Film Noir

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Kiss Me Deadly

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Blood red kisses! White hot thrills! Mickey Spillane’s latest H-bomb!

Starring – Ralph Meeker (Mike Hammer), Albert Dekker (Dr. G. E. Soberin), Paul Stewart (Carl Evello), Maxine Cooper (Velda), Juano Hernandez (Eddie Yeager).

Released – May, 1955

Directed By – Robert Aldrich

Produced By – Park Lane Pictures

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – L. A. private eye Mike Hammer offers a ride to an apparently frightened young woman he sees running on the road one night. And, why not? The woman is wearing nothing but a trench coat.

Her name is Christina and she has escaped from a mental institution. That’s all Hammer learns of the woman as his car is run off the road by some thugs. Hammer awakens in an unknown location to the screams of Christina, who is being tortured to death in an effort to get information from her that she either doesn’t know, or just isn’t telling.

Hammer and the body of the young woman are put back into his car and the car is pushed off a cliff in order to make their deaths appear to be an accident. Hammer survives the crash to awaken in a hospital.

He decides to investigate just what is going on for two reasons… vengeance, and the fact that Christina must have been involved in something big. Something that could lead to a lot of money for the private detective.

Hammer’s inquiries into why Christina was killed lead him to a woman named Lily, who is also in danger and asks Hammer for protection. It seems that there is this mysterious box that, she believes, contains a fortune that someone will stop at nothing to obtain.

There’s another player in this dangerous game, as the F.B.I. also is interested in the contents of the box, and the race is on to see who will end up with the mysterious box, just what does it contain, and who will have to die for their efforts.

NOTABLE: In 1999, Kiss Me Deadly was selected for inclusion in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Although based on the novel by Mickey Spillane, the film is very different in terms of the plot elements, who the bad guys are, and the valuable contents of the box.

Kiss Me Deadly was filmed in its entirety in less than three weeks.

This motion picture provided the film debut’s of Cloris Leachman and Maxine Cooper.

Personal Note: This is a classic Film Noir title that crosses over into a number of other genres. It is a fast, moody, violent picture, that was years ahead of its time. Ralph Meeker makes a great Mike Hammer.



The Big Combo

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Big Combo [Blu-ray]

Tagline – The Most Startling Story The Screen Has Ever Dared Reveal!

Starring – Cornel Wilde (Lt. Leonard Diamond), Richard Conte (Mr. Brown), Brian Donlevy (Joe McClure), Jean Wallace (Susan Lowell).

Released – February, 1955

Directed By – Joseph H. Lewis

Produced By – Security Pictures, Theodora Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – Mr. Brown is a bad man, so bad that the level of evil he practices has consumed Police Lt. Diamond. Prosecuting Brown has tormented Diamond so much that it has become personal.

Adding to the problem is the fact that Lt. Diamond is dangerously obsessed with Susan Lowell the gangsters captive girlfriend.

Lt. Diamond’s crusade, to bring an end to the sadistic gangster, has cost the department thousands. The cost, along with the lack of results, has forced the department to order Diamond to put an end to his efforts.

In a last ditch effort to obtain evidence against Brown, Lt. Diamond plans to try and get the necessary information from Susan Lowell, Lowell’s attraction to Brown seems morbidly associated with his pleasure in inflicting pain.

She has also felt the abuse of the gangster, and when finally having had enough attempts suicide. Found by Lt. Diamond and brought to the hospital she utters the name “Alicia.” Diamond believes that this is the name of Brown’s wife, thought to have been dead for years.

While Diamond works this new lead, Mr. Brown’s right-hand man Joe McClure is planning to use two of Brown’s henchmen to kill Brown so that he can take over the criminal operation. The plan backfires as the henchmen remain loyal to Brown and it is McClure who ends up dead.

Unless Diamond can find Mr. Brown’s wife, and get her to testify against him, it looks like the mob boss is untouchable.

NOTABLE: Jack Palance was originally set to play the role of Mr. Brown, but after having differences with the producers he left the production. However, before doing so he suggested Richard Conte for the role.

Off-screen, Cornel Wilde and Jean Wallace were a married couple.

In a rare display of violence for its time, a hearing aid is used to torture Lt. Diamond with amplified sound leaving no bruises or marks of any kind.

Personal Note: A top-notch film noir with great camera work and lighting. Jean Wallace does an excellent job as the gangsters girl caught somewhere between good and evil.

Richard Conte is great as Mr. Brown presenting a menacing evil. Here are a couple of his quotes: Upon finding out that Diamond is investigating him – “Joe, tell the man I’m gonna break him so fast, he won’t have time to change his pants. Tell him the next time I see him, he’ll be in the lobby of the hotel, crying like a baby and asking for a ten dollar loan. Tell him that. And tell him I don’t break my word.”

When speaking regarding why Lt. Diamond will never get him and just what makes him the better man – “What makes the difference…? Hate! Hate is the word, Benny! Hate the man that tries to beat you. Kill ’em, Benny! Kill ’em! Hate him till you see red, and you’ll come out winning the big money, and the girls will come tumblin’ after. You’ll have to shut off the phone and lock the door to get a night’s rest.”



The Big Heat

Friday, September 10th, 2010

Big Heat [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A hard cop and a soft dame!

Starring – Glen Ford (Det. Sgt. Dave Bannion), Gloria Grahame (Debby Marsh), Jocelyn Brando (Katie Bannion), Alexander Scourby (Mike Lagana), Lee Marvin (Vince Stone).

Released – October, 1953

Directed By – Fritz Lang

Produced By – Columbia Pictures Corporation

Distributed By – Columbia Pictures Corporation

Description – Detective Sergeant Dave Bannion is an honest cop investigating the death of a fellow officer. The case appears to be a suicide as a result of ill health. But, everything is not always as it appears.

