Directed by Steve Carver, based on the Kyle Onstott novel the cinematography was by Lucien Ballard and the music was by Charlie Smalls. The film was released by United Artists and is a sequel to the film Mandingo (which I've never seen either), released in 1975. The film stars Warren Oates, Isela Vega, Pam Grier, Ken Norton, Yaphet Kotto.
Drum (Norton) has been born to a white prostitute (Vega), who raises him with her black lesbian lover. Drum grows up as whorehouse servant but is forced to bare-knuckle-box another slave Blaise (Kotto) for the entertainment of a white effeminate/gay slaveholder, a Frenchman named Bernard DeMarigny (Colicos). DeMarigny wants to sleep with Drum, but his advances are rejected and during the ensuing scuffle Drum's "mammy" is shot.
Drum and his friend Blaise are eventually sold to plantation owner Hammond Maxwell (Oates) and are both taken to his plantation to work. Regine (Grier) is purchased by Maxwell as well and is taken to the plantation for his own personal desires as a bed wench. He also purchases a white **** Augusta Chauvel (Lewis) to be his housekeeper,/fiancé
Maxwells plantation is a stud farm he doesn't grow cotton he breeds slaves. The film is a hoot. Maxwell's got an out of control daughter Sophie (Smith) with raging hormones who like to run around the "farm" making the male slaves let her unbutton their breeches and "play" with their snakes. Sophie also tries to force Blaise to sleep with her, and after being rejected, tells her father that Blaise has raped her. Blaise is put in chains and Maxwell decides that he must be nutted for the alleged rape. Blaise is chained up in the barn and while helpless Sophie comes in lifts her hoop skirts and flashes Blaise, but Maxwell see's her do it, so he not quite as inclined to really believe Sophie.
Meanwhile, a dinner party has been arranged to celebrate the engagement of Maxwell and Chauvel. Casual round the dining table dinner conversations includes the best way to castrate a slave.
Drum frees his friend Blaise from his chains and it all ends up turning into a slave revolt led by Blaise, with the slaves burning down the out buildings. During the storming of the main house fighting Drum grabs hold of DeMarigny's Johnson & balls and rips them off by the roots, that method wasn't mentioned in the dinner conversation.
Maxwell and Chauvel are all saved by Drum. In appreciation for saving his family and also knowing that if Drum stays the prevailing sentiment of the white slaveholders would demand that he kill him, Maxwell sets Drum free and tells him to run into the night.
A much better written and choreographed ending than somewhat similar Django Unchained, it's a better film. 9/10 The whole cast is excellent, entertaining and well made, check it out currently on Youtube while you can.
Sydney (Hall). Hard guy. An ex gangster. Maybe it's just the Christmas season or maybe Sydney is seeking perhaps a personal redemption. He's in some Mojave desert pit stop trying hard to weasel some wings.
All the principals are superb. Hall portrays the tough love pseudo father figure in a solemn, standoffish way, you know he doesn't suffer fools normally but his humanity is leaking out of his exterior shell and he does his best for the two dimwits he has chosen to help. Riley is the lovable idiot, taking every wrong direction when he has a choice. His soul mate Paltrow plays the equally dense, a marriage made in a mental hospital. Soon after the ceremony John turns around and Clementine is gone off with a trick. Jackson as the not quite smart enough Mr. Cool, shows his chops here.
It's a Reno of noisy ding, ding, ding, casino hotels with bad lounge acts, dive motels, and small dumpy vinyl greasy spoons, all with the barest hints of Christmas, i.e., faint elevator music yuletide carol's on autopilot, or a pathetically stingy string of lights on a front porch.
It's called a Horror Western about a tribe of "troglodytes" that kidnap a couple of townsfolk and the posse that goes out to retrieve them.
The funny thing is this didn't have to be about a made up tribe of "troglodytes," if you read enough history, journals, and letters of the early frontier and the West you'd know that nothing that went down in this film was very far off from what the Native American tribes actually did to other tribes and to European colonists. I'm actually of the opinion that it could be that the PC powers that be would never greenlight a film that showed Native Americans as they actually were during certain sequences in their history.
In recent years especially with films like Dances With Wolves the general impression exuded is that with the Native Americans it was almost (except for the designated "bad" tribe, all "Peace Love Dove", one with nature like hippies or hobbits, sadly not so.
In this film just take away the strange voice calls and call them Iroquois, Ottawa, Hurons, Blackfeet, Sioux, Apache, Comanche, Yaqui, get the idea.
Comparatively, an Exploitation "Rougie" Masterpiece
When the "B's" went out of production low budget guerrilla Exploitation Grindhouse "C through Z's" took over. I can count probably just using the fingers of both hands how many of them are worth a look. Some Like It Violent is one of them.
The film stars Bob O'Connell as Johnny Scaro, Sharon Kent (who looks a bit like Kathryn Leigh Scott in a blonde wig) as Dolores, and Natara as prostitute Zelda. Scaro's blonde hooker uncredited starred as the lead in producer Barry Mahon's (Hot Skin, Cold Cash (1965)). That's it, the rest of the cast is lost to history and they probably didn't use their real names anyway.
O'Connell is a blast to watch, bug-eyed, and channeling Cagney in his crazed monologues about making on his own it in the streets. The opening sequence of Scaro chopping up the mannequins is reminiscent of Sam Fuller's intense opening sequence for The Naked Kiss. As with most all of these cheap productions, the whole range of acting ability and lack of it is apparent and, of course, the requisite T&A is displayed.
These bottom of the barrel exploitation films bridge some of the the gaps between B production Noirs and the Hollywood output of Neo Noirs that picked up again in the 70's. Needs a good restoration, worth seeking out, more than just a "skin flick" 6-7/10.
Payback is the third interpretation of Donald E. Westlake's novel The Hunter (1962), written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. A crime thriller novel, the first of the Parker novels. The other films are John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), starring Lee Marvin and Ringo Lam's Full Contact (1992), starring Chow Yun-fat.
Payback was directed by Brian Helgeland and written Brian Helgeland (screenplay) and Terry Hayes (screenplay), (theatrical cut). Cinematography was by Ericson Core, and music was by Chris Boardman.
The film stars Mel Gibson as Porter, Gregg Henry as Val Resnick, Maria Bello as Rosie, Lucy Liu as Pearl, Deborah Kara Unger as Lynn Porter, David Paymer as Arthur Stegman, Bill Duke as Detective Hicks, Jack Conley as Detective Leary, John Glover as Phil, William Devane as Carter, James Coburn as Fairfax, Kris Kristofferson as Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Sally Kellerman as Bronson (Director's Cut), Trevor St. John as Johnny Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Freddy Rodriguez as Valet, Manu Tupou as Pawnbroker.
There are two versions out there the theatrical release and the director's cut.
I've seen both versions. The best film version in my opinion would be roughly, the theatrical release with the narration and blue tint then go with the director's cut (but keeping the blue tint) to the ambiguous end. I'd keep the beating also.
The film looks great in a Noir-ish way. It homages beautifully classic noir with it voice over narration, the heavy use of stylistics and locations that evoke cinematic memory. Gregg Henry is impressive he evokes the spirit of Dan Duryea.Unfortunately the film goes somewhat slowly off the rails with various scenarios, i.e. Porter cutting a gas line under a an 80s Lincoln which would be physically impossible to do, you can't squeeze under that type of car, no way, and the unneeded extraneous additions of dominatrix Pearl (Liu ) and the Chinese Tong machine gun battle where it veers off into Action film and touches on Tarantino land, when it didn't have to, a shame. The majority of Films Noir were simple stories when you overload then with action sequences you tip the film past the noir tipping point it becomes more of the Action Genre, for me anyway.
Give it a fair shake your personal noir tuning fork may accept it more than mine does. Watch also the Film Soleil adaptation of the novel, Point Blank (1967), for a comparison, same story set in California. I haven't seen Chow Yun-fat's Full Contact (1992). Screencaps are from the Paramount DVD. 6.5-7/10
Miami Blues is the first film based on Charles Willeford's series of novels featuring hard boiled detective Hoke Moseley. According to Lawrence Block "Quirky is the word that always comes to mind, Willeford wrote quirky books about quirky characters, and seems to have done so with a magnificent disregard for what anyone else thought."
Miami Blues is a Film Soleil Noir that cinematographer Tak Fujimoto infuses with a bright sunny tropical pastel pallet.
The story. Freddy Frenger ex con. Petty thief. Con artist. Freelancer. Narcissist nut job. Wings to Miami. In air identity theft. Get's a Hare Krishna come on. Breaks the cultists finger. Krishna goes into shock. Kicks the consciousness bucket. Krishna croaked.
Freddy with new identity. Hermann Gottlieb. Cruises the airport. Steals suitcase. Checks into hotel. Bellhop Pedro is the man to see. Orders some local talent. Susie knocks. Young. Looks like High School. Looks like jail bait. Waifish. Okeechobee outcast. Cracker clam. Dispenses fifty dollar sucks.
Freddy asks for ID. Freddy tries to trade her the suitcase clothes. Slow on the uptake. Susy will do it for a suitcase dress. Easy to BS. Easy to string along. Just what Freddy needs, and she can cook too. A perfect pair. They get it on.
