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On 1/13/2020 at 4:30 PM, jamesjazzguitar said:

I watched Backfire,   a 1950 noir \ crime film by Warner Bros,  starring Edmond O'Brien, Virginia Mayo, Gordon MacRae, Viveca Lindfors, and Dane Clark.

While the film has an "A" cast it plays like a "B" film.    Other than O'Brien the lead cast was rather weak,  especially MacRae.     Mayo was underutilized and rather boring but since this was released after White Heat,  she was one of the main draws in the ads for the film:  "To take advantage of White Heat's popularity, movie posters for Backfire prominently featured Mayo in a femme fatale pose (very unlike her character in the film) and contained the tag-line: "That 'White Heat' girl turns it on again!" 

Critic John Howard Reid assessed the film as "borderline" in 2006, but felt cinematography was effectively atmospheric and the action sequences fair.[15] He found that the supporting players (O'Brien, Begley, Lindfors, Clark, and Sheila MacRae) delivered performances remarkably superior to that of the two stars, and singled out Lindfors for her acting.[15]

Worth seeing but don't expect too much.





Pretty much agree. It seemed to play like one of those ensemble type Noirs with a big cast where Dane Clark and Viveca Lindfors performances stood out more than Mayo and  O'Brien.

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14 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

Pretty much agree. It seemed to play like one of those ensemble type Noirs with a big cast where Dane Clark and Viveca Lindfors performances stood out more than Mayo and  O'Brien.


I should have mentioned Dane Clark since, as you note,  (as well as that critic),  he was very good and effective in his role.    That being said I did have an issue with his casting in that I figured out the plot-twist as soon as I saw him playing just an old-time war colleague of the two male leads.     I said to myself:  "hey,  no way at this stage in Clark career,  in a WB film (since I knew he was under contract for the studio),    was he going to play just a low-level supporting role".       So as soon as I knew there was the never-seen-man I knew it had to be him. 

I believe we have discussed this before in that with actual "B" films or films from non-major studio most of the time the stature of the actors doesn't reveal parts of the plot.   This is what I liked about the casting of unknown-to-most Lindfors.      The screenwriter \ director could utilize her character as "necessary".      The character was the best female role in the film and Mayo would have been fine doing the part,  but then would the studio have allowed her to be killed off?     Most  likely not and that is the issue I have with casting major stars in gritty noir roles;  the suits don't want to harm  the "status" of their stars.  

 PS:   another ad poster for the film shows Clark strangling Lindfors so the plot-twist was given away before one got their popcorn!  




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On 9/30/2019 at 6:52 AM, cigarjoe said:

Sapphire (1959) British Transitional Noir

For it's time period Sapphire surprisingly explored straight forwardly racial relations in the UK.

During the 1950s some of the white working class in the UK began to show open hostility to the influx of African-Caribbean immigrants. Groups such as the Teddy Boys, Oswald Mosley's Union Movement and the White Defense League were agitating to keep Britain white.

Blacks were attacked during the summer of 1958. On 29 August 1958 Majbritt Morrison, a white Swedish woman, was arguing with her Jamaican husband Raymond Morrison at the Latimer Road Underground station. A fight broke out between Morrison and some of his friends and some whites who tried to intervene.

The following day Majbritt was assaulted by a white gang. That night on Bramley Road, hundreds of whites attacked the houses of West Indian residents. These riots and attacks continued through the 5th of September. The Metropolitan Police Service arrested well over a hundred people.

"The riots caused tension between the Metropolitan Police and the British African-Caribbean community, which claimed that the police had not taken their reports of racial attacks seriously. In 2002, files were released that revealed that senior police officers at the time had assured the Home Secretary, Rab Butler, that there was little or no racial motivation behind the disturbance, despite testimony from individual police officers to the contrary." (Wiki)

Sapphire won the British equivalent of our Academy Award the BAFTA Film Award for Best British Film. It's a nice noir-ish mystery with a message 8-9/10. More screen caps at Noirsville.

Basil Dearden is one of my favorite directors.  He takes on subject matter that most directors wouldn't touch AND makes great films while he is doing it. I reviewed this film somewhere,  either here or over at Sergio Leone Board.  Its a great entry in his catalog.  Very good post...

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Czlowiek na torze ( aka Man on the Tracks) (1957) Commie Railroad Noir

"Rails, Steam, and Noir!"

If you are an Aficio-Noir-do or a Noirsista who is also a rail fan you'll know there are only a few really great Railroad Noirs produced by Hollywood. The ones that come to mind are The Narrow Margin, Human Desire, and The Tall Target.

The first is the story of a detective trying to transport a government witness to Los Angeles by train. The Narrow Margin was pretty much shot in the studio with second unit footage providing the railroad action.

Human Desire deals with an railroad engineer who falls for the wife of a railroad section supervisor. it's most exciting footage is the cab view from a RI Alco FA-1 diesel running down a main line the Rock Island Railroad in El Reno, Oklahoma. Human Desire is a remake of French Noir La Bete Humaine which has a beautifully filmed opening sequence of a steam locomotive at speed taking on water from a track pan.

The Tall Target is another train journey film where a private detective is after the would be assassins of the president elect. This film, a period piece, has some great stylistic cinematography.

Various other Noir have much shorter railroad sequences and others have subways and els as part of their narratives, the railroad ones that stick in my mind are Grand Central MurderBerlin ExpressDead Reckoning, Union StationShadow of a Doubt, Appointment with Danger, Crack-Up, and Transitional Noir Blast Of Silence. British Noirs For Them That Trespass, and Terror on a Train.

Man on the Tracks was directed Andrzej Munk (Eroica (1958)). The film was written by Andrzej Munk and Jerzy Stefan Stawinski and based on Jerzy Stefan Stawinski's story.
Locomotive Engineer Władysław Orzechowski (Kazimierz Opaliński )

Man on the Tracks is the story of a railroad man, a renowned engineer, Orzechowski, think of a Polish Casey Jones. Orzechowski is a respected professional of the old school. He started working as an engineer in 1914. He wears a uniform with silver buttons. He runs his locomotive like a little Hitler, and he has "the mustache" to enforce that Führer visual. He treats his crew as if they were his servants. When Poland ends up behind the iron curtain after WWII, the new plans and socialist  reforms required to be implemented by the railroad begins to irritate Orzechowski. The state wanted to implement coal efficiency with inferior coal, require longer runs, and to limit repairs to cut corners. Using substandard coal requires the railroad to burn more of it to achieve the same results.
Orzechowski and Tuszka (Zygmunt Maciejewski)
Orzechowski begins to be a burr in the side of the Stationmaster Tuszka refusing to conform to the new reforms. Tuszka by the way, actually started out as a fireman working as one of Orzechowski's crew member. Things deteriorate enough that eventually Tuszka forcefully retires Orzechowski and gives his beloved locomotive to his fireman, Stanislaw Zapora.
Stanisław Zapora (Zygmunt Maciejewski)
The film stars Kazimierz Opaliński as Władysław Orzechowski, Zygmunt Maciejewski as Tuszka,
Zygmunt Zintel as Witold Sałata, Zygmunt Listkiewicz as Stanisław Zapora, Roman Kłosowski as Marek Nowak, Janusz Bylczyński as Warda, member of the committee, Józef Para as railwayman
Natalia Szymańska as wife of Orzechowski, Józef Nowak as helper of Orzechowski, Janusz Paluszkiewicz as Krokus, a mechanic, Leon Niemczyk as man on the platform, Stanisław Jaworski as Franek, a friend of Orzechowski. 

The story begins on a night in 1950. Orzechowski's locomotive run by Zapora is highballing down the main line, pulling an express passenger train.

Both Zapora and his fireman see a signal up ahead that falsely indicates that the tracks up ahead are clear. However, one of the semaphore's lights are burned out.
The Semaphore
As the train approaches the semaphore they spot a man standing on the tracks with his hand outstretched they hit the brakes but it's too late.

Zapora and the train crew run back to the site of the accident and find Orzechowski is the dead man.

Of course, the railway begins an investigation. They discover one of the signal's kerosene lights was removed. At first, the assumption among the railway officials and Tuszka is that Orzechowski was disgruntled after being fired and was purposely trying to sabotage the express, but as further testimony is heard a different explanation emerges.

The story, at this point is now told in flashbacks as Stationmaster Tuszka begins his recollections of Orzechowski. Those at the inquiry of Orzechowski learn of his dedication to his locomotive and to his timetable schedules. Zapora's testimony is next.
Zapora's testimony is next.
He tells them that Orzechowski was meticulous, dedicated, proud, hard-nosed and almost a slave driver. It's revealed that Orzechowski was probably harsh towards his colleagues because they were being promoted too quickly. Orzechowski himself had to work as an apprentice for twelve years.

His slave like treatment of his crew stems probably from his back problems that he is trying to hide. Orzechowski cannot bend down to simply retrieve his fallen cap.

The last testimony is from the signal man Witold Salata (Zygmunt Zintel) who was the last person to see Orzechowski.
Witold Salata (Zygmunt Zintel)

Railroad Workers meeting slogan says -  "We work up railroad production plans with workers cooperation"

The film functions as a mystery as the railroad officials (like detectives) try to figure out the facts. The film also is a fascinating study of life and social changes behind the iron curtain, along with being a nice eye opener into the lives of railway workers and their important and very specific functions. The films flashback structure will remind you of Rashomon, its American remake The Outrage, Citizen Kane, and many, many Classic Film Noir.

Location shooting was at Warszawa Wschodnia Station, Praga Pólnoc, Warsaw, Mazowieckie, Poland

All of the actors performances are excellent, This film has been called one of the most influential films of Polish Cinema. A masterpiece 10/10

Full review with more screencasps at Noirsville

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My Gun Is Quick (1957) The Second City Of Angels set Hammer

"I just crawled out of a sewer, not a decent person left in the world."

Directors were Victor Saville (as Phil Victor) known for another Spillane non Hammer based Noir The Long Wait (1954), and George White more known more as an editor for Noirs The Sellout (1952), The Phenix City Story (1955), and Shack Out on 101 (1955). The writing credits go to Mickey Spillane (novel),  Richard Collins and Richard Powell for the screenplay and Richard Powell for the screen story. But I can tell you straight off the only connection with Spillane's novel is the use of the Mike Hammer Character and opening scene in the greasy spoon, the rest is all Collins and Powell.

Cinematography was by Harry Neumann and the percussive score was by Marlin Skiles.

The film stars Robert Bray (an actor probably recognized by most people as the bus driver in Marilyn Monroe's Bus Stop. The six foot-three actor was in quite a few Westerns and also in a handful of uncredited parts and some supporting performances in Classic Noirs, notably The Clay Pigeon, and Shield for Murder, as Mike Hammer. He plays Hammer in a very believable human manner.
Mike Hammer (Robert Bray)
Whitney Blake plays Nancy Williams, Donald Randolph is ex Colonel Holloway, Jan Chaney is 'Red', Gina Core is Maria Teresa Garcia, Pamela Duncan is Velda, Hammer's secretary, Booth Colman is Det. Pat Chambers, Richard Garland is Louis, and Phil Arnold as "Shorty."
Red (Jan Chaney)
Velda (Pamela Duncan)
Mile and Pat Chambers (Booth Colman)
 Maria Teresa Garcia (Gina Core)
Nancy Williams (Whitney Blake) 
Colonel Holloway (Donald Randolph) 
Louis (Richard Garland)
The film starts with Mike Hammer walking along a string of Pinball parlors, dive bars and fleabag hotels, amusement arcades, cheap souvenir shops, beer joints, juice bars, newspaper and magazine nests, etc., etc. He turns a corner and passes a burly-Q.

Title Sequence
The Follies Burlesque at Burbank Theater 548 S. Main St., Los Angeles

It sort of looks like Times Square. It's not. It's Main Street in downtown Los Angeles. Mike Hammer is transposed for the second time to The City Of Angles. The first time was in the iconic Kiss Me Deadly. It's Hammer with a sort of West Coast Dutch angle.
My Gun Is Quick (1950) was Mickey Spillane's second Mike Hammer novel following 1947's I, The Jury. Hammer was a New York based detective. The book's beginning has Hammer buttoning up a three day lost manuscript case and then trying to drive back to his apartment house. Mike wakes up to blaring horns. He's fallen asleep stopped at a red light.

He spots a greasy spoon under the el (which in 1950 would only be the 3rd Avenue el). He parks and goes in grabs a stool and meets the prostitute Red. They hit it off. One of her seeming clients, Feeney Last (Louis in the film) comes in looking for Red, he wants something and he treats her roughly, grabbing her by the arm, Mike smacks him around. Last pulls a knife. Mike pulls his .45 automatic points it at Lasts forehead and tells Last that he'll blow his head off if he tries to also go for the gun Mikes spots in his waistband. 

Mike gives Red $150 and tells her "Do something for me will you Red?, Get off the street. Tomorrow you go uptown and buy some decent clothes. Then buy a morning paper and hunt up a job. This kind of job is murder." In both novel and film Mike notices an out of place antique Baroque ring on Reds finger. Red seems genuinely touched. She kisses her finger and puts it to Mikes cheek. He notices the ring has a fleur de lis pattern. After Red splits, Mike drags Last out of the dog wagon to a police call box out on the street. Mike has his own key to it. He has a squad car pick Feeney Last up for possibly having an unlicensed gun, a Sullivan Act violation. 

The next day Mike spots the Jane Doe hit and run headline in the paper the photo is Red. Mike heads to police headquarters to get the details. When he finds out that her broken neck injury was unusual for a hit and run Mile suspects foul play, and makes it personal. They view Red's corpse at the morgue. He doesn't tell Pat that his open and shut hit-and-run case is all BS. Mike noticed that Red's ring is missing.

In the novel Hammer snoops around discovering Red's flop and finds her room tossed, mattress slashed, the works, he also checks out Feeney Last who in the novel works as a bodyguard for a Long Island millionaire. He next looks up a pimp he knows and braces him about what he knows about Red. From the pimp he gets the address of a whorehouse. He checks that out but finds it burned down recently. At a bar on the corner of the street with the burned out whorehouse he runs into Lola. She is described as a tipsy brunette wearing a little black dress with a plunging neckline and a matching large hat

Lola is a hooker and a former friend of Red. They worked that same whorehouse. Lola didn't get caught in the fire because she got a dose of the clap and was in the hospital getting the cure. Lola and Mike hit it off. Lola and Mike head to Rockaway Point where one thing leads to another and they screw on the beach. Lola spills that originally she and Red were high class call girls at one point and that that racket was run out of the Zero Zero Club on 6th Avenue. Lola tells Mike that Red besides being a call girl, also worked at the club as a souvenir photo "Quick Pic" gal at the club. Lola and a club hostess named Ann Morin are combined in the novel into the stripper character Maria Teresa Garcia. BTW this being Mike Hammer story Mike also has sex with Ann, lol.... 

