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Best "Under the Radar" Films Noir


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_FrankSixPack_ asks: *By the way, do you know that the brand new DVD release of Touch of Evil features three versions of the film? But what should interest you the most is that the "preview" version commentary track features... Jonathan Rosenbaum.*

 

Would I, in these difficult economic times, be a maverick and steward of real change and buy a DVD with a movie I already have, plus two lesser versions, a copy of a memo that is on the current DVD and readily available on-line, and a Rosenbaum commentary that I probably already heard when I attended his screening of Touch of Evil? (toss head) You betcha. (wink)

 

*Though this film was credited to John Parker as being the screenwriter, director, and producer, he was only the producer of the film. Bruno VeSota was, in fact, both screenwriter and director of this film.*

 

You expect me to believe Wikipedia on this? Are you a naysayer on John Parker's rightful place as auteur? Bruno VeSoto, a great Chicagoan, as one might expect, and his art, however, should not be diminished. Have you seen The Choppers? Marvelous movie and a fine performance, arguably surpassing that of the star's, _the_ Arch Hall, Jr. in his first role. Which brings us back to this thread's topic: *The Sadist* -- a glorious under-the-radar noir with outstanding cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

 

*VeSota: Was a great admirer of Orson Welles and Sydney Greenstreet.*

 

It was a tad eerie to see the future *Touch of Evil* location and then see VeSoto looking like the future Hank Quinlan. I, however, saw more William Conrad than Sydney Greenstreet.

 

*Female Jungle is the flick. I may have to buy the DVD.*

 

How have I missed this? If Facets has it, consider it rented.

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Owen the Plumber... of Film Noir -- Would I, in these difficult economic times, be a maverick and steward of real change and buy a DVD with a movie I already have, plus two lesser versions, a copy of a memo that is on the current DVD and readily available on-line, and a Rosenbaum commentary that I probably already heard when I attended his screening of Touch of Evil? (toss head) You betcha. (wink)

 

All you have to do is shop and all the economic woes will disappear, or so I have been told. All three of the versions of Touch of Evil feature a commentary, but Rosenbaum is the biggest selling point for me. I don't own Touch of Evil on DVD.

 

Though this film was credited to John Parker as being the screenwriter, director, and producer, he was only the producer of the film. Bruno VeSota was, in fact, both screenwriter and director of this film.

 

You expect me to believe Wikipedia on this? Are you a naysayer on John Parker's rightful place as auteur?

 

:D I actually didn't know of Parker taking full credit for Dementia until yesterday.

 

Bruno VeSoto, a great Chicagoan, as one might expect, and his art, however, should not be diminished. Have you seen The Choppers? Marvelous movie and a fine performance, arguably surpassing that of the star's, the Arch Hall, Jr. in his first role.

 

I have not seen, nor ever heard of The Choppers until now. What's the lowdown?

 

Which brings us back to this thread's topic: The Sadist -- a glorious under-the-radar noir with outstanding cinematography by Vilmos Zsigmond.

 

I just read the write-up for The Sadist. Boy, does that ever sound messed up and utterly fascinating. It looks to be a precursor of 70s horror films.

 

VeSota: Was a great admirer of Orson Welles and Sydney Greenstreet.

 

It was a tad eerie to see the future Touch of Evil location and then see VeSoto looking like the future Hank Quinlan. I, however, saw more William Conrad than Sydney Greenstreet.

 

Great call with Conrad! He's definitely along those lines.

 

I've yet to see a film match Dementia's uniqueness, especially when you consider when it was made. I believe it's a film that captured the past (German silents), the present (film noir), and the future (horror) of filmmaking. I can't think of many films that can claim the same. Citizen Kane would be one.

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*All you have to do is shop and all the economic woes will disappear, or so I have been told. All three of the versions of Touch of Evil feature a commentary, but Rosenbaum is the biggest selling point for me. I don't own Touch of Evil on DVD.*

 

I don't know much about Rosenbaum, but I hope to hear that audio commentary at some point. At any rate, having 3 different versions of this movie for a mere $20 seems like an incredible bargain - and perhaps, yes, it will make all economic woes disappear.

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*I have not seen, nor ever heard of The Choppers until now. What's the lowdown?*

 

It was the inimitable Arch Hall, Jr.'s first movie. If the Archster is unfamiliar, then you're in for a treat. Think: Michael J. Pollard without the acting chops, but also a singer of bad schlocky (or, twisted avant-garde lo-fi -- your choice) rock'n'roll. His father, Arch Hall, Sr. (aka Nicholas Meriwether), an exploitation artiste of the highest order, produced most of his films. *Eegah!* and *Wild Guitar* are not to be missed (the latter being Ray Dennis Steckler's first directing credit). *The Sadist* is a shocker because, all camp and exploitation aside, it is really good and Arch shows that he can be a very convincing psycho.

