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Doc says I'm better now, I'm free to roam in society again :-)
Me? Middle aged British punker who is heavily in love with anything punk related circa 1976 - 1982. Film fanatic who indulges in any genre of film but specialises in film-noir, westerns, war and big - bold - historical epics.
I like writing reviews, even having some published in British newspapers and I have received nice emails from people associated with films that I have reviewed. While my mantra here is quite simply lets be here to learn and share.
The Director Titans
Alfred Hitchcock Robert Aldrich Anthony Mann Sam Peckinpah Jacques Tourneur
The Director Gods
John Ford Budd Boetticher Robert Siodmak Billy Wilder Joseph Losey
The Director Royalty
Edward Dmytryk Nicholas Ray Fritz Lang John Sturges John Carpenter
The Director Gurus
Preston Sturges Frank Capra Howard Hawks Marcel Varnel Carol Reed
Modern Director Legends In Waiting
David Fincher Michael Mann
Stay Cool Peeps, See You On The Boards.
The Price of Fear (1956)
Jessica Warren I Love You.
The Price of Fear is directed by Abner Biberman and adapted to screenplay by Robert Tallman from a story by Dick Irving Hyland. It stars Merle Oberon, Lex barker, Charles Drake and Warren Stevens. Music is by Heinz Roemheld and cinematography by Irving Glassberg.
Little seen or just forgotten these days, The Price of Fear is actually a rather tight and entertaining piece of film noir film making. Rising above some production limitations, pic is strong on characterisations and it looks just splendid. Story essentially finds Barker as an innocent man out to prove he didn't kill two people in two separate incidents!, while Oberon slips into femme fatale clothes as a love interest who's trying to avoid being found out for one of the killings Barker is under scrutiny for.
Narrative is deliciously twisty in how characters react and perform during the play. Into the mix is an intrepid detective, smooth talking villain, a blackmailing wife, a witness under duress and even a train sick canine! Old noir faithfuls coincidence and fate play their big hands, as does some narration drive. The look is minus chiaroscuro but the nighttime scenes are impressive enough, shiny streets and bulbous lights excellently photographed by Glassberg, while Biberman plays with frame tilts and interesting framing of the lady characters.
There's been some complaints about cast performances, but all are fine here. OK, so it lacks in viper femininity and laconic masculine as per noir classics previously, but nothing here hurts the piece. Solid as a rock is this, it even has the courage of its convictions to provide a genuine surprise ending. Where the main players catch a train to noirville, the termination point worth waiting for. 7/10
In a Valley of Violence (2016)
The Denton Rapscallion.
In a Valley of Violence is written and directed by Ti West. It stars Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransome, Karen Gillan and John Travolta. Music is by Jeff Grace and cinematography by Eric Robbins.
Ethan Hawke plays Paul, an ex soldier accompanied only by his dog, Abbie, who is drifting across the desert towards Mexico. Stopping off in the dying town of Denton, Paul finds trouble that will have consequences for himself and town alike.
Ti West is more well known for his horror ventures, where although divisive in that genre sphere, he can be proud of his success rate. Here he tackles the Western, and true to form, he homages past genre masters whilst unmistakably putting his own stamp on things. Opening with credits straight out of Spaghetti Western land, and introducing us to a musical score that will accompany the story that is wonderfully feverish, West is in no hurry for blood and bone shenanigans. He always favours the slow burn and so it proves here.
There's nothing remotely new here, it's a standard tale of a gunman - one damaged by his war efforts - who through circumstance is forced to abandon his hope of a quiet life. He's a loner man of few words, thus giving viewers a classic Western character staple, an anti-hero to root for and for us to yearn for him to find peace. When the violence comes, it's sharp and bloody, but often there is humour as well, deftly inserted into proceedings, whilst the canine is skillful and a key character to all and sundry.
Perfs are more than adequate. Hawke sifts seamlessly into being a believable drifter type of complexity, Ransome is annoyingly brattish, but that's actually job well done, and Travolta - sporting a wooden leg - gets better once (and if) you buy into him in this setting. Gillan isn't given much to do, but lands some decent emotive punches, but it's Farmiga who stands out as Mary-Anne. She's utterly infectious and thankfully she gets a well written part, that of a young woman trying to hold her own in the most trying of township circumstance.
