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

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

Third novel of James Elroy to be filmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is an OK thriller, though it does beg the question about what happened to all the other contacts Sheila made before she hit NYC, the people on the boat or plane she took from Cuba, she most assuredly came in contact with before she took the train. Unless she was somehow not contagious during some type of incubation period, but what do I know. This film has great location shots of old Penn Station, various Manhattan locals and a great 3rd Avenue el sequence at the old Chatham Square Station that I've captured and uploaded on Youtube below:
Keyes is great in this and her makeup gets increasingly effective conveying her sickness, its part of the Bad Girls of Film Noir set 7/10. Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
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The Naked City (1948) New York Policier Noir Masterpiece

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(source IMDb)

The story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<spoilers for those that have never seen this>

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

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

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



3rd Avenue el

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

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

PS - The only comparable film that I've seen that does a snapshot in time for L.A. similar to the way The Naked City does for New York is the Experimental Noir The Savage Eye (1960) 
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Noirsville - I Want To live (1958) The Visual Noir Imprint

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

paean to bebop jazz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Keel Robinson (Robert Hooks)



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

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

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

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

Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville


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  • 2 weeks later...

"Apology For Murder" 1945. A Poverty Row "B" noir for sure using the "Double Indemnity" story to a T, but a good little movie for the die-hard noir fan. What sweetens the pot is seeing Ann Savage (from the legendary "Detour" 1945) reprising the role of a tough woman with an edge (yet more glamorous than the Vera role). A must see. I'm 30 years into noir and just discovered it myself! I have the DVD coming and the existing print is acceptable. I wish someone would digitally re-master this one as was done with Detour. 

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The Wild Party (1956) Beatnik Noir

The more I explore the Noirs from the end of the fifties and into the early sixties, the more I've noticed that besides the fact that, as a lot of the old "hard" Crime genre component was draining quickly over into television, a generational change was also taking place on the silver screen.

The visual stylistics were retained but the dark side bad guys, comprised before of mostly gangsters and petty criminals had morphed into the new societal boogie men. Crazed beatniks, surreal artists, jazz musicians, junkie dope addicts, marijuana smokers, poets, juvenile delinquents, commies, floozies, hookers, strippers, porno producers, drunks, serial killer nut jobs, rapists, voyeurs, psychos, schizos, sadists, sexual deviates, and other psychologically damaged individuals. The sixties would add hippies, LSD droppers, pop artists, racists, blacks, Hispanics, draft dodgers, and ****.
The Wild Party - Beat Speak - Kicks  Johnson (Nehemiah Persoff)
The Wild Party even sounds different, the old familiar hard boiled dialogs, are replaced with cool cat hipster, beatnik slang, you dig? It's not of the Classic Noirs it's not of the Neo Noirs, it's in between, one of the Lost Noirs/Transitional Noirs.
One of the main components of The Classic Noirs, besides the stylistic visuals that first got them noticed, of course, were the screenplays based on hard boiled pulp stories of Hammett, Woolrich, Chandler, and others. Tales that were originally set in the 1920s and 1930s that didn't get translated to the screen until the 1940s.

So originally they had this sort of time delay filter, and combined with the  Motion Picture Production Code (1930 -1968), there also a serious censorship filter. Part of the charm of the classics was the creative ways the directors, producers, and artistis wiggled around the dictates of the code. As Classic Film Noir coursed through into the 1950s and the Code began to weaken with the competition from TV, the stories began to explore previously taboo subject matter (deviates, racsism, drugs and sex) and they began to catch up with real time events (tales about communist infiltration, radioactive materials, nuclear testing, beatniks, etc., etc.).

Then once the Code completely disappeared Noir was cut loose from most of its original moorings, this allowed creative artists the freedom to delve into infinite variations. Independent poverty row Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as Horror, Thriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Those that went too far depicting sexual, drug, torture, etc., situations were being lumped into or classed as various Exploitationflicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The the noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental. Some films are so so bad in all aspects that they acquire the "so bad it's good" Cult status.
The film was directed by Harry Horner (Beware, My Lovely (1952), and the remake of I wake Up Screaming, Vicki (1953)), the cinematography was by Sam Leavitt (The Man with the Golden Arm (1955). Anatomy of a Murder (1959), The Crimson Kimono (1959) Cape Fear (1962), The music was by Buddy Bregman with jazz sets by Buddy De Franco and his Quartet.
It's the hipsters against the squares. The film stars Anthony Quinn as Tom Kupfen a washed up pro football star, the "Wild Party" of the title, he heads up a group of down and out hipsters who all need money for one thing or another.
Tom Kupfen (Anthony Quinn)
Tom is first viewed out moochin' for money. He hits up a Bop/Bepob Club owner he knows for a C note. He turns him down flat, since Tom already owes him $1,400. The owner slips him a fiver but Tom shruggs off both it and the offer of a job as a "car parking grease monkey" for the club. Kathryn Grant is Honey, Tom's main squeeze, a leftover from his college glory days, she needs cash for the rent.
Honey (Kathryn Grant)
Honey: Tom, they locked me out of my room tonight. I can live with that, but they got all my records, my player.....

Honey's been rode hard and put away wet so many times by Tom that she figures she has "40,000 miles on me."

Nehemiah Persoff is Kicks Johnson a jazz pianist, and another member of Toms beatnik "posse."  Kicks narrates the story in beat slang which is told in the film in one long flashback. Kicks needs doe to get back his union cabaret license so that he can earn a living playing the clubs.
Lt. Arthur Mitchel (Arthur Franz) and Erica London (Carol Ohmart)
Carol Ohmart is Erica London a high society gal hanging out at the bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel. She is there with Navy Lt. Arthur Mitchel (Arthur Franz) her fiance. They are looking for a little excitement, before he ships off on his next tour of duty.
Gage Freeposter (Jay Robinson)
Jay Robinson is Gage Freeposter a wound a bit too tight weasel. A switchblade knife wielding beatnik pickpocket con artist working out of the bar of Beverly Hills Hotel, posing as a hotel guest, Derek Fielding from Stamford. He sets up square marks with money, out looking to "make the scene." He learned how to talk and look "square" from watching movies. The squares get lured out of various square bars by Jay who tells them that he knows a great after hours club called The Fat Man, where, he tells them the "real cats swing".

Before they leave the hotel Gage calls Tom and tells him he's got some squares on the hook.

Gage: First we'll play them cool, then we'll play them hot!

Buddy De Franco
Beverly Hills Hotel
Erica: "I don't do what I want, I do what I should."


Gage, Erica, and Arthur take Erica's car to The Fat Man's. There they meet up with Tom and crew and spend a wild hour or two dancing to Kick's piano music.

"When Tom gets fat all the other cats get cream"

When Erica and Mitchel get into a tiff over spending his last night ashore listening to this "noise," Erica starts coming on a bit to Tom. Tom reacts.

Tom: Let's you and me go take a walk, huh.
Erica: I can't do that.
Tom: Why not, you want to.
Erica: I don't do what I want, I do what I should.

