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Cape Fear (1962) Southern Tail Fin Noir

 

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Director was J. Lee Thompson, the writers were, John D. MacDonald (based on his novel The Executioners), and James R. Webb (screenplay). The film stars Gregory Peck (Spellbound (1945), ), Robert Mitchum (8 Classic Film Noir), Polly Bergen (Champion (1949), ), Lori Martin, Martin Balsam (On the Waterfront (1954)), Jack Kruschen (Gambling House (1950), Confidence Girl (1952),  A Blueprint for Murder (1953)), Telly Savalas, and Barrie Chase (Party Girl (1958)). Cinematography was by Sam Leavitt (Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Crimson Kimono (1959)), and music by the great Bernard Herrmann (Citizen Kane, Psycho, Taxi Driver to name just a selection) .

 

Cape Fear was filmed around Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island, Georgia, Ladd's Marina, Northern California, and Universal Studios.  

 

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Cape Fear is a Psychological Revenge Noir. Max Cady (Mitchum) is out. White Trash. Ex jailbird. Eight years. Beef rape. Baltimore. Caught in the act by Sam Bowden (Peck). Bowden testified. Bowden clinched it. Cady is ****. Figures Bowden owes him. Owes him a lot.

 

Mitchum is positively reptilian in this. There is something Mesozoic about his performance. He's a brutal, relentless, ruthless, sleazy, slimy, silver tongued devil. He plays a truly frightening, borderline insane, maniac pedal to the metal. It's one of his best performances. 

 

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The Bowdens, Peggy (Bergen), Nancy (Martin), Sam (Peck)

 

Sam Bowden is a very successful attorney, practises in Wilmington (though it's never made clear) lives with his wife Peggy, daughter Nancy, a maid, and their dog Marilyn in a big house on the shore. They have two new cars, a 1961 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country wagon and a 1961 Chrysler Newport. Everything is juice for the Bowdens until it goes seriously Noirsville.

 

During his stretch Cady's wife splits. Divorces him. Marries up with a plummer. Moves away. Ex wife is number one. Cady tracks her down. Cady waits for hubby to go plumbing. Cady need his pipes cleaned. Cady wants a second honeymoon. Grabs the ex. Makes her write an I need a vacation letter. Takes her away. Shacks up at a motel. Beats her. Gets eight years worth of sex in three days. Grabs most of her clothes. Takes off, Tells her she can work her way back to her plummer. Nice guy. Max is crazy. Max is nuts. Max is EVIL. Max is DEVIANT.

 

Max Cady: I got somethin' planned for your wife and kid that they ain't nevah gonna forget. They ain't nevah gonna forget it... and neither will you, Counselor! Nevah!

 

Bowden is number two. Max visits Sam. Lets him know. Max is here. Max has a plan. Shadow the family. Terrorize the Bowdens. How low can he go. Lower than whale poop. Max poisons the pooch.

 

Sam calls Mark. Chief of Police. Cops haul in Max. Strip search. No hop. No contraband. Has money. Has bank account. Can't hold him. Max is smart. Studied in Stir. Studied "The Law". Stays clean. Stays cool. Knows his rights. Can't be railroaded. Bowden is stymied. Mark says hire a private cop. Sam calls Sievers (Savalas). Sievers tails Cady.

 

Max has an itch. A sexual itch. The Boar's Head. A beachfront hot spot. Lots of action. Max sits at the bar. Max has a Busch. Max spots Diane. Diane is cute. Diane is a B Girl. She's imported talent. Probably come as far as the next fly speck up the coast. Diane is one of those women who are magnetically attracted to bad boys. It's a daddy issue. Diane plays peek-a-boo with Max. Bad idea. Max gets ****. Max picks her up. Very bad idea.

 

Diane%2B%2526%2BCady%2BCape%2BFear%2B196They leave the Boar's Head with Sievers following.

 

Diane Taylor: [Diane is cuddling with Max as he is driving] Why are we going this way?

Max Cady: Better scenery.

Diane Taylor: What would you know about scenery? Or beauty? Or any of the things that really make life worth living? You're just an animal: coarse, lustful, barbaric.

Max Cady: Keep right on talkin', honey. I like it when you run me down like that.

Diane Taylor: Max Cady, what I like about you is... you're rock bottom. I wouldn't expect you to understand this, but it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower.

 

I%2Blike%2Byou%2Brunning%2Bme%2Bdown%2BC"it's a great comfort for a girl to know she could not possibly sink any lower."

Famous last words....

 

Max drives Diane to her apartment house and they have sex (this is 1962, so it's off screen and implied) Diane is laying on the bed spent, but Max is not finished. Max is not finished by a long shot.

 

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Diane is beaten and sexually brutalized. When Sievers and the police arrive Cady is gone and Diane is found naked lying by the bed, covered by a sheet, her face is swollen black and blue. She won't talk to the police or press charges.

 

Sievers: Why not protect yourself. (from Cady)

 

Diane gets up and call a cab to the corner of Sherman and Desoto. She wants to go to the bus station.

 

Sievers: Well leave town if you have to and, as I said no one will blame you. But before you go would you help us put this man away? All you have to do is come down to police headquaters and sign a complaint. Won't you do that? If not for your sake for somebody else's?

Diane: Protect myself? Nobody can protect themselves against a man like that. I'm scared. You can't help me.

Sievers: But I can! Now you file an assault charge and Cady will get six months in jail.

Diane: Six months. And after that? When he walked out of this room, he said... he said to consider this only a sample. From my limited knowledge of human nature, Max Cady isn't a man who makes idle threats. Anyway you said you weren't a policeman. What do you want?

Sievers: I have a client Sam Bowden, Mr. Sam Bowden. Cady has threatened his wife and his daughter. Never mind the reasons. Mr. Bowden is worried and I can't blame him. You know Cady.

Diane: You believe that I could ever...ever.... in my whole life...step up and repeat to another living soul...what that man--What he did? What about my family? I'm someone's daughter too. What about the newspapers in my home town? Do you think I could bear to have them read about--....

 

San is desperate. Sievers suggests muscle. San bites. Three punks to take care of Cady. But Cady is tough. Cady kicks ****. One of the punks squeals. Cady gets lawyer. Lawyer is shyster. Lawyer wants disbarment.

 

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hire muscle

 

Sam makes plan. Use Peggy and Nancy as bait. Houseboat. Cape Fear River. Lure Cady. Get on plane. Fly to Charlotte. Dive to back to dock. Join family. San and one deputy wait. Cady bites.

 

NOIRSVILLE

 

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Cape Fear is a shocking calculated buildup of terror. Cold blooded menace combined with vividly suggested sexual deviant behavior. You'll want to take a hot shower after its conclusion. Robert Mitchum should have been nominated for an Oscar. A 10/10

 


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Stakeout On Dope Street (1958) Dobie Gillis Breaks Bad

 

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Directed by Irvin Kershner, written by Andrew J. Fenady and Irvin Kershner, Tom McGrath, and

Irwin Schwartz. The great cinematography was by Haskell Wexler (In the Heat of the Night (1967), Matewan (1987), Mulholland Falls (1996)), The jazzy/beat score was by Richard Markowitz.

 

The film stars Yale Wexler as Jim Bowers, Jonathan Haze, as Julian 'Ves' Vespucci, Steven Marlo as Nick Raymond, Abby Dalton as Kathy, Allen Kramer as Danny, Herman Rudin as Mitch Swardurski, Frank Harding as Capt. Richard R. Allen, and  Herschel Bernardi as gangster Mr. Fennel.

 

A Tail Fin Noir, Stakeout On Dope Street is like Dobie Gillis Breaks Bad man, you dig? 

 

You may not remember the film The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (1953), but it's spin off TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959–1963) was in rerun rotation for years, even as recently as this year it's been on cable. The series was about a sensitive, cerebral, teenager, Dobie, and his beatnik buddy Maynard, and his **** pursuit of all things female. Dobie lived above the Mom & Pop grocery store that his folks owned. But I've been digressing.

 

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Lt. to rt. the leather satchel, Nick (Marlo), Ves (Haze), Jim (Wexler)

 

Los Angeles. Ves (Haze) shacks with his pop above Connie's Grocery store. He uses the back store room as a sort of social club for himself and his homies, Jim (Wexler) a budding artist, and Nick (Marlo) an ex high school athlete, weightlifter, and already has been boxer. They hang out at the local bowling alley where Jim has a girl Kathy (Dalton) who works the cash register.They are all pretty much stuck in dead end jobs, but they all have dreams.

 

Night. Alley. A stakeout. Two cops pick up a mule. Looks legit. Looks like a salesman. Dressed in a suit. Carries a fancy leather satchel. It's filled with cosmetics.  Cops do a toss. One tin can has Big H. Two pounds pure. Retail 400Gs. Cops are jacked. Big collar. They radio in. Latch/lock satchel. Put it in the back seat. They wait backup.

