Wrong Number (2002)

Not sorry?

Canada, US / 97 minutes / color / Northern Eagle/Triton, Tsunami Dir: Richard Middleton Pr: Ken Nakamura, Tim Riley Scr: Richard Middleton Story: Lorna Lambert Cine: Walter Bal Cast: Brigitte Bako, David Lipper, Kane Picoy, Barry Blake, Eric Roberts, Cas Anver (i.e., Cas Anvar), Simon Peacock, Jo Marr, Karen Cliche, Chip Chuipka.

I went into this not expecting a huge amount but found it to be one of the more engaging neonoirs I’ve seen in a while.

Starting from the opening credits, our intermittent narrator is Josh Grey (Roberts), recently murdered by person or persons unknown. As he tells us,

“They say sometimes there are three sides to every story—his side, her side, and the truth. This is one of those stories.”

And he’s right. Even though we might expect him, as someone speaking from the afterlife, to know the truth of the matter, he’s guessing as much as the rest of us are as we watch a set of narratives in which it seems just about every narrator is an unreliable one.

Eric Roberts as Josh Grey.

Brigitte Bako as Dana Demotte.

Let me qualify that “set of narratives” remark. There are plenty of movies—a classic recent example is the wonderful À LA FOLIE . . . PAS DU TOUT (2002; vt He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) starring the equally wonderful Audrey Tautou—in which we’re presented with first one and then another account of a sequence of events, the second account forcing us to radically reappraise our initial impression. In Wrong Number the variant accounts are presented almost as if part of a single narrative: we’re never quite sure who if anyone is the false narrator.

I should add that Wrong Number has a lot of the feel of a (very good) TV movie. But pay attention to Continue reading


Midnight Catch (2012)

A cop with a heart and a brutal murderer with a conscience!

US / 21 minutes / color / Halcyon Valor, One Forest Dir & Scr: Jamison M. LoCascio Pr: Louis J. Ambrosio, Jamison M. LoCascio, Collen Doyle Cine: Conor Shillen Cast: Tyrone Grant, Skyler Pinkerton.


A very simple tale with a profoundly neonoir affect.

After looking furtively around him, a young man goes into a bar; we’ll learn his name is James Price (Pinkerton—an excellent surname for an actor in a noir movie to have!). He’s not long settled when another customer enters, Cole (Grant).

Cole, who’s probably about old enough to be Price’s father, starts up a conversation with him and soon succeeds in getting him to relax. It’s a fairly typical bar conversation, with the older man producing bits of homespun wisdom for the edification of his junior. Stuff like: Continue reading

Save Me (1994)

A memorable femme fatale!

US / 93 minutes / color / Spark, Vision International Dir: Alan Roberts Pr: Alan Amiel Scr: Neil Ronco Cine: Ilan Rosenberg Cast: Harry Hamlin, Lysette Anthony, Michael Ironside, Olivia Hussey, Bill Nunn, Steve Railsback, Neil Ronco, Sigal Diamant, Joseph Campanella, Reilly Murphy, Christine Mitges, Kristine Rose, Carrie Vanston, Dee Booher, Stan Yale.


It’s been said by various critics that the direct-to-video erotic thriller can be regarded as the modern equivalent of the classic-era film noir. Yes, there were some A-feature noirs back in the 1940s and 1950s, but the vast majority of what we think of as films noirs—including many that have attained “classic” status—were B-movies in which the studio bosses had little interest beyond making sure they came in under their (usually minuscule) budgets. The way was thus open for directors like Fritz Lang and Robert Siodmak to do more or less what they wanted without the heavy hand of the studio bosses on their shoulder. Similarly, all that the movie companies responsible for modern erotic thrillers care about is that there’s enough sex and nudity to keep the punters happy and that the project comes in under budget. This allows enormous latitude to directors and scripters to create the movies they actually want to create . . . just so long as the other parameters are met.


Ellie (Lysette Anthony) sends frantic eye signals to Jim as she hugs Oliver (Michael Ironside).

Save Me is a very good case in point. Here we have, if not a first-rate, then certainly a perfectly creditable neonoir/psychological thriller that contains quite a few Continue reading


Breaking the Girls (2012)

Who’s deceiving whom in this absorbing Strangers on a Train riff?

