Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

Night Moves (1975) - The Deconstructed Detective

Night Moves geographically spans from the classic haunts of Hammett, Chandler, and Ross Mcdonald, i.e., California, LA, Hollywood, to the aqua and coral pastels of John D. MacDonald's South Florida and it's Gulf Coast Keys. There is also a short stopover to a New Mexico film location.

Directed by Arthur Penn. Written by Alan Sharp, with cinematography by Bruce Surtees. The film stars Gene Hackman, Jennifer Warren, Susan Clark, Edward Binns, Harris Yulin, Kenneth Mars, Janet Ward, Anthony Costello, John Crawford, and it also has some outstanding early career appearances by James Woods and Melanie Griffith.

The story reboots the classic hardboiled detective story up to the contemporary 1970's.  Harry Moseby (Hackman) runs Moseby Confidential a one man detective agency, a business that seems to putter along on vapors. He drives a 1967 Ford Mustang. Instead of being the usual ex WWI, WWII, Korean or Vietnam Vet, Moseby is an ex Oakland Raider football player, who has apparently invested some of his NFL contract doe into a PI dream.

Moseby is a Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe "knight of the streets" wannabe but rather than hard boiled, Harry is soft boiled at best, he is not tough or mean, he's more easygoing and disarming,  Harry is also a bit tarnished and maybe bit afraid. He is the hero, competent and dedicated, but even as his personal world dissolves around him he is still as Chandler said "a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

Harry Moseby (Hackman) in his office

Our tale begins when Harry get's a case referred to him by one of his wife's Ellen's (Susan Clark)
clients Nick (Kenneth Mars), a collector of Mayan antiquities. The job is to find and return the wayward daughter of a crumbling Hollywood C-list star, Arlene Iverson (Janet Ward). Iverson is a multiple marriage booze hound, getting a bit thick in the middle and living high on the hog off alimony checks in a hillside house above LA. She's specialized in banging movie stuntmen. She'll remind you of a caricature of a past the end of career Elizabeth Taylor. She comes on to Harry like a bitch in heat every time he visits her to get the details of or report his findings on her daughter Delilah "Delly" (Melanie Griffith). Arlene wants her back because Delly has a sizeable trust fund.

Iverson (Ward) Moseby (Hackman) with a smoggy LA backdrop
Harry from information he got from Arlene, confronts Delly's last boyfriend Quentin (James Woods) a movie crew mechanic who informs Harry that Delly left him in New Mexico for a stuntman pilot name of Marv (Anthony Costello).

Harry and Quentin (James Woods)

The case is the real deal to Harry, it pays more, it's better than routine divorce cases, and better than working for a large agencies which, he remarks to Ellen, are no better than data collection services. While driving back through Burbank, and feeling good about himself, Harry passes the Magnolia Theatre where his wife and her gay business associate Charles (Ben Archibek) are exiting a film. Harry makes a U-ie parks and is about to call out to Ellen when he witnesses her leave the company of Charles to take up with another man Marty (Harris Yulin). Marty walks with the aid of a cane and he escorts Ellen into a Mercedes. They drive away. Harry jumps back in the Mustang and tails them to Malibu. Seeing Ellen have an affair is like getting kicked in the guts. Harry stakes out Marty's house and confronts him about the affair.

Harry spots Ellen and Marty

Marty and Ellen drive away

Harry tailing Marty

Leaving his personal life in tatters Harry copes by diving fully into the missing daughter case. He flies to New Mexico where he meets Delly's father stunt coordinator Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns). While at a bar with Joey, he's introduced to sleazy stuntman Marv (Anthony Costello). When Joey leaves the table momentarily Harry asks Marv about Delly. Marv says she headed for Florida to stay with her step dad Tom Iverson (John Crawford) then he offers his observation of the certain perspective a man gets when he sleeps with both the daughter (Delly) and the mother (Arlene). He snickers.

Harry and  Joey Ziegler (Edward Binns) 

Marv (Anthony Costello)

Harry heads to the Florida Gulf Coast to track down Delly at her step dad's grungy off the beaten track guiding, fishing, retail business MidKay Supermarket and The Gulf Shore Cabins. There he meets free-spirited Paula (Jennifer Warren) a slinky, blonde, Southern beach trash, beauty who has among other endeavors has bar tended, waitressed, stripped, etc., etc. She takes him to meet Delly. Delly is introduced to us in homage to much like Brigitte Bardot was iconically introduced in Roger Vadim's And God Created Woman, naked behind a clothesline.

MidKay Supermarket

Harry showing credentials to Paula

Paula (Jennifer Warren)

Delly (Melanie Griffith)

Delly is a 16-year-old, very in your face, out of control, round heels nymphomaniac, who gives the impression that she will screw anything with a dick. She constantly teases any man within her reach ready to strip off her clothes at the drop of a hat. As soon as Harry shows up he becomes the object of her constant attention.

