Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Noirsville Neo Noir Image of the Week

Googie architecture is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futurist architecture 
influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age. Originating in Southern 
California during the late 1940s and continuing approximately into the mid-1960s, 
Googie-themed architecture was popular among motels, coffee houses and gas stations. 

Here is a Googie motel sign. 

 Siesta Motel, US 2, Havre, Montana 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blood Simple (1984) The Bad Detective

The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the Pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here... you're on your own.

All I can say is Wow! What a debut film of the Coen Brother's. This film has got STYLE. Directed by Joel Coen, (& Ethan Coen (uncredited)) (Miller's Crossing (1990), Barton Fink (1991), Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001), No Country for Old Men (2007)), and written by both Joel Coen & Ethan Coen. The films cinematography was by Barry Sonnenfeld (Raising Arizona (1987), Miller's Crossing (1990)) and the music was by Carter Burwell (Fargo (1996), The Big Lebowski (1998),No Country for Old Men (2007), Mildred Pierce (TV Mini-Series)).

The film stars John Getz (The Fly (1986)) as Ray, Frances McDormand (Fargo (1996), Lone Star (1996), The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)) as femme fatale Abby Marty, Dan Hedaya (True Confessions (1981), Tightrope (1984), Mulholland Dr. (1999)) as Julian Marty, M. Emmet Walsh (Midnight Cowboy (1969), Serpico (1973), Straight Time (1978), Blade Runner (1982), Narrow Margin (1990)) as private investigator Loren Visser, Samm-Art Williams (Dressed to Kill (1980), A Rage in Harlem (1991)) as Maurice, and Deborah Neumann as Debra.

Ray (John Getz)

Abby (Francis McDormand)

Julian (Dan Hedaya)

Visser (M. Emmet Walsh)
P.I.'s are arguably, along with the femme fatale, probably the two top icons of Noir, but in the totality of the Noir/Neo Noir canon there are surprisingly, contrary to popular perception, not very many films that actually do feature your classic hardboiled private detective. Oh don't get me wrong there is sleuthing going on in quite a bit of Film Noir, but it's done by a plethora of characters, newspaper reporters, the falsely accused, the amnesiacs, the framed, cabbies, tabloid photographers, secretaries, taxi dancers, average joe's, even kids.  Out of those films that do actually have P.I.'s, I can only think of four with private detectives that have gone bad, Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) in, Out Of the Past, J.B. MacDonald (Raymond Burr) in Pitfall, Kerric (Raymond Burr) in Abandoned, and hayseed shitkicker Loren Visser (M. Emmet Walsh) in this film Blood Simple, which takes "The Bad Detective" to a whole new level.


Blood Simple starts off with sleazy bedroom dick Visser's voice over about there being no guarantees in life. Visser was hired by Julian Marty who owns Neon Boots a honkey-tonk/strip bar. Marty wants Visser, to keep tabs on his "funny: acting wife, Abby. Julian suspects some hanky panky is going on between Abby and one of his barkeepers, either "Motown" Meurice or "Cowboy" Ray.

On a rainy night Ray offers to drive Abby to Houston on his day off. Abby spills the beans to Ray about her screwed up marriage. Ray replies that he's always liked her.

Abby: He gave me a little pearl-handled .38 for our first anniversary.
Ray: Uh-huh.
Abby: Figured I'd better leave before I used it on him. I don't know how you can stand him.
Ray: Well, I'm only an employee, I ain't married to him.

One thing leads to another and Abby ends up repeatedly batter-dipping Ray's corn dog in a variety of positions in a cheap roadside hot sheet motel. Visser who has been tailing them all along in his VW bug is able to indulge in one of his perverted kinks, peeping and photographing their dirty deeds. Visser takes particular pleasure rubbing Julian]s nose in his armature porn shots of Ray and Abby.

Private Detective Visser: [about a photo of Ray and Abby] I know a place you can get that framed.
Marty: What did you take these for?
Private Detective Visser: What do you mean? Just doin' my job.
Marty: You called me, I knew they were there, so what do I need these for?
Private Detective Visser: Well, I don't know... Call it a fringe benefit.
Marty: How long did you watch her?
Private Detective Visser: Most of the night... They'd just rest a few minutes and then get started again. Quite something.

Julian stews over the revelations, confronts Ray and Abby to little effect, then decides to make Visser an offer.

Marty: I got a job for you.
Private Detective Visser: Uh, well, if the pay's right, and it's legal, I'll do it.
Marty: It's not strictly legal.
Private Detective Visser: [Thinks for a second] Well, if the pay's right, I'll do it.

Julian offers Visser 10 Gs to kill Ray and Abby and get rid of the bodies.

