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Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971) Low Budget Soul Noir Masterpiece

It's poster claims..... 
 
RATED X BY AN ALL-WHITE JURY

Wow! One of the first Black Neo Noir, a Soul Noir Masterpiece. (it's actually R-Rated)

"This film is dedicated to all the brothers and sisters who've had enough of the man"

*do yourself a favor scroll down and groove to Sweetback's theme while absorbing the visuals.

Directed by Melvin Van Peebles a black man exploiting being black, with a story set in the black community. It's been called the first Blaxploitation Film preceding Shaft by a few weeks. Though often lumped in with Blaxploitation Films both Shaft and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song are actually very good Neo Noirs in and of themselves, they just happen to have predominately black casts, and are just onerously included, in my opinion, solely for that superficial reason.

True Blaxploitaion Films to me, are more tongue in cheek in a way tending to, for me anyway, almost burlesque the black community. Sweetback, Across 110th Street, and Shaft are more serious fare. There may be others I'm not aware of. I'm not familiar with all of them (there are over 350 films) but I've heard good things about Superfly (1972), I'll definitely check it out.

Van Peebles not only directed, scripted, and edited the film, but also wrote the excellent composite R&B, soul, funk, and jazz, score performed by Earth, Wind, and Fire, this is juxtaposed at times by a sort of Gospel funk Greek chorus.
 


The film, was funded somewhere in the vicinity of $100,000 + (I've read different stories) which in the end grossed $10 million. A Hit.

I saw this once on a big screen in of all places Missoula, Montana over 40 years ago, in the early 70s and never seen it again until a few days ago.

Van Peebles and his Yeah Productions, crafted a roughed edged work of art. Its a gift for Neo Noir lovers, a healthy visual helping of a lot of the old Classic Film Noir locations in The City Of Angels before most of them disappeared for ever. It was also shot at arguably the most creative, exploitative and exploratory decade in American Film History.
 

Its the simple tale of Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles), who as a young black "orphan" named Leroy (Mario Van Peebles) ran away from his South Central L.A. neighborhood flop. He was taken in starving at a whorehouse and raised there by the ladies of the evening. Leroy earned his three hots and a cot as a towel boy, supplying the ladies with all their needs between customers. A few years later one of the girls takes a fancy to him and invites him in for a poke. He doesn't know what to do.


Hooker: You ain’t at the photographer’s. You ain’t gettin’ your picture taken. Move!

At first Leroy is a bit shy but soon gets busy with it. The whole whole sequence starts against the electrical hums of a clothes washer and ending in her multiple "oh God!, Oh God!" hallelujahs climaxing to a Gospel choir. He's so good at "endurance screwing" that his first woman christens him "Sweet Sweetback."

About say 10-12 years later. grown, Sweetback is now working as a live sex performer at the small shows the whorehouse puts on to inspire the customers to go "upstairs." This whole sequence is homage or reminiscent of the fight spectators in Robert Wise's The Set-Up (1949), and also of Delbert Mann's crap game participants in Mister Buddwing (1966). Another occurs during a poker game.
 
 
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One night a couple of white LAPD detectives come by to ask a favor of Beetle. Beetle is the pimp who runs the house. A black man has been killed and the black community is putting pressure on the LAPD to do something. The detectives ask Beetle to let them arrest Sweetback to show that they are doing something, and they will then let him go in a few days for lack of evidence. This will appease their superiors. Beetle agrees and tells Sweetback the deal.
 
 
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Sweetback (Melvin Van Peebles)
 
On the way to the station the detectives get a radio call to a disturbance. There they take into custody a young Black Panther named Mu-Mu (Hubert Scales). When Mu-Mu insults the detectives they stop the patrol car take his **** out of the car and viciously whoop on him. Sickened by the disrespecting of a brother, Sweetback attacks the detectives, Using his handcuffs like brass knuckles he beats them unconscious. He then gathers up Mu-Mu to his feet and splits.

Sweetback doubles back to the whorehouse where he asks Beetle for help. , Beetle is scared himself of being arrested.
 
Beetle: Like you gonna have to kinda lay out, stretch out a little while, be real cool. Kinda lay dead. Ol' Beetle'll let you know what's happenin', what's goin' down. You don't have to worry about nothin'. If you need anything, anything at all, brother, just keep the faith in Beetle, ol' Beetle goin' to bring you through, cause this is just a skirmish. You know how the game goes, baby. But you keep the faith in me and you my man. You my favorite man. Can you dig it, baby? Together, you know, maintain....
 
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Beetle (Simon Chuckster) Maintain.....
Sweetback heads out the door and down the stairs. As Sweetback leaves the whorehouse he is arrested by the cops waiting outside who figured he may head back there. Two cops in a patrol car haul him away to a deserted lot.
 

Sweetback is knocked around a bit, then taken back to the squad car.  He is about to be driven downtown when a Molotov cocktail hits the police car just as it starts to pull away. Sweetback escapes out a door into L.A. He hits up a black preacher.

When Sweetback finds out that the cops already know about the addict farm he runs upstairs Sweetback again hits the streets.

Storefront Preacher: I'm gonna say a Black Ave Maria for you.....

Sweetback hit's up a gambler hoodie for some bread. He stands with Sweetback over his poker game. He has a great monologue.


Gambler: What's a dead man like you need bread for? Life's a real struggle, from the womb to the tomb.... Every dollar we make the Guineas get twenty, The po--lice get fourty. and the Goldberg's get fifty anybody can tell you that doan add up to a dollar, that doan add up to a dollar and a damn! That's why all us **** are so far behind.

Gambler:You can't get outa this town by wing, wheel, or steal.

The Gambler at least gets Sweetback and Mu-Mu out to the Los Angeles city limits.

The rest of the film consists of visually interesting chase sequences towards the Mexican borders set to music through various parts of Los Angeles, that you can still identify from the 40s and 50s Noirs. These are interspersed with police interrogations of the "black community," and short vignettes of Sweetback's various encounters with assorted hoodies and others, an ex girlfriend, a storefront preacher and his flock, Mu-Mu, a gang of Hell's Angels, a hippy, and a peace, love, dove, commune.

Another sequence shows a motel where the cops get a tip about Sweetback shacking up with a white girl on on of the rooms. The cops break open the door and beat up the black man.

Cop One: It's not him
Cop Two: So what?

These, if they had filmed in a pedestrian manner would otherwise be mere filler. Van Peebles gives us a funkadelia panoply of slightly 60s psychedelic, Spaghetti Western rotoscope, Dutch angles, and the ever changing backdrop locations make them compelling to Noir aficionados providing a wonderful film montage of a downtown L.A. that is long gone accompanied by Earth wind and Fire. You'll groove/tune to it.

Gambler: Life's a real struggle, from the womb to the tomb....

Noirsville
 
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Second Street Tunnel
 
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L.A. River
 
 
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L.A. Gasholders
 
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Feets Do Your Thang!
 
Come On Feet 
 
 
The film stars Melvin Van Peebles as Sweetback, Hubert Scales as Mu-Mu, Simon Chuckster as Beetle, Rhetta Hughes as Old Girl Friend, John Dullaghan as Police Commissioner, West Gale, Niva Rochelle, Nick Ferrari, Ed Rue, John Amos as Biker, Lavelle Roby, Ted Hayden, Mario Van Peebles as Leroy (Young Sweetback) The Black Community, and a Smoggy City Of Angels circa 1969-70.
 

 “the first truly revolutionary Black film.” Huey P. Newton

"a radical blaxploitation classic" Brad Stevens

"This is about as street as it gets well heavy and very bad."                                                                                                                                            taweakame

An interesting time capsule of fin de decade 1960s. Check out Simon Chuckster's hilarious monologue. A must watch with your noir tinted glasses or noir-dar onSweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is assuredly not PC, it's of it's time.  9/10  

Full review with more screen caps at Noirsville.

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Psycho (1960) Transitional Noir Masterpiece

 
What can you say that is new about Psycho?

I can tell you my own remembrances, I was seven years old. I first heard about the film second or third hand. It was from the neighborhood girls across the street. They either claimed to have seen it or their parents had seen it and they had over heard them talking about it, whatever, but they made sure they told me about the shower scene. But of course they exaggerated it all and my imagination did the rest. Anthony Perkins killed her naked in the shower, cut her up in pieces and wrapping each piece in a towel took her out to the trunk of her car. I still remember that thought. A little personal  "mind movie."

Of course the movie never lived up to that, once I saw it. But from my example you can see how much power that creative film had on people even if they hadn't seen it yet.

Now I find out that the original story by Robert Bloch was pretty close to my original "mind movie."

I'm looking at Psycho as one of the first Transitional Noirs that crossed over into exploitation to eventually be a box office hit, and critically acclaimed a part of American cinema mythos. Its out exploiting the new found freedom that came at the end of the Motion Picture Production Code.

It took Classical Noirs mostly crime based films, and bent the style in new direction that was very popular. It took a story by Robert Bloch, a screenplay by Joseph Stefano, combining Noir, Thriller, Horror, Suspense, using alienated and obsessed characters and adding Twilight Zone type twists. Hitchcock, Bernard Herrmann, George Tomasini, and John L. Russell concocted really, a magic formula out of thoughts and imagination, an idea put on film that we watched. It captured our imagination. It was a spark that ignited other sparks of imagination. All of the oddball films started appearing in late 50s early 60s they in turn influenced more free ideas.

Noir never really ended it just morphed into what we call Neo Noir. It didn't happen all at once in one great kink, no it gradually ripped sparking apart with new directions to explore. Some of these films on that edge that contain the noir visual stylistics, the sort of DNA of noir like Psycho, are the Transitional Noirs.

Seeing them now can be just as powerful as back then.

It's a simple story of the time Marion Crane breaks bad and it's consequences.

Enjoy the
Noirsville
 
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Tail Fin

 

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Marion Crane: Do you go out with friends?
Norman Bates: A boy's best friend is his mother.
 
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Tail Fins
 
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Norman Bates: She might have fooled me, but she didn't fool my mother.
 
Psycho Alumni -
their notable films or noir connections


Anthony Perkins (1932–1992) Is Paris Burning? (1966), Pretty Poison (1968), Catch-22 (1970),  Crimes of Passion (1984)

Janet Leigh (1927–2004) Act of Violence (1949), Touch of Evil (1958), The Manchurian Candidate (1962) Harper (1966), The Fog (1980)

Vera Miles (b 1929) The Wrong Man (1956)

John Gavin (1931–2018) Spartacus (1960)

Martin Balsam (1919-1996) On the Waterfront (1954, 12 Angry Men (1957), Cape Fear (1962)

John McIntire  (1907–1991) eight Classic Noir

Simon Oakland (1915–1983) I Want To Live (1958), Bullitt (1968)

Frank Albertson (1909-1964) Girl on the Run (1953). Nightfall (1956), Man-Trap(1961), Johnny Cool (1963)

Vaughn Taylor (1911–1983) The Lineup (1958), Screaming Mimi (1958), Party Girl (1958), The Twilight Zone TV Series (1959–1964)

John Anderson (1922–1992) Walk on the Wild Side (1962), The Satan Bug (1965)

Mort Mills (1919-1993) Drive a Crooked Road (1954), Pushover (1954), Cry Vengeance(1954), Touch of Evil (1958) 

 

Review with more screen caps at Noirsville.

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Criss Cross (1949) Los Angeles Noir Masterpiece

Soaring like Eye Of God over The City Of Angels.

We see City Hall corner of First & Spring heading North past Union Station and it's Annex, between North Spring on the left North Main and North Los Angeles Street in the middle and and North Almedea on the right. No Santa Anna Freeway in '49.

It's Chinatown!

North Almedea coming in at an angle and North Spring Street pinch off the two middle streets. We slowly pan right towards North Almedea and you end up zooming into a parking lot between North Spring Street and the West side of Almedea with Ord Street bordering on the South and the Alhambra Avenue intersection on the North.

It's behind what is now circa 2018, a restaurant Phillipes The Original, and The Little Jewel of New Orleans Grocery and Deli. It's the Parking lot of The Round Up Cafe.
 
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Los Angeles City Hall at Spring and West First and the Federal Courthouse close behind it, behind them Union Station and its annex, 
 
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North Almedea and North Alhambra  intersection on top center right. The Round Up Cafe parking lot center.
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Anna (Yvonne de Carlo) and  Steve (Burt Lancaster)
 Two lovers highlighted in the headlights of car backing into a parking space.

Steve: Anna.
Anna: Steve, I had to see you.
Steve: He'll get wise. The last minute, you'll ruin everything.
Anna: I slipped out. He was dancing. Oh Steve I keep thinking and thinking.
Steve: Will you just not think about it?
Anna: I'm so worried about you. I'm all sick inside. Oh if only it was all over now. If it was only this time tomorrow.
Steve: You know what to do? Have you got it right?
Anna: Suppose you get hurt
Steve: Remember, you go to the cottage at Palos Verdes.
Anna: Suppose something goes wrong
Steve: And you wait there. It will take a little time. A few weeks.
Anna: Why do you say weeks? Why not days?
Steve: Just stay at the house at Palos Verdes. Don;t try and get in touch with anyone. Don't do anything until I get there.
Anna: I'll hate it. I'll hate it every minute until you're with me again.
Steve: You better get back before he starts looking for ya. I don't want him to see the two of us coming in together. Go one now, go on back.
Anna: Steve. All those things that happened to us... everything that went before.... you'll forget it. You'll see. I'll make you forget it.  After it's done after it's all over and we're safe, it'll be just you and me. You and  me, the way it should have been all along from the start. Be careful.
 
It's the night before an armored car robbery.

So begins Criss Cross another masterpiece of noir with an "amour fou" story told non linearly, and also in flashback, directed by Robert Siodmak (The File on Thelma Jordon, Cry of the City, The Killers, Christmas Holiday, Phantom Lady), and screenplay written by Daniel Fuchs (The Gangster, Storm Warning, Panic in the Streets, Hollow Triumph) based on Don Tracy's novel of the same name. The cinematography was by Franz Planer (The Chase, Champion, The Scarf, 99 River Street, 711 Ocean Drive), and the music was by Miklós Rózsa.

Its a simple story vividly illustrating the why in the adage "you can't go home again." Steve Thompson, is a regular Joe, living on North Temple Street L.A. He had a torrid love for the wrong woman. Anna. A true Femme Fatale. He married her. The flames didn't last. It didn't work out. They'd fight, they'd make up, they'd fight. The best part was the making up. They fought one time too many. They divorced. He split. Headed East. Working and moving around the country. Until, he gets her out of his system. So he narrates. So he comes back home. A week goes by. He goes to the Round Up Cafe in Chinatown. He sees Anna again.
 
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There is still embers. He is smoldering. She is smoldering. She remembers the making up part. But she is hooked up with the local crook now. Running with Slim Dundee.
 
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Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea)
 
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Steve goes back to work for the Armored Car Company he quit when he left California. He starts things up with Anna again. Or so he thinks. He's waiting for her at The Round Up. He's all jacked up and ready to go. But she doesn't show. The barkeep Frank tells him, Anna got married to Slim and goes to Yuma.

Five months later Steve is in Union Station. He's picking up a train schedule, he wants to get away. To travel. He spots Anna. They hookup again, Amour fou.
 
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Steve: You smoke a lot don'y you?
Anna: You pass the time.
Steve: You happy?
Anna: Oh, I love it.
Steve: He gives you everything?
Anna: Diamonds.
Steve: You want me to go?
Anna: Go. Don't go. Anything you like.
Steve: I didn't think he was the kind that married people.
Anna: Oh He did. He did.
Steve: I take my hat off to ya.
Anna: Yea. Yeah I'm a prize.
Steve: Tramp.
Anna: Tell me all about it.
Steve: Tramp. Cheap little no-good tramp!
Anna: Stick around you make it all so nice and sad.
Steve: Why did you do it?
Anna: You told me why diamonds.
Steve: Why? Why did you do it?
Anna: You
Steve: Me?
Anna: Your mother, your brother. your whole family: And your lovely friend Ramirez!
Steve: Pete?
Anna: You didn't know?
Steve: What did he do?
Anna: Told me to stay away from you! He was afraid I was poison. He told me to get out of Los Angeles and stay out.
Steve: How could he do that?
Anna: He said  that if I didn't, he'd run me in every time he saw me. He said he's frame me.
Steve: Frame you?
Anna: That's right. Send me to the women's prison at Tehacapi. He wanted me up there with the rest of them, my hair cut short wearing striped cotton, digging potatoes, and working in the factories.
Steve: I don't believe you.
Anna: Ask him, Go and ask him. He brought me down to headquarters. Sent two men in plain clothes.
Steve: Why didn't you come to me?
Anna: Because I was sick and tired of running after you all the time. Begging you Please, Steve! Please, please don't get sore Steve. Because I was sick of you, your mother and your wonderful friend, Ramirez. Because every day you were away Slim was after me. You didn't know that did you? Slim always wanted me. Always wanted to give me everything. And I got sick and tired of being a fool! I got fed up and didn't care! Oh Steve. What happened! How did it happen? How did I get all mixed up?
Steve: I didn't know, Anna. I didn't know.
Anna: I'm scared. They'd kill us. Kill us! I can't even sleep. Look at the way he treats me. [showing him her bruises]
Steve: Anna
Anna: Oh Steve! What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?

When Steve and Anna get caught by Dundee, a quick thinking Steve tell Slim he was seeing Anna to get Slim to buy into a plan to steal a payroll from an armored car.
 
