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Brown's Requiem (1998) Forgotten L.A. Neo Noir Gem

"I cant remember if my first drink was to celebrate my good fortune, or grieve my losses..... I figure if I sit here long enough I'll remember,....about how a guy who has nothing can lose everything."

Third novel of James Elroy to be filmed.

After the success of L.A. Confidential (1997), Jason Freeland wrote and directed this adaptation of Elroy's fist published novel, Brown's Requiem. It's an almost forgotten gem. Why is this not listed in the Film Noir Encyclopedia by Silver, Ward, Ursini, and Porfirio, and short shrift-ed elsewhere? Possibly because it's populated with all B list actors.

The opening credits have a great mournful trumpet and melancholy piano in a slow funeral dirge.

Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986), Sea of Love (1989)) plays Fritz Brown a raspy, alcoholic, ex L.A.P.D. cop, who makes pretty decent scratch repossessing cars for a Southern California used car lot king Bud Meyer. With a lot of off time between paying gigs, Fritz decides to moonlight as a Private Detective. He tools around the L.A. strips in a early 60s Ford rag top.
Fritz Brown (Michael Rooker)
We first meet Fritz warming a stool at a strip joint. On the bar top before him, a pair of long disembodied legs are grinding. The limbs and that "heaven's above," should have him mesmerized, but Brown, in true hard boiled fashion, is almost oblivious, his mind is elsewhere, narrating the requiem of his last case.

The entire film and its convoluted plot is told in an extended flashback.
Fat Dog Baker (Will Sasso)
A guy is pounding on the office door, it's a land whale name of Fat Dog Baker (Will Sasso). The guy is animated. Wound a bit too tight. He's huge, dirty and stinks. He claims he's the "King of the Caddies, the greatest ****' looper who ever packed a bag."

Fat Dog wants Fritz to keep an eye on his kid sister Jane (Selma Blair). She's 17 and living with a rich dirty ol' man deviant Solly Kupperman (Harold Gould), aka Solly K. He's a big shot living in Beverly Hills. Solly and Jane drive matching "his and hers" Rolls Royce's.  Solly had a nightclub Solly K's that burned down just the night before. After flashing a roll of dough that could choke a horse, Fat Dog pays Fritz five bills. Tells Fritz he can get a hold of him at the Rustic Inn and splits.

So Fritz, half a grand richer, begins to tail Jane, she heads to piano lessons. A tail of Solly is more productive. Solly heads to a low rent liquor store and comes out carrying two packages. These he puts in his trunk and heads up the two lane towards Palmdale. 

At a dump highway pit stop he watches Solly transfer the packages to a corrupt big shot L.A.P.D. internal affairs brass name of Cathcart (Brion James). This Cathcart was the highfalutin ****-bag that threw Fritz off the force for being an alkie. Now the case is personally interesting.
Cathcart (Brion James)

Fritz heads to the Rustic Inn to report to Fat Dog. He's not there and they haven't seen him. After a tip from caddie Augie (William Newman), he intercepts eventually intercepts Fat Dog and gives him the scoop about Cathcart. Now even more worried about his sister, Fat Dog offers Fritz ten Gs to make sure nothing happens to her. He has the money in a shack he has in Venice, and asks Fritz to drive him there.
In Venice, they get ambushed by a couple of Hispanic goons, Fat Dog gets away but Fritz caught with his guard down is beaten up. They ask Fritz where are the ledgers? Fritz "what ledgers?"

Fritz, searching the next day around Venice finds a wino (Lee Weaver) who points him to the shack where Fat Dog has been occasionally hanging out.

Fritz finds the walls covered in pinups and centerfolds intermixed with images of Hitler, and also a mason jar of gasoline making him suspect that Fat Dog burned down Solly K's. From a junkie, named Edwards (Brad Dourif), at the St. George Hotel in downtown LA, Fritz finds out that Solly K's was really run by an ex ballplayer name of "Hot Rod" Ralston (Jack Conley).

Later while Fritz is still shadowing Jane, he sees her meet the very same Richard "Hot Rod" Ralston. Ralston is caddie master at a prestigious Beverly Hills club. Ralston drops Jane off at her regular piano lessons. Fritz decides to this go round to keep following Ralston. 

It again pays off. At a Beverly Hills country club, Fritz overhears Ralston, in the caddie shack, putting pressure on Fat Dogs looper buddy Augie. Ralston accuses Fat Dog of some heavy ****, stealing money and ledgers from Solly K's. Augie tells him he knows nothing of either. Ralston wants just one more thing, he asks Augie to tell him where Fat Dog is hiding. Augie bluts out TJ.

So Fritz heads off to Tijuana to see if he can get a line on Fat Dog. At the only country club there, a patch of green surrounded by desert, he gets a tip that eventually finds Fat Dog very dead, a couple of days dead, other bodies pile up quick, mix in some pedophilia and incest and ol' Fritzie goes seriously off the wagon, and it all goes deliciously Noirsville.




Michael Rooker grows on you, he's got a rough carved in granite, world weary, pugilist look and a bit of a Tom Waits like rasp to his voice, he's very convincing as the vulnerable somewhat clueless P.I., fumbling his way through a case that isn't quite what it was described to be, and it's driving him to drink. He's no pushover though, he's tough, but also caring. Will Sasso as the manic "King Of The Caddies" is both intense and impressive, a very memorable character. The rest of the bottom dwelling cast, Harold Gould, Brion James (Blade Runner (1982)), Jack Conley, William Newman, Brad Dourif (Blue Velvet (1986)) and Christopher Meloni are all appropriately slimy. Selma Blair's, Jane is the only character that needed to be fleshed out a bit more.

