o/t: Crepúsculo (1945; vt Twilight)

***A splendid piece by Theresa/CineMaven on an important Mexican movie of noirish interest — hurry and read the rest!

CineMaven's ESSAYS from the COUCH

Since 2014 Once Upon A Screen’s Citizen Screen has been celebrating the contributions of the Latino community in classic films with her annual “HOLLYWOOD’S HISPANIC HERITAGE BLOGATHON.” And that time is upon us again:

Now listen, if we leave it to Hollywood and our old ‘Good Neighbor Policy’ you may see a whole array of Latino cultures represented by nothing but big sombreros, bullfights and banditoes. Whole civilizations were built without Hollywood’s and America’s help. If one takes a gander of different Latino cultures from their OWN vantage point and film industry, that is a whole different kettle of frijoles. ( Ugh!! ) A few years ago MoMA ( the Museum of Modern Art ) presented their “Mexico At Night” series of Mexican film noir from Mexico’s Golden Age of Cinema. I went a couple of times, seeing the staggering beauty of Dolores Del Rioin her native…

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For the Defense (1930)

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“Ten o’clock? What do you think I am—a milkman?”
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US / 63 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: John Cromwell Scr: Oliver H.P. Garrett Story: Charles Furthmann Cine: Charles Lang Cast: William Powell, Kay Francis, Scott Kolk, William B. Davidson, Thomas E. Jackson, Harry Walker, James Finlayson, Charles West, Bertram Marburgh, Ernie Adams, John Elliott, Syd Saylor, Billy Bevan.

So successful is New York City defense attorney William B. “Bill” Foster (Powell) at getting his clients off, by fair means or foul—usually foul—that the DA, Herbert L. Stone (Davidson), is moved to describe him to the Bar Association as the greatest single threat to the city’s law enforcement. A cop named Daly (Jackson) has made it his life’s work to catch Bill perverting the course of justice and put him behind bars.

Daly (Thomas E. Jackson) on the trail.

We see Bill’s technique in action early in the movie when, defending palpably guilty Eddie Withers (Adams), he throws to the floor the key piece of the state’s evidence, a bottle supposedly containing Continue reading

Dangerous Afternoon (1961)

UK / 59 minutes / bw / Theatrecraft, British Lion Dir: Charles Saunders Pr: Guido Coen Scr: Brandon Fleming Story: Dangerous Afternoon (1951 play) by Gerald Anstruther Cine: Geoffrey Faithfull Cast: Ruth Dunning, Nora Nicholson, Joanna Dunham, Howard Pays, Gladys Henson, Ian Colin, Jerold Wells, May Hallatt, Gwenda Wilson, Elizabeth Begley, Barbara Everest, Jackie Noble, Deirdre Clarke, James Raglan, Edna Morris, Richard McNeff, Jan Miller, Frank Sieman, Keith Smith, Max Brimmell, Trevor Reid, Frank Hawkins, Barry Wilsher.

Irma Randall used to be one of the most audacious jewel thieves in the country until she was caught and jailed. In making a prison escape she fell and broke her back, and now she’s recreated herself as the wheelchair-bound, ultra-genteel Miss Letitia “Letty” Frost (Dunning), owner of Primrose Lodge, a residential home for elderly ladies—in fact, her criminal pals who’ve retired from the profession.

Letty Frost (Ruth Dunning).

Louisa Sprule (Nora Nicholson).

Well, they have in theory, anyway. Sweet old Mrs. Louisa Sprule (Nicholson) is unable to break herself of the habit of petty shoplifting; Mrs. Judson (Everest) has difficulty letting a pocket go by unpicked; Miss Burge (Hallatt) compulsively Continue reading

Common Law Wife (1963)

US / 76 minutes / bw / Texas Film Producers, Cinema Distributors of America Dir: Eric Sayers, Larry Buchanan (uncredited) Pr: Fred A. Kadane Scr: Grace Nolen Cast: Anne MacAdams (i.e., Annabelle Weenick), George Edgely, Max Anderson, Lacey Kelly, Bert Masters, Libby Booth, Norman Smith, Dale Berry.

