Random Film of the Week(end): Journey Into Fear

(thanks, felixxxx999!)

Journey Into Fear MPOrson Welles may have not directed Journey Into Fear, but it sure looks and feels as if he was behind the lens or at least had a hand in setting up a few scenes. Featuring a bunch of Mercury Productions actors (Cotten, Ruth Warrick, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorehead and others), a snappy, script by Welles, Joseph Cotten, Richard Collins and Ben Hecht (based on the Eric Ambler novel), the film is a spy drama with a fun cast and some great, memorable sequences that keep you hooked in right from the clever pre-credit opening sequence.

Cotten plays Howard Graham, an American munitions expert (or is that arms dealer?) who has to go on the run from a rather pesky Nazi assassin after an attempt is made on his life. Well, by “on the run”, the film means Graham has to temporarily separate from his wife (Ruth Warrick) and travel by steamship from Istanbul to Batumi (a Russian port city) to finalize a deal with the Turkish Navy. Wait, Turkey had a Navy back then? You learn something new every day, I suppose… Continue reading

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Random Film of the Week: Detour

(thanks, TheVideoCellar!) 

detour_xlg“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

Sleuthathon, Anyone? Get A Clue This March…

Sleuthathon_SherlockAh, the joys of the blogathon! Like-minded fast to slow typists of assorted interests and skill sets, some of the more precisely well worded and edited post, some of the punchy, short perfect post and me with my fishing around for words and hoping they all fit together once I drop my five-cent bowl of alphabet soup on the carpet before I can even open my packet of crackers, *sob!*

Anyway, Fritzi over at Movies, Silently is at it again, hosting not just a blogathon, but a Sleuthathon featuring films up to 1965 about assorted gumshoes, nosy folks who find themselves detecting danger and other flicks and TV shows.

If YOU have a favorite film detective who fits the bill and can string together a few sentences better than I can, feel free to check out the link for submission guidelines and perhaps contribute one of your favorite films, group of related films or shows. The more, the merrier!

Random Film of the Week: The Big Heat

(thanks, MJmichand!)

The Big Heat MPSergeant Dave Bannion has absolutely ZERO luck with attractive women in Fritz Lang’s absolute classic 1953 noir The Big Heat. Granted, our initially 100% by-the-book cop (ably portrayed by Glenn Ford) IS a married man with a young daughter, so he doesn’t need to be around the ladies he ends up getting into trouble at all. Unfortunately, in one way or another they’re part of the case he’s working on, so he’s like a black cat in a suit here. Nearly every lady he comes across in this film goes through some sort of hell when and after he’s around that makes him some sort of magnet for bad luck and worse outcomes.

It’s a wonder he makes it through the film in one piece at all despite the efforts of some bad men to keep him off their cases and yes, far away from those doomed dames. For its time, the amount of violence and even some language was probably considered shocking by some viewers, and in at least one respect the film still packs a wallop. That wallop being Gloria Grahame’s portrayal of Debby Marsh, girlfriend of Lee Marvin’s overly brutal gangster-type, Vince Stone. But Stone is the least of Bannion’s problems when he investigates the suicide of a fellow police officer and gets wrapped up in some other things a wee bit over his head… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

(thanks, criterioncollection!) 

kiss me deadlyIf you’ve never seen this Robert Aldrich-produced and directed film noir masterpiece, drop what you’re doing (well, unless you’re operating heavy machinery or in the middle of something where dropping anything will cause a major or minor disaster) and go look this one up. You’re guaranteed to say something like “What the…” at least two or three (or a dozen) times while watching this one, trust me. Mike Hammer is supposed to be a hard as nails private eye, but in this flick, he spends about a quarter of the film either getting chased, beaten up, shot at and otherwise maimed by assorted people who want him out of the picture he’s supposed to be starring in.

Deviating quite dramatically from the Mickey Spillane novel, this one’s a blazing hot mix of a downward spiral into a particularly dark hell for private eye Mike Hammer (masterfully played by Ralph Meeker), who has so many brushes with death here that the film ends up having a nasty comic edge thanks to the level of violence on display. No one here escapes unscathed, as everyone either wants Hammer dead or disabled (or both) and the few people on his side tend to drop like flies or come pretty close to it. The film also offers up a big twist at the end that turns it into a sort of wild sci-fi flick, but I won’t spoil that surprise other than to say it’s a big reason the film is so insanely brilliant…

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It’s Tuesday, Right? Time To Take A Little DETOUR…

(thanks, TheVideoCellar!) 

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.

Random Film of the Week: The Window


 

the windowI remember seeing The Window as a kid on TV and probably laughing a bit too much because the lying wolf-crying brat who no one believed about the murder he finally DID see was getting his just desserts when all those chickens came home to roost. Seeing it a few times more as I got older (and thankfully, wiser) revealed a pretty sinister film noir thriller with probably the best child performance I’d ever seen in a film that old.

Granted, I’m not advocating the already generally creepy “Child in Danger!” flick or that entire sub-genre of flicks made throughout cinematic history as a “must-see” collection of films if you’ve got a very soft spot for your own brood of lovable lamp-breaking, cookie stealing ankle-biters. However, as a chilling little classic film that’s never been remade properly (at least in my humble opinion), it’s a total spine-shaker right from the beginning…

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Random Film of the Week: Dark Passage

1947 seems to have been a year for some interesting (albeit not entirely successful) experiments by Hollywood movie makers using a subjective camera (or first-person viewpoint) to tell a story.  Movie audiences got a pair of dramas in the form of actor-turned-director Robert Montgomery’s Lady in the Lake, (shot a year earlier, but released in ’47) based on the popular Raymond Chandler novel and Dark Passage, Delmer Daves’ adaptation of a terminally so-so David Goodis novel.  I was going to do this column on the former film at first, but a coin toss brings you Bogie and Bacall in the more interesting, but tremendously flawed film. Don’t get me wrong here – both movies have their issues, but both are worth viewing for a few reasons including their unique use of POV storytelling. That and you have to go with a film that doesn’t show the face of its lead for about an hour, but works in some lovely shots of a San Francisco that’s long gone thanks to “progress” in transportation and probably even earthquake proofing…

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