The Laws of Motion (2014 TVM)

|
Eh? Father Brown goes noir?
|

UK / 43 minutes / color / BBC Dir: Paul Gibson Pr: Jonathan Phillips Scr: Tahsin Guner Based on the character created by G.K. Chesterton Cine: Alan Beech Cast: Mark Williams, Sorcha Cusack, Alex Price, Nancy Carroll, Tom Chambers, Tracy-Ann Oberman, Amelia Lowdell, Cian Barry, Oliver Mellor, Lisa Jackson, John Burton.

What’s this? An episode of the BBC’s Father Brown TV series on a site called Noirish? I know I have a deliberate policy of casting my net as wide as possible here, but surely this is ridiculous. Have I gone bonkers?

Probably yes, but in this instance there’s a rationale behind the seeming madness.

Honest.

A while ago I read—I’ve long forgotten where—that this particular episode is a DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) riff, and so, eager as ever to find noir-related curios, I tracked it down. Certainly the cast list backed up the claim—two of the characters are called Walter MacMurray and Phyllis Stanwyck, which seems a bit of a dead giveaway.

And yet . . .

Audrey (Tracy-Ann Oberman) receives a slap in the face.

Audrey MacMurray (Oberman) is a ruthless businesswoman of middle years and a person of great cruelty in her private life; as one character observes, she chews people up, spits them out and delights in so doing. Her hobby is driving racecars, and today, somewhere in Gloucestershire, she’s partaking in the Continue reading

Too Late for Tears (1949)

|
Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
|

vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.

I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.

And it felt like coming home.

Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading

Phantom Speaks, The (1945)

|
What possessed him to commit murder?
|

US / 69 minutes / bw / Republic Dir: John English Pr: Donald H. Brown Scr: John K. Butler Cine: William Bradford Cast: Richard Arlen, Stanley Ridges, Lynne Roberts, Tom Powers, Charlotte Wynters, Jonathan Hale, Pierre Watkin, Marian Martin (i.e., Marion Martin), Garry Owen, Ralf Harolde, Doreen McCann, Joseph Granby, Bob Alden, Charles Sullivan.

The Phantom Speaks - closer

It begins, as so many stories do, in a park. Frankie Teal (Harolde) is there, having come in response to a note from his mistress:

“Frankie:
Harvey out of town. Meet me in the park at noon. Usual place. Important.
Betty.”

But the person who meets Frankie isn’t Betty at all: it’s Harvey Bogardus (Powers), Betty’s husband and a ruthless self-made man. He Continue reading

Out of the Rain (1991)

US / 95 minutes / color / Acme, Artisan Dir & Pr: Gary Winick Scr: Shem Bitterman Story: Out of the Rain (19?? play, possibly unproduced) by Shem Bitterman Cine: Makoto Watanabe Cast: Bridget Fonda, Michael O’Keefe, John E. O’Keefe, John Seitz, Georgine Hall, Al Shannon, Michael Mantell, Kathleen Chalfant, Mary Mara, Kirk Baltz, Chris Norris. Out of the Rain 1991 - 0 opener In a small town in upper New York State (the movie was actually filmed in Fulton County there), young Jimmy Reade has apparently killed himself with a double-barreled shotgun. His wastrel elder brother Frank (Michael O’Keefe), who left town after a career of hooliganism but who has evidently calmed down a lot while traveling the world, returns to see Jimmy buried and to make some sort of attempt—in the event, extremely brief—to restore relations with his father Nat (Seitz) and mother Tilly (Hall). He starts living in Jimmy’s old trailer, where one night he’s visited as he sleeps by a mysterious young woman who Continue reading

Emil und die Detektive (1931)

vt Emil and the Detectives
Germany / 69 minutes / bw / UFA Dir: Gerhard Lamprecht Pr: Günther Stapenhorst Scr: Billie Wilder (i.e., Billy Wilder) Story: Emil und die Detektive (1929; vt Emil and the Detectives) by Erich Kästner Cine: Werner Brandes Cast: Käthe Haack, Rolf Wenkhaus, Olga Engl, Inge Landgut, Fritz Rasp, Rudolf Biebrach, Hans Joachim Schaufuss, Hans Richter, Hubert Schmitz, Hans Albrecht Löhr, Waldemar Kupczyk, Ernst Eberhard Reling.

Emil und die D 0 - opener

The first screen adaptation of Kästner’s much-loved children’s classic; the novel would be adapted for the screen again in 1935, 1952 (TV miniseries), 1954, 1964 and 2001. (For more on these remakes see below.)

Young Neustadt native Emil Tischbein (Wenkhaus) is sent by his hard-up hairdresser mother Emma (Haack) to Berlin for a holiday with his grandmother. Aboard the train his fellow-passengers include a strange man with a bowler hat (Rasp), later identified as Grundeis, who tells him tall tales about what wonders await him in Berlin—for example, that you can go to any bank and pawn your brain for 1,000 marks, retrieving it later for 1,200; it is, after all, perfectly possible to get by without your brain for a couple of days.

Emil und die D 2 - Emil chats with a fellow passenger

Emil (Rolf Wenkhaus) chats with a fellow passenger on the train. Continue reading