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Slim: Oh I had it all wrong, so it was me all the time. Between you and I, I had it all wrong. So it's not the way it looks, is it baby?
Steve: No, it's not the way it looks.
Anna: That's right, Slim. Just like he says. He wanted to talk to you. You were out of town so I said I'd come over.
Slim:You really wanted to see me? So tell me now Stevie what kind of business could you and I possibly have together?
Steve: A Job
Slim: A Job? well, why come to me?
Steve: Cause you're the only crooks I know.
 
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"You're the only crooks I know."
They plan it all out but of course it all goes Noirsville
 
 
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The film stars Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson. Lancaster was born in up in Harlem on November 2, 1913 at his parents' home at 209 East 106th Street. He grew up on the streets on NYC. He joined the  joined the Kay Brothers circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured. He then worked as a salesman for Marshall Fields and then as a singing waiter.  Lancaster joined the United States Army in 1942 and performed with the Army's 21st Special Services Division, Fifth Army, in Italy from 1943 to 1945, This gave Lancaster the acting itch. Back in New York City Lancaster auditioned for a Broadway play and was offered a role. This brought him to the attention of Hollywood agent, Harold Hecht and, through him, Lancaster was brought to the attention of producer Hal B. Wallis, who signed him to an eight-movie contract. His first film was The Killers, subsequently he made Brute Force, Desert Fury, I Walk Alone, Sorry Wrong Number, and Kiss The Blood Off My Hands before making Criss Cross.

Yvonne de Carlo plays Anna. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, by the early 1940s, she and her mother had moved to Los Angeles, where De Carlo entered into beauty contests. In 1940, she won second place in the Miss Venice beauty contest. She also worked as a dancer in nightclubs.  In 1942, she signed a three-year contract with Paramount Pictures doing bit parts. Paramount loaned her out to Republic Pictures for her first credited role in Deerslayer (1943). She appeared in Noirs This Gun for Hire, Brute Force.

Dan Duryea plays gangster Slim Dundee. Born and raised in White Plains, New York. He wanted to be an actor. His parents did not approve. Duryea became an advertising executive. Six years of stress rewarded him with a heart attack. He returned to acting. He got noticed on Broadway in the play Dead End and The Little Foxes. In 1940, Duryea moved to Hollywood to appear in the film version of The Little Foxes. Before Criss Cross Duryea appeared in Film Noirs Ministry of FearThe Woman in the WindowLady on a Train, Black Angel, Scarlet Street, and Larceny, before appearing in Criss Cross.

Stephen McNally plays police Detective Lieutenant Pete Ramirez. McNally was Born in New York City, he attended Fordham University School of Law and practiced as an attorney in the late 1930s before he became an actor.  In 1940, he had a leading role in the stage version of Johnny Belinda. His first credited role was in film noir The Grand Central Murder.

The rest of the cast consists of Tom Pedi (The Naked City (1948)) as Vincent, Percy Helton (over ten film noir) as Frank, Alan Napier as Finchley, Griff Barnett as Pop, Meg Randall as Helen, Richard Long as Slade Thompson, Joan Miller as The Lush, Edna M. Holland as Mrs. Thompson, John Doucette as Walt, Marc Krah as Mort, James O'Rear as Waxie, John Skins Miller as Midget, Esy Morales as Orchestra Leader and Tony Curtis un-credited dancing a rumba with Yvone De Carlo.

The film also features a lot of 1949 Los Angeles. The opening aerial over City Hall to Chinatown. The now long gone Hill Street Tunnel at North Temple Street (Steve's house), a Hill Street trolley heading for Hollywood, Angels Flight, The Third Street Tunnel, and the Sunshine Apartments, and the old Henry Ford Bridge next to the Schuyler Heim Bridge to Terminal Island, and Union Station.

Easily a 10/10 More screen caps with review at Noirsville.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Superfly (1972) Stylish Soul Noir

Ok, so a sort juju magic formula was concocted.


Mario Van Peebles had a vision for a film, a film for the "black community" and with the sheer force of his personality he wrote, directed, edited, and scored Sweet Sweetbacks Badasssss Song and it was an ace formula, the film was something new, raw, exploitative, good, and it made money.

On the other side of the country Gordon Parks did it more conventionally with Shaft Parks, a 20 year acclaimed photographer for Life magazine had turned to directing and chose as the subject for his second film a unique novel by Ernest Tidyman. Tidyman, another refugee from the print world, freelanced, on a $1,800 advance from Macmillan mystery editor, a story about a black detective hero using the Sam Spade/Phillip Marlowe blueprint. Shaft, the novel sold a half million copies. Shaft the film, this time Hollywood financed, nicely fused together with a black perspective a white (i.e the Private Investigator character) and a black community's idea/essence of what was cool. It was scored by Isaac Hayes and J.J. Johnson, with cinematography by Urs Furrer.


Gordon Parks Jr., son of Gordon Parks, on the other hand eschewed all previous conventions and based Superfly on a cool, a "super fly," Harlem drug dealer, Priest Youngblood from a story by Phillip Fenty. Parks Jr.'s film, rather than base his characters on "straight folk" with chicken **** jobs scraping by working for whitey for a living, made a realistic film about one the two lucrative (at the time) careers that an ambitious ghetto hood rat with no legitimate life lines, was left with by "the man," drug dealing or pimping. Jr.'s film was scored by Curtis Mayfield and cinematography was by James Signorelli.

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Priest Youngblood (Ron O'Neal)

 

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Superfly, forty years later if you think about it, was no different than all the great 1930s gangster flicks produced by Hollywood. The Public Enemy (1931), Little Caesar (1931), and Scarface(1932), where about the rise of the ethnic mobsters, Irish, Italian, and Jewish, who exploited the advent of Prohibition.
 
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Lets break it down for ya. Youngblood (Ron O'Neal) is a successful coke dealer. He's got a lot of flow. He's at the top of his game. He's got everything he ever wanted. He susses out that nothing lasts for ever and he'll either end up cooling on a slab with a toe tag, or in Rikers Island. He wants to bail. Sell 30 keys in four months, make a million dollar score and ghost. He gets his main dog Eddie (Carl Lee) to go in on the deal, and gets his main man Scatter (Julius Harris) to help front some of the Gs.

It all goes Noirsville when the crooked cops who "allow" the various dealers to operate for their "cut" find out that Youngblood is apparently a bigger dealer than Scatter. They tell Youngblood that they want him to be the new Main Man. The cops off Scatter with an overdose under the iron horse tracks in the Harlem canyon near 125th Street. They leave him in his rolls.

Noirsville
 
 
 
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Park Avenue Viaduct pedestrian tunnel @ 103 Street same viaduct that Bobby Driscoll runs through in The Window 1949
 
 
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Shadows
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1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado along Park Avenue Viaduct
 
 
 
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Dutch Angle
 
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Sig Shore

 

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Under the "1" Train Broadway & 125th Street


Gordon Parks Jr.'s very stylish direction is one of the first things you notice. As in Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song there are long musical interludes, where in Sweetback they are of Van Peebles running around Los Angeles, here they consist of sequences of Priest's 1971 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado driving around Harlem and montages of various drug dealing to Curtis Mayfield's Pusherman.

Another nice surprise that is more that just a Blaxploitation film. Definitely not PC, 9/10 Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville

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Across 110th Street (1972) Pseudo Blaxploitation Noir

 
One of the first legitimate Hollywood attempts to exploit the Blaxploitation phenomena. This film is not only a stylish and an excellent replica of the Blaxploitation formula but also a throwback to the type of Film Noirs the French called "policiers" otherwise known here as the police procedural. I say "Pseudo Blaxploitation" because it was written, produced and directed by "whitey," at least the music was by Bobby Womack and J.J. Johnson.

They used that Blaxploitation formula to make a compelling and gritty film. It was directed by Barry Shear (Wild in the Streets (1968), The Todd Killings (1971), written by Luther Davis based on Wally Ferris' novel. The excellent cinematography was by Jack Priestley ( a cinematographer and camera operator for 48 episodes of Naked City TV Series (1958–1963).

Across 110th Street stars Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Quinn, Anthony Franciosa and Paul Benjamin. The twist is supplied at the very beginning of the piece.

Its $300,000 mob money "cut" (a percentage of the monthly take from numbers, drugs, gambling, and prostitution) between the black Harlem gangsters led by Doc Johnson (Richard Ward) and their Italian counterparts led by Nick D'Salvio (Anthony Franciosa) Franciosa here is looking like a silver haired prototype John Gotti like mobster.

The Mafia accountant, his bodyguard and three Harlem gangsters are ambushed by three black freelancers led by ex con and currently a building super, Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin). The other two are Joe Logart (Ed Bernard) a dry cleaner and Henry J. Jackson (Antonio Fargas) a wheel man and small time hustler.
 
The two freelancers that break into the "bank room" in the safe house are tricked out in real cop uniforms, and out to stick it to the man in general. When one of the gangsters makes a wrong move Harris makes Swiss cheese out of them all with his 9mm machine gun. Harris machine guns down blacks and whites indiscriminately. On their getaway in a black painted Checker sedan, they kill two NYPD cops just arriving at the scene.
 
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Jim Harris (Paul Benjamin)
 
All this results in the NYPD, the Italian Mob and the Black mob all after the same three perps. The new black detective in charge of the case is Lt. William Pope (Yaphet Kotto) his precinct Captain Frank Mattelli is played by Anthony Quinn. Pope and Mattelli have different approaches to police work, Pope is a by the book liberal, Matelli is get results the old school way brutal.
 
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Lt. William Pope (Yaphet Kotto) 
 
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Captain Frank Mattelli( Anthony Quinn)
Doc Johnson's hoodies have the inside scoop to the underbelly of the Harlem ghetto they are the point men combing the dives and gutters, spreading around Benjamins looking for tip offs. When ever they track down a clue they pass the info to D'Salvio.

It all goes Noirsville when Doc's right hand man Shevvy (Gilbert Lewis) finally tracks down Henry J. Jackson in a Harlem Whorehouse, and D'Salvio goes medieval on his sorry ****. He not only crucifies him but also cuts off his nuts, nice guy.

Noirsville

 
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Apollo Theater
 
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The Red Rock Tavern, Carolina Market and the Cold or Gold Glass Bar

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Low Dutch Angle
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The film addresses Black and White relations in New York City, Black and White integration into the New York Police Department, the new (for the time) progressive attitudes to police procedures, and the dynamics between street wise Mattelli and by the book Pope.

All the actors are top notch Quinn, Benjamin, Kotto, Ward, Lewis, Bernard, and Fargas are very believable. Franciosa gives a good scenery chewing performance as the torture loving capo.

Its a reasonable facsimile Blaxploitation film with an obvious message, and a good Neo Noir 9/10. Full review with more screen caps in Noirsville.
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Mr. Ricco (1975) Mr. TV Cool's Swan Song

 
Director Paul Bogart who made his bones mostly on TV gave us Marlowe updating Chandler P.I., in a 1969 Neo Noir starring James Garner, Halls of Anger (1970) followed, it was an interracial inner city school Drama. His next feature, also with Garner and Lou Gossett Jr., was Skin Game in 1971.

It wasn't until '75 that he directed his second Neo Noir Mr. Ricco. I've found out from just viewing recently on a TCM screening, that it's also another Hollywood nod to the effects of the lucrative and successful Blaxploitation phenomena that exploded on the scene in 1971.

As I mentioned in my Marlowe review, that film was about cool, i.e., "It’s all about cool, cool that aura of quiet intensity along that ever changing cutting edge balance between conservative and excess, the spark between new and old, you know it when you see it." William Powell had it, Noir icons Bogart, Dick Powell, Mitchum, Conte, Andrews, Ford, Holden, and Hayden had it. James Garner as Marlowe had it. Poitier, Belefonte, Jim Brown, and Blaxploitation stars Richard Roundtree, and Ron O'Neal had it.
 
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Joe Ricco (Dean Martin)
Dean Martin had it in spades. His 1965 to 1974 The Dean Martin Show came into your living-rooms weekly on Thursdays, and Deano with his well oiled shtick as a tuxedo clad, slightly drunken, work-shy, easy come easy go, happy go lucky playboy, was the epitome of smooth cool. It's too bad we never got an application of that TV persona into a serious Neo Noir when he was about ten years younger. I could see him in the roll of a wise cracking P.I. similar to Dick Powell's Marlowe. All we ever got, that was remotely close, was Dean essentially playing TV "Deano" in the Billy Wilder comedy Kiss Me Stupid.  His overly silly tongue-in-cheek Matt Helm series of films, all James Bond spy spoofs, are basically him goofing his way through burlesqued villains, and a bevy of pneumatic bimbos.


In Mr. Ricco, Dean Martin still doesn't get to showcase that competent cool swagger, either. He's plays a suddenly notorious defense lawyer Joe Ricco. Notorious because, Joe has during a big publicity trial, just successfully gotten the charges dropped on his client, a San Francisco black militant Frankie Steele (Thalmus Rasulala) accused of killing a white woman.

Joe Ricco has a successful law practice with a loyal secretary Jamison (Cindy Williams). He is a widower who lives with his dog and his old Italian uncle. He likes to spend his leisure time playing golf and has trained his dog to help him cheat at it, i.e., whenever his ball goes in the rough or in a sand trap the dog fetches the ball and drops it where ever Joe is standing. He also likes to plays late night card games after hours in an Italian restaurant with the owner and Captain Cronyn.
 
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Soon after Steele is back on the streets two San Francisco police officers are ambushed in a tenement during a routine with a pump action shotgun.
 
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A black child Luther witnesses a man running from the scene of the crime. His mother brings him to Joe and Joe takes him down to police headquarters. There Luther is interrogated by the police, and with an identikit the boy constructs a face that looks exactly like Steele's. Joe is now officially on the SFPD **** list.
 
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 Luther (H.B. Barnum III)

 

Police detective George Cronyn (Eugene Roche) is Joe's best friend. Cronyn is now also annoyed that Joe got a now suspected cop killer back out on the streets. Cronyn sends a squad of officers to Steele's Black Serpent gang's last known headquarters.
 
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Steele, and the Mapes brothers are the only ones there, The raid results in a revenge killing of a black man. Murdered in cold blood by a bad cop who plants a shot gun as false evidence. Steele gets away.

The dead man's sister Irene Mapes asks Rico to defend her surviving brother Purvis. It all goes Noirsville when it looks as if Steele is now trying to assassinate Ricco.

Noirsville 
 
 
 
 
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The film is nothing special, no real sparks, but it's an entertaining enough time waster with some nice Noir stylistic cinematography of San Francisco. Martin looks a bit past his due date in this, he's at the end of his career. It was one of his last films. Thalmus Rasulala as Frankie Steele was adequate but he doesn't really get enough screen time to showcase himself, H.B. Barnum III as the boy Luther was impressive. Eugene Roche I remember from his excellent performance in Slaughterhouse Five, he is quite believable here. The rest of the cast consists of Denise Nicholas as Irene Mapes, Cindy Williams as Jamison, Geraldine Brooks as Katherine, and Philip Michael Thomas as Purvis Mapes.

Writing Credits go to Robert Hoban for screenplay, with Ed Harvey and Francis Kiernan for the story. The cinematography was by Frank Stanley (Magnum Force, Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, The Eiger Sanction). The music was by Chico Hamilton. Worth a look for Dean Martin fans. 6-6.5/10. Full review with more screen caps in Noirsville.
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Desert Fury (1947) Bizarre Noir Soap Opera

 
"Desert Fury is the gayest movie ever produced in Hollywood's golden era. The film is saturated - with incredibly lush color, fast and furious dialogue dripping with innuendo, double entendres, dark secrets, outraged face-slappings, overwrought Miklos Rosza violins. How has this film escaped revival or cult status? It's Hollywood at its most gloriously berserk." Eddie Muller

You can forget all of Eddie's quote above and watch this film and within minutes you'll know yourself that something feels screwy. It's just all the wild dialog coming from all the characters. Now Ramona Stewart's book is just as strange as the film and probably more so since it wouldn't have been hampered by the Code. It's been called "an early sleaze novel about a trampy, rebellious daughter and her domineering mother" but goes on to say "Desert Town is a very strange exploration of love in all its forms and the pursuit of one’s desires. But not specifically sexual desire. " J F Norris (Pretty Sinister Books).
 
Anyway, Color Classic Noir's for me, most resemble the lurid pulp fiction paperback and magazine covers. They are like covers come to life. Those covers graced news stands and dime store paperback display racks. Films with the titles Leave Her To Heaven, Rope, Niagara, Hell's Island, I Died A Thousand Times, A Kiss Before Dying, Vertigo, Bad Day At Black Rock, Rear WindowSlightly Scarlet, Inferno, and this one Desert Fury.

Desert Fury was directed by Lewis Allen (Chicago Deadline (1949), Appointment with Danger(1950), Suddenly (1954), and Illegal (1955)). Screenplay by Robert Rossen and  A.I. Bezzerides based on a novel by Ramona Stewart. Cinematography by Edward Cronjager and Charles Lang. Music was by Miklós Rózsa.

The film Stars Lizabeth Scott as Paula Haller, John Hodiak as Eddie Bendix, Burt Lancaster as Tom Hanson, Mary Astor as Fritzi Haller, Wendell Corey as Johnny Ryan, Kristine Miller as Claire Lindquist, William Harrigan as Judge Berle Lindquist, James Flavin as Sheriff Pat Johnson, Jane Novak as Mrs. Lindquist, Anna Camargo as Rosa.

Here is a film with a story line that feels like it could have been inspired by Tennessee Williams. There seems to be all kinds of weird subtext flying around a Nevada town called Chuckawalla in the Mojave Desert, as Eddie Muller noted quite descriptively above. Chuckawalla is a typical self sustaining western mining town with a prominent smelter whose twin stacks dominate the valley.

