Moontide (1942)

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Ida Lupino and Jean Gabin (and Claude Rains and Thomas Mitchell!) in a strange piece of borderline noirishness!
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US / 95 minutes / bw / TCF Dir: Archie Mayo, Fritz Lang (uncredited) Pr: Mark Hellinger Scr: John O’Hara, Nunnally Johnson (uncredited) Story: Moon Tide (1940) by Willard Robertson Cine: Charles Clarke, Lucien Ballard (uncredited) Cast: Jean Gabin, Ida Lupino, Thomas Mitchell, Claude Rains, Jerome Cowan, Helene Reynolds, Ralph Byrd, William Halligan, Victor Sen Yung, Chester Gan, Robin Raymond, Arthur Aylesworth, Arthur Hohl, John Kelly, Ralph Dunn, Tully Marshall, Vera Lewis, Tom Dugan.

On Amazon.co.uk a commenter called Now Zoltan (I assume that’s not his real name) has complained that I omitted this movie, which he regards as quintessential to the genre (“a cornerstone noir, one of my favourites”), from my A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir. He also complained about a typo as if it were an error of fact, which I thought was a bit unfair: 675,000 words of information-dense text? Of course you can expect a few typos—though hopefully not very many!

Anyway, I checked my entry for this movie in my personal catalogue and saw that I’d given it the NSH (noirish) rather than the NOIR classification. Since it stars Lupino, Gabin and Rains, three of my all-time favorite actors, and since Fritz Lang was involved, in the ordinary way I’d have bent over backward to include it in the book—i.e., to persuade myself it was sufficiently noir that it oughter go in.

An enigma on the back of a conundrum, and puzzling too.

It had been yonks since last I’d watched the movie, and to be honest I could remember little about it, so I decided to give it another whirl to see if I could work out why I’d decided to omit it. Here goes.

Jean Gabin as Bobo.

Bobo (Gabin) is a longshoreman, and ostensibly a good one, but he has a penchant for hard drinking. Tonight in the saloon called The Red Dot he’s well and truly hammered, to the dismay of his sidekick Tiny (Mitchell), who wants to Continue reading

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36 Saints (2013)

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Oooh, spookitude!
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US / 82 minutes / color / SC Global Media, Active Fox Dir: Eddy Duran Pr: Joey Dedio Scr: Joey Dedio, Jeffrey De Serrano Cine: Isidro Urquia Cast: Franky G, Jeffrey De Serrano, Britne Oldford, Tyrone Brown, Matthew Daddario, Aja Naomi King, Chris Riggi, Alesandra Assante, Laverne Cox, Allan Louis, Joey Dedio, Mihaela Kolich, Maya Days, Raul Casso, Jaime Tirelli, Donna McKechnie, Frances Lozada, Dominic Colón, Esau Pritchett, Jonathan Duran, Carlos Lozada, Mareo Ryan, Cain Ruiz.

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The opening of this movie features cityscapes and apocalyptic scenes overlain by an extended voiceover that it’s hard to resist the temptation to parody:

According to ancient mythology, in every generation, there are thirty-six individuals who carry the suffering of the world, and assist those in dire need. The thirty-six are amongst us all. Anyone you meet could be one of them. The world exists in the merit of these thirty-six righteous people. Without them, the world we know would fall into chaos, corruption and eventually darkness. To achieve this darkness, there are those too who have chosen evil over good. They are united by their leader, Lilith, and are all marked by the symbol of darkness. Once their mission on this earth is completed, they are destroyed, either by self-infliction, or by another Dark One. Damnation falls on the ones who do not choose to be evil and want to escape the wrath of Lilith. Lilith’s ultimate revenge is to destroy the thirty-six by choosing the same fate that their namesakes have immortalized. The final nine have been discovered. By abolishing them, darkness will reign over light.

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What you get when (at least in this movie) you google for “Lilith” — saucy, eh?

I’ve encountered the Hebraic mythology of the Lamedvavnik—the 36 righteous ones—somewhere before (don’t ask me where!), and it has always been my impression that the 36 are supposedly scattered around the world, unknown to each other and perhaps not even knowing their own status. In this movie things are changed a bit, with the assumption being that, not only do they know each other, but that, with a couple of exceptions, they’ve assembled together as a group. Also, they’re linked in to Christian, specifically Roman Catholic, saints, plus other biblical characters whose names they share—including Jesus.

It’s Hallowe’en. Almost exactly a year ago 27 of the 36 saints died in a plane crash near Montreal, the only survivor of the tragedy being a priest, Father Judas Neri (Tirelli). Seven of the other nine saints were off being presented with a humanitarian award at the UN; these seven young people are now studying at the swanky Academy of Royals in what I think is supposed to be Continue reading

Last Light, The (2013)

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Whose fault was it what happened that night?
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US / 14 minutes / color / Coral House Productions Dir: Jennifer Cummins Pr: Lisa Cooper Scr: Persephone Vandegrift Cine: Dan McComb Cast: Telisa Steen, Sarah Dennis, Elora Coble, Randall Dai, Pearl Klein, Danika Collins.