Mike eventually finds out the Red was setting up an expose of the call girl racket complete with pictures of wealthy and politically connected big shots as the clients. It's other than the original opening setup scene, nothing like the film.

Robert Bray puts in a passable portrayal as Mike Hammer he's Hammer-esgue but with the action once again moved to California it's got a slight fish out of water quality if you are at all familiar with the novels. It's not quite up to Aldrich's polished film noir masterpiece. It took a couple of viewings for me to realize that directors Victor Saville and George White do a decent job with what they had. None of the cast are A-listers or even B-listers for that matter, but they do a pretty good job of working downtown L.A, of Bunker Hill, the oil derricks of Signal Hill and the Eisenhower freeway system into the film.

The broads, Whitney Blake as Nancy Williams, Patricia Donahue as Dione, Pamela Duncan as Velda, Jan Chaney as Red the prostitute, and Genie Coree as stripper Maria Teresa Garcia are all "hammer-tommically" correct but again as in both I The Jury (1953), and Kiss Me Deadly (1955) the slightly gratuitous sexuality which should be a touchstone in any Mike Hammer based film is PG-13 if even that. To put it bluntly in the novels the hammer babes (save for Velda) peal for Mike at every opportunity. Hammer was basically Detective Porn.

Back now to the film. Mike, after passing the burlesque theater slips into a hole-in-the-wall lunch counter, and grabs a stool near a red headed stripper/hooker, the film leaves her profession up in the air. The MPPC must have objected to Hammer dealing with a storyline about hookers and the call girl prostitution racket so that fact is blurred and the tale seques into a story about strippers, rival crooks all looking for a cache of jewels stole during WWII.



Red the girl must not be good at it, She's just a kid and looks beat. The soles of her shoes have holes. Mike orders himself a chopped egg sandwich to go and a cup of coffee.  Mike takes pity on Red and asks her if she wants something to eat.  As in the novel Red's "associate" comes in looking for her.  He is called Louis in the film (in the novel he is Fenney Last). Anyway, he proceeds to get rough with Red. Mike slaps him around.  He pulls a knife Mike pulls a gun. Mike tells him he'll blow his head off.

Add caption

Now in the film Red tells Mike she's from Nebraska, Mike slips Red his address and gives her money to go back there. He tells her to drop him a line when she is settled. Red takes off. After Mike surrenders Last to the squad car he called over the police call box, he heads to his office where he gives the chopped egg sandwich to a concerned and patiently waiting Velda.

In the film the story line is streamlined. Red is found dead of a hit and run the next morning, Mike's card is in her pocket. LAPD Pat Chambers calls Mike into headquarters. Mike takes it personally. The ring he noticed on her finger was not among her personal effects. 

Mike knows it wasn't an accident. He tells Pat about Louis and describe the ring. The description jogs a memory in Pat. That description matches a ring in a cache of Italian jewels the Venacci Jewel collection that were stolen during WWII. 

Mike heads back to the hole-in-the-wall and questions the proprietor about Red and about Louis. He spills that Red used to hang out at a nightclub down the block that featured strippers.  At the club Mike speaks with stripper Maria Teresa Garcia (who replaces Lola the hooker in the novel). Mike likes what he sees. Maria likes what she sees. Mike and Maria hit it off.


In this PG film they don't go to bed and it's really emphasized. Maria tells Mike that Red got the ring from a deaf mute who works as the clubs janitor. It all leads to Noirsville where various crooks are all after the same hidden cache of jewels.

Casa Alta - Bunker Hill



Hotel Astoria, Olive St., Bunker Hill
comotion on Clay Street
hammer-tomically correct
Bunker Hill, Third Street and Olive Street with Angels Flight Cafe to right.

This low rent Hammer actually delivers in some respects even though it doesn't follow the novel at all It's parallel universe Hammer. The acting talent are basically B and C listers. It delivers especially if you have low expectations. It falls way short of delivering if you expect it to follow Mike Hammer's libido.

Here are my thoughts, Spillane wrote Mike Hammer as a traditional hard boiled Pulp/Noir Detective but he pushed the bubble with over the top sexuality of the women going  basically 20 years ahead of his time. The Motion Picture Production Code wouldn't allow films to be that explicit to do Hammer justice until the independent Sexploitation films of the mid to late 60s where the crisp black and white cinematography would do justice to Spillane's descriptive images of Mike Hammers in flagrante delicto assignations with various babes. By then the ability to do stylized Classic Noir in its chronological time period along with its complementary stable of character actors was almost gone, it's like two ships passing in the night.

You wish the creators of My Gun Is Quick would have had the freedom to do Spillane justice, and look more like these gritty screencaps below from The Girls on F Street (1966) a Sexploitation flick made just a decade later and shot in some of the same general locations with some of the same basic subject matter, Main Street downtown Los Angeles, Bunker Hill, hookers (as in the novel) and strippers as in the film.

Main St. Los Angeles

Bunker Hill
Noir Atmosphere


Angels Flight

The last days of Bunker Hill most buildings demolished.
interior ads Angels Flight
Angels Flight at night

See what I'm getting at? What's missing is the sewer. The Mike Hammer character and his world were never fully exploited during the brief window of opportunity when it could have been. A shame.

The archival location cinematography in My Gun Is Quick depicts Los Angeles as is circa 1957, with its new freeways and 1950s Mid Century-Modern “less is more” design style characterized by a prolific use of industrialized steel exposed brick, aluminum, plastic and glass. This new is all juxtaposed by the old, the clutter of oil derricks on Signal Hill and the last decade of Bunker Hill. Full review with more screencaps at Noirsville.

Available to stream on Amazon Prime, 7/10 
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  • 3 weeks later...

Kiss Of Death (1947) New York Noir

You know right from the get go.
The Dutch Angled opening credits. The chiaroscuro Manhattan cityscapes and silhouettes.The hints of Street Scene on the soundtrack (by Alfred Newman). Victor Mature with a couple of hoods knocking over a jewelry shop on the 24th floor of the Chrysler Building. One of the few a voice over narrations by a woman Coleen Gray.

From these you know you're in for one of the great Classic Noirs.

Street Scene was originally used for Street Scene 1931) and was re-used for Cry Of The City, I Wake Up Screaming, Where The Sidewalk Ends, and The Dark Corner.

Directed by Henry Hathaway (The House on 92nd Street (1945), The Dark Corner (1946), Call Northside 777 (1948), Fourteen Hours (1951) and Niagara (1953). The film was written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer with additional scenes by Philip Dunne, and based on the story by Eleazar Lipsky.

Cinematography was by Norbert Brodine (The House on 92nd Street (1945),
Somewhere in the Night (1946), Road House (1948), Thieves' Highway (1949). Music was by
David Buttolph.

The film stars Noir vets Victor Mature, six Classics Noirs as Nick Bianco, Brian Donlevy himself a vet of six Classic Noir, as Assistant D.A. Louis D'Angelo, Coleen Gray (five Classic Noir) as Nettie, Richard Widmark (seven Classic Noir) in his first starring role, as over the top hitman nutjob Tommy Udo. With Taylor Holmes as sleazy mob mouthpiece Earl Howser, Howard Smith  as the Sing Warden, Karl Malden as NYPD Sgt. William Cullen, and Anthony Ross as mobster 'Big Ed' Williams.
Nick Bianco (Victor Mature)
Assistant D.A. Louis D'Angelo (Brian Donlevy)
Nettie (Coleen Gray)
Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark)
NYPD Sgt. William Cullen (Carl Malden)
Christmas Eve. New York City. Last minute shopping for the wife and kids. Excon Nick Bianco and three other hoods knock over a jewelry shop located on the 26th floor of the Chrysler Building. The robbery goes off without a hitch the getaway by local elevator screws them over when one of the tied up jewelers is able to hit an alarm button before they make the lobby.
Times Square Christmas Tree
The  Chrysler Building lobby above, is lavishly decorated with Red Moroccan marble walls, sienna-coloured floor and onyx, blue marble and steel in Art Deco compositions.
Nick Bianco about to enter an elevator beautifully inlaid with intricate designs.
The jewel heist
What's amazing is how fast the NYPD is able to respond and the building is sealed off. Nick tries to scoot out a side entrance through an adjacent shop.
You can see an el in the dim background 

He socks a cop blocking the entrance and runs out onto East 43nd Street between Lexington Avenue and 3rd Avenue, can see the Third Avenue el* down the block in the background. He tries to cross the street and he gets shot down in the gutter.

* If you look closely at the el you can make out the main tack level and the sloping upwards center express track as it rises to the two level 42nd Street station one block South, (that rising center el track structure is blocking out the bottom of the "L" in the neon Hotel sign). Also to the left is St. Agnes Catholic Church which burned down in 1992 and was rebuilt with a newer structure.The old buildings past the church to the corner are still there.
Wounded Nick
Anyway the shooting of Nick causes enough distraction that it allows the other three goons to escape while Nick is arrested, tried and sentenced to four years up the river in Sing Sing.

Before he's transported the assistant D.A. D'Angelo asks Nick to be a squealer and give up his partners for the sake of his wife and two little girls. Nick tells him he's no squealer. Nicks mouthpiece Howser assures Nick that his family will be taken care of. While Nick is waiting for sentencing in a holding tank he meets hitman for hire Tommy Udo. Udo is a real piece of work.
Mob mouthpiece Earl Howser (Taylor Holmes)
Udo and Bianco

D'Angelo makes one last plea to Nick before he's sent up the river.
Not Squealing

Nick does three years in the barbed wire hotel. After three months go by and he doesn't receive a letter from his wife he finally finds out from another con just arrived that she committed suicide and his kids were sent to an orphanage.

Nick checks the obits and gets the details.

So much for is partners in crime taking care of things for him.  Nick gets visited by Nettie the woman who used to babysit his girls. She tells him she had moved away from the neighborhood and just found out what had happened.

* interesting note on wikipedia:

Deleted scenes

"A deleted scene involving Nick's wife Maria (who was played by Patricia Morison) was cut from the film. In this scene, a gangster (played by Henry Brandon) who is supposed to look out for her while Nick is in prison rapes her. Afterwards, Maria commits suicide by sticking her head in the kitchen oven and turning on the gas. Both scenes were cut from the original print at the insistence of the censors, who wanted no depiction of either a rape or a suicide, so although Morison's name appears in the credits, she does not appear in the film at all. Mention is made later in the film about Mature's wife's suicide and a now obscure reference is made by Nettie that the unseen gangster Rizzo contributed to the wife's downfall."

Nick racked with anguish asks to see the warden and tells him that he's ready to make a deal with D'Angelo.
Nick in Sing Sing Prison, Wardens office with Tappan Zee and Hook Mountain State Park seen out through the window

Nick decides he wants out and contacts D.A. D'Angelo to tell him he'll be a stoolie. D'Angelo fixes it so that it looks as if one of the appeals Howser filed got approved. Nick is transferred back to a NYC jail where the D.A. makes it look as if he's being now held for a previous fur robbery. Nick tells Howser that it could only have been his partner Rizzo who ratted him out.

Howser contacts Tommy Udo to put out a contract on Rizzo. Udo finds his wheelchair bound mother at the apartment.  She tells him that Pete is out but that he will be back later that evening.
Tommy searches the apartment and susses out that she is lying. He ties her to the wheelchair and rolls her out in the hallway and in one of the most shocking sequences in Classic Film Noir pushes her down the tenement stairs.
Mrs. Rizzo (Mildred Dunnock)

After Nick is freed on parole for lack of evidence, D'Angelo arranges for Nick to meet up with Udo. He wants Nick to get chummy and give him enough leads and evidence for a murder conviction. They meet in a club, Udo is with a hooker (it's subtly alluded to). Udo basically tells her to go back to the house. Udo takes Nick on a tour of the underworld including, though it's not obvious (because of the MPPC), a fancy whorehouse with a doorman where Nick smells something funny (marijuana). Nick succeeds in getting the goods on Udo.
Susan Cabot 
The whorehouse with the strange smell....

Nick is given a new identity, and a job. Nick marries Nettie and gets his kids out of the orphanage and is living in Astoria Queens my home neighborhood BTW. It it all goes Noirsville when Udo is acquitted and set free, and he knows it was Nick who squealed. And Tommy hates squealers.
14th Street, Astoria with Astoria Park the Triboro Bridge, and The Hell Gate Bridge 
The house with the brick columns and wrought iron fence in the screenshot above, is still there.

New York Central tracks in Ossining going through Sing Sing Prison with a guard tower on right



3rd Avenue el
14th Street Astoria with Astoria Park in the background
Scarboro Station
 The St. Nicholas Arena

There's a lot to like about Kiss Of Death. It's got a great performance by Victure Mature who I've liked ever since I saw him as a kid on Saturday afternoon Sword & Sandal epics like Samson And Delilah, The Robe, Demetrius and the Gladiators and in Western Classics like My Darling Clementine. 

I got to enjoy him all over again when I discovered his even earlier Film Noir. Actually he is in one of the first WWII era Film Noir I Wake Up Screaming. He plays a suave professional Broadway promoter Frankie Christopher. It's a unique Noir for other reasons as explained in the review.

Matures next Noir was The Shanghai Gesture where he has a small supporting roles as an oily fez wearing pimp, a role 180 degrees different from I Wake Up Streaming. This was followed by Kiss Of DeathCry Of The City and later The Las Vegas Story.

The ultimate downer Noir ending. Originally, Nick Bianco was supposed to die after he allowed Tommy Udo to shoot him full of holes, so Udo could be prosecuted for his murder. Not for just having a weapon and attempted murder as in the final version of the film. So once again the studios changed the finale. In the closing narration by Nettie (Coleen Gray), she says tells the audience that Nick survives.

The film of course also has Richard Widmark in his scene stealing breakout role with Brian Donlevy and Coleen Gray providing Noir cinematic memory.

I like the use of Street Scene as a sort of signature New York City theme and the fact that for a New York based Film Noir the producers did a surprising amount lot of actual New York City and it's environs location shooting.