The purpose built town of Denton looks just that!, but this is off- set a touch by the nice location landscapes (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and with the story working from solid genre foundations then this is a pleasure - without pulling up any trees - for fans of such. 7/10
Murdered for Being Different (2017)
Sophie Lancaster - Lest Anyone Forgets.
Bacup, Rossendale, Lancashire on 11 August 2007, and Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were set upon by a pack of feral thugs - their crime was to be different, to dress differently from their attackers. The attack left both Sophie and Robert in comas, Sophie would never wake up, murdered for being different. This BBC film tells the story.
Back in the dead part of 1970s Great Britain, I was a Punk Rocker, something that to many was akin to being the Devil's spawn. So much so a car swerved to try and hit me one day as I crossed the road, the ignorance and intolerance back then still manifests itself today, quite often with tragic and hateful consequence. Upon watching Murdered for Being Different, the impact of the overwhelming sadness is only rivalled by the revulsion at those responsible for Sophie's death.
The film is a valid and highly worthy production, picking up on the burgeoning love between Sophie and Robert, and then taking us to that fateful early August 11th morning. We observe the immediate aftermath and subsequent investigation into the incident, the effects of such on family and a key witness to what had unfolded. The pic is guilty of cutting corners, we really should have had more on the attackers post the attack, on how they reacted in the run up to their arrest (media tells us they were unrepentant scum), while a tactful omission of Sophie's mother in the play is noted with respect but still leaves a hole.
But ultimately complaints are churlish, for this makes its mark. It's very well produced, the performances very tight, with Abigail Lawrie as Sophie doing her proud and Reiss Jarvis superb as the conflicted key witness Michael Gorman. Soundtrack is pin sharp, right up to the finale which is played out to the haunting grace of Placebo covering Kate Bush's Running Up That Hill. A distressing viewing experience but one that all should be privy to, point made and hopefully a jolt to the system of any human being with the potential for hate crime in their black hearts. 9/10
Dark Intruder (1965)
Fiendish frolics in Frisco.
Dark Intruder is directed by Harvey Hart and written by Barre Lyndon. It stars Leslie Nielsen, Gilbert Green, Charles Bolender, Mark Richman, Judith Meredith and Werner Klemperer. Music is by Lalo Schifrin and cinematography by John F. Warren.
A murderous fiend is terrorising San Francisco 1890, so supernatural expert Brett Kingsford (Nielsen) takes special interest in the crimes.
A pilot for a TV show that wasn't picked up, Dark Intruder is a whole bunch of spooky fun. Clocking in at just under an hour in length, the pic makes up for what it lacks in mystery inventiveness, with sheer schlocky shenanigans. Moody courtesy of the period setting, complete with lots of fog, shadows and gaslights, the narrative indulges us in gods, oriental mysticism and Sumerian demons, whilst a dwarf, a sinister fortune teller and a mandrake plant all add quirky qualities to the play. There's even a kicker at the finale, so as to not rest on its laurels.
Recommended for sure. 6.5/10
I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948)
Broken mirrors, black cats and two dollar bills.
I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes is directed by William Nigh and adapted to screenplay by Steve Fisher from a story by Cornell Woolrich. It stars Don Castle, Elyse Knox, Regis Toomey and Charles D. Brown. Music is by Edward J. Kay and cinematography by Mack Stengler.
Hoofer Tom Quinn (Castle) is convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence. Sentenced to death row, Tom must hope his wife Ann (Knox) can find the proof of his innocence before his date with death.
Pretty routine noir exercise this one, but definitely of interest to film noir lovers looking for something they may not have seen before. In true noir fashion fate and coincidences play a huge part in the narrative drive, as does a bit of obsessive yearnings and questionable moral standing. The look is nifty, very noirish when the prison or the church is involved, or the nighttime shots in general, while there's a quirky edge to proceedings that always keeps the pic interesting. The ending is a disappointment (in true noir terms), and apart from the always reliable Toomey, the acting only just about passes muster, but it's worth a look see, even if it isn't the under seen gem some would have you believe... 6/10
Cry Danger (1951)
Cry Danger is directed by Robert Parish and written by William Bowers from a story by Jerome Cady. It stars Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, Richard Erdman, Regis Toomey and William Conrad. Music is by Paul Dunlap and Emil Newman and cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc.