Freddy and the clueless Susie have now become part of a long tradition of various combinations of couples on the run/lam that stretch from Gable and Lombard in It Happened One Night (1934) through Classic Noirs, Out Of The Past (1947), They Live by Night (1948), Gun Crazy (1950), Where Danger Lives (1950), Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951), Roadblock (1951), right up to Classic Neo Noirs, The Getaway (1971), Kill Me Again (1989), Wild at Heart (1990), True Romance (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994).
Meanwhile back at the baggage claim crime scene the Detective Hoke Moseley and Sgt. Bill Henderson investigate the case of the dead disciple. Hoke is a rumpled, coarse, depressed boozer. He wears store bought teeth, is strapped for money and lives in rundown residence hotel. Deco decadence.
Through rudimentary detective work Hoke traces down Freddy. But Freddy coldcocks Hoke steals his badge and becomes a freelancing loose canon a perverted Robin Hood who robs from the crooks and gives to himself.
Baldwin plays the quick to take advantage ex-con with bravado. His intense bright blues spotlighting a hair trigger sociopath tendency. Ward is great as the laid back Hoke, but you wish he had even more screen time to develop his character. Leigh is adequate as the hooker with a heart of gold, she may fit somebody's idea or type of hot but to me she seems almost too plain jane and a bit retarded. She does effectively convey the storybook girl who hopes her prince charming will rescue her from a life of going down on losers.
For me Armitage made the mistake of spending too much time on the Freddy-Susie relationship (probably a box office decision) and that robs us from getting more of Hoke Moseley who should have been the main star. Music by Gary Chang. 7/10
Film Soleil, the yang of Film Noir's yin. Credits roll. Desert. Distilled anti-city. Bright. Sun baked. Torrid. Wasteland 360 to the horizon.
Winnemucca. Nevada. A daylight heist. '76 Monte Carlo. Vince (Madsen) leather clad Elvis. Eye shades. Fay (Whalley), casino trash. She's the bait. Vince is the switch. Mob skim. Briefcase stash. Two couriers. One gets stupid. One gets cute. Vince drills him. He bites the Dust. Vince grabs the loot. Fay lays Chevy rubber. Desert desperadoes. They vamoose. Gone.
Two lane getaway. Briefcase opened. Woah! Fay's ecstatic. Dollar sign eyes. Money junkie. Gambling addict. Vince mad. Too much. Thirty times too much. Mob money. Gotta leave state. Gotta scram. Gotta get outta Dodge. Gotta Idaho. Hicksville. The boonies. Lay low.
Fay - No way. You go. Been there done that. We split it. Viva Las Vegas. Vince mad. Cowboy boot to brake. Hooks in. Rubber smokes. Vince and Fay have a tussle. Vince persuades. Fay comes 'round. Fay gets docile. They head North.
Pit stop. Rest Area. Vince gotta whiz. Doesn't trust Fay. Takes her and briefcase into the john. Vince starts watering the horse. Fay eyeballs rock door stop. Sees way out. Sees dollar signs. She grabs rock. Kisses Vince on the melon. He's still draining the main vein. Lights out. Fay grabs money. Fay grabs Chevy. Dollar Sign eyes. Looking for bright lights. Wants to hear that ding, ding, ding. Heads to Reno.
Motel. Fay checks in. Tabulates total on tabloid rag. $475,000. Almost half a mill. Tabloid blurb. "Wife fakes death and steals hubby's money." Fay get's brainstorm. Flips open phone book. Private Investigators. "A". First listing Jack Andrews. Lucky dog.
Jack Andrews (Kilmer) is a Reno PI about to go on the skids. He owes $10,000 to a loan shark. Payment due. He's late. A couple of meat heads are busting up his office. A warning. Jack gets feisty. Get's a broken pinkie finger for his trouble.
Fay goes fishing. Dresses in white. Innocence personified. She's pure as driven slush. Walks into Jack's. Got a plan for the man. Jack eyeballs Fay. Likes what he sees. Fay goes into her act. Turns on the tears. Sob story sister. Battered beauty. Abusive beau. Not right in the head. Displays her bruises. Cries crocodile tears. She wants Jack to fake her death. Get Vince off her rear. She'll pay $10,000. Half now. Half later. Jack's got Dollar Sign eyes. Fay is addictive. Money troubles solved? No, it's an invitation to the blues.
Our Femme Fatale Joanne Whalley-Kilmer has this quality of being able to look both extremely sexy and weaselly simultaneously. At times she's a bit swarthy, disheveled, and greasy. But she cleans up nicely in a low rent, low life sort of way. She can play sweet and demure when she's registering at a motel and wants the clerk to remember her. Other times she affects the look of a rat nibbling on a wedge of cheese. Her eyes slightly bulging at the moment you flip the lights on in the kitchen. She has an aura of rodent, I guess we can call it a rat girl vibe. She's jail tail.
Michael Madsen is always convincing as a homicidal psychopath. He was born to play these characters. In classic noir he would have been reverently type cast, on par with Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., Dan Duryea, and Raymond Burr. His dead eyes negate any facial expressions he may generate. You are looking into the abyss of mayhem and madness. You know he's nuts.
Val Kilmer as PI Jack Andrews has an Eagle Scout vibe. He comes off as competent P.I., who has had a string of bad luck. Swerving to miss a deer he loses control of his car and goes through a guardrail. He and his wife are plunged into a lake. He tries to save her. Only Jack survives and he's haunted by the tragedy. He is down but not out.
The finale sets up like this. Jack is after Fay. Vince and the police are after Jack. The mob is after Vince and Fay. It's quite entertaining, looks great, and it manages to homage a few Classic Noir's in the process. John Dahl really has a handle on Film Noir/Film Soleil. Music was by William Olvis. For his first effort Dahl earns a 7-8/10.
Film Soleil, those sun baked, filled with light, desert/tropical Noir/Neo Noirs.
"Change the darkened street to a dry, sun-beaten road. Convert the dark alley to a highway mercilessly cutting through a parched, sagebrush-filled desert. Give the woman cowboy boots and stick her in a speeding car, driven by a deranged man whose own biological drives lead him less often to sex than to fights over money. Institute these changes (to film noir) and you have film soleil." - DK Holm
In the city it's usually what you can't see that can kill you. In the desert everything you see can kill you.
Desert, the anti-city. Wide open spaces, exposed, agoraphobia. A stream-liner is snaking. A steel sidewinder.
Black Rock. Nowheresville. A Death Valley desert fly speck. Whistle stop. Somewhere on the California/Nevada border. The Southern Pacific RR. A dirt road main street. A baker's dozen collection of dilapidated buildings. The station. The beanery, Sam's Bar & Grill. A General Store abutting a barber shop. A two story hotel. A sawbones/morticians, a gas station, two residences and a rinky-dink hoosegow.
It must be Saturday. Hicksville. Everybody's in town. Cowboy porch lizards. Relaxin'. Shootin' the breeze. Waiting' for the Streamliner to blow through. She's Greased lightning. Like clockwork. The day's big excitement. A faint rumble. The train's a coming'. You can hear the drone of the F7's down the valley. The pitch changes. The horn blares. Station agent excited. She's stopping. A train hasn't stopped here in four years. What's up. Lizards all rubbernecking.
A man gets off. Looks like a city slicker. Suit, tie, fedora, suitcase. A Stranger. Ex career vet. A one hand man, Macreedy (Tracy).
Adobe Flat! The name raises bristles. He's looking' fer Komoko. It stirs the hornet's nest. The lizards get standoff-ish. Hostile. Downright cantankerous. The crap hits the fan. Oh Komoko he left town they tell him, sent to an internment camp.
They telephone the biggest toad in their pond Reno Smith (Ryan). But the cat's already out of the bag. Something is wrong, slantindicular, cattywampus. Macreedy knows they're lying. But he doesn't know why.
Cowboy Coley (Borgnine) is glassing Macreedy from a boulder patch. He ambushes him on the way back to town. Tries to run him off the road. Back in town Coley is still trying to provoke, trying to raise sand.
Spencer Tracy goes from stoically laconic to determinedly obsessed as the odds and the towns alienation build against him. Robert Ryan's unfriendly persuasion streaks more vicious as the truth is slowly exposed. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are the two town bullies both are a few cards short of a full deck. Dean Jagger the town lawman and Walter Brennan a sawbones/mortician are the town drunks. John Ericson is a fidgety hotel keeper and Anne Francis servers as the film's nominal femme fatale.
The film juxtaposes the high desert grit of a weathered bleached bones town against a backdrop of astonishing but desolate beauty. The film has a fascinating Edward Hopperesque realism look to it. This was MGM's first release in Cinemascope. 10/10
Los Angeles. A dope bust goes bad, cops killed, satchel with heroin is gone, tossed down a hillside by the dying mule.
Ves (Haze) shacks with his pop above Connie's Grocery store. He uses the back store room as a sort of social club for himself and his buddies, Jim (Wexler) a budding artist, and Nick (Marlo) an ex high school athlete, weightlifter, and already has been boxer. They hang out at the local bowling alley where Jim has a girl Kathy (Dalton) who works the cash register.They are all pretty much stuck in dead end jobs, but they all have dreams.