"Kiss of Death was shot between March and May 1947, with additional scenes being shot in June. Much of the filming was done in New York, using locations as practical sets, including the Chrysler Building, the Criminal Courts Building at 100 Centre Street, the old Hotel Marguery at 270 Park Avenue at 48th Street, the St. Nicholas Arena, and the now-demolished Bronx House of Detention for Men (later known as the Bronx County Jail) at 151st Street and River Avenue. Additional locations include Sing Sing Penitentiary in Ossining and the Academy of the Holy Angels in Fort Lee, New Jersey. " (Wikipedia)

Also add to the above Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, and Scarboro Station (scene where Nick puts Nettie and the kids on the train). For any interested the St. Nicholas Boxing Arena was converted to a television production facility in 1962 and eventually demolished in 1982 to make way for the main offices of the ABC Network.

Finally this film is one of the few Classic Noirs that was partially shot in my old home neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. As a kid I remember spending some sunny afternoons sitting on a blanket on a grassy hillside in Astoria Park watching the New York City ship, tug, and railcar float traffic on a very busy East River. Back in the 1950s the trees were still small and there was a beautiful view of the river.  The park sits on a patch of ground whose boundaries are roughly the Triboro and Hell Gate bridges.

Screencaps are from a recent TCM screening.  More Screencaps with review at  Noirsville 10/10
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Strangers On A Train (1951) Masterpiece of Classic Noir

"You'll be in the grip of love's strangest trip!"
Strange indeed.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Raymond Chandler (screen play. though in some circles nothing of Chandler's input was left in the script), Czenzi Ormonde (screen play), Whitfield Cookfor the adaptation that was based on Patricia Highsmith's novel, with Ben Hecht adding uncredited input along with Edmund Crispin.

It's interesting to point out that Crispin's 1946 novel The Moving Toyshop has the merry-go-round finale used in the film, the two men fighting, the accidentally shot merry go round operator, the wildly out-of-control merry-go-round, the volunteer amusement park attendant who crawls under the moving merry-go-round to brake it, all these components are all lifted from Crispin.

The excellent stylistic Noir cinematography was by Robert Burks his art includes some  Classic Film Noir sequences. Music was by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The film stars Farley Granger as Guy Haines, Ruth Roman as Anne Morton, Robert Walker as Bruno Antony, Leo G. Carroll as Sen. Morton, Patricia Hitchcock as Barbara Morton, Kasey Rogers as Miriam Joyce Haines, Marion Lorne as Mrs. Antony, and Jonathan Hale as Mr. Antony.
Farley Granger as Guy Haines
Robert Walker as Bruno Antony
Kasey Rogers as Miriam Joyce Haines
Ruth Roman as Anne Morton
 Art Imitates Life. Patricia Highsmith wrote Strangers on a Train in roughly 48-49 it was published in 1950. By then, all the sordid details of Murder Inc., were exposed by former member  Abe "Kid Twist" Reles. Murder, Inc. (Murder Incorporated) was an organized bunch of wiseguys who in 1930s and 40s carried out whacks (murder contracts) for organized crime around the country. Reles by the way "fell" out of a window to his death while supposedly under police protection.

In the novel Guy Haines is an architect (not a tennis champ). His wife Miriam is cheating on him. Haines wants to cut his marital ties in order to marry Anne Faulkner (in the film her name is changed to Anne Morton).
As in the film Guy meets Charles Anthony Bruno (a psycho) who in the film is a spoiled rich kid named Bruno Anthony, on a train journey to meet his wife in the town of Metcalf. For the sake of clarity we'll just call him Bruno from this point on. Bruno proposes as in the film his crazy scheme to swap murders. He'll off Miriam and Guy will shoot his father. With no motive nobody will be the wiser. Guy thinks it's all fantastical ****, but Bruno goes through with his end. In the novel Guy is out of the country on a job assignment in Mexico, in the film Guy is going about his various tennis matches.
I killed Mirian

In the film Bruno informs Guy, just outside the door of Senator Morton's D.C. home, that he killed Miriam just as Guy is returning from a tennis match. When Guy enters the house he is met by Senator Morton, Anne and Anne's sister Barbara who inform him that the police called to notify him that his wife has been murdered.
Leo G. Carroll as Sen. Morton, Anne Morton , Patricia Hitchcock as Barbara Morton
Guy fakes surprise. Barbara, obviously a True Crime buff tells him that he will be the chief suspect unless he has an alibi. Guy's alibi was a drunken professor of mathematics who he met in the smoking car on the train. However in the film the professor was too drunk to remember him. The fact that he was on the train however, convinces the police to release Guy, however they provide him with a round the clock escort so that he doesn't flee the country.
To drunk to remember seeing Guy
In the novel Guy doesn't go immediately to the police because he realizes that Bruno will claim that he was an accomplice. Over the following months in the novel Bruno hounds Guy to fulfill his half of their contract. In the film it's sped up to just a few weeks.

Here, at this point the film and the novel wildly diverge. In the novel Bruno puts the screws to Guy by showing up at various functions and writing anonymous letters to his friends and associates. Guy actually goes through with the murder of Bruno's father.

Marion Lorne as Mrs. Antony


It's been written numerous times about Hitchcock's use of doubles, the "title sequence making this point: there are two taxicabs, two redcaps, two pairs of feet, two sets of train rails that cross twice. Once on the train, Bruno orders a pair of double drinks — "The only kind of doubles I play", he says charmingly. In Hitchcock's cameo he carries a double bass. There are two respectable and influential fathers, two women with eyeglasses, and two women at a party who delight in thinking up ways of committing the perfect crime. There are two sets of two detectives in two cities, two little boys at the two trips to the fairground, two old men at the carousel, two boyfriends accompanying the woman about to be murdered, and two Hitchcocks in the film" (Spoto, Donald (1983). The Dark Side of Genius: The Life of Alfred Hitchcock.)

Much has been written about about the sexual ambiguity of the characters of Guy and Bruno. Robert L. Carringer "has written of a political subtext to the film, arguing that the film was crucially shaped by the Congressional inquiries commissioned a study into the Employment of Homosexuals and Other Sex **** in Government. Carringer states that Guy was a stand-in for victims of the homophobic climate. He claims that Hitchcock "drafted the left-leaning Cook... expressly because he was comfortable with sexually ambiguous characters." (McGilligan, Patrick (2004). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light.)

I myself see some interesting, for the Eisenhower Era, sexual subtext reinforced with suggestive visuals and dialogue that obviously went right over the heads of sexually stagnated legions of decency. It all revolves around with Miriam proclivities for sexual experimentation.

Miriam apparently likes to be spit roasted. She's cheating on Guy with two townies. This is somewhat visually enforced (gotta love that Motion Picture Production Code) by the scene at the amusement park where she is "doing" an ice cream cone.
She tells the boys she eating it "to satisfy her craving." Townie replies "craving for what."

That comes right after she mentions something about a "hot dog." and right before she suggests that her ménage à trois move to the Tunnel Of Love.  Hitch, what a devious mind you had, it probably went right over the heads of the censors, lol.

We are then treated to a couple of sequences where she's looking back at Bruno with come hither looks. She's not satisfied with her two boy toys she angling for a three way. The ****! I bet she isn't wearing panties, lol.

We get another suggestive sequence of Miriam riding a horse on a merry-go-round. Again she looks for Bruno.

Bruno follows the trio through the Tunnel Of Love. In the tunnel we get some suggestive shadow play on the wall accompanied by Miriam's giggling. 
One townie on far  left, Miriam bending over his lap  while second townie is in doggy style position.
Bruno follows them out on to "Magic Isle" a sort of lover's lane islet. Miriam apparently knows the place well. Miriam runs and hides from the boys that brought her, while looking to try a sample of Bruno. She's dripping with anticipation. She finds him.

She gets choked but not with what she was expecting. He strangles her in a the famous noir stylistic sequence where we see the reflection of the murder in Miriam's dropped glasses. It's beautifully done.

Later at the Morton's after Guy finds out about the murder. Miriam's predilection for multiple partners is again reinforced.

Senator Morton: ... Dreadful, business dreadful, poor unfortunate girl.
Barbara Morton: She was a tramp.
Senator Morton: She was a human being, Let me remind you that even the most unworthy of us has a right to life and the pursuit of happiness.
Barbara Morton: From what I hear she pursued it in all directions.

Yes she pursued it in all directions, which also begs the question of why?  If you take into the already scholastically analyzed deliberate depictions of Guy as a sexually ambiguous character you may come to the conclusion that maybe Miriam wasn't getting it at home from Guy so had to shop out. Which also now makes you think of the possibility of a similar sexually noir denouement ahead for Guy and Anne's marriage. Full review  with more screencaps at Noirsville

Oh well, screencaps are from a Turner Classic Movies stream On Demand. 10/10
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Salón México (1949) Mexican Ballroom Blues

"From the peak of Epoca de oro del cine mexicano"
Directed by Emilio Fernández.

Emilio "El Indio" Fernández Romo is the most famous person in the history of Mexican movies. For an era he symbolized Mexico due to his violent machismo, rooted in the Revolution of 1910-17, and because of his staunch commitment to Mexican cultural nationalism. Born to a Mexican (Mestizo) father and a Native American Kickapoo mother, Emilio was himself the "mestizaje" (mestizo) that his films would later glorify.

Fernandez was an actor between 1928 to 1987 with 89 screen credits, and began directing between the years of 1942 to 1979 with a total of 43 films.

You all will know Emilio Fernández as an actor. He was in The Night of the Iguana as the beach bar bartender, and was also in many Westerns, The Appaloosa, Return of the Seven, The War Wagon. He was the Mexican General Mapache in The Wild Bunch, also was Paco in Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, and He was  El Jefe who asks for the head of Alfredo Garcia in the Classic Neo Noir Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

Salón México was written by Emilio Fernández (story and adaptation), and Mauricio Magdaleno (story and adaptation). It was his 14th film. Cinematography was by Gabriel Figueroa and the Music was by Antonio Díaz Conde.

The film stars Marga López as Mercedes Gómez, Miguel Inclán as Lupe López, Rodolfo Acosta (also in a lot of American Westerns notably Hondo, and Rio Conchos) as Paco, Roberto Cañedo as Roberto, Mimí Derba as school principal, Carlos Múzquiz as Salon Mexico owner, and Silvia Derbez as Mercedes sister Beatriz Gómez.

Salón México was nominated for two awards in 1950, Rodolfo Acosta was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, and Marga López won the Silver Ariel Award for Best Actress.
Rodolfo Acosta as Paco and Marga López as Mercedes Gómez
Miguel Inclán as Lupe Lópe
Mimí Derba as school headmistress
Roberto Cañedo as Roberto and Silvia Derbez as Beatriz Gómez.
Mercedes (Marga Lopez) is a hooker (not at all emphasized by the way) working out of a dance hall, the Salon Mexico, a famous ballroom/club in Mexico City. Her pimp is named Paco (Acosta). He is a sleazy Mexican version of a zoot suiter with greasy hair, wearing a pinstripe killer-diller coat with a drape shape, wide shoulders and baggy trousers with a reet pleat pegged at the ankles,
Salón México
Dance contest
A reet pleat and pegged at the ankles

Mercedes lives on the roof of a Mexico City tenement. Most of her money goes to her younger sister Beatriz (Derbez) who is enrolled in an exclusive private school.
Rooftop flop
Everything unravels when Mercedes wins a dance contest with Paco at the Salon Mexico and he doesn't want to giver her share so she steals it from him while he's sleeping with another **** in his stable. Also in the mix is a friendly policeman Lupe who's had a crush on Mercedes ever since his wife died.
Stealing the 500 pesos back
Running down the stairs
Stashing the pesos in her stocking top

Beatriz doesn't know her sister is a ****. Beatriz and the son of the schools principal Roberto, a famous fighter pilot, become engaged.

It all goes slowly Noirsville.

Paco grabs Mercedes when she returns from visiting her sister at the boarding school and he beats her up until Lupe shows up, Lupe and Paco fight it out until Lupe knocks him out. Next Paco gets caught robbing a safe. When the alarm goes off he and his two accomplices grabs the money and run. Paco heads to Mercede's flop to hide but the police find him and both he and Mercedes are thrown in jail. Lupe gets Mercedes out and things are looking up until Paco escaped


Roberto coming home to his mothers school
pinstripe killer-diller coat with a drape shape
Removing the stash of pesos

Emilio Fernández direction is competent, Figueroa's crisp Black & White cinematography is excellent, all the actors are believable. The story of the love affair between Beatriz and Roberto is a bit too accelerated. My only disappointment  was that whatever Mexico had that was the equivalent of the Motion Picture Production Code in place at the time the film was made, hampers the tale by sugar coating Mercedes and not depicting her real profession. 7/10 Full review with more screencaps here Noirsville
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Dédée d'Anvers (1948) Antwerp Noir

"The Birth of a Femme Fatale"

Directed by Yves Allégret. The film was written by Jacques Sigurd, Yves Allégret, Jacques Sigurd, and Henri La Barthe and was based on La Barthe's novel.

The film stars Bernard Blier as the owner of The Big Moon club Monsieur René, Simone Signoret as the French prostitute Dédée, Marcello Pagliero is Francesco the Italian ship captain from Napoli, Marcel Dalio is the pimp/doorman Marco.

Dédée (Signoret) is a popular prostitute working Mr. Rene's (Blier), nightclub/whorehouse The Big Moon in Antwerp's waterfront red light district. She likes to walk along the waterfront at daybreak after the club closes down and watch the ship traffic of the harbor. When she arrives back at The Big Moon she reports to Mr. Rene and to the other prostitutes what new ships have docked. The news is good if there are new ships for this means more sailors with money to spend.
Simone Signoret as Dédée,
Marcello Pagliero as Francesco
Bernard Blier as Monsieur René
Marcel Dalio as Marco. 
On the day our tale begins, Dédée has been following her usual early morning routine, walking along the edge of the harbor. When she gets back to The Big Moon, Mr. Rene asks Dédée if she's seen any Italian ships. She replies that one just arrived from Napoli. Mr. Rene is delighted at this news because the captain is a good friend of his.
A couple of dockworkers ask Dédée  if she has time to go for a walk for a quickie.
The Lisa out of Napoli
Francesco likes what he sees
Dédée likes what she sees

When she gets back to The Big Moon, Mr. Rene asks Dédée if she's seen any new ships. She replies that an Italian one just arrived from Napoli. Mr. Rene is delighted at this news because the captain is a good friend of his.

Dédée sits down at the table to have breakfast with all the employees of Mr. Rene. Marco wants to known once again her every move. After breakfast it's time for bed for the whole house.