Sometime in the early 1960s, schlockmeister Larry Buchanan got halfway through an exploitation movie called Swamp Rose when, for one reason or another (perhaps someone spent the project’s budget on a busfare), he had to abandon it. A while later, director Eric Sayers was hired to cobble together Buchanan’s existing footage with newly shot material and make of the result what he could. That result was the assemblage of continuity errors released as Common Law Wife.

A major problem that Sayers had was that he couldn’t obtain the services of all the same actors Buchanan had used. In most instances the resemblance is close enough that you’re not really aware of the difference. What makes the movie truly confusing, though, is that the two actresses playing the central femme fatale, Jonelle, look nothing like each other—not only that, but they don’t walk the same, they have starkly contrasting Continue reading

o/t: Twin Peaks (1990-91 & 2017)

***The splendid movies (and more) site Wonders in the Dark has recently been running a highly ambitious “countdown” of essays about the greatest TV, and yesterday saw this reach its penultimate posting. Although Twin Peaks was/is not directly noir, it does, like almost all of Lynch’s work, overlap very considerably with noir and borrow boatloads of noir tropes.

So I asked Joel Bocko, author of the brilliant (and exhaustive) essay on the series, and Sam Juliano, WitD’s proprietor, if I might reblog Joel’s piece, and they very kindly said that I might. Hurry over there right now — the link’s at the bottom of this brief extract — and feast your eyes.

Wonders in the Dark

Twin Peaks s1

by Joel Bocko

This essay is spoiler-free until noted within the text itself. Readers unfamiliar with Twin Peaks are encouraged to continue up to that point, marked by “***”, to build interest.

Fair warning: this is also a very long discussion of a complex series, so you may want to read in installments.

Twin Peaks is not a TV show.” You’ve probably heard this refrain before, perhaps moderated to “Twin Peaks is not normal television,” or, more generously to the medium, “Twin Peaks changed TV forever.” However phrased, the essence remains the same: Twin Peaks still stands out boldly from the rest of the televisual landscape, twenty-seven years after its debut on the ABC network immediately following America’s Funniest Home Videos. As if to cement this iconic status, when the series returned for an eighteen-hour limited run this summer (dubbed by Showtime’s marketing department as Twin…

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Lights Out (2013)

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Scary movie!
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Sweden / 2½ minutes / color / David Sandberg Dir & Pr & Scr & Cine: David Sandberg Cast: Lotta Losten.

Many, many years ago I read the complete ghost stories of M.R. James in a single splurge—I was in bed with some minor illness. Aside from scaring myself near-senseless, I learnt something about the art of storytelling: that sometimes less is more. (Nowadays I’d regard that as a cliché, but it was new to me then.) Some of the most effective stories in the collection were among the simplest, tales stripped right down to the bare minimum.

My favorite, which I can still remember clearly to this day (although, oddly, I can’t recall its title), has a man Continue reading

o/t: Chesley Bonestell: A Brush With The Future

Here’s a forthcoming movie that couldn’t be further away from film noir: a feature-length documentary about the great astronomical artist (and so much more) Chesley Bonestell. I’ve adored Bonestell’s work since childhood, and quite a few years back was privileged to be the editor on Ron Miller’s deservedly Hugo-winning, illustrated large-scale biography of the man, The Art of Chesley Bonestell (2001; with Frederick C. Durant III) — in fact, it was Ron who drew my attention to the movie.

To learn more, scurry to the movie’s website here, where you can see lots of yummy artwork and watch a tantalizing trailer.

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Laguna (2001)

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What will you do for “family”?
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vt Segreti di Famiglia; vt Hotel Laguna; vt Vendetta
UK, Italy, France / 92 minutes / color / Metropolitan, Davis, Caimano, ReteItalia, FDC (Laguna) Dir: Dennis Berry Pr: Augusto Caminito, Samuel Hadida, Alan Latham Scr: Augusto Caminito, Claude Harz, David Linter Story: Augusto Caminito Cine: Roberto D’Ettorre Piazzoli Cast: Joe Mantegna, Emmanuelle Seigner, Sergio Castellitto, Henry Cavill, Daniela Alviani, Charles Aznavour, Davide Bozzato, Sam Douglas, Gustavo Frigerio, Francesco Fichera, Paolo Paoloni, Karin Proia, Terry Serpico.