Chuckawalla politically is dominated by "town boss" Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor). She runs a bar & casino in the film, and has bought off the sheriff and town judge. In the book the film is based on she is also the vice queen who besides the bar and casino also runs all the towns brothels.
 
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Eddie (Hodiack) and  Johnny, (Corey)
One day three of the towns former residents return. Eddie Bendix, and his good buddy/bodyguard/partner in crime Johnny Ryan return to Chuckawalla from Vegas. Eddie is a big time gambler and racketeer.  The third returnee is Paula Haller, daughter of Fritzi.
 
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Paula (Scott)
Paula has just quit school and wants to work for her mother. She wants to, as she tells her mother "Do what you do." What exactly is it Fritzi does, you may ask, it's left up for discussion. You'd have to read the novel to actually get a clue. You can personally take the innuendos anywhere. Anyway, even though pretty well off in life, Paula gets no respect being the daughter of the notorious town Madam.
 
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Fritzi (Astor )
It get better.....

Eddie who falls for Paula at first sight and vice versa, was once involved with Fritzi, but he had to skip town when he was suspected of murdering his wife. His wife, who by the way looked
 
a lot like Paula.
 
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Paula and Tom (Lancaster)
 

Paula's old beau is Deputy Sheriff Tom Hanson. Tom doesn't like seeing Eddie back in Chuckawalla.
Tom wants to be 'Back in the saddle again" with Paula.....

When Tom and Johnny see the relationship blossoming between Eddie and Paula they both try to break it up. When mother finds out about Eddie and Paula, she flips her wig. First trying to get the Sheriff to arrest Eddie and run him out of town, then latter she tries to bribe Tom Hanson with a ranch to get him to marry Paula.

Fritzi at one point also temps Paula with a shopping trip to Los Angeles, and she tells her that they can both chase men as long as Paula tells everyone that she is her older sister. OK you got all that? Well, now be informed that in the book Paula is still in high school and only seventeen.

At times the film hits you over the head with quite obvious innuendos. There is a sequence after Tom's bronc busting where he asks if Paula wants to go for a "fast ride," like they used to do. At the end of their ride Tom's got to have a smoke.

Ratcheting up the volume on all these triangles sends the film in a death spiral to Noirsville.

Noirsville
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Night Spot Cafe
 
 
 
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Bye Bye Johnny
 
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How sweet it is....The two  young lovers can look forward to a happy future of lead poisoned kids living under the Chuckawalla Stacks
Were we as a culture all that naive back in the 1940s? Its hard to believe that the studio suits, the director, and none of the actors thought the dialog and the situations depicted a bit weird. It's either that or believe they were all in on it and knew that it would go over the heads of all the squares and censors. I think maybe part of the surreal-ness has to do with the source material. Could it be that Ramona Stuart wrote the male characters, situations, and dialog from a woman's perspective which when performed sounds quite effeminate?, or did Robert Rossen not have a clue keeping everything as in the novel, or did he have an agenda. Obviously we'd have to read the novel and do a bit more research.

John Hodiack has got a fast, clipped, staccato delivery reminding me of Richard Conte in The Big Combo. Liz Scott is doing her usual husky voiced siren. Lancaster's vibe is the same as the ones he exuded in The Killers and Criss Cross that bushy-eyed innocent good guy one. Corey was intense enough to get himself noticed in this his first film. My favorite role of his is his Tiki bar night club owner in Hell's Half Acre.

The cinematography is good. The outdoor locations shot around Sedona Arizona, though only occasionally lend themselves to some noir stylistics.. The indoor sets are either awash in almost garish color or shrouded in shadows.

One thing I do know is that I'm curious enough now to want to read the novel Desert Town.

Desert Fury is definitely a curiosity, worth at least a watch, it could fit on a double bill with Inferno. The print I saw from an online streaming service had very crisp look. 6/10 Review with more screen caps here Noirsville.
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Lady From Shanghai (1947) A Noir Nightmare

 
The Lady From Shanghai is like a train wreck.  

If it's on I'll watch it, its sort of trance inducing, some sequences are downright creepy, others (like the opening carriage ride meet of Welles and Hayworth) silly especially with that Irish brogue accent.

Written and directed by Orson Welles. Based on the 1938 novel "If I Die Before I Wake"  by Sherwood King. The cinematography was by Charles Lawton Jr., the  music was by Heinz Roemheld.

The film stars Rita Hayworth as Elsa "Rosalie" Bannister. For the film Welles cut Hayworth's long red locks and dyed what was left blonde. I hate it, funny thing is in the novel "If I Die Before I Wake" by Sherwood King, that the film is based on, the character has flowing red hair.

Orson Welles stars as Michael O'Hara, Everett Sloane as Arthur Bannister, Glenn Anders as George Grisby, Ted de Corsia as Sidney Broome, Erskine Sanford as Judge, Gus Schilling as "Goldie" Goldfish, Carl Frank as District Attorney Galloway, Louis Merrill as Jake, Evelyn Ellis as Bessie, Harry Shannon as Cab Driver.

The story is narrated by Welles and shown in a long flashback.

Irish able bodied seamen Michael "Black Irish" O'Hara (Welles) is walking in Central Park when he becomes mesmerized by a blond woman Elsa "Rosalie" Bannister (Hayworth) riding in a handsome cab. Each likes what they see. Michael offers her a cigarette.

 
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Elsa Bannister (Hayworth)
 
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Michael O'Hara (Welles)
Welles does suck as an Irishman, (the character in the book is Laurence Planter, an ex-sailor working as a chauffeur). This "Irishman" change to the story was apparently all Welles' idea. It adds nothing.  He could have just it played normal. As it is he sounds as if he's looking for his "Lucky Charms" (referencing a TV commercial about an overly sweet breakfast cereal with marshmallow bits called Lucky Charms where a leprechaun is stating in the same Irish brogue that he is looking for his "lucky charms").

Back to the story: A short while later after the cab with Elsa and O'Hara part company, the cab gets waylaid by three hooligans who drag Elsa off to the bushes (apparently for a faith worse than death). Michael hears her screams and runs towards them, en-route he finds her pocketbook in the grass inside it there is a small automatic. Why did she throw it away?

He fights off the three men and rescues Elsa. He gives Elsa back her bag. Curious he asks why she didn't use the gun. She replies, incredulously, that she doesn't know how to use it. What if Michael didn't hear her cries for help? So do we infer from that bit of dialog that Elsa has a rape by multiple partners kink/fantasy? The film gets weirder.

Michael tells her that he is a seaman. She asks if he wants a job on her yacht he declines at first. But Michael is smitten by Elsa and constantly thinks of her.

Michael O'Hara: ...from that moment I did not use my head, except to think about her.

A few days later at the Seaman's Hall Arthur Bannister (Sloane) hires Michael to crew their yacht on their seagoing part of their trip down through the Panama Canal back to San Francisco.

Also on the ship is Sydney Broome (Ted de Corsia) who is actually a private detective hired by Bannister to keep an eye on Elsa. Along the way Bannister's law partner George Grisby (Glenn Anders) joins the yacht. Grisby is a piece of work, Anders makes the most of the part. Grisby has a weird proposal for Michael.

George Grisby: Mr. Bannister tells me you once killed a man. You are Michael, aren't you?
Michael O'Hara: That's right.
George Grisby:  I'm very interested in murders. Forgive me if I seem inquisitive, but where'd it happen?
Michael O'Hara:At Murcia.
George Grisby:  How'd you do it? No, let me guess... You did it with your hands, didn't you? Does it ever bother you when you think about it? What did he do to you?
Michael O'Hara: Nothing.
George Grisby:  You just killed him for the fun of it, eh?
Michael O'Hara: He was a Franco spy. There was a war on at the time.
George Grisby:  Then it wasn't murder, I suppose. Tell me, would you do it again? Would you mind killing another man?
Michael O'Hara: I'd kill another Franco spy.
George Grisby:  I was on a pro-Franco committee during the Spanish War. Would you kill me if I gave you the chance?... I may give you the chance.  How'd you like 5,000 dollars?
Michael O'Hara: What?
George Grisby:  That's what I said. 5,000 dollars, fella.
Michael O'Hara: What do I have to do for it?
George Grisby:  I'll fill in the details later. Meanwhile, think it over, Michael. 5,000 dollars. It's yours. All you have to do is kill somebody.
Michael O'Hara: Who, Mr. Grisby? I'm particular who I murder.
George Grisby:  Good boy!
Michael O'Hara: You know, I wouldn't like to kill just anybody. Is it someone I know?
George Grisby: Oh, yeah. But you'll never guess.
Michael O'Hara: I give up.
George Grisby:  It's me. I'm perfectly sober, Michael. I'm willing to pay 5,000 if the job is well done. This is a straightforward business proposition. I want you to kill me. So long, fella!

Grisby explains to Michael that he wants to fake his own death. He tells Michael that he wants out of his marriage but his wife wont give him a divorce. Since he would not really be dead and since there would be no corpse, Michael could not be convicted of murder. Michael believes him. The other side to the coin is the insurance policy the law firm has. Since Michael will sign a fake confession saying he murdered Grisby the insurance company will have to pay off. With that money Grisby can start a new life. Michael agrees thinking he'll use the $5,000 to run away with Elsa.

On the night of the fake murder Broome overhears Grisby and Michael plotting but he figures out that Grisby is actually planning to murder Bannister and frame Michael for Bannister's murder and his own fake murder. Grisby shoots Broome. Michael proceeds with the plan, only to step off into Noirsville when he finds out that Grisby really was killed, his gun killed Broome, and the police have his fake confession.

Noirsville
 
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Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park
 
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Walhalla Bar & Cafe, Sausalito, California
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The film gets a bit rushed once the story reaches San Francisco. The whole "Lady From Shanghai" angle seems to get short shrift since there is barely any lead up to Elsa suddenly speaking fluid Chinese and being able to call upon a Chinese Tong to assist her. There is no Chinese angle in the novel, that seems to be all Welles screenplay. The whole novel actually takes place on Long Island, NY.

I've read that studio boss Harry Cohn didn't like the look of the location sequences in Welles completed film, nor the lack of glamour shots of Hayworth, and ordered extensive editing and re-shoots. This heavy editing ordered by Cohn took over a year to complete.Viola Lawrence a veteran Columbia Pictures editor cut about an hour from Welles's rough cut. They probably edited out some sequences that probably would have explained Elsa's Shanghai connections better. Missing also seem to be any convincing visual fireworks from the Michael/Elsa relationship. The final product's got a surreal nightmare quality.

The film has some great visual sequences (the Steinhart Aquarium in Golden Gate Park, the Playland at the Beach amusement park's Magic Mirror Maze, and San Francisco's Chinatown). Sloane's bizarre over the top Bannister character steals the show, He's got a two canes which he uses to propel himself with a swinging cripple walk. He has an often demeaning obnoxious voice. Anders' portrayal of Grisby is as equally over the top as Bannister. Anders's got a sing song delivery with exaggerated pronunciation combined with a cackle that's offsetting. It's a shame Anders didn't make more movies his career was mostly on the stage. His only other noir was M(1951).

I don't care for Hayworth's short blond locks either, or as I've mentioned before Welles' Irish brogue, but that doesn't keep me from watching. 6.5/10

Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville

 

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Coonskin (1975) Neo Noirtoon

 
Betty Boop was possibly one of the first cartoons to run afoul of the Hayes Code. 
She was one of the first and probably most famous animated sex symbols. Her occasionally noir-ish cartoons contained obvious sexual references and some  cerebra subject matter. Betty Boop had noticeable breasts, wore short dresses, heels, and a garter. Ralph Bakshi sort of revived this early risque tradition on the big screen in 1972 .

Written and directed by Ralph Bakshi. Cinematography was by William A. Fraker, Film Editing by Donald W. Ernst and music by Chico Hamilton.

The film stars Philip Michael Thomas (Mr. Ricco (1975), Miami Vice TV Series (1984–1990), ) as Randy, Barry White (an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and composer), as Sampson, Charles Gordone (Angel Heart (1987)), as Preacherman, and Scatman Crothers (Lady in a Cage (1964), Slaughter's Big Rip-Off (1973), One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(1975), The Shining (1980)) as Pappy.

The Coonskin was very controversial. The Congress of Racial Equality criticized the films content as being racist. When the film was released it got mixed reviews. But a New York Times review said that it could be called a masterpiece.... "Coonskin which opened yesterday at the Trans-Lux East and the Bryan is a shatteringly successful effort to use an uncommon form - cartoons and live action combined - to convey  the hallucinatory violence and frustration of American city life, specifically black city life."
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Live action and Cartoon

It has since been re-evaluated.

Coonskin has two tales. A live action piece about two buddies Samson and Preacher Man out to rescue the third member of their trio Randy who is doing time in the "big house". They cooked up a prison break scheme. They are going to smuggle Randy a pistol. With it he's to overpower some guards at nightfall and let himself out a side door along the prison wall.

Samson and Preacher Man's part of the plan is to drive 100 mph towards the prison wall through a cow pasture.  When Randy hears that car coming he is going to run out from the shelter of the wall to meet it.

The second tale is told by an old convict named Pappy (who decided to break out with Randy), while they wait and sweat it out beneath the prison wall and guard towers. The tale is an update of Uncle Remus' Tar-Baby fable. The fable is the story told in cartoon and live action of how Rabbit and his two hoodies Bear and Preacher Fox head up to Harlem after their whorehouse operation is busted, to make their bones. Rabbit is cool, Bear is good but slow, and Preacher Fox is sneaky.
 
Noirsville
 
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left to right, Preacher Fox, Bear, Rabbit
 
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Cecil's Cocktail Lounge 
 
 
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Pappy (Scatman Crothers)
 
 
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Times Square Shuttle

 

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The voice animators are Philip Michael Thomas as Brother Rabbit, Barry White as Brother Bear, Charles Gordone as Preacher Fox, Scatman Crothers as  Old Man Bone.

Additional Voices were Danny Rees as Clown, Buddy Douglas as Referee, Jim Moore as Mime, Al Lewis as The Godfather, Richard Paul as Sonny, Frank de Kova as Managan, and Ralph Bakshi as Cop With Megaphone.

Definitely not PC. 8/10. Full review with more screen caps at Noirsville.


 

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Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950) A Street Scene Noir

 
The "Street Scene" score for Where The Sidewalk Ends is by Alfred Newman.

It was originally used for Street Scene (1931) and was re-cycled by 20th Century Fox as a sort of New York City Noir signature theme. It crops up on, Cry Of The City, Kiss Of Death, I Wake Up Screaming, and The Dark Corner.

The film was directed and produced by Otto Preminger (it's one of the five Classic Film Noir he directed). The writing credits are Ben Hecht for the screenplay. Victor Trivas, Frank P. Rosenberg, and Robert E. Kent  for the story adaptation of the novel Night Cry by William L. Stuart.

The film stars Dana Andrews as sadistic Detective Sgt. Mark Dixon, Gene Tierney as Morgan Taylor-Paine,Gary Merrill as Tommy Scalise, Bert Freed as Detective Sgt. Paul Klein (Dixon's partner), Tom Tully as Jiggs Taylor, Morgan's father, Karl Malden as Detective Lt. Thomas, Ruth Donnelly as Martha, owner of Martha's Cafe, and Craig Stevens as Kenneth Paine.
 
This film was mostly shot in New York City. There are quite a few establishing shots obviously on location. Other studio shots (either Kaufman or Gold Meadow don't know which) and sets make use of various New York City back screen projections. Being a former New York City resident, it's fun to figure out where some of the films neighborhoods are supposed to be. A wall map in the 16th Precinct squad room shows on the East 5th Avenue, West to the Hudson and from Central Park South  to 42nd Street. The 16th Precinct covered the area of Manhattan between W. 42nd St. and W. 52nd St. West of Fifth Avenue to the Hudson River. Its station house was on W. 47th Street. It encompassed Times Square and Hell's Kitchen. A rear screen projection in the opening sequence shows Chinatown and then a squad car passing the entrance sign to the Holland Tunnel, then it shows the skyline from what appears to be the West Side Highway. A backdrop through the window of the precinct house detective squad locker room shows the Paramount building and it's clock tower at 1501 Broadway. Anybody who's read Cornell Woolrich's Dead Line At Dawn, knows it plays a prominent part in the novel.
 
Another scene of the Taylor apartment shows the George Washington Bridge through a window, giving it a Washington Heights local. There is a scene down on Pike Street where the Manhattan Bridge is in the background its The Lower East Side. Later a body is recovered from the East River between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, Chinatown. Another sequence has what appears to be an "el" station. The nearest to the Pike Street Lower East Side location would have been the 3rd Avenue el, but this one is a case of "movie" geography, There would have been no "el" station visible from Pike Street, the only other feasible possibility would be a subway train stopping on it's way over the Manhattan Bridge but there are no stations on the Manhattan Bridge.
 
 
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Dixon (Andrews) and Klein (Freed)


N.Y.P.D. Detective Dixon (Andrews ) and his partner Detective Sgt. Klein (Freed) are called back to a precinct detective squad-room meeting. A new head of detectives Lt. Thomas (Malden) is holding an introductory meeting. While there, Detective Inspector Foley calls him aside and chastises Dixon about his latest brutality complaint making now a string of thirteen.
 
Insp. Nicholas Foley: Your job is to detect criminals, not to punish them.

Dixon pushes back saying that he get's results. Foley tells him he's dropping him down a pay grade, and if he gets another complaint he'll be pounding a beat in uniform.
 
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"I get results"
Meanwhile Tommy Scalise (Merrill), a mid town hood, is running an illegal crap game in a suite of rooms in a Times Square Hotel. Newspaper reporter Ken Paine (Stevens) and his ex wife Morgan Taylor-Paine (Tierney) have snagged a "fish" from Texas and brought him up to the game.