Dédée sleeps in the daytime with her pimp Marco (Dalio). Marco brought Dédée with him from France. Marco likes to gamble and spend money, act like a big shot. He is in debt to a gangster who wants his vig in a few days before he leaves town on a trip. Pressured Marco tries to hit up Mr. Rene for a loan. He tells him to get lost.


Mr. Rene tells Marco that the only reason he keeps him around is because Dédée is very popular. Marco goes to stall the gangster once again asking for some more time.
The gangster and Marco
Marco starts to get more desperate and pushes Dédée to pull more tricks. When the club is slow Dédée goes out and sell her **** on the street. She picks up the richer tricks who drive around looking for sex. She makes them happy.

That night during her session out on the street she watches a street fight between dockworkers down by the wharf. She runs to a doorway to escape the running fighters when they hear the police sirens.
The first meet Francesco and Dédée
There she meets Francesco an Italian ship captain. They walk together away from the police.

They talk. When Dédée finally gets around to it she tells Francesco that she works at The Big Moon. It doesn't bother Francesco. He tells her to give Mr. Rene a message then that he has to go to another town for a few days and that he will drop in to The Big Moon when he gets back.

Over the course of the next couple of days they fall in love. Francesco promises to take her with him, when he leaves Antwerp for Napoli. Mr Rene is happy for Dédée and gives her his blessing but Marco is not pleased and he gets desperate heads out the night before Dédée plans to leave with a gun  to kill Francesco.  It goes Noirsville.



The birth of a Femme Fatale - arrest is too good for Marco
Marco is toast

Dédée d'Anvers has got quite a surprising ending, no Hollywood studio suits meddling here. Its a film that some say put Simone Signoret on the map. She looks a lot like Lauren Bacall in this film. It has some excellent cinematography. 7/10  Full review with more sreenaps here Noirsville
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Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954) Classic French Noir Masterpiece

"Masterpiece of French Noir"

Don't touch the stash, is a French-Italian crime film directed by Jacques Becker (Le Trou (1960)). The film was written by Jacques Becker, Albert Simonin, and Maurice Griffe. It was adapted from Albert Simonin's novel of the same name.

The cinematography was by Pierre Montazel, the music was by Jean ****.

The film stars Jean Gabin as Max, an semi retired Paris gangster. René Dary is Riton, Max's old partner in crime. Lino Ventura plays Angelo the drug lord of a narcotics gang. Paul Frankeur is Fats Pierrot the Mystific night club owner. Michel Jourdan is Marco, Dora Doll is Lola, the dancer who goes out with Max. Paul Œttly plays Oscar, Max's fence, Oscar's secretary is played by Marilyn Buferd plays Betty, she is also a mistress of Max. Jeanne Moreau plays Josy, dancer who goes out with Riton.
Jean Gabin as Max
Max and his best buddy Riton  (René Dary)
Max playing his favorite tune
Max is enjoying a semi retired gangsters life with his old partner Riton. They are pretty much on easy street. Besides what they are currently living on they also have a secret stash of 50 million francs in the form of eight gold bars. In the 1950s $1 was worth about 400 francs so in perspective Max and Riton have $125,000 cached.
Marco (Michel Jourdan) Max and Riton 
One night Max and Riton with their two burlesque gal pals are dining at Madame Bouche's restaurant. A younger buddy, Marco, shows up and the five of them head to the Club Mystific where the girls perform. Driving to the club Riton chastises Josy when he catches her snorting some coke.
 Josy (Jeanne Moreau) about to snort some coke
The Club Mystific
The sequences at the Club Mystific are a good example of what an artistic, sophisticated, mature, uncensored. and unencumbered film industry France enjoyed in the 1950's and 60's compared to MPPC restricted Hollywood. You wouldn't see the touches of nudity, graphic violence, or even much drug use (with out the perpetrators all coming to a bad end or at least showing repentance) in comparable American Crime films until the mid 60s.

Another observation is that when the say nudity is displayed in French Cinema its casual and nonchalant, natural.  When American independent producers started to push the Motion Picture Production Code they acted like kids, with no supervision, let loose in a candy store. They,  comparatively to the French, just pushed it in-your-face and overdid it.

Club Mystific Floor Show
Josy and Dora Doll (Michel Jourdan)
During the floor show at the club, Max meets with Fats and Angelo a drug racketeer. Max vouches for Marco to Fat's who doesn't like the current pusher that Angelo has selected to work the nightclub.
Angelo (Lino Ventura)  Max and Fats (Paul Frankeur)  
After the meeting with Fats, Max looking for Riton in Josy's dressing room finds Josy in Angelo's arms. He doesn't mention this to Riton.
Max takes at taxi back to his apartment. An ambulance tailing them. Max tells the driver to give them the slip. They managed to ditch the ambulance, but Max takes no chances and watches and waits at his apartment house.

The two men tailing him are Angelo's goons. He traps them in an elevator, then fires a couple of shots in the air causing the concierge to call the cops.
Trapped in the elevator
Max then calls Riton telling him to beware of Angelo. He also instructs Riton to come and pick him up. Max and Riton drive to Max's safe house. Riton has never been there. Max discloses to Riton where he has the gold  stashed.

Riton confesses to Max that he hinted at having the gold to Josy because he thought he was loosing her. Max replies that he saw Josy and Angelo together. Josy must have spilled the beans to Angelo.
 Oscar the Fence (Paul Œttly and Max
The next morning Max takes the gold to a fence to convert the gold to cash. When he gets back Riton is gone. Max calls Josy's hotel and discovers that Riton was just taken away in an ambulance.

Max hires Marco as his backup and heads with him to Josy's hotel. Their they capture Fifi, one of Angelos men who was staking out the place. Max calls Fats at his apartments. They take him there and down to the subbasement and work him over to get some information.
The capture of Fifi
don't **** with Fats
Max calls Angelo and tells him he'll trade the gold for Riton. They set up the exchange but of course it all goes Noirsville.

Here is another Hollywood no-no Max grabbing a woman's breast in jest making a joke 
The exchange

This is a perfect film, Jean Gabin's performance is excellent. Throw in Lino Ventura and a young Jeanne Moreau as a cabaret dancer and the exquisite Black & White cinematography of Pierre Montazel all under the direction of Jacques Becker and it all adds up to Masterpiece. 10/10. Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsille
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Compartiment tueurs aka Sleeping Car Murders (1965) Masterpiece Policier

"The greatest film policier ever made."(Dave Jenkins SLWB)

Directed masterfully by Costa-Gavras (Z (1969)).

Compartiment tueurs (literally translates as "Killers Compartment") is an excellent "Policier" Noir, but also functions as an Ensemble Noir.

We call them here Police Procedurals, Classic Noir films like Naked City, He Walked By Night, White Heat, The Street with No Name, Appointment with Danger, Mystery Street, The Sniper, Detective Story, Cop Hater, The Tattooed Stranger, and Shield for Murder. Transitional Noir Films like Experiment In Terror, The Manchurian CandidateIn The Heat Of The Night, and In Cold Blood cover the same territory. At the same time there were lots of equally good foreign procedurals, in fact, quite a few UK Noirs are police procedurals a classic of note being The Blue Lamp. There is also Stray Dog and High And Low from Japan, and from Germany one of the catalysts of the sub genre, the original M.
Yves Montand as Inspector Grazziani

 Jean-Louis Trintignant as Éric Grandin and Simone Signoret as actress Éliane Darrès


 The film is also a great Ensemble Noir with quite the interesting cast. Yves Montand as Inspector Grazziani "Grazzi," Jacques Perrin as Daniel, Catherine Allégret as Benjamine Bombat aka "Bambi,"
Pierre Mondy as Superintendent Tarquin, Claude Mann as Jean-Lou Gabert, Jean-Louis Trintignant as Éric Grandin, Simone Signoret as actress Éliane Darrès, Charles Denner as Bob Vaski, Michel Piccoli as René Cabourg, Pascale Roberts as Georgette Thomas, Jacques Dynam as Inspector Malec
André Valmy as Inspector, Philippe Rouleau as Inspector Antoine, Maurice Chevit as Inspector Moutard, Nadine Alari as Mme Grazziani, and many other memorable bit part players.
Compartiment tueurs was written by Sébastien Japrisot and Costa-Gavras and was based on Sébastien Japrisot's novel. The excellent Cinematography was by Jean Tournier, the exceptional ahead of it's time, Film Editing was by Christian Gaudin and the Art Direction was by Rino Mondellini. The innovative  percussive Music was by Michel Magne. 

Wow, here is a film that puts the pedal to the metal and doesn't let up until the last frame. Why the heck 
haven't we, here in the US, seen or heard of this before. Ok I'll venture a couple of guesses. One, it was
released in the US on March 7th, 1966, in the way way off Broadway Coronet Theater at Third Avenue
and 59th Street. and possibly also in Los Angeles in some art house hole-in-the-wall, and then
disappeared. Why? Because there is a great percentage of Americans that have blinders on to anything
that's foreign, and to anything that is not dubbed into English. If they, god forbid have to "read"
subtitles forgedaboudit. And these admissions and declarations come from people who claim to
be movie lovers, Noir lovers, "cineasts," etc., etc.

Its as if nothing outside their own little comfort zone of American movies matters. They'd rather watch
obscure B-Z Hollywood Product than foreign Noir Masterpieces and of course equally great foreign B
films. It's their loss.

Noirsville is dedicated to digging out these obscure, neglected, forgotten titles, and bringing them to English speaking Noir lovers attention. Quite a few of these films are the equal to many American Classic Noir and they weren't under the thumb of a Motion Picture Production Code.
The platform
Compartiment tueurs is ahead of it's time. It's fast paced, stylish, engaging. Marseilles. The station. A young woman Bambi hurries to board the overnight train to Paris. At the end of her car she steps up and bumps into Daniel a boy about her age. He is trying to scam a free trip by eluding the conductor. The metal tips on his shoes puts a run on her stocking. Its a meet cute device that is repeated.

Catherine Allégret as "Bambi," and  Jacques Perrin as Daniel

Bambi heads to her sleeping compartment. The compartment contains six bunks. Four of them are occupied. Two women and two men. On the lower bunk on the right is a film actress Éliane Darrès, above her is a cosmetic consultant Georgette Thomas. Above Georgette is a man named Rivolani. On the bottom bunk on the left is René Cabourg an insecure nebbish who is taking up-skirt peeps of Georgette. Bambi takes the middle bunk above him.

Michel Piccoli as René Cabourg
Pascale Roberts as Georgette Thomas
 The train pulls out of Marseilles. After the conductor checks her ticket Bambi gathers her toiletries and heads to the washroom. It's occupied. She knocks on the door. Daniel opens it and lets her in. When the conductor knock on the door Bambi opens it and tells him he already checked her ticket. Once he passes down the aisle, Bambi tells Daniel that the berth above her's is unoccupied and that he should sneak in and use it. He does.

At first light, as the train pulls into Paris, Daniel tells Bambi he's going to leave now before the others awake, and asks her to grab his suitcase. He'll meet her outside the station. However Bambi forgets to get his suitcase. Daniel then heads back aboard the train. At the compartment he finds the dead body of Georgette laying in her bunk. Shocked, he grabs his suitcase, re-meets Bambi, but says nothing.
The body of  Georgette Thomas

When the authorities discover the body the police investigation begins starting with trying to track down all the sleeping compartment occupants.



The wonderfully detailed screenplay along with the nuanced performances of the large ensemble cast provides you with an intriguing look into the detailed investigations of a homicide bureau that has to not only investigate the original murder, but are also racing against time in Noirsville because the remaining occupants of the sleeping compartment start showing up dead 


All of the cast is exemplary, especially Yves Montand (The Wages Of Fear, Is Paris Burning?, Grand Prix, Z) who reminds me of a cross between Bogart and a "baby I don't care" Mitchum. Simone Signoret (Dédée d'Anvers) (Montand's wife at the time) is good as the actress past her prime. Signoret's real life daughter Catherine Allegret (from her marriage to director Yves Allegret) is impressive.

A French Noir masterpiece 10/10. Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsville
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The Accused (1949) Psychological Woman's Noir

Directed by William Dieterle (Rope Of Sand, Dark City).

The film was written by Ketti Frings and was based on the novel Be Still My Love by June Truesdale. The cinematography was by Milton R. Krasner and the music was by Victor Young.

The film stared Loretta Young as Dr. Wilma Tuttle, Robert Cummings as Warren Ford, Wendell Corey as Lt. Ted Dorgan, Sam Jaffe as Dr. Romley, Douglas Dick as Bill Perry, Suzanne Dalbert as Susan Duval, Sara Allgood as Mrs. Conner, and Mickey Knox as Jack Hunter.

Wilma Tuttle is a prim and proper Professor of Psychology. In her class is Bill Perry, a former serviceman, is also egotistical and a very confident womanizer. He notices a bit of arousal in Wilma when he puts his sights on her. That weakness he exploits. Wilma seems a bit flattered by his attentions, but is also aware of the impressions upon her class that Dirk posses. In the interests of decorum she  confronts Perry and tells him that she made arrangements for him to be transferred to another class

Perry gets his big chance when Wilma misses her bus and he offers to drive her home. Perry takes the PCH and stops on a turnoff above the cliffs over the Pacific North of Malibu. While the waves crash below Perry explains that his hobby is abalone fishing. He shows her his snorkeling gear laying on the back seat and explains that he pries the abalone from the rocks with an old car leaf spring. Abalone are sort of giant sea snails with one oblong shell and hairlike tentacles, that graze the sea bed.
Loretta Young as Dr. Wilma Tuttle
Douglas Dick as Bill Perry

Perry wants to show Wilma how he does it. He tells her to change into one of the suits he has while he runs behind his car to slip on his trunks. Wilma hesitates Perry suited up, now begins to pressure her. He grabs her she runs around the car. Perry likes the chase. He pins her up against the door and kisses her tenderly.

Whats interesting, here in the film, is that for one brief second she reacts, melting into his grasp like the love starved matron she appears to be. But she freezes and fights him off even more fiercely, no to Perry means yes and faster. He pushes her down onto the bench seat. I wonder occasionally how many bench seats were accounted for in the cherry-popping of American womanhood?

Wilma rises up a bit and reaches up over to grab something she can use for a weapon. Unfortunately for Perry, she chills him, after gabbing the leaf spring and bashes in the back of skull.