Ves has grocery delivery route. Drives a 1951 Plymouth Concord Suburban. He spots a satchel. Grabs it. Finishes route and heads back to the ranch. Jim and Nick are in the back, hanging out. Ves comes in drops satchel. They start goofing around. Time wasting. They finally check out the satchel. It's locked, It's heavy. They force the lock. It's woman's stuff. They check it out. Split it up. They toss a two pound can marked face powder around. Juggle it. Toss it back and forth. They make a basket in the trashcan. Score! Satchel may be worth something. Head for the swap shop. Score a few bucks. They split for the lanes. They bowl, play pinball, Jim gives Kathy some perfume, all is well, life goes on.
Both mob and police are looking for the dope. The HEAT is on. Cops on prowl. Cops shakedown EVERYONE. The mob has muscle. The word is out. The mob leans on EVERYONE.
The story slips out. It's headline news. Jim spots the story. Jim runs to store. Shows Ves and Nick. Crap! We're RICH! Where's the dope? Ves dumped it in the TRASH. Check the trash. It's GONE.
The boys SCRAMBLE. Jump in the Concord. Mad DASH to the DUMP. Garbage trucks VOMIT. Rubbish in piles. The boys are diving through the loads. The landfill dozer is chugging. Against all odds they FIND it.
Of course, being a noir, instead of turning it in they decide to sell it. They don't call it DOPE for nothing. Nick who has a bit of a wise guy bent, knows a junkie named Danny who hangs around the garage he works at. The boys go to see Danny. Danny lives in a tar paper shack. Danny was flying high on China White. Danny has crashed and burned.
They wake him up. Danny is paranoid. Danny is leery. Nick shows Danny a bindle. Danny takes a taste. Danny WANTS it. Danny WANTS it BAD. Nicks says there is more. Nick says you sell it you get MORE. Danny says come back tonight.
Deal is done. Danny DELIVERS. The boys are getting FAT. The Doe is rolling in. They begin to flash wads around. Everything's COOL, everything's good until it all goes BAD.
The film has a great flashback sequence that occurs when Danny is telling Jim about the effects of horse and about the times he was busted put in jail and had to go cold turkey and suffered through horrendous agonizing effects of withdrawal.
The cinematography is impressive, the Cold Turkey sequence is almost surrealistic. It's also well acted and narrated by Allen Kramer. This was Haskell Wexler's first feature film and it shows great promise. The film is adeptly directed by Irvin Kershner who went on to a long career in TV and film.
The film functions quite well as a anti-heroin message that's also thoroughly entertaining. A nice little sleeper of a film, originally a Warners release. 7/10
Never Let Go is about the auto wrecking/salvage business, I guess called auto "breakers"/salvage in the UK, but an illegal aspect of it. When a late model car is wrecked it's title is saved and the car's engine number, chassis number, and body serial plates are transferred to a stolen car which is then resold under the wrecked cars title. Lionel Meadows (Sellers) is the kingpin of an auto theft ring. Titles are collected from wrecks by MacKinnon (Bailey), make, model, and year are put on a list. This list is given to Lionel who then gives the list to his boys who then steal the exact matches. These cars are then driven to Reagan's (Stock) auto body shop where the serial numbers are changed and the cars repainted to match the wrecked titles. The altered cars are then driven to Meadows Garage and sold.
John Cummings (Todd) is a milquetoast barely making ends meet as a London cosmetics salesman. One night he stops at Berger for a few hours to do some paperwork before heading home. While inside his car is pinched by Tommy Towers (Faith) who drives it to Reagan's (Stock) auto shop, where it will be altered.
John is devastated, he didn't get it insured for theft, just third party risk. John's wife wants him to forget about trying to get the car back. She's becoming distressed about his actions, actions which she, in a backhanded way, ignited. She told John that he was always chasing pipe dreams that he never caught and made reality. That sets John off, determined to "never let go" until he gets his Anglica back.
John's obsession and alienation from his wife increases steadily throughout the remainder of the film. This change is convincingly well acted by Todd who goes from soggy milquetoast to hard crust burnt toast. Peter Sellers though is practically unrecognizable. His Meadows character looks like his pudgy evil twin. He's frighteningly different, very twisted from the comedic Sellers we are used to. He sports a push-broom mustache. He is petty, vicious, vile, and has the facade of an outwardly polite charmer. Meadows pseudo smiles, only with his mouth not his eyes. He's a fastidious over the top neat freak, complaining about Jackie's untidiness, placing coasters under drink glasses and ranting about lit cigarettes left on veneer. He also has a sexual sadistic kink with his mistress Jackie. He's a pressure cooker slowly building as things in his little world go awry. He has startlingly violent outbursts. Like a safety valve he's letting off steam, but it's not helping, you know there will be the inevitable explosion as he rages on about the "little nob, lipstick salesman" , and how he's going to "kill him. put him in his car, and burn it!"
Never Let Go builds nicely to an inevitable showdown punctuated by John Barry's score. It's what a noir should be, about interesting small time characters and simple conflicts that spiral bizarrely of control. Bravo 9/10
A surreal, satirical, Neo Noir, sensory overdose. A psychedelic, acid road trip to Hell.
It's a bizarre black comedy satire of the American 24 hour news cycle celebrity/violence culture, much in the vein of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) satire of mutual assured destruction, and A Clockwork Orange (1971) satire of ultra violence.
Believe it or not I'd never seen this film until last year. I hadn't even heard of the controversy surrounding the film. I can see why though. It's because it hits too close to home, it's too real, it touches a nerve, there's an inconvenient veracity of cause and effect to it all. Is it Nature, a frightening genetic component of human beings that is in all of us. Or is it Nurture, as is illustrated through the fragments of flashbacks we get of Mickeys and Mallory's abominable family life, that causes them to go off the rails, if the wrong code buttons are pushed?
I've been going through the Neo Noir lists from various sources and either viewing or acquiring those titles that I'd either never heard of or just missed. I believe my experience of watching this was all that more enhanced since I've begun delving into Noir and Neo Noir so heavily. This personal steeping in everything Noir has given me a huge visual catalog of cinematic memory ripe for discharge. This film may not work the same going into it cold turkey.
Natural Born Killers, gets my synapses sparking. My RPMs are red lining. Like a delayed strobe the film sporadically flashes between Black & White and Color film, it has these insanely canted Dutch Angles while at other times they tilt, back and forth, teeter-totter like along with other visual Noir stylistics. It uses documentary style footage and live breaking news parodies, animation, TV sit com satire, super 8 film sequences, TV quasi News Special Bulletins, and music video style promos. It is hyper violence mixed with cultural and natural Iconography all in a assault on the senses. Every potential affront to sanity and integrity is exploited. It's an indictment of the media feeding frenzy we have with disasters, mass murder, terrorist attacks, and public executions. It's INSANITY, with a complimentary soundtrack, and it's as American as apple pie.
They got their kicks on Route 666. Our tale begins with the desert and a montage of natural born killers, a wolf, a rattler, a hawk, it then segues to the human kind.
Natural Born Killers is full of these little "just killing", (as Donald Trump uses the phrase) picaresque noir vignettes and others, that flesh out the characters and propel the tale forward, that stick in my mind amidst all the designed chaos.
Here is one can call Mallory The 1990s Femme Fatale, where a jealous Blondie-Mallory goes off half cocked away from Mickey. During a love making session Mickey is paying more attention to the pretty hostage they have tied up in their motel room that to her.
Mallory ends up seducing a town pump gas jockey on the hood of a Corvette in the garage bay. She hops up on the hood of a Corvette Stingray and wants him to "go down". He starts to do so but loses control jumping up on her. Mallory frustrate-edly pushes him off pulls a revolver out of her bag and blows him away. She then grabs her shed panties and flings them at the corpse exclaiming "that was the worst head I ever got"! and stomps off.
Other times these vignettes are just brief homages to the past cinema. When Mickey and Mallory are dancing at the diner the sequence changes from full traditional lit color to a silhouette reminiscent of Astaire & Rogers Musicals shot in low key chiaroscuro. We also see Horror and Monster movie clips.
The vast pans of the Southwest deserts, and a prison farm escape during a Wizard of Oz tornado, recall countless Westerns.
Again, over all, Natural Born Killers is not about Mickey and Mallory but about the infamy of their killing spree and the nutjobs they attract. A Geraldo Rivera inspired TV expose program American Mainiacs, is hosted by a shock journalist Wayne Gale who affects a Robin Leach accent and provides a live Lifestyles of the Depraved commentary on the hunt for Mickey and Mallory, their capture, trial and a year later on a prison riot. The program as Wayne Gale puts it is " for all the morons watching out there in zombieland."
Tom Sizemore is Jack Scagnetti a high profile celebrity cop, author of "Scagnetti on Scagnetti" who is seriously warped. Tommy Lee Jones is redneck Prison Warden Dwight McClusky and Everett Quinton is Deputy Warden Wurlitzer who does a pretty good impression of Hugh Cronyn in Brute Force.
You'll find yahoo's on either end of the spectrum will superficially either embrace this film for all the wrong reasons or condemn it, rather than see it for the statement it makes about the sick state of the media news cycle trap that feeds current society where even the really wicked sometimes, get off scot- free.
Caution this film will not be for everyone. Artistically intellectualized chaos, everything is over the top in this film, what a trip 9/10
Beautifully bleak and highly stylistic. This film actually makes a lethally smoggy industrial West Coast/LA sunrise jaw dropingly gorgeous, perverting the normal aesthetic. Palm trees compete with power poles and high tension lines that diffuse into a yellowish soup. Rail yards and wrecking yards are bathed in golden light. All this segues into a montage of a series of varied illegal counterfeit $20 bill transactions.