Tom wants to play hide the sausage with Erica, so when Gage steals Erica's keys out of her purse the simple roll job for Erica's furs and jewels and Mitchel's cash turns into a sexual assault and kidnapping. Gage offers them a drive in Tom's car to a cab stand, but Tom takes them to a deserted gas station. When Mitchel loudly objects Tom beats him up. They then go to Toms beach shack where Erica is locked up with Honey. Mitchel, at knifepoint is forced to go get the ransom money of $10,000 together.

Tom, Gage, and Kicks take Mitchel to Ben Davis (Paul Stewart), a nightclub owner friend of Mitchel. Davis thinks he's wise to the con, thinks Mitchel lost big gambling and is getting muscled by Tom and Kicks for the doe. Davis pulls out a .45 and tells them all to scram.

The rest of the cast includes Barbara Nichols in a bit part as Sandy the goofy chorus girl girlfriend of Ben, and Buddy De Franco playing himself.

The scheme all falls apart when Kicks convinces Honey to break with Tom, because he's gone too far. When Tom violently confronts Kicks, Honey crushes Toms legs by driving his car into the wall he's up against.

Anthony Quinn (The Long Wait (1954), La Strada (1954), The Naked Street (1955), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), Across 110th Street (1972)) and Nehemiah Persoff (The Naked City (1948), On the Waterfront (1954),  The Harder They Fall (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Psychic Killer (1975)), both seem just a tad to long in the tooth for being members of The Beat Generation, but Jay Robinson (Tell Me in the Sunlight (1965)) and Kathryn Grant (Rear Window (1954), Tight Spot (1955), 5 Against the House (1955), The Phenix City Story (1955), The Brothers Rico (1957), Anatomy of a Murder (1959)) are more convincing and seem spot on. Jay Robinson will always be remembered by me for his two turns as the vile Roman Emperor Caligula in The Robe (1953) and Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954).

Carol Ohmart best know for the campy (House on Haunted Hill (1959)), holds her own with Quinn's loose cannon Tom, Arthur Franz (Red Light (1949), The Sniper (1952), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)) is also quite believable.
Looking back it's quite humorous contemplating that beat speak, bebop jazz, and switchblades were deamed so frightening to the squares out there in 1956 Squareville. Screencaps are from the Spanish Region 2 DVD but the clip on Youtube is obviously superior. Curiously entertaining enough, 6/10. Full review with more screencaps here: Noirsville
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Oddo (1967) Psycho Jazz Noir

From the dark side of Noirsville, this quasi legit Psycho/Sexploitation Film Noir was directed by Nick Millard. (for the record it  contains mostly T&A, with shoe, stocking, and lingerie fetish flourishes)

Millard, it looks like from his IMDb page, started off directing Comedy Erotica drifting over into Nudie Cutie SyFy, and various soft core Sexploitation Fetish Dramas, Fantasies, and Thrillers. In Oddo he turned a run of the mill serial killer fetish flick into an interesting Transitional Film Noir. It fits right in with Psycho (1960), The Thrill Killers(1964), Angels Flight (1964), The Strangler (1964), Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965), Aroused(1966), The Sex Killer (1967), and The Honeymoon Killers (1969).

The film is without any dialog in the same vein as Dementia (1955) but it does have noir-ish voice over narration by Allen Sterling.
Alan Jaffeo (Martin Donley)
It's your standard story of a post war vet, Alan Jaffeo (Martin Donley) undiagnosed with PTSD, coming back to San Francisco, home to the same ****-hole he left behind with nothing changed.

Any benefit from his two years as a Green Beret is shattered when he first gets into a fight with his old neighborhood bullies, finds the girl he left behind shacking up with a hippie, and anti -Vietnam War protest posters plastered all over San Francisco.
The clincher is that afterward, when he finally climbs the dingy stairs up to the residence hotel dive apartment that he calls home, he finds that his telegram sits unopened in the hall his father is passed out drunk on a mattress., and his step mother Jan, is nowhere to be found. He pours himself a drink.

Alan goes into his old room undresses, lays down on his bed, and falls asleep while reading, comic books, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents and The Terrible 5.

Awakened in the middle of the night, Alan finds his stepmother back at their apartment. She and a sister footfetish-ista (who is uncredited but looks a lot like Valerie Perrine), are both half naked and starting to get into a serious "tongue in groove" session. His last vestiges of any sanity disappear down a rat hole in his head. Welcome to Noirsville!


Stepmom Jan and her friend

Alan takes out his knife and murders them both. He takes off into the neighborhood stopping at a children's park to swing on a swing. He gets nauseous and heads out into the city a Terrible "1", a bonafide madman.




In the Tenderloin district he gets his shoes shined at a topless shoe shine, visits the various topless bars and strip joints and ending up in a dingy brothel with a prostitute (again uncredited but she gives off a Susanne Summers vibe). She does her best to try and arouse Alan but only succeeds in getting herself killed. The shoeshine sequence and the brothel sequence both also have a seedy jazz accompaniment. Alan buys a handgun at a pawn shop and rolls a drunk for his wallet. Inside he finds a business card for an expensive call girl whose credentials seem to turn Alan on.

Alan's final encounter is with this call girl Sylvia (Janice Kelly). Sylvia and Alan seem to hit it off and again we get a long make out session to a suitably sleazy tune with Alan fully clothed and Sylvia only in her garter belt and stockings. Sylvia is good but no match for Alan who is after all a madman.

It isn't long before Alan takes the one way "big sleep" ticket out of Noirsville.

I've written before that I love when this happens. A film is made on the leading edge, the fringe, the avant-garde of a culture at a particular point in time. This film is for all intents and purposes a Noir. The subject matter is dark, it's character is obsessed. The films whole milieu is alienated from the face of society we like to normally show. The film depicts things taboo in polite society. The film is slightly ahead of what will become tolerated and/or perfectly acceptable in time. The culture, (to paraphrase Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity) has a speed limit. Any film that explores taboo subject matter or goes past the speed limit of the culture is considered off beat, kinky, exploitative, obscene and is too far out there for what passed as normal. It gets bumped off the cultural highway into relative obscurity.

Definitely worth a watch 7/10. Full review with many more screen caps here: Noirsville
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I just watched "The Prowler". The bottom line is these lower shelf noirs typically are long-winded melodrama's. The noir elements are there, just missing that captivating storyline that the great one's have. Just another one to see after you've seen them all, nothing more.   

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2 hours ago, decojoe67 said:

I just watched "The Prowler". The bottom line is these lower shelf noirs typically are long-winded melodrama's. The noir elements are there, just missing that captivating storyline that the great one's have. Just another one to see after you've seen them all, nothing more.   

I agree that The Prowler needed much tighter direction as well as editing (about 15 minutes could be cut),  but I'm not sure what you mean by 'lower shelf noirs'.     In the other threads you were very positive about many 'B' noir films (as I am).     

But yea, some noirs are just Ok, (if that).   It is like they were trying too hard to make a film that had certain noir elements but just couldn't pull it off.      (but Van Heflin and Evelyn Keys have been in some very fine noirs,,,, this just isn't one of them).