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A very simple albeit narratively rather complex short that gives a powerful portrayal of grief but is, for me, let down by the triteness of its ending. The movie was, as acknowledged in the closing credits, funded through Indiegogo.

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Karen (Telisa Steen) and her two girls (Sarah Dennis [right] and Elora Coble) in happier times.

Karen Kingston (Steen), a single mother and seeming career woman, always promised her timid younger daughter Rebecca Anne “Becca” (Coble) that she’ll make sure to protect her from any harm that might come her way; but Becca was Continue reading

Intruder (2011)

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Who came to the lonely housewife’s aid?
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US / 20 minutes / color / Senese Films Dir & Scr: Billy Senese Pr: Brinn Hamilton, Billy Senese Cine: Jeffrey Stanfill Cast: Jennifer Spriggs, Josh Graham, Kayte Miller, Jeremy Childs, Craig Armstrong, Iain Montgomery, Adonni Samuels.

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A nifty little psychological thriller that declines to speak down to its audience—in fact, you might find yourself immediately replaying it to try to confirm in your own mind exactly what happened.

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Samantha (Jennifer Spriggs) gazes wistfully at her sleeping daughter Allie.

Rendered a paraplegic by his injuries, soldier Nathan (Graham) is being looked after in their small, dismal apartment by his wife, Samantha (Spriggs). She’s at the end of her tether trying to cope with both him and Continue reading

Midnight’s Child (1992 TVM)

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Kate’s not wanted any more,
Gonna throw her out the door.
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US / 89 minutes / color with some bw / Victoria Principal, Jeff Myrow–David Gottlieb, Polone, Hearst Dir: Colin Bucksey Pr: Kimberly Myers Scr: David Chaskin Story: Jeff Myrow, David N. Gottlieb, David Chaskin Cine: Anthony B. Richmond Cast: Marcy Walker, Cotter Smith, Olivia d’Abo, Elissabeth Moss, Jim Norton, Judy Parfitt, Roxann Biggs (i.e., Roxann Dawson), Mary Larkin, Jeff Nowinski, Pierrette Grace, Nicole Prochnik, Jake Jacobs, Matt Corey, Stephanie Shroyer, Beth Bjork.

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For most of its running time this rather neat made-for-television movie presents itself as a psychological thriller, an interesting riff on the likes of The HAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE (1992), but in the later stages it fairly abruptly morphs into something quite different.

It’s the end of term at the Roman Catholic St. Helena Akademy in Stockholm, and young Anna Bergman (Grace) has fixed up a job as an au pair in distant California. On her final night at the school she gets a note from her room-mate, Kirsten Grossbaum (d’Abo), asking to meet in the science lab for a surprise. The surprise is that Kirsten beats her over the head with a pestle, then organizes a gas explosion so that Anna is burnt to unrecognizability. Using Anna’s passport and a knack for disguise, Kirsten then flies out to take Anna’s place as au pair to high-powered executive Kate Cowan (Walker) and her struggling-professional-illustrator husband Nick (Smith), looking after their nearly-eight-year-old daughter Christina “Chrissy” (Moss).

Midnight's Child - 1 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace)

 The real Anna Bergman (Pierrette Grace).

Midnight's Child - 2 Kirsten looks back at the mayhem she's caused

Kirsten (Olivia d’Abo) looks back at the mayhem she’s caused.

“Anna” has a fearsome first day, the breaking of the washing machine being the highlight. Kate manages, however, to Continue reading

Blood Moon (2012)

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Could this lycanthropic lunatic be tamer than his shrink?

US / 18½ minutes / color / Tombstone, IndieFlix Dir: Farnaz Samiinia Pr: Don E. FauntLeRoy, Andreas Wigand, B.J. Rouse Scr: Farnaz Samiinia, James C. Wolf Story: Blue Moon (2000) by Pol McShane Cine: Don E. FauntLeRoy Cast: Brandon Beemer, Gil Darnell.

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At Lancaster Mental Hospital, criminal psychologist Dr. Luke Parker (Beemer) must attend to his main high-security patient, William Titus (Darnell), the murderer of as many as “thirty innocent people.” Titus, discovered reading Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (c1600) when Luke arrives, is unimpressed by such statistics. So far as he’s concerned, Luke and the rest of the psychiatric team have got it all wrong: “No, not murdered. Killed, as in killed.”

Blood Moon 2012 - 1 Titus waits wearily for Luke's next faux pas

Titus (Gil Darnell) waits wearily for Luke’s next faux pas.

Luke is quite reasonably reluctant to be too condemnatory of Titus’s actions—”I’m a psychiatrist, not a judge”—but at the same time Continue reading