o/t: a great man

I must be the last person on the planet to realize that Sidney Poitier is 90 today. Happy birthday to the great man!

I was thinking to myself that it was a shame he made so few movies of noirish interest, but then I went and checked in my Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir and discovered there were more references to him than I’d remembered:

  • NO WAY OUT (1950)
  • EDGE OF THE CITY (1957)
  • The DEFIANT ONES (1958)
  • PRESSURE POINT (1962)
  • HANKY PANKY (1982)
  • SHOOT TO KILL (1988)

I really cannot now understand why I didn’t give an entry to In the Heat of the Night (1967) and its two sequels; even though they’re not noir they’re obviously of very strong associational interest. In the remote event of the book going into a second edition, I’ll obviously include them.

Probably my favorite of all the movies of his that I’ve seen is Lilies of the Field (1963), in which he plays an itinerant handyman who befriends a destitute immigre community of Eastern European nuns. I must at some point persuade myself, on however spurious a premise, that this movie has been *koff* sufficiently influential on the film noir genre as to deserve a writeup here.

o/t: leisure reading during January 2017

Several real goodies here, I’m pleased to say. The links are as usual to my often hasty Goodreads notes.

Unter Ausschluß der Öffentlichkeit (1961)

vt Blind Justice; vt The Whole Truth
West Germany / 98 minutes / bw / CCC, Bavaria Filmverleih Dir: Harald Philipp Pr: Artur Brauner Scr: Harald Philipp, Fred Ignor Cine: Friedel Behn-Grund Cast: Peter van Eyck, Marianne Koch, Eva Bartok, Claus Holm, Wolfgang Reichmann, Werner Peters, Susanne Cramer, Alfred Balthoff, Leon Askin, Rudolf Fernau, Gudrun Schmidt, Ralph Wolter, Heinz Weiss, Jochen Blume, Kurd Pieritz, Albert Bessler, Herbert Wilk, Peter Schiff, Heinz Welzel, Claus Dahlen.

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Staatsanwalt (District Attorney) Robert Kessler (van Eyck) believes he’s just about to strike the winning blow in his latest sensational court case—that of airplane engineer Dr. Werner Rüttgen (Holm), accused of murdering his wife of many years by poison to begin a new life with lovely young mistress Helga Dähms (Cramer)—when court proceedings are interrupted.

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Helga (Susanne Cramer) testifies at the murder trial of her lover, Werner (Claus Holm), seen at rear.

Another lovely young woman, Mrs. Laura Beaumont (Bartok), leaps to her feet and proclaims that the dead woman committed suicide: she knows because she was Frau Rüttgen’s oldest and best friend, and was there when Continue reading

o/t: my youngest reviewer yet?

There’s an interesting site called LitPick that’s devoted to reviews of books for children and young adults. The premise of the site, which has grown to be fairly huge by now, is that the books should be reviewed not by adults but by children themselves.

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When I heard this morning that the reviewer who’d written for them about my book Eureka: 50 Scientists Who Shaped Human History is aged just 11, I was slightly startled — after all, the book’s intended for young adults. But Continue reading

Çarpisma (2005)

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The fatal power of coincidence!
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vt Crash
Turkey / 18 minutes / color / Atlantik Film, T.C. Ministry of Culture, Tourism Directorate General of Copyright and Cinema, MTN, Galaksi, Sinefekt, Melodika, Cobay, Sinemaj Dir & Scr: Umut Aral Pr: Umut Aral, Ömer Atay Cine: Gökhan Atilmiş Cast: Ruhi Sari, Gürkan Uygun, Ali Çekirdekçi, Selçuk Uluergüven, Inanç Ayar.

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One day, on the sidewalk in front of the train station in Konya, there’s a collision between three men. By coincidence, all three are criminals, and the consequences of this accident are going to be profound.

The accident occurs because small-time pickpocket Ali Akar (Sari) is being chased by a street cop (Ayar) and fails to see the other two in time to dodge them. Those other two are Continue reading

Ivy League Killers (1959)

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A rare Canadian noir set among bikers and their molls!
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vt The Fast Ones
Canada / 68 minutes / bw / Ivy League Dir: William Davidson Pr: Norman Klenman, William Davidson Scr: Norman Klenman Cine: William H. Gimmi Cast: Don Borisenko, Don Francks, Barbara Bricker, George Carron, Jean Templeton, Patrick Desmond, Barry Lavender, Igors Gavon, Art Jenoff, John Ringham, John Paris, Gertrude Tyas, Jack Blacklock, Boyd Jackson & The Black Diamond Riders.

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Apparently the producers of Ivy League Killers, Norman Klenman and William Davidson, were eager to establish a commercially successful movie industry in Canada, and so they rather cynically tailored this teen melodrama as an attempt to cash in on the US fad, begun with movies like Rebel Without a Cause (1955), for dramas featuring juvenile delinquents. Whatever their motives, Klenman and Davidson succeeded in creating, out of a minuscule budget and a group of unknown actors, a movie that is actually rather fine, and one that could quite reasonably be considered a film noir.

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Nancy (Jean Templeton) and Don (Don Borisenko) in the face-off with the rich kids.

Four rich kids in posh sports cars—Susan Grey (Bricker), Andy (Francks), Charlie (Desmond) and Bertie (Lavender)—exchange words with a biker gang, the Black Diamond Riders, led by Don Gibson (Borisenko). Andy, the leader of the posh kids, is pretty rude to the bikers, and Don is rather reluctantly goaded by his jittery deputy, Bruno (Carron), into Continue reading

o/t: leisure reading during 2016

For what it’s worth:

JANUARY

FEBRUARY

MARCH

APRIL

MAY

JUNE

JULY

AUGUST

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

DECEMBER

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The links are to my often rather hasty Goodreads notes. All told, I read 118 books for leisure during the year, of which, by my possibly unreliable count, 68 were by women and (shamefully) just 18 were in translation. For two of the books listed, I’m the only person ever to have recorded reading them on Goodreads, so there.