The tale is about three US Secret Service Agents who are headquartered in L.A. When not providing security for a visiting POTUS (President of the United States) they do field investigation work for the US Treasury, targeting counterfeiters.
Richard Chance (Petersen) and Jim Hart (Greene) are top notch agents. Chance the cock of the walk, is a bit reckless, a bit overconfident, a bit of a jock, a bit shady, he even shacks up in a "safe house" with a stripper Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel) that he uses as a "stoolie with benefits". He holds her probation and the ability to see her daughter as leverage.
Agent Hart is the veteran, steadfast, partner who is almost a father figure to Chance.
A day after Hart's retirement party at the Dog Run Bar, and with only a few days left on the clock, Hart heads off on one last surveillance assignment. He drives out into the desert to check on a warehouse suspected of housing counterfeiting equipment. With binoculars he checks out the site belonging to counterfeiter Rick Masters (Dafoe).
Hart, thinking the site is deserted approaches and jumps the fence. He starts to poke around and finds a trash bag full of cropped currency paper in a dumpster. Masters and Jack, his bodyguard, surprise and kill Hart. Leading a team of agents to Masters desert warehouse Chance discovers a pool of blood soaking into the dirt from Hart's body lying in the dumpster.
Chance gets assigned a stuffy new partner John Vukovich (Pankow), a no nonsense by the book professional. Chance tells John that he is making taking down Masters a personal vendetta.
The film has a 80's techno Wang Chung pounding beat. The cast at that time (save for Dean Stockwell) where pretty much all unknowns. The mayhem ratchets up nicely and unpredictably throughout the film. It's an anti buddy cop film.
Another Tail Fin Noir (barely), a curiosity on the cusp of Classic Noir/Neo Noir
The Beat Generation is somewhat in the vein of Detective Story (1951) the ensemble film that takes place in a New York City Police Precinct Detective squad. In Detective Story, Kirk Douglas plays an embittered morally superior cop McLeod who crusades against NYC's lowlifes. In the course of his pursuit of a Doctor Schneider who is an abortionist he discovers that his wife Mary, whom he had assumed was virginal and pure on the day of his marriage has had an abortion after she had a liaison with a racketeer named Giacoppetti. Mary confesses this her husband, and asks his forgiveness. McLeod tells her in a misogynist rage that "he'd rather die than find out his wife is a tramp." He then asks if her infertility was caused by Schneider's abortion.
In The Beat Generation Steve Cochran plays a Sergeant of Detectives Culloran, who is after a serial rapist dubbed "The Aspirin Kid" Stan Hess, (Ray Danton) a quasi "Beat" coffee house guru, who charismatically attracts women but is in reality a misogynist. The Kid's M.O. is to impersonate the friend of his victim's husband, boyfriend, etc., etc., by saying that he's there to pay back some money that he borrowed. He then gains entrance to their house by saying he needs a pen to write his check. Once inside he fakes a headache, and asks the victim for a glass of water so that he can take a aspirin. While the victim is out of the room he puts on leather gloves and lies in wait, attacking them from behind and raping them upon their return.
Leaving his latest victim The Kid is lightly hit by a car driven by Culloran, when he jaywalks out in the road, he's picked up and innocently given a ride to an emergency room. While making small talk Culloran reveals that he's married but is working late nights on the Aspirin Kid Case. The Kid spots a letter addressed to Culloran and memorizes his address, writing it down. The Kids next victim is Culloran's wife. She subsequently gets a "bun in the oven", and Culloran begins to show his own misogynist streak, blaming the women victims for getting raped. His wife wants to get an abortion, which puts Culloran into destructive obsessed overdrive trying to solve the case so that he can find out The Aspirin Kid's blood type. This all alienates him from his wife and friends.
Both Detective Story and The Beat Generation are examples of films with slim to none Noir visual stylistics, they are NIPOs, Noir In Plot Only type films that get listed in the Noir Canon more for the dark subject matter (at that time period) of their plots than for the cinematography.
The Beats are your stereotypical Maynard G. Krebs beatnik's dressed in torn sweatshirts, goatees, black sweaters, berets, sunglasses, horizontal striped shirts, ponytails and leotards, Some are grooving to the jazz some are stone still. Other's walk around dazed carrying abstract sculpture. Stan Hess dressed in black is sitting at a table reading Schopenhauer. Meg a blonde in spaghetti straps is beside him. We get full frontal beatnik jive dialogue heavily seasoned with the culture's Zeitgeist of impending nuclear destruction.
The huge ensemble cast has some standouts, watch for Jackie Coogan (pre Uncle Fester from The Addams Family) in a serious turn as Culloran's best friend and fellow detective Jake Baron. James Mitchum, doing his daddio's eyelids at half mast schtick. Sexpot Mamie Van Doren as a divorced women on the make who turns the tables on Mitchum, Maila Nurmi (Vampira, pre Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space) reciting poetry with a pet rat on her shoulder, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom the wrestling beatnik, and a guy billed as just Grabowski.
The film has a bit of cross dressing humor as the Coogan and Sid Melton in drag try to bait a lovers lane bandit . It also seems to cram in some of society's in things of 1959, hula hoops, California mussel beach blanket culture, even references to TV's Sea Hunt with a scuba sequence, I'm surprised it didn't have some surfing too. Like a lot of Hollywood films that attempted to replicate the 60's you get the impression that the Beat Generation wasn't just a man with a goatee and beret reciting nonsensical poetry and playing bongo drums or a base without strings, while pony-tailed babes wearing black leotards dance in abandonment. lol. Soundtrack is Jazz, torch songs, bongo music. As a visual Noir it's a 5/10 it's pretty hard to get that claustrophobic atmosphere in a film shot in 2.35:1 CinemaScope, as an entertaining window onto a frozen moment of a quickly changing culture filtered through a Hollywood reflection 7/10. Crazy Man, Dig?
Directed by Sondra Locke this is a gritty story of an Los Angeles femme fatale vice cop Lottie Mason (Theresa Russell) and her "Walk On The Wild Side" of cusp of Noir. It is a dance with with death, love, power and temptation. It's probably one of the Last of the Warner Brothers Noirs.
A piano riff dissolves the blackness into an elevated view of a sleazy Hollywood, hot sheet motel block, at the corner of Las Palmas and Sunset Blvd., one of those all look alike City of Angels low profile strips. Time the late '80s, Madonna is in vogue. The scene is accented by wet pavement reflecting neon. A long ringletted blonde "angel" is strutting her stuff in tight gold Lamé snakeskins, but this celestial Femme Fatale has clipped wings. She's trolling the midnight drift, a lure with hooks. Lonely sad losers cruise the mainstem scoping the fast skirts that will get them a shot at 20 minutes of ecstasy. The opening title sequence displays the workings of the vice stakeout with the excellent noir-ish stylistic cinematography of Dean Semler. The piano riff repeats and become a leitmotif for Lottie's darkside.
Impulse is set strictly in Squaresville, it's a story of the world of hard working cops doing their everyday busts. Lottie's night in and night out tolling the low company is affecting her personal life. Her various Vice assignments, i.e., impersonating a streetwalker, a junkie, a B-girl hooker, a drug dealer has her visiting the division PR office and the psychiatrist/counselor on a regular basis for an hour session mandated by Internal Affairs. They want to know if having to lie and deceive on a regular basis is affecting her job. Her Doctor, Dr. Gardner seems more interested in her personal life her debts and her love life. Lottie when questioned about her torpedoed relationships states that she's only been with cops and she rattles off squads, Vice, Homicide, and Bunco rather than names. Gardener asks about Lottie's quasi-stalker encounter with Lt. Joe Morgan (George Dzundza) an ex boyfriend that she didn't report. Lottie says it's because he'd say she encouraged it. But Lottie makes a confession that she is mainlining on the power of her femininity while staring at her reflection in the window in a great sequence:
Another assignment has Lottie going undercover as a heroin junkie in a shooting gallery, this combined with a second storyline concerning a 2 year old case, a witness protection program witness and a double cross drug deal in NYC brings a District Attorney named Stan (Jeff Fahey) into Lottie's world. Stan is attracted to her and they have an affair though Lottie is still a bit standoffish a bit gun-shy.
After an adrenaline rush chase down a high-rise and shootout with two drug trafficking perps in a grocery, Lottie is on stressed and on edge, Stan tries to comfort her but she wants him to back off and give her space. She takes off in her Camaro to unwind. She gets a flat tire drives into a service station and while the tire is changed drops into the bar across the street and into Noirsville.
At the bar she's picked up by Tony Peron (Shawn Elliott) who is coincidentally and unbeknownst to Lottie, the drug dealer partner of the man Stan has in witness protection. He asks her if there was anything in the world she could do what would it be. Lottie tells him "I'd get on a plane and go somewhere I'd never been". Tony pulls out a deck of hundred dollar bills and counts off ten, Lottie tells him she wants to go "first class". Tony adds another five, but tells her that first she'll have to go to his house. On impulse Lottie picks up the dough and follows him out to his Beverly Estates house.