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15 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

....I'm not sure what you mean by 'lower shelf noirs'.     In the other threads you were very positive about many 'B' noir films (as I am)....

I must clarify that I didn't mean "lower-shelf noirs" as a put-down. I just meant it in opposition to "top-shelf noirs". I could call a B noir a "lower-shelf noir" and still say it was excellent. Having said that I must say that the bulk of them do often have melodramatic stories that don't hold a candle to the classic B's. 




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I just watched "The Threat". Can it be I have actually uncovered a noir for myself after all these years?! The answer is YES! This is real gem. Why it hasn't been spoken about and put along with the greats I have no idea. Great line-up of familiar noir actors, excellent acting, sets, plot, camera work, etc., etc. I loved it from beginning to end. Charles McGraw steals the movie as one of the most menacing criminals in film noir. Five stars *****  

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Secret Behind The Door (1948) A woman's gothic noir, Joan Bennett in a partial flashback recounts right before she makes her wedding vows exactly how she got into the situation she's in. The title card is very Daliesque, and so are the images that accompany the opening voice over narration (this is only the second noir I've seen where a woman does the voice over, the other being Claire Trevor in Raw Deal (1948)). There are numerous sequences with very stylistic images and others that also feel quite surreal. Bennett is a wealthy woman who inherited her fortune after the death of her brother.


*note Chris Cross' "painting image" of Bennett from Lange's Scarlet Street (1945) on her brother's desk.

The story is about the architect (who's major income is derived from a magazine he publishes) that she meets and marries in Mexico. Arriving back at his upstate NY estate, she discovers that he is a widower and has a young son he never told her about. He lives in a mansion with a new wing he built that contains a sort of macabre museum of the actual rooms (yes he bought dismanteled them and reassembled them) where murders have taken place. It's some mania he has about how the room effects events in peoples lives. He also lives with his weird sister Anne Revere (Clara Mills in Fallen Angel), and a woman with a half burned face. There is one room however that he always keeps locked and she is determined to find the secret behind it.

The house will remind folks of gloomy Collinwood from Bennett's Dark Shadows years with it's locked off West wing, even the son of the architect is named David.

One more memory jog is provided by Natalie Schafer, Bennett's friend Edith Potter, doing her same priggish schtick she made iconically famous later on as Lovey Howell on Gilligan's Island. (PS she does that same schtick in another noir with Joan Crawford in Female on the Beach (1955)).

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8 Million Ways To Die (1986) L.A. Smog Noir

"I hate money when its new it cuts your fingers and when it's old it stinks...."

I'd never read any of Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder novels, so I watched this without any pre- conceived ideas. The fact Scudder, a New York City private eye, is uprooted from his native habitat and relocated to The City Of Angels doesn't bother me in the least. Hell, the best Mike Hammer depiction, another quintessential New York P.I. detective, ever made to date had exactly the same treatment. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) was shot in and around L.A.'s old Bunker Hill neighborhood and is a bonafide classic Film Noir. Of course, 8 Million Ways To Die isn't in the same league, but it gets enough acceptable Noir stylistics right and has a neat "Gaudi Style" townhouse set piece, and a great final denouement on a private replica of Angels Flight to make it respectable enough.

I'd never seen the film on it's initial release so here it is now 32 years after the fact. The film, I've read was a flop, and various reasons are given. It was directed by the great Hal Ashby more known for topical dramas and quirky comedies ( Harold and Maude (1971), The Last Detail(1973), Coming Home (1978) and Being There (1979) and not for gritty crime films. Though I've read that he was going through the same problems with alcoholism as the main character in the film. Which perhaps was what attracted him to the project in the first place. But all that is pure speculation. The studio took control of the film away from him and had it edited their way.

The adaptation for the screen of Block's novel was also troubled. The first screen treatment was by Oliver Stone, which was then passed to R. Lance Hill, (as David Lee Henry), and finally given to Robert Towne to doctor what he could. Stone wanted to get his name off the credits. The dialog shows this "too many cooks syndrome," there are some great scenes and lines in some sequences and there are some chuckle inducing clunkers in others.

The cinematography was by Stephen H. Burum (Body Double (1984), The Untouchables(1987), Carlito's Way (1993)).

The film stars Jeff Bridges (The Last Picture Show (1971), Fat City (1972), Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974), Cutter's Way (1981), The Big Lebowski (1998), Hell or High Water (2016)) as Matthew "Matt" Scudder, Rosanna Arquette (Desperately Seeking Susan (1985), After Hours (1985), The Wrong Man (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994)) as Sarah, Alexandra Paul (Baywatch TV Series (1989–2001)) as Sunny, Randy Brooks (Reservoir Dogs (1992)) as Willie "Chance" Walker, Andy García (The Untouchables (1987)) as Angel Maldonado, and Tommy Lister (Jackie Brown (1997)), as Nose Guard.
The film opens with a title sequence that features a circular flyover of 1985 Los Angeles, from the skyscraper tombstones that mark the grave site of Bunker Hill to the massive convoluted concrete freeway system to a zoom on a single police car cruising a traffic lane. We hear a conversation in Voice Over.
Joe Durkin: The murder rate used to be a thousand a year. Three a day, and that was high. Now it's five. Higher in the summer. Fourteen two Fridays ago. We get the death penalty six, seven times a day, only it's not for murderers, it's for ordinary citizens.

Matthew 'Matt' Scudder: Yeah, there are 8 million stories in the naked city. Remember that old TV show? What we have in this town is eight million ways to die.

Cut to a green jacketed County Sheriff's detail filtering through  Beth Israel Cemetery. Scudder stops and takes a swig from a hip flask and passes it to a colleague. Scudder seems to be one of those functioning alcoholics who basically marinate an all day load. They surround the house of a drug dealer Hector Lopez (Wilfredo Hernandez). Scudder through the slats of a glass window shade attempts to make an arrest. While his fellow officers enter the kitchen through the interior of the house.
Matt Scudder
The culprit is sitting at a dinette table with his wife and kids. He gets up and grabs a baseball bat and begins to swing at the officers. Scudder blasts him in the chest.

Killing a father in front of his wife and kids sends Scudder off the deep end, he boozes himself out of the force, and gets estranged from his own wife and daughter in the process. It's ironically one of the 8 million ways to die
Six months later he's in AA  getting his six-month sobriety badge, and trying to put his life back together. He is now sort of an unlicensed P.I.
There is an amusing sequence during an AA meeting, that depicts all the other more acceptable vices the members have, smoking, coffee, soda, etc.

After one of his Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, a woman hands Scudder a note, which invites him to a party at a swanky private gambling club on a hill in Malibu. The place seems to be accessible only by a cool funicular similar to Angels Flight.

The club is owned by Chance Walker (Randy Brooks) whom Scudder remembers arresting back in the day under another name. The fact that Randy getting arrested by Scudder was partially responsible for Randy acquiring everything he owns bestows a sort of grudging respect between the two. At this party Scudder also meets meets Angel Moldonado (Garcia) a drug dealer, who places large bets with Chance on boxing matches and the like. Angel has pantalonas calientes "the hots" for Sarah (Rosanna Arquette) a high priced freelance prostitute, who works out of Randy's club as a sort of independent contractor.