It often makes for most interesting conversation in film fan circles, that of film noir, what constitutes it? what does each viewer demand? what is your favourite strand to this most desirable style of film making? Rarely does a group of noir heads agree wholesale, which of course only further strengthens the argument on why many love it so. I raise this as a point of opening reference because the first review of Cry Danger that I happened upon questioned its noir worth! Madness I tell you...
Plot is on the surface simplicity, Rocky Mulloy (Powell) is a man wrongly imprisoned for five years and now is out and now out to nail the real perpetrator of the crime. Cops are interested in his whereabouts, as they are the missing money from the crime he was locked up for. So far so standard crime revenger then? Not so for we are in noirville, in a less affluent part of Los Angeles, where the tale is spun out from the center point of a trailer park. Here we find Mulloy armed with calmness, toughness and always a dry quip on the lips. He's accompanied by Delong (Erdman), a crippled alcoholic army veteran, himself full of witticisms as he takes his alcoholism in a resigned stride. The cops are led by Detectice Lt. Gus Cobb (Toomey), a wise head, grizzled and not shy of razor sharp dialogue himself. And the babe of the piece, Nancy Morgan (Fleming), she's an ex of Mulloy, but husband of Mulloy's pal, a man who himself is rotting in prison for the crime at the core of this all. Add in creepy mustachioed villain Louie Castro (Conrad) and a weasel ukulele playing trailer park manager (Jay Adler), and you get a noir stew ripe for sampling.
As the dialogue pings about the story with waspish glee, the narrative holds tight via strong thematically noir traits such as greed and betrayal, with the added bonus of an ending worthy of the noir name. Production wise it's a job well done, the moderate budget not a worry, in fact it's only come the end of the show you realise you just had a pic running at 80 minutes that was without padding and pointless filler. All scenes are relevant here, and such is the sharpness of this character driven piece, you need to hang on every word and character interactions and reactions. In an ideal world there would be a ream of chiaroscuro to aid the mood, but Biroc and Parrish show skills to compliment a number of scenes via lighting and useful back and foreground locations. Cast are on top form, led by a superbly laconic Powell (sarcasm in a suit), to which this rounds out as one for noir lovers to put on their to see lists. 8/10
Race Street (1948)
"Stay with it"
Race Street, directed by Edwin L. Marin and adapted to screenplay by Martin Rackin from a story by Maurice Davis. Starring George Raft, William Bendix, Marilyn Maxwell, Frank Faylen, Gale Robbins and Harry Morgan. Music is by Roy Webb and cinematography by J. Roy Hunt.
Story centers around two friends played by Raft and Bendix, the former is a turf accountant and night club owner, the latter a plain clothes policeman. With a syndicate racket moving in on the Frisco bookmaking circuit, Dan Gannin (Raft) refuses to co-operate, putting himself in grave danger. Barney Runson (Bendix) wants to move in and do it the official way, begging Dan to step aside and let the police do their job. But when the syndicate make a deadly move that hits Dan close to home, he's not for turning.
In the grand scheme of Raft and Bendix movies, or classic era film noir pics in fact, this one is small fry, but strong cast and solid production foundation ensure it's an enjoyable experience. Story isn't strong, where two old friends lock horns while some villain throws his weight around, but in true noir fashion there's some sneaky surprises in store and a none cop out finale.
Technically it's interesting, one quite dreadful process backed sequence aside, Marin and Hunt hit the noir bars for mood compliance. The absence of chiaroscuro is a shame, for a number of scenes here cry out for it, but the lighting techniques and shadow indulgence keeps the eyes pleased. There's even a startling sequence that appears to show Gale Robbins floating in and around the night club crowd as she sings a song, while a bit of zoom play and nifty Frisco locations add further quality.
Good honest noirville enjoyment. 6.5/10
The Mad Magician (1954)
Tails you win, heads you lose!
The Mad Magician is directed by John Brahm and written by Crane Wilbur. It stars Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor and Patrick O'Neal. Music is by Arthur Lange and Emil Newman and cinematography by Bert Glennon.
Magician Don Gallico (Price) is incensed when his attempts at stardom is scuppered by a contract he signed, so much so he takes matters in to his own hands...