When Tony gets her to his place he begins to get busy with it. Lottie holds him off telling him she wants to freshen up. Tony tells her to use the upstairs bedroom bath. Lottie has second thoughts as she stands by vertical blinds in a nice sequence. Afterwards while washing her face she hears two gunshots, and peering down the stairway spots Tony dead on the tile floor. The shooter is actively searching the house. Since her gun was confiscated after the recent shooting Lottie scrambles to hide from the killer.
The shooter leaves the house and Lottie checks out Tony popped twice in the head. She goes through his clothes finding a locker key in his jacket. She wipes down all the surfaces she touched calls the cops disguising her voice and splits. At the airport the next day she opens the locker and finds a suitcase with close to a million dollars.
Sondra Locke did a wonderful job at directing this little Neo Noir gem. The writing by John DeMarco and Leigh Chapman, is competent and consequently the characters are very well developed. This is Theresa Russell's best performance. The rest of the cast are Jeff Fahey as Stan, George Dzundza as Lt. Joe Morgan, Lynne Thigpen as Dr. Gardner, and Shawn Elliott as Tony Peron. The music by Michel Colombier is great along with the various pieces that comprise the soundtrack. Again I can't say enough about the Noir stylistic cinematography which is excellent.
A low budget spaghetti western-ish Death Valley Neo "B" Noir with lots of twists.
George O'Brien (Metzler) is a yuppie executive of some type of LA based computer software company that's been bought out by buy a bigger fish. George is not taking the ensuing events well, and in classic noir fashion, he decides to take a walk on the wild side. O'Brien is a cultured metrosexual, one scene has him and a cohort sitting in a spa/hot tub with mud facials, they calmly discuss embezzling a large sum of cash by faking expenses in the takeover confusion, then crossing the Nevada state line and setting up shop with a new company in Reno.
It's Christmas time, and O'Brien is soon on his way from smog shrouded LA to Reno with a gift to himself of a half million in the spare tire well of his tres hip silver 1990 Volvo 760. He is cruising across a barren desert on a two lane highway. With all the moola he's carrying in the trunk George is a bit apprehensive, a bit on edge. In his rear view he scopes a red '71 Olds Cutlass weaving erratically across the centerline through the heat waves behind him. It's coming up fast like an interceptor. He breathes a sigh of relief when the Olds barrels on past. A mile or two further on he sees the Olds crest a rise and disappear, but a cloud of yellow dust suddenly boils up against the desert sky.
When George tops the hill he sees the Olds tits up, wheels spinning, and a man and a woman scrambling out of it. Good Samaritan George pulls off the road to offer them help. The woman is all legs, showgirl/escort/femme fatale Patti (Jennifer Rubin) traveling with her pet lizard (which she keeps in a glass jar), and a dumbass, cornball, Vegas hit man Chevy (Kyle Secor). He's on his way to deliver a holiday whack to his old mentor Larry (Jerry Orbach) at his mob provided silver Airstream desert pothole "safe house" hideaway.
It's hinted at that Patti was administering some "road head" to Chevy and that caused the wildly careening Cutlass to veer off the loose gravel shoulder and roll. George offers Patti and Chevy his car phone and a ride into the Noirsville Twilight Zone.
George drives Patti and Chevy to a state line truck stop. He figures his good deed is done, he figures wrong, Chevy pulls out an automatic and instructs George to head South, the pavement ends and they lay down a dust contrail across the desert.
When they blow into Larry's, Chevy tells him that he's got a contract to take out George. George naturally thinks it's because of hot loot in the trunk. Larry happy to see company offers to barbecue some steaks for George's last meal. But it's all BS, the contract was really on Larry and Chevy used George as cover to get his guard down. George is soon digging two graves way out in the desert, he's toast, right? No, Chevy pulls the trigger on George and gets just an audible click. He is out of bullets.
A quick thinking Patti, (who has been visibly warming up to George) quickly tosses what's left of Chevy's bullets in the cartridge box out into the sand. Chevy has no choice but to push George off a nearby bluff and leave him to the buzzards. He and Patti head to the Death Valley Junction Motel in the Volvo. Chevy leaves Patti at the room and heads to Vegas to pick up his hit loot from his mob boss.
George is rescued from the dead by a motorcycle mama scavenger who spots him sticking out like a sore thumb against the drab landscape. She brings him back to Larry's Airstream where he cleans up, grabs Larry's clothes, revolver, and pickup truck and by hitting redial on the phone tracks Chevy and Patti to the motel. George is now in full Noir payback mode.
The entire film is dominated by the burnt umber, yellow ochers, and the bleached whites of an immense desert laughingly juxtaposed, whenever we see the barest traces of habitation, with the most minisculely pathetic looking Christmas decorations imaginable. Character actor Tracey Walter is in a nice cameo as the desert rat owner of a Death Valley Junction fly speck-dump. The film has an interesting soundtrack, by Barry Adamson, though in retrospect a soundtrack of Diegetic sounds of say Country-Western Christmas tunes blaring from radio stations would have probably been eerie-er. For an extremely low budget "B" a 10/10 for effort, it may be a future Neo Noir Detour, needs a widescreen DVD restoration/release. The crappy screen caps are from a Sony Pictures Home VHS tape.
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 ****, 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.
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.
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 small town 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 under-boss, 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 noir-ish cinematography is excellent, emphasizing 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. 8-9/10.
The biggest problem of some critics and chroniclers of Noir with the film I Wake Up Screaming is that they don't know how to categorize it. It doesn't fit the carefully crafted "German Expressionism" influence scenario that they have worked out as the origin of Noir. It's Director H. Bruce Humberstone, never made another Noir, it's brilliant cinematographer, Edward Cronjager, never filmed another Noir so conceptually and visually it's a one off, one of a kind, sui generis.
I'm calling it a seminal "Gateway Noir" because the film serves the same purpose as a gateway drug, it functions as a sort of gateway to Noir for those unfamiliar, at that point in time, with what eventually came to be known stylistically, and hard boiled narratively, as Films Noir.
Look at the film in chronological context, only Stranger On The Third Floor (1940) approaches it in Noir visual stylistics, while The Maltese Falcon (1941) released only twenty eight days ahead of it on October 3, has the hard boiled story by Dashiell Hammett, but barely any of the signature visual stylistics. I Wake up Screaming not only was based on the hard boiled novel by Steve Fisher and also has the brilliant Noir stylistics in abundance but it has much much more. You can say that the film has dissociative identity, multiple genres if you will. It's also a bit of a Screwball Comedy, a Romantic Drama, and almost a Musical. This seamless genre bending provides the "gateway" for Comedy, Romance, and Musical audiences at that time into the films that eventually will be pigeonholed into the future Noir cycle.
My assertion is that if you've screened I Wake Up Screaming after the various other Noirs it will seem a strange hybrid indeed, because of the conceptions you've already amassed. But, experiencing it as audiences did in 1941 it would probably seem fresh and innovative.
The credits flash against a Noir New York Skyline the titles are written in marquee lights and we hear a the musical equivalent of a shrill klaxon horn blasting out a danger warning. It segues into Street Scene one of the signature New York City themes. Street Scene was used by 20th Century Fox for the films Street Scene, Cry of the City, Kiss of Death, Where the Sidewalk Ends, The Dark Corner, and as the overture to How to Marry a Millionaire. The story even actually starts with a street scene a newsboy hawking the murder of a model. We then cut to a dark police interrogation room bright spot lights are sweating a suspect, classic Noir. Professional promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) is being grilled, surrounded by shadowy figures barking questions.
Frankie then begins to relate the story, and in a flashback we are transported to a Times Square restaurant and we are brightly lit again and into screwball comedy mode. Frankie and his two pals, over the hill actor Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray) and gossip columnist Larry Evans (Allyn Joslyn) flirt with hash slinger Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis). In a nod to Pygmalion Frankie makes a bet that he can transform Vicky into a celebrity inside of six weeks. Cut again to a classy nightclub where Frankie introduces Vicky, now dressed in evening gown and sable, to café-society. Throughout the film the sequences that feature Vicky or are in some way connected to her also have the Street Scene theme in various arrangements jazz, muted trumpet, etc., it becomes her leitmotif, and suggests the Musical genre. In a later sequence in a police projection room we see Vicky singing on her screen test.
We cut back to the police station, back to the present, and back into Noirsville. We now see Jill Lynn (Betty Grable) being questioned in the dimly lit squad room. As Jill tells her story we again go into flashback. She tells us how Vicky came home that first night and told Jill that she was through slinging hash and that from now on she had other things to sling. She had offers for modeling, commercials etc., etc. Jill tells her it's just easy money "your picture is on a magazine one day and in the ash can the next." Vicky is unfazed she snaps back that she knows what she wants and how to get it..
The weeks pass and Jill finds herself falling in love with Frankie. Every time Jill and Frankie are together Over the Rainbow plays in one form or another as their "love" leitmotif another nod to musicals. Street Scene is not only Vicky's leitmotif but also it represents the New York, anything goes, sophisticate. The juxtaposition between it and Over The Rainbow which also brings to mind innocence is interesting for this Noir.
During another session with the cops Jill remembers a stranger she saw staring at Vicky through the window of the restaurant one night. It turns out to be Lt. Cornell (the name a nod to Cornell Woolrich) who is unhealthily obsessed with Vicky Lynn. Cornell also has a moody, sinister leitmotif.
Cornell is trying hard to pin the murder on Frankie, going as far as withholding and planting evidence. Elisha Cook Jr. is Harry Williams the nervous Nellie desk clerk at the residence hotel where Vicky and Jill have their apartment.
