Sunday, November 29, 2015

Remnants of Noir November 2015

Some Classic Film Noir locations still exist, virtually unchanged since the 1940-50s. There are also a lot physical locations from the 1940s on to the present that under the right conditions scream Noir or Neo Noir as the case may be. The image below happens to fit both categories. This particular corner was featured in one of the last of the Classic Studio Era Film Noirs, Odds Against Tomorrow (1958). It's one of my own images taken on a foggy night in the town of Hudson, NY which filled in for the fictitious Melton, NY in the film. 
At the Corner of Chiaro & Oscuro

Noir Print Ads

Here is a nice find in an old Life Magazine July, 19, 1948 a full page ad for Pitfall


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Noirsville Film Noir - Short of the Month

Tony Mars - A Case Of Murphy's Law




A homage to Film Noir & Pulp Fiction, authors, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Cornell Woolrich, directors, Anthony Mann, Richard Fleischer, Orson Welles, John Huston, Robert Aldrich, Edward Dmytryk, and cinematographers John Alton and James Wong Howe. Starring Joan Denyse as Scarlett

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Neo Noir Image of the Week

The 2nd Shift Bar Casino in the notorious Lockwood section of Billings Montana 2015






November 2015 inaugurating three features, the real Neo-Noir Image of the Week (above), real images that scream Noir that exist all around us. 

A B&W Noir image of the Week, which are remnants of the 40's & 50's that still exist, and finally a homemade Film Noir Video of the Month.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Glass Cage (1964) Experimental Noir

Main Title

The Glass Cage (1964) was directed by Antonio Santean written by Antonio Santean and John Hoyt, It stars Arlene Sax, John Hoyt (The Unfaithful, Brute Force, The Bribe, Trapped, Loan Shark, and The Big Combo also a long stretch of  TV appearances) Bob Kelljan, King Moody and a nice cameo by Elisha Cook Jr. who of course had  about roughly twelve Film Noir in his CV at this point in his career. Cinematography was done by Jean-Philippe Carson.  


Flip this smoggy LA neighbood over like a rock and see what crawls out.  Arline Sax/Martel's flop is in the 200 block of N. Figueroa on the West end of Bunker Hill.

The Glass Cage is a very Noir-ish styled Mystery with some great experimental cinematography. The tale begins at night in a Los Angeles Bunker Hill neighborhood. At a low rent dump called The Melvin, a "housekeeping apartments" converted victorian apartment house. An attempted break in is abruptly thwarted. We see a hand break open a screen door we see a revolver in extreme close up. A muzzel flash. A man is shot. He tumbles doing a back flip down a flight of stairs breaks through the railing on a landing and falls vertically head first to the concrete pavement two stories below. A stream of blood flows quickly from his corpse towards a sewer drain.


A point blank revolver a backwards flip down a stariway and...
Blood on the concrete


A crowd gathers and the LAPD arrives. A meat wagon is called in and a corpse is removed. In a macabre touch one of the coroners men, after they load the dead man on a wheeled gurney, sings dirge like "merrily we roll a long, roll a long, roll a long" as they glide off into the darkness. 


"merrily we roll a long, roll a long, roll a long"...

Two detectives are assigned to the case  Lt. Max Westman (Hoyt), the by the book veteran and Sgt, Jeff Bradley (Keljan). The dead man turns out to be a local business man and not a burglar as suspected. The beautiful young woman Ellen (Sax) who shot him tells a story that conflicts with the facts, but Jeff is smitten by Ellen who comes off as sweet and demure and he believes her while Max stays aloof and by the book. Sax, later known as Arlene Martel, was a staple of 50s-60s TV. 


Jeff and Max rt., talking to witnesses.
Ellen, telling her version of events. 

Ellen claims the intruder was in the kitchen when she shot him. When contradicted with the facts by Max she claims she really doesn't remember. When asked where she got the gun she says that her sister Ruth gave it to her for protection that same night. When questioned about any other relatives she says that her father is living in Arizona, Asked what he does for a living she says that he's an evangelist in a tone of voice that one would use to say he's a card carring communist. Ellen is a troubled woman with serious daddy issues. 