The film is not without its bits of humor. When Fat Dog finally leaves the office, Fritz grabs a deodorant can and sprays the area Fat Dog occupied commenting that he should have gotten the first clue right then that the case stunk. Later when transporting Fat Dog in his convertible Fritz drops the top even though it's raining over Fat Dogs protestations. We know it's because the Dog stinks and Fritz is airing him out.

Director Freeland makes great use of various Los Angeles locations. Seo Mutarevic's Noir Cinematography does them justice, and the beautiful score was by Cynthia Millar. A surprise B Neo Noir Gem.  8/10 Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville
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Journey to the End of the Night (2006) Gritty São Paulo, Brazilian Noir

An excellent Neo Noir with an actual "Classic Noir" ballpark runtime of just 88 minutes. I'm impressed.

The film was written and directed by Eric Eason who phenomenally worked some genuine low budget Noir magic.  Combine that with Ulrich Burtin's gritty, very grainy, style of cinematography with an interesting production design palette heavy on primary colors by Francisco de Andrade. The film evokes a curious comic book/graphic novel melange of Classic Film Noir, Sin City and Vittorio Storaro's work in Dick Tracy. The films music was by Elia Cmiral.

The tale is filled with lowlifes, losers, and those on life's lowest rungs, as a film noir should be. The cast of characters include, pimps, prostitutes, drug mules, transvestites, gangsters, crooked narcotics cops, smugglers, a soothsayer, a homeless girl, a dishwasher, and a little boy all on their own individual  journeys to the end of a single night in the city of São Paulo.

The story starts a few months before in a rundown section of São Paulo at Sinatra's Cocktail "Club", a combination strip joint/whorehouse. A Russian mobster is caught with a prostitute and shot full of holes by his **** off wife who then blows her own brains out. He leaves behind a large suitcase filled with heroin.
Sinatra (Scott Glenn)
Paul (Brendan Fraser)
It's worth a fortune and it just dropped into their laps. The flesh-peddler Sinatra (Scott Glenn), and his cocaine addicted pimp son Paul (Brendan Fraser) concoct a scheme to sell the heroin to Nigerian drug lords who are on a cargo ship docked at the nearby port city of Santos. Sinatra wants to use the cash to get out of the biz with his second wife, an ex club prostitute named Angie (Catalina Sandino Moreno), their son Samy (Gilson Adalberto Gomes), and hop a flight back to the states. Paul wants to just break even on his debts. The deal hinges on a drug mule who can speak Urhobo with the Nigerians.

A couple of hours before the drug deal the mule suffers a massive coronary while "having relations" with a Brazilian tranny Nazda (Matheus Nachtergaele). Things now go seriously Noirsville. Sinatra and Paul must rely on the only other Urhobo speaker that they know, their club's dishwasher Wemba (Mos Def). Wemba with the chance of never having to wash a dish in his life again, half goodnaturedly, and understandably, half selfishly agrees to help. He heads off on his odyssey to Santos with the suitcase.
Wemba (Mos Def)

Complicating things convolutedly are a series of serious twists. <possible spoilers>

Paul wants to double cross his old man with the help of his goons and take all the moola for himself.  He has one man follow his father while the other stakes out Wemba's flop house. Paul is also screwing his old man's second wife. Nice guy.

An informer in the club rats to a narcotics cop who has known all along about the heroin, He knows that a deal is going down, heads to the club and braces Paul for fifty percent of the swag.

Wemba, in classic "hero" mode, makes good on the drug deal on the ship. While triumphantly on his way back to his car walking along a deserted quay with the cash in his backpack, he calls Sinatra on his cell phone. Telling Sinatra of his successful mission he suddenly gets mugged by a couple of strung out addicts who knock him in the head, take his phone and run away.  Sinatra hears this and detects that something just went wrong from the abrupt break of contact with Wemba. Paul, who was standing alongside Sinatra, now assumes Wemba has skipped with the cash back to Africa. Sinatra heads to a local Soothsayer (Ruy Polanah) who, obviously, has some serious street creds with the locals, to see if he can divine the whereabouts of his cash cow Wemba.

Paul in an "un-cute" meet gets into a vicious fight with Nazda the tranny, and cuts his face with a straight razor. Nazda now disfigured and obviously "marked down" in street value earning power, is out for revenge.

Meanwhile .... In Santos, a girl named Monique (Alice Braga) comes home and finds her lover in bed with another woman. She gets beaten up in the ensuing fight and flees into the night towards the docks. She comes upon the barley conscious Wemba and helps him to his car. She offers to drive when she sees that Wemba is not fully capable of driving. When Monique and Wemba get back to Wemba's flop, they both get shot at by Paul's hitman which commences a cat and mouse chase through the streets of São Paulo.

All of these events coming at you at lightning speed intertwine inevitably, resulting in a train wreck of a denouement.





The biggest surprise in the film is Brendan Fraser who director Eason casts (like Sergio Leone did with both Lee Van Cleef in For A Few Dollars More, and Henry Fonda in Once Upon A Time In The West) way, way against type as Paul. Seeing Fraser play and enraged degenerate jackass is a jaw dropping, eye opener, he shows quite a bit of range here from his former pathetic good natured schmos as he chews up the scenery.