Now panicked, Wilma, like countless male characters in Film Noir, makes the bonehead play, instead of running out to the highway, flagging down a car and reporting to the police, in a panic she fakes Perry death. She grabs his abalone bucket and climbs down the cliff filling it with sea water. She fills Perry's lungs with water by pumping on his chest similar to the compression thrusts you'd do for CPR. She puts on his abalone belt on his dead body and then pushes him off the cliff into the water. She also wipes off anything in the car that she touched. Its now getting dark by the time Wilma stumbles to the highway and starts walking home. She avoids all vehicles until she is some distance way.

Finally, a friendly truck stops when she trips and falls. The driver notices that Wilma looks disheveled. He tries to talk to her She doesn't answer.
Wilma and Jack Hunter (Mickey Knox)
He correctly guesses that she had some type of sexual run in with some one and tells her to be more careful next time. When he gets to his turnoff he drops he near a bus stop. She rides one to her boarding house.
Wendell Corey as Lt. Ted Dorgan
The suspense builds throughout the film as the police headed by Lt. Ted Dorgan. They are ready at first to go along with the accidental death scenario, but change their minds after an autopsy is performed that, does find seawater in Perry's lungs, but also finds microscopic splinters from the bucket. Murder. Dorgan begins investigating like a pit bull clamped on a bone.
Sam Jaffe as Dr. Romley
When Dorgan zones in on Perry's just prior conquest to Wilma a pregnant foreign student, and suspects her of the murder. Wilma is, of course, assigned as her advisor. Complicating things more when Warren Ford, a lawyer appointed Perry's guardian managing his affairs falls in love with Wilma and vice versa. Hey its a woman's noir.  lol.
Robert Cummings as Warren Ford
It goes Noirsville when Wilma pretty much gives herself away.


Dieterle's direction and Krasner's cinematography are riveting for the first third of the film. They also nicely depict Wilma's transformation from a professional, wound tight "schoolmarm," into a flowering beauty with the simple addition of love into the equation of her barren life. All of the performances are spot on and well executed. Even Sam Jaffe as the laboratory criminologist in a small part is impressive and I'm surprised that .

The film also has an unexpected ending, how they got that one past the MPPC would be interesting to find out Bravo! 7/10 Full Review  with more sreencaps at Noirsville
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Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) New York Noir

Obviously for a New Yorker, it's always interesting to watch a film set in or depicting New York City.

Sorry, Wrong Number was a Paramount Studio Production. It was all shot in California, however. Only some rear projection scenes had some real New York City footage.

Here's where the Noir Nerd in me meets the Subway/el Nerd . For this part of review  and full review with more screencaps check out Noirsville and  be forewarned  the "el" part it nerdy.

Sorry, Wrong Number was originally a radio play. It was written by Lucille Fletcher who worked between 1934 and 1939 as a music librarian, copyright clerk and publicity writer for the Columbia Broadcasting System. While there she met and married composer Bernard Herrmann. Beginning in 1939-40 she began to write radio plays beginning with My Client Curly on WHP-CBS, on March 7, 1940. Sorry, Wrong Number premiered on May 25, 1943, as an episode of the radio series Suspense. Fletcher adapted the radio play for the film.

The film was directed by Anatole Litvak. The Cinematography was by Sol Polito. Music was by
Franz Waxman
Barbara Stanwyck as Leona Stevenson
The film is almost what I like to call an Ensemble Noir meaning that aside from Barbara Stanwyck who plays Leona Stevenson, the rest of the cast all has about the same amount of screen time.
Burt Lancaster as Henry J. Stevenson
The rest of the cast, Burt Lancaster as Henry J. Stevenson, Ann Richards as Sally Hunt Lord, Wendell Corey as Dr. Philip Alexander, Harold Vermilyea as Waldo Evans, Ed Begley as James Cotterell, Leif Erickson as Fred Lord, William Conrad as Morano, John Bromfield as Joe - Detective, and Jimmy Hunt as Peter Lord.
Ann Richards as Sally Hunt/Lord
Ed Begley as James Cotterell
The Story

Leona Stevenson is a ****. She's filthy rich. Her daddy owns a chain of drugstores. She's spoiled, throws tantrums when she doesn't get her way. She also has a heart condition. She stole her husband Henry from his sweetheart Sally Hunt.

Her heart condition keeps her bedridden. The servants have the night off. Henry doesn't show up at his usual time from work and hasn't called to let her know if hell be late. She tries repeatedly to call office. On one of her attempts she overhears two men talking about a plan for murdering a woman. Part of the plan is to make sure that they wait for the 11:15 el train to cross the Queensboro Bridge. The sound of the train will drown out any screams. Leona calls the operator and the police but there is no way that they can trace the call.
Dorothy Neumann as Elizabeth Jennings

Leona finally gets a hold of Henry's secretary Elizabeth Jennings. She tells her that he was visited by a woman named Sally Lord. Henry took Sally to lunch. Leona calls all the Sally Lords in the phone book and reaching the right one finds out that Sally Hunt married a lawyer, who is a District Attorney assistant named Fred Lord.  Sally tells Leona that her husband is investigating Henry and that she actually tailed him to Staten Island and watched some strange going ons. Later Waldo Evans calls Leona looking for Henry and he confesses that he and Henry were selling secrets to a man named Morano but that when Evans got transferred they couldn't work the deal any longer. Morano then made Henry sign an I.O.U. for 200,000 dollars for the lost revenue. When Henry tells Morano that he doesn't have it he tells Henry that the life insurance on his wife will cover it.

It of course all goes Noirsville.


Wendell Corey as Dr. Philip Alexander
Harold Vermilyea as Waldo Evans
William Conrad as Morano
Staten Island Ferry
rear projection Lower Manhattan
Staten Island Rapid Transit


Sorry Wrong Number has a pretty complicated plot with a large ensemble cast. It helps to watch it more than once. Screencaps are from an online streamer. 7/10

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The Human Jungle (1954) Cop Shop Noir

I love it when I find a diamond in the rough.

So again, I'm going down a list of classic era Film Noir titles that, I either could not ever find any way to view, or they didn't, from reading the short blurbs that accompany the title, catch my interest this go round.

Besides the blurb, other weigh points are director, cinematographer (I'm visually oriented), then actors (for some I'll watch anything they are in at least once), location (I'll take real locations over studio sets every time), then story (does it sound interesting?), occasionally the production studio may be a minor factor but never a deterrent, and usually music last (though some films may only be interesting for their soundtracks).

Usually most the music in studio Classic Noir is somewhat homogeneous studio orchestra string pieces. Off the top of my head I an readily remember music from what I call the "Street Scene" Noirs, from Out Of The Past and pieces from Bernard Herrmann and a handful of others, but not much else unique except those noirs that began to incorporate jazz and blues into their soundtracks.

In my quest of following that Noir "high" I've come to appreciate a lot of low budget flawed films that an still deliver it. Flawed films that have some archival footage of locations that just don't exist anymore but on that particular film. Films that have a great cinematographer, but a knackered screenplay. Or a great director with no budget. Or a film with one good professional actor and the rest amateur. Film that have preserved the style of burlesque/stripper routines, the come-ons of carnival barker or the quasi professional performance of a night club torch singer.

So getting back to The Human Jungle. The director Joseph M. Newman didn't readily ring any bells so looked him.up. Newman is responsible for 711 Ocean Drive, and a recent discovery Death in Small Doses. Both pretty good Noirs. He also directed the studio bound Dangerous Crossing and later some twilight Zone episodes. The cinematographer Ellis W. Carter did a couple of Noirs I've never heard of Big Town After Dark and Waterfront at Midnight. The well polished screenplay was by Daniel Fuchs and William Sackheim.

Fuchs has a pretty good pedigree in noir responsible for The Gangster, Hollow Triumph, Criss Cross, Panic in the Streets and Storm Warning. Sackheim adapted 3D Noir Man in the Dark.  The music was by Hans J. Salter.
Garry Merrill as Police Capt. John Danforth
So who starred in it?, is probably your next question. Garry Merrill he really impressed me with his portrayal of wise **** hood Tommy Scalisi opposite Dana Andrews in Where The Sidewalk Ends.

He didn't have to go over the top like Widmark doing that other Tommy, "have a nice trip down the stairs Mrs. Rizzo," Tommy Udo. Merrill sold Scalisi with his cool delivery and his stance. He sold it and you bought it. What Merrill does here is portraying his range. He's equally believable to me as a smart hard as nails police reformer Police Capt. John Danforth. Then watch his broken on the wagon wino in the Transitional Noir The Incident.

What also makes you wonder why The Human Jungle isn't more well known is the equally exceptional performances of rest of the cast.

Jan Sterling plays a stripper/hooker Mary Abbott, I've never seen her look better and she was a veteran of seven noirs prior to this role (she is also in The Incident). Regis Toomey fits the part of Det. Bob Geddes like putting on an old pair of comfortable slippers.
Jan Sterling as Mary Abbot
 Regis Toomey as Det. Bob Geddes
Chuck Connors as Earl Swados
Chuck Connors really sines as meathead, gang muscle Earl Swados. Then you have, perennially popping up as a cop, Emile Meyer as Police Chief Abe Rowan and the equally adept James Westerfield as Police Capt. Marty Harrison.
Emile Meyer as Police Chief Abe Rowan
James Westerfield as Police Capt. Marty Harrison. 
Claude Akins is the mob connected owner of the Hutch, George Mandy.  The rest of the cast just add to the realism. Lamont Johnson as Det. Lannigan is great and looks amazingly like Tom Hanks, Patrick Waltz as Det. Strauss, Paula Raymond as Pat Danforth, Gary Merrill's wife. The rest, George Wallace as Det. O'Neill, Chubby Johnson as Greenie and, Florenz Ames as Leonard Ustick are equally believable.
Florenz Ames as Leonard Ustick and Claude Akins as George Mandy
Its a well executed film from Allied Artists, and when you're expecting too much going into it you get a pleasant surprise with what was achieved.

Dead Stripper/Hooker
The story is more about cleaning up a troublesome police precinct than solving the crime of who bludgeoned the floozy in the alley. The atmosphere of a lackadaisical precinct full of cops who don't give a **** is well executed. An old New York Times review from 1954 mentions that the film was full of "generally unfamiliar faces." It's full of faces that subsequently became quite famous and familiar on TV.

Captain Danny Danforth a good cop, is about to quit the force after passing the bar exam. He wants to make something of himself. Both he and his wife are tired of the daily grind of police work and being an attorney will be a big step up.

Danforth visits Abe Rowan the chief of police to see if he can just take off his last two moths off. However, while making his spiel to Rowan, they get interrupted by an urgent all. Another murder has been committed in the Jefferson Heights Precinct. Rowan tells Danforth to come with him down there and they can continue their conversation in the car. At the Heights, Rowan convinces Danforth to take over from the ineffectual Capt. Marty Harrison for his last two months.
Paula Raymond as Pat Danforth
Danforth agrees and tells Pat his wife that the assignment is just temporary. His transfer is at first resented by the ops at the precinct, but his hard nosed measures and the results they achieve begin to win them over. Danforth and Geddes make the murder of the stripper top priority. Their main suspect is Earl Swados the strippers boyfriend. His alibi is another stripper Mary Abbott.

Other distractions arise when one of the detectives in the new zeal to deter crime accidentally kills a civilian while stopping a tire robbery at a filling station, and when the mob stages a police brutality rap against the department. Both headlines make Danforth look bad.

Danforth puts pressure on Abbott to turn states evidence. He assigns a few undercover detectives to go to The Hutch the strip club where she works and they arrest her for soliciting. While they are holding her in jail they bring in Swados again and tell him that she's squealing. Swados is not the sharpest tool in the shed and he begins to sweat.

Swados is let out on a Habeas Corpus and he goes and tells his boss at the club, Mandy, and the local crime boss Ustick about Mary. They tell him not to worry that the police are just bluffing.

Danforth decides to put Mary under full police surveillance when they have to let her out, and let her be the bait hoping that Swados will make his move on her.







An anonymous  New York Times review at the time, goes on to say that "Unfortunately, the color of this hard-bitten canvas surpasses its substance. Mr. Merrill's campaign is valiant but predictable, hinging on the inevitable platinum blond cutie, excellently played, as usual, by Jan Sterling."

This just goes to say that back in the day (the 50s) they were churning out these cops and criminal features like they were going out of style. From 1949 to 1954 they produced 52 in '49, 57 during high water mark  '50, 39 in 51 then 26, 21, and back up to 26 in 1954. That's 221 Crime features a lot of the great Film Noir. It's easy to see how this gets lost in the shuffle.

The Times also went on to say "And Emile Meyer, Regis Toomey, Chuck Connors and most of the other supporting roles are expertly ticked off."Sounds like he's writing a four star review. He goes on "Furthermore, for once we get a rather unorthodox façade for evil in Florenz Ames' chilling milquetoast."

I think the final lines display a somewhat jaded attitude "Alas, none of them, including Mr. Merrill's hero, is particularly intriguing. For all the picturesque puttering and sputtering, "The Human Jungle" lodges unimportantly somewhere between "The Asphalt Jungle" and "Detective Story.""  Its important now because of the new interest in Films Noir, and sitting between The Asphalt Jungle and Detective Story ain't to shabby a spot, don't ya think?

It's not so much about solving a crime as it is about the change in the characters getting there. From Allied Artist originally Monogram Pictures. Its a bit studio bound and could have used more location shots. 8/10 Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsville.
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  • 2 weeks later...

The Flame (1947) Flame Out Noir

Christmas - New Year Noir Meller.

Directed by John H. Auer written by Lawrence Kimblefro a story by Robert T. Shannon.

Here's a "C" Noir from Republic Pictures that's just a bit of a ratchet up from every Hugo Hass "prodution" I've seen. But what Hugo always got right is the inclusion of a sleazy blonde bombshell in every one of his Noirs. A blonde who knew the sore and could always make a living on her back in a pinch

Auger includes a foreign born blonde but instead of sexy she comes off demure and mousy. Vera Ralston, a born in Czechoslovakia ice skater, is playing an ex French Nurse, she must be Republic's answer to Belita, another foreign blonde who failed to ignite in America.

Auer went to to make two other excellent noir The City That Never Sleeps and a favorite of mine Hell's Half Acre.

What The Flame has going for it is a great opening Noir eight minutes that has a jazzy almost rockabilly soundtrack, and then periodic appearances from Broderick Crawford and Constance Dowling which tend to make up for the draggy soap opera sequences.

After those first eight minutes the flame out begins when we get to the flashback. Much like The Set Up,( thought it's actual runtime is 1:37 minutes)  The Flame in real time takes place in the hour before 12 on New Years Eve.