A nice foreshadowing visual expressing Ellen's true state.

King Moody who will remind you a bit of Timothy Carey is Tox, a kooky troubled beatnik artist who lives across the alley from Ellen. The police question Tox because he witnessed the events after the gunshot. Tox knows the score with Ellen Jeff doesn't. 


Tox the beatnik artist, "crazy man"

Crime scene investigation reveals that the gun Ellen had in her possession was the murder weapon but paraffin tests reveal that she didn't fire it. The Detectives head over to Ruth's house with a search warrant. They toos the place but come up empty handed but they do find a portrait of Ruth.


 Ruth's portrait 

Tox gets a night time visit from Ruth who is apparently Ellen's sexy sultry double. He's anxious to show her his new work so he invites her into his studio. A studio filled with a plethora of found objects, umbrella frames, naked mannequins, clowns, all converted into expressions of abstract art. He reveals to her his latest creation,  it resembles a big vagaina, Ruth starts to laugh uncontrollably, and Tox going into a rage almost decks her, but something stops him, Ruth leaves. 


Ruth in the flesh


The studio confrontation between Ruth amd Tox.

Meanwhile Jeff begins courting Ellen having lunch with her, taking her to the zoo, they also go for a float in a rowboat on a park lake and ride the merry-go-round in Griffith Park.


Jeff and Ellen at the merry-go-round.

Tox ever surveillant of the goings on in Ellen's apartment starts to haves issues with Jeff moving in on his"good thing". 

He drops over later that day to "borrow a cup of sugar", but it isn't the granular kind that he's looking for. 
"Can I borrow a cup of sugar"?


Ellen's Rape sequence she calls out for Ruth to help her.

The rape of Ellen triggers a flashback/nightmare sequence where she is dressed in her prom gown carrying a bouquet and running through crowds of people away from an ominous man who walks with a cane. This sequence features experimental cinematography combined with Noir stylistics part of the chase sequence features the The Bradley Building an iconic location for Classic Noir.



The sequence ends back in reality with Tox gone and  a disheveled Ellen/Ruth laying across her sofa clutching a doll in her hand, She wears Ruth's evening gown over Ellen's housdress. 


 Ellen/Ruth.

Her evangelist father (Elisha Cook) arrives at the appartment in a very noirish sequence


Elisha Cook Jr. the evangelist, Ellen's father

Ellen is the persona who wakes up and she is startled to see her father sitting there watching her. The confrontation with her father again changes the girl from a cowering Ellen back to her Ruth persona and with this she turns the tables and does battle with the evangelist, triggering another brief flashback. 


I love the derisive way she says "Daddy" during this sequence.

Ruth tells the story of how Ellen all dressed for the prom comes down the stairs of their house and is confronted by their evangelist father who in a righteous rage strips the gown from her body. Ellen runs half nude back to her room. Her father follows up and euphemistically "saves" her. In the Classic Noir tradition, it's left to our imagination what her father did to "save her", but in the very next scene Ellen has returned and she is on her knees between her father's legs.


 Ellen on her knees 

Jeff arrives at the end of all this drama and finds his gal has a serious screw loose. Jeff's sudden appearance distracts Ellen's father and allows Ellen/Ruth to run past him out of the Melvin. She hops in her car and drives to the L.A. Zoo and the finale. 

I was pleasantly surprised, the film was produced by Futuramic Productions whose only other efforts was Squad Car (1960) and Come Spy with Me (1967). Its available cheap on DVD from Sinister Cinema, it could use a full restoration 7/10 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Pick-Up (1968) Vegas Road Trip - Sexploitation - Roughie - Film Noir -


"FILM NOIR HAD AN INEVITABLE TRAJECTORY…
THE ECCENTRIC & OFTEN GUTSY STYLE OF FILM NOIR HAD NO WHERE ELSE TO GO… BUT TO REACH FOR EVEN MORE OFF-BEAT, DEVIANT– ENDLESSLY RISKY & TABOO ORIENTED SET OF NARRATIVES FOUND IN THE SUBVERSIVE AND EXPLOITATIVE CULT FILMS OF THE MID TO LATE 50s through the 60s and into the early 70s!" The Last Drive In (thelastdrivein.com)