 

Collar..jpgA mule collar

 

It's Dark. Cavalry Coming. Sirenes. Shots ring out. One cop blasted. Head shot. Dead. Mule panics. Struggles with cop. Cop two is wounded. Mule is still handcuffed. Can't get away. Grabs satchel. Tosses it. Gets blasted too. Satchel gonesville. Hoods search. It's nowhere. Gotta split. Cops close.

 

Daytime. Ves has route. Drives a 1951 Plymouth Concord Suburban. Groceries. He spots satchel. Grabs it. Finishes route and heads back to the ranch. Jim and Nick are in the back, hanging out. Ves comes in drops satchel. Starts bullshitin'. Time wasting. They finally check out the satchel. It's locked, It's heavy. They force the lock. It's woman's stuff. They check it out. Split it up. They toss a two pound can marked face powder around. Juggle it. Toss it back and forth. They make a basket in the trashcan. Score! Satchel may be worth something. Head for the swap shop. Score a few bucks. They split for the lanes. They bowl, play pinball, Jim gives Kathy some perfume, all is well, life goes on.

 

Both mob and police are looking for the dope. The HEAT is on. Cops on prowl. Cops shakedown EVERYONE. The mob has muscle. The word is out. The mob leans on EVERYONE.

 

The Big Heat

 

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The story slips out. It's headline news. Jim spots the story. Jim runs to store. Shows Ves and Nick. CRAP! We're RICH! Where's the dope? Ves dumped it in the TRASH. Check the trash. It's GONE.

 

The boys SCRAMBLE. Jump in the Concord.  Mad DASH to the DUMP. Garbage trucks VOMIT. Rubbish in piles. The boys are diving through the loads. The landfill dozer is chugging. Against all odds they FIND it.

 

Of course, being a noir, instead of turning it in they decide to sell it. They don't call it DOPE for nothing. Nick who has a bit of a wise guy bent, knows a junkie named Danny who hangs around the garage he works at. The boys go to see Danny. Danny lives in a tar paper shack. Danny was geezin' it. Danny has crashed and burned. 

 

They wake him up. Danny is paranoid. Danny is leery. Nick shows Danny a bindle. Danny takes a taste. Danny WANTS it. Danny WANTS it BAD. Nicks says there is more. Nick says you sell it you get MORE. Danny says come back tonight. 

 

Deal is done. Danny DELIVERS. The boys are getting FAT. The Doe is rolling in. They begin to flash wads around. Everything is COOL, everything is good until it all goes BAD.

 

The film has a great flashback sequence that occurs when Danny is telling Jim about the effects of horse and about the times he was busted put in jail and had to go cold turkey and suffered through horrendous agonizing effects of withdrawal. 

 

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The cinematography is impressive, the Cold Turkey sequence is almost surrealistic.  It's also well acted and narrated by Allen Kramer. This was Haskell Wexler's first feature film and it shows great promise. The film is adeptly directed by Irvin Kershner who went on to a long career in TV and film.

 

Noirsville

 

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The cinematography is impressive, the Cold Turkey sequence is almost surrealistic.  It's also well acted and narrated by Allen Kramer. This was Haskell Wexler's first feature film and it shows great promise. The film is adeptly directed by Irvin Kershner who went on to a long career in TV and film.

 

The film functions quite well as a anti-heroin message that's also thoroughly entertaining. A nice little sleeper of a film, originally a Warners release. 7/10 

 


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Never Let Go (1960) Seedy Brit Noir

 

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Directed by John Guillermin, written by John Guillermin (story), Peter De Sarigny (story) and Alun Falconer screenplay. The film stars Richard Todd as John Cummings, Peter Sellers as Lionel Meadows, Elizabeth Sellars as Anne Cummings, Adam Faith as Tommy Towers, Carol White as Jackie, Mervyn Johns as Alfie Barnes, Noel Willman as Inspector Thomas, David Lodge as Cliff, Peter Jones as Alec Berger, John Bailey as MacKinnon, and Nigel Stock as Regan. 

 

Cinematography was by Christopher Challis. Music by the great John Barry (Body Heat (1981), Hammett (1982)) this was his first film score. 

 

"What makes a Noir/Neo Noir Film is an individual internal factor. It's subjectivity. Noir is in all of us. Think of us all as having an internal tuning fork, these tuning forks are forged by our life experiences which are all basically unique. When we watch these films their degree of Noir-ness resonates with us differently, so we either "tune" to them or we don't. The amount of "tuning" (I'm appropriating this term from the Neo Noir Dark City (1998)) to certain films will vary between us all also." 

 

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Never Let Go is a "tuning" case in point. My wife's step father owned and ran a wrecking yard in Montana. He had a mild heart attack and wasn't able to continue with his business until he recovered. I was laid off at the time and volunteered to help out doing the grunt work. I barely knew anything about cars but I learned fast. I got to the point where I could pull a motor in twenty minutes. We used to buy non running junkers for either $50 for cars or $100 for pickups as long as they had titles. Then we'd part them out, taking the high ticket items, i.e., the carburetors, starters, generators/alternators, radiators and batteries and shelve them. The remainder we'd put in rows segregated by make. So we'd have a section called Chevyland, Dodgeland, Buickland, Fordland, etc., etc. This was back in late 1970s early 1980s so there were even some Studebakers, Nash, and Ramblers. These sections were "walk around" for the customers to see available body parts, trim, and glass. I know the background setup for the film. Previously the only Classic Noir that I readily recall having a wrecking yard sequence was The Big Heat (1953). 

 

Never Let Go is about the auto wrecking/salvage business, I guess called auto "breakers"/salvage in the UK, but an illegal aspect of it. When a late model car is wrecked it's title is saved and the car's engine number, chassis number, and body serial plates are transferred to a stolen car which is then resold under the wrecked cars title. Lionel Meadows (Sellers) is the kingpin of an auto theft ring. Titles are collected from wrecks by MacKinnon (Bailey), make, model, and year are put on a list. This list is given to Lionel who then gives the list to his boys who then steal the exact matches. These cars are then driven to Reagan's (Stock) auto body shop where the serial numbers are changed and the cars repainted to match the wrecked titles. The altered cars are then driven to Meadows Garage and sold. 

 

John Cummings (Todd) is a milquetoast barely making ends meet as a London cosmetics salesman. He works for Berger and Co. He has a doting wife two children, a boy and a girl. Lives in a high rise Council House. Two weeks ago they bought a brand new Anglica that John used for his sales rounds. One night he stops at Berger for a few hours to do some paperwork before heading home. While inside his car is pinched by Tommy Towers (Faith) who drives it to Reagan's (Stock) auto shop, where it will be altered. 

 

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John is devastated, he didn't get it insured for theft, just third party risk. He asks the corner newsstand man Alfie (Johns) if he saw anything. Alfie says no but John is not convinced because Alfie notices everything. John goes to the police. They tell him that 80% of stolen cars are recovered, but also that stolen vehicles not found within forty-eight hours stand little chance of being found. He goes home to tell his wife about the loss. John tries to get by but his sales suffer from having to use public transportation and as a result he is missing appointments. He gets demoted and sacked. John is desperate and he becomes obsessed with investigating the theft. He goes back to Alfie's apartment. After getting on the old man's good side by admiring Alfie's pet fish and terrapin, Alfie tells John that Tommy Towers took it and that he hangs out at the Victory Cafe. 

 

When John arrives at the Victory Cafe he finds Towers hanging around with his chums and a cute blond named Jackie (White) who is dancing at a juke box. As John watches them, a 1956 Oldsmobile 88 drives up outside and someone lays on the horn. Jackie grabs her coat and runs out. John confronts Towers who denies any wrongdoing. 

 

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The next day Alfie's flop is trashed. John calls the police. Alfie doesn't talk, but an associate of Towers sees the police at Alfie's. He tells Towers who in turn tells Meadows about the "nob" (John) who is asking questions. 

 

Meadows asks how did this happen. Tommy tells him that Alfie saw him steal it. Meadows gets **** that Tommy stole a car within five miles of the garage. He slams his hand in the lid of a phonograph. Meadows then drives over in the '56 Olds to see Alfie himself. John standing outside sees it's the same car that was at the Victory Cafe. Meadows threatens Alfie dumping his fish bowl and stomping on his terrapin. Alfie, his whole world gone, gasses himself to death. John puts two and two together and informs the police. The police head to Meadows Garage and confront him with Johns accusations about the Anglica theft and that he was the last man to see Alfie. 

 

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John's wife wants him to forget about trying to get the car back. She's becoming distressed about his actions, actions which she, in a backhanded way, ignited. She told John that he was always chasing pipe dreams that he never caught and made reality. That sets John off, determined to "never let go" until he gets his Anglica back. 