We get another Screwball Comedy sequence when Vicky tells her three "creators" that she's signed a long term contract for Hollywood and that she's leaving for the West Coast. We see Frankie, Robin, and Larry are seated on bar stools drowning their sorrows and taking pop shots at one another.
The cat and mouse game between Frankie and Cornell plays out to the end with some nice interesting twists. The screen-caps are from the Fox Film Noir DVD. The film is like an early flyover of Noirsville 9/10.
A shoestring 67 minute production that effectively distilled 100 proof Noir.While the credits roll we see the desolate landscape of the desert from a vehicle barreling down a two lane highway, What's unusual about this barren landscape is that we are driving away from it. The scenery is passing us and receding into the distance, we are leaving what we know behind and we don't know what lies ahead. We are on a Detour and speeding towards oblivion, a Detour that's a metaphor for Destiny. The Destiny of one Al the Piano Player, late of the Break o' Dawn Club, Upper West Side Manhattan.
Al had a steady gig tickling the ivories of the coffin with a bunch of hep cats in a combo, nightly at the Break O' Dawn Club, a smoke choked West side hole in the wall lounge. What made it bearable was Sue the cute peroxide canary, a real looker, and love of his life, as Al put it, he was a healthy American male and she was a healthy American babe and they had a healthy romantic relationship. One night as the club is closing Al, smoking like a Con-Ed stack, is pounding out a classical tune solo while waiting for Sue to change. When she arrives she tells him that" he'll make it to Carnegie Hall someday," he snaps back cynically, "Sure, as a janitor. Maybe I'll make my debut in the basement, Yeah, someday if I don't get arthritis first." He closes the fallboard and with a cigarette sticking to his lower lip declares "Let's blow this trap."
As they walk uptown through the Hudson River fog (a clever low budget sequence that show just the tops of passing street signs sticking up through the dry ice fog) Sue gives Al the brush, she tells him that she wants a shot at the Big Time, Hollywood, Tinseltown.
For Al, life without Sue makes him feel blue and dejected, playing for the café society patrons nets him an occasional ten spot tip. After a few months he decides to blow, he calls Sue from the club's phone booth and finds out that she's a waitress slinging hash in a beanery. Al tells her that he'll be right out, but he doesn't tell that he has no bread and will have to hitch.
In Arizona he gets picked up by a pill popping bookie driving a 41' Lincoln convertible, name of Charlie Haskell, and he's traveling from New Orleans to LA. It's Al's lucky day, or is it?
As they speed across the desert Charlie asks Al to get him the box of pills in the glove box, he does this a few more times apparently Charlie has some ailment. In the evening after buying Al a meal at a truckstop, Al notices some fresh scars above Charlie's wrist as he drives down the highway. Charlie notices Al looking, and tells him that a crazy broad he picked up gave them to him. A few hours later Charlie asks Al to drive. As Al tools along, in a nice noir stylistic sequence we see Al's eyes through the rearview mirror which segues into what is Al's last happy memory. We see Sue singing "their song" against a backdrop of shadow musicians.
It's late night, Al is beginning to fall asleep at the wheel, we see his head nodding. A few sprinkles soon turns into a downpour. Al pulls over, they have to put up the top, he tries to wake Charlie who is unresponsive. Al gets out, and goes around to the passenger side, he opens the door and Charlie's dead body slumps out of the seat and caves his head in on a boulder. Al just bought a one way ticket to Noirsville.
Al panics in genuine fear and desperation, he reasons that dressed they way he is and with no scratch in his pockets the cops will tag him for Charlie's murder, they'll never believe his story of what actually happened. Al decides to drag Charlie into the bottom of a gully, grab his wallet, assume his identity and toss his own suitcase and wallet down in with Charlie. He'll take the 700 clams and drive the car to LA then sell it.
Al pulls off at the next motel and gets a room, the next morning he's showered, shaved, and dressed in Charlie's clothes. Back on the road to LA, Al stops to add water to the radiator. He sees a woman, Vera, (Ann Savage) standing at the side of the road hitching and yells out to her, even though "she looks like she just got thrown off the crummiest freight train in the world". Deciding to give her a lift, that ticket to Noirsville just got upgraded to express.
Vera looks like she was ridden hard and put away wet, greasy dirty blond hair, rumpled and stained sweater and skirt, a lot of rough miles on her chassis. She's quite at first almost stone like but turns verbally ferocious practically spitting and hissing her razor sharp dialog, your worst nightmare a 24 year old Medusa who will turn your heart to stone. Savage is, quite possibly, the most terrifyingly vicious Femme Fatale of Classic Noir. Vera's arrival brings the film to a whole new level
Vera also brings one of the greatest Noir twists to the plot of Detour, if you thought it couldn't get any worse for Al, your in for a shock.
Detour, a "Poverty-Row" production was shot on a few cheap sets in 6 days. But it was a flare at the end of a dark tunnel showing a way to other cash strapped film-makers to make something out of nothing. Music by Leo Erdody, Sound engineer Max Hutchinson. a 9/10
This film along with 1964's The Glass Cage are quite possibly the last of the Film Noir to feature Los Angeles' seedy Bunker Hill neighborhood before it was wiped off the face of the earth forever by the Community Redevelopment Agency.
Originally a wealthy residential suburb with panoramic views of the Los Angeles River and the Los Angeles basin, Bunker Hill retained its high tone exclusivity up to the end of the First World War. As the city exploded in growth and with commuting made easy by an extensive streetcar network, the original inhabitants absconded for greener pastures leaving the absentee landlord, crumbling old Victorian and Queen Anne mansions to be sliced and diced, converted into low rent apartments, rat trap rooming houses, residence hotels, and flops for the lower income denizens. The two funiculars Angels Flight, and a few blocks further North the Court Flight (which went defunct in 1943) provided easy access up the steep slopes of the Bunker Hill escarpment. This film even more so than The Glass Cage is particularly anchored to the intersections and buildings above the Third Street Tunnel at the top of the Angels Flight at Third & Olive.
During the Classic Film Noir period, a shot or sequence featuring Angels Flight in Bunker Hill was a Los Angeles visual signifier of desperation, poverty, decadence, the abode of winos, addicts, degenerates and criminals. It functioned, much like the Third Avenue El would do for New York City based Noirs, or the el's of Chicago's Loop. What's really a bonus, in this particular film for geographical nerds like myself, is that you can really get a sense of the physical layout of the neighborhood, you see the four corners of the intersections, the street signs, the buildings in reverse angles, the layout of the land so to speak, that you don't get in the fleeting shots from other Film Noirs that used Bunker Hill (Criss Cross, Cry Danger, Losey's remake of M, The Hollow Triumph, Act of Violence, Kiss Me Deadly and The Glass Cage).
Ex newspaper reporter and alcoholic Ben Wiley, scratches out a living typing out ten cents a word stories for pulp fiction rags. He drinks because he's trying to blot out the memory of his lost love who is dead. One night, while on a bender, as he stumbles his way in the dark back to his residence hotel he runs face to face into a fleeing woman who he calls an "Angel" a beautiful luminous blond who pushes him away and into some garbage cans hidden in the shadows.
A loud clatter spills tin cans, bottles, and Ben himself off the curb and onto the pavement. His "Angel" looks back at him briefly before scurrying down an alley up a stairway. It's Liz a young troubled stripper who has just used a straight razor to slit the throat of a man who had the misfortune to pick her up.
The next day we see Liz at the edge of Hill Street, crossing in front of the Third Street Tunnel. She then boards Angels Flight and rides to the top terminal at the intersection of Olive and Third. She appears to be in a daze. While she is in the car riding up, she attracts the notice of a man in a light linen suit and wearing a Panama Hat. Panama Hat pauses at the top to stoop over and get a drink of water from a public fountain, but he keeps his eye on Liz and watches as she crosses the street and enters the Angel's Flight Cafe/Bar kitty corner to the funicular.
At the café she is comforted by Jake the bartender a sort of surrogate father figure to Liz. He pours her a glass of orange juice and tells her to get out of the stripping business. You get the sense that he's told her this many times before to no avail. He also senses that something else is wrong. That night at the Third Street Strip, Panama Hat sits at a table leering at Liz while she does her act, she's not very good at it, just going through the motions, but her attraction is her youth and innocent look. Panama Hat is found dead that night.
Ben has sobered up and fallen in love with his vision when he finds out that Liz is a residence at the same hotel he approaches her. She is standoffish at first but they soon warm up into a relationship. Ben makes progress with Liz but he is concerned about her because he discovers a series of portraits that she paints of the same face, a dark ominous man with a broken nose. Flipping through a True Crime magazine he comes across a photo of the same face done from a police description of a rapist He finds out that Liz was raped near the Angel's Flight half a year ago and he now knows that she is the slasher, killing the rapist over and over again whenever a strange man approaches her. Indus Arthur, is good in this film as the melancholy troubled young woman (it's her first film), the rest of the cast is adequate enough to be believable.
The world depicted is the now lost world of the tobacco users and heavy drinkers, a time when sleazy women trolled dive bars for laughs and tricks. A low budget existence of greasy burgers and cheap beer, where you listened to torch singers, and strippers danced to live bands. It's Noirsville.