Mos Def is very likeable as the honest, loyal, Wemba who plugs away at his dangerous mission for a shot at a life of monetary freedom. Scott Glenn gives us a nuanced performance. He's a cold no nonsense successful pimp on one hand but on the other a caring father and loving husband who wants to give his second son a better life. Catalina Sandino Moreno, plays the screwed up former prostitute who flip flops in affection between Paul and Sinatra. Matheus Nachtergaele as the transvestite hooker is quite convincing, as is Ruy Polanah as the extremely spaced out fortune teller.

A nice surprise, screencaps from the Alchemy/Millennium February 27, 2007 DVD, its a love it or hate it film, for true Noiristas and AficioNoirdos, 9/10. Full review with screencaps here Noirsville
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The Big Combo (1955) Noir Masterpiece

Directed by Joseph (H) Lewis (My Name Is Julia Ross(1945), So Dark the Night (1946), The Undercover Man(1949), Gun Crazy (1950). This was Lewis' last Classic Film Noir.

The film stars the usual noir suspects, Cornell Wilde, Brian Donlevy, Richard Conte, Lee Van Cleef, Robert Middleton, Earl Holliman, Ted de Corsia, Jay Adler, John Hoyt, along with Jean Wallace, Helene Stanton, and Helen Walker.

Director of photography was the great John Alton (Bury Me Dead (1947), T-Men (1947), Raw Deal (1948), Canon City (1948), The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Hollow Triumph(1948), He Walked by Night (1948), one of Noirsville's favorites The Crooked Way (1949), Border Incident(1949), Mystery Street (1950), The People Against O'Hara (1951), I, the Jury (1953), and another fave color Classic Noir Slightly Scarlet (1956). The film, consequently, is very dark and quite stylistically lighted as you would expect.

The screenplay was by Philip Yordan, who gave us Dillinger (1945), Whistle Stop (1946), The Chase(1946), House of Strangers (1949), Panic in the Streets (1950), Edge of Doom (1950), No Way Out (1950), Detective Story (1951), Joe MacBeth (1955), and The Harder They Fall (1956).

The has appropriately a both equally sleazy and jarring "Jazz Noir" score, with what sounds like an alto sax dominating the piece, was by David Raksin. There is also a film credit listing for Jacob Gimple as a piano soloist.

The film opens the piece with a fly-by of grimy, gritty, grid street lay out of 1950s Manhattan, New York City. All this was replaced just like Los Angeles' Bunker Hill whose soaring skyscrapers are it's modern tombstones. The "Big Apple" is less gritty now in the old Times Square, but apparently just as wormy as in the old days only it's spread out and hidden better.

Once the credit sequence of second unit or stock footage ends the rest of the film is shot with L.A. and studio sets filling in for NYC.
Diamond (Wilde)
The story has a sort "Dirty Harry-esque," rouge cop M.O. The tale supposedly takes place in the 93rd Precinct, however there was no 93rd Precinct in 1955. The closest in numbers the 90th and the 94th are located in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Obsessed NYPD Police Detective Lt. Leonard Diamond (Wilde) is on the hunt for sharp dressed, rapidly staccato talking, sadistic, and carnal Brooklyn based mobster Brown (Conte) whose real Italian name is probably Marrone, Marrono or Maronna. Almost all the other goombah's in the Combo have Italian names. Marrone is Italian for Brown.
Brown (Conte)  


His oft repeated philosophy is "First is first and second is nobody!" Brown got strong enough to be capo by having Hate in his heart. His favorite form of persuading is using a hearing aid as a torture devise, using, what else, loud degenerate jazz music that features a "real crazy" drum solo. This is followed by a 40% alcohol hair tonic chaser.

Diamond has already spent $18,600 of taxpayer money surveilling one man Brown. He gets berated from Peterson his commanding officer. Diamond's defense is that it's not just one man but a "Combination", the Mob, basically. He get's told that he's fighting the swamp with a teaspoon. Diamond rambles convoluted-ly on telling us he's worried about "the High School kids who come into the city and get loaded and irresponsible, they lose their shirts, and they get a gun, and they're worried and wanna make up their losses, and a filling station attendant is dead with a bullet in his liver.... and I have to see four kids on trial for first degree murder...."  Yea, OBSESSED.

He's also got a six month hard on for Brown's (Conte's) cute, cultured, blonde, chapping at the bit, bombshell, girlfriend Susan (Wallace). Jay Adler is Detective Sam Hill, Wilde's partner who shadows both Susan, and the two slightly "light in the loafer" escorts Mingo (Earl Holliman) and Fante (Lee Van Cleef). Brown employs these two skells to escort Susan about town. He must figure they are more interested in screwing each other than Susan or women in general. Forgedaboudit, these crooks are all made out in best 50s fashion, to be the lowest of the low degenerates.

Fante (Van Cleef), Susan, Mingo (Holliman)

Police Capt. Peterson (Robert Middleton) tells him in the best Noir subtext to forget basically "the ****" Susan, pointing out to  Diamond she spent a lot of time "days....and nights" going around the block and around the world with Brown.

Unsubtly later, Susan enforces this when in a night club she tells a former friend of the family that, she no longer plays the piano, now a days all she plays is "stud poke-her". Later on she tells Brown she's wearing what she's wearing instead of white because "white" doesn't suit her anymore.