 
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Morgan (Tierney) and Paine (Stevens)
 
The "fish" though, instead of dropping his wad manages to get up $19,000. At that point in the game Morgan declares that she has to work tomorrow and must go home. The Texas "fish" is all to happy to leave. Scalise mentions to him that it's not right to leave with all that cash and not give them a chance to win some back, but the "fish" counters that don't worry he's in New York City for the week and will be back to the game.

Ken is mortified and Scalise and his crew are ****. Ken confronts Morgan who insists she must leave. When she protests Ken slaps her. The 'fish" sees that and takes a slug at Ken. A short fight results in the "fish" knocked out and laying on the sofa and Ken and Morgan leaving.

Back out on patrol after their meeting, the patrol car carrying Dixon and Klein are called to a murder scene at a Times Square Hotel. It turns out the "fish" has gotten a knife through the heart and is dead in Scalise's suite.
 
 
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Scalise (Garry Merrill) 
 
Scalise points a finger at Paine saying he was pretty drunk. From dispatch they get a Pike Street address for Paine and head downtown. His brownstone apartment is empty but all his clothes and belongings are still there. Dixon says he' ll hang around and wait while Klein checks to see if he's out drinking in the neighborhood bars.
 
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Pike Street with Manhattan Bridge in the Background
Paine arrives at his flop and Dixon gives him the third degree. He tell's Paine that Scalise has pinned a murder on him. Paine, a belligerent drunk, refuses to go up to the station house with Dixon. After a brief struggle Dixon slugs Paine who falls down and hits his head on the floor. The fall actually kills Paine who, turns out,  was a war hero and had a silver plate in his head.

Panicked and thinking quick, Dixon get's a suitcase out of the closet, makes his apartment it look as if Paine grabbed his clothes and beat feet out of town.  Dixon drags Paine's body into an empty closet. Wearing Paine's trench coat he leaves the house and flags a cab down. Pennsylvania station he tells the cabby.  At the station ticket counter he buys a ticket for Pittsburgh and checks the suitcase into the baggage room. When he gets back to Pike Street Klein is waiting for him in the apartment. He tell's Klein that he got tired of waiting and figured he'd also check out more neighborhood bars. Klein reveals that apparently while he was gone Paine showed up and split. Dixon tells Klein to take a cab back to the precinct and organize a dragnet for Paine. He'll cruise around the neighborhood to see if he's still possibly nearby.

 
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Third Ave el or Manhattan Bridge subway?
When Klein heads off in a cab Dixon grabs Paine's body and hauls him into the hall. He hears a car squeal to a stop outside and ducks with the body behind a stairway. Jiggs Taylor (Tully), a cabby and Morgan's father comes into the hall and beats on Paine's door. Finding the door open and Paine gone he splits.

Dixon, once the coast is clear, gets the squad car, throws Paine in the back seat, and drives to the nearby East River. There, he knocks out a watchman and dumps Paine's body into the river.

Later, back at the squad room, Detective Thomas tells Dixon that they got a lead on the woman who was with Paine. Dixon heads to the salon where Morgan works as a dress model. He gets smitten with her, and takes her to lunch. At the restaurant he gets a call from the precinct telling him to report to an address under the Brooklyn Bridge. Paine's body was found floating in the river.

Later, Detective Thomas finds out about Jiggs going to visit Paine and suspects him as Paine's killer. It all goes Noirsville when Jiggs is arrested.

Noirsville
 
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The main difference in the novel is that Paine has Morgan as his girlfriend rather than as an ex wife. Dixon still gets rough with him and accidentally kills him. In the novel it's Morgan who is the suspect in Paine's murder.

The film was supposed to try and keep the burner going under the Andrews/Tierney magic that ignited in the film Laura. It does manage to create some sympathy for Dixon's character once his backstory is revealed. Scalise is played to the hilt by Gary Merrill, he comes off as sort of a less sleasy more suave, slicker version of most of the type of characters played by Dan Duryea. Merrill obviously got more traction out of this. He did make quite a few more noirs but I've never seen half of them, Another Man's Poison (1951), Phone Call from a Stranger (1952), Night Without Sleep (1952), The Human Jungle (1954). I have seen A Blueprint for Murder (1953), Witness to Murder (1954) and the Transitional Noirs The Savage Eye (1960), and The Incident (1967). 

Entertaining 8/10 Full review at Noirsville
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Panic In The Streets (1950) New Orleans Noir

 
The Granddaddy New Orleans Noir

The film opens with a credit sequence superimposed over a drive down Bourbon Street. Most of the classic neon signs and attractions are now sadly long gone. In the 1950's it's estimated that fifty different burlesque shows, striptease acts and exotic dancers plied their trade on Bourbon Street.

We see on the trek Lenny Gales Sugar Bowl. Lenny was a comedian from Buffalo, NY, in the Crescent City, they billed him "Gales Of Laughter," across the street is the El Mexico and El Rocco Bars/Restaurants. We pass The Original Toney' Spaghetti House at 212 Bourbon St. We see the Show Bar, with the Moulin Rouge across the street.  We drive past The Magic Lock Cocktail Lounge, Brennan's Vieux Carre' Restaurant, The Oriental Laundry (now Rick's Cabaret) the Gunga Den (now Stiletto's).

The Gunga Den's "Featured dancers during the 1950s-1960s included Von Ray the Texas Tornado (the Most Beautiful World’s Champion Flagpole Sitter), Carol Lynne (“Tanniger The Red Bird” who performed in a swinging bird cage), Penni Peyton (and her $100,000 Treasure Chest), Sandy Shore (the Shakin’ Queen of New Orleans), Wild Cherry and Kitty West (Evangeline the Oyster Girl)."  (Saint Charles Ave. Magazine)

We continue past The Famous Door Bar (still there), The Flamingo Lounge with The Treasure Chest Lounge across the street (gone). The Silver Slipper Club, Leon Prima’s 500 Club, Stormy's Casino Royal, The 5 O'Clock Club, and Rizzo's Restaurant, all gone, it's quite a tour of what we have lost, it would be nice to see that without the credits.
 

It's sort of a companion piece to The Killer That Stalked New York (1950). This go round the dead man found in the Mississippi is carrying pneumonic plague.

For those who may ask, pneumonic plague is a severe lung infection caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. The symptoms include fever, headache, shortness of breath, chest pain, and cough. These symptoms typically start about three to seven days after exposure. It is one of three forms of plague, the other two being septicemic plague and the more familiar bubonic plague.

The pneumonic form of plague may occur following an initial bubonic or septicemic plague infection.

 
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B*l*a*c*kie (Palance)
He was an illegal alien named Kochak (Lewis Charles),who jumped ship. He was a cousin to a man Poldi (Guy Thomajan) who hangs around with a small time racketeer named **** (Jack Palance) and his second banana Raymond Fitch (Zero Mostel). He was sitting in on a card game at B*l*a*c*kie's. He was winning but was getting too sick to continue playing. He gets up and leaves with a lot of ****'s money. **** with Fitch and Poldi go after him they corner him down by the river. **** kills him and takes back his money.
 
 
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When the police find the body and do an autopsy the coroner notices the man obviously was very sick, his blood shows a bacterial infection. They contact Lt. Cmdr. Clinton 'Clint' Reed M.D. of the U.S. Health Service who confirms the coroner's findings. Reed recognizes the bacteria as pneumonic plague.

Reed shifts into high gear. He has the body incinerated and has all those who came into contact with the dead man inoculated. Calling a meeting with the Mayor and all the relevant members of the New Orleans city government they develop a plan of action. They have about 48 hours to contain an outbreak. One main point he makes is the importance of not notifying the press in order to avert the "panic in the streets" of the title. A mass evacuation of New Orleans could potentially spread the plague across the U.S.

Reed is teamed with New Orleans Police Department Captain Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) and they start off at loggerheads with each other. Warren wants to use the press to try and get a handle on the man's associates while Reed thinks if he does that the killers will just slip out of town. Reed lets the police pull in all suspects and "stoolies." Reed takes off for the Seamen's Hall and offers $50 dollars to anyone who can identify him. That offer gets the break they are looking for.

For **** and Fitch all the un-explainable hoopla from the police over an illegal alien register to them as "he must have been carrying something valuable." They hound the now sick with plague Poldi, who they think is holding out on them. They want to know what he got from  Kochak.

The film directed by Elia Kazan is beautifully shot in high contrast Black & White by cinematographer Joseph MacDonald. The use of actual locations recalls the use of New York City in Dassin's The Naked City, and ten years in the future 1960's The Savage Eye.

Noirsville
 
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Lt. Cmdr. Clinton 'Clint' Reed M.D. (Widmark)

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The cast is excellent. There are some great sequences in the film. The intense scenes between Poldi, Fitch and ****, the chase in and on the roof of the coffee warehouse, the scramble of the fugitives like rats under the docks. It hits on all cylinders. 10/10 Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville
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Woman On The Run (1950) San Francisco Noir

 
Woman On The Run functions as a de facto "time capsule." It captures visually the San Francisco of 1949-50 the way The Naked City did for New York and The Savage Eye does for Los Angeles.

Though, the very opening sequence, where artist Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott) is walking his dog Rembrandt and witnesses an execution, takes place in Los Angeles. It's actually on the stairs that lead to the South Hill Street Terrace on Bunker Hill above the twin Hill Street Tunnels near downtown Los Angeles.

By the way, the North terrace above those same tunnels is where Audrey Totter takes a stroll in The Set Up and that North terrace was where the house  where Burt Lancaster lived stood in Criss Cross.
 
The film is the story of Frank (Ross Elliott), his wife Eleanor (Ann Sheridan), a dogged S.F.P.D. Inspector named Ferris (Brian Kieth), and a determined reporter who wants to get the story Dan Legget (Dennis O'Keefe).
 
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So, a car drives up to the end of a dead end street. It parks. We see two men talking. It gets ugly. A door opens. A couple of shots ring out. A body is dumped. Frank witnessed the whack. From the muzzle flashes Frank sees the killer. The killer in turn gets a couple of shots off at Frank when he spots him and realizes he was seen. The killer speeds off. Frank checks the dead man. Lights are going on in the surrounding houses. Frank yells to a man in a lit window to call the cops.
 
 
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The police screech up. We find out that the dead man was going to be a witness in a high profile criminal trial. Frank gets grilled by Ferris S.F.P.D who asks him what he saw. When Ferris hears that he saw the the killer, Ferris tells him that he's now a states witness himself. Ferris wants him down at H.Q. for his own protection. Frank tells Ferris that he's got to drop off his dog first. Frank heads to his house. He drops Rembrandt off with Eleanor, and instead of waiting for Ferris and going down to headquarters under police protection he splits out into the night.
 
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Eleanor (Ann Sheridan)
 
 
 
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 Ferris (Brian Kieth)
 
 
The rest of the film is Eleanor, Ferris, Rembrandt, and a pushy newspaperman Legget, trying to track down Frank as they range all over San Francisco. During this ensuing chase we learn that Frank is a very good artist but has no confidence in his work. He working as a window dresser to get by, and Eleanor have been struggling in their marriage. We also learn that Frank has been diagnosed with a heart condition. Legget uses Eleanor's struggling relationship with Frank as a wedge.
 
 
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Legget (Dennis O'Keefe)

Noirsville
 
 
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Woman On The Run was directed by Norman Foster who gave us Journey Into Fear (1943), and  Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948). It was written by Alan Campbell and Norman Foster and was based on the novel by Sylvia Tate. The cinematography was by Hal Mohr (An Act of Murder (1948), The Big Night (1951), The Wild One (1953)) and the music was by Arthur Lange and Emil Newman.

The film moves along at a great pace. It's not just a chase film but also an examination of love and marriage, trust and loyalty. All the actors perform flawlessly. Thank the Film Noir Foundation for finding and restoring a terrific film noir,(the only American print burned in a fire in 2008). 8/10 Full review with more screen caps at Noirsville
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Night Stalker (1972) Twilight Zone Neo Noir

 
"It Couldn't happen here."

Supernatural, Fantasy, Horror and SiFi based Noir have been around since the beginning. Classic Film Noir Era films that dealt with these subjects were Decoy (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), The Amazing Mr. X(1948), Fear in the Night (1947), The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), Alias Nick Beal (1949), Dementia (1955), and Nightmare(1956), there are probably a few more.

The Horror films to some extent and especially those produced by Val Lewton had very stylistic and atmospheric sequences extremely akin to Noir. Cat People (1942) and The Seventh Victim (1943) for example. Even some Fantasy/Dramas?Comedies included some very noir-ish sequences, think of the "Potterville" sequence of  It's A Wonderful Life (1946) or The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941).

All these examples predated the noir-ish Crime//Drama/Fantasy/Supernatural/Mystery melange type anthology TV series shows that would become very popular in the mid 1950's to mid 1960's. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–1962), The Twilight Zone (1959–1964), One Step Beyond (1959–1961)The Outer Limits (1963–1965). At the same time Transisional Noirs like Night Tide(1961), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and Seconds (1966)  were similarly supernatural, SiFi or fantasy based followed by Neo Noir's The Psychic Killer (1975), Blade Runner (1982), Angel Heart (1987), Delicatessen (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Lost Highway (1997), Dark City (1998), Mulholland Drive (2001), Sin City (2005)  Dark Country(2009), Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014). There are most likely more films of both Hollywood and Cable origins that fit above that I haven't seen, and continuing in this vein, probably some films that you may personally tune to that could be added also.

Producer, writer, director Dan Curtis (1927-2006) started his show business career as a salesman for NBC-TV in the 1950s and then went work for MCA. He worked his way up to producing, if I remember right it was a golf program.. It was during this time that he pitched this idea he had to ABC executives that was based on a dream he had had. ABC greenlighted the idea allowing him to assemble a creative team. The result was the at firat Noir-ish/Gothic soap opera called Dark Shadows. For a good dose of Noir cinematic memory, it's cast included a few Noir veterans, Joan Bennett (The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945), The Woman on the Beach (1947), Hollow Triumph (1948), Secret Beyond the Door... (1947), Highway Dragnet (1954)). Grayson Hall in Transitional Noirs Satan in High Heels (1962), and The Night of the Iguana (1964). and Thayer David Baby Face Nelson (1957).

The shows first tip over into the supernatural was with the ghost of Josette Collins then followed by the Laura Collins character who showed up from Phoenix, Arizona by way of "Egypt." A practitioner of the Egyptian Book Of The Dead, she attempts to steal David Collins, to join her on a funeral pyre where they will be incinerated and be reborn for another hundred years. That was about episode 120 plus. It's cast included a few Noir veterans, Joan Bennett (The Woman in the Window (1944), Scarlet Street (1945), The Woman on the Beach (1947), Hollow Triumph (1948), Secret Beyond the Door... (1947), Highway Dragnet (1954)). Grayson Hall in Transitional Noirs Satan in High Heels (1962), and The Night of the Iguana (1964). and Thayer David Baby Face Nelson (1957).

From there they went full bore supernatural/mad scientist/SiFi, dealing with a menagerie of creatures with "feelings," vampires, witches, werewolves, a frankenstein's monster "Adam,"zombies, ancient aliens a la The Cthulhu Mythos, and an "Igor" named Willie. They only missed the invisible man. The show was popular, it spun off two films House of Dark Shadows (1970) and Night of Dark Shadows (1971).

Dan Curtis's next project was The Night Stalker (1971) the tale of Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) Noir-ish newspaperman as de facto detective, tracking down a series of bizarre serial killer murders in Las Vegas. The bodies, all women, have their throats ripped out and are completely drained of blood. When Kolchack suggests to the police and the mayor of Las Vegas that they could be dealing with a vampire he's laughed at. For Noir cinematic memory no less than ten of the cast appeared in Classic Film Noir. Darren McGavin, Simon Oakland, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Charles McGraw, Kent Smith, Elisha Cook Jr., Stanley Adams, Virginia Gregg and Barry Atwater as Janos Skorzeny.

The film is carried masterfully by Darren McGavin. McGavin did 9 films starting in 1945 then a TV show Crime Photographer TV 51-2, then mostly guest parts until he played Louie the drug pusher in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), a couple more films including another noir The Case Against Brooklyn (1958), Then McGavin played Mike Hammer in the first TV series version that overlapped with another series Riverboat, then he did another Private Eye pilot TV called, The Outsider (1967), he played an ex-con private eye working the City Of Angels.

As a kid I remember McGavin most for quasi Western Riverboat and as David Ross private eye in The Outsider, the TV series that was spun off the TV film which I may or may not have seen. Fourteen years after Mike Hammer, The Outsider, created by Roy Huggins, only lasted a season. The character Ross was a loner, with no family. Huggins reworked that scenario, had him living in a trailer on the beach along the P.C.H, with his cranky father to the scenario, a police force buddy (like Mike Hammer had Pat Chambers) and a con friend to humanize the character even more. The reworked series was The Rockford Files. After 1970 there was about 10 year period where I was out in the boonies of Montana and didn't own or much watch a TV if you happened to live someplace where you picked up a signal.

My next encounter with the work of McGavin was as Sam Parkhill the Martian Pioneer in the TV miniseries The Martian Chronicles, And then his probably most memorable role to the majority of people as The Old Man Parker, in holiday favorite A Christmas Story (1983).

I didn't catch up to McGavin's Kolchak until about the turn of the century, and I still haven't seen the TV series.

Night Stalker - It takes a wooden Stake and two Hammers to Kill a Vampire.
 
