The Undiscovered Country : Andrea Lukic’s “Journal Of Smack” (2018)

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

There’s no adequate way to describe the contents of Canadian cartoonist/fine artist/musician Andrea Lukic’s latest Journal Of Smack (she self-publishes one of these every year or thereabouts) without reaching deep into the stores of one’s own vocabulary and dusting off any number of little-used gems grown atrophied and covered in cobwebs. I determined I was going to resist the urge to go down that road and concentrate on immediate, visceral impressions, but we’ll see how well I do holding to that vow. If you hear me using terms like “abstract singularity” or somesuch, you’ll know I failed.

And with that, it’s down to business —

Lukic’s book has all the aesthetics of a “found object,” its pages somewhat-unevenly glued within one of those cheap DIY quasi-“bindings,” and that’s as it should be : it looks and feels old, haphazard, random. Where does one find something like this? I dunno, but my…

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30 Days of Noir #20: He Walked By Night (dir by Alfred L. Werker and Anthony Mann)

The 1948 film noir, He Walked By Night, opens with a policeman named Rawlins on his way home from work.  As he drives down the street, he sees a man walking alone at night.  Because there’s been a number of recent burglaries in the area and the man’s a stranger, Rawlins decides to pull over and ask the man for his ID.

What Rawlins doesn’t realize is that the man is Roy Morgan (Richard Basehart) and yes, Roy is indeed the burglar.  Roy is something of a mystery man.  (Needless to say, Morgan is not his real last name.)  In the pre-Internet age, he has very carefully and very meticulously avoided leaving any sort of paper trail.  He lives, by himself, in a small apartment, his only companion being an adorable dog and the police scanner that Roy uses to always stay a few steps ahead of the cops.  When Rawlins pulls him over, it’s the closest that Roy has ever come to being caught.  Roy get out of the situation by shooting the cop and then running into the night.

The rest of the film deals with the efforts of two police detectives (played by Scott Brady and James Cardwell) and their captain (Roy Roberts) to discover who shot Rawlins and bring him to justice.  It’s not easy because not only has Roy done a good job of obscuring his very existence but his police scanner always gives him advanced warning whenever they cops start to close in on him.  The only lead that the cops have is a salesman named Paul Reeves (Whit Bissell).  Reeves has been buying and reselling the electronic equipment that Roy’s been stealing from houses all over Hollywood.  When Reeves tells the cops that he had no idea the stuff was stolen, the cops all share a weary roll of the eye.  No matter whether Reeves is telling the truth or not, he’s now the key to tracking down a cop killer….

He Walked By Night is a police procedural and, while the plot may sound familiar, the film is elevated by the atmospheric direction of Alfred Werker and an uncredited Anthony Mann.  As visualized by Werker and Mann, the streets of Los Angeles have never been darker and more menacing.  Roy emerges from the fog to commit his crimes and then disappears back into the mist, like some sort of paranormal spirit.  The film reaches its high point when the police chase their quarry through the sewers of Los Angeles, a scene that will remind many of the famous finale of The Third Man.

Though the film offers up clues to Roy Morgan’s motivation, he remains an enigma for much of the film.  Richard Basehart plays him as a paranoid man who only seems to be confident and happy when he’s stealing or when he’s outsmarting the police.  In many ways, regardless of whether he escapes the police or not, Roy’s destined to spend his life trapped in a prison of his own design.  Even hiding out on the fringes of society, Roy knows that his time is limited.  There’s only so many times one person can escape their fate.  Until he’s either captured or killed, Roy is destined to always walk the night, alone.


cracked rear viewer

“Tuesdays in Noirvember” continues with what many consider to be the first film noir…

Fans of the film noir genre often cite movies like THE MALTESE FALCON or REBECCA among the first entries in this stylistic category, but a case can certainly be made for STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR, a bizarre B-film made by director Boris Ingster. It features all the elements associated with the dark genre: a big city setting, interior monologues, an extended nightmare sequence, flashbacks, Expressionistic set design… hell, it’s even got noir’s favorite patsy Elisha Cook Jr ! The only thing missing is that downbeat cynicism you find in post-war films, but since America hadn’t yet entered World War II, we can forgive the happy ending and concentrate on what makes this movie the seminal film noir.

First, there’s the plot: star reporter Michael Ward is the key witness in a murder case against young…

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Music Video of the Day: Girlfriend In A Coma by The Smiths (1987, directed by Tim Broad)

Girlfriend In A Coma is another happy song from The Smiths.

The song is straight forward.  It is literally about a girlfriend in a coma.  The only question is whether her boyfriend is being sincere when he sings that he hopes that everything will be okay or is he instead telling the truth when he says that he doesn’t want to see her.

Some clue as to how the singer feels about his girl comatose girlfriend might be found in video’s use of clips from The Leather Boys, a British film from 1964.  An example of British kitchen sink realism, The Leather Boys is about a biker named Reggie (Colin Campbell) who marries his girlfriend, Dot (Rita Tushingham), but would still rather spend most of his time with his fellow biker, Pete (Dudley Sutton).  At the time of its release, the film was considered to be shocking because it openly dealt with gay themes at a time when homosexual activity was still illegal in  the UK.  Just as the film ends with Reggie still unsure about his sexuality, Girlfriend In A Coma ends with Morrissey still sounding unsure about whether or not he wants his girlfriend to wake up.

Girlfriend In A Coma was the first single to be released from The Smiths’s final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come.  The album was named after Strangeways, an infamous prison in Manchester.  Before the UK absolished the death penalty, Strangeways was famous for its gallows.  A total of 100 prisoners were hanged at Strangeways between 1869 and 1964.