One of the eras 3-D productions, The Mad Magician sees Columbia recycle Warner Brother's 1953 release of House of Wax. The familiarity of it all is impossible to shake off, with a key scene even stolen from one of director Brahm's more notable productions. Yet it's still a fun movie, watching Price turn in a good one, as he gradually gets more dastardly with each passing quarter, all set to Victorian style backgrounds.
There's some ghoulishly enjoyable macabre moments, played straight but with tongue in cheek evident, and while the scenes shot for 3-D gain obviously lose impact, they hold well enough in 2-D for story enjoyment. Performances around Price are fine, the girls (including Murphy's outstanding legs) add colour to the otherwise weak plot, and although the absence of Brahm's skilled Gothic/noir touches is a blow, the look of the piece is suitably moody.
More one for Brahm and Price completists, this is still enjoyable fare (it was a commercial hit upon release) that's worth tracking down. 6.5/10
Whispering Smith (1948)
Guys like Smitty they don't make anymore!
Whispering Smith is directed by Leslie Fenton and co-adapted to screenplay by Frank Butler and Karl Kamb from Frank H. Spearman's novel. It stars Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Brenda Marshall, Donald Crisp, William Demarest and Frank Faylen. Music is by Adolph Deutsch and cinematography by Ray Rennahan.
Famed railroad detective Whispering Smith (Ladd) becomes conflicted when his latest case pits him up against one of his best pals.
It's somewhat surprising to find Whispering Smith is not more well known, given that it's Ladd's first full length Western feature and that it's really rather good. With its opening scene of Ladd riding towards camera, with glorious landscape in the background, and the thematics of how Smith operates around women and children, this signposts towards Shane five years down the line. In fact this very much works as a tasty appetiser for that superb 1953 picture.
Ladd cuts a fine figure as Smith, giving him the right amount of calm toughness so as to not over play the role, and Preston is on fine form, very ebullient and able to act heaps with only his eyes. Marshall on the surface doesn't impact greatly, in what is a key role, but the character is very shrewdly written and sits in the story as more than a token. The villains headed by Crisp are not very inspiring, while Faylen looks laughably out of place with a blonde wig!, but with Preston erring on the side of badness the good versus bad axis of plotting thrives well enough.
Pic is filled with a number of shoot-outs, banditry and awesome locomotive action, all set to the backdrop of beautiful - Technicolor enhanced - California locales. The running theme of railroad progression in the West is interestingly written, managing to not take sides and let the viewer enjoy both sides of the coin, though a moral equation that Smith ultimately arrives at doesn't quite add up. Add in Fenton's unfussy direction, Rennahan's location photography (see also night sequences) and Deutsch's pleasingly compliant score, and Western fans are good to go.
This doesn't pull up any tress or have the psychological savvy of what many Oaters of the next decade would explore, but it's very well mounted and engages from the get go. 7/10
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Resetting the day.
Edge of Tomorrow is directed by Doug Liman and collectively written by Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth. It stars Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, with music by Christophe Beck and cinematography by Dion Beebe.
It has proved to be a great decade for sci-f, it seems that for every misfire there are three great genre films to off set the disappointments. Sitting at the top end of the table is Edge of Tomorrow (AKA: Live Die Repeat). Adapted from Hiroshi Sakurazaka's novel "All You Need Is Kill", the story has Cruise as William Cage, an American army Major who upon being thrust into combat against an alien race decimating Earth, finds he awakens to the same day after being killed in action. Seeking out Rita (Blunt), the most decorated soldier of the time, Cage must understand what is happening to him and hopefully save the future of mankind.
So far so Groundhog Day/Source Code then, but Liman's film never lets up from the get go, frenetic with its action, funny into the bargain, and also sexy, it manages to blend audience pleasing conventions with clever thought and process. There's nothing new in the philosophy on show, and there are regular sci-fi tropes for familiarity of genre, but if you are going to recycle formula then do it with verve and swagger, which this most assuredly does. Boosted by Cruise turning in a good one as an unlikable character who develops into a protag to shout for, and Blunt as a super sexy bad-ass poster girl for the war effort, Edge of Tomorrow ultimately rocks. The science will obviously infuriate those who take such things way too seriously, but as the terror of this particular war unfolds on screen (nifty effects), and we have been bought wholesale into our heroes and their quest, its small failings are hardly worth cocking a snook at. 8/10