Postmortem (1998 DTV)

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Single-malt embalming fluid?
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US / 101 minutes / color / Imperial Entertainment, Filmwerks Dir: Albert Pyun Pr: Gary Schmoeller, Tom Karnowski Scr: John Lowry Lamb, Robert McDonnell Cine: George Mooradian Cast: Charles Sheen, Michael Halsey, Ivana Mílíčevíć, Stephen McCole, Gary Lewis, Dave Anderson, Leigh Biagi, Phil McCall, John Yule, Ian Hanmore, Ian Cairns, David Walker, Zuleika Shaw, Hazel Ann Crawford, Pauline Carville, Rab Affleck, Suzanne Carlsson, Lisa Earl, Carol Findlay, Erin Mooney, Alan Orr, Jenny Hughes.

This is not, let’s say it at the outset, a good movie. It’s a movie in which the lead actor, despite having built up an international reputation for spending much of his time falling over while under the influence, fails to convincingly portray falling over while under the influence. He portrays sobriety even less convincingly, which I suppose says . . . something.

Charles Sheen as James MacGregor.

James MacGregor (Sheen), after a stellar career of tracking down serial killers, has dropped out of the San Francisco PD because of acute depression and general burnout, and has written a bestselling true-crime book, Mind Crash, about an especially vile serial killer of children, Albert Smith. Now MacGregor is living in a cottage on the outskirts of Glasgow, Scotland, hoping to find himself at the bottom of a Continue reading

A Portrait of Murder (1955 TVM)

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“What a terrible way for a beautiful dame like that to die.”
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vt Laura
US / 43 minutes / bw / CBS Dir: John Brahm Pr: Otto Lang Scr: Mel Dinelli Story: Laura (1943) by Vera Caspary Cine: Lloyd Ahern Cast: George Sanders, Dana Wynter, Robert Stack, Scott Forbes, Johnny Washbrook, Gloria Clark, Gordon Wynne, Robert Williams, Harry Carter.

Done as an episode of The 20th Century–Fox Hour, this is not so much a remake of Otto Preminger’s classic Laura (1944), which featured Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson and Dorothy Adams, as a re-adaptation of Caspary’s novel for the screen. There’s a visible (and visual) awareness of Preminger’s version, but really this is its own entity. Much of the Continue reading

Burden of Evil (2012 TVM)

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How can a cop cope with the serial killer who murdered her husband?
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Canada / 90 minutes / color / Incendo, Dir: Michel Monty Pr: Jean Bureau, Serge Denis, Josée Mauffette Scr: Tom Gates Cine: Daniel Villeneuve Cast: Natalie Zea, Ron Lea, Ricky Mabe, Graham Cuthbertson, Michael Ironside, Vincent Hoss-Desmarais, Alexandra Valassis, Andrew Johnston, Chad Connell, Éleonore Lamothe, Ellen David, Jennifer Morehouse, Mark Hauser, Tarah Schwartz, Alex Weiner, Bobby Lamont.

burden-of-evil-kate-somewhere

Natalie Zea as Detective Caitlyn “Kate” Conner.

A couple of years ago, Detective Caitlyn “Kate” Conner (Zea) managed to identify the serial killer Kyle Randall (Mabe), whose m.o. was to kill—to “butcher”—men who’d abandoned their families; unfortunately, she was never able to nail him.

Today her husband Jamie (Connell), also a cop, is lured by Randall into a deserted warehouse, where Randall shoots him the back, killing him, then seemingly allows himself to be caught.

burden-of-evil-1a-from-a-position-aloft-kyle

From a position aloft, Kyle (Ricky Mabe) . . . Continue reading

Taste of Evil, A (1971 TVM)

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Was someone trying to drive her . . . insane?
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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.

Taste of Evil - 0 opener

“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 . . .”

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Red Wind (1995 TVM)

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A fine, and often overlooked, Philip Marlowe incarnation
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US / 60 minutes / color with bw credits / Mirage, Propaganda, Showtime Dir: Agnieszka Holland Pr: Stuart Cornfeld, William Horberg Scr: Alan Trustman Story: “Red Wind” (1938 Dime Detective) by Raymond Chandler Cine: Robert Brinkmann Cast: Danny Glover, Kelly Lynch, Dan Hedaya, Ron Rifkin, Miguel Sandoval, Nick Sadler, Ralph Ahn, Bennet Guillory, Tyrin Turner, Valeria Golino.