US / 87 minutes / color / Myriad, Tapestry, Future, Light Iron, IFC Dir: Jamie Babbit Pr: Kirk D’Amico, Andrea Sperling Scr: Mark Distefano, Guinevere Turner Cine: Jeffrey Waldron Cast: Agnes Bruckner, Madeline Zima, Shawn Ashmore, Kate Levering, Shanna Collins, Davenia McFadden, Tiya Sircar, Melanie Mayron, Manish Dayal, Billy Mayo, Sam Anderson, John Stockwell, Jennifer Ann Massey.


Orphaned scholarship law student Sara Ryan (Bruckner) works nights at a bar called The Roost. One evening one of her customers is a child of extreme privilege, the visibly flaky, unstable Alex Layton (Zima); hardly has she sat down than another customer, Tim (Dayal), crassly propositions her. Sara sends Tim packing and the two women exchange pleasantries.


Alex (Madeline Zima) gets chatted up at The Roost.

But not for long, because into The Roost stumble Sara’s classmates Brooke Potter (Collins), Brooke’s toady Piper Sperling (Sircar) and Brooke’s boyfriend Eric Nolan (Ashmore), son of their law professor (Anderson). Brooke loathes Sara because Sara’s a scholarship girl and because Continue reading


Taste of Evil, A (1971 TVM)

Was someone trying to drive her . . . insane?

US / 71 minutes / color / Aaron Spelling, ABC Dir: John Llewellyn Moxey Pr: Aaron Spelling Scr: Jimmy Sangster Cine: Arch Dalzell Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Barbara Parkins, Roddy McDowall, William Windom, Arthur O’Connell, Bing Russell, Dawn Frame.

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“Once upon a time there was a family who lived in a big house all by itself in the middle of great big woods. There was Mommy. She was very beautiful. Everyone loved her—especially Uncle Harold. He wasn’t my real uncle—just make-believe. Mommy made people laugh, because she was so happy herself. Then there was Daddy. He was very handsome and very kind. Everybody was mad about him. And last of all, because she was the youngest, there was Susan. She had no brothers or sisters, so she was on her own a lot. But she didn’t mind it, because she had her own special house in the woods that her daddy had built for her when she was a very little girl . . .”

Continue reading


Pretty Poison (1996 TVM)

Canada, US / 89 minutes / color / National, TCF Dir: David Burton Morris Pr: Iain Paterson Scr: Brian Ross Story: She Let Him Continue (1966) by Stephen Geller and screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr. for Pretty Poison (1968) Cine: Francis Kenny Cast: Grant Show, Wendy Benson, Lynne Thigpen, Michelle Phillips, Steve Adams, Dorothee Berryman, Walter Bolton, Doug Lennox, James Rae, Frank Schorpion, Ted Whithall (i.e., Ted Whittall).

Pretty Poison 1996 TVM - 2 Sue Ann decides to fall in with Dennis's plans

Wendy Benson as Sue Ann.

Anne Billson was recently talking on her MULTIGLOM blog about the original version of this movie, PRETTY POISON (1968) dir Noel Black, with Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld and Beverly Garland, and I was reminded that I had a copy of the 1996 TVM remake somewhere but had never actually watched it. To my astonishment, I found it almost immediately—see, I am Mr. Organization after all—and decided to remedy my ignorance.

Years ago, after a savage beating from his father, Dennis Pitt (Show) started a housefire that incinerated his parents; he insists that, while the arson was deliberate, the incineration was accidental in that he thought they were out. (This info is revealed late in the movie; however, since we know from the outset he committed some pretty heinous crime, the details are a mere confirmation.)

Pretty Poison 1996 TVM - 1 Janet Azenauer has high hopes of Dennis

 Janet Azenauer (Lynne Thigpen) has high hopes for Dennis.

Now he’s being released from the Kenneth M. Gordon Correctional Facility for the Criminally Disturbed, somewhere in Massachusetts, and his parole officer, Jane Azenauer (Thigpen), couldn’t be more delighted. In a plot point that’s Continue reading


Palmdale (2014)

US / 79 minutes / color / Quality Control Dir & Pr & Scr: Erich Kemp Cine: Steven Burritt Cast: Lackos, Olivia Preciado, Kristopher Knight-Doyle, Matthew Callahan, Eliot, Timothy Fox, Fernando Rodriguez, Narinder “Tony” Soni.

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An interesting and praiseworthy independent attempt to evoke the ambience and themes of classic film noir, Palmdale suffers from the fact that what could have made an excellent half-hour featurette lasts for nearly eighty minutes.

