerry Lewis hopped up on steroids.

He got older.  And with age he slowed down a bit making him more world weary and more believable to me as an actor. I haven't seen much of his directed material either. A few Johnny Staccato's which weren't bad, the horribly boring (to my tastes anyway) Too Late Blues, and Gloria which I liked, and now The Killing Of a Chinese Bookie which I loved.

So let's get into the story.  La La Land. The City Of Angels. West Hollywood. Cosmo Vittelli (Gazzara) owns a small nightclub, cabaret, dump, take your pick, on Santa Monica Blvd. The Crazy Horse West. It's Cosmo's dream, his pride and joy. He's obsessed with it. Everything he makes he invests back into the joint. He's also a two bit impresario arranging the acts, designing the stage decorations, choosing the music, choreographing the skits, doing the lighting, acting as the emcee. The place is doing decent business. Cosmo is working hard at what he likes, he's comfortable and happy, loving life. Living the American Dream.

Cosmo Vitelli: I've got a golden life. Got the world by the balls. That's right, I'm great... I am amazing.
 
Cosmo's got style. He's a snappy dresser, he gets along great with the help, his dancers are his ersatz family, and he has as his girlfriend, the beautiful ebony goddess, Rachel (Azizi Johari). Cosmo only has one problem, he thinks he's a player. He likes action. He's got a small gambling problem. He doesn't know when to fold and he builds up gambling debts that he's got to scramble to pay. When we first meet Cosmo he's making his last payoff to a loan shark named Marty Reitz (Al Ruban). 

Marty: Cosmo you're a prince. Now you can go out and work for yourself.
Cosmo: Marty you're a low life. No offence but you have no style. I do business with you but you have no style.
Marty: Cosmo anytime you need some help come to me.
Cosmo: I don't ever want to see you again.
Marty: Don't push it.
 
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"Marty you're a low life." 
 
Cosmo (Gazzara)
 
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Cosmo goes back to the club. A few days later a mobster in cahoots with Marty named Mort Weil (Seymour Cassel), shows up at the Crazy Horse with an entourage. He introduces himself to Csomo. He compliments Cosmo on the Crazy Horse, he gets buddy buddy, tells Cosmo that he runs a club also, a private one for gambling, a class carpet joint, it's fronted in The Top Sider a hoity-toity boat club down in Santa Monica. Mort tells Cosmo that he can give him unlimited credit. That is the bait. You can almost see the lights go on in Cosmo's eyes. They want to set Cosmo up as the fish.

The next day Cosmo, acting like Mr. Big, hires a limo and dressed to the nines in a tux, picks up his three favorite dancers, Margo (Donna Gordon), Rachel and Sherry (Alice Friedland). He gives them all orchids and takes them to The Top Sider. There during the course of the afternoon, with his eye candy surrounding him, he manages to lose $23,000 at poker and runs out of credit. He's out of the game. He now has to sign makers for the whole amount. He's basically now screwed.

Back at the Crazy Horse, Cosmo's visited by the mobsters that run The Top Sider, Mort, Flo the mob enforcer (Timothy Carey), Phil (Robert Phillips), The Boss (Morgan Woodward), and Red the accountant (John Kullers).

There are some excellently choreographed intimidating physical performances by the actors here, on the sidewalk outside the club. The mobsters tell Cosmo that he can eliminate his debt if he kills this small timer down in Chinatown, the titular, "Chinese Bookie." Cosmo doesn't want to do it at first, but it's basically an offer he can't refuse. Flo roughs him up, they make him get into their limo, they give him an automatic, a map with an address and describe the layout. For Cosmo, they got a stolen hot wired car. It's parked and running right behind the limo. He's to use it for the job. Flo tells him "don't stall it, there's no key."

Cosmo hops in the car and drives down the boulevard and onto the entrance ramp of the Freeway to Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
 
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Flo (Timothy Agoglia Carey)
 
 
Cosmo, after a series of mishaps, a flat tire, the subsequent stalling of the hit car in the middle of the busy freeway, having to run out to a service road to call a taxi from a gas station phone booth, and having to get a dozen cooked hamburgers at a bar to distract the guard dogs. He finally gets to the bookie's house. He feeds the dogs, slips through the gate, gets in kills the bookie and a handful of guards, but gets a bullet in the back on his way out. Going on sheer adrenalin, Cosmo runs out of the neighborhood, flags a taxi and heads to Rachel's house where he finally starts feeling the effects of his wound. Rachel's Mama tends to him. He recovers enough to head back to the club.