When Scudder first arrives he is greeted enthusiastically by aanother high priced prostitute named Sunny (Alexandra Paul). She acts as if she's met him before. Scudder is flattered but tries to warn her that if he met her in the last year, he was on a serious bender and doesn't remember her at all. But it was Sunny who invited Scudder sight unseen, and she is obviously highly aroused by what she got. He's like a human Christmas present. Sunny is very clingy and practically dripping with anticipation. She is so possessively out of control that her friend Sarah is both highly amazed and worried by her friends reactions. Scudder and Sunny leave the party for his apartment. This whole sequence is highly amusing.

Back at the apartment Sunny tries to seduce Scudder, she tells him that she is frightened and she wants out of the business and wants to use him for protection until she can get out of town.
Sunny (Paul) and Scudder
"Do you know what I do?"

Scudder agrees to help and Sunny pays him 5,000.  Scudder mistakenly assumes that Randy is her pimp. Scudder goes to Randy and offers him 2,500 for Sunny. Randy sets Scudder straight telling him that he's no pimp and that he just pays Sunny and Sarah a flat rate to attend his parties and any work they get out of his club is their own money. He's happy because their being there brings his gambling club more business.

Randy: I hate money when its new it cuts your fingers and when it's old it stinks....

Later, Scudder while taking Sunny around town on errands, makes the mistake of leaving her for a few minutes at a Dry Cleaners that is next door to a Frontier Shop. He goes in to buy his daughter some riding boots. It's just enough time for Sunny to be snatched and dragged off into a van. Scudder pursues in his 1982 Ford Mustang even though the kidnappers have flattened one of his tires.

A gritty chase through the back streets and alleys of Culver City culminates in the brutally slashed body of Sunny being dumped off the Centinela Avenue Bridge. This disaster topples Scudder right off the wagon into Noirsville.


Rosanna Arquette
"Gaudi Style" house
Scudder wakes up days later in detox. Dried out once again he's out for revenge.

Checking through some things Sunny left at his apartment Scudder pieces together that Angel is running drugs through Chance's legitimate businesses and that Angel had Sunny killed when she crossed him. Scudder persuades Sarah to leave the club with him, as a jealous Moldonado looks on. Later Scudder and Angel have a confrontation over snow cones outside the L.A. Coliseum and Angel forces Sarah to leave with him. Scudder informs Chance of the cocaine stashed at his business.

Scudder and Chance then set up a meeting to exchange Sarah for Angel's stash of cocaine at an empty warehouse on Signal Street in San Pedro. Angel arrives with Sarah duct-taped to the end of a shotgun.

Scudder has booby-trapped the drugs with gasoline and threatens to destroy them if Sarah is harmed. Angel stalls but after seeing some of his cocaine burned he agrees to cut Sarah loose. However all hell breaks loose and a shootout leaves most of Angels men and Chance dead. Angel escapes in the chaos.

Scudder and Sarah head back to Chance's club. As they ride the funicular up the hillside they have a final shootout with Angel who is waiting for them at the top.

Jeff Bridges is believable as Scudder, Randy Brooks nails Chance, Alexandra Paul believe it or not outshines Rosanna Arquette, but her career in films never took off, Arquette's greatest Noir turn is as Femme Fatale Missy Mills in the excellent but little seen The Wrong Man (1993)

Andy Garcia is a bit over the top as Angel, but that is a minor quibble.

It's all speculation, but it is believed that had Ashby not been dismissed from the project he would massaged the final film differently, would have used different takes and allocated time for more character development. As it is sequences like the confrontation with the snow cones and at the warehouse seem to drag on hysterically way too long. An uneven film with some great sequences, definitely worth a looksee. 7/10
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Grand Central Murder (1942) Screwball Noir

A humorous/ensemble film noir directed by S. Sylvan Simon (Lust for Gold (1949)). The film was based on Sue MacVeigh's 1939 novel of the same name. The screenplay was credited to Peter Ruric. The cinematography was by George J. Folsey and the music was by David Snell.

It is one of the ensemble/quasi-comedy Noirs, a small sub genre of Noir. Others are Deadline at Dawn (1946), His Kind of Woman (1951), Shack Out On 101 (1955), and even Lady In The Lake (1946), has some of this quality, there are probably a few others lurking in the Classic Noirs. Neo Noir contenders are Dr. Strangelove,or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The Late Show(1977) After Hours (1985), Delicatessen (1991) and The Big Lebowski (1998).

The film has quite the cast with a lot of Noir credentials, starring Van Heflin (The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946), Possessed (1947), Act Of Violence (1949), The Prowler (1951)) as a private investigator  "Rocky" Custer who becomes one of the suspects in a murder on a private train car in Grand Central Terminal. Patricia Dane (Johnny Eager (1941), The Harder They Fall(1956)) as Mida King, Cecilia Parker as Constance Furness, Virginia Grey (Highway 301 (1950)) as Sue Custer, Rocky's wife, Samuel S. Hinds (Lady on a Train (1945), Call Northside 777(1948)) as Roger Furness, Connie Gilchrist (Johnny Eager (1941), Act of Violence (1949), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)) as Pearl Delroy, Tom Conway (Two O'Clock Courage(1945)), Whistle Stop (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), Confidence Girl (1952) as Frankie Ciro, Sam Levene (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Dial 1119 (1950), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957)) as Inspector Gunther, Mark Daniels (Bury Me Dead (1947)) as David V. Henderson, Stephen McNally (Criss Cross(1949), The Raging Tide (1951), Split Second (1953)) as "Turk", Betty Wells as "Baby" Delroy, George Lynn as Paul Rinehart. Roman Bohnen as Ramon, and Millard Mitchell (Deadline at Dawn (1946). The Naked City (1948), Criss Cross (1949), D.O.A. (1949) Gun Crazy (1950), Side Street (1950)) as Detective Arthur Doolin.

A murder convict Turk (McNally) on his way to Manhattan by train, breaks out the window of the men's john and escapes into the bowels of Grand Central Terminal. When he gets a chance he slips into a phone booth and drops a dime on a call to his ex girlfriend Mida (Dane).