 

*The Choppers* is a tale of teenage hoodlums involved in a chop-shop operation (you were hoping, maybe, that it was about motorcycles or dentists?). VeSota ("Big Moose") is the salvage yard owner who buys the parts. The whole thing can be found here:

 

but it is on DVD (Something Weird Video) with *Wild Guitar* and extras galore, including the trailer for Steckler's Rat Pfink a Boo-Boo. It's the craziest, Daddy-o.
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_SwingStateFrankie_ sez: *Female Jungle is the flick. I may have to buy the DVD.*

 

I watched this honey yesterday based on the theory that any Lawrence Tierney movie is worth seeing. Add John Carradine and, to quote Jack Paar, Ladies and gentlemen, here they are, Jayne Mansfield and look out! *FEMALE JUNGLE* (Bruno VeSota, 1956) wasn't written by Cornell Woolrich, but it could have been...on a real bender (excuse the redundancy). Off-duty cop Tierney (a cop?) is in the vicinity of a murder of a starlet, but was too drunk to notice and has blacked-out portions of his evening; Carradine is the suave starmaker of the murdered starlet; Mansfield is a wanton lush (no typecasting anywhere in this flick). Who did what to whom when? Luckily in the last 10 minutes, one of the characters explains it all to the police (and us). One truly weird moment is when Tierney tries to prevent (huh?) a fellow officer from beating a confession out of Carradine and then gets socked in the jaw by said officer for his trouble. Great noir fun and classic cinematography by Elwood (Woody) Bredell (Robert Siodmak's *PHANTOM LADY* and THE KILLERS).

 

Some more luscious tidbits: Burt Kaiser, a Chicagoan like VeSota, co-wrote and produced the movie with VeSota, and portrayed the caricaturist; it is the only movie he acted in, produced, or wrote. The production designer, Ben Roseman, was in DEMENTIA. Another Chicagoan, Nicholas Carras, was the composer; he was also the composer for the Ted V. Mikels epics *DOLL SQUAD* and ASTRO-ZOMBIES, and an arranger for George Antheil, the composer for DEMENTIA. The unit manager was Jonathan Haze, an early Roger Corman movie actor, most notably LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, and an uncredited actor in...DEMENTIA.

 

The second feature on yesterday's double-bill was *PSYCHIC KILLER* (1975), not a title I would typically watch. A nice young man is wrongfully accused of murdering his mother's physician, who had refused to operate on her due to her lack of funds (how topical), and is committed to a mental institution. His heartbroken mother dies due to neglect shortly thereafter. In the institution he learns the secret of psychic projection from another resident (good thing Cody wasn't there). He is released when another person confesses to the murder, whereupon he seeks revenge, via psychic projection so that his body is nowhere near the scenes, on all who he views as having harmed his mother (A boy's best friend is his mother.) So why watch this thing? Well, get aload of this -- Director: Ray Danton; Stars: Paul Burke, Jim Hutton, Julie Adams (yes, ChiO's & The Gill Man's passion -- and 21 year's after first enticing The Gill Man, she still looked great); Co-Stars: Della Reese, Rod Cameron, Aldo Ray, Neville Brand and Whit Bissell. I did not recall ever seeing Whit as an unrepentant lecherous libido-driven gentleman, so a reassessment of his career may be in order. He portrays the psychiatrist (you just knew it, didn't you) who testified for the prosecution and got Jim Hutton committed. We see him open the door to his mountain cabin escorting a beautiful young blonde. They lie down in front of the fireplace. We learn that he is her therapist and this is the first time in her troubled marriage that she's been away with another man. As Whit slowly takes her clothes off, he says: "And do you know why you came here? It is because of your incestuous fantasies about your father." *O, the HORROR!*

 

But is it noir, given the element of the fantastic? I'm a Big Tent kinda guy, so sure, why not. How can it not be noir with Neville Brand and Whit Bissell in it?

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Hey ChiO, FYI, in 1960 Whit Bissell played a v-e-r-y similar character in an episode of Perry Mason entitled "The Case of the Lavender Lipstick." In fact, his first scene in the episode consists of him putting the moves on a female co-worker (years before "sexual harassment") and getting her fired when she refuses his advances! If you've only seen him in more "paternal" scientist or officer parts, these roles are a real eye opener.

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Nobody has mentioned *My Name Is Julia Ross* (1945), a marvelous under-the-radar noir directed by the great Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo). It has not been officially released, but -- as it happens -- will be shown on TCM on Thursday. Not to be missed.

 

And don't forget this week's Underground with The World's Greatest Sinner. Whether you love or hate Timothy Carey or this movie, it is a must-see because there is nothing else like it -- an idiosyncratic look at the seamiest sides of American society (religion, politics, business, youth culture, domestic life, rock'n'roll) by an actor and director with a singular vision. It is noir at its noiriest.

 

*"God" Hilliard in '08 and beyond!*

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*Nobody has mentioned My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), a marvelous under-the-radar noir directed by the great Joseph H. Lewis (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo). It has not been officially released, but -- as it happens -- will be shown on TCM on Thursday. Not to be missed.*

 

Thank you very much for the recommendation, I'll be recording it for sure! B-)

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*The Friends of Eddie Coyle* (Peter Yates, 1973) is worth hoping for. If you like an aging, laconic and resigned-to-his-fate Robert Mitchum (and who doesn't?), it gets no better than than this gem. And if Peter Boyle means Frank-en-steen's Monster or Frank Barrone to you, then look out. If he'd been around in the '40s, he would have been a noir star.

