“Whichever way you turn, fate sticks out a foot to trip you.”
I’ve seen Detour so many times since I first discovered it back in 1992 that I sometimes have dreams about it that stick to the plot but play from different viewpoints. If you thank that’s loopy, guess what? I’ve actually dreamed numerous times about writing a review of this and posting it here to the point that I even wrote a post last year saying I thought I did. Yeah, I got it bad for this one. Sure, it’s got its technical issues and every print I’ve seen from film to tape to DVD over about thirty years looks as if it’s been dragged under a bus going cross country on four flat tires. But the combined efforts of writer/screenwriter Martin Goldsmith, director Edgar G. Ulmer, actors Tom Neal, (the aptly named) Ann Savage, Edmund MacDonald, Claudia Drake along with composer Leo Erdody, editor George McGuire and cinematographer Ben Kline all add up to what I think is one of the greatest American film noir movies ever made (warts and all).
Granted, if you’re picky or looking for perfection and haven’t see this before, as an exercise in Moviemaking 101 this may not wow you much thanks to its numerous technical flaws and what could be called a one-note performance by the lead actor. On the other hand, the film’s simple story and how it’s told hits that sweet spot in the brain as it delivers its karmic blows to its principals and leaves the residue of cheap diner food, cheaper booze, cigarettes and bile swirling around in your skull. “Poverty Row” budget and short shooting schedule aside, the film’s impact is immediate and lasting thanks to the short run time and every shot meaning something (yes, even the bad ones). I bet you’ll get it bad when you see this for the first time, too… Continue reading →
Of all Akira Kurosawa’s films set in contemporary Japan, The Bad Sleep Well (Warui yatsu hodo yoku nemuru) and High and Low (Tengoku to Jigoku*) are probably my two favorites. Nope, I can’t choose between either as better thanks to both doing what they do so darn well in the hands of the master director. I’ll get to the latter film in a separate post, so let’s get to some “Bad” business from this point on.
In addition to powerful performances from a great cast led by Toshiro Mifune, the film packs one of Kurosawa’s most abrupt and shocking twists in exactly the right spot that’s still one of the best collective gasp moments I can recall in a film that wasn’t a jump-scare packed horror flick. I first saw this during its revival in the 1980’s and the big twist sucked all the air out of the small theater and had people talking about it afterwards in a coffee shop afterwards as they debated the scene’s impact and how “un-Hollywood” it was.
While it clocks in at a hair over 2 1/2 hours, Kurosawa’s assured direction makes every single moment count. A great deal of intriguing ground is covered as the film lets loose on Japan’s corporate culture of the era, mixing in film noir, romance and detective story elements before a quietly dramatic finale that demands you’ve paid attention to everything that came before. If you’re one of those types who hops up to hit the restroom or get snacks at home, make sure to stomp on the pause button on your DVD player, as missing a few seconds can mean you might not grasp another scene’s impact later on…
Akira Kurosawa’s SCANDAL is a brilliantly bittersweet film that works as an indictment of a celebrity-crazed public and paparazzi-fueled gossip gone wrong (as if it were ever “right”) while completely pulling you into its well-rounded characters and situations that will seem all to familiar in this era of TMZ and other “entertainment journalism” that’s merely feeding a voyeuristic “need” to pore into the private lives of people that for the most part don’t want or need this sort of intrusion.
The film is also a sentimental holiday story and seeing the Japanese takes on Christmas and New Year’s Day (circa 1950) makes for an interesting cultural shock that adds a nice layer of necessary humor to the plot. If you’re one for the weeping moment, this one’s also a great few-hanky flick that’s near flawless (meaning your strings will be yanked appropriately and at the right moments).
This post is for the smiling guy I saw out walking today wearing a suit and tie all buttoned up and saying to his baking lady friend (trying to keep up in her high heels and about to melt makeup) “This heat is NOTHING to me! HAHAHAHAHA!”
Yeah, you suck and the planet you come from sucks as well.
Note: SOME would say this trailer is NSFW, but given that I’m posting this after work hours, YOU can watch it and not feel guilty or cheap. Unless you’re watching this at work and get creeped on by your boss. Oops – now he’s going to think a lot less (or more) of you and you’ll get a raise or a demotion or something. Whatever it is, even if it’s “good”, it’s not good, as now he’ll be sliding by with a grin on his mug, a mug in his claw and a “Whatcha watchin’?” leer to really freak you out. OK, other than clips on some ancient HBO show and stills from a book a friend lent me many years ago, I’ve actually never seen a Doris Wishman-directed film. The trailer makes me want to. It’s the title, silly. Well, OK… the sheer camp value is also the kicker here. Anyway, yeah… some of you need another shower, the rest of you want to chase me around the room with a spiked baseball bat. It’s too hot for the latter, so just stick your head and feet into a nice bucket of ice (or ice cream) and cool off. You can hate me in the winter or something…
Or you can hate the fine folks at Sleaze-O-Rama for twisting your arm and “making” you click that link… and yeah, Bad Girls go to Hell 365 days a year – they just wear less in this weather.
Goofy name of its main character aside, thanks to a snappy Elmore Leonard script, solid direction from Richard Fleisher and some enjoyable performances from its cast, you can’t not love Charles Bronson as a hard-nosed yet quiet Vietnam veteran turned single-minded melon farmer who simply wants to get his crop in while some people want him deceased for a few too amusing reasons.
The poor guy just wants to hire his labor from an eager pool of migrant workers of mostly Mexican descent, but a local hick/thug named Kopas tries to force his more local drunkard/bum laborers on Majestyk’s melon farm with the usual threats. Of course, Majestyk isn’t having any of this (just the thought of drunks picking melons is amazingly amusing), so his military training gets put to use, some asses are kicked and the former future vagrants and their “boss” get sent packing. The man’s got melons to pick and all fools are suffered VERY lightly…
Yeah, you had a bad day at work, right? You look like you could use a break from that grumbling and mumbling about chasing your boss around the office with a blunt object as well as a little lesson in karma. Here’s probably the best cure for your troubles in one of the most amazing film noir gems you’ll ever hit your eyeballs with. I think I did a Random Film of the Week on Detour previously, but I’m too tired to check.
EDIT! Nope, I did NOT do one – this will be rectified soon!)
Anyway, pull up a seat, Pete and feast your eyeballs on this dusty jewel that still packs quite a punch. Watch out for Ann Savage as Vera here – she’ll cut you if you don’t watch your back… or worse… maybe.
Seeing these three films pop up on the Shout Factory site almost makes me feel old, except for they got me excited that they’re back in circulation, so I’m bouncing around the room. OK, not so much at my age… but any activity is good when you get this creaky. I added the road movie from hell Race With the Devil as a Random Film of the Week last year, but haven’t got around to Electra Glide in Blue (a really good, quirky cop flick with one of those depressing 70’s endings) and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, a pretty cool extended car chase flick with some great action and yep, another smasher of an ending sequence.
Hmmm, with all this road wreckage, wild hippie women, devil worshipers doing their thing in the woods and assorted traffic cops going through really lousy workdays, it’s a wonder real people drove ANYWHERE during this period. Well, they had to go to the movies too, so I’d gather an evening at the drive-in for a triple feature of all three might have been happening somewhere out there back in the day…
Anyway, that’s two more films I’ll need to add to the RFotW pile – stay tuned…