 

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John's obsession and alienation from his wife increases steadily throughout the remainder of the film. This change is convincingly well acted by Todd who goes from soggy milquetoast to hard crust burnt toast. Peter Sellers though is practically unrecognizable. His Meadows character looks like his pudgy evil twin. He's frighteningly different, very twisted from the comedic Sellers we are used to. He sports a push-broom mustache. He is petty, vicious, vile, and has the facade of an outwardly polite charmer. Meadows pseudo smiles, only with his mouth not his eyes. He's a fastidious over the top neat freak, complaining about Jackie's untidiness, placing coasters under drink glasses and ranting about lit cigarettes left on veneer. He also has a sexual sadistic kink with his mistress Jackie. He's a pressure cooker slowly building as things in his little world go awry. He has startlingly violent outbursts. Like a safety valve he's letting off steam, but it's not helping, you know there will be the inevitable explosion as he rages on about the "little nob, lipstick salesman" , and how he's going to "kill him. put him in his car, and burn it!" 

 

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Never Let Go builds nicely to an inevitable showdown punctuated by John Barry's score. It's what a noir should be, about interesting small time characters and simple conflicts that spiral bizarrely of control. Screencaps are camera images from paused frames of a recent TCM showing, but there is an MGM DVD out there. Bravo 9/10 

 

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Bad Day At Black Rock (1955)

 

Noir meets the Modern Western - Film Soleil, those sun baked, filled with light, desert/tropical Noir/Neo Noirs.

 

"Change the darkened street to a dry, sun-beaten road. Convert the dark alley to a highway mercilessly cutting through a parched, sagebrush-filled desert. Give the woman cowboy boots and stick her in a speeding car, driven by a deranged man whose own biological drives lead him less often to sex than to fights over money. Institute these changes [to film noir] and you have film soleil." - DK Holm

 

In the city it's usually what you can't see that can kill you. In the desert everything you see can kill you.

 

Directed by John Sturges (Mystery Street (1950), The People Against O'Hara (1951)). written by Millard Kaufman (screenplay), Don McGuire (adaptation) from the story Bad Time At Hondo by Howard Breslin. The film stars Spencer Tracy (The People Against O'Hara (1951)), Robert Ryan (11 Classic Noir), Anne Francis, Dean Jagger (Dark City (1950), Private Hell 36 (1954)), Walter Brennan, John Ericson, Ernest Borgnine (The Mob (1951), Violent Saturday (1955)), Russell Collins, Lee Marvin (The Big Heat (1953), Violent Saturday (1955), I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Shack Out on 101 (1955)) and the spectacular panoramas of DEATH VALLEY which are breathtaking thanks to the absolutely beautiful CinemaScope cinematography of William C. Mellor. André Previn composed the score.

 

Desert, the anti-city. Wide open spaces, exposed, agoraphobia. A streamliner is snaking. A steel sidewinder.

 

Streamliner

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Black Rock. Nowheresville. A Death Valley desert fly speck. Whistle stop. Somewhere on the California/Nevada border. The Southern Pacific RR. A dirt road main street. A baker's dozen collection of dilapidated buildings. The station. The beanery, Sam's Bar & Grill.  A General Store abutting a barber shop. A two story hotel. A sawbones/morticians, a gas station, two residences and a rinky-dink hoosegow.

 

It must be Saturday. Hicksville. Everybody's in town. Cowboy porch lizards. Relaxin'. Shootin' the breeze. Waitin' for the Streamliner to blow through. She's Greased lightning. Like clockwork. The day's big excitement. A faint rumble. The train's a comin'. You can hear the drone of the F7's down the valley. The pitch changes. The horn blares. Station agent excited. She's stopping. A train hasn't stopped here in four years. What's up. Lizards all rubbernecking.

 

Lounging%2BBad%2BDay%2BAt%2BBlack%2BRockCowboy porch lizards

 

A man gets off. Looks like a city slicker. Suit, tie, fedora, suitcase. A Stranger. Ex career vet. A one hand man, Macreedy (Tracy).

 

Mr. Hastings, Telegrapher: There must be some mistake. I'm Hastings, the telegraph agent. Nobody told me this train was stopping.

John J. Macreedy: They didn't?

Mr. Hastings, Telegrapher: No, I just told you they didn't. And they ought to. What I want to know is why didn't they?

John J. Macreedy: Maybe they didn't think it was important.

Mr. Hastings, Telegrapher: Important? It's the first time the streamliner's stopped here in four years.

 

John J. Macreedy: I want to go to a place called Adobe Flat. Are there any cabs available?

Mr. Hastings, Telegrapher: Adobe Flat?

John J. Macreedy: Yeah.

Mr. Hastings, Telegrapher: No cabs.

 

Adobe Flat! The name raises bristles. He's lookin' fer Komoko. It stirs the hornet's nest. The lizards get standoff-ish. Hostile. Downright rantankerous.  The **** hits the fan. Oh Komoko he left town they tell him, sent to an internment camp.

 

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Macreedy & Smith (Tracy & Ryan)

 

They telephone the biggest toad in their pond Reno Smith (Ryan). But the cat's already out of the bag. Something is wrong, slantindicular, cattywampus. Macreedy knows they're bullshittin'. But he doesn't know why.

 

Cowboy Coley (Borgnine) is glassing Macreedy from a boulder patch. He ambushes him on the way back to town. Tries to run him off the road. Back in town Coley is still trying to provoke, trying to raise sand. 

 

The film gradually reveals, through some very deliberate pacing by Director Sturges, that almost all of the townies are in cahoots with Komoko's murder. It seems that on the day after Pearl Harbor Reno Smith went into Sand City to enlist, he was rejected. He goes on a bender.  He gets a handful of the townies corned up. They go out to Komoko's. A lynch mob.  Komoko locks himself in. They burn his house. He runs out on fire. Smith shoots him dead. The sheriff does nothing. The rest of the town clams up.

 

Spencer Tracy goes from stoically laconic to determinedly obsessed as the odds and the towns alienation build against him. Robert Ryan's unfriendly persuasion streaks more vicious as the truth is slowly exposed. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are the two town bullies both are a few cards short of a full deck. Dean Jagger the town lawman and Walter Brennan a sawbones/mortician are the town drunks. John Ericson is a fidgety hotel keeper and Anne Francis servers as the film's nominal femme fatale.

 

Rather than stark black and white contrasts and Dutch angles this Film Soleil uses subtle clashing colors, high and low angles, compositions, reflections and diagonals to enhance moods and emotions. A red/green clashing motif signifies, unease and apprehension that something is slightly off, is especially apparent in the hotel interiors. High and low angle perspectives enhance or detract the importance, significance, or power of various characters or places. The high angles of the opening sequence enhances the insignificance of Black Rock. Reflections can show contemplative characters, complexity or duplicity. Compositions also define characters and enhance Macreedy's exposure. 

 

Red/Green motif

 

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High/Low Angles

 

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Compositions

 

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 Reflections

 

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Diagonals

 

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The tide turns as slowly Macreedy bests the conspirators and persuades the doc and ,the sheriff, to admit their cowardice and hypocrisy and the partially guilty hotel clerk to tell him the truth about what happened to Komoko at Adobe Flats. The whole shebang goes sour quick.

 

Doc T.R. Velie: Four years ago something terrible happened here. We did nothing about it, nothing. The whole town fell into a sort of settled melancholy and all the people in it closed their eyes, and held their tongues, and... failed the test with a whimper. And now something terrible's going to happen again -- and in a way we're lucky, because we've been given a second chance.

 

Noirsville

 

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The film juxtaposes the high desert grit of a weathered bleached bones town against a backdrop of astonishing but desolate beauty. The film has a fascinating Edward Hopperesque realism look to it. This was MGM's first release in Cinemascope. Screencaps are from the Warner Brothers DVD. 10/10

 


 

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Blue Velvet (1986) Noir goes Bizarre
 
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Directed by David Lynch, written by David Lynch. The film stars Isabella Rossellini (Wild at Heart (1990)) as Dorothy Vallens, Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)) as Jeffrey Beaumont, Dennis Hopper (I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), The American Friend (1977), Red Rock West (1993), True Romance (1993)) as Frank Booth, Laura Dern as Sandy Williams, Hope Lange as Mrs. Williams, Dean Stockwell (The Arnelo Affair (1947), Compulsion (1959), Johnny Staccato TV Series (1959– ), Paris, Texas (1984), To Live And Die In L.A. (1985)) as Ben, George Dickerson (Cutter's Way (1981), After Dark, My Sweet (1990)) as Detective John Williams, Ken Stovitz as Mike, Brad Dourif as Raymond, Jack Nance (Hammett (1982), Barfly (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), The Hot Spot (1990), Lost Highway (1997)) as Paul, and Fred Pickler as Yellow Man.
 
Cinematography by Frederick Elmes (Eraserhead (1977), Wild at Heart (1990)), Music by Angelo Badalamenti (Wild at Heart (1990), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997) ), Production Design by Patricia Norris Set Decoration by Edward 'Tantar' LeViseur.
 
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Suburbia. Classic Hollywood ideal. White picket fence. Perfect. A sky bluer than blue. Bright red roses. A hyper real technicolor dreamland. Then the real. A neighborhood. Vibes mom. Vibes apple pie. We zoom.. Grass. Closer. A miniature jungle. Closer. Bugville. Swarming. Ferocious. Vicious. Omnivores. Bug eat bug. Caos. Surreal.
 
