Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #10: Pitch Black Heist (2011)

UK / 14 minutes / bw / DMC, UK Film Council, Film4 Dir & Scr: John Maclean Pr: Gerardine O’Flynn Cine: Robbie Ryan Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Alex Macqueen

Shot in glorious black-and-white—and for a chunk of its running time in just glorious black—this enigmatic UK short won a 2012 BAFTA as Best Short Film and was nominated as Best Narrative Short at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

The opening credits play the 1955 Roger Williams version of the classic French song Les Feuilles Mortes (1945) over a scene of stacked boxes in a vault. The song, with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by Jacques Prévert, was first used onscreen in Marcel Carné’s Les PORTES DE LA NUIT (1946; vt Gates of the Night). With English-language lyrics by Johnny Mercer, the song reappeared in the Joan Crawford vehicle AUTUMN LEAVES (1956) dir Robert Aldrich. The Roger Williams version is apparently the only piano instrumental to reach #1 in the US Billboard charts, which it did in 1955, remaining there for four weeks.

Ahem. Apologies for the digression.

 

Alex Mcqueen as Isaac briefs Michael (Fassbender, left) and Liam (Cunningham)

The use of the piece here has, thanks to the tune’s countless cinematic and other incarnations, the effect of gearing us emotionally to anticipate a UK noir of the 1940s/1950s, which is more or less—despite the numerous uses of the f-word (you’d not catch upright, pipe-smoking Ronald Howard saying that in public!)—what’s being homaged in Pitch Black Heist.

Two thieves, Liam (Cunningham) and the far more taciturn Michael (Fassbender), are brought together to pull off a bank job in the City of London. The significant problem they face is Continue reading

The Naked Edge (1961)

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A tense little psychological thriller — and it’s Gary Cooper’s last movie!
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UK, US / 97 minutes / bw / Glass–Seltzer, Pennebaker–Baroda, UA Dir: Michael Anderson Pr: Walter Seltzer, George Glass Scr: Joseph Stefano Story: First Train to Babylon (1955) by Max Ehrlich Cine: Erwin Hillier Cast: Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Eric Portman, Diane Cilento, Hermione Gingold, Peter Cushing, Michael Wilding, Ronald Howard, Ray McAnally, Sandor Elès, Wilfrid Lawson, Helen Cherry, Joyce Carey, Diane Clare, Frederick Leister, Martin Boddey, Peter Wayn.

Six years ago, Jason Roote (Boddey), owner and CEO of the Jason Roote Air Freight Corporation, was stabbed to death one night in his office. Only two other employees were on the premises that evening, doing overtime: sales manager George “Cliffe” Radcliffe (Cooper) and lowlier staffer Donald Heath (McAnally). Cliffe heard Roote’s death cry and saw the murderer running away; he and a cop (uncredited) gave chase and Continue reading

Noose for a Lady (1952)

UK / 70 minutes / bw / Nat Cohen & Stuart Levy, Insignia, Anglo Amalgamated Dir: Wolf Rilla Pr: Victor Hanbury Scr: Rex Rienits Story: Noose for a Lady (1952) by Gerald Verner, itself based on a BBC radio serial Cine: Walter Harvey Cast: Dennis Price, Rona Anderson, Ronald Howard, Pamela Alan, Melissa Stribling, Charles Lloyd Pack, Alison Leggatt, Esma Cannon, Colin Tapley, Robert Brown, George Merritt, Doris Yorke, Gabrielle Blunt, Joe Linnane, Eric Messiter, Michael Nightingale, Ian Wallace, Donald Bissett.

Noose for a Lady - 0 opener

John Hallam was murdered through being given an overdose of the sleeping drug barbitone (barbital) in his bedtime whisky and milk, and all the circumstantial evidence pointed strongly toward his widow, Margaret Elizabeth “Maggie” Hallam (Alan)—so strongly, in fact, that at the end of her trial she’s found guilty and sentenced to death. Her solicitor (Nightingale) does his best to lodge an appeal, but is turned down. Her only ray of hope seems to be Jill (Anderson), John’s daughter by his first marriage, who promises to labor tirelessly to ensure her stepmother’s exoneration.

Noose for a Lady - 1 Maggie and Jill

Jill (Rona Anderson, right) visits stepmother Maggie (Pamela Alan) in jail.

But then arrives home from Uganda Maggie’s cousin Simon Gale (Price), who Continue reading

Hideout, The (1956)

The Hideout 1956 - 0b other opener

UK / 55 minutes / bw / Major, Rank Dir: Peter Graham Scott Pr: John Temple-Smith Scr: Kenneth Hayles Cine: Brendan J. Stafford Cast: Dermot Walsh, Rona Anderson, Ronald Howard, Sam Kydd, Howard Lang, Edwin Richfield, Arnold Diamond, Trevor Reid, Richard Shaw, Tommy Clegg, Jessica Cairns, Frank Hawkins, Jack Taylor, Angela Krefeld.

The Hideout 1956 - 0a opener

A modest piece of UK noir with a convoluted plot that seems to make reasonable sense at the time but becomes harder to follow the more you think about it later.

At the Rex Hotel in London, a valise that was being carried by Helen Grant (Anderson) is accidentally put into the taxi that’s going to take Pan–Atlantic Insurance special investigator Steve Curry (Walsh) to the airport for his New York flight. Steve doesn’t discover the error until he’s at the airport; luckily Tim Bowers (Kydd), whom he’s recently helped out of a jam, came along to see him off, so can take the case back into town and try to track down the woman who lost it. In so doing, Tim finds the case is full of cash: £8,000, in fact—a very great deal, in 1956.

The Hideout 1956 - 1 Sam Kydd has a more major role than usual, hurrahSam Kydd as Tim Powers; those rare occasions when Kydd gets a more major role are always good news.

At the airport, Steve is abducted by some thugs, who attempt to beat out of him the location of the valise. He escapes, makes it back to Tim’s apartment, and learns the truth. The inside lid of the case bears a label with the name and address of one Robert Grant. Steve goes there and recognizes Continue reading