o/t: leisure reading during October

A reasonable crop of books read during October, especially since I was mostly working my socks off through three of the month’s weeks and, for the fourth, was entertaining my darling daughter and grandson on an all too rare visit. I grow misty-eyed every time I think about how long it might be ’til we see each other again.

Anyway, here are the books, the links as usual being to my Goodreads notes:

 

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Bait (1949)

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Cat and mouse games!
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UK / 68 minutes / bw / Advance, Adelphi Dir & Pr: Frank Richardson Scr: Mary Benedetta, Francis Miller Story: Bait (n.d.; play) by Frank Richardson Cine: Ernest Palmer Cast: Diana Napier, John Bentley, John Oxford, Patricia Owen (i.e., Patricia Owens), Kenneth Hyde, Sheila Robins, Willoughby Goddard, Douglas Trow, Richard Gatehouse, Jack Gracey, Wolf Tauber.

Having lost heavily one night at cards, a quartet of seemingly respectable characters hatch a plot to earn some money. Young Tom Hannaford (uncredited, but I think Tauber) has been “escorting” rich and none too bright Nina Revere (Robins) in the temporary absence of her husband. Tonight she was wearing a pair of diamond earrings that his friend Jim Prentice (Hyde), an executive for insurance firm Varley & Varley, values at £12,000.

Nina (Sheila Robins) says goodnight to toyboy Tom (Wolf Tauber?).

Jim (Kenneth Hyde) examines the earrings.

John Oxford as Bromley.

Eleanor (Napier), forceful leader of the quartet, instructs Tom to borrow the earrings on the pretext of getting them cleaned at Cartier. She, Eleanor, will take them to upscale fence John Hartley (Goddard) and extract £8,000 from him for the items. Thereafter, the gang of four—which includes Continue reading

King of the Damned (1935)

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité on a prison island!
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UK / 74 minutes / bw / Gaumont–British Dir: Walter Forde Pr: Michael Balcon Scr: A.R. Rawlinson, Charles Bennett, Sidney Gilliatt Story: King of the Damned (1934 play) by John Chancellor Cine: Bernard Knowles Cast: Conrad Veidt, Helen Vinson, Noah Beery, Cecil Ramage, Edmund Willard, Percy Parsons, Peter Croft, Raymond Lovell, C.M. Hallard, Allan Jeayes, Percy Walsh.

Noah Beery as Mooche.

Colonel Fernandez (Hallard), commandant of the prison camp on the island of Santa Maria—which is most assuredly not Devil’s Island, for fear of offending the French—is seriously ill, and his daughter Anna (Vinson) flies out to be with him. The friends (uncredited) with whom she travels warn her she may find that her fiancé, who’s also her father’s deputy on the island, Major Ramon Montez (Ramage), has changed a little since last she saw him. Her early time on the island is spent progressively discovering that the man she thought she loved has become a despotic monster:

Anna: “I wish [my father] wouldn’t worry about things when he’s so ill.”
Montez: “Hm. So do I.”
Anna: “Why doesn’t he leave it all to you?”
Montez: “Well, you see, your father and I work on rather different lines. We’ve got three thousand convicts here, and I believe the only way to keep them under is to keep them afraid of us.”

Helen Vinson as Anna Fernandez.

Without Colonel Fernandez’s knowledge, Montez and his sidekick Captain Perez (Walsh) are, to their own considerable profit, dragooning the Continue reading

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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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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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

o/t: leisure reading in August

I’ve gotten out of the habit of reading long books, which means they tend to accumulate unread on the shelves, so this month I decided to revisit the fabled Halls of Stonkerdom and tackle a couple of really long ones, plus another that was getting there in terms of wordcount. I’ll be doing a bit more of this catching up in the months to come.

Links are as usual to my Goodreads notes.