Helene Stanton plays a statuesque, voluptuous, brunette burlesque dancer Rita (a sort of a Marie Windsor look-a-like) who is stuck on Diamond. Diamond seems to be just using her for sex.
Diamond (Wide) and statuesque Rita (can't fix stupid, no?)
Wilde really needs to see a shrink, he doesn't know a good thing when he sees it, but he also becomes overly obsessed with saving "soiled" dove Susan.

McClure (Donlevy) is Brown's second banana who he inherited when he took over the racket from Grassi who left suddenly for Sicily. Jay Adler plays Diamond's partner Detective Sam Hill.  Helen Walker appears rather late in the film as Brown's ex-wife Alicia Brown.

When Diamond first hears about Alicia after Susan takes an overdose of sleeping pills, he rounds up all of Browns known associates and again gets called to the carpet for making 67 false arrests. Ted de Corsia is almost unrecognizable in a nice cameo as the broken English speaking Combo man on the lamb, Ralph Bettini.

The quest to find Alicia eventually sends Brown off to Noirsville.


Diamond (Wilde) on way to Burlesque House to blow off some steam or whatever.




Its a gritty, violent film noir that shows some surprising sparks of style. Watch for McClure's silent rub out. 

Wilde is such an overly obsessive self-righteous prick, you catch yourself rooting for Conte to dump him in the East River with a set of cement overshoes. And speaking of shoes, Wilde has something of a shoe fetish so keep an ear out for Wilde's classic Noir line about Rita, "Saks Fifth Avenue. . . She came to see me in her best shoes."

Conte is just as obsessed with both power and with Susan, at one point we see them, after a confrontation putting the "kink" on. Conte kisses her hard, one of his hands drop out of sight we see her eyes practically roll up into her head before the cut Conte starts heading "south", and you don't need a paint by the numbers picture with circles and arrows to figure out where "things" are going.... and according to the story they have been going on for about four years.

Conte's Brown, is arguably, one of his most memorable characters.

A very kinky film indeed, stylishly lit and directed.  The whole film has a consistent dark halo around it as if you are peeping on the characters from out of a sewer, we can call it "Sewerscope". The Big Combo has it all, not one but two obsessed characters, a Femme Fatale, sexual innuendos, stylistic lighting and again McClure's (Donlevy) demise is just icing on this cake. There are one or two far-fetched plot points but the film is so overwhelmingly compellingly sleazy that you just go with the (sewage) flow. 

One of my favorites, 9/10. Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville

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The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) Public Service Noir

(parts of this from original SLWB review - April 07, 2012) 
The title sequence with a giant  silhouette of a 
woman looming over NYC gives a preview
 of the gravity of the unfolding story.


Director: Earl McEvoy. Writers: Milton Lehman (a Colliers Magazine article), Harry Essex (adaptation). Cinematography was by Joseph F. Biroc, and music was by Hans J. Salter. 

Starring Evelyn Keyes, Charles Korvin, Jim Backus, Whit Bissell, Dorothy Malone, Lola Albright, and William Bishop. This is sort of a companion piece to Panic In The Streets (1950). It's part film noir and part public service education.

The film almost flawlessly transitions between New York location footage, Los Angeles location footage, and studio sets. The only giveaways are the street lamps, New York has the old Bishop's Crook lamps, the L.A. Columbia Studio studio sets use the single globe on a concrete post Hollywood type lamps, and they are also invariably illuminated by bright California sunshine, in contrast to the drabber real Manhattan cityscapes.

Torch singer Sheila Bennett (Keyes) is returning to New York from Cuba. Sheila is the mule in a husband-wife jewel smuggling racket, carrying $50,000 worth of smuggled diamonds, but she is also carrying unbeknownst to her, Smallpox. 

She was smart enough to see that she was being tailed once she was in the U.S. on the rail trip from Florida, by a customs agent (Barry Kelley). Shelia had the smarts to mail the ice from some R.P.O. along her route, to her ivory tickling "husband" Matt Krane (Korvin), living in New York City.  She arrives at Pennsylvania Station not realizing that she's now carrying the contagious Smallpox virus that spreads on contact which could start a devastating and quickly spreading epidemic in the unprotected city of eight million. 
Sheila (Keyes) in a phone booth at Penn Station.
Once off the train, she immediately calls Matt. She tells him about the customs agent and her precaution to mail the smuggled diamonds to their apartment in Brooklyn. 
Hubby tells her to check into a Times Square dive hotel The America (BTW, this hotel was a dive hangout for showbiz lowlifes, prostitutes, pimps, and a favorite flop where Comedian Lenny Bruce would get geezed). Matt tells her to make sure the agent doesn't follow her to Brooklyn, but in actuality he is playing house while she's been away with her own very eager kid sister, and doesn't want her showing up at their apartment. Nice family.

Sheila is not feeling well, she is now showing the symptoms of Smallpox, she has headaches and back pains and re-occurring fevers. She finds a clinic off Times Square on the way to Brooklyn and there meets nurse (Malone) and Doctor Wood (Bishop). They misdiagnose her with the flu and Dr. Wood gives her some medicine to take. 
Before Sheila leaves the clinic she gives a small girl a decorative pin, contact with the pin infects the child, Sheila is a walking death spreader. The child soon comes down with the symptoms and other victims begin to show up sick. Smallpox is diagnosed and now Sheila is hunted by Custom agent Johnson while Public Health doctor Wood searches in vain for the unknown person spreading the deadly disease far and wide.