This film is a visual treat for Noiristas, it definitely needs a restoration, these screen-caps are from the Youtube upload, there is a DVD available from Pressplayhouse DVDs I'll be picking this up for sure and see if the picture quality is any better, a 7/10.
Quite possibly the ultimate British Neo Noir. Directed by Mike Hodges. The film stars Michael Caine, Ian Hendry, Britt Ekland, John Osborne, Geraldine Moffat, Rosemarie Dunham, Petra Markham, Tony Beckley, George Sewell, and Bryan Mosley. The film was lensed by cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky and edited by John Trumper. The screenplay was adapted by Mike Hodges from Ted Lewis' 1969 novel "Jack's Return Home."
The film is highly artistic and indulgently stylistic, devoting quite a few segments throughout to these impressive flourishes, which garnish the story elements and makes this film stand quite apart from other British Neo Noirs made up to that point. It's almost on par with what the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone did in the mid 1960s for the tired American Western genre and you can not deny this influence in Get Carter, you see it in the cinematography and in various picaresque sequences. Perhaps because its studio, MGM was closing down its European operations, (the film became the last project green- lighted before the American company shuttered its Borehamwood studios), that it has this refreshing freedom to tell it's hard boiled tale the way it's director envisioned, in that magical period of untethered freedom (at least as seen in the American Release) between the Codes, i.e., end of the old Hollywood Hayes Code and the beginning of the corporate media PC code.
The film takes place in that "fin de psychedelia" era of the late 60's early 70s. It's the story of London based hood Jack Carter (Michael Caine), a suave, mod-ish character who is cheeky enough to be doing his mobster boss Fletcher's girlfriend Anna (Britt Ekland) on the side. We open with Jack gazing out into an enveloping darkness at the penthouse apartment of mobster Fletcher. We can hear the sound of a desolate wind blowing through a bleak void. He is attending a sort of boys night out slide show of porn stills which flash upon a screen. Fletcher and the boys are bawdily joking around but Jack's mind is on other things. He wants to return home to his native Newcastle upon Tyne in Northern UK to find out why his brother Frank died. He's told by Fletcher (Terence Rigby) not to go, that it will cause trouble with the gangs in charge up North, Jack replies "I'll think about it".
Jack decides to go North.
Someone with a Noir lovers perspective will love the knowing references to the Film Noirs of the past. The title sequence evokes La bête humaine (1938), and it's American remake Human Desire (1954), also The Narrow Margin (1952), and Blast Of Silence (1961), Jack is even reading Raymond Chandler's "Farewell My Lovely" during his train journey. Another sequence later in the film again references The Narrow Margin (1952) with an escape through the clotheslines, and there's a nod to Point Blank (1967), there are probably others to discover.
Hodges and Wolfgang Suschitzky film Jack entering a pup like a gunfighter would enter a saloon. Heads turn, and if there was a piano player the music would have stopped. They also use what I would call "extreme over the shoulder shots", Where the heads and shoulders of the actors with their backs to you either frame or at times even partially eclipse the face of the actor facing them.
Jack soon questions the circumstances of his brother Frank's death. There are two rival gangs, running the town by an uneasy truce, one outfit is run by flesh-peddler, porno king, Cyril Kinnear (John Osbourne). Kinnear lives on a country estate in a posh house, reminiscent of Hugh Hefner's mansion. It seems to have a continuously running house party of birds in micro minis and turtlenecked playboys. The other gang is led by Arcade Emporium Czar, Cliff Brumby (Bryan Mosley). He respectfully resides in a pseudo Tudor with an opulent goldfish pond. Both residences are in stark contrast to the crumbling industrial cityscape of wharves, elevated railway trestles serving waterfront coal docks, gray cobblestone streets flanked by red-gray brick houses, that resemble storm sewers in cross section, that seem to flush the human working class down to the gray waters of a cloaca maxima called the Tyne. All this against an equally gray polluted sky, a dreary world of total decay and decadence.
When Jack arrives up in this Wild North, he's back in what he calls the "crap hole". Jack acting like a noir detective, even to the point of wearing a black trench coat, soon shakes things up enough to force one of the gangs to make a move against him. Jack Carter is more vicious, violent, hair triggered, and amoral, than all those set in motion against him. He's your classic alienated and obsessed noir character, ready to explode at any inducement. Through brutal encounters with various underworld denizens both male and female Jack deduces that brother Frank had been working for Kinnear and was set up by Brumby who showed Frank a porno flick starring his own daughter Doreen. Frank was going to go to the police. It's hinted at that Doreen is actually Jacks illegitimate daughter. Jack goes totally Noirsville.
The film's stylistic flourishes to note, are the sped up rail journey title sequence cross edited with normal speed in coach shots of Jack on the journey. The cross edited and varying focus phone sex sequence between Jack and Anna with Edna eavesdropping while in the same room with Jack and rocking furiously. Also there is a similar cross cut sequence between Glenda shifting a Sunbeam Alpine sports car and Jack and Glenda having sex all to the throaty roar of the Sunbeam's exhaust.
Michael Cain's Jack joins the Pantheon of anti-heroes. I do believe it's his best performance, it's a must view for serious Noir/Neo Noir aficionados.Complimentary soundtrack by Roy Budd. An easy 10/10 DVD caps are from the Warner Brothers DVD
This low budget film beautifully captures the darkness, obsession and overbearing despair, of Cornell Woolrich's depression era story updated to 1953. The stylistically Noir cinematography, with chiaroscuro lighting, reflections, deep shadows and clashing color schemes enhance the foreboding atmosphere.
The tale is about Harlan and Lillian an unhappily married couple who basically exist with each other. Harlan is an alcoholic accountant who works long hours and commutes to his job. Lillian is a bored and ignored housewife who cooks for him. Once dinner is over Harlan heads for the corner bar Tatty's. During her day Lillian comes to life once hubby Harlan leaves for the office. She is frustrated and ripe for the plucking.
Lillian and Harlan's latest crisis is the theft of their milk. This story is set back in the time when milk was still delivered by a milkman. I grew up in New York City in the '50s and we had an aluminum box next to the front door of our two family house, and it was into this aluminum box that the milkman delivered our milk. In Union City the milkman delivers to an apartment house, and he carries the bottles of milk in a wire tray stopping at the doors of the various apartments on his route, dropping off full bottles, picking up empties left on the floor outside the apartments.
For the last two weeks someone has been drinking Harlan's milk and leaving the empty bottle. Harlan becomes increasingly filled with anger in reverse proportion to Lillian's indifference. Harlan thinks it's someone who lives in their apartment house and he devises a scheme to catch him.
The following evening, Harlan gets a unopened bottle of milk from the refrigerator, ties a fishing line around the neck of the bottle, places the bottle outside the door and runs the fishing line back to the bedroom. Getting into bed Harlan winds the line around his finger turns off the light and goes to sleep.
A tug on Harlan's finger sends him running to the apartment door. Flinging it open Harlan finds a vagrant sitting on the floor guzzling down his milk. Harlan knocks the bottle out of the young vagrant's hand spilling the milk on the floor. There ensues a violent tussle between Harlan and the man ending with Harlan beating the man's head on the floor repeatedly until he stops struggling. A large flow of blood from the man's head sends Harlan into shock. He must do something with the body, the sound of the apartments elevator spurs Harlan into a panic. He drags the body into the empty apartment across the hall and hides it temporarily in a Murphy bed.
When Harlan goes back to remove the body from the empty apartment after he has frantically cleaned up the blood and milk out in the hall, and thrown his bloody pajamas down the incinerator, he discovers that he can't open the door to the Murphy bed, it's jammed. In the days that follow Harlan begins to go slowly insane hallucinating images and thoroughly neglecting Lillian.
When no one has yet discovered the corpse and the newlywed new tenants of the empty apartment show up Harlan goes completely over the edge in true Noir fashion.
Union City is a low budget production, but that fact contributes to the claustrophobic feel of the film which compliments the Woolrich story. None of the actors really stand out aside from Dennis Lipscomb who gives off a demented Jack Lemmon vibe. This is a must for Cornell Woolrich fans, entertaining but a 6/10 for this DVD.
Sort of an alcoholic stupor/dream of a PI flick, enforced by the storybook poetic/magic realism quality of the Zoetrope Studio sets and a melancholy soundtrack. The story revolves around Dashiell "Sam" Hammett post his Pinkerton years, late 1920s, during his Pulp Fiction/Black Mask, penny a word, hack writer days, and the tale of one last case or is it just another hard boiled tale?
Wim Wenders and Zoetrope Studios managed to recreate a late 1920s San Francisco crammed with amazing details and populated by what seems like hundreds of extras. Our story begins with a slow zoom into a cheap walk up apartment. Sam Hammett (Fredrick Forest) a chain smoker, a lunger, and a heavy boozer prematurely gray, is pecking out the finale to a pulp story on what looks like an Underhill. While Sam is typing we see the tale as it unfolds. A voice-over narrates in true Hard Boiled Noir fashion. It's a fog bound waterfront of docks and warehouses. A operative named Sue Alabama, has just double crossed her partner Jimmy Ryan. Ryan dopes it out, gets the drop on Sue and recovers the pearl necklace. Sue asks Ryan to give her an hour for old times sake, he agrees, she takes off, but in his narration Ryan tells us he only gave her fifteen minutes and she was picked up at the station. His last line of narration is "Back in '26 Sue Alabama and I nearly got married. I suppose it's just as well we didn't.