Many years ago, when Thomas Aprea (Fichera) was just a child, his father Terenzio (Serpico) was the saxophonist in a musical trio with singer Nicola “Nico” Pianon (Mantegna) and violinist Joe Sollazzo (Castellitto). As we discover much later in the movie, Terenzio soon decided to supplement his musical income by working as a bagman for mobster Tony Castellano (Aznavour)—so-named in the credits but throughout called Tony Castell.

Terry Serpico as Terenzio

Sergio Castellitto as Joe.

Unfortunately, Terenzio then decided to supplement his musical income yet further by skimming a bit off the top. The result was that one day Terenzio’s car blew up, killing Terenzio, his wife and Thomas’s two siblings—Thomas himself escaped solely because he’d run back into the house to fetch a forgotten present. Since then, “Uncle” Joe Sollazzo has raised the boy on his own in New York City, even putting him through college.

Joe Mantegna as Nico.

Now that Thomas (Cavill) has graduated, Joe sends him off to Venice, to be Continue reading

Indestructible Man (1956)

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Is he insane, or is he just dead?
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US / 71 minutes / bw / CGK, Allied Artists Dir & Pr: Jack Pollexfen Scr: Vy Russell, Sue Bradford Cine: John Russell Jr Cast: Lon Chaney (i.e., Lon Chaney Jr), Casey Adams (i.e., Max Showalter), Marion Carr (i.e., Marian Carr), Ross Elliott, Stuart Randall, Kenneth Terrell, Robert Foulk, Marjorie Stapp, Rita Green, Robert Shayne, Roy Engle (i.e., Roy Engel), Peggy Maley, Madge Cleveland, Marvin Press, Joe Flynn, Eddie Marr.

To all intents and purposes, this is a fairly good second-tier film noir in the mold of The NAKED CITY (1948)—we keep expecting Max Showalter’s voiceover to inform us that “There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them”—with the single exception that it has a daft scientific/technological premise, thanks to the presence of an idealistic maverick scientist who, in his quest of a cure for cancer, manages instead to resuscitate the dead.

First of all, the noirish setup:

After an armored-car robbery gone wrong, Charles “Butcher” Benton (Chaney) awaits execution on the morrow in the gas chamber at San Quentin. Visiting him is his shyster lawyer, Paul Lowe (Elliott), and it’s clear at once that they don’t enjoy an ordinary lawyer–client relationship.

Lowe (Ross Elliott) visits the Butcher (Lon Chaney Jr) in San Quentin.

Lowe tells the Butcher that he might as well tell him where the $600,000 proceeds of the robbery are hidden, because the Butcher’s not going to be able to spend the loot when he’s dead. But the condemned man is having none of that. He knows that his confederates in the holdup, Joe Marcelli (Terrell) and Squeamy Ellis (Press), squealed on him, which is why he is here, and he knows that Lowe betrayed him in the guise of defending him.

Joe Marcelli (Kenneth Terrell, left) and Squeamy Ellis (Marvin Press) hear on the radio the news of the Butcher’s death.

Butcher: “I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that none of you three crumbs are going to spend it.”
Lowe: “What about Eva? Don’t you owe her something? You tell me where the money is, I’ll see she gets your share.”
Butcher: “I’ve got a different idea. I’m going to kill you and Squeamy and Joe. Then I’ll take care of Eva myself.”
Lowe: “You thick-headed ape—you’re going to die tomorrow.”
Butcher: “Remember what I said. I’m gonna get ya—all three of ya.”
Lowe: “Even for you, Butcher, that’d be quite a trick. So long, dead man.”
Butcher (to Lowe’s retreating back): “Remember what I said. I’m gonna kill ya. All three of ya.”

In real life you’d laugh off a threat like that one in a debonair fashion, which is what Lowe tries to do; but in this class of movie you know Continue reading