Red Wind 1995 - 0 opener

This was the final episode of the HBO/Showtime series Fallen Angels (retitled Perfect Crimes when shown in the UK), created by William Horberg, which ran for two seasons, in 1993 (six episodes) and 1995 (nine episodes). The stories were based on works by classic or, in a couple of cases, modern masters of the hardboiled. Most of the episodes were about a half-hour long; this series envoi runs for double that.

The Santa Ana—the Red Wind—is covering everything and everyone in Southern California with dust, not least PI Philip Marlowe (Glover). Seeking relief in a beer in a near-deserted bar across the street from the hotel where he lives, he has his evening ruined when the drunk at the end of the bar, Al (Sadler), suddenly stands up and puts a bullet through the head of a guy called Waldo Ratigan (Guillory), who has just stormed in looking for a blonde in a bolero jacket.

Red Wind 1995 - 1 Lew Petrolle welcomes Marlowe to his bar

Lew Petrolle (Tyrin Turner) welcomes Marlowe to his bar.

The bar owner, Lew Petrolle (Turner), calls the cops, who arrive in the form of the savage, corrupt, bigoted Detective-Lieutenant Sam Copernik (Hedaya) and his good-cop counterpart Detective Ybarra (Sandoval). Copernik’s a bull whom it’s easy to dislike; not only does he rob Waldo’s corpse of all the money and valuables he can find on it, he has strong opinions, as he tells Ybarra: “What is this town coming to? A spic cop and a nig private detective.”

Red Wind 1995 - 2 Copernik examines Marlowe's credentials

Copernik (Dan Hedaya) examines Marlowe’s credentials.

Having told the cops all he knows, Marlowe is on the way back to his hotel room when he runs into the blonde with the bolero jacket, Lola Barsaly (Lynch). He advises her to keep out of things, and she takes refuge in his room. She’s there when Continue reading

Shattered (2008 TVM)

US / 91 minutes / color with momentary bw / Somerville, Gravitas Dir & Pr & Scr: Chris St. Croix Cine: Matthew Dyer, Lou Chanatry, David Trenkle Cast: Lynnette Cole, Jennifer Spriggs, Amanda Bailey, Jennifer Kennard, Ryan C. King, Chris Cavolo, Spencer Moore, Brooke Sage, Eva Ramer, Tremesia Coleman, Savannah Meech, Danny Newborn, Ruth Davis.

Shattered 2008 - 0 opener

Four young women—Heather Jackson (Kennard), Regina (Cole), Claire (Spriggs) and Nikki (Bailey)—have been best buds since childhood, when they were dubbed The Wild Bunch: we see them briefly as children, played respectively by Ramer, Coleman, Meech and Sage. The four decide to pool their resources and buy a rundown bar in a rundown area of town. In a major breach with tradition in movies with setups like this, this is not a cue for them to take their clothes off at regular intervals; in fact, those seeking nudity should seek elsewhere, because there isn’t any.

Shattered 2008 - 4 Claire

Claire (Jennifer Spriggs).

There’s a bout of simulated sex, though. Heather, always the wildest of The Wild Bunch, is highly promiscuous: “I’m a guy with Continue reading

Pris au Piège (1957 TVM)

vt Four O’Clock

US / 48 minutes / bw / Revue, Shamley, NBC Dir: Alfred Hitchcock Scr: Francis Cockrell Story: Cornell Woolrich Cine: John L. Russell Cast: Nancy Kelly, E.G. Marshall, Richard Long, Tom Pittman, Dean Stanton (i.e., Harry Dean Stanton).

Pris au Piège - 1 the series' evocative opening credits

Watchmaker Paul Steppe (Marshall) believes that his wife Fran (Kelly) has taken a lover, whom she’s entertaining at their home each afternoon while Paul’s working in his shop. Crazed with jealousy, he rigs a huge timebomb in the basement using an alarm clock and homemade explosives, and sets it for four o’clock, when he imagines the two lovers will be entwined. Just as he finishes, he’s assaulted by two young burglars (Pittman, Stanton), who Continue reading

Fat Man, The: The Thirty-Two Friends of Gina Lardelli (1959 TVM)

US / 59 minutes / bw / Laxman, Screen Gems Dir: Joseph H. Lewis Pr: E.J. Rosenberg Scr: Ivan Goff, Ben Roberts Story: characters created by Dashiell Hammett Cine: Fred Jackman Cast: Robert Middleton, Tony Travis, Frank Gerstle, Jan Arvan, Leslie Bradley, Argentina Brunetti, Herb Armstrong, John Bryant, Patrick Sexton, Rita Moreno.