Meanwhile at a restaurant/mob hangout, Marty confronts Mort and tells him that the **** has hit the fan, the boss of the Chinese mafia the "heaviest cat on the West Coast was assassinated."  Marty blanches. Their plan was really a double cross and they expected Cosmo to get killed, instead he probably ignited a gang war. Now Marty tells Mort to kill Cosmo before the Chinese Triads can connect him to them. Mort slides over to Flo's table tells him the bad news, that Cosmo did what they couldn't do and gives him the job to whack Cosmo. Flo is instantly sweating bullets.

Flo heads to the Crazy Horse and waits. When Cosmo finally shows up, Flo has come to the nervous realization that Cosmo, with his Korean combat training, is the real professional hit man and that he and his mobbed up goombahs are the **** cheezy amateurs. Flo asks Cosmo to take a ride with him, tells him that the gang wants to hear how it went. Cosmo tells Flo that he's not feeling well and that "I'll tell you and you can tell the gang." Flo insists, and Cosmo suddenly and surprisingly agrees. The coolness of Cosmo on the trip to the deserted warehouse gives Flo cold feet. Cosmo tells Flo he's a amature and tells him to leave. Flo hops in his car and splits. Outside Flo passes Mort waiting in his parked car, he runs his window down and tells Mort that Cosmo is his friend (for letting him live), and if he want's him dead you kill him.

Mort drives into the warehouse looking for Cosmo. Mort puts his car in park and is immediately surprised to find Cosmo right outside his window. Mort starts some distracting **** small talk while trying to gab his gun and Cosmos shoots him dead. While this is going on Phil has driven into the warehouse. Cosmo slips away while an anxious Phil is blasting away at shadows.  
 
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Cosmo taxi's back to the Crazy Horse, back to his whole world, the show goes on but with a bullet in the back, and a few of the mob still out there. Cosmo stands on the sidewalk at the entrance his blue jacket acquiring ominus red pinstripes below a bullet hole. We are left up in the air as to Cosmo's final ambiguous fate.
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Ben Gazzara's performance, and he essentially carries the bulk of the film, is excellent.  He is very compelling as the dreamer whose whole life, his whole reason for being, is connected up with the running of his club. It's his baby. He actually radiates happiness a sort of visible serenity, positively glows when all is right with his girls in his world. His cheshire grin will long haunt your memory of the film.

Whenever Cosmo is separated from this dream he is still so involved and concerned with his show that even during the hit and all the complications, he'll stop, drop some quarters into a payphone to call the club to check on how things are going and what number is being performed. His conflicts and strained relations with the mob juxtaposed against his entrepreneurs vitality give the film its dramatic tension.

Cassavetes's direction in this feels superficially a bit similar, to me, in style to Robert Altman's way of filming dialog as overheard conversations. Besides the main script, written also by Cassavete, you're getting a lot of short situational improvisations, and this with the combination of professional and amateur actors interacting comes off as real slices of life.

All the supporting cast are great, especially Noir veteran/lunatic Timothy Carey (Ace in the Hole(1951), Crime Wave (1953), Finger Man (1955), The Killing (1956)).  Meade Roberts is Teddy aka Mr Sophistication. Picture in your mind a fat, moody, talentless Tiny Tim. He thinks obviously that he is an artiste, he is also another one of the dreamers, dreaming he's some kind of prima donna of taste. He is portrayed as intentionally bad, singing acapella off key tunes to an audience that's probably too drunk or stoned to care as long as they see some gyrating **** on stage in accompaniment. The De Lovelies "artistic" routines are also amateurish, as you'd so expect in some **** hole Tinseltown strip dive that has apprehensions of greatness.

The cinematography uncredited was by Cassavetes, Mitch Breit, and Al Ruban. The Music, sort of a "Cosmo's Theme" tying it all together was by Bo Harwood.

There are two versions of Chinese Bookie out there. The initial 135 minute release which tanked at the box office. The re-edit by Cassavetes clocked in at 108 minutes. The re-edit trims a lot of Gazzara's expositional explorations of Cosmo's character. It also adds an extra sequence at The Top Sider gambling club, where a uppity doctor and his gambleholic wife are getting threatened by the gangsters. A lot of "Mr. Sophistication and his De Lovelies" routines are trimmed or cut also. The longer version immerses you more into Cosmo's world, it's Cassavetes riff on Noir. The screencaps are from the Criterion DVD 8/10  Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
 

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