Arriving at her apartment in Brooklyn Sheila finds her baby sister (Albright) there with her Husband.  Albright is doing the tube steak boogie with Matt but the increasingly ill Sheila is at first too sick to notice. Meanwhile, Custom agent Johnson loses her when she leaves the hotel through a barbershop, with the help of a bribed bellboy. But het keeps doggedly on the trail, searching theatrical agencies for some leads; while Doctor Wood and an increasingly concerned  New York City Public Health Service searches the areas where new victims are turning up from their contacts with Shelia.
Sheila eventually finds out from Belle the nosy landlady (Connie Gilchrist), that her husband is double crossing her concerning the diamonds, and is screwing her sister. From that point on she becomes obsessed with finding her faithless shitheel husband Matt. Matt plans to abscond with the loot from the diamonds. 
Sheila finds out, from the crooked jeweler (Art Smith) they are in cahoots with, that Matt will be back in ten days after the heat dies down, with the diamonds. The medicine from the doctor and her determination to get Matt is keeping her alive. Sheila flees to her brother's (Whit Bissell) Bowery flop house "the Moon" and hides out there.
The film is chuck full of great NYC footage circa 1949-50. Shots that haunt the memories of New Yorkers old enough to remember the city as it used to be before the need of historic preservation, when urban renewal, and gentrification changed things forever.  Watch for Pennsylvania Station, Times Square, Battery Park and the Third Avenue el. 

This is an OK thriller, though it does beg the question about what happened to all the other contacts Sheila made before she hit NYC, the people on the boat or plane she took from Cuba, she most assuredly came in contact with before she took the train. Unless she was somehow not contagious during some type of incubation period, but what do I know. This film has great location shots of old Penn Station, various Manhattan locals and a great 3rd Avenue el sequence at the old Chatham Square Station that I've captured and uploaded on Youtube below:
Keyes is great in this and her makeup gets increasingly effective conveying her sickness, its part of the Bad Girls of Film Noir set 7/10. Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville

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The Naked City (1948) New York Policier Noir Masterpiece

"There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them."
One of the first and great police procedural films.

Directed by Jules Dassin who gave us (Brute Force(1947), and a number of films that highlighted various iconic cityscape's, San Francisco/Oakland, California in Thieves' Highway (1949), 1950 London in Night and the City, '55 Paris in Rififi, and greater New York City in this. The film was based on a story by Malvin Wald and the screenplay is credited to Albert Maltz and Malvin Wald. Wald claimed he found the story in the actual New York police files, and just changed a few details to fit the narrative.

An Academy Award, went to cinematography for William H. Daniels, and it well should have, though in reality comparatively for a Noir, it's not for the most part a "visually" dark film. What it does have is a heavy dose of gritty reality. A reality inspired and starkly documented by the crime scene photography of the original "nightcrawler" Arthur "WeeGee"  Fellig, a freelance press photographer who during the 1930s and 1940s, developed his signature style by using a police band radio to monitor the city's emergency calls.

Hollywood gave us it's slick, artistic ersatz New York cleverly weaving skimpily lit, dark back lot sets, and matte painted backdrops with second unit footage and often has downtown L.A. subbing in for many US cities.

This film is the real deal, shot on the sidewalks, the streets, The neighborhoods the els, the bridges. They used real New Yorkers, capturing them with two way mirrors and hidden cameras, as extras, playing what else, real New Yorkers. It's a film loaded with New York City archetypes some frozen in time others now long gone, and it's brimming with three second vignettes that illustrate scenes from hardboiled stories never filmed. There, is the milkman and his horse Mamie, from Cornell Woolrich's "Mamie 'n' Me," or the rickety rattling el going through the Coneties Slip "S" curve recalling his "Death in The Air." Other shots are reminiscent of the 87th Precinct police procedural writings of Ed McBain and still others the hard boiled violence of Mikey Spillane's Mike Hammer.
3rd Ave el, Coneties Slip "S" Curve
The film, for New Yorkers of a certain age, me for instance, shows a snapshot of the New York that existed just before I was born. Growing up in the city, quite a few of the sequences jog distant early childhood memories, imprints, that's the way it was, others verify the stories my mother and her sisters would tell. Curiously certain things survived beyond the film others didn't. For instance, the Third Ave. el and some swaths of  Lower East Side neighborhoods it served, that show in the chase climax of the film, were completely wiped off the face of the earth in 1950 to be replaced by urban renewal projects like the high rise Governor Alfred E. Smith Houses.
BMT Standards rolling into Queensboro Plaza
A few makes of the GMC city buses shown in the film still ran on into the early 1960s, but the "sky view" taxi cabs no. There is a shot of string of BMT Standards coming up the grade from the 60th Street tunnel under the East River into Queensboro Plaza Station. I either used to ride that very same train home. Or it was the view, as in the film, I witnessed personally many times on my way from Manhattan back to Queens standing on the South platform waiting, if I had rode instead the IRT and had to make a transfer. It's quite a unique shot for it also shows, what would be the last NYC trolley, traveling across the Queensboro Bridge and the last vestiges of the 2nd Avenue el tracks (the elevated was completely demolished in Manhattan in September of 1942.