The Opening Sequence

Tale is about two brothers. George and Barry MacAllister. George is the wild ****, debonair playboy, an ex GI who fiddled away his inheritance on living high on the hog in rooms with a view in the Hapshire House at 150 West 59th Street. A view of  New York's Central Park. His always sickly brother Barry is ensconced at the families seaside estate perched on a cliff in that looks like Rhode Island. Barry is fond of playing morbid, organ music. Its basically the equivalent of the "elevator" or innocuous funeral parlor music type crap you'd hear and forget.
Robert Paige is Barry. Henry
Vera Ralston is Carlotta Duval 
Blanche Yurka is Aunt Margaret 
Whose notion of this being a good idea is perplexing. Maybe it was called for in the original story. Heinz Roemheld is credited with the soundtrack.

The palatial mansion combined with Barry's dirges creates a funereal atmosphere that manages to shift everything everything into low gear. Barry still has his half of the family fortune. A nurse, Carlotta Duval takes care of George. George has fallen in love with Carlotta.

Carlotta is actually the nurse that George fell in love with while recovering from war wounds in a GI hospital in Paris. George gave her the introduction to Barry and Aunt Margaret, passing her off as the friend of his girlfriend in Paris.
Carlotta the bait
Carlotta the bait 
The proposal, and the hook is set

Carlotta is actually the nurse that George fell in love with while recovering from war wounds in a GI hospital in Paris. George gave her the introduction to Barry and Aunt Margaret, passing her off as the friend of his girlfriend in Paris.

George has cooked up this devious plan of having Carlotta marry Barry. I guess George, "knowing" Carlotta, figures that the strain of the marital bed will give Barry a heart attack and put him in an early grave. Once a suitable period of mourning passes George will marry Carlotta and he'll regain control  of the remainder of the family fortune.

Broderick Crawford is Enie Hicks

While this scheme is stewing in the suburbs, a shlub named Ernie Hicks, pops up into the tale. George notices him hanging around his apartment house lobby, and then sees him from his balcony looking up at him while standing under a streetlight on the Central Park side of 59th. George goes down to confront him.

George: Ok lets have it what's on your mind?.
Ernie: Is this a stickup?
George: You know its not a stickup.
Ernie: What is it then?
George: Every time I turn around I see your face.
Ernie: Its my face I'll take it where I please.
George: If you don't want it messed up quit trailing me.
Ernie: If anybody's trailing you I don't know anything about it, I got troubles of my own and the don't include you.
George: Then what are you casing my apartment for?
Ernie: Your apartment, your name Helene? Do you work at the Chef Au Blanc, do I have a yen for you?
George: Helene Helene Anderson?
Ernie: Yea, and you know her, that's your angle.
George: No, I just heard she moved into the apartment. What are you watching her for?
Ernie: She's a dame that needs watching.
George: Girlfriend.
Ernie: Sometimes I wonder.

Ernie is the obsessed boyfriend of one of George's apartment house "friends with benefits," Helene Anderson. She's a torch singer at the Chef Au Blanc night club.
Constance Dowling is Helene
Ernie begins to suspect George of stealing his gal.  Then it all starts going seriously downhill once Ernie gets wise to Carlotta and George's swindle. Another unexpected development sends it all spiraling to Noirsville.


John Carrol the perennial sleazy, pencil thin mustache wearing, second banana supporting actor plays George. He is very convincing. Broderick Crawford character is sort of a smarter version of the small time crook he played in A Night Before Christmas (1942) and a softer version of the hood he plays in Born Yesterday (1950). Constance Dowling is also very effective as Helene.

Vera Ralston as Carlotta Duval is very forgettable as is Robert Paige playing Barry. Henry Travers (who everybody will recognize as Clarence the angel from Its A Wonderful Life) plays Dr. Mitchell, Blanche Yurka is the sour dowager Aunt Margaret who was in charge of the MacAllister estate until the brothers came of age (their parents both died in a tragic accident), Hattie McDaniel plays the MacAllister maid Celia.

The first eight minutes like I mentioned earlier is great. Another highlight for me is the mid century modern style of chair that George sits in in his apartment is exactly like one I owned in Montana. Sreencaps are from an online streamer. Watchable. 6.5-7/10.  Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsville
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  • 4 weeks later...

Larceny (1948)

"Believe it or not Shelly Winters actually looked pretty hot in this, but again, by the end, I couldn't wait for her to die." 

Directed by George Sherman. 
Sherman was responsible for The Sleeping City and The Raging Tide two very decent Richard Conte Noir that could use restorations.
Larceny was written by Herb Margolis, Lou Morheim, William Bowers for screenplay based on the novel The Velvet Fleece by Lois Eby and John Fleming.
Cinematography was by Irving Glassberg. Music was by Leith Stevens.
John Payne as Rick Maxon
 Dan Duryea as Silky Randall
The film stars John Payne as Rick Maxon, Joan Caulfield as Deborah Owens Clark, Dan Duryea as Silky Randall, Shelley Winters as Tory, and Dorothy Hart as Madeline. The rest of the cast includes Richard Rober as Max, Dan O'Herlihy as Duke, Nicholas Joy as Walter Vanderline, Percy Helton as Charlie Jordan, Walter Greaza as Mr. Owens, Patricia Alphin as Waitress, Harry Antrim as Mr. McNulty, Russ Conway as Detective, Paul Brinegar ("Wishbone" from Rawhide - TV Series) as the Mechanic, and Don Wilson as Master of Ceremonies.
Shelley Winters as Tory
Dorothy Hart as Madeline with Percy Helton
Miami Beach. Silky Randal and Rick Mason. Two high power confidence men. 1947 Lincoln. Top down  convertible. Tool up to stucco mansion. They saunter in. Nonchalant. Inside they are confronted by their newest "partner" with a fake photo.

The photo shows Silky Randal standing along side a high society swell. The real news paper file photo just shows the swell. When the mark tells the he'll call the police, Silky tells him go ahead, we're all partners. Silky tells the mark he'll have to pay back his friends who invested in the marina.

The next con is a recent rich war widow they are going to talk into investing in a memorial to her dead husband. Rick Mason is the point man on this one. The only complication is Tory, Silky's gal pal. Tory is hot to trot for Rick.

Rick rides The Superchief to Mission Valley. It was a sort of high class rolling Art Deco hotel. Ya got on in Chicago and 30 something hours later got off in The City Of Angels.

Rick from the research on this con, checks into the equivalent of the YMCA called the Youth Association. The war hero vet whose widow is the next target was an alumnus.  Charlie Jordan (Percy Helton) the director of the club is delighted to hear that Mason was a GI friend of Madeline's late husband. Charlie makes Rick's introduction to Madeline. She's delighted to hear about her husbands dream of creating a new youth center/resort and is all in to make it come true.

It all goes Noirsille when Tory follows Rick to California arriving on the bus a few days later followed soon after by Silky.

Paul Brinegar as the Mechanic


The film is quite entertaining and its always great to see Percy Helton in another Noir. Needs a good restoration. As is a 6.5-7/10. Full review with more screencaps  at Noirsille.
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Cry Terror (1958) New York City Tail Fin Noir

"A nice surprise, NYC realism, Inger Stevens in a performance I like, and a Tail Fin Noir too boot."

Let me explain. I've always stumbled upon Cry Terror in progress. Always too, with the scene in either the pent house apartment or the house. I never stuck around, feeling, now I know, correctly, that the film is best savored from the beginning. Those two scenes are not indicative of the whole film, far from it, There's quite a bit of excellent on location New York City cinematography and also some of Los Angeles South Main and East 4th Street, filling in for the Lower Manhattan money pickup at the bank sequence.

Directed and written by Andrew L. Stone.  Stone was born in Oakland, California he attended the  University of California and then joined the San Francisco Film Exchange. He worked for Paramount (1938-41), United Artists (1943-47) and MGM (1955-62). Wanting more artistic independence he set up his own production company in 1943. In 1950 he filmed Highway 301 (1950) a good taught Noir starring Steve Cochran followed by The Steel Trap (1952). Stone had a penchant for filming on location and this film deliverers it in style. Bravo.
Cinematography was by Walter Strenge (Hit and Run (1957)) and Music was by Howard Jackson.

The film stars a handful of Classic Noir, Transitional Noir, and Neo Noir vets. James Mason (Odd Man Out (1947), Caught (1949), The Reckless Moment (1949), One Way Street (1950), The Man Between (1953), Lolita (1962)), as Jim Molner,
James Mason as as Jim Molner
Inger Stevens as Joan Molner
Inger Stevens as Joan Molner, Rod Steiger (The Harder They Fall (1956), The Pawnbroker (1964), In The Heat Of The Night (1967), Duck, You Sucker (1971)) as Paul Hoplin.
Rod Steiger as Paul Hoplin
Neil Brand as Steve
Neville Brand (D.O.A. (1949), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) The Police Connection (1973))  as creepy Steve, Angie Dickinson (Ocean's 11 (1960), The Killers (1964), Point Blank (1967), Dressed to Kill (1980)) as Eileen Kelly,
Angie Dickinson as Eileen Kelly and Jack Klugman as Vince
Kenneth Tobey as Frank Cole
Kenneth Tobey (He Walked by Night (1948), The File on Thelma Jordon (1949), The Thing from Another World (1951), Angel Face (1953), Down Three Dark Streets (1954), Stark Fear (1962), Marlowe (1969)) as Agent Frank Cole, Jack Klugman (Time Table (1956),12 Angry Men (1957), The Detective (1968)) as Vince, Jack Kruschen (also a noir vet) as F.B.I. Agent Charles Pope. Terry Ann Ross as Patty Molner. Barney Phillips as Dan Pringle he's the actor playing the Martian in Twilight Zone's episode entitled "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (1961).

The Story
NYC. 20th Century Airlines. Office. The daily mail. Secretary. Opening letters. Crap. A threat.  A bomb. Explosive RDX. On a Douglas DC-4. Now on a flight to NYC.
Barney Phillips as Dan Pringle 
Roger Adams president of the airline calls his head of security Dan Pringle who calls FBI Agent Frank Cole. 
A phone call. Paul Hoplin. A waco. Ex Army. Bomb squad. Tells the president of the airline that the bomb is in the behind the seat pouch of such and such a seat number. He hangs up.                                                     A radio call to the pilot. The attendants find the bomb. Its only the size of a cigarette pack. It's jettisoned out the pilots cabin wing window. It hits the ground. It goes BOOM! It was real.

Hoplin calls again Tells the pres about bomb number two. Its in the luggage compartment. Can't get to it. Too bad. He hangs up.
The FBI call is for the plane to make an emergency landing at the nearest field. Its all on live TV. The bomb in the luggage is a fake.  
Watching TV is TV and electrical appliance repair man Jim Molner. When the police display the device on the screen Jim realizes he made it.
The bottom drops out of his stomach. He tries to call Hoplin at his hotel. He checked out. No forwarding address. He calls out sick. He goes home. He flicks on the news.


His wife Joan is surprised. I was duped he tells her. He explains that he made the bomb that was planted on the airplane. Hoplin told him he worked for the government. The Defense Department needed a very small and simple triggering devise and Hoplin thought of his old electronics wiz, bomb squad buddy Jim. Before Joan tells him to call the police, there is a ring at the door. Its Hoplin. He's got a gun out. Tells Jim to relax.

Meanwhile FBI procedural part of the film swings into action trying to track who sat in the seat with access to the pouch. Getting the names of all disgruntled airline employees, etc.,etc.

Patty the Molner's little daughter arrives home on the school bus. Hoplin takes the Molner's out to a 1957 Imperial Crown Southampton driven by speed freak Steve. Hoplin has them put on taped glasses so they can't see where they are going.
1957 Imperial Crown Southampton 
We next meet the other two accomplices to the bomb scheme. Vince and the bomb planter Eileen Kelly. Vince is showing Eileen the safe house he rented for the plan. He takes her to the living room where she meets the Molner's with  Hoplin and Steve who are already there.

Hoplin explains to Jim that nothing can be traced to any of Hoplin's crew, and that he is going to use Joan to collect the payoff. And shes going to do it because Hoplin will have Patty and Jim as hostages. Kelly and Vince  will hold them while Hoplin and Steve will take Joan.

The next call from Hoplin is to the home of Roger Adams the airline president. While he is out making the call fro a phone booth, Joan is left alone with "creepy" Stevey.
Stevey is popping pills and eyeing Joan and getting ideas. Hoplin tells Adams to have the money at the First National Bank. Meanwhile Steyey is getting the hots for Joan, who is not responding well to his attention.
Here's where the terror of the title comes into the picture. She's saved from a fate worse than death by Hoplin arriving back. Meanwhile Vince and Kelly arrive at her Penthouse apartment overlooking the East River, Queens and The Queensboro Bridge. BTW this location is very similar to Barbara Stanwyck's Sutton Place apartment in Sorry, Wrong Number.
The Penthouse
Queensboro Bridge and East River

The money pickup is set up for the next day. They give Joan a time schedule. She has to be back up at the safe house by 1:30 PM. If shes not there by then, her husband and Patty will be killed and another bomb is set to go off by 1:45 PM and is in a place where it will kill 100 people.

Joan gets the money and heads off for her rendezvous with Hoplin following his instructions to the letter.

Tail Fins
Tail Fins
One of the Manhattan tunnels
PATH tubes
Kenneth Tobey and Jack Kruschen as F.B.I. Agent Charles Pope
PATH Station

The pace in unrelenting. The Stones ratchet up the tension quite masterfully. Small mistakes in judgement or driving dilemmas an turn innocent mistakes into life threatening situations. Like in all Noirs people make dumb decisions that could make things even worse.

The film is entertaining enough for me and the cast performs compellingly. There is some great New York City archival footage of one of the Manhattan tunnels, footage of the long gone West Side Highway and also some sequences in the PATH tubes. Screenaps from an online streamer 7/10  Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsille
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Série noire (1979) Paris Neo Noir

Jim Thompson - À la française


Sort of a Paris Staten Island. One of those forgotten suburbs. Juxtapose crumbling one hundred year old dumps with empty lots rimmed by Modernist glass boxes. A suburb in flux. Franck Poupart. A door to door traveling salesman. Franck fantasizes about being a hard boiled detective. He's parked his 69 Peugeot 504 beater in a wasteland awaiting dubious development. Its thundering. He wears a trench coat. He's sort of shadow boxing with unseen crooks and dancing with femme fatales.