He threatens that he's gonna kill her. Mida leaves between acts in the middle of a Broadway Show, and heads East to the terminal to hide in the private railway car of one of her admirers. She's planning on leaving town with her current lover a high society swell David V. Henderson (Mark Daniels). When Henderson and his ex fiancee Connie Furnes arrive at the car they find Mida lying naked on the bathroom/shower floor.
P.I. Rocky Custer (Hefflin)
Police Inspector Gunther (Levene)
Police Inspector Gunther (Levene) is assigned to the case. The doctor can't determine the cause of death without and autopsy. Turk is recaptured and a P.I. Rocky Custer and his wife are also rounded up and brought in for questioning. Other suspects that had grudges against Mida are brought down to headquarters. Mida's greedy phony psychic card reading stepfather Ramon (Bohnen); her New York & Western Railroad employee ex-husband Paul Rinehart (Lynn), and her sleazy producer Frankie Ciro (Conway). Also brought in are Mida's maid, an ex-burlesque singer Pearl Delroy (Gilchrist) and her daughter stripper "Baby" Delroy (Wells), who is also Mida's understudy. Roger Furness (Hinds), Connie's father and chairman of the board of the railroad, Is on the scene to protect his daughter. As Gunther gets each suspect to tell what they know and give their alibi's we see in flashback various details that lead up to the murder of Mida.
Guther finds out that Mida was a world class ****, a cold hearted gold digger stringing men all along her career rise. She had used each successive boyfriend as a stepping stone upwards. Then would throw them over whenever a better prospect came in range. When she lands millionaire Henderson she tells Frankie not to worry she'll divorce Henderson in six months and she'll meet Frankie in Reno with enough money to produce a new Broadway Show. David overhears this conversation which gives him a motive for murder.

Rocky is smart enough to figure out how the murder was committed once he intercepts the call from the morgue and hears the results of the autopsy before Levene.




The film has running jokes about Mida's cheapness, i.e., the various ways she manages to stiff others into paying her bills, A lovesick detective, Doolin, who keeps trying to contact his girl by phone, and another about Levene's "chain drinking" addiction to cherry soda. The pacing and smart dialogs are in classic screwball mode, but the flashbacks and action sequences in the tunnels of Grand Central Terminal are all quite noirish. 

Though it's supposed to take place in Grand Central Terminal it was most likely all filmed on a studio backlot, (there may be some second unit stock footage of actual GTC) some of the moving train sequences may also have been filmed in the old subway tunnel under Bunker Hill. It all looks reasonably quite like Grand Central Terminal. Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville.Café au lait Noir 7/10
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Dark City (1998) Existentialist Noir from The Twilight Zone

Beware of Greeks bearing imaginative movies.

Director Alex Proyas along with two other writers Lem Dobbs and David S. Goyer have created a brilliant metaphorical Neo Noir Film about being, life, and essentially an ultimate Noirsville. The film is a high point in the art of studio/stagecraft. The premise of the story in Voice Over, (if you saw the theatrical cut) goes like this:

"First there was darkness. Then came the strangers. They were a race as old as time itself. They had mastered the ultimate technology. The ability to alter physical reality by will alone. They called this ability "Tuning". But they were dying. Their civilization was in decline, and so they abandoned their world seeking a cure for their own mortality. Their endless journey brought them to a small, blue world in the farthest corner of the galaxy. Our world. Here they thought they had finally found what they had been searching for."
The knowledge of their immanent demise has driven them on an odyssey across the universe in search of an elusive something that will save them. When they reach Earth they discover our curious race of beings who individually possess "souls" that spiritual or immaterial part of a human being regarded as immortal. Immortality is what they desire.

The "soul" is a concept that they can't quite grasp, so they "borrow" a sample population of humans whisk them off planet and construct with their reality machine an elaborate experiment, a pseudo flat "Earth" floating out in the void of space that consists solely of the Noirish-Hopperesque mega sized entity "Dark City," cloaked in perpetual darkness and mostly devoid of water.

The alien hive mind has an aversion to both light and moisture. The humans they have trapped in their rat maze are "tuned" every twelve hours. The aliens, who actually inhabit the human dead using them as "vessels," shut down the world and conduct various experiments on their captives. They steal their individual memories and lives and swap them back and forth, back and forth, with others, so nobody knows who they are any more. By interchanging all these individual memories and lives within the human population of their experiment group, they hope to create in effect a sort of artificial hive mind similar to their own and by doing this, hope to isolate the elusive "soul." The hope of isolating this "soul" is the drive of the extraterrestrials and it's possession key to their immortality.

Dr. Schreber: I call them the Strangers. They abducted us and brought us here. This city, everyone in it... is their experiment. They mix and match our memories as they see fit, trying to divine what makes us unique. One day, a man might be an inspector. The next, someone entirely different. When they want to study a murderer, for instance, they simply imprint one of their citizens with a new personality. Arrange a family for him, friends, an entire history... even a lost wallet. Then they observe the results. Will a man, given the history of a killer, continue in that vein? Or are we, in fact, more than the sum of our memories?

All the humans in the experiment do not even know where they are from, all that memory has been erased, all they know is the city.

Possibly, though I haven't seen it myself, the directors vision, his version of the film would start here.

The film opens with the depiction of this vast megalopolis Dark City. We see Dr. Schreber, the "mad scientist", a human who has betrayed his own kind. The mad scientist/doctor was used also in Classic Film Noir in the films The Man in Half Moon Street (1945), Decoy (1946) and maybe others. Dr. Schreber takes out his watch and as the second hand hits 12:00 O'clock everything in the city "shuts down." the cars, the buses, the trains stop dead in their tracks. All the humans wherever they are, walking on the street, sitting on stools in diners, driving cars, sitting at diner tables, etc., etc., fall down into a very deep sleep.Screenshot%2B%25282504%2529.png


After the credits our tale begins with an experiment gone bad. In a nondescript sleazy hotel, a man eventually identified J. Murdock wakes up naked in a tub of water with no memory of how he got there. This amnesia trope quotes a number of Classic Noirs, Spellbound (1945, Somewhere In The Night (1946), Black Angel (1946), Crack-Up (1946), Deadline at Dawn (1946), High Wall (1947), The Crooked Way (1949), and The Clay Pigeon (1949) also Neo Noirs The Manchurian Candidate (1962), Mister Buddwing (1966).
John Murdock (Rufus Sewell)      


A series of quick cuts moves us along the narrative, he gets out of the tub, looks in the mirror, puts on the clothes that are draped upon a chair. He walks out into an alcove, he sees a suitcase with the personalized letters H.K. He opens it. He spots a postcard for a place called Shell Beach among the clothes. He puts the postcard in his jacket.

The ring of the phone jarringly breaks the silence. A caller announces he's Dr. Schreber and he tells Murdock that "they" are after him and to leave immediately. He doesn't understand. He moves further out into the bedroom. He sees a dead woman on the floor beside a bed. Waking up with a dead body trope is used in The Dark Corner (1946), Dead Reckoning (1947) and of course it's exactly the same premise at the start of The Hard Goodbye aka Marv's Story in Frank Miller's Sin City series of graphic novels pub in 1991 and in screen treatment (Sin City (2005)).

The dead woman has weird spirals carved into her flesh. These Fibonacci spirals, here and during the opening credit sequence, reminds you also of the "hypno wheel" spirillic illusion cast by the offset cone in one of the classic opening credits sequence of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone TV Series (1959–1964). Two 1959 Spanish horror films, The Vampire’s Coffin and The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, were presented with a new innovation added by K. Gordon Murray, an American producer called “Hypnoscope,” In a four-minute filmed introduction preceding the show, a disembodied voice speaking over an endlessly looping hypnotic spiral explains that “you may feel yourself changing from the gentle person you are, to a monster....." (Death Spirals a History of the Hypnotic Horror FilmThe "hypno wheel" was also used in The Hypnotic Eye (1960) as a segment of  the "Hypnomagic" part of the film and it appears again in Ray Dennis Steckler's The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!? (1964)

Spirals also symbolically represent the format of a timeless basic building block, a foundation of ever evolving life, repeated ad infinitum, on entities across a spectrum as diverse as our fingerprints, a flower, a pine cone, a sea shell, a hurricane, to the galaxies. We see hints of the spirals throughout the film in iron work, in patterns, on stairways.