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Who saw *Cop Hater* tonight? Of those who did, just how unclean do you feel? This is what mid-'50s to early-'60s noir is all about.

 

Forget femme fatales. Forget Expressionistic camera angles and lighting. Grunge, sleaze and doom.

 

I feel awful having seen it...and better for it. Top-notch stuff.

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> {quote:title=ChiO wrote:}{quote}

> Who saw *Cop Hater* tonight? Of those who did, just how unclean do you feel? This is what mid-'50s to early-'60s noir is all about.

>

> Forget femme fatales. Forget Expressionistic camera angles and lighting. Grunge, sleaze and doom.

>

> I feel awful having seen it...and better for it. Top-notch stuff.

 

 

I saw *Cop Hater*, for as long as I could stand...and thought about you, ChiO. I had

the feeling this movie would go down well in the windy city. ;)

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*Define "bad".*

 

Bad in this context is in how it could make you feel... not applying the adjective to the film itself. Maybe a better term would have been how much it shook you up. Of course, as you yourself suggested in your earlier post, the more it shakes you up, the more it takes you out of your zone of comfort, the better noir it is (unless I totally misinterpreted your words).

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too_late_for_tears1.jpg

 

I just finished watching one of the better "Under the Radar" noirs I've seen lately, Too Late for

Tears. Directed by Byron Haskin and starring Lizbeth Scott, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy

and, of all people, Don Defore, it's the usual double-triple-quadruple-cross tale of stolen money,

murder and cherchez la femme but the performances and dialogue really keep it hopping. I think

Lizbeth's "Jane Palmer" has to be one of the ultimate femmes fatales and this is by far the best

performance I've seen the actress give so far. She's good because she's so unbalanced. Instead

of smooth and cool from start to finish, she teases then snaps and loses it so it keeps the

successive chumps that cross her path guessing (and the audience; at least this audience. I

couldn't tell if she liked men or not. Something screwy about her suggests she's incapable of

intimacy, but it's hard to tell).

 

The script by Roy Huggins (screenplay & story) is really snappy and Danny Boy D gets plenty

of mileage out of his share ("You know honey you've got quite a flair. I like you. Too bad you're

a chisler."), not to mention one of his trademark smack-the-broad moments. :P

 

The pity of it is that the print I watched was one of the ghastlier I've seen. It was murky, scratchy,

and kept jumping. Much like the story. ;) Does anyone know if a decent quality print exists? I

would have thought this DVD the best available, by Image Entertainment and includes some

Eddie Muller extras.

 

Anyone else enjoy this one?

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*Anyone else enjoy this one?*

 

No, not yet at least, but it does sound tantalizing. The only drawback being, of course, that it appears to be in PD. There are at least 4 or 5 different companies selling it. I have no idea if any of them offers better picture quality than Image.

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*Define "bad".*

 

*Bad in this context is in how it could make you feel... not applying the adjective to the film itself. Maybe a better term would have been how much it shook you up. Of course, as you yourself suggested in your earlier post, the more it shakes you up, the more it takes you out of your zone of comfort, the better noir it is (unless I totally misinterpreted your words)*

 

Yes.

 

I was squirming from the start and it only got more intense. There's no "zone of comfort" at any point in this sleazy flick. So...

 

It's that good.

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I watched *My Name is Julia Ross* and I liked it! I was close to getting irritated with Nina's

character but fortunately she came through with some flashes of intelligence and cleverness.

 

However, I don't really understand its considration as a film noir? to me it is a mystery or

suspense tale, a la Rebecca or The Spiral Staircase.

 

The cinematography was excellent and very effective, making the most of the ambience and

terror. What was wrong with Nina's character in the beginning of the film? She looked almost like

a homeless person whereas later on, when she was really in jeopardy, she looked her most

glamorous and put together (rather Dietrichesque in some angles). Quite an interesting

switch.

 

I'm glad I recorded it! But I also wish I'd recorded *Cloudburst* because that one, too, looked

to be very suspenseful.

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*However, I don't really understand its considration as a film noir? to me it is a mystery or*

*suspense tale, a la Rebecca or The Spiral Staircase.*

 

 

People sometimes disagree on what is or is not film noir. For what it's worth, the film is listed in this list of "250 Quintessential Film Noirs":

 

http://www.theyshootpictures.com/noir250noirs3.htm

 

*"My Name is Julia Ross is the first of a series of film noir directed by Joseph H. Lewis and is the film that Lewis likes to consider as the 'real' beginning of his career." - Bob Porfirio, Film Noir: An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style*

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I would agree with Femme Fatale--it is more like a SPIRAL STAIRCASE. But there is definitely no "comfort zone" in this one, as stated below. But for those who enjoyed this movie, I'd recommend his follow-up effort from 1946--SO DARK THE NIGHT, also a Columbia film. This one seems more of a noir to me than MNISR.

 

Message was edited by: blackhangman

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