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Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin)

Directed by John Llewellyn Moxey, adapted from the novel by Jeff Rice The Kolchak Papers by Richard Matheson (writer The Beat Generation (1959), Die! Die! My Darling! (1965), The Legend of Hell House (1973), and produced by Dan Curtis. The Night Stalker became ABC's highest rated original TV movie, it did so well it was actually released overseas as a theatrical movie and inspired a sequel TV movie titled The Night Strangler.

The cinematography was by Michel Hugo and music was by Bob Cobert.

Carl Kolchak is a pushy, eccentric, cynical reporter formerly from New York City who wears an out of style seersucker suit white loafers and a straw pork pie hat. He carries by a shoulder strap a Sony cassette recorder and totes either a Rollei 16mm subminiature camera, or a . He drives around in a slightly beat 1968 Chevrolet Camaro convertible that looks as if it was damaged by an under the hood fire.

The film begins in dive motel room. In a nice stylistic flourish A Sony TC-40 is giving us Kolchak's  Voice Over dietetic narration. We see Carl Kolchak laying on his bed proofreading his file to the narration.

Carl Kolchak [over the Sony cassette recorder speaker]: ........ This will be the last time I will discuss these events with anyone. So when you have finished this bizarre account judge for yourself its believability and then try to tell yourself, wherever you may be, it couldn't happen here.
 
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His file is about a series of brutal murders that took place recently in Las Vegas, and the official cover up that followed, when the authorities are afraid of  hurting the tourist and gambling biz. The victims are found completely drained of blood and with bite marks on their necks, oh, and what is found to be human saliva.


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The first victim was a casino dealer found stuffed in a garbage can. In another stylish flourish we get a sort of "Corpse eye view." from the autopsy table as the County Coroner and his team find not a drop of blood in her entire body.

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Dr.  Makurji (Larry Linville) far left.
 

The next victim is a showgirl who is found again drained of in the middle of a sand  based construction pad with no visible footprints around. Apparently she was not placed there but thrown there by someone with inhuman strength.

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A lot of the humor derives from the back and forth between Kolchak and is incredulous Editor Vincenzo (Simon Oakland).
 
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Vincenzo (Oakland) and Kolchak (McGavin)
Carl Kolchak: Did I say it was a Vampire?
Vincenzo: What does just this headline say?
Carl Kolchak: The story makes it clear.
Vincenzo: Vampire Killer in Vegas? Do I misread?
Carl Kolchak: It makes it clear!
Vincenzo:Did I misread or did you use the word vampire?
Carl Kolchak: Some screwball who imagines he's a vampire is loose in Las Vegas and people ought to be told!
Vincenzo:If there's a screwball loose in Las Vegas his last name begins with a K

Kolchak's one true ally is his old friend Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker) an FBI man stationed in Vegas

More chuckles in the exchanges revolving around the authorities and Kolchak,who first think, this is Vegas after all, and its obvious that they are dealing with some nutcase who thinks he's a vampire. The D.A played by Kent Smith suggests it's somebody .....

D.A. Pane: "High on pot or the hard stuff."
 
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D.A. (Kent Smith)
 
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County Sheriff Butcher (Claude Akins) 

 

 

But gradually as more victims are found, the police shoot him multiple times to no effect, and a regional blood supply is raided, (this is an up to date  vampire who even BTW passes himself off as Hematologist, and drives a 1971 Plymouth Sport Fury), Pane, County Sheriff Butcher (Claude Akins) Police Chief Masterson (Charles MacGraw) are all having to come to the realization, at Kolchak's needling, that they really are dealing with a real living dead vampire.



Kolchak's girlfriend Gail Foster (Carol Lynley) gives him a book on vampire lore, and at the next strategy meeting Kolchak suggests that all police offices are issued a cross, a wooden stake and a mallet. He also tells them that they might as well abandon their current methods because at night the creature is invincible.



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Bernie Jenks (Ralph Meeker), Chief Matheson (Charles McGraw) Kolchak

Noirsville

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Mickey Crawford (Elisha Cook Jr.)

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Janos Skorzeny (Barry Atwater)

It a nice mashup of Noir and Horror. McGavin is excellent. Barry Atwater as the vampire Janos Skorzeny is genuinely creepy, emitting an unearthly hissing growl when he is "on the bite." This is no reluctant Barnabas Collins vampire, or Dracula distinguished count. The creative decision was to make the vampire a bloodthirsty land shark. Bravo! 8/10

Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville

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Night Strangler (1973) Twilight Zone Neo Noir

 
Night Strangler - Down in the underground

The first film was extremely successful and the second instalment actually improved upon the formula. It garnered very strong ratings and ABC ordered a TV series.
 
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Elliot Bay Ferry
Directed by Dan Curtis, written by Richard Matheson. The cinematography was by Robert B. Hauser, and the music was Bob Cobert.

The film stars Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, Jo Ann Pflug as Louise Harper, Simon Oakland (who himself played a reporter in the Noir I Want To Live) as Tony Vincenzo, Scott Brady (younger brother of Lawrence Tierney  and a vet of six Classic Film Noir) as Capt. Roscoe Schubert, Wally Cox as Titus Berry, Margaret Hamilton (the wicked witch of the West from the The Wizard Of Oz (1939)) as Prof. Hester Crabwell, John Carradine (Fallen Angel (1945)) as Llewellyn Crossbinder, Al Lewis (The Munsters TV Series (1964–1966) ) as Tramp, Nina Wayne (sister of Carol Wayne Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (1966)) as Charisma Beauty, Virginia Peters as Wilma Krankheimer, Richard Anderson (a veteran of three Classic Noir and Classic SiFi film Forbidden Planet (1956) as Dr. Richard Malcolm/Dr. Malcolm Richards.
 
 
 
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Seattle Monorail as de facto 'el"


Carl Kolchak: This is the story behind the most incredible series of murders to ever occur in the city of Seattle, Washington. You never read about them in your local newspapers or heard about them on your local radio or television station. Why? Because the facts were watered down, torn apart, and reassembled... in a word, falsified.

Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin), is in Seattle after being run out of Vegas. He's in a bar with his Las Vegas Vampire story, telling it to anybody who will listen. The patrons are sort of off put. They humor Carl for a while then split.
 
 
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Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin)
Tony Vincenzo walks into the same bar hee hears Carl's familiar voice and asks the bartender a question.

Vincenzo: Take a look around that corner, and see if there isn't someone that looks like he just came from a road company performance of "The Front Page."

Vincenzo hires Kolchak to cover the story of the strangulation killing of a belly dancer. The one murder is followed by a series of killings all in the Pioneer Square area of Seattle in which all the victims, are not only strangled but have their throats literally crushed and then drained of a few ounces of blood from a puncture wound at the back of their necks. The kicker is that the coroner's report states that all the victims so far, had traces of rotting flesh on their necks.
 
Another witness tells the police that the killer looked "like a dead man." When Vincenzo publishes Kolchak's story the Seattle Chief of Police (Scott Brady) flips out.
 
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Kolchak and Capt. Schubert
Capt. Schubert: You know what I call that? Irresponsible yellow journalism. Fast buck journalism. The kind of seamy journalism one might expect to find is some second rate metropolis. The sordid brand of journalism which is based not on the public good but on the cash register.
 
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Mr. Berry (Wally Cox) "I envy you."
When Kolchak heads to the newspapers research department he runs into department head Titus Berry (Wally Cox). For Cox it's a natural, he had a knack for playing understated nerd type Poindexters. For me, he was probably best known for his repeated guest appearances on various game shows, but he did have a very popular TV show Mister Peepers which ran from 1952–1955. The show won him two Emmy nominations. He was also the voice of the animated cartoon character Underdog on Underdog (1964-1973). According to a mini bio at IMBd "His television persona was that of a shy, timid man in horn-rimed glasses who spoke in a tentative, though distinctly enunciated, voice. It was a persona that his long-time friend Marlon Brando said was completely at odds with the real man."
It's been said that his appearances on the The Hollywood Squares (Daytime) (1965), the quiet guy  with a keen knack for sarcasm, was probably closer to the real Cox. This film was his last movie.

There is a very humorous sequence between Kolchak and Berry.

Mr Berry: Here we go.
Carl Kolchak: Thanks.
Mr Berry: Most welcome. I envy you.
Carl Kolchak: You do?
Mr Berry: Research... that's where the joy lies.
Carl Kolchak: Joy.
Mr Berry: And the fascination. Let the others scurry about gathering the contemporary bits of gossip. This [points to book] is where the meat is found.
Carl Kolchak: Meat.

Berry, continuing his research, also discovers that there were similar killings in 1952, going further back similar M.O. killings have occurred in 1931 and every 21 years going back to 1889. Another fact was that each series took place in a period of eighteen days. He even finds a police sketch based on a witness description of the strangler looking like a corpse.

Berry tells Kolchak that "out of burning curiosity" finds a an old interview with Mark Twain and the picture and mention of a Dr. Malcolm Richards a Civil War veteran who was a member of the original staff of Westside Mercy Hospital in the Pioneer District. In the interview, Richards mentioned to Twain his series of tests on his theory of a life extending elixir using human blood.

When Kolchak goes to the site of the old hospital he finds a Malcolm Richard Clinic there. When entering the clinic Kolchak see's a painting on the wall of  the clinic's founder, Malcolm Richards who is the spitting image of Dr. Richard Malcolm things go Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
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 Louise Harper (Jo Ann Pflug)
 

 
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Professor Crabwell (Margaret  Hamilton)
 
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Dr. Malcolm Richard/ Richard Malcolm (Richard Anderson)
 
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Charisma Beauty (Nina Wayne)

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The film was as successful as The Night Stalker, and this resulted in ABC actually shelving a third TV Movie and deciding to develop the TV series and have it produced by Universal. 8/10. Full review with more screen caps in Noirsville.
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Cold Around The Heart (1997) Road Trip Neo Noir

 
"Why did ya do it? What makes a man go so low?"

It got lost in 1997, that's year that had an impressive trifecta of Jackie Brown, L.A. Confidential, and Lost Highway. The year before saw Fargo, Hard Eight, Mulholland Falls, and the little gem Hit Me (1996) come out. The year after Dark City, A Simple Plan, The Big Lebowski. It's an OK road **** with a bit of style and a lot of problems. No wonder nobody remembers it.

It was directed and written by John Ridley, the cinematographer was Malik Hassan Sayeed, the music was by Mason Daring.

The film stars David Caruso as Ned Tash, Kelly Lynch as Jude Law, Stacey Dash as Bec Rosenberg, Chris Noth as "T", John Spencer as Uncle Mike, Pruitt Taylor Vince as Johnny 'Cokebottles' Costello, Richard Kind as Attorney Nabbish.

Story
 
 
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Mojave Desert
We hear a voice over narration. A woman's voice is telling the story of Ned and Jude.
 
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Ned (David Caruso)
On the run. Mojave Desert. Getaway. Jewelry store smash and grab. It goes wrong. Three bodies doing the big cool. A modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Ned and Jude.
 
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Jude (Kelly Lynch)
Speeding down an Arizona two lane. Cop car intercepting. The lovers final embrace. A last kiss. Ned makes a grab for the jewels. Jude flips the handle on the door. Ned gets pushed out. Jewels stay with Jude. Ned goes body surfing on the black top. Ned in the road. Jude blows him a kiss. Jude pedal to the metal speeds away.
 
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Ned in the local hospital. One of those boonie first aid stations. A cop guarding the door. A grate guarding the window. Ned gets a visitor. Court appointed shyster. Nabbish, tells him he'll do all he can.
 
 
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Ned and Nabbish (Richard Kind)
Lawer Nebbish: I Figure you got eight years to live.....  Why did ya do it? What makes a man go so low?

That question triggers a flashback. What makes a man go so low? It's a woman. Jude, and we see them in bed. Jude is riding the baloney pony, They are hot and heavy. Suddenly Jude starts laughing. Coitus interruptus. ****. Ned asks what's so funny?

Jude: What if Jeannie and God had a fight?
Ned: What?
Jude: Jeannie from I Dream Of Jeannie.....
Ned: You crazy ****...

The mood broken. **** gone. One of her idiosyncrasies. She can't understand why he's so sensitive. They plan the heist.
 
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Back to the present. Ned wants to make his one call.

Lawer Nebbish: I don't know who you're calling but unless its God I wouldn't waste a dime.

Ned fakes taking a strong sedative. The nurse tells the guard cop that he'll be out for hours. The cop goes out to the hall. Ned gets out of bed. Spits out pills. Wedges a chair under the door knob. Gets dressed. Kicks out the window grate. Jumps out the window. Splits.
 
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Sometime later we see Ned in a used car lot buying a used Lincoln Continental, He pays cash and drives off. Juxtaposed with a similar sequence of Jude buying a Chevy Super Sport.

Later, Ned is driving down the highway on the prowl looking for Jude.  He picks up Bec a young pregnant black woman hitchhiking, running away from home. As soon as she gets in the car she pulls a gun on Ned and tells him to drive. He gets the gun away from her at a **** stop, and finds out that she's not pregnant. He takes pity on her when she tells him that her alkie father either beat her or raped her.
 
 
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 Bec Rosenberg (Stacey Dash)
Jude meanwhile is in Los Angeles trying to fence the diamonds to Johnny 'Cokebottles' Costello, but he tells her with the heat so high on account of the three dead bodies he won't touch the rocks. When Jude pulls a gun on him she finds out that Cokebottles has a hidden bodyguard ready to cut her down.  She leaves and ends up ditching the diamonds in one of the cars at a nearby deserted wrecking yard.
 
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Cokebottles (Pruitt Taylor Vince)
 
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Ned goes to the safe house of a an ex con buddy he calls his Uncle Mike. Mike take them in. While there Jude calls and Ned tells her that he is going to kill her. After talking to Jude, Ned calls his buddy "T" and tells him to be on the lookout for Jude
 
 
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Uncle Mike (John Spencer) and Bec
Things are cool until Mike tries to rape Bec Ned shoots him. When Ned finally meets up with Jude he finds that he can't shoot her, but he wants the diamonds. Jude seeing a way to screw Ned tells him that Cokebottles is holding them. She draws him the set up and expects that Ned will get killed when he tries to shakedown Cockbottles.

It all goes Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
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"T" (Chris Noth) and Ned 
 
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The film is quite stylistic but the script is a bit whimsical with too many coincidental sequences. David Caruso is good as Ned but he and Kelly Lynch have about zero chemistry. Stacey Dash and Pruitt Taylor Vince are convincing. Chris Noth is adequate but has the least to do.

The film does have a lot of visual style too bad the rest didn't hold up. The story has been done before. The equivalent of a borderline "B" film. It uses The Turtles "So Happy Together" for  the lovers theme, 30 years late, pretty lame there too. Watch it if you can find it, 6/10 Full review with more screen caps at Noirsville.
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They Drive by Night (1938) Brit Noir, Directed by Arthur B. Woods, starred Emlyn Williams, Anna Konstam, and Allan Jeayes. Williams a convict, just out of prison, is the main suspect in the murder of a taxi dancer gal pal, who he finds dead. The reason is that he's seen by the landlady acting strange as he leaves the boarding house. He splits, heading North with a lorry driver. 6-7/10.

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The Outsider (1967) A Late Tail Fin (TV) Noir

 
Wow!   

A nice surprise. A pre cable NBC TV movie with a lot of verbal and visual STYLE. How did this ever happen. It's the exception rather than the rule. I've seen too many crappy made for TV films.

As for The Outsider, I never saw this pilot film back in the day. I guess I just remember some of the subsequent series episodes. I remember liking them but honestly don't remember anything past that. This was quite impressive for 1967. It's also a missing piece in the Hard Boiled Detective filmology and a late Tail Fin Noir, our P.I. Davis Ross (McGavin) runs around in a black 1960 Ford Galaxy Starliner.

The Story

We see a sort of kaleidoscope effect multiple image shots of city traffic at night, THE OUTSIDER appears followed by the rest of the credits, McGavin we see billed first, then the newbies, then the Noir Veterans, O'Brien, Sothern, Wiseman, Davis, and Totter.

We cut to a sea of lights followed by two cars driving on Mulholland Drive.

David Ross:  [Voice Over narration] This is the largest city in area in the United States, unless you happen to live in Oklahoma, the North half is called The Valley, it's the sixth largest city in area in the United States, unless you happen to live in Oklahoma. The city is Los Angeles, split in half by this mountain range those cars are on Mulholland Drive, I'm in the one flashing its headlights. I'm the man you're seeing now.... but not this man, this one.
 
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 not this man, this one.
We watch as David Ross is pulled unconscious from the back seat of a 1960 Ford Galaxy Starliner. He's put into the driver's seat, his hands placed on the wheel, the car put into neutral and see the second car push it off the road. Ross awakes as it tips off the edge and rolls out of control down the hillside. Ross frantically pumping the brakes and trying to steer, it flips and rolls.
 
David Ross:  [Voice Over narration continuing] By the way my name is David Ross and you may be wondering how I got into a situation like this.....
 
 
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Talent Agent Marvin Bishop (Edmund O'Brien)
Our story now goes into flashback mode. Ross has an appointment with Mr. Marvin Bishop, a Hollywood Agent. Marvin tell Ross that he thinks one of his secretaries Carol Dorfman is embezzling the company.  He wants Ross to find out. Ross begins to tail her. A sequence has Ross sitting stakeout outside her Vista Mare apartment, we see her come out, get in her Corvair, back out in the street and drive off. Ross follows, we fade out and into a Jazz Club in a nice stylistic sequence.
 
 

David Ross (McGavin) is seated at the bar watching the woman he's tailing

The next day Bishop shows up in Hollywood.  At 6533 Hollywood Blvd. He spots Ross' miniscule shingle, angled at a 45 degrees so it can be read from the sidewalk.