Murdock jarred by the sight, knocks a knife off the dresser, it's covered with blood. He flees the room just before "The Strangers" arrive. The Strangers reanimate the dead bodies of humans. They dress in black long floor length coats that resemble robes. When out and about in their city they also wear fedoras. Murdock runs down the stairs to the lobby.

Down in the hotel lobby the desk clerk awakens and tells him that the Automat called and that he left his wallet there. He heads out into the city. Its an extremely noirish elaborate set, a series of nocturnal Edward Hopper vignettes that astonishes, kudos to the Production Design by George Liddle, and Patrick Tatopoulos along with the Art Direction by Richard Hobbs and Michelle McGahey.

We cut to a lounge act in a seamy dark cabaret somewhere. A torch singer Emma Murdoch (Jennifer Connelley) is crooning a slightly off sounding, almost drugged out, slowed down version of an old standard "Sway" (first recorded in 1953). The actual singing was done by Anita Kelsey.

Torch singers appeared in Classic Noir, Ida Luoino in Road House (1948), Jean Hagen in Side Street (1950), Lizabeth Scott in Dark City (1950), Audrey Totter in The Sellout (1952), Anne Bancroft in Don't Bother To Knock (1952), Gloria Grahame in Naked Alibi (1954),  Barbara Hale in The Huston Story (1956), and probably a few others.

Emma back stage between sets receives a message also from Dr. Schreber who left his card. He wants her to cone down to his office because he has something important to tell her about her missing husband.

Dr. Schreber tells her that John has lost his memory and that if he shows up she should call him. He could be dangerous. Meanwhile, back at the Hotel, the body is discovered and the police are called in. Inspector Frank Bumstead (William Hurt) is in charge of the investigation. He shows up in a Film Noir fedora and spouting hard boiled bon mots to the uniforms in the room. It looks like another prostitute murder.

There is a serial killer murdering prostitutes in the city, Noir Classic The Sniper (1952) was one of the first films to depict a serial killer. From the register he gets a name, J. Murdock,  now both the City Police and The Strangers are after him. While Bumstead and his men are investigating the room another man bursts upon the scene. He is Detective Eddie Walenski (Colin Friels) the former partner of Inspector Bumstead. He appears to be quite mad and has to be restrained.
Murdock eventually finds the all night Automat. Meets a prostitute outside. Retrieves his wallet from a display and discovers something unusual when this is achieved through some type of mysterious force. On his way out of the Automat he is stopped by two uniform cops and is in effect rescued from their clutches by May the prostitute, who tells them he's her client.

Prostitutes were also a part of Classic Noir. Joan Benett in Scarlet Street (1945), Margo Woode in Somewhere In The Night (1946), Gloria Grahame in Crossfire (1947), Mary Astor in Act of Violence (1949), Cleo Moore and Nita Talbot in On Dangerous Ground (1951), Jean Peters in Pickup on South Street (1953), and Susan Hayward in I Want to Live! (1958).

May takes him back to her flop.

Emma is brought in to the city police headquarters for questioning about John, She tells Bumstead that he's been missing two weeks, he left when he found out that she was having an affair with another man. When Bumstead shows her a list of victims names she asks which one is John accused of killing? Bumstead tells her "all of them."

At May's flop May makes small talk with Murdock. He's sitting on the bed while she undresses looking through his wallet for clues. His drivers license tells him his name is John and his address.



John Murdock with all his new info about his identity decides to split leaving May alone. He heads back out into the city but he meets up with Mr. Hand and his men on the scaffolding of a billboard for Shell Beach. Here during the confrontation with The Strangers he again instinctively is able to use his new found ability to "cue" to evade them, apparently killing one of The Strangers "Mr. Quick" (Frederick Miragliotta) in the process.

With his home address in hand Murdock goes to look for his wife Emma.

That a human has evolved the ability to "cue" has the hive mind of The Strangers in a panic. Mr. Book (Ian Richardson) the leader of The Strangers orders that both Murdock and Dr. Schreber be brought in.

The Strangers visit Dr. Schreber at his small sanctuary in the city, a public swimming pool, to ask him why Murdock can't be tuned and how did he evolve the ability to cue. The doctor tells them that it was a genetic mutation, and that this is what they are looking for, a human who can cue can save them from extinction.

Meanwhile Bumstead has been tailing Emma back to her apartment, and when John Murdock shows up he tries to make an arrest. John evades Bumstead by vaulting over a stairway railing.

Murdock escapes, again involuntarily using his ability to que. When he finds that he's trapped in the basement of the apartment house, out of need and desperation. he wills/ques a doorway to appear in a blank wall. He opens it and makes his escape, the wall goes back to being blank. Murdock hails a taxi and is whisked off into the bowels of the city.
As Murdock is now immune to "tuning" he observes how The Strangers go about their grand experiment. Murdock explores the city. He watches it change as The Strangers rearrange it. He also realizes that there is never any daytime.

Bumstead in the meanwhile goes to visit Eddie Walenski. He has, like in his office at the police station, obviously become obsessed with the murder case. Papers and notes are plastered about an empty room. Eddie is feverishly scratching spirals on the wall. He too, has become immune to "tuning" and has observed The Strangers switching infrastructure and peoples memories around. He realizes that Dark City is laid out like a never ending spiral, and it's spirals that are consuming his mind. When he relates his "findings" to Bumstead. he thinks Eddie's lost his mind.

Walenski: I've been trying to remember things, CLEARLY remember things, from my past, but the more I try to think back, the more it all starts to unravel. None of it seems real. It's like I've just been dreaming this life, and when I finally wake up, I'll be somebody else. Somebody totally different!
Inspector Frank Bumstead: You saw something, didn't you, Eddie? Something to do with the case.
Walenski:There is no case! There never was! It's all just a big joke! It's a joke!

(This idea about dreaming your life, I first read about this in a head comix in the early 1970's, it was in one the issues put out by The Overland Vegetable Stagecoach Productions the creation of F. Shrier and Dave Sheridan. The comix book titles were The Balloon Vendor, Mother Oats and Meef and in one of them there was a tale that postulated that there was this alien race who lived on a distant planet that had a very slow rotation, which resulted in a nighttime that lasted 90 Earth years. The aliens would sleep and their dreams would be our lives, so we are just the dreams of aliens. These comix were either printed by The Print Mint, or the Rip Off Press.)

The Strangers coerce Dr. Schreber to inject the mind of Mr. Hand with John Murdock's most recent memories on the theory that by having John's memories he'll be able to be one step ahead of him always.