Franck stops outside a dilapidated house with a mansard roof, an old junked stove is sitting in the front yard, a real classy place. He grabs his sample case from the car. He spots a young lady watching from an upstairs window. An older Matron "La tante" answers the door. She tells him to scram. She don't want any. He counters by telling her he's looking for his client Mr. Tikides. He was a ****-up handyman.
Franck Poupart (Patrick Dewaere

The woman asks Franck if Tikides owes him money. Franck lies and tells her that he made one payment too many.
Mona (Marie Trintignant) 
 La tante (Jeanne Herviale)

She tells Franck that he's at the gym. He shows her a pure synthetic tortoise shell vanity set that she can have at no obligation. She says no and is about to close the door when Franck asks if her daughter would like anything?

She tells him its her niece. He tells the woman that her niece is pretty. He jokes and tells the old woman that he'd certainly buy some of that, and that maybe they could come to some arraignment. Franck is taken back when the old woman asks him if he has any quilted dressing gowns? Franck tells her that they are their specialty. Made in Austria of pure Pyrenean wool.

The old woman tells him to wait. It starts to pour. He figures that she just gave him the brush, so he picks up his wooden sales case and heads back to his beater.

As he's passing the stove he glances back at the house and sees the young girl standing in the open doorway. He stops and goes back. Apparently he didn't see signpost he just past by that told him he had just crossed over into the Noirsville Zone.

She doesn't talk. She walks back into the house. Franck follows her to her crummy room. She turns on her radio, and drops her flimsy robe.
She is naked. She's done this before. Franck is embarrassed. He stammers out the obvious. That she dropped her robe. She says nothing. He picks up his sales case and starts to walk out. The girl throws herself at Franck. Franck pushes her back grabs her robe and puts it around her shoulders. He asks her name she replies Mona. She tells him lets get on with it.  Here is where Franck's P.I. fantasy becomes somewhat of a reality. Franck asks her if she needs help and if she's being forced into prostitution. Again she doesn't answer. He picks up the sales case and starts to walk out Mona asks him if he'll come back. Franck tells her that he will come back.

Franck closes out the deal with the old lady. She's wearing her quilted robe. It cost Franck 400 francs.


The old lady tells Franck that she needs a winter coat, and we know how she wants to pay it off. Pimping out her niece. On his way to the gym Franck is psyched up about his "case." He sings an improvised song about Mona. Franck goes to the gym. He wants to collect money for a three piece suit bought by Mr. Tikides. He complains to Tikides manager. The manager pays off the 400 francs owed.

On his way to the office Franck calls ahead. The manager asks him if he found Tikides. Franck lies and says no, but tells the manager that he sold a quilted robe for 400 francs. When he hangs up Tikides is outside the phone booth waiting. He tells Franck that suit fell apart. Tikides starts banging his head on the booth door. Franck starts screaming at him that he's a rapist, that Mona is underage, and threatens to call the police.

Andreas Katsulas is Tikides
Next we meet Franck's wife Jeanne at their apartment. What a dump. Crap all over floor, food all over the table. Sink clogged. Tubs got gray standing water. A French **** hole.
Myriam Boyer is Jeanne

Jeanne is a shrew she is **** off about everything. And to top it off Franck wants her to make dinner. He asks her nicely. She ignores him and turns on the radio. He slaps her around and knocks her in the tub.

At his sales office he gets arrested for stealing and thrown in jail. Staplin has figured out the Franck has been skimming money from the company.
Bernard Blier as Staplin
Franck in jail

Franck gets let out after spending a night in jail and heads back to the office. He is **** off and is ready to blow his top.


At the office, just as he is about to confront Staplin, Staplin tells Franck that he can have his job back, because his wife just paid back all the money he embezzled. Frank is perplexed Jeanne paying his bills?  He finds out soon after that it was Mona who squared things.


Back home at his flop, Franck sees Mona standing across the street outside his door watching his house.


When Franck asks Mona where she got the money she tells him that her aunts got ten million francs squirreled away.

Franck starts falling for Mona and hatches a wild **** plan to get the aunts money. He starts by making friends with Tikides. They get drunk together. Of course everything goes Noirsville.









The carnage

Director Alain Corneau does a masterful job of transposing the Thompson-esue down and out milieu to France. Its a dark, dark, comedy continually spiraling downward into the abyss. Corneau deftly depicts this on screen in the last scene where after loosing everything Frank clutching Mona begins to spin around in a circle like water going down a drain to the sewer, nice touch!

"Every time Patrick Dewaere goes into one of his fantastic lies (which is just about every time he opens his mouth) I come close to busting a gut. The monologing is certainly the product of Georges Perec--I doubt Thompson was the source. Our English subtitles probably don't do it justice." (dave jenkins - SLWB)

Dewaere is fantastic. He tries to play it cool on the outside while obsessed and desperate on the inside while at the same time everything in his world is going to ****. Occasionally he gives away his frustrations tearing a room apart or smashing his head into a car hood. He is very compelling to watch. Bernard Blier as Staplin plays an equally convincing low life, a bottom feeding, slime ball working out of a dilapidated and empty storefront. He oozes that particular quality of being able to **** you sincerely with a smile while picking your pockets of everything you got. Its that special affinity of con artists, gypsies, and used car salesmen.

Marie Trintignant plays Mona as practically a mute. Is she stressed out?  Does she have PTSD? Maybe she just doesn't give that much of a **** about it. Whats it cost her 10 minutes at most? She is pretty nonchalant about it all. It's what she does to support her Aunt and herself.

Andreas Katsulas plays Tikides the moronic punch drunk boxer with a childlike mind. He adds or subtracts just enough in just the right places to convince you that he's dumber than a box of rocks. Myriam Boyer plays Jeanne and Jeanne Herviale plays La tante.

Cinematography was by Pierre-William Glenn. A fun film screencaps from Blu-ray courtesy of Film Movement Classics. 7/10. Full review with more screencaps at Noirsille.
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Guilty Bystander (1950) Brooklyn Alkie Noir

Under the Brooklyn Bridge.

The East River. The waterfront. The rummy edge of Brooklyn Heights, then, now part of trendy DUBMO.  Then, just a rundown dump. A woman drives up in a taxi. Georgia She pays the driver. He speeds off.

Georgia's standing in front of the "Riverview." Probably "Riversmell" would be equally appropriate.  Its a resident dive hotel with a convenient bar tucked into the corner. The lobby has mildew, potted plants, and a three legged derelict  The office back of the lobby desk has a smoky poker game. Georgia rings the desk bell. A matron, Smitty. steps up out of the game. She takes one look at Georgia, pegs her for a hooker, and tells her we're filled up.
Faye Emerson as Georgia
Mary Boland as Smitty
Georgia blurts out that she's looking for the house detective Max Thursday. Smitty tells her number 38 and its his day off so knock hard. She heads upstairs. Ex wife Georgia knocks. No answer. She pushes in the door. It knocks over a bottle that rolls under the bed.
Zachary Scott is Max Thursday
Max Thursday. Ex NYPD. Currently alkie. House dick. Sleeping off his day-off bender. Face down. On bed. He has a porn star mustache. He's wearing a day old stubble, wrinkled pants, and a wife beater. A class act.

Georgia is desperate. She wakes Max out of his stupor by telling him that that their son Jeff is missing. Max sobers up quick.

Georgia tells Max that she went into the city yesterday to look for extra work, and that she left Jeff with her brother Fred. By the city, to any non New Yorkers, she means Manhattan. When she got back she found a note from Fred saying that he had to go on an errand for Doc Elder and that he was taking Jeff on a choo-choo ride.

She waited up all night and they didn't show. Max asks her what the police said. She tells him she didn't go to the police. When Max asks why, Georgia tells him Doc Elder warned her not to. Max asks her where can he find Elder, she tells him in his office across from her apartment. He tells her that he'll be there in an hour.
Max borrows a fin from Smitty and heads out into the night. When he confronts Doc Elder the Doc pulls a gun on  him. Then the Doc offers Ma a drink. Alky Max naturally can't refuse. He takes it, he takes another. When Max ain't paying attention Doc Elder knocks him cold.
Jed Prouty is Dr. Elder
 Hours later Max wakes up in jail, a suspect in Doc Elders death.
Sam Levine is Captain Tonetti
Georgia gives him an dubious alibi. His old boss Captain Tonetti doesn't believe it but lets him out anyway. When he's let out again Max steps out into Noirsville .

Third Street Bridge over Gowanus Canal
Third Street Draw Bridge over Gowanus Canal
Kay Medford as Angel
J. Edward Bromberg as Varkas
Jesse White as the Masher
Dennis Patrick as Mace

Directed by Joseph Lerner. Written by Don Ettlinger and based on the novel by H. William Miller and Robert Allison Wade. Cinematography was by Russell Harlan (Gun Crazy (1950), Southside 1-1000 (1950), Ruby Gentry (1952),To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)) and Gerald Hirschfeld (Fail Safe (1964), The Incident (1967)). Music by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The original story in the novel all takes place in San Diego. There are six Max Thursday novels in toto, Fatal Step, Uneasy Street, Calamity Fair, Murder Charge, and Shoot to Kill.

The film stars Zachary Scott as alcoholic ex cop Max Thursday. Faye Emerson as Georgia his ex wife. Mary Boland as Smitty the owner of the Riverview Hotel. Sam Levine as Captain Tonetti of the NYPD. J. Edward Bromberg as mobster/smuggler Varkas, Kay Medford as the hooker Angel.
Jed Prouty as Dr. Elder, Harry Landers as Bert, Dennis Patrick (Dark Shadows he played Paul Stoddard and Jason McGuire) as Mace, Ray Julian as Johnny, Jesse White as the Masher, and John Marley as the bartender.

The copy I saw before this was atrocious. This print is quite the improvement. What was literally unwatchable is now a moody film with a depressingly gritty atmosphere. The bars are grungy, the hooker is convincingly sleazy, the subway chase is excitingly filmed. Its entertaining and features the Brooklyn East River waterfront and Red Hook.  7-8/10  Full review with more sreencaps at Noirsville
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Motherless Brooklyn (2019) New York Neo Noir

"Frank always used to say, "Tell your story walkin', pal." He was more philosophical than your average gumshoe, but he liked to do his talkin' on the move, so here's how it all went down. I got somethin' wrong with my head. That's the first thing to know.It's like having glass in the brain. I can't stop pickin' things apart... twistin' 'em around, reassembling 'em. Words and sounds, especially. It's like an itch that has to be scratched..
....And I twitch a lot. It's hard to miss. It makes me look like a **** ****, but if I try to hold it back, it just makes it worse.      (Lionel Essrog) 

Its funny. . . . To me anyway.

Though I now live back in New York and very into Noir obviously, I heard nothing about this films production. I actually caught the film on the big screen on its opening day premiere about as far away from Brooklyn as you an get 2,900 miles away in a theater in Burlington, Washington in the shadows of the Cascades. It was the first show of the day and in an almost empty house. I wasn't expecting much and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Director, Edward Norton combining Jonathan Lethem  novel Motherless Brooklyn with The Power Broker, a Pulitzer Prize–winning biography of Robert Moses by Robert A. Caro created a sort of New York version of Roman Polanski's Chinatown.

In that film inspired by the California Water Wars, Noah Cross and Hollis Mulwray (chief engineer of Los Angeles Department of Water and Power) manipulated the Los Angeles Basin and Owens River water supply to dry up farmland so that it could be bought on the cheap so as to control all the water rights.
Bruce Willis as Frank Minna
Motherless Brooklyn is a riff on New York City city planner, Robert Moses the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City and its surrounding suburbs.

Robert Moses created and led numerous public authorities that gave him autonomy from the general public and elected officials. Through these authorities, he controlled millions of dollars in income from his projects, such as tolls, and he could issue bonds to borrow vast sums for new ventures with little or no input from legislative bodies. Moses conceived and created Jones Beach and the New York State Park system.
Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph
It's this autonomy that Norton's planner, in the film called Moses Randolph, abuses his power in order to condemn poor neighborhoods to the wrecking ball in order to build expressways to move traffic and parkways to access the new public park spaces and beaches created. Jones Beach was literally built on a frequently storm flooded marsh land originally called Jones Island. The salt marsh at it's highest point was only two feet above sea level. Dredged sand out of Great South Bay was used to  build up to ten feet to create the beach and dunes. The parkways built to access the beach were designed for passenger cars only.

Bridge heights did not allow cheap public transportation access, so not only were the poor blacks, Latinos and other minorities displaced by these transportation improvements but those of the without car ownership had no way to get there.

I was one of the lucky ones, a kid whose parents owned a car. I remember a typical day at the beach. It was exciting. It started early. I was up with Dad. We loaded the beach chairs into the Chrysler. A jet age tail fin Windsor. A cooler, a beach umbrella, the split bamboo mats. Filled the tank at Moe's Sunoco.

We headed off to Joe Batini's Deli. Joe's was on 23rd. Ave Astoria, under the massive truss of the Hell Gate Bridge approach. We got salami hero sandwiches. Headed over to 46th St to pick up cousins Paulie and Michael. Back at the house we got mom and sis, then we got on the Grand Central Parkway. It was the Grand Central to the Northern State to the Wantag Parkway to Jones Beach. All Robert Moses projects. It was only 40 miles. The speed limit was 45 mph. It took forever to us kids. The destination was Field 9. The East end of nowhere. The destination for surf casters and adventurous families. The field house had porthole windows and was designed to look like a boat It housed changing rooms, bathrooms and a snack bar. It only exists in memories.

All this is a backdrop anchor to a tail of murder and messy family intrigue.


Early Morning. The late, late 50s. My NYC. Manhattan. An unnamed borough neighborhood. Could be Morningside Heights. Typical residential street lined with three and five story walk ups of brick and brownstone. They are fronted by wrought iron stockades and occasionally shaded by maples or ash anchored between sidewalk and bluestone curb.

 A 1953 Ford 4 door sedan looking like a large chrome trimmed beetle sits and idles. Lionel Essrog and Gilbert Coney are a couple of goof-ball Ops who work for Frank Minna's L&L Detective Agency. Its a slightly shady outfit one of those agencies that plays both ends against the middle . Gilbert is not playing with a full deck while Lionel has Tourette syndrome.
Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog and Ethan Suplee as Gilbert Coney
The both of them along with Franks other Ops Tony Vermonte and Danny Fantl, were all alumni of a NYC Catholic orphanage. Frank took the all under his wing. Lionel and Gilbert were both, in Franks words at the time, **** messes.

Lionel Essrog: ****' mess is right. The nun said my soul wasn't at peace with God and I should do penance. Frank said anyone teaching God's love while they hit you with a stick should be ignored on every subject.