Blue Velvet's premise is based on The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. These were fictional characters who appeared in various mystery books for children and teens. The characters were conceived in 1926 for the Hardy's and 1930 for Nancy Drew, by Edward Stratemeyer for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The syndicate paid ghostwriters to write the stories. The Hardy Boys' stories are often linked to the various cases their detective father is assigned to.. He sometimes asks them for help, while at other times they stumble upon the bad guys and clues that are connected to his cases. Nancy on the other hand was the daughter of an attorney and similarly her cases consist of those which she stumbles upon and some of which begin as cases of her father's.
 
It's through the relative innocence of the films amateur detectives that we enter bizarro world. But just don't think of Blue Velvet as The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew go to Noirsville. They go to
N O I R S V I L L E !!!!
 
Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan). A Dexter. Neat. Preppy. Boy Scout Type. Back home in Lumberton. The old man had a stroke. He has to run the store. Hardware. He schleps hoses. He mixes paints. He goes to visit the old man. Pop looks f-ed up.  All wires and tubes. Jeffrey is bummed. He takes a shortcut back. An empty lot. A trash dump. He throws rocks at a bottle. Misses. Looking for more rocks, whoah!, ****! It's an EAR. A frickin' EAR! Molding green and crawling with ants. Jeff just found a one way ticket to the dark side.
 
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Jeff's small time average life is now thrust into the middle of a mystery. He's jacked. He bags it. He tags it. He takes it to Detective Williams (Dickerson) the neighborhood cop. Williams is cool. They get along. The Morgue. Coroner. He thinks it's off a live one. Cutoff with scissors. Nice. Clues. Later that night Jeffrey visits the Williams'. He meets Sandy (Dern). The daughter. Homegirl. Blond. Cute. She's cool. She knows about the ear. Her bedroom is over dad's den. She hears things. Confidential Hush-hush stuff. She's Jazzed. Leanin' gal pal. Jeffrey's amped.
 
sandy%2BBlue%2BVelvet%2B1986.jpgSandy (Dern)
 
Sandy spills. Names names. Connect the dots. Cops suspicious. Dorothy Vallens (Rossellini). Torch singer. Nightclub. The Slow Club. Wrong side of the tracks. Lives on Lincoln. Deep Water Apartments. Bad news. Dark side.
 
Jeffrey gets brainstorm. Grab a bug sprayer from hardware. Get overalls. Pose as exterminator. Get into Dorothy's apartment. Open window. Come back nighttime. While she is at the club. While she does her set. Snoop. Find more clues. Sandy will act as decoy to distract Dorothy. Sounds easy. Sounds cake.
 
Jeffrey gets into Dorothy's apartment. She bought the bug con. Jeffrey sprays. A knock at the door distracts Dorothy. It's a man dressed in a yellow jacket. Jeffrey calls him the Yellow Man. Jeffrey finds a spare key. Forget the window he'll go in by the door. Jeffrey and Sandy plan. They go to The Slow Club. They drink a couple of Heineken. They watch Dorothy. She does her Blue Lady schtick. She's slightly off key It's all a bit off. But she's mesmerising. The crowd loves her. It works.
 
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Dorothy The Blue Lady singing Blue Velvet
 
Jeffrey and Sandy bounce. They drive to The Deep Water. Jeffrey heads upstairs. Sandy will act as lookout. Honk car horn four times as warning. Sounds easy. Sounds cake.
 
Jeffrey is in. He wants to snoop. But he has to pee. Heineken. Dorothy drives up outside. She's early. Sandy Honks. Jeffrey flushes. He doesn't hear the horn. He starts to snoop. Key goes in lock. Lights switch on. Dorothy is home. Jeffrey is screwed. Closet is close. Hide.
 
Jeffrey sweats. Closet doors have louvers. Jeffrey looks. Dorothy strips off dress. Jeffrey has KINK. Jeffrey PEEPS.
 
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Dorothy gets call. She gets anxious. She drops to her knees and retrieves a framed photograph hidden under her sofa. She looks at it. She puts it back. She goes to her bathroom. She gets naked. Comes back wearing towel. Goes to closet. Opens left side door. Gets her blue velvet robe. She doesn't see Jeffrey. Dorothy sits down on her sofa. Jeffrey shifts his position and something falls in the closet. Dorothy hears the noise. She's frightened. She darts to the kitchen. Jeffrey SWEATS. She grabs butcher knife. Jeffrey is SHOOK.
 
It all goes Noirsville.
 
The genius of Blue Velvet is that just when you think that it can't get any weirder than this IT DOES. 
Frank Booth (Hopper) has got to be one of the most bizarre villains to ever grace a movie screen. He STRUTS into the living room. He goes through this ritual of degradation with Dorothy. 
 
The In Dreams sequence Blue Velvet
 
Blue Velvet is artistically innovative, wonderfully surreal, and darkly creepy. The cinematography and set design emphasise a dystopian world lurking just below a thin veneer of normalcy. Along with film noir stylistics, the film employs highly discordant color motifs. Dorothy's dimly lit apartment is all fleshy reds, pinks, and lavenders, accented with moldy greens and black trim. Hallways are dark shades of blue and foreboding. Ben's place has a clashing red/green color scheme. The Slow Club's stage has a clashing red/blue motif.
 
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Lumberton is a composite of Missoula, Montana, Sandpoint, Idaho, Spokane, Washington, and Boise, Idaho, all logging and mill towns of the Pacific Northwest where David Lynch spent his childhood years. It was also my stomping grounds for 24 years. The area was again featured in Lynch's Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Wilmington, North Carolina adequately fills in for the fictitious Lumberton. It's only glaring difference is it's noticeable lack of pine fir and larch trees.
 
The score by Angelo Badalamenti and the various integrated classic soundtracks compliment the film. Blue Velvet is a pedal to the metal gloriously over the top ride to Noirsville. Screencaps are from the 2006 MGM special edition DVD. 10/10
 

The full NSFW review is here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/05/blue-velvet-1986-noir-goes-bizarre.html

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Cover Up - 1949

 

This crime-drama keeps the viewer guessing as to the killer's identity.  The anti-climatic ending is nonetheless satisfying.  William Bendix, as the is-he-the-killer? enlivens everything he's in.

This is one we recorded to watch as a "Christmas" movie, although it is really a noir.  It is a well done, entertaining movie and worth watching over.

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Cover Up - 1949

 

This crime-drama keeps the viewer guessing as to the killer's identity.  The anti-climatic ending is nonetheless satisfying.  William Bendix, as the is-he-the-killer? enlivens everything he's in.

I believe I have this on a Geneon DVD I haven't watched it in a while though.

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The Pawnbroker (1964) The Persistence of Memory

 

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Like two previous films reviewed, In The Heat Of The Night (1967), and Shaft (1971), which are renowned for either the social issues they raised, i.e., Civil Rights, or a sub genre they jump started, Blaxploitation, The Pawnbroker, is thought first and foremost as the archetypical film about the horrors of  the Holocaust from the viewpoint of a survivor.

 

It acquired international acclaim and catapulted Rod Steiger up into the list of "A" actors. Steiger received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor - Drama, and an Oscar Nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and received the British Film Academy award for best foreign actor in a leading role.

 

All this however tends to overshadow the fact that The Pawnbroker is also a very visually stylistic Neo Noir with an obsessed main character who has built a massive wall of defensive alienation from the world. It's also a film that neatly time capsules a smoggy New York City circa 1963 in the twilight of Black & White cinema. It's also a landmark film that featured nudity during the Production Code, this led to the eventual ultimate abandonment of the code.

 

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The film was directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men (1957), The Fugitive Kind (1960)). The film was written by Edward Lewis Wallant (novel), Morton S. Fine and David Friedkin. The film stars Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront (1954), The Big Knife (1955), Cry Terror! (1958), In the Heat of the Night (1967), No Way to Treat a Lady (1968)), Geraldine Fitzgerald (The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) The Naked City TV), Brock Peters (The L-Shaped Room (1962), The Incident (1967)), Jaime Sánchez (The Wild Bunch (1969), Bad Lieutenant (1992)), Thelma Oliver, Marketa Kimbrell, Baruch Lumet, Juano Hernandez (The Breaking Point (1950), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), ), Linda Geiser, Raymond St. Jacques (Mister Buddwing (1966)), John McCurry (Atlantic City (1980)), Charles Dierkop, Nancy R. ****, Eusebia Cosme and East Harlem, New York City.

 

The exquisite cinematography was by Boris Kaufman (On the Waterfront (1954), Baby Doll (1956), The Fugitive Kind (1960)), editing by Ralph Rosenblum (Terror in the City (1964)) and the score by Quincy Jones (In the Heat of the Night (1967)).