He goes to Ross' office on the fourth floor the building. The outside door is open there is no secretary, Ross is asleep on his office couch. Bishop slams the door to wake Ross.

David Ross: At times like this I wish I had a secretary.
Marvin Bishop: You always sleep in the daytime?
 
 
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Have a seat.
David Ross: [still laying on couch] No sometimes I stay awake all day. [he sits up, grabs the seat cushion that his legs have been propped on and throws it over to an easy chair, it misses] Have a seat.
Marvin Bishop: [walks to the chair picks up the cushion off the floor places it on the seat he grabs his handkerchief and brushes to dust off the chair] There can't be much money in your line of work.
David Ross: Well money isn't everything Mr. Bishop.
 
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David Ross (McGavin)


So after offering Marvin a drink to "take the sting out of living" Ross gives him a preliminary report. He tells Marvin that she is just like any health american girl what she makes a week she spends. Only one thing odd about it he tells Marvin. She leaves the office at 5:30 every afternoon, spends an hour getting changed, leaves, goes to some private residence on the strip, goes in and comes out with a guy named Colin Kenniston.

David Ross: Name mean anything to you?
Marvin Bishop: Colin Kenniston, ya I think I've heard it.
David Ross: Ya. You've read it, in the idiot column, [reaches for a file] They always refer to him as Colin Kenniston the third.
Marvin Bishop:Yea yea, sure.
David Ross: Anyway they get into his car and go out and  have dinner, never anyplace close by, and she always drives back to her place alone.
Marvin Bishop:Is that all?
David Ross: No today I spent checking up on Kenniston, He has no known means of support.
Marvin Bishop:Yes but with a name like that...
David Ross: No one's ever heard of Colin Kenniston the first or second. [handing a photo to Marvin] He's very pretty, lots of capped teeth, and big blond hair.
Marvin Bishop:Couldn't he have some money of his own?
David Ross: The police don't think so. They suspected him of being involved once with one of the nastiest rackets there is shaking down homosexuals. The Vice Squad put a scare into him and he quit. They think.
Marvin Bishop:You had something to report all right.
David Ross: Any comment on the odd part?
Marvin Bishop:What odd part?
David Ross: They don't want to be seen together Mr. Bishop.
Marvin Bishop:You think she's paying his bills?
David Ross: Well That's one possibility. Isn't it?
Marvin Bishop:You don't really know anything do ya?
David Ross: Do you want me to stay on the case?
Marvin Bishop:Ya finish the week you really do need the money.
David Ross:  Ya.

His next tail of Carol and Colin is to Chinatown, where Colin ambushes Ross and getting a garotte wire around his neck.Colin tells Carol to frisk him. Ross has no gun or identification. Colin lets up the pressure and Ross seemingly falls unconscious to gutter. Carol screams and runs. Colin chases after her. Ross meanwhile scoots under a van and hides. When Colin with Carol in tow gets back to the scene, he sees Ross gone. Colin and Carol split.


Ross goes first to Colin, where he can't get in then heads to Carols. There he finds her door open and her dead with a stab wound on her bed.
 
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Carol is dead, stabbed. 

 

Ross call the police and then is about to leave when the phone rings. he picks it up. Someone asks for Carol, Ross hears background Funk music and glass tinklings, sort of like you'd would hear at a club or bar.

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Nora (Knight)
The call gives Ross an idea. He calls his gal pal Nora. He tells her that he needs her. He tells her that a guy just called him from "one of those "watusi joints" and he wants to find it. She replies that there's gotta be over a hundred of them in the city. He tells her its gotta be one of the places like The Galaxy or The Scene, whichever one is "in" at the moment. She agrees to help.
 
They find Colin at The Trip. Ross tells Nora to call the police about a fight outside the club. Ross approaches Colin and lures him outside. Once outside Ross announces that he's making a citizen's arrest. Colin is unimpressed. They fight and Ross knocks him out. Ross splits just before the cops show up and haul Colin away.

Ross heads back to his flop at The Hollywood Versailles Apartments alongside the Hollywood Freeway. He's met by the police and gets taken down for questioning. Both Ross and Colin are released. Ross now begins to shadow Colin. He spots him at The Trip with another of Marvin's secretaries Peggy Leydon. Ross begins to question Peggy about Carol and Colin. Peggy invites Ross to her apartment and there it all goes Noirsville as Peggy drugs Ross in a great visual sequence.

Noirsville
 
 
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Mrs Bishop (Audrey Totter) 


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Peggy (Shirley Knight) drugs Ross

 

 
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Guru Grimes (Joseph Wiseman)
 
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Tail Fins  1960 Ford Galaxy Starliner.
 
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Mrs. Kozzek (Ann Sothern)

 
This film has excellent performances by veteran actors McGavin and O'Brien, equally good are Sothern, Knight, and Wiseman in their supporting parts. The rest Davis, Malone, and Garrison are quite believable. Totter though, is surprisingly underused. Again I was impressed with it's picaresque humour and visual style. Needs a restoration and an official DVD. 8/10 Fuller review with more screencaps at Noirsville.
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Trick Baby (1972) Exceptional West Philly Neo Noir

 
You gotta ask yourself, at times, what the hell is going on here.

Not "here" in the present but in the rhetorical sense. What was responsible for the effect of a trend or say a tendency, which basically was to, back in the day, **** can a lot films into a sort of movie limbo. These are mostly non Hollywood films that came out after the demise of the Motion Picture Production Code. They were, maybe by the sheer volume of productions, all lumped together, the great and the mediocre, seemingly by caprice, into the various "exploitation genres" and not given any time to find much public appreciation or critical recognition. Grindhouse theaters predominately showed these particular films, and they were always considered by association, of poor quality or low (artistic) merit.

Add the fact that none of these films showed up uncut on major or local network TV in "premiers" close enough to the time they were actually in theaters to gather any type of a lasting cachet. They basically would be one run and done. Films between say roughly 1967 and 1980. By the 1980s, home video and cable movie channels were a means to screen and revisit some of these titles.

I cannot believe that Trick Baby hasn't found more acclaim. It's a great film, stand alone. It's a great Neo Noir and it's one of the best of the Blaxploitation films if you consider it as being such. It's story is a nice twist on a scenario that has been done before.  It has excellent cinematography that captures the West Philadelphia ghetto in an invaluable time capsule. It's cast of mostly unknown actors are all quite believable, not burlesqued, and treated quite seriously.
 
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Blue (Mel Stewart)
It's a film about a couple of con artists. It's right up there with some of more serious, non comedy con artist films. My personal favorites are, The Good The Bad And The Ugly, Paper Moon, The Sting, Confidence Girl, and Skin Game. Trick Baby is closest to Skin Game in that we have a Black actor and a White actor playing the con men, but Trick Baby puts a twist on that.
 
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White Folks (Kiel Martin)
Mel Stewart is the black actor of the team. Mel, played the part of the elevator operator who has dialogs with both  Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte in the last of the Classic Studio Noirs, Odds Against Tomorrow. Stewart plays the seasoned old school con man "Blue" Howard. Kiel Martin (probably best known as a regular on Hill Street Blues TV Series (1981–1987)) is a white actor who plays "White Folks" a black man who can pass for white. White Folk's mother, a black woman, was an old friend of Blue. Blue took him underwing and taught him the art of the con.

The two have teamed up in the West Philly ghetto, and operate non discrimination con games against the stupid. whether white, black, sinner, saved, even a cop.

The two use use their apparent racial differences as one of the main gimmicks of their cons, i.e. the white man taking advantage of the poor desperate black man, getting something for far less than it's worth.

 
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The artist at work

 

When the film opens we see Blue working as a literal con "artist." He's dressed in a sweat stained, torn "T" shirt, moving around a cheap dive hotel flop. He fills ashtrays with stubbed out cigarette butts, he scatters old newspapers papers around. He's creating a work of art. An installation. It's called "desperate man holed up for days in a four dollar room."

It's all for the benefit of the "mark" that Folks is bringing up, old man Frascatti (David Thomas). Blue plays the part of a small time hustler wanting to unload some stolen jewels. Folks, the part of the steerer, and a tough guy with just enough menace to exploit the situation by forcing the blackman to sell the jewelry for $10,000 way less than the $50,000 that Folks tells Frascatti that they're worth. The scam works like a dream, the outlay expense of $50 for the glass jewelry and the cost of the room parlays into $5,000 a piece. Easy money.
 
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The mark Frascatti (Dave Thomas) with White Folks and Blue

 

 

The guys celebrate, up at Blue's high rise apartment. Folks announces to to Blue.

White Folks: Blue I didn't wanna tell you this, But I ain't gonna play the con no more. I wanna lead a different kind of life, close to the earth, as far as a man can see, green fields rolling out towards the horizon.
Blue Howard: Don't do it Folks in your heart your a city boy.
White Folks: [takes a gulp of his Pinch whiskey} OK, I'll spend it all on hookers.

They both break into laughs, Cleo (Vernee Watson), Blue's wife is there but she is not happy with the even split and she doesn't trust Folks. Blue tells her again that he's black like us and ignores her.
 
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Cleo (Vernee Watson)
 

Folks takes off and down in the hood, meets a high society blonde Susan (Beverly Ballard) out on the street who can't flag down a cab. Folks offers to help, he stops a cab and each likes what the other sees, the two hook up, and make love.

 
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Susan (Beverly Ballard) and Folks

Folks later gets invited by Susan to a upper crust dinner party. While they eat he overhears a discussion of race relations between a doctor Howard Morrison (Donald Symington) and an investor Paul Phillips (Don Fellows).

Paul Phillips: You never should have lifted them up Howard.
Howard Morrison: Paul you conservatives make a mistake, you can't afford to strangle hope in people. Without Hope people will become dangerous.
Paul Phillips:  No Howard you liberals have let them invade our society, you give them jobs, political jobs.
Howard: Paul you miss the point, it's only the smart ones they move up.
Paul Phillips:  Ha! That makes it even worse.
Howard: You know we have to move them up, if we leave a smart one in the ghetto, he might develop into a leader against us. If we raise him up into white society we neutralized. He feels compelled to try to act like us, he loses his identity, and uh, his racial anger if he has any. He becomes alien to his brothers, and they realize he sold them out and they grow to hate him. He becomes worthless to them and safe for us. In fact in his love for the creature comforts, except for his color, he become one of us.

Folks see a couple of easy marks. He tells the men that he has an opportunity to make a half million dollars on a one hundred thousand dollar investment in ghetto tenement apartment houses. They question Folks on the details. He tells them that the group he's dealing with are local investors. He is putting up ten thousand they are coming up the ninety thousand.

Morrison and Phillips want to know if they can get in ahead of the local group if they offer the ninety thousand in cash. Folks tells them that he'll have to call the broker putting the deal together to see. Folks calls Blue who is sitting in a poker game and tells him about the con he's running. Blue will have to scramble to set up another "artistic" fake office or rent one temporarily and quickly. Some place in the ghetto as a front.

Meanwhile greedy old man Frascatti takes the fake jewels to a fence at a pawn shop who tells him he got took. Tell him they are worthless. Frascatti ends up have a heart attack and dies.

Fascatti was the uncle of a local Philly mob boss Nino Parelli (Tony Mazzadra). Parelli finds out from a 6th District black cop, Dot Murray (Dallas Edward Hayes) that the old man got conned just before he had his attack. Pirelli tells Dot that he'll pay five thousand apiece for the conmen. Dot splits to do some investigating and Pirelli has two hoods tail him.
 
 
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Dot Murray (Dallas Edward Hayes), Nino Parelli (Tony Mazzadra) five thousand a piece... center and rt.

 

It all goes Noirsville for Blue and Folks both as Dot and Pirelli begin to begin to close in on them.

White Folks: What do you want more The money or to keep on breathing.
Blue Howard: I want both
White Folks: You can't have both.

Noirsville

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Trick Baby's director was Larry Yurst. Larry was Philadelphia born and grew up in the suburbs of New York and Chicago. He was given a Super 8 camera when he was a teenager, graduated in theater from Stanford University and worked in television until he was able to start making his own films. He lives in Los Angeles where he is now an accomplished photographer. "I always keep a tight rein on the art direction for my films and personally scout to find the locations I need." He only has a few full length films to his credit, too bad, he showed a lot of potential.

The film was based on the book of the same name by Iceberg Slim (aka Robert Beck (born Robert Lee Maupin or Robert Moppins, Jr). He was a pimp who became an influential author in the black community. Born in Chicago he moved around with his family to Milwaukee,and Rockford before settling back in Chi town. After his old man split his mama ran a beauty salon. She made enough money to send him to Tuskegee University. He was still a punk though, and got kicked out for bootlegging. Back home again, he started pimping claiming in his biography to, over his 24 year career, have run a stable of over 400 women black and white on the streets. He got busted in 1961, and served 10 months of solitary confinement in a Cook County jail. In jail he decided he was too old for the streets. He drifted to Los Angeles married Betty and became an insecticide salesman.

Betty encouraged him to write the story of his life as a novel. Pimp was published in 1967. It was the first insider look into the world of black pimps. Trick Baby was his second published novel.

The supporting actors in the cast are all excellent. Of note Dallas Edward Hayes appeared in (Across 110th Street (1972), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)), Vernee Watson first film was Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) and she is still active to this day, Don Fellows was in The Detective(1968), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

The excellent cinematography was by Isidore Mankofsky, the only other film I saw of his was Somewhere in Time (1980), too bad he didn't do more similar films.

Screen caps are from the Soul Showcase DVD. A must see Neo Noir 8/10. Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville.
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Carnival Of Souls (1962) Noir From The Twilight Zone

 
A Low Budget Masterpiece.

I've seen Carnival Of Souls numerous times over the years. It's one of my favorite films.

It came out during what I now recognize was the Transitional Noir period. Back then I suspect not too many people had even knew of Film Noir, and even less heard of it. Classic Film Noir was cut loose from it's shackles with the demise of the Motion Picture Production Code, producers and  directors were free to exploit that freedom. Noirs went beyond simple crime stories and began to delve into areas that explored the dark side of the mind and human relationships, sex, fantasy, science fiction, madness, horror. The films that kept the visual components of Film Noir, it's basic DNA, so to speak are the Transitional Noirs.

Supernatural and fantasy based Noir have been around since the beginning. During the Classic Film Noir Era films like Alias Nick Beal (1949), Repeat Performance (1947), The Amazing Mr. X (1948), Fear in the Night (1947), The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), Nightmare(1956), covered roughly the same territory, there are probably a few more. You can possibly even include It's a Wonderful Life (1946) for the Noir-ish sequence "Potterville" and Val Lewton's The Seventh Victim (1943). David Lynch's Lost Highway (1997) practically covers the same type of territory but without the Judeo-Christian iconography.

Television in the 1950s was seriously syphoning off the crime based stories (along with familiar "B" unit actors) from Hollywood and a lot of the shows they produced were quite Noir-ish, Naked City, Mike Hammer, Johnny Staccato, Peter Gunn, etc., etc.. Television also, like film, was keeping the stylistic Noir components but bending and twisting it in new ways. It "tuned" noir but it wasn't necessarily always about crime, Alfred Hitchcock Presents was one the original Noir-ish anthology series, others were Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond.  

Carnival Of Souls I saw as a kid. I was probably about 12 or 13 years old. It was on late night TV, one of New York City's local channels, WNEW, WPIX, WOR, which I couldn't tell you, probably in the mid 60's. It "tuned." It was one of those films that can really creep you out and I've never forgot it.  It fit right in with The Twilight Zone. If you are a Aficionoirdo or a Noirista and a first time watcher and have no idea what it's about at first it may also "tune" Noir for you.
 
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It's a stylish mood piece that builds an impending dread to the accompanying eerie cacophony of demented organ music. The style is even evident in the titles.

A young woman Mary Henry (Candace Hilligoss) is cruising up and down the main drag of Lawrence, Kansas, with two of her friends (Sharon Scoville and Mary Ann Harris) in a 1949 Chevrolet Fleetline Special. It's what you do for fun in these little hick towns. A guy (Larry Sneegas) and his buddy driving a souped up 1935 Chevrolet Master De Luxe, challengers them to a race.

The girls accept. They race out of town. At the one lane bridge over the runoff swollen Kaw River they go head to head across. The De Lux crowds the Fleetline. The Fleetline swerves against the wooden bridge rail, she catches a tire. The car breaks through and drops into the drink. It sinks. The police come. A crowd gatherers, Grapple hooks are tossed in the river.
 
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A cry is heard the crowd on the bridge runs to one of the mid river abutments. A woman is seen struggling in the silt of the built up bar behind the abutment. It's Mary Henry she has escaped from the submerged car. Mary is in shock and disoriented.
 
 
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Mary, dazed and confused
Mary was an organist and apparently test-played the pipe organs manufactured at the Reuter Organ Company in Lawrence (still to this day). She had been hired as a church organist in Utah and once recovered from the shock of the accident, decides to drive straight through to Utah. Before she hits the road in her 1961 Chevrolet Impala she stops on the bridge over the Kaw River. They are still dragging the river for the wreck and the bodies of the other two girls.

Mary heads West. It's about a sixteen-seventeen hour 1,100 mile trip. While driving at dusk, Mary begins to suffer perhaps the effects of post traumatic stress. Or is she tired and just hallucinating?
 
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She starts to see things, a strange pasty faced man (director Herk Harvey) looking in her side window or just her reflection? Her radio emits erie expressionistic organ music.  She changes channels but they are all playing the same tune. Suddenly the man appears in the road in front of her, she swerves and goes off the road. Did she just fall asleep at the wheel and drove off the embankment?
 