Delly's step dad Tom Iverson (John Crawford) flies in on a seaplane soon after Harry arrives. When Harry tells him he's there to collect Delly and bring her back to her mother, Tom confides to Harry that she's a handful, and referring to her open sexuality states "there ought to be a law" to which Harry replies "there is."

Tom's Seaplane

Tom Iverson (John Crawford)

Paula, Delly, and Harry decide to take the glass bottomed boat out for a recreational night dive on the reef. They turn the underwater lights on. Delly strips and jumps in while Paula and Harry watch. While Delly is moving about she discovers the wreck of a small seaplane. When she gets close to the cockpit she sees the body of a deadman, fish are feeding on his head eating his eye sockets, she panics bursting upwards to the surface and screams.

Glass Bottomed Boat


No bottoms through the glass bottom

Seeing the dead man so disturbs Delly that she's ready to go back to California with Harry. Once back at Arlene's, Delly has a dysfunctional brouhaha with her mother, Quentin, and her mother's new lover in front of Harry as he is trying to leave after collecting his check.

Harry has misgivings, wondering if he did the right thing, a few day later his apprehensions prove out when Delly is killed in an accident on a movie set. After meeting with Joey Ziegler and seeing rushes of the crash Harry suspects Quentin was involved. Harry follows Quentin to Florida where in classic noir fashion everything unravels, and in not the way you expect.

In the old whodunnits, the detective would logically follow the clues and solve the case. In the hard boiled tales of Hammett and Chandler the detective takes the case shakes things up and sees what falls out. When Harry goes back to Florida he reaches the tipping point into full blown Noirsville.

The jazzy soundtrack is by Michael Small, screencaps are from the Warners DVD, 8/10.  If the cinematography had a bit more style using Noir stylistics it would probably be higher, as is it doesn't quite match up to its potential vis a vis the story.



Monday, January 25, 2016

Noirsville Tune of the Week

A little bit of Western Noirsville courtesy of Guy Clark. 

Guy Charles Clark (born November 6, 1941) is a Grammy Award winning American Texas Country and folk singer, musician, songwriter, recording artist, and performer. He has released more than twenty albums, and his songs have been recorded by other artists including Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett'. Clark was born in Monahans, Texas and eventually settled in Nashville, where he helped create the progressive country and outlaw country genres. His songs "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting for a Train" that helped launch his career were covered by numerous performers.

So again, shut the lights off slip on the headphones, and vist the world of an old wino in dusty Texas backwater and enjoy a bit of Noirsville.

Let Him Roll - Guy Clark

He's a wino, tried and true.
Done about everything there is to do.
He worked on freighters, he worked in bars.
He worked on farms, 'n he worked on cars.

It was white port, that put that look in his eye
That grown men get when they need to cry
And he sat down on the curb to rest
And his head just fell down on his chest

He said "Every single day it gets
A little bit harder to handle and yet..."
And he lost the thread and his mind got cluttered
And the words just rolled off down in the gutter

Well he was elevator man in a cheap hotel
In exchange for the rent on a one room cell
He's old in years beyond his time
Thanks to the world, and the white Port wine

So he says "Son, " he always called me son
He said, "Life for you has just begun"
And he told me a story that I heard before
How he fell in love with a Dallas whore

Well he could cut through the years to the very night
When it ended, in a whore house fight
And she turned his last proposal down
In favor of being a girl about town

Now it's been seventeen years right in line
And he ain't been straight none of the time
Too many days of fightin' the weather
And too many nights of not being together

So he died...

Well when they went through his personal affects
In among the stubs from the welfare checks
Was a crumblin' picture of a girl in a door
An address in Dallas, and nothin' more

The welfare people provided the priest
A couple from the mission down the street
Sang Amazing Grace, and no one cried
'Cept some woman in black, way off to the side

We all left and she was standing there
Black veil covering her silver hair
And 'ol One-Eyed John said her name was Alice
And she used to be a whore in Dallas

Let him roar, Lord let him roll
Bet he's gone to Dallas Rest his soul
Lord, let him roll, Lord let him roar
He always said that heaven
Was just a Dallas whore.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Nickel Ride (1974) Death of the Key Man

 LA Smog Noir, circa 1974, directed by Robert Mulligan (The Rat Race (1960), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Summer of '42 (1971),) Cinematography was by Jordan Cronenweth (Blade Runner (1982)). It was written by Eric Roth (The Drowning Pool (1975)) and stars Jason Miller as Cooper, Linda Haynes as Sarah, Victor French as Paddie, John Hillerman as Carl, Bo Hopkins as Turner, Richard Evans as Bobby, Bart Burns as Elias, Lou Frizzell as Paulie, Mark Gordon as Tonozzi.