 

The film begins with an idyllic setting, in a land of blue skies, fields, trees, a pond, a family picnic. It's all a flashback. Reality is a monotonous backyard. Highway frontage. Levittown. Long Island. New York. America. Land of Opportunity. Planet Earth. The smoggy 60s.

 

The dreamer is Sol Nazerman (Steiger). Sol supports a sister in-law Bertha (****), and her family, a mistress Tessie (Kimbrell), her ailing father (Lumet). Sol runs a Harlem pawnshop owned by Rodriguez (Peters), a racketeer and pimp who uses the business as a front.

 

Sol has an enthusiastic employee Jesus Ortiz (Sanchez). Sol is a Holocaust survivor. Sol survives by being emotionless. He has incurable mental wounds. He has become effectively immune from human suffering. He eradicates memories. He is rootless. He is barren. However the approach of the 25th anniversary of the death of his family and various triggers, i.e., transactions with pawnshop clientele and their desperate and heartbreaking situations, intensifies Sol's internal turmoil and brings these buried memories, strobing back. This all plays out against the drab, dreary, cityscapes of East Harlem.

 

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Sol's pawnshop is a claustrophobic warren of bars, cages and woven mesh. The cinematographer constantly frames through them, or lights shots that throw their shadows across the actors to emphasise both physical and psychological entrapment and to draw parallels between the shop and the Nazi concentration camps.

 

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Jesus Ortiz is Sol's amiable enthusiastic assistant. He supports his mother (Cosme). He has made a break with his hoodies Tangee (St. Jacques), Buck (McCurry), and Robinson (Dierkop). He has a loving **** (Oliver) as his girlfriend. He's diligent and respectful. He constantly asks questions, constantly takes notes. He wants to learn the pawn business.  He wants to open up his own shop someday. He wants to know Sol's secret.

 

A day at the pawnshop consists of junkies, whores, winos, hoods, and other desperate losers. They mostly have junk, radios, lamps, awards, musical instruments, curios, and keepsakes to pawn. Sol coldly transacts business, rarely paying more than two or five dollars per item. Some clients are in so often that they attempt to befriend Sol, attempt to carry on friendly conversations or wax philosophically. Sol is indifferent. He calls Mr. Smith (Hernandez) a creature.

 

Sol Nazerman: Black, white, yellow, they are all equally…

Jesus Ortiz:  Equally what?

Sol Nazerman:  Scum!

 

Nazerman also rebuffs the friendship of an equally lonely social worker Marilyn Birchfield (Fitzgerald) who attempts to get through his shell. But it's his rebuff of Ortiz that sets events in motion that sends Sol's world spiraling into Noirsville, with tragedies in the past reflecting those in the present. It's all repeating itself.

 

At closing time Ortiz, overhears the deposit of an envelope containing $5,000 of Rodrigues' ill gotten gains into Sol's safe. He decides to break bad and plans a robbery with Tangee, Buck and Robinson. Ortiz's gal pal, trying to stop the heist, goes to Sol and tries to pawn some jewelry. He'll give her forty dollars. Not enough. She tells Sol that she works at Rodriguez's **** house. She decides to offer her body to Sol for money, displaying her breasts. These two actions trigger in Sol the flashback memory of the concentration camp and the incident of his being made to watch the prostitution of his wife with Nazi officers. He equates Rodriguez and his gangsters as Nazi racketeers. Shattered by the revelations and flashbacks, Sol staggers out of the shop and wanders about Manhattan in the night. While hurtling through a dark tunnel, he sees the people on a subway car as victims headed for the concentration camps. He ends up at Marilyn's apartment where he tries to explain.

 

Marilyn Birchfield: What happened?

Sol Nazerman: 'Happened'?

Marilyn Birchfield: Yes.

Sol Nazerman: I didn't die. Everything that I loved... was taken away from me, and... I did not die.

Marilyn Birchfield: Mr. Nazerman!

Sol Nazerman: There was... nothing I could do. Nothing. Strange, I could do nothing. No, there was nothing I could do.

 

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Sol's torment continues and it's not until he's saved by Ortiz who is trying to protect him that he feels some shame of his emotionless detachment from humanity, but even then the horror of man's inhumanity to man persists. It still exists but in a different guise.

 

Steiger is outstanding. All the major supporting performances are excellent. I especially love the small yet rich pawnshop clientele vignettes by Juano Hernandez, Reni Santoni, Hilda Haynes, and Ed Morehouse.

 

Screencaps are from the Republic Pictures 2003 DVD 10/10 Full review and some NSFW screencaps here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/05/the-pawnbroker-1964-persistence-of.html

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Time Table - 1956

 

A suspenseful insurance caper, with a homme fatale, Time Table has several nifty nourish scenes.  The night-soaked streets of Tijuana; Bobik's bar, with its cheap blinking neon sign; and the bar's sleazy interior, reminded me of Touch of Evil, which was released two years after Time Table. 

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Time Table - 1956

 

A suspenseful insurance caper, with a homme fatale, Time Table has several nifty nourish scenes.  The night-soaked streets of Tijuana; Bobik's bar, with its cheap blinking neon sign; and the bar's sleazy interior, reminded me of Touch of Evil, which was released two years after Time Table. 

Yea it's a decent little noir, Mark Stevens is good in Cry Vengeance (1954) also. 

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The Crimson Kimono a 1959 noir directed, produced and written by Samuel Fuller.   The setting is L.A. in 1959 and especially the Little Tokyo area.      The film represents a temporary optimism on the part of Fuller since his 60s noirs were very pessimistic films (e.g. The Naked Kiss, Shock Corridor, and Underworld U.S.A.).

 

Kimono is a fine film with solid performances by the two leads, Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta as well as Victoria Shaw as the women that gets between the two detectives \ war buddies \ roommates.

 

A very sensitive film for Fuller and one that blends well the crime solving plot (yea the film starts with a murder),  love triangle,  and an unusually positive view of a racially and culturally integrated So Cal society.

 

I also found the visuals to be very true to the noir style of filmmaking (the gritty opening had me hooked).

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The 3rd Voice (1960)

 

Film Noir starring Edmund O'brien, Laraine Day, and Julie London. O'Brien plays an impersonator. His job is to assume the identity of Seattle business tycoon Harry Chapman. The plan is that Chapman is going to be murdered by Marian Forbes (Day) his ex-executive secretary, as soon as he returns to Mexico. O'Brien will also dispose of the body. The plan is to continue the ruse long enough for O'Brien and Day to acquire the possession of $600,000 cash for a real estate deal in Mexico and head to Europe. A few nice twists 6/10. This may go up, the poor quality of the copy I saw prevents doing any screencaps. A restoration would be nice.

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Kill Me Again (1989) Nevada Desert Film Soleil

 

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Directed by John Dahl, a Billings, Montana, native and a U of M alumni of mine. Kill Me Again was the first of a trio of Neo Noirs  (Red Rock West (1993), The Last Seduction (1994)), that cemented Dahl at the get go as one of those few directors that truly understands the visual style of what basically makes a noir a noir combined with a simple story about down and outers that isn't typical Hollywood i.e, using "A" actors, car chases, product placement, explosions, etc., etc. The story was written by Dahl and David W. Warfield. The excellent cinematography was by Jacques Steyn and music by William Olvis.

 

The film stars Val Kilmer (True Romance (1993), The Salton Sea (2002)), Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs (1992), Mulholland Falls (1996), Sin City (2005)), Joanne Whalley, Jon Gries,   Michael Greene (To Live And Die In L.A. (1985), and Bibi Besch.

 

Film Soleil, the yang of Film Noir 's yin. Credits roll. Desert. Distilled anti-city. Bright. Sun baked. Torrid. Wasteland 360 to the horizon.

 

Craphole. Winnemucca. Nevada. A daylight heist. '76 Monte Carlo. Vince (Madsen) leather clad Elvis. Eye shades. Fay (Whalley), casino trash bimbette. She's the bait. Vince is the switch. Mob skim. Briefcase stash. Two couriers. One gets stupid. One gets cute. Vince drills him. He bites the Dust. Vince grabs the loot. Fay lays Chevy rubber. Desert desperados. They vamoose. Gone.

 

Two lane getaway. Briefcase opened. Whoa! ****? Fay's ecstatic. $$ sign eyes. Money junkie. Gambling addict. Vince ****. Too much. Thirty times too much. Mob money. Deep doo-doo. Gotta leave state. Gotta scram. Gotta get the f outta Dodge. Gotta Idaho. Hicksville. The boonies. Lay low.

 

Fay - No way. You go. Been there done that. We split it. Viva Las Vegas. Vince ****. Cowboy boot to brake. Hooks in. Rubber smokes. Vince and Fay have a tussel. Vince persuades. Fay comes 'round. Fay gets docile. They head North.

 

Pit stop. Rest Area. Vince gotta whiz. Doesn't trust Fay. Takes her and briefcase into ****. Vince starts watering the horse. Fay eyeballs rock door stop. Sees way out. Sees $$$. She grabs rock. Kisses Vince on the mellon. He's still draining the main vein. Golden shower. Lights out. Fay grabs money. Fay grabs Chevy. $$ sign eyes. Looking for bright lights. Wants to hear that ding, ding, ding. Heads to Reno.