I'm beginning to see a pattern, formulating a supposition, especially after viewing this film and recently 1967's Aroused. It's almost as if during Classic Film Noir's original run the darker subject matter of the films, even though hampered by the Hayes Code would reflect the realities of society albeit in a coded way, but with a sort of delayed time lag. But once the code and the Studio System began to breakdown and when film began to get increased competition from TV the subject matter began to get up to speed so to speak and cover more current topics,  i.e., beatniks (The Beat Generation 1959) juvenile delinquency (Crime in the Streets 1956, The Young Savages 1961), heroin addiction (The Man With The Golden Arm 1955, Stakeout on Dope Street 1958), rape (Anatomy of a Murder 1959), racism ( No Way Out 1950, The Crimson Kimono 1959, Odds Against Tomorrow 1959, The Pawnbroker 1964). Eventually independently produced films began to explore and depict fringe sex topics, virginity (The Moon Is Blue 1953 ) multiple partners (The Night of the Iguana 1964) homosexuality (Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, The Children's Hour 1961, Reflections in a Golden Eye 1967) fetishism (Satan In High Heels 1962), prostitution and sex maniacs (Aroused 1967) and this film The Pick-Up which features casual sex and a bit of bondage and sadism. But the sadism/bondage sequence would for all intents and purposes be equal to the Daniel Craig torture sequence in Casino Royale  (2006)  but getting an R rating because the victim is female.

The last two Films are shot in the Film Noir style but The Pick-Up would have benefited with just a tad bit of restraint. It just crosses over the line in a few sequences lingering on female nudity going into, for me, what I would consider definite exploitation. I wouldn't cut any shots but I didn't need to see that much repetition, a few seconds for each shot would have been sufficient and also would have left a bit to the imagination, the best of both worlds. You could say it went over the speed limit of the prevailing Zeitgiest. Noir for the most part sort of went underground. The mainstream culture wouldn't catch up to some taboo subjects for 20 or 30 years. 

If you overlook those small excesses in The Pick-Up you will discover one of the last great gritty Black & White Neo Noir's.

Title 

Directed by Lee Frost (a notable grind-house feature director), the film is surprisingly well made and written, writing credits also by Lee Frost (original story) (as R.L. Frost) ,  and Lee Frost (screenplay) and Wes Bishop (screenplay) (as Wesdon Bishop). Cinematography is also by Lee Frost. 

The Film starred writer, actor, producer, Wes Bishop (Perry Mason (1957), Combat! (1962), Bonanza (1959) and The High Chaparral (1967) as Tony. Tony reminds you of a cool Robert Wagner, Stefan Zema (Crime Story) plays Frankie, he's comes off like a young Ernest Borgnine. Tony and Frankie are bag-men for the mob transporting Las Vegas skim in a '66 Cadillac Fleetwood from a strip casino run by Charlie (exploitation film producer David F. Friedman) to Los Angeles Mob boss Sal (sexploitation producer Bob Cresse). 

Frankie lt. , Tony rt.

The story set up is that Tony, the veteran bag-man is breaking in hired gun Frankie the newbie. The operation has a simple check and balance Tony works for Sal, and Frankie was hired (back East) to work for Eddie. Frankie has never been to Vegas before and since they have arrived early in the morning before the scheduled pick-up, Frankie wants to explore the strip a bit. Frankie is like a kid in a candy store, exclaiming at one point that the mass of neon lights the street "like daylight". Tony plays by the book but breaks down a little and while the Caddy is being serviced and he and Frankie walk the strip, he even lets Frankie try his had at the slots. The opening sequence is a great traveling time capsule through the windshield of  the Fleetwood to circa 1967 Las Vegas as Tony & Frankie glide into town.
The Sands

The Mint

The Lido and The Stardust

Fremont Street

The Golden Nugget "like daylight"

When ever Tony has to get serious he puts on his shades, perhaps a reference to Sam Fullers killer in Underworld U.S.A. (1967). When they arrive at the casino Tony tells Frankie to stay inside the car while he puts on his shades and makes the transaction accepting two suitcases from Eddies cronies and handing over a receipt. They head out of town into the desert on old Highway 91 towards Los Angeles. Frankie is driving down a desolate stretch of highway while Tony tries to catch some shut eye, when they approach two women stranded on the side of the road with the hood up on their car. The women dressed in mini skirts try to flag Frankie down. Frankie pulls over and wakes up Tony and convinces him to go back and give the ladies a hand. They U-Turn and pull up behind the women. Tony puts on his sunglasses and tells Frankie to stay inside and lock the doors.