And a Happy New Year to both my readers!

Widowmaker (2005)

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Once met, never forgotten!
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US / 17 minutes / color / Hollywood Ending Dir: Peter Rocca Pr: Karen Michel Scr: Chel Hamilton, Peter Rocca Cine: Tomas Koolhaas Cast: Jerri Manthey, Lucky Vanous, Nick Kiriazis, Tom Jermain, Joshua Zisholtz, Krista Swan, Bogdan Hope.

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This is an interesting little psychological thriller that’ll probably sound exploitational and/or trite however I try to describe it, but that well deserves its sixteen and a half minutes.

An anonymous young Woman (Manthey) has the habit of picking up men in bars, luring them to what they assume will be alfresco sexapolooza, and then dispatching them with the jolly big kitchen knife she has somehow managed to secrete in her none-too-voluminous clothing. One night, after dealing with the yuppie Sean (Kiriazis) in this fashion, she’s strolling through a local park when she comes across a little girl, Rachel (Swan), sitting on a swing illuminated only by streetlights. They exchange a few words, then the Woman goes on her way.

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Sean (Nick Kiriazis) meets his nemesis.

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The Woman’s first encounter with Rachel (Krista Swan).

But the next day—or so we assume—the Woman runs across Rachel again while rambling through wasteland. Rachel’s in the front of Continue reading

o/t: Christmas movieola

Here’s how we spent yesterday, in between guzzling. The links are to the movies’ IMDB pages.

Kokuhaku (2010; vt Confessions)
I read Kanae Minato’s source novel a while back, and for the most part enjoyed it a lot. The screen version, which is beautifully made, cleared up the main minor quibbles I had on reading the novel. A teacher takes hideous revenge on the two little psychos among her students who killed her daughter. This isn’t a movie for the impatient; it treats its material with respect, stripping away masking layers in carefully measured fashion to reveal cruel truths. I loved it, and plan to cover it in more detail on this site sometime soon. Even so, we very much needed the next movie as a counterbalance:

Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1953; vt M. Hulot’s Holiday)
A perennial favorite in this household. I hadn’t realized until I was fetching the IMDB url just now that this is one of only two screen credits for Nathalie Pascaud, who plays the beautiful Martine to whom M. Hulot—like every other male in sight—loses his heart, nor that the Englishwoman was in fact played by a French actress, Valentine Camax.

La Guerre des Tuques (1984; vt The Dog Who Stopped the War)
Reminiscent of The Goonies (which it in fact preceded), this was a lot of fun, with an underlying pacifist message that wasn’t too labored. In a small Canadian town, two sets of kids wage a snowball war during the Christmas break. There’s a really interesting review of the English-dubbed version here. We watched the Quebecois version with subtitles; a couple of the reviewer’s problems with the acting are clearly artifacts of the dub.

The Wind Cannot Read (1958)
Dirk Bogarde and Yôko Tani star in a weepie romance about a young English intelligence officer stationed in India during WWII who falls in love with a Japanese teacher. If this sounds a bit The World of Suzie Wong (1960) to you then it’s no major coincidence: both movies were based on novels by Richard Mason. I read the novel in my teens, and loved it. I last watched the movie a few years before that—I think my mum didn’t realize quite what the movie was about when she took me to see it—and most of it went over my head. (The movie’s quite cleverly made in that respect. For example, in a couple of places the leads have a conversation that to an adult is immediately recognizable as post-coital or even inter-coital, but, because the characters are fully clad, to a child is just another conversation.) Watching the movie again yesterday after all these years was like renewing a friendship.

Schachnovelle (1960)

vt Brainwashed; vt Three Moves to Freedom; vt The Royal Game
West Germany / 102 minutes / bw / Roxy, NF Dir: Gerd Oswald Pr: Luggi Waldleitner Scr: Harold Medford, Gerd Oswald, Herbert Reinecker Story: “Schachnovelle” (1941; vt “The Royal Game”) by Stefan Zweig Cine: Günther Senftleben Cast: Curd Jürgens, Claire Bloom, Hansjörg Felmy, Mario Adorf, Hans Söhnker, Albert Bessler, Rudolf Forster, Alan Gifford, Jan Hendriks, Albert Lieven, Harald Maresch, Dietmar Schönherr, Karel Stepánek, Wolfgang Wahl.

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Like Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948), this is based on a Stefan Zweig story. It’s a fascinating and distinctly noirish psychological piece, and in most of the important respects it’s surprisingly faithful to the original.

It’s the immediate aftermath of WWII, and the departure of the SS Adria, bound for New York, is being held back to await, as First Officer Nadis (Hendriks) explains to Glasgow blowhard MacIver (Gifford), the arrival of a special passenger. When world chess champion Mirko Czentovic (Adorf) arrives aboard with his manager cum flunkey Baranow (Stepánek), MacIver declares himself honored by the delay; as someone with more than a little experience of the chessboard, he can appreciate a man like Czentovic.

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Czentovic (Mario Adorf) and Baranow (Karel Stepánek) arrive at the dockside.

Which is more than Czentovic can do for the Adria or anyone aboard it. It looks like a refugee ship to him, and if he had his druthers he’d travel to his North American tournament in better company. In short, Czentovic is an obnoxiously arrogant toad, a Backpfeifengesicht, and it’s clear some of the Adria’s crew wouldn’t mind decking him.

Nadis tells MacIver that in fact this isn’t the passenger they’re waiting for. The passenger they’re waiting for is someone really special.

When the mystery passenger arrives, in the company of Bishop Ambross (Söhnker), he proves to be Continue reading