I remember getting milk delivered by a milkman, albeit by my time he had already switched to driving a truck. The only horses I remember are the ones still around, the Central Park Carriage's and the NYPD mounted police. There was also a guy that drove around the neighborhoods who sharpened scissors, knives, tools.

Another Academy Award went to Paul Weatherwax for film editing. The music was by Miklós Rózsa and Frank Skinner.

The film stars Barry Fitzgerald (Union Station (1950)) as Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon, Howard Duff  (Brute Force (1947), Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949), Private Hell 36 (1954), and ensemble Noir While the City Sleeps (1956)) as Frank Niles, Noir second tomato Dorothy Hart (Larceny(1948), Undertow (1949)) as Ruth Morrison, Don Taylor as Detective Jimmy Halloran, Frank Conroy as Captain Donahue, Ted de Corsia (no less than six other classic noir as Willie Garzah, House Jameson as Dr. Lawrence Stoneman, Anne Sargent as Mrs. Halloran, Adelaide Klein as Mrs. Paula Batory, Grover Burgess as Mr. Batory, Tom Pedi as Detective Perelli, Enid Markey as Mrs. Edgar Hylton, Walter Burke as Pete Backalis, Virginia Mullen as Martha Swenson, along with many uncredited parts with actors of note among them Paul Ford, James Gregory, John Marley, David Opatoshu, Kathleen Freeman and Arthur O'Connell.

Jules Buck and Mark Hellinger were the producers, with Hellinger also providing the narration. Hellinger interestingly was also one of the first "Broadway columnists" along with Damon Runyon and Walter Winchell.

"Hellinger, like the other great Broadway columnist and raconteur 'Damon Runyon', was a purveyor of stories of New York's demimonde, filled with wise-guy jargon. His stories were different from Runyon's, which relied on mythic archetypes, as they featured realistic depictions of actual people. Many of Hellinger's characters were composites of people he met on the Broadway beat."

(source IMDb)

The story

Two goons, one of them, Willie Garzah (de Corsia), the other Pete Backalis (Walter Burke) in the first  noir sequence in the film, attack and chloroform a woman, Jean Dexter, in her shadowy apartment. To make sure she's dead they dump her in a bathtub full of water. Later, on an East River pier, Garzah's now drunk partner is remorsefully babbling, dangerously out loud, about how he never killed anyone before. This stew bum is now a definite liability. Garzah grabs up a two by four and crushes his skull. He then picks up his body and tosses it in the river.

Willie Garza: Thought you were off the liquor. Liquor is bad. Weakens your character. How can a man like me trust a liar like you? I can't.

A cleaning lady finds Jean's body and emergency services are called. The medical examiner tells the beat cops he suspects foul play so a 22 year veteran Homicide Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon (Fitzgerald) and his protégé, Det. Jimmy Halloran (Taylor), are assigned to Jean's case.

Piece by piece the two put their case together, their clues come from a bottle of sleeping pills, an address book, and  a few names they get from the cleaning lady, one of them Jean's friend Mr. Henderson.  He left his pj's at her apartment, you know what that means, wink, wink, scandalous for 1948. The other name she divulges is her other friend Frank Niles.

The policemen question Ruth Morrison, Jean's fellow dress model and best friend, and Dr. Stoneman her doctor. They get no leads on Henderson. When they get around to grilling Frank Niles, Jean's former business associate, they find out, after checking out his story, that he's a pathological liar. He wasn't a captain in WWII in fact he wasn't even in the service. He turns out to be a schemer who has half a dozen rackets cooking along on the back burner to keep him afloat. It turns out he's also engaged to Ruth, who didn't really know the fullest sleazy extents of his relationship to Jean. Muldoon assigns two detectives to follow him.

From the coroners examination, i.e the bruises on Jean's neck, they deduce that it must have been two men who killed her. Frank's alibi checks out so he's ruled out as one of the killers. However Frank continues to act suspiciously. He sells a gold cigarette case at a pawn shop, and then buys a one-way airline ticket to Mexico with some of the doe. The police trace the the case to a list of stolen items from Dr. Stoneman, they also check a ring fond on Jean's body that also turns up on another stolen property list of items stolen from a Mrs Hylton.

When the police bring the stolen ring back to Mrs. Hylton, they discover, when her daughter walks in the door, that she is Ruth Morrison's mother. Muldoon and Halloran next ask to see Ruth's engagement ring and discover that it is also on a stolen property list.

The detectives, with Ruth in tow, head next to Frank's apartment to confront him about the stolen property. They get there just in time to save him from Garzah who has just chloroformed Frank to clean up his loose ends. Garzah heads out the fire escape and Halloran gives chase, but Grazah gets away on a 3rd Avenue el.

<spoilers for those that have never seen this>

Back at the apartment, Frank comes to, and after questioning, tells the police that he got the cigarette case and the engagement ring from Jean. He's immediately arrested. On the hot seat at police headquarters, a jeweler from Boston fingers Frank as the man who sold him stolen jewelry. The man produces a letter of introduction for Frank that was signed by Dr. Stoneman. Franks story was that he had to sell the jewels to raise money for an operation for his sister.

