Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Gun, a Car, a Blonde (1997) New Age Noir

Here is nice enjoyable Neo Noir. A film that I've never heard of, that is surprisingly not listed in the American noir bible, i.e., Film Noir The Encyclopedia by Alain Silver, Elizabeth M. Ward, James Ursini, and Robert Porfirio.

The film was brought to my attention by a fellow aficionado or should we say "aficionoirdo," who gave me the heads up on this title on the recently demised IMDb message boards .

A Gun, a Car, a Blonde has slipped under the "Noirdar," while quite a few really questionable titles apparently make the grade. One has to wonder if some inclusions are something like Noir-ola (promoters trying to cash in on the Noir bandwagon) reminiscent of the equivalent payola record business scandal.

The film is sort of a tongue-in-cheek riff on The Singing Detective (1986), Hammett (1982), also possibly Slaughterhouse Five (1972), and an homage to Classic Film Noir like The Woman in the Window (1944), and a few others, with a pinch of TV's The Twilight Zone thrown in for good measure.

Directed, produced and written by Stefani Ames (along with Tom Epperson The Gift (2000), One False Move (1992). The cinematography was by Carlos Gaviria and the excellent melodious jazz score was by Harry Manfredini and Frank Palmieri.


The film stars Jim Metzler (River's Edge (1986), Delusion (1991), L.A. Confidential (1997)) as Richard Spragins / Rick Stone, Victor Love as Bobby / The Black Chinaman, Kay Lenz (Breezy (1973)) as Peep / Madge, Norma Maldonado (Breaking Bad TV Series (2008–2013)) as Adele / Bunny, John Ritter (Sling Blade (1996)) as Duncan / The Bartender, Andrea Thompson (NYPD Blue TV Series (1993–2005)) as The Blonde / "Angel Puss" Jade Norfleet, Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade (1996), U Turn (1997), A Simple Plan (1998)) as two bit greaseball Syd / Detective Charles "Monk" Moler, Paul Parducci as Bear / "Pickle Puss" Petrovich, Time Winters as Ed / Catalina Eddie, Paula Marshall as Deborah / Girl In Photograph, and Vann Johnson as The Singer.

Richard (Metzler)

Adel (Maldonado)

Richard and Peep (Lenz)

Adel, Richard, and Bobby (Love)

Duncan (Ritter)
Syd (Thornton)
Richard (Metzler) was living the American Dream, as a well to do California "retread tire czar". His hillside house in what looks like Inceville, has a view of PCH, (The Pacific Coast Highway), and Will Rogers State Beach. Spinal cancer (currently in remission) has confined him to a wheelchair, made him a paraplegic, lost him his wife and most of the joys of life. He is cared for by his health care specialist Bobby (Love), his housekeeper Adele (Maldonado), and his only living relative, sister Penelope "Peep" (Lenz). He spends all his time viewing vintage Films Noir on cable 24/7 and either agonizing in horrific pain, doped up on painkillers "trapped in a marshmallow" he calls it, or sucking on tar bars, boozing it up, and being annoyed by his busybody sister.

 His long time buddy and good friend Duncan (Ritter), (who makes a living finding vintage "dream" cars for wealthy collectors, i.e., doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc., etc.), tells him to seriously cut down on the smoking and hooch. Duncan is also into the New Age Movement. He plies Richard with exotic cure-all concoctions and tells him to experiment with a sort of mind hypnosis called Objectification Therapy.

Duncan: You remember what Milton said?
Richard: Milton who?
Duncan:  Milton Berle, Milton who.... John Milton, "the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven."

Film Noir 24/7
This trance like state involves the imagineering in his mind of alternate self in a parallel universe. Duncan tells him that "you are not you anymore, you are somebody else minus the suffering. Richard is hard to convince thinking that his life has become a ghastly joke. That night though, while watching a Film Noir, Richard talks/dreams/hypnotizes himself into being a hard boiled private detective living in a Black & White, Noir, 1960s City Of Angels, or as Rick says in voice over narration, "Everyone has an angle in The City of Angles", and all of his employee's, friends, neighbors, and family take on fanciful alter egos in his new Noir cosmos.

