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 - Rott

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 Beatnik Transitional Noir

(updated 7/02/2023

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 North. Figueroa on the West end of Bunker Hill.

The 200 block on North Figueroa

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.

revolver, a point blank gunshot, a backwards flip down a stairway and...Blood on the concrete. a pretty Noir start.

A man watches from a next door apartment window. 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 along, roll along"

Two detectives are assigned to the case  Lt. Max Westman (Hoyt), the by the book veteran and Sgt, Jeff Bradley (Keljan) a junior partner. The dead man turns out to be a local businessman who was a playboy. and not a burglar as first suspected. He wore expensive jewelry and had plenty of cash in his wallet. 

The beautiful young woman Ellen (Sax) who shot the dead man tells a story that conflicts with the facts, but Jeff is smitten by Ellen who comes off as sweet and demure and he truly believes her. Max stays aloof and distanced. Sax, later known as Arlene Martel, was a staple guest star of a lot of 50s-60s TV.

Jeff  (Keljan) and Max  (Hoyt) rt., surveying the scene and talking to witnesses.

                                                  Ellen, telling her version of events. 

So the next day Max and Jeff again question Ellen about last night's events. Ellen claims the intruder was in the kitchen when she shot him. Max says that means must have staggered all the way out to the porch and then fell down the stairway backwards. When contradicted by the facts Ellen claims she really doesn't remember anything. When asked where she got the gun she says that her sister Ruth gave it to her for protection that same night. Hummm.

I really don't remember. . .

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. She says it in a tone of voice that one would use to say he's a card carrying communist. 

Ellen is a troubled woman from Noirsville with serious daddy issues.

A nice foreshadowing visual, expressing Ellen's true state.

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 two Detectives head over to Ruth's house with a search warrant. Nobody home. They break in and they toss the place but come up empty handed. They do however find a portrait of Ruth hanging on the wall.

Ruth's portrait

King Moody who will remind you a bit of Timothy Carey plays Tox, a kooky troubled beatnik artist with mommy issues, who lives across the alley from Ellen. The police question Tox because he witnessed the events after the gunshot. 

Tox, though living across the alley from Ellen, knows the score with her, Jeff doesn't.

King Moody as Tox

Like to literally hang out

All Jeff is getting is...

"Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real"  (Joni Mitchell)

... as he falls hard for Ellen.

Jeff begins courting Ellen. He's having lunch with her, taking her to the zoo, and they also go for a float in a rowboat on MacArthur Park Lake. They finally have a ride on the merry-go-round in Griffith Park.

Ellen tells Jeff that she relates to the polar bear because he's safe in a cage

Later, after her date with Jeff, Ellen is laying on her bed by the window in the bedroom of her apartment. Tox sees her through the window, and calls across the alleyway. He tells Ellen to tell Ruth that he wants to see her. 

He later gets the expected results.

Tox gets a night time visit from Ruth who is apparently Ellen's sexy sultry double. She drives up in a top down 1958 Ford Fairlane 500. 

 Ruth and her 1958 Ford Fairlane 500

Tox is anxious to show her his newest "inspired" 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 "beatnik" art. 

Naked Beach Umbrella With Wire Spool

Clown On A Rope

Fish Tank Mermaid

about to unveil his masterpiece

I've heard this one before. . . 

Tox: I've got something very special to show you....

Ruth: I can imagine. [saying it as if she's seen what he and other guys want to show her many times, lol] 

I can imagine. . .

Tox: No, no kidding.

Tox unveils his "masterpiece" to her. His latest creation, Inspired by Ruth and Ellen it (below) resembles a supplicant with outstretched arms at the bottom, worshiping a big vagina. The labia minora is made up of two women's faces. (Some more foreshadowing) 

Is Ruth gonna like it?

Is Ruth moved by it?

Yes. . . Moved to laughter.  It's Hilarious!

Ruth starts to laugh uncontrollably. Tox just flips out, going into a rage, he almost decks her with a beer can he's holding. he stops short.

Tox stops himself from hitting Ruth.

Something stops him, Ruth leaves. Tox still pissed off sets about trashing some of the studio's artworks in a tantrum. Finally, He grabs the "Big Vagina" and it looks as if he wants to crawl inside. Mommy issues?

Later, Tox ever surveillant of the goings on in Ellen's apartment, starts to have growing issues with Jeff moving in on his"good thing." Ellen's supposed to go on a date tonight with Jeff. 

Tox drops over before her date to "borrow a cup of sugar," but it isn't the granular kind that he's looking for. 

While Tox is there in the kitchen of Ellen's apartment, she gets a call from Jeff who tells her that he has to go on an all night stakeout tonight.  

It all goes Noirsville whenTox overhears Ellen's end of the conversation and seeing an opportunity walks up to Ellen after she hangs up and and begins to fondle her. Ellen goes into a trance.

Tox throws Ellen on her bed and begins to rape her. She calls out for Ruth to help her. 

The rape of Ellen triggers a /nightmare-ish flashback sequence where she is dressed in her prom gown carrying a bouquet of flowers and running through crowds of people away from an ominous man who walks with a cane. This sequence and the later flashbacks feature experimental cinematography combined with Noir stylistics. Part of the chase sequence features L.A.'s old Main Street and the The Bradley Building both iconic locations and sort of touchstones for Classic Hollywood Noir.



Jeff holding The Glass Cage

Main Street

Arlene Sax / Martel really shows her fantastic range between Ellen and Ruth. One flashback (above) ends back in reality with a disheveled Ellen / Ruth laying across her wearing Ruth's evening gown over Ellen's house dress. She is clutching a doll in her hand.

In the final confrontation with her father she again changes from a cowering Ellen back to the cool Ruth persona and with this she turns the tables and does battle with the evangelist, triggering another brief flashback. This one tells the genesis story.  

<maybe spoiler>

We see 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.


 I love the derisive way she says "Daddy" during that final flashback sequence.

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). Hoyt, Kelljan, and Moody are all good. It's available cheap on DVD from Sinister Cinema. There's a slightly improved streamer on YouTube uploaded by PizzaFlix. It could really use a full Bluray restoration 7/10