Muldoon now tells Frank he's going to the pen for jewel theft, for how long is up to him. Muldoon wants to know who Mr. Henderson is. Frank cracks and tells the whole story. Henderson was an alias for Dr. Stoneman. Stoneman was basically **** stupid. Jean used Stoneman. Stoneman's wife was a notorious party giver, from her guest lists Jean would finger wealthy attendees for burglary. Tipped off, Grazah and Backalis would do the jobs during the parties Garzah, however, wanted a bigger cut of the swag and confronted Jean who told him basically to go to hell. That got her dead.

Meanwhile Halloran working another angle also gets Garzah's identity. From a lead from Garzah's brother he gets some old publicity photos and a manhunt and chase through the Lower East Side of Noirsville is on.



3rd Avenue el

As the cops get closer and closer to capturing Grazah the cinematography stylistically gives the impression that it is not only the investigators, but the city itself, it's grids and diagonals, the physical parts of its various superstructures, like nets of steel, brick, and concrete, are begining to slowly enclose around him.

Screencaps from the Criterion DVD, 9/10. Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville

PS - The only comparable film that I've seen that does a snapshot in time for L.A. similar to the way The Naked City does for New York is the Experimental Noir The Savage Eye (1960) 

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Noirsville - I Want To live (1958) The Visual Noir Imprint

Barbara Graham (June 26, 1923 – June 3, 1955) was a California criminal convicted of murder. She was executed in the gas chamber on the same day as two of her convicted accomplices, Jack Santo and Emmett Perkins, all of whom were involved in the robbery and murder of an elderly widow. Sensationally nicknamed "Bloody Babs" by the press, Graham was the third woman in California to be executed by gas.

The story of Graham's life was sympathetically dramatized in the 1958 film I Want to Live!, in which she was portrayed by Susan Hayward, who by the way, won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Graham. 

The film also belongs to a small sub genre of Film Noirs that could be termed the Bio Noirs. It also fits into those late 1950s early 1960s  Noirs that I like to tag the "Beat Noir"s and "Tailfin Noirs." 

The film was Directed by Robert Wise (Born to Kill (1947), The Set-Up (1949), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and the cinematographer was Lionel Lindon (The Blue Dahlia (1946), Alias Nick Beal (1949), and Quicksand (1950). 

Judge it's noir-ish-ness for yourself from the opening sequence screencaps.

Notice the whole Jazz Club sequence is shot with Dutch Angles
Jazz Club
Jazz Musicians 
Smokin' reefers!
Taking a hit
A Hooker and her John
More caps at Noirsville


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Sweet Love, Bitter (aka It Won't Rub Off, Baby!) (1967) Jazz Noir

paean to bebop jazz.

We have our Noir protagonists as detectives, femme fatales, newspaper reporters, truck drivers, wronged men, railroad workers, amnesiacs, the falsely accused, victims of circumstances, revenge seekers, gangsters, hit men, prisoners, telephone electricians, armored car drivers, ex cons, sailors, insurance salesmen gone bad, drifters, ex cops, bad cops, nut jobs, killers, hitch-hikers, kids looking in windows, writers, promoters, boxers, hash house owners, floozies, carnies, doctors, postal workers, secretaries, serial killers, housewives, radio program hosts, prostitutes, taxi drivers, and in this a jazz musician.

The film is based on the novel "Night Song" by John A. Williams, which itself was loosely based on the last years of the life of jazz great Charlie (Bird) Parker. The film is an eloquent portrait of the 1960's jazz scene. Though the story takes place in New York, the film was partly shot with Philadelphia, filling in for NYC. No matter it's all Noirsville.
"(Charlie) Parker was an icon for the hipster subculture and later the Beat Generation, personifying the jazz musician as an uncompromising artist and intellectual rather than just an entertainer." (source Wikipedia)

There is a very small sub genre of Classic Film Noirs and also Biographies or "true story based" films that have a quasi noir vibe, I call them Bio Noir's. Films such as Dillinger (1945), Young Man with a Horn (1950), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955), The Wrong Man (1956), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), The Bonnie Parker Story (1958), I Want To live (1958), Baby Face Nelson (1957), and Neo Noirs In Cold Blood (1967), The Honeymoon Killers (1970), Lenny(1974) and Raging Bull (1980). There are probably a few others out there.

Sweet Love, Bitter shadows Charlie 'Bird' Parker's story arc through the fictitious tale of Richie 'Eagle' Stokes, a quasi famous bebop sax player, who's life is a series of flying highs and gutter lows, boozin', geezin', screwing, and blowin'. He's got a jive **** crumb for manager whose sole qualification is that he used to sell zoot suits, a pusher who keeps him buzzed, and friends who give him shelter from the storm. When he's out of doe he puts the touch on his admiring devotees, or pawns his saxophones.

Produced by Lewis Jacobs. Directed by Herbert Danska known for, The Gift (1962), and  Right on! (1970). Written by Herbert Danska, and Lewis Jacobs. The cinematography was by Victor Solow, and the soundtrack was by American jazz pianist Mal Waldron and his Orchestra, with Charles McPherson ghosting for Dick Gregory.