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She puts the car in reverse and backs back onto the highway. Near the end of her trip she passes, on the horizon a large pavilion it seems to draw her attention. In Salt Lake City she asks a gas station attendant about the pavilion. He tells her it was a dance hall and and an amusement park at one time. She also asks for directions to her boarding house.

At the boarding house she rents a room from Mrs. Thomas (Frances Feist) and meets her sleazy peeping tom neighbor John Linden (Sidney Berger). John wants to play hide the sausage with Mary but Mary wants no part of him. That evening, Mary begins seeing the pasty faced man again but no one else does.
 
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Soon, Mary begins to have disorienting phases where she seems to pass into another dimension, she is invisible and inaudible to the world. Nobody sees her and nobody hears her. It's as if she doesn't exist. One phase happens in a department store. The phases begin when the world seems to ripple like the surface of water. Mary wanders around in silence. I noticed this last go round that she comes back to the world whenever she touches a branch of a tree.
 
 
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At this point the image ripples like water and all goes silent one of her phases begins.

Mary's job as the organist goes South when during one of her phases in a trance like state, she switches from playing an inspirational hymn, to some eerie discordant dirge. The minister requests her resignation.

Mary warms abit, out of necessity, to Linden because now she is genuinely afraid of being alone, she agrees to go out on a date. When they return to the boarding house  she lets Linden into her room. Linden thinks that maybe he'll soon be rounding the bases. However, Mary sees the pasty faced man in the mirror and cracks up. Linden thinks she's insane. After another hallucinatory sequence she is uncontrollably and mysteriously drawn back to the deserted pavillion on the lake.

Noirsville  
 
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The old  Reuter Organ Company building in Lawrence, Kansas
 
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You have the Noir stylistic cinematography, an alienated and obsessed character, with a bizarre denouement of sorts at a sensational location.

So much was done with so little. The budget was $17,000. It's like an expanded, artistically well made Twilight Zone Episode.  I've always liked it for its subtle eeriness, it's cinematography, its mostly amateure actors and its use of rural Kansas and isolated pavilion at Saltair, Utah.

Everybody should see this especially the Criterion pristine DVD release with the added scenes. 9/10  Full review with more screen caps here Noirsville.
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Hit And Run (1957) Wrecking Yard Noir

 
Written and directed by Hugo Hass who acted and directed a number of poverty row Film Noir, and based on a story by Herbert O. Phillips. The cinematography was by Walter Strenge and the Music by Franz Steininger..

Hit And Run stars Cleo Moore (711 Ocean Drive (1950), On Dangerous Ground (1951), Women's Prison (1955), and Over-Exposed (1956)) as Julie Hilmer, Hugo Haas as Gus Hilmer and hisTwin Brother, Vince Edwards (six classic Film Noir and Neo Noir The Mad Bomber (1973)) as Frank,
Dolores Reed as Miranda, Mara Lea as Anita, Pat Goldin as the Undertaker, John Zaremba as Doctor, Robert Cassidy as the Sheriff, Carl Milletaire as the Lawyer, Dick Paxton as the Waiter, Julie Mitchum as Circus Girl Lion Tamer.

Another low budget Noir from Hass, that all follow variations of the same formula. The "Hass" formula being an average schlub who usually meets a woman (usually a blonde) who is just a little more than he can handle. He marries her. She takes advantage with the nearest warm body. The schlub pulls a neat twist some way or another and turns the tables on his wife and her lover.
 
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Gus Hilmer (Hugo Hass)
In this film Hass plays Gus Hilmer a garage/wrecking yard owner. In Pickup he plays a railroad section man. In this film he meets a sort of club stripper/dancer Julie at a nightclub. In Pickup he meets a floozie at a traveling carnival.

Julie and Guss hit it off and get married. In this film his helper at the wrecking yard Frank steals his wife away. In Pickup it's the helper who works the section with him who wins his wife's affections.
 
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Night club
 
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Julie (Cleo Moore)
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Frank (Vince Edwards)
 
 
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Gus' Wrecking Yard
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married
 
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Gus' Wrecking Yard

In this film Hass has a twin brother David who has just gotten released from San Quintin. He does not tell his wife about him because he is ashamed. Gus sets David up in a house on some property nearby that he owns. The two lovers think that Gus just walks to the property in the evenings for exercise. The the two lovers hatch a plan to murder him by automobile as he walks back on the street.

The beauty of Frank's plan is that he puts together a wreck out of various derelict cars in the yard gets it running, and once it serves its purpose he'll park it back in a row of wrecks and strip it down to a hulk again.
 
 
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looking for the right car and getting the wrecked car ready to run again

However, by mistake Frank and Julie run over Gus' brother David. The police, who know nothing of the brother assume that the dead man is Gus and Julie makes a positive identification.
 
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waiting for Gus
Gus who has been holed up at his other property first makes an appearance to Julie at his own funeral as an ersatz "ghost."  He then haunts his house at the wrecking yard showing himself to Julie through a window. Tiring of the ghostly fun and games Gus then assumes his brother's identity and introduces himself to Julie and Frank as David. After the will is read David inherits half of the business and property. He moves into Gus' house, taking over the office room while Julie remains in the house and Frank in the attached attic apartment.. There Gus makes himself a general nuisance and keeps tabs on "widow" Julie and Frank.

In Pickup Hass goes suddenly deaf, he gets his pension from the RR and the twist in that film is that on a visit to town he gets sideswiped by a vehicle on the street gets knocked to the ground and hits his head on the pavement. His hearing is restored by the blow but he tells no one, and in doing so gets to eavesdrop on the two lovers as they, around the dinner table, plot to kill him and make it look like an accident.

In Hit And Run it all goes Noirsville when a Amazon circus lion tamer takes a liking to Frank and this Julie gets jealous.

Noirsville
 
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The beauty of a Hugo Hass' productions were that so much was done on a shoestring, these films were probably shot in less than two weeks. Anybody with say a Canon EOS 70D and a boom mike and a handful of actors could easily make a similar film. The on location sets were two houses, a wrecking yard, a service station, a couple of cars and some interiors.

It's your typical low budget Hass Noir, watchable, a 6/10. Could use a restoration, screencaps from and online streamer.

Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Kiss Me Deadly (1955) Nuclear Noir

 
"Remember me."

It's a Classic Film Noir directed masterfully by Robert Aldrich. It's one of the first of the Tail Fin Noirs where you get a sample of the new Pop Jet Set to come. It's also a sort of interesting take on Pandora's Box. It has a great a screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides along with some additions by (uncredited) Robert Aldrich. The story is based on trashmaster Mickey Spillane's Kiss Me, Deadly with it's iconoclast, misogynist P.I. Mike Hammer.  It's similar in the following respect to the Darren McGavin - Hammer TV 1958-59 series which was also based on Spillane's character but was composited with novelist Frank Kane's Johnny Liddell also a NYC P.I. The result in that series is Hammer lite.

In Kiss Me Deadly A.I. Bezzerides' alterations include transposing Hammer to Los Angeles, gone is the .45 Colt M1911A1, the trench coat and fedora/pork pie hat, and changing the narcotics angle in the original novel into a more, then current issue, of a stolen sample of fissionable material, dubbed by Velda as the "great whatzit?" Hammer is an antihero here, no shining knight, he's out for what's in it for him.

It's got loads of visual style that convey a moody atmosphere that smacks ya upside the head right from the get go.

Darkness. Bare running feet. Pavement. A naked woman in a trench coat sprinting down the highway.  Breathing heavy. Trying to flag down a car. Desperate. She stands on the centerline and forces a porsche skidding in a cloud of dust off the road.
 
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Christina Bailey (Cloris Leachman)
It's a Californicated Mike Hammer. He's got attitude, a head of hair, and drives a ragtop car so he can feel the wind through it.

The porsche has stalled out. The radio tinkles West Coast jazz. He steps on the starter. Spinning not catching. The woman comes over. Hammer sneers. He's still a Hammer with attitude. You know that if that porsche had started the woman would be picking gravel out of her teeth and crotch.
 
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"You almost wrecked my car!" (Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer
Mike Hammer: You almost wrecked my car! Well?
Christina Bailey: [panting out of breath]
Mike Hammer: Get in!

Christina gets in. The porsche starts. They drive off. Nat King Cole croons. Appropriately it's "I'd rather have the blues, than what I've got." The credits roll from top to bottom. Style!
 

Mike and Christina drive down the highway. Mike asks questions.

Mike Hammer: What's this all about? I'll make a quick guess. You were out with some guy who thought "no" was a three-letter word. I should have thrown you off that cliff back there. I might still do it. Where are ya headed?
Christina Bailey: Los Angeles. Drop me off at the first bus stop.
[Mike notices Christina is flashing some skin]
Mike Hammer: Do you always go around with no clothes on?
 
 
Christina and Mike don't get very far down the road. They first stop at a filling station, then get stopped by a police roadblock. The  copa are looking for a woman. An escapee from a psychiatric sanitarium, who fits Christina's description. Mike pretends Christina is his wife. They get through.

Mike Hammer: So you're a fugitive from the laughing house.
Christina Bailey: Get me to that bus stop and forget you ever saw me. If we don't make it to the bus stop...
Mike Hammer: We will.
Christina Bailey: If we don't, remember me.
 

The porsche gets run off the road by a 1954 Cadillac Fleetwood 75. Hammer laying on a box spring mattress, wakes up out of a doped up stuper to a woman screaming hysterically. Somebody is taking a set of channel locks to a nude Christina. We only see her twitching legs.
 
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An unconscious Mike, along with Christina's body, are placed in Mikes porsche and then pushed by the Caddy through a wooden guardrail and off a hill. The porsche bursts into flames.
 
 
 
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Tail fins
 
 
 

Mike Hammer's West Coast incarnation is a "bedroom" dick. A private detective who makes most of his bread a butter specializing in divorce cases. He's got a modern looking apartment with an art tchotchke filled sunken  living room that has a state of the art reel to reel automatic telephone answering machine and recorder built into a wall. Hanging from pegs in a foyer hallway are various cameras,  binoculars in a corner a tripod, tools of the surveillance trade. He's sort of a sleazy womanizer.

He pimps out a willing Velma to straying husbands, takes compromising photographs of them together and presents the evidence to the wives to force favorable settlements.

Hammer is sort of like Spillane who pimped out the Hammer character to whoever gave him cash for the rights. Hammer for a price is obviously open to interpretation.


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The last paperback cover above, with the girl in a light chenille bathrobe holding a gun on Mike Hammer and this sequence below in Kiss Me Deadly, of Lily Carver aka Gabrielle played by Gabby Rodgers, doing the same below, depicts events in the actual end of the novel. However in the film it is another animal entirely and it's just another interesting sequence in the spiral to the denouement. I'll go back to the end of the novel at the end of the piece.

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So Mike survives, waking up in a hospital with Velda and Pat Murphy gazing down at him.
 
 
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Velda and Lt. Pat Murphy

Lt. Pat Murphy: Three days ago, I was figuring I'd have to finance a new tux to bury the corpse.

Mike recovers enough for Pat to try and get some answers, something is obviously up. Pat is being quite evasive and Mike is lucid enough to pick up on it.

When Mike is discharged from the hospital he is immediately picked up by Federal Agents and whisked away for more grilling. They do most of the talking, belittling Hammer for their own amusements. They are getting their jollies for the week. They are portrayed overly priggish. They actually come off looking worse than Hammer, you wonder if the lead agent (Robert Cornthwaite) who remarks "open the window" is wearing a la Hoover women's underwear .

Mike Hammer: All right you got me convinced I'm a real stinker. Now if that's all you got on your minds I'd like to get along home.
F.B.I. Agent: Yes I know, your anxious to get back to your life's work. You're free to go. [Hammer gets up] Open a window.

Mike tells them nothing, but is now interested in getting some answers himself.

Mike Hammer:  he was a cute kid. She had a way of needlin' a guy. There'll be a long pause before those characters get a line on who killed her.
Lt. Pat Murphy: They aren't fast enough, you could do it a lot better. Is that it. Now Mike who do you think you are?
Mike Hammer: What's the pitch Pat?

Mike Hammer: An ordinary little girl gets killed and it rings bells all the way to Washington. There's gotta be a pitch... I picked up a girl. If she hadn't gotten in my way, I wouldn't have stopped. She must be connected with somethin' big.
Lt. Pat Murphy: Mike, why don't you tell us what you know? Then step aside like a nice fella and let us do our job.
Mike Hammer: What's in it for me?

Mike picks up from his friend and mechanic Nick a rental 1950 MG TD to continue his investigation.
Later in Mike's apartment Mike and Velda discuss the recent events.... Mike asks what she found out about Christina.


Velda: Christina Georgina Rossetti. Poetess, English, born 1830, died 1894. Your Christina was being held in that hospital for interrogation... What's the point of all this, if it's any of my business?
Mike Hammer: She told me if I dropped her off at the bus station, I could forget her. But if she didn't make it, she said, "Remember me."
Velda: So, remember her. She's dead. But I'm not dead. Hey, remember me?
Mike Hammer: Yeah. I remember you from somewhere.Velda tells Mike that a man named Ray Diker called while he was in the hospital. Diker is a newspaper science editor who disappeared and went into hiding. He's holed up in a place on Flower Street.

Mike picks up from his friend and mechanic Nick a rental 1950 MG TD to continue his investigation.

He drives to Flower, picks up a tail. Spotting him Mike leads him into a trap. When the man pull a knife, Hammer is ready. He beats his head against a wall, then throws him down the stairs above the Third Street tunnel.

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Mike locates Diker in a flop on Flower near Chinatown. He has been severely beaten. Terrified Diker tells Mike that Christina's last name was Bailey and gives him her last known address.

When Mike visits the Queen Anne boarding house on Bunker Hill where Christina lived, he learns that her roommate, Lily Carver, is gone and left no forwarding address. He grabs a book of poetry Sonnets of Christina Georgina Rossetti. A moving man Mike encounters outside on the street tells Mike he knows where Lily moved to. He whispers the Jalisco Hotel.
 
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When Mike enters her flop, Lily is pointing a gun at Mike. She tells him she is frightened after strange men came to question her after Christina's death. Again this scene with different dialog is the original novels ending sequence.

When Mike gets back to his apartment he gets a call offering a gift if he will keep his nose out of the Christina affair. In the AM Mike finds a brand new 1954 Chevrolet Corvette C1 parked behind the MG. Mike, suspicious gets Nick to go over it. They find two bombs the "obvious" dynamite one on the starter meant to be found, and another pip bomb attached somehow to the speedometer designed to detonate when the car reaches a certain speed.

Mike asks Nick to check around to see who may have wired the Corvette. Mike heads to Velda's.

Mike Hammer: We're gonna steer away from these penny-ante divorce cases for a while. I've got a line on something better. That girl I picked up was mixed up in something big.
Velda: And a cut of something big could be something big.
Mike Hammer: I want you to find out all you can about her.
Velda: First, you find a little thread, the little thread leads you to a string, and the string leads you to a rope, and from the rope you hang by the neck. What kind of a girl was she, this friend of yours, Christina?

She also tells Mike that Diker called her again, dropping more names connected with Christina. When Mike checks out these leads he finds out that there were two more automobile "accidents" connected with Christina. The same M.O.

Mike visits a friend Eddie Yeager a boxing gym trainer. He asks about a fighter named Kowalski. He was thrown in fornt of a truck. Eddie warns Mike that two mob torpedos Charlie Max and Sugar Smallhouse are making the Eddie tells nobody about anything. They work for Carl Evelo a mobster.

 
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Jack Lambert as sugar Smallhouse, Jack elam as Charlie Max, and Leigh Snowden as Cheesecake 

Evelo far right, at his pool party


Evelo has a mansion with a pool. Around the pool are all the hammer-tomically correct babes of the film plus Evelo's voluptuous step sister Friday.

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Friday (Marian Carr )
 
 
 
Friday: Who are you?
Mike Hammer: Who am I? Who are you?
Friday:  I'm Friday. I'd have been named Tuesday if I'd been born on Tuesday. I'm Carl's sister, half-sister. Same mother, different father. You know, you're not like the others - Carl's friends, I mean.
Mike Hammer: Maybe that's because I'm not his friend.
Friday:  Oh, wonderful. Then you can be my friend, all mine; nothing to do with Carl.

Inside the mansion Friday comes on to Mike who declines. Mike confronts Evelo after easily taking down Sugar Smallhouse and frightening Charlie Max. Evelo tries to bribe Mike who tells him no dice.

Mike next visits the Hillcrest Apartments another converted flop hotel to question Carmen Trivaco who tells Mike that his friend Nicholas Raymondo was an atomic scientist who had an important secret before he was killed in a pedestrian/auto accident.

Mike heads back to the Hotel Jalisco where he finds Lily hiding in the basement. He takes her to his apartment to hide her there. When Nick is killed by hydraulic jack, Velda is kidnapped and the real Lily Carver's body was found floating in the Pacific it all goes Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
 
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Juano Hernandez as Eddie Yeager and Mike
 
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Clay Street and Angels Flight
 
 
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Mady Comfort as Nightclub Singer 
 
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Albert Dekker as Dr. G.E. Soberin

 

 
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Percy Helton as Doc Kennedy

 

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Kiss me Mike. . .

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Lt. Pat Murphy: Now listen, Mike. Listen carefully. I'm going to pronounce a few words. They're harmless words. Just a bunch of letters scrambled together. But their meaning is very important. Try to understand what they mean. "Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, Trinity."

I mentioned earlier the novels ending sequence. It has Mike who has just shot Dr. Soberin dead, confronted by Lily Carver who has just emerged from an alcohol bath wearing a thin robe.