Murdock asks humans about Shell Beach a seaside resort everyone knows it but nobody knows how to get to it. He takes The Green Line, a subway line that is supposed to go to Shell Beach, but he finds that the local train doesn't go there. At the 59th Street Station, all passengers are told to get off, a human tells him that only the express goes to the end of the line, but the express doesn't stop at 59th Street. Eddie Wallenski, is at that 59th Street Station also. He approaches Murdock and he tells him, almost confession like, all he knows about The Strangers. He states to Murdock that what makes humans different is that we have free will, and that he knows how to get out of the city. He then demonstrates/proves this by jumping in front of an express train.
Murdock continues his own investigations. From the postcard he carries he gets the address for his uncle Karl.  He calls on his uncle who lives above an aquarium. He visits his childhood room, where he lived after his parents were killed in a house fire. He watches a slide show with Uncle Karl, but he notices that a childhood picture of himself shows a nasty burn scar on his arm, which he doesn't have. He tells his "uncle" that those slides and memories aren't real.
Murdock continues to travel around the city. He watches as The Strangers cue the city to their various whims and schemes. Growing buildings by their sheer wills. He watches as they switch around the memories and life stations of various residents.
When Murdock meets up again with Dr. Schreber, he gives him an inadvertent display of his cuing power. Schebner is impressed.
Dr. Schrebner: You can make things happen by will alone.
Later Murdock and Mr. Hand meet upon a rooftop while The Strangers are cuing the city and they do battle amidst the reforming architecture.

Mr. Hand: Mr. Murdock you've been the cause of much distress.
Mr. Murdock: Start Talking...

 Murdock gets the upper hand putting a knife to Mr. Hand's temple.

Mr. Hand: There's no need for this. There's no escape. The city's ours. We fashioned this city on stolen memories, different eras, different parts, all rolled into one. Each night we revise it, refine it, in order to learn.
Mr. Murdock:  Learn what?
Mr. Hand: About you Mr. Murdock, you and your fellow inhabitants. What makes you human?
Mr. Murdock: What?
Mr. Hand:  We need to be like you.

As a roof peak shoots quickly up they are physically split apart again. Murdock meets up with Bumstead and Dr. Schreber and the three of them go looking for Shell Beach. They drive to the riverfront and take a rowboat as far as they can go. When they get to the end of the city they discover that Shell Beach exists only as a huge poster upon a wall. Murdock frustrated rips apart the poster revealing a brick wall.  Murdock and Bumstead begin to beat upon the wall and Murdock again inadvertently cues and explodes outwardly a hole right through it revealing only the dark void of deep space beyond.

A gorgeous film to look at.

Dark City stars Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist (2006)) as John Murdoch, William Hurt (Body Heat(1981), I Love You to Death (1990)) as Inspector Frank Bumstead, Kiefer Sutherland (Fallen Angels  TV Series (1993–1995), Melancholia (2011)) as Dr. Daniel P. Schreber, Jennifer Connelly (Once Upon a Time in America (1984), The Hot Spot (1990), Mulholland Falls(1996), Requiem for a Dream (2000)) as Emma Murdoch/Anna, Richard O'Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), Flash Gordon (1980)) as Mr. Hand, Ian Richardson (Brazil (1985), From Hell (2001)), as Mr. Book, Bruce Spence as Mr. Wall, Colin Friels as Det. Eddie Walenski, John Bluthal (The Fifth Element (1997), ) as Karl Harris, Melissa George (The Limey (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001)) as May, Ritchie Singer as Hotel Manager / Vendor, Nicholas Bell as Mr. Rain and Satya Gumbert and Noah Gumbert as Mr. Sleep.

The cinematography was by Dariusz Wolski, Romeo Is Bleeding (1993), The soundtrack was by Trevor Jones (Angel Heart (1987), The Last Of The Mohicans (1992) and the Film Editing was by Dov Hoenig (The Last of the Mohicans (1992)).

The majority of the film was shot at Fox Studios Australia, and I must stress again how intricate, amazing, and believable the world that they created is. It hearkens back to the worlds created in the original Hollywood Studio Noirs but it goes light years beyond 90% of them in detail. The originals were basically low budget affairs and what they achieved was through the ingenuity and creativity of their studios and personnel. Here you have that creativity married to a substantial budget.They built fifty-five some odd different sets and shot on them in eighty days. Some work was also done in Los Angeles, California.

The Noir World they created with Dark City, is an amalgamation archetypes from every noir era and bits and pieces of every iconic noir city ever filmed. There's steam vapors arising from the manholes, subways, an Automat, New York City Bishop Crook streetlamps, London Underground signs, rotary telephones, checker cabs, seamed stockings, elevated trains, 40's through to 70s autos, The Los Angeles Globe on concrete post streetlights, Art Deco skyscrapers, suspension bridges, pull shades on windows, fire escapes, cage door elevators with operators, venetian blinds, moving billboards, neon, cobblestone streets with their peeling asphalt veneers,  etc., etc.,

Dark City was produced by New Line Cinema in conjunction with Mystery Clock Cinema.

The theatrical release had the opening voice over. The director's cut  released in 2008, preserved Proyas's original artistic vision for the film. The version I watched was the theatrical release DVD

Metaphorically you can have a heyday analyzing everything that comes at you in the film, if so inclined. John awakens in water. Life began in water. He's born so to speak in water. Humans are 60% water. The Strangers naturally have an aversion to water. When Murdock knocks over the goldfish bowl and saves the goldfish that is flopping around on the tiles he picks it up and places it in water. You can even run ahead of yourself.

At first, from the angle looking upwards, I assumed he put the fish in a toilet bowl. I thought to myself what an appropriately apt metaphor for a Noir tale, saved temporarily only to soon be fated to have a fifty-fifty chance of being flushed by the next human in the room. But no Murdock places the fish in the tub he just exited.

The Strangers aversions to water and light make them almost fungus like beings, they dwell in a cool, dark, faintly blue lit subterranean spirilic Dantean hell. They are living dead. Their abode the grave. They use the dead humans as vessels. Their only physical weapons are the blade, ornamental knives that can obviously be used to lacerate and penetrate the vessel.

In a cinema sense, The Strangers can be looked at as demented screenwriters writing and rewriting, the scripts and scenarios for their human actors.

The spirals can represent the search that all beings must make to understanding, and that search when done correctly is spirally boring ever inward. The Strangers are also on that spiral but their search of the spiral is in the wrong direction, the hive mind is starting in the center and the only direction it can go is outwards towards oblivion.

Curiously in these contemporary times, you can look at The Strangers as Trump, The Republican Party and Fox News trying to "tune" the narrative story of America to fit their wacky version of reality, it's a battle of our culture, no matter how many times they attempt to imprint through the media at their disposal, what are you going to believe? Them and what they on the "Alternate reality" right repeat ad nauseam, or your lying eyes. Dark City is a Noir Lovers wet dream, 10/10. Screen caps are from the New Line DVD. Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville
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Death In Small Doses (1957) Speed Freak Noir

A late night trucker is hauling freight down a stretch of two lane blacktop. He's popping "bennies", "co-pilots", "speed", "zip", "uppers", i.e., Benzedrine pills, the first pharmaceutical drug that contained amphetamine.