The film stars Dick Gregory, an African-American comedian, civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur and a perennial guest on countless talk shows during the 1960s, Robert Hooks (Trouble Man (1972)), Don Murray (A Hatful of Rain (1957), The Hoodlum Priest(1961), Twin Peaks TV Series (2017– ), Diane Varsi (Bloody Mama (1970), Johnny Got His Gun (1971)), Jeri Archer, Osborne Smith, George Wilshire, Bruce Glover (Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965), Chinatown (1974)), Leonard Parker (Malcolm X (1992)), John Randolph (The Naked City (1948), Fourteen Hours (1951), Seconds (1966), Serpico (1973), Prizzi's Honor(1985)), Woody King Jr. (Serpico (1973)), Florette Carter (probably Aroused (1966), she looks like the same actress who plays Angela and just spells the first name differently), Carla Pinza, and Barbara Davis (The Front Page (1974)).
David Hillary (Don Murray)
The film begins with David (Murray) and Keel (Hooks) combing the streets looking for their friend Richie "Eagle" Stokes (Gregory), a cool cat, a sad genius, a beboppin' sax blower, a Jazz God, crusin' down his personal boulevard of decaying dreams. Eagle is a high flying junkie, a hard drinking boozer, and a reefer smokin' womanizer. They find him dead of an overdose on the bed in David's crib, a back room in Keel's coffee house "Sadik's."

The whole film is told in a long flashback after an unforgettable brilliantly filmed stylistically minimalist and abstract title sequence of a saxophone wailing Mal Waldron's "Losers Lament."
David is a self pitying drunk, an ex professor, a jazz hipster, who blows into Manhattan like trash in the gutter. He's from a hicksville flyspeck, Onondaga, up in fly over country, upstate New York. He's got a battered old suitcase heading to a flop hotel someplace. He's a broken man. He's  boozing because he killed his wife in an auto accident, he's lost his job, and his way. David's broke. Been sleeping in his clothes apparently, from all the dust on his coat. He pawns a hundred dollar "eye-talian" ring for a Jackson. Life's a drag.
Eagle dips into the same shop. He queues up behind David. He's wearing an ascot cap, shades, and a toggle coat, he's cradling his sax in a paper bag. Eagle is coolly maintaining, but he's also running on empty. He scopes out David and sees a kindred spirit, a just fell off the turnip truck, fellow busted flat loser. A damaged soul. Knowingly he gives him directions to the closest gin mill.
Richie 'Eagle' Stokes (Dick Gregory)

In the tavern David breaks his bill for a beer and a shot. Eagle joins him at the bar. David eventually recognizes him as jazz great Eagle Stokes. They both blow their wads talking music and getting drunk as skunks.They cut into the night. Out on the cold concrete stroll, looking for some more scratch, Eagle spots an older white couple up at the corner. Turning to David......

Eagle: Wait here baby. And watch me good, and you'll never have to starve.
(Eagle walks up and successfully puts the touch on the old couple, then walks back)
Eagle: You see that baby.
David: (chuckles)

Eagle:Too weak to tell you to go to hell, Too guilty to tell you to kiss their as- (laughs), so they pay for it. They tell themselves it's like to keep you away man. And you know, I take it all man.
Bread, that's your only friend. Jenzie. Don't try to make your ol' lady, always around when you need it, and when there's enough it screams baby..... It screams to tell you!

Morning. David and Eagle. Three sheets to the wind. Passed out in a doorway. A cop rousts them awake. He's about to run them in when Keel, a good friend of Eagle finds them. Keel wants to leave David to the cop, but Eagle tells him he's jake, so Keel and Eagle, with David in tow head to Keels pad. Keel offers David a backroom crib at his coffee house in exchange for work.

Keel is an ex street preacher who now owns a successful coffee house down in the Village. Keel's reluctant at first charity, which in itself is somewhat racially motivated, soon sets David back on a trail to redemption. Keel's got a fly girlfriend Della (Varsi) who is white.

In the ensuing weeks, David starts to get a grip on life, integrating himself into Eagle, and Keel's lives. In the process he bridges boundaries, grasps black and white dynamics, encounters the complexes of racism, miscegenation, discrimination, impotence, forbidden love, he deals with drug addiction, and OD'ing, and gets immersed in the bewitching mystic world of jazz, jazz, jazz, that makes the outer world go away.


Keel Robinson (Robert Hooks)



When David finally gets back on track Eagle helps him buy some new threads to go to a professor job interview back at a college in Onondaga. David gets the job, but Eagle while waiting for David is roughed up by a baton wielding local hick policeman for standing around being black. David walking on the street with the college president sees the altercation but does nothing to stop it. He doesn't want to get involved or jeopardize his new job, he's back in "Whitelandia."

His guilt is overpowering. When Eagle finds out that David saw the whole deal go down, his depression sends him off to see a wealthy society dame Candy, (who represents Charlie Parker's patroness the Baroness Pannonica de Koenigswarter) through her contacts Eagle gets the fixings for his fatal overdose of junk and makes his way to Sadik's where in Davids bed, he crashes and burns. Keel tells David that Eagle's cause of death was  "resisting reality."

The performances of the main characters are all good for such a low budget production. Dick Gregory's is particularly moving, Don Murray is very convincing as the kid who finally gets into the jazz candy store. Robert Hooks and Diane Varsi have some touching sequences but you get the feeling that there should have been more, either their relationship was somewhat tacked on to the predominant tale as an afterthought, or that some of their story was left on the cutting room floor. The film was re-cut and shown at art houses under the alternate titles of Black Love--White Love as well as It Won't Rub Off, Baby!  Which of the three versions of the film is on the EFORFILMS DVD reviewed here, is not known by me.

The film does include some dream segments and amusing fantasies. A real treat for jazz fans.  7/10

Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville


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