Cooper "Coop", is a small but successful cog in the LA underworld. He on top of his world, He is a fence, receiving stolen goods which he stores in the various warehouses around 5th Street in downtown LA. He is known as the "Key Man" for the large ring of keys he always carries. Business is booming, and there is a serious shortage of storage space.

The film begins at night, a tractor-trailer backs up to a loading dock. The hijackers pile out and a hood in a seersucker suit and straw hat beats on the sliding steel door of a warehouse as the rest of the crew unload the goods. The watchman opens up the door and tells the hood in the seersucker there is no room.

Cooper has been cobbling a deal to get "the block" a very large brick warehouse complex, 400,000 square feet, with rail spurs, comprising nineteen addresses, that sits on a full city block down in the 5th and Alameda district. It will be "like Grand Central Station". The word is out that the old street boss is losing control, if he doesn't deliver this block, 5th Street goes down the toilet and he'll go with it. The deal is in limbo because crooked LAPD official Elias and his downtown cronies are dragging ass, wanting more juice. Cooper's immediate boss Carl is putting pressure on him to get it done. Carl's bosses are a new breed, razor cuts, bookkeepers and lawyers who don't understand the streets.

Coop and Carl
Carl also has Coop lean on boxing manager Paulie. He wants, to have boxer Tonozzi, who has been making a bit of a comeback, take one last dive in his next bout. When Tonozzi doesn't deliver, Carl thinks Coop is slipping. Coop tells Paulie to leave town but Carl's goons get to him first. Carl also hires a goofy looking enforcer named Turner, a quasi hippy-ish, off-putting hayseed imported from Texas who wears a cowboy hat and boots with denim bell bottom jeans and a jacket embroidered with flowers on the front and a marijuana leaf on the back.

Coop has been on the job for 19 years, an ex carney, con man who worked his way West to LA then up the crime ladder. He has a live in gal pal Sarah who was working as a keno gal in Vegas when he found her, but in one sequence she demonstrates some bumps and grinds to Coop and his long time friend Paddie, the owner of the local bar.  Coop's become a respected and loved 5th street neighborhood fixture, his friends and the patrons of Paddie's  even throw him a surprise birthday party. This respect and love proves his undoing, the new breed of crook wants to rule on fear and brutality and Coop is coming to the end of his nickel ride.

Happy Birthday

The Street

Jason Miller is practically a double for Charles McGraw without the gravelly voice, there are some great believable performances here from Victor French (who you won't recognize) he comes off as an interesting mix of Art Carney and Walter Matthau,  and from Linda Haynes the smalltown born, ex Vegas showgirl. The side story of Coop and Sarah and their affection for each other is well done. John Hillerman is the "Hollywood-ish" mob underboss, and Bo Hopkins is outlandish as the politely creepy "Cadillac Cowboy" hit man. This film builds slowly in tension much like Night And The City (1950) does.

The Block



The noir-ish cinematography is excellent, emphasising gritty, smoggy, downtown LA, an LA that's slowly succumbing to high rises and parking lots, but it also is juxtaposed by nicely composed 2.35 : 1 widescreen closeups and also throws in a sequence reminiscent of the Big Bear Lake segment featured in the Van Heflin-Robert Ryan Noir Act Of Violence (1948) The subtle soundtrack nicely compliments the storyline. 8/10. The DVD is from Shout Video.

A bonus to this film is Tom Waits song about this skid row section of Los Angeles, called On The Nickel, so here it is, enjoy.

On the Nickel
Sticks and stones will break my bones I always will be true
and when your mama's dead and gone I'll sing this lullaby just for you
and what becomes of all the little boys who never comb their hair
they're lined up all around the block on the nickel over there

so better bring a bucket there's a hole in the pail
and if you don't get my letter then you'll know that I'm in jail
and what becomes of all the little boys who never say their prayers
they're sleepin like a baby on the nickel over there

and if you chew tobacco and wish upon a star
you'll find out where the scarecrows sit just like punch lines between the cars
and I know a place where a royal flush can never beat a pair
and even Thomas Jefferson is on the nickel over there

so ring around the rosie sleepin in the rain
and you're always late for supper man you let me down let me down again
and I thought I heard a mockingbird Roosevelt knows where
you can skip the light with Grady Tuck on the nickel over there

so what becomes of all the little boys who run away from home
the world just keeps gettin bigger once you get out on your own
so here's to all the little boys the sandman takes you where
you're sleepin with a pillow man on the nickel over there

so climb up through that button hole and fall right up the stairs
and I'll show you where the short dogs grow on the nickel

over there