Thursday, August 6, 2015

They Won't Believe Me (1947)

(SLWB April 01, 2012)

Director Irving Pichel, with Susan Hayward as Verna Carlson, Robert Young as Larry Balantine, Jane Greer as Janice Bell, Rita Johnson as Greta Balantine. Writers: Jonathan Latimer (screenplay), based on a Gordon McDonell story.

Its the type of a tale that you would expect James M. Cain to pen. Its about this philandering husband (Young) unhappily married to a possessive millionairess (Johnson) who gets involved with two other women Janice (Greer) and Verna (Hayward). Young has a job in a brokerage firm as a stockbroker because of his wife's position in life, he married for money and found out that its not all there is. He falls for Janice a fellow broker and carries on an affair with her, and when Janice is transferred to Montreal he decides to go with her, but he finds it hard to break away from his wife's money teat, his wife finds out his plans, she threatens to cut him off, and subsequently decides to sell the house and arrange to have his job transferred to Los Angeles. On the very day he is supposed to meet Janice at the station, Larry & Greta board a train to LA.

Larry with Janice and below Greta


In LA, Larry tries to change his tune but he is smitten by the attention payed to him a very cute Verna (Hayward) who wraps him around her finger, they fall in love. Once again Greta finds out and once again sells the house and moves Larry away to a remote ranch up in the Sierras with no phone and the nearest town a good drive away. Before the move Verna gives Larry the ultimatum her or me, Larry again picks the money, and Verna storms off.

Larry meets Verna

Hayward eye candy

For awhile Larry and Greta seem to reconcile, they spend the days riding about the ranch and the evenings with each other, Greta decides to build a guesthouse and sends Larry to LA to meet with an architect. Before he goes he calls Verna from a general store and tells her to meet him at their old meeting place if she is still interested in him. She does and they rekindle their affair. Larry cooks up a scheme to swindle Greta out of $25,000 using Verna. Meanwhile Janice shows up now working at the LA branch of the brokerage firm.

Larry & Hayward in a cute two piece bathing suit on the way to the Reno divorce

As you'd expect everything goes to shit leading to tragedy (and a terrific twist ending). Young excels in his unsympathetic role as a cad,  Johnson does wonders with her scenes as his wife, and Hayward is exceptionally enticing in her very forward way of pursuing Larry.  This is more of a Film Gris than a Films de la nuit (Hard Core Noir) Still is a entertaining viewing 7/10 caught it on TCM, I've heard that some of it is cut and that there is a full version of this shown only at Noir City events. It seems to flow ok but it would be nice to see it complete worth trying to find.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

L.A. Confidential (1997)

(SLBW - April 15, 2012)
Director: Curtis Hanson, Writers: James Ellroy (novel), Brian Helgeland (screenplay), and Curtis Hanson. Starring Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger, and David Strathairn.


Three Los Angeles police officers: Detective Wendell "Bud" White (Crowe), Detective Jack Vincennes (Spacey) and Sergeant Edmund Exley (Pearce), are caught up in various seemingly unconnected story lines that weave into an intricate tale where a historical event "Bloody Christmas" where LAPD cops beat a bunch of Mexicans up sets the tone for the whole film.

Smith, White, Exley, Vincennes

An opening montage, explains that underneath the glowing assumption that California/LA is the land of milk & honey a mobster named Mickey Cohen has taken over the organized crime rackets in Los Angeles (vacated by the departure of Bugsy Siegel)  Cohen, however, is arrested on income tax evasion and sent to prison on MacNeil Island in Washington state, leaving a power vacuum and the rackets he'd expanded for years are up for grabs. Gangland style assassinations begin as someone begins to take over. The police, led by Captain Dudley (Cromwell), intercept  various wiseguys moving in to take over from out of state beat the shit out of them.

A rich developer, Pierce Patchett (Strathairn), on the side runs a stable of high-class hookers out a a club called the Fleur-de-lis who are cut by plastic surgery to look like movie stars.

Sid Hudgens (DeVito), publisher of "Hush-Hush," a Hollywood sleaze magazine, is in cahoots with Vincennes setting up celebrity busts for headlines and kickbacks. Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger) is one of the Fleur-de-lis girls who is a dead ringer for Veronica Lake who falls for White.