Of course this being a Neo Noir nothing goes down quite as expected, and when it does go down, it's with great style. The film is full of twists, double crosses and a healthy helping of bizarre black humor.


Dan Hedaya and M. Emmet Walsh are both in top form as the films unforgettable two sleazeballs around which this picaresque universe revolves. The soundtrack and score compliment the action. Review is of 2000 re-release.  9/10

Monday, November 28, 2016

Gloria Grahame

Suicide Blonde: The Life of Gloria Grahame Hardcover – October, 1989
by Vincent Curcio.

Written by a friend and co-worker, Suicide Blonde is the biography of a quintessential figure in the great American film noir of the 1940s and 1950s. I have a copy of this. It glosses over a lot of the juicy stuff unfortunately.

Anyway the reason I'm posting this book cover is because it depicts the slightly pouty look that Gloria was always shooting for in her own obsessed quirky way by either stuffing tissue paper under her upper lip or through plastic surgery.

Noirsville Tune of the Week

Country Western Noir, Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley; September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) was an American country music singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music and was one of the most influential, successful and acclaimed vocalists of the 20th century. She died at the age of 30 in a multiple-fatality crash of the private plane of her manager, Randy Hughes.

Sweet Dreams

Sweet dreams of you
Every night I go through
Why can't I forget you and start my life anew
Instead of having sweet dreams about you
You don't love me, it's plain
I should know I'll never wear your ring
I should hate you the whole night through
Instead of having sweet dreams about you
Sweet dreams of you
Things I know can't come true
Why can't I forget the past, start loving someone new
Instead of having sweet dreams about you

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Noirsville Iconic Photograph of the Week

 William P. Gottlieb (January 28, 1917 – April 23, 2006): Photographs from the Golden Age of Jazz. 
52nd Street, NYC looking East

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Noirsville Tune of the Week

Tom Waits

Frank's Wild Years

Well Frank settled down in the Valley
and he hung his wild years 
on a nail that he drove through 
his wife's forehead
he sold used office furniture 
out there on San Fernando Road
and assumed a $30,000 loan 
at 15 _ % and put a down payment 
on a little two bedroom place
his wife was a spent piece of used jet trash
made good bloody marys
kept her mouth shut most of the time
had a little Chihuahua named Carlos
that had some kind of skin disease
and was totally blind. They had a thoroughly modern kitchen
self-cleaning oven (the whole bit)
Frank drove a little sedan
they were so happy

One night Frank was on his way home 
from work, stopped at the liquor store,
picked up a couple Mickey's Big Mouths
drank 'em in the car on his way 
to the Shell station, he got a gallon of 
gas in a can, drove home, doused 
everything in the house, torched it,
parked across the street, laughing
watching it burn, all Halloween 
orange and chimney red then 
Frank put on a top forty station
got on the Hollywood Freeway
headed North

Never could stand that dog

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Saturday, November 19, 2016

In Cold Blood (1967) A Transitional Noir Masterpiece

You'll know it when you see it. Just like you know a Noir when you see it. In Cold Blood is a Masterpiece and it's a Masterpiece of Film Noir, to boot, no doubt about it. It was made right at the end of Black & White film production and that format, along with the Classic Noir look/aesthetic couldn't have gone out with a bigger or more powerful bang.

Masterfully directed by Richard Brooks (Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Blackboard Jungle (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960), Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977)). Written by Richard Brooks whose previous credits include (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Key Largo (1948), Mystery Street (1950), Storm Warning (1951), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Elmer Gantry (1960)) and based on Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood"

The incredibly crisp and strikingly artistic cinematography was by Conrad L. Hall (The Outer Limits  TV Series (1963–1965), Harper (1966), Cool Hand Luke (1967), Black Widow (1987)). Editing was by Peter Zinner (The Professionals (1966), The Godfather (1972), The Godfather: Part II (1974)). The film also has an excellent score by Quincy Jones (The Pawnbroker (1964), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Getaway (1972)).

In Cold Blood stars Robert Blake (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Black Hand (1950), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Lost Highway (1997)) as greaser Perry Smith.

Perry (Robert Blake)
Scott Wilson (In the Heat of the Night (1967), ) as farm boy Dick Hickock.

Dick (Scott Wilson)
The film has a plethora of Classic Film Noir veterans, John Forsythe (The Captive City (1952), The Glass Web (1953), ) as Alvin Dewey the lead investigator for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI).

Alvin Dewey (John Forsythe)
Paul Stewart (Johnny Eager (1941), Champion (1949), The Window (1949), Edge of Doom (1950), Appointment with Danger (1951), Deadline - U.S.A. (1952), Loan Shark (1952)) as Jensen, the reporter.