A while ago I posted on this site about the movie The Fat Man (1951). In 1959 there were plans to create a Fat Man TV series, with Middleton taking over the central role from the movie’s J. Scott Smart (who also played that role in the radio series that started it all), and with the central character inexplicably undergoing a name change, from Brad Runyan to Lucius Crane; his sidekick Bill Norton (played by Clinton Sundberg in the movie) here becomes Bill Gregory, again for no apparent reason. This is the pilot for that unmade TV series.

Fat Man pilot - 1 Crane Quizzes Scott

Lucius Crane (Robert Middleton) quizzes small-time hood Larry Scott (John Bryant).

Glamorous model Gina Lardelli is found dead in her apartment in the Golden State Towers, having committed suicide—or at least that’s what the cops think. But elderly schoolteacher Mario Carvello (Arvan), who knew Gina since she was a child, believes her strong Catholicism would have prevented her from taking her own life. He and 31 of her other friends, most of them direly poor, have collected $300 which they believe will hire famous PI Lucius Crane (Middleton) for three days of investigation. This is just half his usual fee but, partly because of some arm-twisting by assistant Bill Gregory (Travis), Crane takes the case anyway.

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Floater, The (1961 TVM)

US / 49 minutes / bw / Hubbell Robinson, NBC Dir: Herschel Daugherty Pr: Boris D. Kaplan Scr: Winston Miller Story: The Con Man (1957) by Ed McBain Cine: Lionel Lindon Cast: Robert Lansing, Ron Harper, Norman Fell, Gregory Walcott, Gena Rowlands, Robert Culp, Natalie Norwick, Paul Bryar, Wally Brown, Andy Albin, Victor Sen Yung, Dal McKennon, Ralph Manza.

Floater - 2 the magazine ad set to lure gullible gals

The pilot for the shortlived (1961–2) TV series 87th Precinct, this sees the boys of the 87th tackle the case of a floater found in the river. The medical examiner reports that she didn’t drown but was dead of arsenic poisoning before going into the water, and that she has a small tattoo of a heart with “MAC” inside it on the sensitive flesh between her right thumb and forefinger. Detectives Steve Carella (Lansing) and Meyer Meyer (Fell) soon identify her in the Missing Persons records as Scranton native Mary-Louise Proschek, who ran away from home to the big city to escape boredom and find love. The tattoo is recent, and so Carella, Meyer and Detective Bert Kling (Harper) start combing the city’s tattoo parlors to see if anyone can recall Mary-Louise.

Floater - 1 Lansing as Carella

Robert Lansing, more than adequate as Steve Carella.

Steve is accompanied on one such visit by his mute wife Teddy (Rowlands). Although the tattooist, Charlie (Yung), has never done such a tattoo—he explains it would be painful—Teddy becomes fascinated with the idea of having a tattoo of her own: a butterfly on her shoulder. Some while later, Continue reading

Double Identity (1990 TVM)

vt Frontière du Crime

Canada, France / 92 minutes / color / 3 Themes, Hamster, Venture, Niagara, Antenne 2, Television Suisse Romande Dir: Yves Boisset Pr: Daniele J. Suissa, Nicolas Traube Scr: Robert Geoffrion Story: Alain Scoff, Yves Boisset Cine: Louis de Ernsted Cast: Nick Mancuso, Leah Pinsent, Patrick Bauchau, Anne Létourneau, Jacques Godin, Aidan Devine, Norris Domingue, Lorne Brass, Michael Rudder, Ken Roberts.

Originally made for the Canadian–French TV series Haute Tension (1988–94), this later saw home-video release as a standalone movie.

In the remote small town of New Hope, the car of Paul Flemming (Mancuso) breaks down in the snow. (A peculiarity of New Hope is that the deep snowdrifts that engulf most of the time every now and then seem to disappear overnight before, just as suddenly, they return again.) Good Samaritan vegetable farmer Wayne (Godin) helps him out, towing him to the nearby garage—where Jim the Mechanic (Brass) undertakes to repair the car—then taking him home to dinner and introducing him to daughter Amy (Pinsent) and her beau Jeff Swinton (Devine). Paul, who’s clearly attracted to Amy, tells them he’s an English professor at the university in the Big City.

Double Identity - Mancuso tries to be both thug and university don

Nick Mancuso attempts to convince as both thug and university don; cynics will of course ask, What’s the difference?

Once he’s back in the Big City, though, we discover he’s really the chief enforcer for hoodlum Raymond Ravennes (Bauchau), who operates out of the Black Club (which is so swanky that the strippers just sort of wobble boredly and don’t actually take their clothes off). Paul chuckles about having Continue reading