I discovered James Ellroy's L.A. Quartet series of novels, The Black Dahlia (1987), The Big Nowhere (1988), L.A. Confidential (1990), and White Jazz (1992) while living in Montana after a sort of cold turkey I experienced when I had devoured all of the Dashiell Hammett's, James M. Cain's, Ross MacDonald's, and Raymond Chandler's I could at that time get my hands on. They were all great reads, but unfortunately, this was before I really began to appreciate Film Noir and get a stylistic visual from those series of films of the world Ellroy was depicting.

Of course I had seen "The Maltese Falcon", "The Big Sleep", "Double Indemnity" and "Murder My Sweet" but they were made before the neo-realistic phase of the Noir series so they didn't really count.  L.A. Confidential according to Curtis Hanson was an attempt to depict '50's LA but not in a stylistically noir way, "no long shadows" so they consciously decided to show the '50's looking forward towards the future rather than highlight Film Noir. He needn't have bothered, the widescreen alone effectively negates the claustrophobic noir stylistic. Noirs were mostly about urban alienation and obsession, the majority of urban topography is vertical which suited the 3:4 aspect ratio well.

But, what L..A Confidential does is incorporate Los Angeles' overall elongated horizontal urban structure into an effective neo noir.  A plus is that the film even incorporates more actual 50's LA locations and interiors than for example the film Chinatown (story line circa 1930's) did, though this could be for the simple fact that way less 30's LA was still extant in 1973 than 50's LA in 1996. What locations they didn't have they reconstructed and the blend is seamless. The film looks that good.

The action sequences are great. The sountrack and period music juxtaposition is excellent.

Even with all this stated attempt to shy away from classic noir stylistics they do creep into the film here and there with dutch angles and Venetian blinds.

whats not to like:

However one glaring WTF omission is what I like to call the "romance of the fedora" aside from the DeVitos' character Sid Hudgens and James Cromwell's Dudley Smith, fedoras are absent, missing in action. It just doesn't feel quite right, it would be sort of on par with making a Western without cowboy hats, the characters look naked. -1

DeVito sporting one of the few fedoras

Ok I can understand somewhat where Hanson is coming from in a commentary he states that he wanted to make a film that didn't feel like a period piece because he was concerned about getting funding, but you could at least have had 1/4 of the cast wear fedoras and one of the leads. The Author James Ellroy on his commentary on the DVD for Crime Wave "Sterling Hayden-- That is my Bud White. That is my Bud White! fuck Russell Crowe in 'L A Confidential.' I mean he was okay, but he's a shrimpy little shit  Bud White as Bud Whites go. Sterling Hayden is the real deal. Look at this! He's not even acting. Look at that hat!" 'nuff said.

The Lynn Bracken/Bud White romance wasn't all that convincing didn't seem to be any chemistry there it needed more time to get fleshed out at least.

If this film really wanted to be a neo noir masterpiece it didn't have confidence or the nerve to push that envelope, Hanson's reluctance to embrace Noir and go with the safe money gives us at the denouement the happy Hollywood ending. The bad guys are all dead and 2/3 of the good guys live. -1 final score 8/10

Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

(SLWB - February 12, 2013)

Here are some screen caps from "Farewell My Lovely" side by side with
me playing around with how it may have looked in B&W this 
really needs a  re-release:

Marlowe's (Mitchum) opening monologue in a room at the 

Casa Miarabell Hotel, this version is told in flashback for probably 4/5 of the total:

A B&W rendition. 


Moose Malloy

Jessie Florian flashing her pins for Marlowe

Jessi & Marlowe boozing it up (notice no noir barred shadows through the venetian blinds)

Femme Fatale (Charlotte Rampling) has a vague Bacall look about her.
Green eyes to match the jade necklace.

Murder My Sweet (1944) vs. Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

(SLWB - February 13, 2013) 

For clarification and ease I'll abbreviate the film titles FML = Farewell My Lovely, and MMS = Murder My Sweet 

Just finished re-reading Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" and with the recent viewings of both films fresh in my mind I have to admit that they both deviate from the novel quite a bit in different areas. 

Moose Malloy gets more memorable screen time in FML he becomes an almost sympathetic character in FML you end up caring for the dumb lug, less so in MMS. In the novel you barely get the character at all, which is reflected in MMS.

The character Ann Riordan is eliminated entirely from FML. The most likely reason being Mitchum's age, he's portrayed as a Marlowe in his declining years. 