Dick, lt. Jensen (Paul Stewart) rt.
Gerald S. O'Loughlin (Cop Hater (1958)) as Harold Nye KBI.

Nye (O'Loughlin) & Dewey
Jeff Corey (Somewhere in the Night (1946), The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), The Gangster (1947), Scene of the Crime (1949), Once a Thief (1965)) as Dick's father.

Charles (Jeff Corey)
Charles McGraw (ten Classic Noir under his belt) as Perry's father Tex.

Tex (Charles McGraw)
Vaughn Taylor (The Lineup (1958), Screaming Mimi (1958), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Party Girl (1958), Psycho (1960)) as the Good Samaritan.

Vaughn Taylor
James Flavin (High Sierra (1941), Laura (1944), Mildred Pierce (1945), The Spider (1945), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), Nora Prentiss (1947), Nightmare Alley (1947), Armored Car Robbery (1950), The Naked Street (1955) ) as Clarence Duntz KBI.

Dunz (Flavin)
Will Geer (Johnny Allegro (1949), The Tall Target (1951), Seconds (1966)) as Prosecuting attorney.

Will Geer
Jim Lantz as Officer Rohleder, John McLiam as Herbert Clutter, Paul Hough as Kenyon Clutter, Ruth Storey as Bonnie Clutter, Brenda C. Currin as Nancy Clutter, Donald Sollars as Clothing Salesman and John Gallaudet as Roy Church fill out the rest of the cast.

Herbert Clutter (Mcliam)

Bonnie Clutter (Storey)

Kenyon Clutter (Hough)

Nancy Clutter (Currin)
In Cold Blood is both intensely horrific and starkly beautiful at the same time. The incredibly random violence visited upon a Kansas family triggered by an off hand remark to Dick Hickok from a prison cell mate, should send shivers down your spine. The film is an electrifying reenactment (in the actual locations) of the brutal murder of the Clutter Family near the town of Holcomb, Kansas on November 14, 1959, the subsequent six week flight of Perry Smith and Dick Hickock to Mexico, and their final track down by law enforcement in Las Vegas.

The film is stylistically nonlinear in format and there are multiple time jumps and flashbacks to Perry's and Dick's past, giving you quasi insights as to the why. There are occasional daydreams and escapist sunken pirate treasure fantasies that sometimes just add to the mystery and other times add to the explanation of what tipped the incident into brutal hideous murder in cold blood.

An interesting take away from the film is that neither Perry or Dick by themselves singly would have committed the murders, but together they formed a third sort of super personality that fed off the weaknesses of both of them and canceled any inhibitions they may have had.

It's not until the trip with the two fugitives back towards Holcomb do we get to hear Perry's confession with a flashback that reconstructs the fatal events of the night. What we don't see is actually far more suggestively appalling in Brook's skilled direction. The isolated farmhouse. A howling prairie wind. A foreboding interior darkness stabbed crazily about by erratic flashlight beams. Pleas for mercy cut off by gun blasts. Muzzle flash, juxtaposed with eerie silences. The actual massacre of innocents is solely in your imagination.

Perry Smith: It doesn't make sense. I mean what happened. It had nothing to do with the Clutters. They never hurt me. They just happened to be there. I thought Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman... I thought so right up to the time I cut his throat.

The film takes you along with the marauders on their getaway in their 1949 Pontiac Chieftain, excellently weaving their backstories with the various objects, encounters, and incidents that trigger the aforementioned revealing flashbacks. It's almost jarring upon reflection in the way that we get to know, and on some level, even feel some sympathy for the killers. Traditional Hollywood would have either painted these two murderers all in basic black or glamorized them, but Brooks shows us that despite their having no moral compass, there is still some modicum of humanity even in these two deplorables.

I can't emphasize enough the powerful performances of Robert Blake and Scott Wilson, they make these two sleazeballs BONAFIDE. Combined that with the vivid realism of the direction, the artistry of the cinematography, and the score from Quincey Jones and you have a film for the ages. This is undoubtedly Robert Blake's best performance, and I was also deeply impressed with the supporting work of Charles McGraw as Perry's grizzled, broken down and out, cowboy father Tex, living in what looks like the back of derelict box truck, outfitted with a bed pallet, a hot plate, wrangler gear, festooned with rodeo posters, horse blankets, and lit by kerosene lanterns, setting in a auto junk yard.

The film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Director, Original Score, Cinematography, and Adapted Screenplay. It should have nominated Blake and McGraw also, and it should have won all of them. Screencaps are from the Columbia Pictures DVD 2003. It's chilling 10/10.