 

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Motel. Fay checks in. Tabulates total on tabloid rag. $475,000. Almost half a mill. Tabloid blurb. "Wife fakes death and steals hubby's money." Fay get's brainstorm. Flips open phone book. Private Investigators. "A". First listing Jack Andrews. Lucky dog.

 

Jack Andrews (Kilmer) is a Reno PI about to go on the skids. He owes $10,000 to a loan shark. Payment due. He's late. A couple of meatheads are bustin' up his office. A warning. Jack gets feisty. Get's a broken pinky finger for his trouble.

 

Pure%2Bas%2Bdriven%2Bslush.jpgFay (Joanne Whalley) pure as driven slush

 

Fay goes fishing. Dresses in white. Innocence personified. She's pure as driven slush. Walks into Jack's. Got a plan for the man. Jack eyeballs Fay. Likes what he sees. Fay goes into her act. Turns on the tears. Sob story sister. Battered beauty. Abusive beau. Not right in the head. Displays her bruises. Cries crocodile tears. She wants Jack to fake her death. Get Vince off her ****. She'll pay $10,000. Half now. Half later. Jack's got $$ sign eyes. Fay is addictive.  Money troubles solved? No, it's an invitation to the blues, it's an invitation to Noirsville.

 

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Jack and Alan (Jon Gries)

 

Jack is jacked. Jack is inventive. The man with a plan.

 

Step one: Get Fay a fake ID. Get buddy Alan to scrounge a pint of Fay's blood type. A hospital connection.

 

Step two: Make Fay get noticed. She checks into a new dive. Fay plays cute. Tolls the desk clerk. Bats her eyelashes. Giggles. Sundress strap malfunction. Giggles. He drools. Sweet, girl next door sexy. He's **** city.

 

Step three: Fay plays craps. She jiggles when she wins. Low cut dress. Deep cleavage. Bouncing boobies. Everybody drools.

 

Getting%2Bnoticed.jpgCrap game

 

Step four: Jack in disguise. Ten gallon cowboy. Picks Fay up at casino. Drives Fay to motel. Fay makes sure desk clerk sees her, she waves. He's shot out of his imaginary saddle.

 

Step five: Fake evidence. Trash the room. Rough Fay up. It turns sexual. She LIKES it. Spill some booze. Spill some blood. Rip her dress. Cut it with knife. Stab wounds faked. Dump her purse. Wrap her in a sheet and dump her in her trunk.

 

Noirish%2B12.jpgThe "Killing"

 

Step six: Check her into another Motel. Drive her car with the bloody clothes out into the desert and dump it. Looks like another hooker murder. Another runaway who trusted the wrong guy. Body missing. Sandy grave.

 

Step seven: Prearranged. Alan picks him up. Alan get his cut. Jack is back. Rendezvous in Reno. Rendezvous with Fay.

 

But Fay has SPLIT! She checked out. VAMOOSED! Leaves Jack jack. Headed for Vegas. In her purse was a matchbook with Jack's number. Guess who gets pinched? Jack. And guess who comes knocking at Jack's door next. VINCE!

 

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Vince

 

Our femme fatale Joanne Whalley-Kilmer has this quality of being able to look both extremely sexy and weasily simultaneously. At times she's a bit swarthy, disheveled, and K-Y Jelly greasy. But she cleans up nicely in a low rent, low life sort of way. She can play sweet and demure when she's registering at a motel and wants the clerk to remember her. Other times she affects the look of a rat nibbling on a wedge of cheese. Her eyes slightly bulging at the moment you flip the lights on in the kitchen. She has an aura of rodent, I guess we can call it a rat girl vibe. She's jail tail.

 

Michael Madsen is always convincing as a homicidal psychopath. He was born to play these characters. In classic noir he would have been reverently type cast, on par with Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., Dan Duryea, and Raymond Burr. His dead eyes negate any facial expressions he may generate. You are looking into the abyss of mayhem and madness. You know he's crazier than a crap house rat.

 

Val Kilmer as PI Jack Andrews has an Eagle Scout vibe. He comes off as competent P.I., who has had a string of bad luck. Swerving to miss a deer he loses control of his car and goes through a guardrail. He and his wife are plunged into a lake. He tries to save her. Only Jack survives and he's haunted by the tragedy. He is down but not out.

 

The finale sets up like this. Jack is after Fay. Vince and the police are after Jack. The mob is after Vince and Fay. It's quite entertaining, looks great, and it manages to homage a few Classic Noir's in the process. John Dahl really has a handle on Film Noir/Film Soleil. Music was by William Olvis. For his first effort Dahl earns a 7-8/10.

 

Low%2Bangle%2B-%2BCopy.jpg1964 Cadillac Coupe DeVille 

 

A Neo-Noir visual treat, the screencaps are from MGM DVD. For a review with more screencaps here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/06/kill-me-again-1989-nevada-desert-film.html

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Le salaire de la peur (The Wages Of Fear )(1953) Road Trip to Oblivion

 

 

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Directed by  Henri-Georges Clouzot (Diabolique (1955)). The film stars Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Folco Lulli, Peter Van Eyck, Véra Clouzot, and William Tubbs. Cinematography was by Armand Thirard, music was by Georges Auric.

 

A Film Soleil Noir based on the 1950 French novel "Le salaire de la peur" (lit. "The Salary of Fear") by Georges Arnaud a French expatriate who in 1947 went to Venezuela, working various jobs, a cross-country trucker, a saloon waiter, a taxi driver, a contrebandier and conman. He met many of the wild characters in the tropics who eventually made it into his novels.

 

Clouzot was given the script for Le salaire de la peur after an extended trip to Brazil where he filmed an unfinished documentary Le voyage en Brésil (1950). That trip informed the setting and the various locations/sets for Le salaire de la peur. The delta of the Rhône, Bouches-du-Rhône, France was chosen aptly to represent the desolate South American backwater flytrap.

 

 

El%2BCorsaire%2BNegro.jpgLas Piedras & El Corsario Negro

 

Las Piedras, San Miguel is a tropic Southern Oil Company (SOC) dirt street, shanty boom town. But the oil booms gone bust. The town's overcrowded with international boomers turned moochers. Human trash. Unemployed. Running up tabs. They desperately wait for either jobs or a way out.  It's Hot. It's squalid. It's fetid. The only connection to the outside world is the airfield and the planes that land infrequently.

 

The film's opening shot is of string bound cockroaches. A half naked "cockroach" Boy/God pokes at them with a stick. A poignant metaphor for the film's main characters. Mario (Yves Montard), is a jobless French drifter who rooms with Luigi (Folco Lulli), a husky Italian who works as a mason. Linda (Vera Clouzot), is a cute, waifish, but simple minded, servant with benefits for saloon/hotel keeper Hernandez (Darío Moreno). Linda and Mario are sweet on each other. Bimba (Peter Van Eyck) is a German expat stranded in town, he runs the taxi for Hernandez. Jo (Charles Vanel) is an ex-Parisian gangster a recent arrival who blew into town on a DC3 looking like a bigshot. Looking like money. He's as broke as the rest but puts on a good con. Hernandez buys his schtick. Bill O'Brien (William Tubbs) is the SOC project manager, a former shady contraband runner pal of Jo's now turned legit.

 

El Corsario Negro (The Black Privateer) the town dive bar. Grandly located upon the dirt and mud puddled "municipal plaza" of Los Piedras. It's a human fly ribbon that has captured the town's dreggs. They sit, sprawl and sweat upon its lath slatted porch. The barred shadows symbolically emphasizing their entrapment.

 

Mario%2Blath%2Bshadows.jpgEl Corsario Negro's lath slatted porch

 

When the Parisian ex-gangster Jo arrives with a bit of fan fair the delicate balance of life on the skids for Mario is thrown askew. Mario abandons his shanty digs with Luigi in favor of his fellow countryman Jo who has scammed a more upscale flop at El Corsario Negro. Jo has some nefarious designs on the town and he questions Mario about the local setup. Luigi resents Jo's pushy gangster style and the two get into a showdown one night at the El Corsario Negro cantina.

 

Jo.jpgJo's arrival

 

The film spirals into Noirsville when an SOC oil well catches fire out in the boonies. The only way to put it out is with explosives. The only explosives on hand is Nitroglycerin and its all in Las Piedras, two hundred some odd miles away. Bill O'Brien and his team decide to offer a suicide job paying $2,000 apiece to four truck drivers to take the two truck loads of gerry cans up to the fields. To paraphrase one of O'Brien's men "we'll get those losers to do it for peanuts."

 

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Of course there is a mad scramble to apply for the jobs, which means liberation out of Las Piedras, and the field is eventually weeded down to Mario, Luigi, Bimba and Jo.  The trek will be intense, nerve wracking, and highly dangerous. The unpaved road following the pipeline up to the fields goes through marshes, plains, bamboo jungles, and switchbacks across rocky mountainous terrain.