"Beautiful Lily with hair as white as snow. Her mouth a scarlet curve that smiled. Her body a tight bundle of lush curves that swelled and moved under a light terrycloth robe. Lovely Lily who brought the sharpness of the alcohol bath in with her so that it wet her robe so that there was nothing there, no hill or valley no shadow that didn't come out....

Gorgeous Lily with my .45 in her hand." (She shoots him in the side) On the floor in  pain Mike fumbles for a cigarette.

"I thought I almost loved you once. More than . . . him. But I didn't Mike. He would take me as I was. He was the one who gave me life, at least, after. . . it happened. he was the doctor. I was the patient. I loved him. You would have been disgusted with me. I can see your eyes now, Mike they would have been revolted....

Look at me Mike. How would you like to kiss me now. You wanted to before... You wanted to kiss me . . . so kiss me."

Her fingers slipped  through the belt of the robe, opened it. Her hands parted it slowly. . . until I could see what she was really like. I wanted to vomit worse than before. I wanted to let my guts come up and felt my belly retching.

She was a horrible caricature of a human! There was no skin, just a disgusting mass of twisted puckered flesh from her knees to her neck making a picture of gruesome freakishness that made you want to shut your eyes against it.

The cigarette almost fell out of my mouth. The lighter shook in my hand but I got it open. 
"Fire did it Mike. Do you think I pretty Now?" She laughed and I could hear the insanity in it. The gun pressed into my belt as she kneeled forward bringing the revulsion with her. "You're going to die now. . . but first you can do it.  Deadly. .  . deadly. . . kiss me."

The smile never left her mouth and before it was on me I thumbed the lighter and in the moment of time before the scream blossoms into the wild cry of terror she was a mass of flame tumbling on the floor with the blue flames of alcohol turning her white hair into a black char and her body convulsing under the agony of it. The flames were teeth that ate, ripping and tearing, into scars of other flames, and her voice the shrill sound of death on the loose. 

I looked, looked away, The door was closed and maybe I had enough left to make it." 
 
The End


Hammer in this incarnation still a sort of bull in a china shop. He gets quite far in his investigation even though he doesn't possess all the crucial facts. He's quite thuggish, threatening witnesses smacking around reluctant informers, and quite easily handles mob enforcers. 

The cinematography was by Ernest Laszlo (D.O.A. (1949), M (1951), ), the Music was by Frank De Vol. The film stars:

Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer
Albert Dekker as Dr. G.E. Soberin
Paul Stewart as Carl Evello
Juano Hernandez as Eddie Yeager
Nick Dennis as Nick Va Va Voom
Wesley Addy as Lt. Pat Murphy
Marian Carr as Friday
Maxine Cooper as Velda
Cloris Leachman as Christina Bailey
Gaby Rodgers as Gabrielle (Lilly Carver)
Nick Dennis as Nick
Jack Lambert as Sugar Smallhouse
Jack Elam as Charlie Max
Jerry Zinneman as Sammy
Leigh Snowden as Cheesecake
Percy Helton as Doc Kennedy
Mady Comfort as jazz singer
Strother Martin as Harvey Wallace
Kitty White as Vocalist in club
James Seay as FBI agent
Bing Russell as Police Detective
Paul Richards as Paul Richards
Sam Balter as Radio Announcer (voice)
Eddie Beal as Sideman
Marjorie Bennett as Manager
Fortunio Bonanova as Carmen Trivago
Ben Morris as Radio Announcer
Leonard Mudie as Athletic Club Clerk

One of the high watermarks of the latter end of Classic Film Noir,. It boasts some excellent cinematography combined with inventive editing. It uses Bunker Hill to great advantage while firing on all cylinders and moving along at a quick pace, it has an ingenious sound design that at times shocks by being purposely out of sync which adds to the ambiguousness of the inky black nightmare-ish story. It has a great cast of Classic Noir Vets that provide cinematic memory complimented with some relative unknowns and newbies. It builds suspense in increments with events finally spiraling out of control in a climactic nuclear meltdown. Screen caps from Criterion DVD 10/10  A fuller review with more screen caps at Noirsville
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Undertow (1949) Chicago Noir

 
Undertow is a one of those average Noirs that usually gets neglected when Aficionoirdos make lists.

It's a decent effort about an ex gangster and ex con who served in WWII, and made friends with a fellow soldier whose family owned a Sierra Nevada hunting/fishing lodge.

Directed by schlockmeister producer/director William Castle known for House on Haunted Hill,  The Tingler, 13 GhostsHomicidal, Mr. Sardonicus, and Rosemary's Baby. Written by Arthur T. Horman and Lee Loeb (screenplay) and based on a story by Arthur T. Horman.

Cinematography was by Irving Glassberg (director of photography) and an uncredited Clifford Stine.

The film stars the younger brother of notorious Hollywood brawler Lawrence Tierney, Scott Brady as Tony Reagan, John Russell as Danny Morgan, Dorothy Hart as Sally Lee, Peggy Dow as Ann McKnight, Bruce Bennett as Reckling, Gregg Martell as Frost, Robert Anderson as Stoner, Dan Ferniel as Gene (as Daniel Ferniel), Rock Hudson as Detective (as Roc Hudson), Charles Sherlock as Cooper, Anne P. Kramer as Clerk (as Ann Pearce), and Robert Easton as Fisher
 
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Tom Reagan (Scott Brady)
Tom Regan, a Chicago based ex con, survived WWII his good service buddy from Nevada didn't. Tom gets to know his buddy's Reno area family after the war, and becomes in time a sort of surrogate son. Tom wants to invest in the lodge and become a partner with his buddy's kin. But first he has to tie up a few loose ends back in Chicago. One of the loose ends is his girlfriend who is also the niece of the mob boss Big Jim whose crew he used to work with. Tom wants to propose to her and bring her to the lodge.

Dropped off in Reno to catch his plane, Tom killing some time downtown, runs surprisingly into a mob associate Danny Morgan. Morgan is running a casino for Big Jim and the old Chicago mob.
Danny tries to convince Tom to hang around and help him out with the casino.

Danny: Lots of sunshine, steady supply of suckers. And loads of lovely, lonely, loaded ladies.

Danny and Tom shoot the breeze and they discover that they are both engaged. They show off their respective rings.
 
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Danny (John Russel)

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shootin' the breeze in Danny's casino

Danny hangs out in the casino. He bumps into Chicago school teacher Ann McKnight. Later at a crap table he meets her again. They like what each other sees.
 
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the cute meet Ann (Peggy Dow and Tom)

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They like what each other sees.

On the flight back she is on the same plane next to an empty seat. They sit together, chat, get along. It's plausible enough that you buy into the scenario.

 
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Ann finding out that Tom is on his way to propose to Sally
At Chicago Tom is met by the police. One of them is his old friend Detective Charles Reckling. They've been tipped. Tom begs off his offer to drop Ann off in his cab and heads to CPD headquarters for questioning.
 
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Detective Charles Reckling (Bruce Bennett) and Tom
Seems ol' Tommy made a threat against the mob boss because he nixed Tom's and Sally Lee's relationship. The police got a tip that Tom is back to make good his threat. The police got nothing and have to let Tom go but they put a tail on him. Tom spots the tail and using an elevated station easily gives the cop the slip.
 
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The tail on South Wabash 


 d
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Tom gives the tail the slip on 
The elevated
where did he go?
 
 
Reagan has a rendezvous with Sally. He tells her he'll smoke the peace pipe with Big Jim and they'll head West to the lodge and live happily ever after where the skies are not cloudy all day.
 
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Tom's rendezvous with Sally (Dorothy Hart) at Buckingham Fountain 
Tom tell's Sally he'll make his peace with Big Jim and thiey'll get married. He tells Sally he'll drop by Big Jim's mansion that night

At Big Jim's Tom is jumped outside by some muscle. They drive him to a cement block lined basement hallway, there they shoot him in the arm, knock him out and dump him in his car outside a Chicago suburb diner. He comes to hearing about how he's wanted as the main suspect ins the whack of Big Jim. He's framed.
 
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Blindfolded, shot in the arm.....
 
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And dumped unconscious in a car 
Reagan goes underground. He thinks of Ann and heads for her place. Ann takes him in, she believes his story and hides him out. Reagan also receives the help of an old neighborhood pal Charles Reckling who happens to now be a police detective. Charles agrees to test the gun that was supposed to kill Big Jim. While Reagan talking to Sally at Big Jim's house discovers that she is wearing Danny's engagement ring the same one he saw in Reno.

That Danny and Sally are in cahoots sends the tale into Noirsville.

Noirsville
 
 
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Tom, Sally and Ann at t the John G. Shedd Aquarium
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 Gene (Dan Ferniel)
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Undertow is a fast paced B picture with enough interesting situations, interesting Chicago locations to keep you watching and some nice stylistic Noir cinematography. Brady is great, Dow is a cutie. Look for Dan Ferniel as Gene the gentle giant and Rock Hudson billed as Roc Hudson in one of his first roles. 7/10 Full review with more screen caps at Noirsville
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Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948)

 
A Paramount Noir so don't hold your breath TCM fans. Directed by John Farrow (The Big Clock (1948), Alias Nick Beal (1949), and Where Danger Lives (1950)). The screenplay was by Barré Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer. Based on the novel of the same name by Cornell Woolrich.

The Music was by Victor Young and the Cinematography was by John F. Seitz who lensed This Gun for Hire(1942), Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend(1945), The Big Clock (1948), Appointment with Danger (1950), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and others.

Stars: Edward G. Robinson as John Triton 'The Mental Wizard', Gail Russell as Jean Courtland, John Lund as Elliott Carson, Virginia Bruce as Jenny Courtland, William Demarest as Lt. Shawn, Richard Webb as Peter Vinson, Jerome Cowan as Whitney Courtland.


The Cornell Woolrich book was a real slog. To make it simple I'll use the film characters names and delineate the books action in italics and the film in regular type.

 An off duty police detective taking a walk along Riverside Drive in Washington Heights he finds some gloves then an expensive cigarette case, then another item following them, like bread crumbs he follows the trail onto the George Washington Bridge where he gets to a young woman Jean Courtland who is contemplating committing suicide. He reaches her just as she is about to leap. When he saves her she is delirious and complaining about the stars watching her. 

He takes her to a cafe where she tells her story. 
 
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The film begins dramatically with a shot of a Southern Pacific steam locomotive switch engine roaring through a rail yard. Jean Courtland's boyfriend Elliott Carson gets out of his convertible, he looks about. As he searches around, he firsts finds a pair of Jean's gloves, between some rails, continuing he next finds the contents of her purse including a cigarette case strewn about a stretch of tracks. Looking about he spots Jean climbing a spiral staircase that leads to a signal maintenance bridge across the tracks.
 
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 Elliott Carson (John Lund)
 
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Elliott runs to the bridge and starts up after Jean. Jean climbs over the rail and is about to jump down to the tracks as the switcher approaches when Elliott saves her. He takes her back to his car where she asks if he could put the top up because the stars are watching. Elliott takes her to a cafe where she sees John Triton and then she knows how Elliott found her.

In the cafe Jean relates that she is despondent because a man John Triton who sees the future has devastated the life of her father. She tells the detective that he gave her father stock quotes and tips and predicted the crash of a plane that he was supposed to be on. He then predicts the time and place and method (involving a lion) of her father's actual death, and tells her a series of strange seemingly bizarre things that will occur preceding it. Her father as each weird event/thing happens, through worry is reduced to a functioning corpse.

At the cafe John Triton tells his story. He had a phony mentalist act that worked off a code. A woman Jenny, Jean's future mother, was the cheesecake that worked the audience collecting questions filled out by the audience and sealing them in envelopes and depositing them in a fishbowl.
 
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 John Triton (Edward G. Robinson)
 
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Jean Courtland (Gail Russell)
 

John reveals to Jean that one night during the act a vision came to him like raindrops on a window and he actually began to see visions of things to come.

John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': [to Jean and Elliott] I, uh, suppose that most people when they're looking back can see the exact point where their lives are touched by something... a new job, an unexpected inheritance, a quick decision, but I can't. My destiny came upon me... imperceptibly like
[Indicating with his finger]
John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': the first thin drops of rain are noticed on a window pane. It wasn't until the third or fourth or fifth drops that I became aware of this rain that was to engulf my life. I remember the date, August 3, 1928. we were playing a one-night stand in a small town in Louisiana, Glenberry
[Dissolve to flashback]
John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': Triton, The Mental Wizard and Company! Three twelve minute shows a day sandwiched with the Toto and His Tumbling Dogs and a troupe of acrobats. The act deserved better billing. It was a phony, of course, like most mind-reading acts, but it was a first class phony.
[laughs]

The fishbowl was placed on a table near John and he identified the various audience members and answered their questions without ever touching the envelopes. He didn't have to. Whitney Courtland  the acts pianist was the person who actually was passed the real envelope. The switch was made with identical fish bowls. Whitney opened an envelope read the question and by the means of playing certain tunes and emphasizing certain notes conveyed by code the information to John who then wowed the audience.
 
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John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': if I do say so myself. Nobody knew how we did it. It was the late show - 11:37, and while Jenny was collecting the envelopes with the usual familiar questions: 'Will I take a trip?', 'Is my husband faithful?', 'Should I marry my boyfriend?', I was winding up my spiel.... 

He stops in the middle of it and tells a woman in the audience wearing a straw hat with daisies that she better get home quickly, her son is in danger. After the show the woman and her husband thank John and tells him that their son had found a book of matches and had started a fire.

John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': This gift, which I never asked for and don't understand, has brought me only unhappiness!

The way the act worked was after the collection, the fishbowl was placed on a table near John and he identified the various audience members and answered their questions without ever touching the envelopes. He didn't have to. Whitney Courtland  the acts pianist was the person to whom the actual real envelopes were passed. The switch was made with either identical fish bowls or by Jenny's slight of hand, it's never actually detailed. Whitney would then behind the piano and out of sight from the audience open an envelope read the question and by the means of playing certain tunes and emphasizing certain notes conveyed by prearranged code the information to John who then wowed the audience. Jenny and John were in love and planned to marry.
 
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Whitney doesn't believe John at first until he give him a tip on a racehorse that ends up paying ten to one. John begins to get stock tips, one is for the stock of an unknown oil company called Comanche Hills which ends up becoming one of the biggest strikes in the country. 
 
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Whitney Courtland. (Jerome Cowan) 
Meanwhile John encounters a newsboy at the stage entrance to the theater he sees a vision of the boy getting run over by a truck, He is about to tell the boy not to cross the street but decides that he should ignore the vision.

John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': I was becoming more frightened every day, and I began to have a crazy feeling that... I was making the things come true - like a voodoo sorcerer who kills people by sticking pins in the doll. I thought of the man with a broken collar bone, the boy with the matches. Would anything have happened to them if I had kept quiet?

John doesn't tell the boy not to cross the street which results in the boy getting killed. 

John shaken, takes off not saying anything, he leaves Jenny and the act heads to Los Angeles and becomes something of a hermit living on Bunker Hill in the Sunshine Apartments. Jenny in the intervening years marries Whitney and dies in childbirth. Jean is Jenny's daughter  When the new Comanche Hills Oil Company building goes up in Los Angeles John is there in the crowd to see Jean and Whitney. When John does see them he gets visions about a plane crash and about Jean. When the crash does occur Whitney is killed and John fears for Jean's life. Here the flashback in the film ends and we return to the cafe.
 
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In the novel the police figure John's some kind of scam artist working with insiders and they put a surveillance team on him. The book has John living somewhere in a tenement out in the far boroughs either Queens or Brooklyn it's never specified. All the seemingly benign occurrences that John mentions will come to pass leading up to Whitney's death in the novel are transposed to Jean in the film. The Woolrich novel has a way of slowly building dread in the tiniest of increments that can sometimes drag on to far for his own good.

At the cafe John warns Jean that on a certain day at 11:00 PM she will die. Elliott tells the police who now swing into action to protect Jean because as they say she is young, she is unprotected and the perfect target for a confidence man. A homicide detective Lt. Shawn is assigned to the case. On the appointed day of Jean's demise the police surround the Courtland mansion. At the mansion Lt. Shawn meets the executives of the Comanche Hills Oil Company and  surprised to see John Triton there also.
 
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Lt. Shawn (William Demarest) 
John even offers his help. Lt Shawn who scoffs at first. John explains that if he can see things more clearly that perhaps they can take precautions. When asked how he accounts for his alleged visions John replies.....

John Triton aka 'The Mental Wizard': Well I've thought a great deal about these visions and I've come across a statement that nearly covers it. Suppose you're on a train, you look out the window and you see a white farmhouse, in a minute it's gone and you see cattle in a field, and just ahead even though he can't see it yet a clump of maple trees, past present, and future. But to the man on top of the train they're all one. In one glance he can see farmhouse, cattle, and trees. Well occasionally I'm like that man on the train even though I man be sitting inside it.  

The rest of the film details the bizarre events involving among other things a theft of a piece of jewelry, a crushed flower, and a lion, leading up to the 11 PM deadline.

Noirsville
 
 
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Woolrich's The Phantom Lady novel  (written under his pseudonym William Irish) is similarly plodding, compared to the Film. Deadline at Dawn is a better first read, but so far I find I prefer his short stories over the novels that I have read. But I haven't read many so that could change.

Robinson is great as the mentalist, William Demarest is good as the cynical homicide detective and Gail Russell, John Lund, Virginia Bruce and Jerome Cowan are quite adequate. The screen caps are from an Italian TV presentation that a friend of mine in Rome says has been available for 30 years. 7/10  Review with more screen caps here Noirsville.
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