The whole scenario of how Marlowe finds Jessie Florian in FML is not in the book what is in the book is the hotel, and a clerk finds Florian with a City Directory. 

The whole flashback sequence with the temporarily blinded Marlowe is a fabrication in MMS. But the hint of the love affair with Riordan is in the novel. 

In novel there are two cops that Marlowe has to deal with Nulty, of LAPD and Randal of the Bay City Police in FML they are combined into just Nulty played by Ireland, in MYS the main cop is Randal.

Amthor in the novel is a psychic, in FML he becomes a she and a notorious LA madam and Amthor's and Dr, Sonderborg's sequences in the novel are combined into the same house, in MMS I think he's still a psychic but the way its played out in the novel is much more elaborately detailed and memorable than what is in the film. Interestingly there is a second big bruiser in the novel a henchman of Amthor called The Indian.

In the novel there are two ships off shore one is a whorehouse ship, one is a gambling ship. In FML there is only one ship, in MMS no ship. 

In the novel the final denouement between Malloy and Velma takes place in Marlowe's apartment, she puts five bullets in him and escapes. In MMS it takes place in a beach house and Malloy and Velma kill each other and Marlowe is temporarily blinded by a close gunshot. In FML it takes place in Brunette's office on the gambling ship and Malloy and Velma both die too.

In the novel Velma disappears again, becomes a brunette and is singing in a band again like what she used to do a Florian's but she is finally spotted by a cop back east who approaches her in the dressing room and confronts her, she guns him down then kills herself.

Murder My Sweet (1944)

(SLWB - Feburary 13 2011)

Watched this recently, I too, even though I haven't read the book in years, was wondering why they deviated so much from the plot. I'll agree that in seeing it again that O"Halloran (Farewell My Lovely 1975) is the superior Malloy, thought I do like the "Pepper's Ghost" entrance of Malloy that is employed in this interpretation, the Richards film is superior and I believe more faithful to the book.  

Here are some screencaps from "Murder My Sweet"

The Pepper's ghost Malloy intro:


This version ties up the loose ends in a beach house rather than on the gambling ship and the Burnette character is absent.  It also has a lame epilogue catering to the female audience.

Powell is great as Marlowe pretty much as I pictured him in my minds eye as I remember the book (Mitchum was just a tad too old and a tad too iconic, unfortunately), and I'll go with Rampling also she had a devious look in her eyes, Trevor wasn't as believable to me she played it a bit to "upper crust", all in all though, I prefer all the rest of the actors in the Richards version. 8/10

They Made me a Fugitive (AKA I Became a Criminal) (1947)

(SLWB -  March 08, 2012)

WOW!!!, I would almost call this the best British Noir, but I'd have to watch Night and the City again. Anyway this has two titles not to be confused with the Garfield flick of the same name.

Director: Alberto Cavalcanti, with Sally Gray, Trevor Howard, and Griffith Jones

Storyline from IMDb:

The London Underworld features in this dark and extremely gritty film noir. Trevor Howard plays a cynical ex-RAF flyer named  Morgan, bored with civilian life, he joins a break-in gang led by Narcy. On his first job, the getaway car crashes after killing a policeman. Morgan is framed as the driver and sent to jail. Seeking revenge, he escapes and heads for London. Along the way he's helped by a woman (Mrs. Fenshaw), who wants him to murder her husband. In London, Morgan is sheltered by Sally, who falls in love with him. He confronts Narcy and the gang in an abandoned warehouse. Brazilian Director Cavalcanti's great crime drama.

The London Gang in their funeral parlor HQ

Morgan (Howard) during his escape from prison

Narcy the Crime boss

Narcy roughing up Sally (Sally Gray)

The woman who makes an unusual request

Morgan getting his revenge

Its always great to find a Noir off most peoples radar. I enjoyed the story and the cinematography quite a bit the final sequences are a maze of dark alleys waterfronts and railroad viaducts, nice job. The final denouement atop the funeral parlor below.

I'll be looking to pick this one up when I can 10/10

Mister Buddwing (1966) Jazz Noir

 (originally from SLWB - May 10, 2015)

Mister Buddwing (James Garner)

Filming in 1965, Mister Buddwing is one of those lost films that are on the cusp between Film Noir and Neo Noir. Sort of a psychological noir rather than a “crime” noir. A melancholy film that plays with time, space and your mind as the various vignettes overlap it's eerie and noir-ishly suspenseful, but at times darkly comic. It requires multiple viewings to fully comprehend.