Sam types The End rolls out his last page and adds it to the stack of the manuscript. He smiles grabs up the pages and stumbles over to his bed where he passes out.
Alcoholic stupor/lucid dream? We fade to black then cut to Sam hacking and coughing his lungs up into the sink in his bathroom, until he collapses on the tile floor
Waking up in the middle of the night Sam lights up a tar bar and sees a figure sitting in his easy chair. It turns out to be Jimmy Ryan (Boyle) his partner from his Pinkerton days, and he reading his Continental Op manuscript. Ryan says "Sam I don't know whether to be flattered or embarrassed, .. How come the guy doesn't have a name?.... this guy does all the stuff I used to do"
Ryan tells Sam that he's in San Francisco working an MP (a Missing Person Case) and that he needs Sam's help. Sam protests that he's done with all that. But Ryan tells the story about a young kid green on the job who would have got a bullet in the eye if Ryan hadn't stepped in the line of fire taking it in the shoulder. The kid tells Ryan that he owes him "saying any time any place " Well Ryan tell's Sam "the place is here, the time is now!"
The rest of the tale involves the extortion plot and the various individuals connected, the film is a Noir lover's visual wet dream with a wonderful back-lots and set designed by Dean Tavoularis
Frederic Forrest is excellent as Hammett, perfect and totally believable in the role of a hard drinking, chain smoking, lunger, ex detective. Marilu Henner is good as Kit. Crystal Ling is great as the story's femme fatale. David Patrick Kelly is good as the gunsel.
The rest of the cast perform well the films only faults are one, Peter Boyle, I feel that he is only adequate as Jimmy Ryan, the original casting choice was supposed to be Brian Kieth, who would have brought a ton of cinematic memory with him to the role, Boyle brings the wrong kind of baggage, he's played in too many comedies, he's almost but not quite spoofing the part, too bad.
The films second fault, is with the numerous production problems. An 8/10 after repeated viewings
In French (Deux hommes dans Manhattan) is a 1959 New York City based French film-noir directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. Starring, Jean- Pierre Melville, Pierre Grasset, Music by Martial Solal, Christian Chevallier Cinematography by Nicolas Hayer
Jean-Pierre Melville filmed both a Noir love letter and, almost a time capsule video documentary of 1958 New York City. From the opening bars of the jazzy score and Googie style credits that run over a wonderful (looking out the back window of a cab) trip down through traffic, a traffic of tail fin adorned cars, traveling South along Broadway, and then on 7th Avenue right through the heart of manically lit Times Square you know you are in for a special visual treat.
Melville's New York is the real deal. Its not some Hollywood back lot dressed up like New York City. Melville's New York is a dreary smoggy winter sky New York. The old New York that belched black coal smoke by the ton into the atmo, a New York of steaming manholes in streets that were choked with Buses and Checker Cabs. Melville's New York was a Holiday Day New York festooned with Christmas decorations two days before December 25th.
Two journalists become de facto detectives tracking down a missing diplomat through the underside of New York.
Pierre Grasset is great as the smart-alek Delmas his picaresque portrayal is very effective playing against Melville who is relatively somber. The film has but few flaws, probably the most notable for me are the interior shots of the E.D.D.I.E. whorehouse, the actresses playing the hookers seem to be speaking English phonetically, and ditto for the stripper Bessie Reed or she may just be dubbed. The excellent soundtrack is by Christian Chevallier and Martial Solal. 8/10
Two Men In Manhattan is available on DVD from Cohen Films it's in French with English subtitles.
Flip this smoggy LA neighborhood over like a rock and see what crawls out.
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 back flip 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 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.
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 business man 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.
Ellen claims the intruder was in the kitchen when she shot him. When contradicted with the facts by Max she claims she really doesn't remember. When asked where she got the gun she says that her sister Ruth gave it to her for protection that same night. 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 in a tone of voice that one would use to say he's a card carrying communist. Ellen is a troubled woman with serious daddy issues.
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.
Jeff begins to get seriously involved with Ellen and Tox ever surveillant of the goings on in Ellen's apartment starts to have issues with Jeff moving in on his"good thing". He drops over later that day to "borrow a cup of sugar", but it isn't the granular kind that he's looking for.
The rape of Ellen triggers a flashback/nightmare sequence where she is dressed in her prom gown carrying a bouquet and running through crowds of people away from an ominous man who walks with a cane. This sequence features experimental cinematography combined with Noir stylistics part of the chase sequence features the The Bradley Building an iconic location for Classic Noir.
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 on DVD from Sinister Cinema, it could use a full restoration 7/10
I'm beginning to see a pattern, formulating a supposition, especially after viewing this film and recently 1967's Aroused. It's almost as if during Classic Film Noir's original run the darker subject matter of the films, even though hampered by the Hayes Code would reflect the realities of society albeit in a coded way, but with a sort of delayed time lag. But once the code and the Studio System began to breakdown and when film began to get increased competition from TV the subject matter began to get up to speed so to speak and cover more current topics, i.e., beatniks (The Beat Generation 1959) juvenile delinquency (Crime in the Streets 1956, The Young Savages 1961), heroin addiction (The Man With The Golden Arm 1955, Stakeout on Dope Street 1958), rape (Anatomy of a Murder 1959), racism ( No Way Out 1950, The Crimson Kimono 1959, Odds Against Tomorrow 1959, The Pawnbroker 1964). Eventually independently produced films began to explore and depict fringe sex topics, virginity (The Moon Is Blue 1953 ) multiple partners (The Night of the Iguana 1964) homosexuality (Suddenly, Last Summer 1959, The Children's Hour 1961, Reflections in a Golden Eye 1967) fetishism (Satan In High Heels 1962), prostitution and sex maniacs (Aroused 1967) and this film The Pick-Up which features casual sex and a bit of bondage and sadism. But the sadism/bondage sequence would for all intents and purposes be equal to the James Craig torture sequence in Casino Royale (2006) but getting an R rating because the victim is female.
The last two Films are shot in the Film Noir style but The Pick-Up would have benefited with just a tad bit of restraint. It just crosses over the line in a few sequences lingering on female nudity going into, for me, what I would consider definite exploitation. I wouldn't cut any shots but I didn't need to see that much repetition, a few seconds for each shot would have been sufficient and also would have left a bit to the imagination, the best of both worlds. You could say it went over the speed limit of the prevailing Zeitgiest. Noir for the most part sort of went underground. The mainstream culture wouldn't catch up to some taboo subjects for 20 or 30 years.
If you overlook those small excesses in The Pick-Up you will discover one of the last great gritty Black & White Neo Noir's.
The Film starred writer, actor, producer, Wes Bishop (Perry Mason (1957), Combat! (1962), Bonanza (1959) and The High Chaparral (1967) as Tony. Tony reminds you of a cool Robert Wagner, Stefan Zema (Crime Story) plays Frankie, he's comes off like a young Ernest Borgnine. Tony and Frankie are bag-men for the mob transporting Las Vegas skim in a '66 Cadillac Fleetwood from a strip casino run by Charlie (exploitation film producer David F. Friedman) to Los Angeles Mob boss Sal (sexploitation producer Bob Cresse).
The story set up is that Tony, the veteran bag-man is breaking in hired gun Frankie the newbie. The operation has a simple check and balance Tony works for Sal, and Frankie was hired (back East) to work for Eddie. Frankie has never been to Vegas before and since they have arrived early in the morning before the scheduled pick-up, Frankie wants to explore the strip a bit.
Frankie is like a kid in a candy store, exclaiming at one point that the mass of neon lights the street "like daylight". Tony plays by the book but breaks down a little and while the Caddy is being serviced and he and Frankie walk the strip, he even lets Frankie try his had at the slots. The opening sequence is a great traveling time capsule through the windshield of the Fleetwood to circa 1967 Las Vegas as Tony & Frankie glide into town.
When ever Tony has to get serious he puts on his shades, perhaps a reference to Sam Fullers killer in Underworld U.S.A. (1967). When they arrive at the casino Tony tells Frankie to stay inside the car while he puts on his shades and makes the transaction accepting two suitcases from Eddies cronies and handing over a receipt. They head out of town into the desert on old Highway 91 towards Los Angeles. Frankie is driving down a desolate stretch of highway while Tony tries to catch some shut eye, when they approach two women stranded on the side of the road with the hood up on their car. The women dressed in mini skirts try to flag Frankie down. Frankie pulls over and wakes up Tony and convinces him to go back and give the ladies a hand. They U- Turn and pull up behind the women. Tony puts on his sunglasses and tells Frankie to stay inside and lock the doors.
The women wear that mid sixties fashion style tent dress mini - micro mini skirt resembling the female cast of daytime TV soap opera Dark Shadows. The two women are played by the sultry Lois Ursone (Dana) and waif-ish space case Lynn Harris (Marcia) who looks like a brunette Goldie Hawn circa her Laugh-In years.
Frankie convinces Tony to give the girls a ride to a service garage. On the way Marcia comes on to Frankie in the back seat.
Frankie convinces Tony to call in and say they have car problems so that they can party with the girls. The decide to look for a bar but since the girls have there own booze they get two rooms at a motel.
What could go wrong?
The film has a period 60s score that ranges from a folk singer entertaining up in the casino's penthouse, to bongo drums.The DVD is available from Something Weird Video