A tip from the late cop’s mistress claims otherwise and further investigation reveals that the dead officer had a second home; something not possible on a policeman’s salary alone. Shortly after the tip, the mistress is found tortured and dead and Bannion receives threatening phone calls at his home.

Bannion believes that local crime boss Mike Lagana is behind these events and confronts Lagana at his home. Lagana’s only reply is to tell Det. Sgt. Bannion just how dumb he is for making these accusations.

Shortly after this confrontation, Bannion’s car is blown up. The intention was to kill him, but it is Bannion’s wife who is killed.

With most of the police department in crime boss Lagana’s pocket, Bannion resigns from the force and sets out on a one man crusade for vengeance and justice.

NOTABLE: When thug Lee Marvin first faces Glen Ford the music in the background is the song ‘Put The Blame On Mame,’ a reference to Ford’s previous noir role in ‘Gilda.’

Actress Jocelyn Brando, who plays Ford’s wife Katie, is the older sister of Marlon Brando.

Actress Gloria Grahame’s role was originally planned for Marilyn Monroe. However, 20th Century Fox’s asking price to loan her to Columbia was too high. As it turned out, Grahame, one of the queen’s of noir, did a great job,

Personal Note: As a huge fan of Film Noir, with what I like to think is a pretty complete collection of these films, I would have to say that this is a very good movie and a great example of classic noir.

An excellent supporting cast from top to bottom with a change of pace in the fate of the Noir femme fatale. Usually the reason for the destruction of the man, or men in her life, the spider women in this film all get their just desserts.

Dangerous Crossing

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Dangerous Crossing

Tagline – Why would a man do a thing like this to his wife?

Starring – Jeanne Crain (Ruth Stanton Bowman), Michael Rennie (Dr. Paul Manning), Max Showalter (Jim Logan), Carl Betz (John Bowman).

Released – August, 1953

Directed By – Joseph M. Newman

Produced By –  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – Ruth and John Bowman board the SS Monrovia in New York for a honeymoon cruise to Europe. They will occupy cabin B-16.

They arrive at their cabin to find stewardess Anna Quinn arranging some flowers. Shortly after, John tells Ruth that he has to leave some money with the purser and will meet her in the bar in fifteen minutes.

Ruth heads for the bar and as the time passes there is no sign of her husband. She approaches the purser and asks if her husband has been to see him. The purser says no, and when checking the passenger list can find no record of a John Bowman.

The purser also states that Ruth has checked in under the name Ruth Stanton and her cabin is B-18. Believing this to be a mistake, Ruth goes back to cabin B-16 only to find the door locked. After asking a steward to open the door for her she finds the cabin empty.

Ruth’s confusion and mounting fear cause her to faint. When she awakens, she is with ships Doctor Paul Manning. Aware of her claims, Dr. Manning asks Ruth if anyone has seen her with her husband and can substantiate her claims.

Ruth tells him that yes she and her husband were seen on the gangplank when boarding the ship and by the stewardess in cabin B-16. However, when this information is investigated by the ships Captain and Dr. Manning, the gangplank officer says he did see Ruth, but she was alone, and stewardess Anna Quinn says she was never in cabin B-16.

No one believes her story. Confused and frightened, Ruth receives a mysterious late night phone call from her husband John telling her to trust no one and that they both are in a great deal of danger.

What’s going on and why? Is any of this real, or has Ruth gone mad?

NOTABLE: Dangerous Crossing was shot on the same set used for the films Titanic, Gentlemen Prefer Blonds, and A Blueprint For Murder.

The ship’s foghorn will sound 107 times during the film.


Pickup On South Street

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Pickup on South Street (The Criterion Collection)

Tagline – How the law took a chance on a B-girl… and won!

Starring – Richard Widmark (Skip McCoy), Jean Peters (Candy), Thelma Ritter (Moe Williams).

Released – June, 1953

Directed By – Samuel Fuller

Produced By –  Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – The subway was crowded, and she was an easy mark for a skilled pickpocket like Skip McCoy. Taking the purse of Candy was the easy part; things will get a whole lot more difficult from here.

Unknown to Skip, inside Candy’s purse was a piece of top-secret microfilm that was to be passed by Candy to a Communist agent. Candy was just doing a favor for her ex-boyfried and didn’t know just what it was, or how important it is.

Also unknown, to both Candy and McCoy, was the fact that Government agents were watching her every move, knew of her destination, and saw McCoy take her purse.

When McCoy learns of the importance of just what he is in possession of he starts to get ideas. Meanwhile, Candy learns of McCoy’s whereabouts through Moe Williams, a police informer, and sets out to get the microfilm back through seduction.

Her efforts bring on another complication as she finds herself falling in love with McCoy. As for McCoy, he now has the Government agents, and the Communists agents, hot on his trail. Personally, he has no favorite and hopes to give the microfilm to the first party to come up with $25,000.

However, this pickpocket may have bitten off more than he can chew.

NOTABLE: Pickup On South Street received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Thelma Ritter).

Director Fuller turned down a number of more famous leading ladies for the role of Candy. They included Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Shelly Winters, Betty Grable, and initially Jean Peters. However, while having lunch in the studio’s commissary and meeting Peter’s once again, Fuller realized she was perfect, He liked her intelligence, spunkiness, and her ability to play different roles convincingly.

The initial script was ruled as unacceptable by the Production Code due to “excessive brutality and sadistic beatings, of both men and women.” Script revisions were necessary to get approval.

Pickup On South Street was shot in 20 days.

Personal Note: A great job by Director Samuel Fuller and the excellent cast. This is a very good Film Noir, suspenseful, tough, and violent.