The women wear that mid sixties tent dress/mini - micro mini skirt fashion style resembling the female cast of daytime TV soap opera Dark Shadows. The two women are played by the sultry Lois Ursone (Dana) and waif-ish space case Lynn Harris (Marcia) who looks like brunette Goldie Hawn circa her Laugh-In years. 


Dana (Lois Ursone) lt. and Marcia (Lynn Harris) rt. 



Flagging the boys down.


Car problems


Let me look (Tony)

Frankie convinces Tony to give the girls a ride to a service garage. On the way Marcia comes on to Frankie in the back seat.


Back seat shenanigans. 


Come on Tony lets say we had car trouble.

Frankie convinces Tony to call in and say they have car problems so that they can party with the girls. The decide to look for a bar but since the girls have there own booze they get two rooms at a motel. What could go wrong?


Hot Sheet Motel where Tony and Dana pair-off to one cabin while Frankie and Marcia go to another








Frankie & Marcia


So a good time is had by all until Dana puts a gun to Tony's head. 
Frame showing the Danish subtitles a small quibble since its the only print left in existance.

So the gals are really confidence women and they have been after the loot all along, soon Frankie shows up at the cabin and Dana hiding behind the door gets the drop on him also. She makes Frankie strip and he's hog tied along with Tony on the bed.


Hog Tied

They girls skedaddle out of the cabin unit, jump in the Fleetwood and spin gravel in a cloud of dust out of the parking lot then burn rubber down the highway will all the moola in the trunk.


 Pedal to the metal

Tony and Frankie finally wiggle loose and knowing that their lives are now on the line waste no time renting a plane to comb the highways looking for Dana and Marcia who have now abandoned the Fleetwood and transferred the loot into their own car and are headed for LA. 

Casino Boss Charlie reflected in a mirror

The film segues back to the penthouse digs of Charlie the Casino Boss, he's "auditioning" a headliner act for the floor show, some of his buddies "audition" some showgirls. The auditioning is an excuse for a little more sexploitation, that really could have been trimmed as I mentioned above. 




Auditions

Charlie keeps getting coitus interrupted by phone calls from Sal who is wondering what happened to his delivery which is now eight hours late. 















Mob Boss Sal and his fascination with plants 

Charlie sends two men down 91 from Vegas while Sal is sending wise guys to check out Tony's LA house and his girlfriend's apartment. The goon (he resembles Walter Matthau) who checks out Tony's gal pal finds her in the sack with another woman, another segment that could use a trim. Again, there is no actual sex depicted though there is nudity.

Tony and Frankie spot Dana and Marcia driving on the highway and get the pilot of the plane to land at the nearest airport ahead in the direction of LA so that they can rent a car and intercept the women.  They spot Dana and Marcia and follow them into LA where they break in to their apartment and capture them. Frankie checks the car and doesn't find the money. Tony splits the girls up questioning one at a time the stories don't match. So Tony now hog ties Dana and Marcia and whips their backsides with his belt handing it off to Frankie when he get's tired.


The whipping

When all that results from the whipping is that the gals pass out, Tony separates them again having Frankie take Marcia upstairs while he tapes two electrical wires to Dana's nipples, a few sparks later she spills the beans that is was Sal that set them up.


That's Smokin'

After repeated calls from Sal, Charlie catches a plane to LA to deal with the situation. All hell breaks loose.

Noir styled cinematography crops up through out with Dutch angles, chiaroscuro lighting, h shadows, high and low angles.

The DVD is available from Something Weird Video