 

The wages of their fears will be their salvation. Who will survive?

 

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Clouzot, does a fantastic job of creating edge of your seat suspense. The trucks crawl along through potholes and ruts, and speed through washboard stretches (it smooths the ride), and have to do a see-saw maneuver around a switchback by backing over a dilapidated platform. A huge boulder blocks the road at another bend in the road.

 

You are constantly expecting the works to all get blown to hell at any moment.  The screencaps are from the Criterion DVD. 10/10

 


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Red Rock West (1993) Lone Star Loser
 
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Red Rock West was the second shoe string budget Neo Noir directed by John Dahl. It was written by John Dahl and Rick Dahl. The film stars Nicolas Cage (The Cotton Club (1984), Raising Arizona (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), Leaving Las Vegas (1995)), Dennis Hopper (I Died a Thousand Times (1955), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), The American Friend (1977), Blue Velvet (1986), Black Widow (1987), True Romance (1993), Lara Flynn Boyle (Twin Peaks TV Series (1990–1991)), J.T. Walsh (The Grifters (1990)) and Dale Gibson. Music was by William Olvis. Cinematography was by Marc Reshovsky. 
 
Michael Williams (Cage). Wounded warrior. Sempre Fi. Bum leg. Beirut barracks bombing. 1st Battalion 8th Marines. 241 dead. 128 survivors. Michael's busted. A Texas transient. Lone Star loser. Dirt poor drifter. Down but not out. Looking for work. Takes a flier. A buddies tip. Wyoming wildcat roughneck. Ramblin' man. 
 
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Cadillac Cowboy. 67 Coupe Deville camp out. State Rt. 487. Asphalt accommodations. Casper-Medicine Bow two lane. The backroad boonies. 
 
He gets a stock tank shave. Puts on his cleanest dirty shirt. Drives a dirt track to the drill site. Honesty is not the best policy. His gimpy knee gets him shot out of the saddle. Screwed. Blew his wad gettin' there. ****. Lays out a contrail of dust. Almost outta gas. A fin to his name. Gas station codger points him to Red Rock. Nearest town with prospects. Check the local watering hole. 
 
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Michael blows into town. Pulls up to the Red Rock Bar. Bar just open. Owner Wayne Brown (Walsh) on duty. Spies Michael's Texas plates. Michael walks in looking for work. Wayne says "I thought you were supposed to be here last friday, I thought I would have to find somebody else. You are here for the job ain't you?" Michael scopes the back bar, sees a "Welcome to Wayne's Place" sign. Michael asks "you Wayne?" Michael plays along, he's desperate, he's interested. Wayne asks if he's Lyle, from Dallas, Michael says yea. It's case of mistaken identity. It's Michael's luck day. Wayne takes Michael back to the office. 
 
Wayne was expecting a Dallas, Texas hit man named Lyle. Lyle is a pro. Lyle is supposed to whack his wandering **** wife Suzanne (Boyle). Wayne gives Michael $5,000. Half now. Half later. His address and directions. Wayne tells him she's out riding. Wait at the house. Kill her and make it look like a breakin. Michael goes out and scopes the job. She's riding alright, her horse and a ranch hand Kurt (Gibson) who lives in a nearby trailer. 
 
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Suzanne (Boyle)
 
Michael waits for Suzanne at the house. She's stunned. Michael gives her the bad news. Your husband wants you chilled. She doubles her husband's offer. Michael's stunned. She wants Michael to ice Wayne. 
 
At this point in the tale Michael has $15,000 in hundred dollar bills and decides get the hell outta Dodge. Good idea. But as he's gettin' he accidently hits Kurt who lunges out into the road in front of him. Doing the right thing, Michael brings Kurt to the local band aid station. This gets Michael his wild ride into Noirsville. Sharp twists and curves ahead. 
 
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Cage is believable as Michael, he plays the part with the right mix of honesty, humility, chagrin, and boldness. J.T. Walsh is excellent as the bar owner/sheriff with a shady past. Dennis Hopper is entertaining as Lyle the Dallas hit man, doing his slightly over the top schtick, almost homaging/reprising his Frank Booth character from Blue Velvet. Dahl seems to have a penchant for dark brunette Femme Fatales they feature in all three of his Neo Noirs. The films only speed bump is Lara Flynn Boyle, who is merely adequate in her role. She just seems to simmer along sedately, never quite matching the delicious seediness of Joanne Whalley in Kill Me Again, or the sexy cunning intelligence of Linda Fiorentino in The Last Seduction. Her attire is 90% unattractive, which I don't quite get. It was a poor decision by the costume department. 
 
Noirish%2B11%2BRed%2BRock%2BWest%2B1993.Lyle (Hopper)
 
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Wayne (Walsh)
 
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The film is entertaining, but I still consider it the weakest of Dahl's Neo Noirs. Filmed mostly in Arizona, with a bit of Montana. The closing freight train sequence before the credits roll looks an awful lot like the old Northern Pacific (now Montana Rail Link) spur that runs up to Polson. The shot is near Charlo, Northwest of St. Ignatius on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with the Mission Mountains in the background. I should know I ran a wrecking yard just North of that location back in the 1980s. 8/10 
 
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Full review with screencaps here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/06/red-rock-west-1993-lone-star-loser.html

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I remember Red Rock West getting a lot of positive word of mouth during the early 90's indie movie boom, and it was one of the poster child films for a wave of small budget neo-noirs, a trend that segued into the lamentable "erotic thrillers" that glutted the market for the better part of a decade. I was working in a video store when it was released on video, and it was a popular rental. I liked it okay, but thought The Last Seduction was better.

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I remember Red Rock West getting a lot of positive word of mouth during the early 90's indie movie boom, and it was one of the poster child films for a wave of small budget neo-noirs, a trend that segued into the lamentable "erotic thrillers" that glutted the market for the better part of a decade. I was working in a video store when it was released on video, and it was a popular rental. I liked it okay, but thought The Last Seduction was better.

Actually I think both Dahl's Kill Me Again and The Last Seduction are better. 

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I haven't seen Kill Me Again yet, but I have it to watch soon. I'm happy to see your recommendation.

What tips it for me is femme fatale Fay (Joanne Whalley) she's much more fun to watch than Lara Flynn Boyle.

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Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966)

 

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Le deuxième souffle is a French Neo Noir policier/gangster thriller. Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (Bob le Flambeur (1956), Two Men in Manhattan (1959), Le Doulos (1962), Le Samouraï (1967), Le Cercle Rouge (1970),  Un Flic (1972)). The film stars Lino Ventura as Gustave Minda, Paul Meurisse as Inspector Blot and Raymond Pellegrin as Paul Ricci, Marcel Bozzuffi as Jo Ricci, Christine Fabréga as Manouche, Michel Constantin as Alban and Pierre Zimmer as Orloff. Cinematography was by Marcel Combes, and music by Bernard Gérard.

 

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Crash out!

 

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Gu Minda (Ventura)

 

Gu Minda (Ventura) Public Enemy No. 1. Ex-Big shot. Gold train job. Doing life. Ten Years so far. Crashes out of Maximum. On the lam. A decade older. He's slowing down. But still tough. Heads for Paris.

 

Paul Ricci (Pellegrin) Marseille gangster. Nightclub front. Plans inside job. Platinum armoured car ambush. 1,100 pounds.

 

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Manouche (Fabréga) ex-girlfriend of Gu runs a Paris cafe. She's palling around with Jacques, "le notaire" who runs the illegal cigarettes rackett with Jo (Bozzuffi) and Paul Ricci. But Jacques is a screw up and Paul wants him out.

 

Paul Ricci gets some relatives to whack Jacques. Jacques is cowboyed down in front of Manouche at her cafe. Alban good friend of Gu and Manouche's bartender/bodyguard protects her shoots it out with the assassins. 

 

The shootout brings the big heat. Inspector Blot (Meurisse). Blot is a hardboiled vet of the Paris underworld. He knows he's dealing with various factions of the mob and that he'll get no info from all involved. It's all a comedy routine with him as he pokes fun at the principals involved at the crime scene.

 

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Crime scene investigation Alban and Blot (Paul Meurisse)

 

Manouche without Jaques is shaken down by Jo Ricci. An attempt is made three days later after closing time by two thugs pretending to be crooked cops at her Paris house. They gun whip Alban. He sees stars. Hears birdies chirp. He goes down. They confront Manouche asking for money but they are interrupted by the arrival of Gu who gets the drop on them. Gu and Alban take the two for a ride.

 

Paul Ricci meanwhile plans his armoured car capper. He's got two trusted goons Pascal Leonetti (Pierre Grasset) and gypsy Antoine Ripa (Denis Manuel) in Marseille but he needs a second shooter. He knows that freelance gunman Orloff (Zimmer) is passing through town and thinks that the chance to make 200 million francs will convince him to join them. Orloff says he needs a week to think it over.