I'm a detective named Rick Stone


Rick Stone (Metzler)


The next day on his terrace Richard peeps on a beautiful blonde in a bikini sunbathing on her back porch. She is a new neighbor and Richard is transfixed while watching her apply lotion. This mysterious blonde neighbor in one reality becomes Mrs. Jade Norfleet in the other.

The Blonde (Thompson)
The film sort of strobes back and forth between these two realities. Detective Rick Stone Private Eye is hired by the overtly sexy Mrs. Jade Norfleet to find out who is trying to kill her, while Richard is dealing with his self inflicted deterioration and his sister Peep's increasingly intrusive behavior.

Mrs. Jade Norfleet (Thompson)



"She must have really done a number on you."
The film even goes one step beyond when he wakes up one night in Richard's reality, and he can again walk, he goes out on his seaview terrace and is joined by his wife Deborah (Marshall) who asks what's the matter? Richard tells her that he dreamt that he was very, very sick and couldn't walk anymore. Is it all a dream within a dream? This imagery is double downed upon even further within Richard's Rick Stone parallel reality when Mrs. Jade Norfleet, tells him that she dreamt that she was peeped on while sunbathing in her backyard echoing Richards experience on his terrace.


Richard waking up a whole man again

 "I dreamt that I was very, very sick and couldn't walk anymore."
Stefani Ames has crafted a fun, knowing, and entertaining film to watch especially for fans of Classic Noir. A Gun, a Car, a Blonde lovingly tickles a bit of humor out of Richards reconstruction of what he imagines are Rick Stone's hard boiled dialog and voice overs. If you watch it cold turkey without a lot of Film Noir in your viewing experience the dialog may sound a bit cheesy, but it's actually supposed to be that way.

Rick Stone:You're driving a '59 Cadillac, driving, driving, driving down a sunny rotten street in the City Of Angles...

Jade Norfleet (speaking to Detective Monk Moler and Rick Stone): How do you two know each other?
Rick Stone: Well one day I lifted up a rock and Monk's looking up at me blinking in the sun.

After making love to Jade out in her backyard.

Rick Stone: It's a funny thing about me, I get really starved after a roll in the hay.
Jade Norfleet: And that's what it was to you, a roll in the hay?
Rick Stone: Nah you're right, it was grass.

Richard's desperate escape from reality is into his personal reflection of a reflection, the Hollywood Noir world depicted through the 40s, 50s and early 60s, re invigorates him. He gets the courage to take care of business.

It's interesting to watch as his everyday interactions with employee's, friends, neighbors, and family are all entwined, reshuffled, and finally Twilight Zoning their way to Noirsville.

Noirsville

I like to drink, smoke, but I can't dance the hoochie coo.

Bobby's love for Chinese Food transforms him into The Black Chinaman



Jade Norfleet in her Garden Of Eden


'59 Caddy


Monk (Thornton) and Pickle Puss (Parducci)

Jade's seduction of Stone a come on as Eve in the garden

The Black Chinaman (Love)

Duncan (Ritter) as the bartender

Monk (Thornton) and Madge (Lenz)
The Singer (Vann Johnson)


Peep and Syd








 

California coast from Inceville






Jim Metzler's performance is excellent, he displays a nice range from from the desperate housebound recluse Richard, to hardboiled cool as Rick. Andrea Thompson's Jade gives off a Barbara Stanwyck/Phyllis Dietrichson vibe, oozing sex appeal. Kay Lenz is appropriately grating as trashy slutty Peep, and no good as the "been around the block a lot" femme fatale Madge. Billy Bob Thornton plays Syd as a dopey hayseed huckster and Monk as a rotten crooked cop. Victor Love's convincing live in nurse Bobby is genuinely caring, his addiction for Chinese Food sparks his conversion, by Richard into a Chinese restaurant owning gangster the Black Chinaman. Watch also for Vann Johnson's cabaret torch song sequence, she's great.

A Gun, a Car, a Blonde is a film for Noiristas. The screencaps are from the Echo Bridge
DVD June 22, 1999 release. Note, I played this both in widescreen and in 4:3, IMDb has no correct listing, the widescreen makes everyone look, well, too wide, so I used 4:3 and proportionally everyone looks as they should.  This DVD can be had for pennies plus the cost of shipping from Amazon. Entertaining 7/10