Oscar-winning film director Delbert Mann ( The Outsider (1961), Marty (1955) - TV, Playhouse 90, Goodyear Playhouse, Omnibus, Producers Showcase, Playwrights ‘56, Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, Schlitz Playhouse, Masterpiece Playhouse) adapts Evan Hunter’s novel “Buddwing” and with the cinematography of Ellsworth Fredericks (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Seven Days in May (1964)) and a great original jazzy score by Kenyon Hopkins (composer for Baby Doll (1956), 12 Angry Men (1957), The Fugitive Kind (1959), The Hustler (1961), to create a stylized “Jazz Noir”.

Filming in 1965, Mister Buddwing is one of those lost films that are on the cusp between Film Noir and Neo Noir. Sort of a psychological noir rather than a “crime” noir. A melancholy film that plays with time, space and your mind as the various vignettes overlap it's eerie and noir-ishly suspenseful, but at times darkly comic. It requires multiple viewings to fully comprehend.

Opening Sequence

The film stars James Garner in a role that really displays his acting chops in a performance far removed from his wisecracking Bret Maverick (disregard his contention that this is his worst film, he sells himself way too short). Garner plays one of Film Noir’s touchstone tropes the amnesiac. The film opens with an unfocused shot of the sky sliced diced and fragmented by bare branches . As the frame focuses and our view pans we see the branches are trees, we see buildings, and Central Park at the corner of 59th and 5th. In an homage to Robert Montgomery‘s “The Lady In The Lake” and the beginning of “Dark Passage”, the film displays an intriguing POV sequence that begins when hands “rub” the eye of the camera, it also begins a faint jazz heartbeat increasing in tempo and volume as “we” the character sitting on a park bench search frantically through out suit pockets (for identification) combing out a train timetable, a scrap of paper with a phone number and some pills. A ring on his finger has an inscription “from G.V.”. The POV sequence continues until we stumble into a mirror at the Plaza Hotel when Garner is revealed. He has neither money or ID but he does remember the name of a woman, a woman named Grace.

Using a lobby phone and giving a fictitious room number he calls Gloria (Angela Lansbury) to try and discover his identity. Gloria a divorced floozy with a heart of gold, takes pity on him and gives him money so that he can find himself. So begins his jazz odyssey through the streets of New York.


Gloria (Angela Lansbury)

In his continuing quest for Grace, Garner meets three more women, Janet (Katherine Ross), Fiddle (Susanne Pleshette), and The Blonde (Jean Simmons), each of the women he at first mistakes for Grace. So at first we see Garner interact with each woman in their true identities and at some point they become a vivid flashback to his relationship with Grace at different stages of his life with Grace, the starry eyed young love stage, the struggle with real life, and the consequences of wrong decisions made. All this makes the viewer a little disoriented, a little lost, exactly how James Garner's character feels throughout the movie.


Janet (Katherine Ross)

Fiddle (Susanne Pleshette)

The film features the neighborhoods of midtown Manhattan, Times Square, and the Queensboro Bridge as its backdrop creating a cinematic memory link to classic Noirs, The Sweet Smell Of Success, Kiss Of Death, Killers Kiss, The Unsuspected, it also seamlessly fuses with the occasional studio backlot segments. Wonderful melancholy jazz compositions accompany Garner as he wanders the streets.

The Blond

The Blonde (Jean Simmons)


tout (Raymond St. Jacques)

Crap Game

Nichelle Nichols
All the three actresses are outstanding in their dual roles.

Watch for Joe Mantell’s cab driver character’s hilarious monologues then pay attention for its echo with the 2nd cab driver Billy Halop, the original leader of the Dead End Kids. Watch for Nichelle Nichols appearance as a dice player, Raymond St. Jacques as the tout for the crap game, and Jack Gilford‘s interaction with Garner in a lunch counter.

The cinematography during the crap game sequence is excellent, I don't recall a crap game segment, as well done for is length, taking time to visually introduce each of the participants. It does recall the boxing sequence and the ringside vignettes from Robert Wise's The Set Up (1949).

Available on DVD from the Warner Brothers Archive Collection. 9/10