|At the Corner of Chiaro & Oscuro|
Sunday, November 29, 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.
Thursday, November 26, 2015
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
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
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.
"As the Motion Picture Production Code weakened and independent poverty row and low budget film creators were allowed more artistic freedom. So those Film Noir that went too far over the line depicting violence started getting classified as Horror, Thriller (even though they were just say, showing the effects of a gunshot wound, or dealing with weird serial killers, maniacs, and psychotics, etc.). Those that went too far depicting sexual, drug, torture, etc., situations were being lumped into or classed as various Exploitation flicks, (even though they are relatively tame comparably to today's films). The the noir-ish films that dealt with everything else, except Crime, concerning the human condition were labeled Dramas and Suspense. Those that tried new techniques, lenses, etc., were labeled Experimental. Some films are so so bad in all aspects that they acquire the "so bad it's good" Cult status.
With nothing really giving some of some of these directors & producers some parameters, or putting the brakes on, there was no speed limit they just shot past the limits of contemporary common sense, cultural acceptability and good taste. Good taste can block out entire subjects deemed dangerous or unworthy. What makes these low budget films worthwhile, to quote V. Vale & Andrea Juno in Incredibly Strange Films, is the "unfettered creativity. Often the films are eccentric-even extreme-presentations by individuals freely expressing their imaginations..." To quote Picasso "Ah, good taste! What a dreadful thing! Taste is the enemy of creativeness.""
Flip this smoggy LA neighborhood over like a rock and see what crawls out. Arline Sax/Martel's flop is in the 200 block of S. 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 muzzle flash. A man is shot. He tumbles doing a backflip 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 stairway and...Blood on the concrete.|
|"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 businessman 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.|
|A nice foreshadowing visual expressing Ellen's true state.|
|The Melvin Apartments Ellen's home|
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"|
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 and Tox.|
|Tox's art looking like a big vagina|
|Jeff and Ellen at the merry-go-round.|
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"?|
|reaching for the sugar|
|But Tox really wants her honey pot... Ellen raped.|
Noirsville flashback with experimental camerawork
|Elisha Cook Jr. the evangelist, Ellen's father|
The Daddy Flashback
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 surprising 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 really use a full restoration 7/10