Army vet Kurt (Lackos), now engaged in legally dubious freelance work through his minder, Ron (Eliot), is sent by Ron from Palmdale, California, to Los Angeles to meet with a couple of hackers and carry out a hit for them. Kurt is a reluctant murderer, but Continue reading


Mysteria (2011)

US / 94 minutes / color / Arramis, Mysteria, Gruntworks, Omnicomm, ITN Dir & Scr: Lucius C. Kuert Pr: Rafael Primorac, Robert Miano, Lucius C. Kuert, Marlon Parry Cine: Keith Smith Cast: Robert Miano, Danny Glover, Billy Zane, Martin Landau, Meadow Williams, Michael Rooker, Silvia Spross, Gretchen Becker, Alan Wooley, Carlucci Weyant, Peter Mark Richman, Cassandra Gava, Gary A. Kauffman, Katarzyna Wolejnio.

Mysteria - 0 openerMysteria - 0a second opener

A strange and challenging piece of neonoir that’s as enigmatic as something by David Lynch (although it’s not at all in his style) that I’ve had to watch twice just to get my head around . . . and I may at some time feel the need to give it a third whirl.

Once upon a time Aleister Bain (Miano) was one of the most sought-after scriptwriters in Hollywood. Now he’s crouched over his portable typewriter in a crummy motel room fighting a losing fight with writers’ block. He’s three months overdue with his latest script for producer Finelli (Zane) and he’s out of money for the rent although not, it seems, for whiskey and cigarettes, both of which he consumes interminably.

At the start of the movie we don’t know this, because in the opening sequence someone comes into Aleister’s room and puts a bullet through his head.

And then the phone rings.

And then Aleister moves to answer it.

And then Continue reading


Hei$t, The (1989 TVM)


Pierce Brosnan stars in a highly entertaining caper!

vt The Heist
US / 97 minutes / color / Chris/Rose, HBO Dir: Stuart Orme Pr: Rick Rosenberg, Bob Christiansen Scr: William Irish Jr, David Fuller, Rick Natkin Story: William Irish Jr Cine: George Tirl Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Tom Skerritt, Wendy Hughes, Noble Willingham, Tom Atkins, Robert Prosky, Stephen Apostolina, Ben Mittleman, Nino Surdo, Shelton Redden, Roger Hewlett, Joseph Carberry, Fats Williams, Art Frankel, Andrew Barnicle, Fred Bailey, Luisa Vargas.

The Heist 1989 - 0 opener

Four years ago, security-firm boss Neil Skinner (Brosnan) was caught reentering the US from Mexico with a small fortune in stolen emeralds that he didn’t know he had. Now he has served his time and is determined to return to San Diego to reclaim his security company and the girl he left behind from the business partner who set him up, Ebbet Berens (Skerritt).

With the unwitting aid of the limo driver, Fred (Bailey, in a wryly amusing cameo role), who picked him up at the airport in the innocent belief he was business exec Mark Draper (Barnicle), Neil discovers that his company has been stolen from him by Berens—what used to be SB Security is now just B Security—and likewise his hot girl, Sheila Atkins (Hughes), now installed in Neil’s place as Continue reading


Kiss to Die For, A (1993)

vt Those Bedroom Eyes
US / 91 minutes / color with some bw / Hearst, Polone, NBC Dir: Leon Ichaso Pr: Kimberly Myers Scr: Deborah Dalton Cine: Jeffrey Jur Cast: Tim Matheson, Mimi Rogers, William Forsythe, Carlos Gomez, Carroll Baker, Nina Jones, Susie Spear, Johnny Popwell, Challen Cates, Deborah Hobart, Orestes Matacena.

A Kiss to Die For - 0 opener

Still desolated three years after the death of his wife Kate in a train crash, or guilty over the fact that he no longer misses her and can’t even remember the last time they made love, psychology prof William Tauber (Matheson) decides to end it all by throwing himself off a train. Just as he’s about to do so, a passing beautiful stranger, interior designer Ali Broussard (Rogers), saves his life. She also takes him to his sleeper compartment on the train and gives him a pretty convincing carnal reason why life might be worth living after all.

A Kiss to Die For - 1 William readies to suicide

William (Tim Matheson) readies himself for the terminal plunge.

After they disembark at their joint destination, Ali tries to persuade William that this was just a spur-of-the-moment thing, that he should accept it for what it was and not expect anything more. Understandably, he’s not so eager to let things lie. He has her business card—she owns a little company called The Decorator’s Touch—and in due course Continue reading