Lionel uncontrollably blurts out rhyming gibberish, twitches like a twit, and generally acts weirder than Gilbert. This gives Gilbert a sort of false illusion of superiority. Don't believe it, he's one of Brooklyn's dimer bulbs. Lionel though, possesses a photographic memory and a high IQ which makes him an important asset to the agency. Frank's nickname for Lionel is "Motherless Brooklyn."

Lionel and Gilbert are on stakeout. Lionel is picking at a loose thread on his sweater sleeve.
Lionel Essrog: If!
Gilbert Coney: Quit pullin' at it! You're gonna make a ****' mess out of things.
Lionel Essrog: I got threads in my heads. I got threads in my heads! I got threads in my heads, man!


Frank Minna walks down the street towards them. Minna leans over the open window and gives Lionel somewhat complicated and detailed instructions including a phone number to call. At the end of them, Gilbert blurts to Frank "hows come you giving the lead to Lionel?' Frank asks Lionel about the instructions and Lionel repeats them back fast and verbatim.
They are supposed to shadow a meeting between Frank and William Lieberman. When Frank gives them a signal from the window of the meet house Lionel is to call the phone in the meeting room from the phone booth across the street.  Frank will answer but announce that its a wrong number but leave the phone off the hook so Lionel an listen in.
 1958 Plymouth Plaza
When Lieberman and his two goons don't like the price Frank is asking on his shakdown they grab him at gunpoint and take him out to their tail finned mildew green 1958 Plymouth Plaza. Lionel who heard it all go down has already scrambled back to the Ford. Lionel and Gilbert tail the Plaza as it takes off with Frank. Lionel and Gilbert follow.
A car chase ensues apparently across upper Manhattan and to the Harlem fork of the Triboro Bridge. They then head towards Astoria, Queens.

Once across the Triboro Bridge. They make a right heading South. Then down into what looks like  Long Island City and its industrial/warehouse district. Lionel and Gilbert are not the cavalry to the rescue, they arrive, the goons panic and Frank accidentally gets shot. Lieberman and his goons skedaddle. Lionel and Gilbert grab Frank.

 The assist Frank into the ford and rush him through Long Island City to the nearest hospital. 

Frank dying at the hospital tells Lionel to take his hat.
Lionel not only takes Franks hat but also his coat and other belongings. After the funeral Frank's distraught widow Julia leaves the agency in goomba Tony Vermonte's charge. Tony doesn't have much ambition or motivation in trying to find out who killed Frank.

Lionel takes it more personally, he starts wearing Franks fedora and coat and dedicates himself in to solving Franks death. Tony calls Lionel "Freakshow," and tells him he's wasting his time. In classic hard-boiled detective fashion, with the help of Danny and Gil, Lionel's investigations begin to shake things up.

From a matchbook in Frank's coats pocket Lionel gets the address of The King Rooster jazz club up in Harlem. From poking around there at the club, he gets the name of Laura Rose.  Rose is connected with Gabby Horowitz and the fight against urban renewal. Lionel begins to see patterns.The urban renewal protests bring commissioner Moses Randolph into the tale and of course it all leads to the on ramp of the expressway to Noirsville.

Leslie Mann as Julia Minna


Bobby Cannavale as Tony Vermonte
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose
Lionel with Willem Dafoe as Paul Randolph
Michael K. Williams  as Trumpet Man
Robert Wisdom as Billy Rose
Jerry Weldon - King Rooster Saxophonist

Norton and cinematographer Pope lensed a convincing film with a lot of style that evokes at the same time both Classic Film Noir and Neo Noir masterpiece Chinatown. The film looks like it was filmed at the fin de decade 1950s, and I should know, because I was a kid back then and living in those same neighborhoods depicted.

The only thing missing are the olfactive components, the smell of fresh bread wafting from the Italian bakery, the smoky aroma from a street vendor's roasting chestnuts mixed with car exhausts, and sour reek of rotting vegetables from garbage cans.

Motherless Brooklyn gets right what Last Exit to Brooklyn, a noir-ish 1989 German-British drama film directed by Uli Edel got wrong. Edel's film comes off as a bizarre parallel universe Brooklyn with convincing characters juxtaposed against unbelievable ones. But that's another review.

The score by Daniel Pemberton with jazz pieces interpreted by Wynton Marsalis is a beautiful accompaniment to those images. All the actors do an impeccable job, Norton is quite convincing in depicting his affliction, the rest of the cast is a wonderful ensemble of confidant actors who slip into their characters like you would slip into an old pair of slippers.

The film stars Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog, Bruce Willis (Die Hard, Billy BathgatePulp FictionThe Fifth ElementSin City) as Frank Minna, Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose
Alec Baldwin (Miami Blues, The Getaway,  ) as Moses Randolph, Willem Dafoe (To Live and Die in L.A., Wild at HeartAuto Focus) plays his brother Paul Randolph. Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire (TV Series), Lovelace, I, Tonya, The Irishman) as Tony Vermonte, Cherry Jones as Gabby Horowitz, Michael K. Williams (Boardwalk Empire (TV Series) as Trumpet Man, Leslie Mann (Last Man Standing) as Julia Minna, Ethan Suplee (Chasing Amy, Twin Peaks (TV Series)) as Gilbert Coney, Dallas Roberts as Danny Fantl, Josh Pais as William Lieberman, Robert Wisdom as Billy Rose, Fisher Stevens as Lou.

Screencaps are from an online streamer. Bravo, not bad Ed a 7-8/10. Make another. Full review in Noirsville.
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The Boston Strangler (1968) Fleischer Transitional Noir

"Old ladies in Boston?       Think what it must be like in New York."

Directed by one of Classic Noirs greats Richard Fleischer.

Fleischer gave us The Narrow Margin, Armored Car Robbery and Trapped.

The Boston Strangler is a 1968 American Bio Noir loosely based on the the book by Gerold Frank about true story of the Boston Strangler. The screenplay was written by Edward Anhalt Cinematography was by Richard H. Kline and Music was by Lionel Newman.

Fleischer stylishly combines visual Noir stylistics with what was the sudden popular flourish, in the mid 1960s  of the old revitalized optically printed split screen technique. Previously the technique was used to depict, as far back as the 1910s, two sides of say a telephone conversation.

In 1964 for IBM's "Think" Pavilion at the New York's Worlds Fair, Ray and Charles Eames caused a sensation with a 17- screen film they created this was followed by John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix and boosted again by the Universal's exhibition at Expo 67 in Montreal and a handful of Hollywood productions from 1968 to the mid 1970s.

Traditionally the split screen had divided the screen in half the rebirth brought multiple divisions allowing scenes to be depicted from different perspectives, by opening screens at different intervals the director can tell a story in a new way. Also different screens give different characters viewpoints, and even depicts simultaneous action in multiple locals. There is also I noticed in addition even a screen in screen sequence.

Traditional and Multiple Split Screen examples used by Fleischer in The Boston Strangler
small screen within widescreen frame
traditional split  screen
four screens depicting same newscast in multiple living-rooms
two screen showing news reporter POV and crowds PO
three isolated screens showing women's individual reactions to a new strangler victim
Another aspect of the use of multiple screens is that each of those screens contribute to achieving the same claustrophobic feeling that the old Academy ratio gave to Classic Film Noir, both within each individual frame and as a whole claustrophobic clusters of anxiousness and tension. You could also say they enforce the theme of the ability of the strangler to compartmentalize his psyche to the point of what, at the time, psychiatrists were calling a new "diagnosis" of Multiple Personality Disorder (known now as Dissociative Identity Disorder).

The split screen editing technique in The Boston Strangler was achieved by Film Editor Marion Rothman with Art Direction by Richard Day and Jack Martin Smith.

The full effect the split screen technology in Fleischer's film was probably missing in action for 30 some
odd years once it left theaters. Pan and scan with full screen would have decimated the intent.

The multiple split screen technique also has an audio accompaniment that reminds me of the effect Robert Altman would later specialize in. Just like in say Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller, you get that same "eavesdropping" of overheard conversations though in The Boston Stranglers case it's overheard police "rousting" as they roundup suspects.

The film stars a handful of Classic Film Noir, Transitional Noir, and Neo Noir actors. Tony Curtis (Sweet Sell Of Success) as Albert DeSalvo, Henry Fonda (The Long Night (1947), and The Wrong Man (1956)) as John S. Bottomly, Jeff Corey (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Fourteen Hours (1951), Seconds (1966), In Cold Blood (1967), ) as John Asgeirsson, George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) as Det. Phil DiNatale, Hurd Hatfield (The Unsuspected (1947)) as Terence Huntley.
Tony Curtis as Albert DeSalvo 
Henry Fonda as John S. Bottomly
Jeff Corey as John Asgeirsson
George Kennedy as Det. Phil DiNatale
The cast also includes future stars William Hickey (A Hatful of Rain (1957), Something Wild (1961), Mikey and Nicky (1976), ) as Eugene T. O'Rourke, William Marshall (Harlem Detective Drama | TV Series (1953) Blacula (1972). George Firth (A Rage to Live (1965)) as pickle salesman Lionel Brumley , and Murray Hamilton (Seconds (1966), The Drowning Pool (1975)) as Sgt. Frank McAfee.The film also has a plethora of recognizable TV actors, Mike Kellin (The Incident (1967)) as Julian Soshnick, Sally Kellerman as Dianne Cluny, Jeanne Cooper as the Hooker Cloe.
William Hickey as Eugene T. O'Rourke
Sally Kellerman
William Marshall
The film was based on the work of one unknown person dubbed originally "The Mad Strangler of Boston." The July 8, 1962 edition of the Sunday Herald, declared "A mad strangler is loose in Boston," in an article titled "Mad Strangler Kills Four Women in Boston." The facts are that thirteen single women their ages ranging between 19 and 85 were murdered in Boston and surrounding cities between June 1962 and January 1964.

At roughly the same time the police were also looking for another rapist called the "Measuring Man" or the "Green Man." The sequence in the film with Sally Kellerman actually depicts one of those rapes. After her assailant tied her to her bed he began to sexually assault her. He suddenly stopped saying "I'm sorry," and he left. The woman's description of her attacker led the police to DeSalvo.

Was the real Strangler caught? Who knows?







Gerold Frank’s book was an in-depth description of the police investigation with the tools available to them at the time of the murders. It also offered insights into the makeup of the serial killer. However the headshrinkers of the time came up with a completely different profile of the perpetrator than the man who actually confessed to the crime, Albert DeSalvo.

DeSalvo was not quite apprehended, as depicted in the film, by the police after trying to attack a woman who was entertaining a male visitor at the time he broke into her apartment.

DeSalvo’s guilt was controversial at the time. He was an inmate at a state mental hospital He had a rap sheet for burglary. His confessions were not very accurate and contained errors. Some details, though, only the actual killer would have known.

A DNA test was administered to the evidence collected from the last Strangler victim Mary Anne Sullivan. Sullivan, was sexually assaulted and strangled with nylon stockings and discovered on January 4, 1964 in her apartment at 44-A Charles St., Boston. The test was positive so DeSalvo was at least guilty of one of the murders, but he may have been a copycat killer piggybacking on the deeds of the original Strangler, who knows? Aside from the police procedural aspects of the film its most definitely not a documentary.  It's in the same category as Victor Buono's The Strangler (1964) basically conjecture using the psychology of the time and pure fiction regarding the depictions and possible motives of the Boston Strangler.

Aside from poetic license with the facts and the psychological mumbo jumbo all the performances are excellent. Tony Curtis gives a bravo performance, matching that of his serious turn in The Sweet Smell of Success. Henry Fonda as the coordinator of the Strangler task force is equally compelling. I found the combo of noir stylistics with the split screen technology very workable and quite intriguing. The film does loose a bit of steam in the last third once DeSalvo is incarcerated. Screencaps are from an online streamer Its a good Transitional Noir 7-8/10. Full review at Noirsille
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Murder Is My Beat (1955) Ulmer Noir

Low Rent Ulmer

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer ( director of low rent masterpiece Detour (1945), and The Man from Planet X (1951)). Written by Aubrey Wisberg and Martin Field. The Cinematography was by Harold E. Wellman and the Music was by Albert Glasser.

The film stars a bunch of "B" Movie and TV actors and actresses Paul Langton as Detective Ray Patrick, Barbara Payton (Trapped (1949), Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)) in her last film before starting her second career of being an alkie hooker selling her **** on Sunset Strip, as Eden Lane, Robert Shayne (Backlash (1947)) as Det. Bert Rawley, Selena Royle (Moonrise (1948), The Damned Don't Cry (1950), He Ran All the Way (1951)) as Beatrice Abbott. Roy Gordon (Night Editor (1946), Nora Prentiss (1947), Railroaded! (1947), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) as Mr. Abbott, Tracy Roberts (Sideshow (1950)) as Patsy Flint picture snatcher Spotlight Nightclub, Kate MacKenna as Miss Farre, Henry W. Harvey Sr. as the gas station attendant, Jay Adler (Cry Danger (1951), 99 River Street (1953), The Killing (1956)) as Louie, the bartender. William Fawcett as Police Pathologist.


The story is mostly told in flashback.
Paul Langton as Detective Ray Patrick

Rancho Motel. Detective Ray Patrick. Caught. Hunted down by his pal on the force Det. Bert Rawley. Patrick and a matron were escorting an ex nightclub chanteuse now convicted murderess Eden Lane by train to the pen. When the matron went to the dinning car to grab a bite to eat, Patrick and Lane hopped off when the train went slowly through an switch interchange.
Barbara Payton as  Eden Lane



Patrick the arresting officer on the original case always had some doubts. The victim Fred Dean was found with his hands a face in a fireplace. No fingerprints, no face, no DNA back then. The single witness was only sure about Eden, Dean's nightclub singer girlfriend being the last person seen with the deceased.

When they arrested Eden she admitted hitting Dean over the head but that was it.


When the train stopped at the last station Eden was shocked to see Fred Dean alive and kicking. Reading her reaction as genuine Patrick now believes her.


After hopping off the train they check into the Rancho Motel as man and wife. They give themselves one week to try and solve the case. Patrick and Eden fall in love.
The week goes by with no substantial results. Eden splits and Patrick is left holding the bag. As he's laying on the bed contemplating his fate Det. Bert Rawley busts down the door and arrests him.
Here the flash back ends. Patrick convinces Rawley to help him find this Fred Dean. Rawley agrees to give Patrick 24 ore hours.








Robert Shayne as Det. Bert Rawley





Jay Adler as Louie


Tracy Roberts as Patsy Flint