 

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Gu wants to take out Jo Ricci but Blot and the cops figure it out and stake out Jo's bar. Gu gets a second sense about the setup and backs out. He heads to Marseille to catch a boat out of the country where he runs into Orloff who tips Gu to the platinum job. Gu sees $$. So Gu agrees to help Paul Rossi. The job goes well but things go South to Noirsville in the aftermath.

 

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Lino Ventura is memorable as Gustave, the hardcase criminal who faces all bad choices. Paul Meurisse is great as the sarcastic and assertive Inspector Blot. 8/10

 

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Full review with screencaps from the Criterion DVD. hear: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/06/le-deuxieme-souffle-1966.html

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Miami Blues (1990) Pastel Noir

 

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Director: George Armitage, written by Charles Willeford (novel), and George Armitage (screenplay). Miami Blues is the first film based on Willeford's series of novels featuring hard boiled detective Hoke Moseley. According to Lawrence Block "Quirky is the word that always comes to mind, Willeford wrote quirky books about quirky characters, and seems to have done so with a magnificent disregard for what anyone else thought."

 

The film stars Fred Ward (Hoke Moseley), Alec Baldwin (Frederick J. Frenger Jr.), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Susie Waggoner), Charles Napier (Sgt. Bill Henderson), Obba Babatundé (Blink Willie), José Pérez (Pablo), and Shirley Stoller (Edie Wulgemuth), Paul Gleason (Sgt. Frank Lackley), Martine Beswick (Noira, Waitress) José Pérez (Pablo) and Nora Dunn (Ellita Sanchez).


 

Miami Blues is a Film Soleil Noir that cinematographer Tak Fujimoto infuses with a bright sunny tropical pastel pallet. 

 

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The story. Freddy Frenger ex con. Petty thief. Con artist. Freelancer. Narcissist nutjob. Wings to Miami. In air identity theft. Get's a Hare Krishna come on. Breaks the cultists finger. Krishna goes into shock. Kicks the consciousness bucket. Krishna croaked. 

 

Freddy with new identity. Hermann Gottlieb. Cruises the airport. Steals suitcase. Checks into hotel. Bellhop Pedro is the man to see. Orders some local talent. Susie knocks. Young. Looks like High School. Looks like jail bait. Waifish. Okeechobee outcast. Cracker clam. Dispenses fifty dollar sucks. 

 

Freddy asks for ID. Freddy tries to trade her the suitcase clothes. Slow on the uptake. Susy will do it for a suitcase dress. Easy to BS. Easy to string along. Just what Freddy needs, and she can cook too. A perfect pair. They get it on. 

 

Freddy and the clueless Susie have now become part of a long tradition of various combinations of couples on the run/lam that stretch from Gable and Lombard in It Happened One Night (1934) through Classic Noirs, Out Of The Past (1947), They Live by Night (1948), Gun Crazy (1950), Where Danger Lives (1950), Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951), Roadblock (1951), right up to Classic Neo Noirs, The Getaway (1971), Kill Me Again (1989), Wild at Heart (1990), True Romance (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994). 

 

Freddy begins to roam Miami like a land shark, ever watchful for easy marks, pulling small jobs, he watches a classic pickpocket team boost a wallet, follows the drop man to a men's room and sucker punches him for the cash. 

 

Meanwhile back at the baggage claim crime scene the Detective Hoke Moseley and Sgt. Bill Henderson investigate the case of the dead disciple. Hoke is a rumpled, coarse, depressed boozer. He wears store bought teeth, is strapped for money and lives in rundown residence hotel. Deco decadence. 

 

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Rudimentary detective work, eyewitnesses, and following leads gets Moseley to Freddy. Freddy follows Moseley back to his fleabag cold-**** and steals his badge, gun, sap and teeth. It doesn't get lower than stealing his teeth. 

 

Freddy now begins a career as a fake cop. He's cruising. Sharking the drags. Freelancing. Bracin' crooks. Routing lowlifes. Shakin' down con artists. Out thievin' thieves. Flashing his badge he metes out vigilante justice. He drops his calling cards all around town. He leaves two drug dealers handcuffed to a garbage can with Hoke's handcuffs. 

 

Getting more out of control and upping the volume Freddy begins to gundown goons gratuitously. He dispenses dirt naps. Low wattage Susie finally begins to see that she is shackin' with trouble. It all goes South to Noirsville when Freddy uses Susie as a wheelman for a pawnshop robbery. 

 

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Baldwin plays the quick to take advantage ex-con with bravado. His intense bright blues spotlighting a hair trigger sociopath tendency. Ward is great as the laid back Hoke, but you wish he had even more screen time to develop his character. Leigh is adequate as the hooker with a heart of gold, she may fit somebody's idea or type of hot but to me she seems almost too plain jane and a bit ****. She does effectively convey the storybook girl who hopes her prince charming will rescue her from a life of going down on losers. 

 

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For me Armitage or the suits, made the mistake of spending too much time on the Freddy-Susie relationship and that robs us from getting more of Hoke Moseley who should have been the main star. Music by Gary Chang. 7/10 Full review with NSFW screencaps here: http://noirsville.blogspot.com/2016/07/miami-blues-1990-pastel-noir.html

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Pool Of London (1951) Nautical Noir

 

 

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Directed by Basil Dearden, excellent cinematography by Gordon Dines. The film stars Bonar Colleano, Earl Cameron, Susan Shaw, Renée Asherson, Moira Lister, Max Adrian, Charlie Vernon, Joan Dowling, James Robertson Justice, Michael Golden, Alfie Bass, Christopher Hewett Christopher, and Leslie Phillips.

 

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 Dan (Colleano) and Johnny (Cameron)

 

The film's story revolves around  two crewmen of the small merchant ship Dunbar. The Dunbar arrives in the Pool of London and docks near the Tower Bridge. All the crew members are given shore leave, but first they must pass through H.M. Customs and the stern no nonsense Customs Officer (Golden).

 

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Dan MacDonald (Colleano) does a sideline business smuggling small items past customs in post-war London. He deals mostly in cigarettes, and nylons. Dan is an expat yank, an over confident cocky wisecracker, he'll remind you a bit of James Cagney. He's quite the ladies man. Johnny Lambert (Cameron) is a native of Jamaica, he's mild mannered and passive. Johnny follows Dan around like a kid brother follows his older sibling. They are good friends. On shore leave they hang together in the same waterfront bars with Johnny also following along with Dan and his floozy girlfriend Maisey (Moira Lister) on his dates to dance halls and cabarets.

 

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Maisey and Dan

 

In the course of 24 hours, Dan agrees to smuggle a small package to the continent for a friend of one of his regular underworld acquaintances Mike. Before leaving the Dunbar, Dan is caught by customs trying to smuggle some pairs of nylons off the ship. Dan asks Johnny if he will take the package on board for him in his place. Johnny agrees. Going to a theater with Dan to meet his new contact, Johnny befriends the box office gal Pat (Susan Shaw), they hit it off and this interracial relationship is the first ever portrayed in a British film.

 

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Johnny and Pat

 

Dan's new contact is Vince Vernon (Max Adrian) an acrobat who has devised a scheme (with inside information from his brother George Vernon) to rob the safe of a import export diamond exchange by using his acrobatic skills to jump the gap from a destroyed WWII blitz-bombed building to the roof of the exchange, and from there gain access to the interior through a skylight. Once Dan agrees to carry the package to Rotterdam on the continent the heist is on. Vince gets into the exchange, knocks out the watchman, and opens the front door for his safecracking team. The safe blown, Vince grabs the diamonds and leaves by the roof while the safecrackers and their tools get picked up by their wheelman driving a Jaguar.

 

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While the heist is going on, a local constable on his rounds by the exchange, notices a bottle of milk left on the steps by the door of the exchange. The watchman usually retrieves it at 10:00 AM. The milk is for his pet cat. The constable uses a call box to report the oddity. When the safe is blown the alarm sounds off and we get an exciting chase through the relatively deserted Sunday streets of London. 

 

As pre arranged, at a church service, Vince passes a gift wrapped cigarette pack sized package to Dan. Scotland Yard is now on the case and with "all the wheels working" for them they are "checking on all the likely ones".

 

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Meanwhile, Dan is bragging to Maisey about the 50 quid he made for agreeing to convey the package to Rotterdam, with more to come when he makes the drop. Maisey asks him what is in it. Dan says he doesn't know, tells Maisey he "gets paid not to know," and Maisey  replies that then it's probably worth 10 times that amount. Opening the package they see the diamonds. Maisey connects the diamonds to the diamond heist and tells Dan that the watchman cracked on the head died. Dan now has second thoughts and tells Maisey that he asked Johnny to carry the package since the incident with the nylons. All this is overheard by Maisey's younger sister Pamela who soon sends it all to Noirsville.

 

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Pool of London rivals Night And The City (1950) cinematically. If you need a Noir visual fix this film will not disappoint. 7/10

 


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