Bennies had a euphoric stimulant effect, and it was widely used for recreational purposes. Benzedrine and other derived amphetamines were used as a stimulant for armed forces during World War II and the Korean War. It became a popular drug with the Beat Generation and long haul truckers who used 'bennies" to stay awake.

The trucker is wolfing down pills. Over dosing. Out of control. He's swerving all over the road and begins to hallucinate on coming headlights. He turns the wheel and goes over the embankment. Crash and Burn!

The rash of trucking accidents across the nation with amphetamine overdosed drivers, alerts the FDA they send undercover agents across the country to infiltrate the various trucking firms to get leads on dealers and suppliers. Tom Kaylor (Peter Graves) is sent winging it to Los Angeles.
Mink (Connors), Val (Powers) Tom Graves)
Tom is assigned to Bodmer Freight Lines as a trainee. He gets accommodations at a rooming house run by Val Owens (Marla Powers), a widow of a trucker. One of the roomers is a "cowboy" trucker named Mink Reynolds (Chuck Connors). Mink is a real piece of work, and if your used to seeing Chuck Connors only in re-runs of The Rifleman, this performance is an eye opener. Instead of a Stoic and cool as ice rancher, here Connors is a juking, jitterbugging, wild eyed and a bit wound too tight truck driving man.

Tom gets assigned at first with old man Wally Morse (Roy Engel). Wally has been driving 19 years and was a good friend of Val Owen's deceased husband, also a long haul trucker. Tom and Wally hit it off well, and begin driving the haul to Portland, Oregon.

the grade 
Cab over with "drom box"

Along the way Tom begins his investigations. He keeps asking about bennies around the various truck stops, service stations, and Ma & Pa beaneries that they frequent. Tom is showing a believable, for a trucker, interest in bennies.  He asks questions about getting copilots from Dunc Clayton (Robert B. Williams) who is a truck mechanic and owner of Dunc's Truck Stop who also was once a trucker. From Dunk and everyone else he asks, he gets the brush.

At a truck stop called Six Points Wally and Tom run into a barely in control, high flying Mink who is jitterbugging with a waitress Amy (Merry Anders). When Mink and Amy finish their dance Tom still watching Amy sees her take a small envelope out of her pocket and pop a few pills. 

When they get back at the freight terminal one of the loaders starts hallucinating and attacks his fellow workers. During the struggle he has a heart attack. It's found out that he too overdosed himself.

On the long haul to Portland, Tom talks with Wally again about bennies, trying to get some info out of him. Wally says that the use is wide spread and is killing all his old friends. Talking with Tom about the situation gets Wally fired up to find out who is supplying the drivers. So Wally starts doing his own poking around. He ends up getting beaten to death.

Tom is now teamed up with Mink on another run and Mink offers Tom some copilots to help him get through the run. At Six Points Tom stops by Amy's cabin and accuses her of pushing bennies, he accuses her of having an active hand in killing the truckers she's selling the pills to. Tom wants her to rat out the suppliers. She tells him she'll think about it and let him know on his return run back to L.A.

Of course it all goes Noirsville with a few nice twists after Amy powders and leaves Tom a note naming names and Mink finally overdoses himself trying to kill Tom in the process.


The film is a real hoot, mostly for the revelation that Chuck Connors has quite some range. He is the obviously the  highlight for me. Every time you see him he's upped the wattage on his drugged out performance. The rest of the cast plugs away adequately at their rolls. Tom and Val get some sparks going in the romance department.

The film has some great footage depicting the "the Road" of the 1950s and 60s the big rigs and outfits doing the hauls, the working truck stops, and the service areas on the highways and byways. One aspect of the film was head scratching and got my curiosity up. We are used to seeing semi trucks everyday while driving, but the trucks for Bodmer Freight Lines, looked a bit strange to me. Instead of the usual semi-tractor trailer rigs, the boys are driving a Cab over Peterbilt with an eleven foot "drom box" short for dromedary. So their outfit looks like an ordinary box truck with a tractor trailer attached to that. This was a popular setup for truckers out West for a number of years. The theory behind the drom box was the ability to haul more cargo while remaining within the established length limits of the time. Also the "drom boxes" were a handy storage area for chains, spare tires, tools, hand carts, etc., etc.

Death In Small Doses was directed by Joseph M. Newman (Abandoned (1949) 711 Ocean Drive (1950), Dangerous Crossing (1953), The Human Jungle (1954)), The film was written by John McGreevey and was  based on an Saturday Evening Post article by Arthur L. Davis. The cinematography was by Carl E. Guthrie (eleven filn noir) and the music was by Robert Wiley Miller  and Emil Newman.  Screen caps are from Youtube. Entertaining, 6-7/10. Full review on Noirsville
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On 4/29/2018 at 7:46 AM, decojoe67 said:

Looks like an interesting movie. As a side note, would you believe Conners was Brooklyn born? He just doesn't seem to fit that image! 

No I didn't, he's actually in quite a few against type roles, check out his "clean freek" US Army Col. Wilcox in Pancho Villa (1972), and his uptight nerdy mad bomber William Dorn in The Police Connection (1973)

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I just watched "Cause For Alarm" (1951) starring Loretta Young and Barry Sullivan. I remember seeing this many years ago and it paled as a Film Noir compared to the classics. At this point in time I am reviewing all these ones I passed on and finding them very enjoyable. This movie reminds my of an old "Suspense", "The Whistler", or "The Inner Sanctum" old-time radio show put on film. It's a simple plot but very compelling and suspenseful. Loretta Young does very well adding much tension to the film. Without giving it away, it's about a bed-ridden and delusional husband (Sullivan) hell bent on destroying his wife's (Young) life. She keeps caring for him understanding that he's sick - that is until he reveals to her that he got a very incriminating letter out to the DA. Things happen making Young desperate to get that letter ASAP. It likely wont be in your top-ten, but still a good one to have on your list. 



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8 hours ago, decojoe67 said:

I just watched "Cause For Alarm" (1951) starring Loretta Young and Barry Sullivan. I remember seeing this many years ago and it paled as a Film Noir compared to the classics. At this point in time I am reviewing all these ones I passed on and finding them very enjoyable. This movie reminds my of an old "Suspense", "The Whistler", or "The Inner Sanctum" old-time radio show put on film. It's a simple plot but very compelling and suspenseful. Loretta Young does very well adding much tension to the film. Without giving it away, it's about a bed-ridden and delusional husband (Sullivan) hell bent on destroying his wife's (Young) life. She keeps caring for him understanding that he's sick - that is until he reveals to her that he got a very incriminating letter out to the DA. Things happen making Young desperate to get that letter ASAP. It likely wont be in your top-ten, but still a good one to have on your list. 



I've seen it too it's like a soapy woman's noir, and not very stylistic.

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1 hour ago, cigarjoe said:

I've seen it too it's like a soapy woman's noir, and not very stylistic.

I have to agree although I would not discount seeing it to the Film Noir buff. It is quite suspenseful.

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