30 Days of Noir #24: Fourteen Hours (dir by Henry Hathaway)


As a genre, film noir has always been associated with crime: murder, brutish gangsters, seductive femme fatales, and occasionally a cynical private detective doing the right thing almost despite himself.  However, not all film noirs are about criminals.  Some are just about desperate characters who have found themselves on the fringes, living in a shadow-filled world that appears to be monstrously indifferent to all human suffering.

That’s certainly the case with the 1951 noir, 14 Hours.  The film centers around Robert Cosick (Richard Basehart, who previously played a murderer in another classic noir, He Walked By Night).  Robert isn’t a gangster.  He’s not a private detective.  He doesn’t carry a gun and he doesn’t provide any sort of hard-boiled narration.  In fact, for the majority of the film, Robert is defined by less who he is and more by what he’s doing.  Robert Cosick, having earlier checked into a room on the 15th floor of a New York hotel, has climbed out of a window and is now standing on a ledge.  Robert says that he’s going to jump.

What has driven Robert Cosik to consider such an extreme action?  The film never settles on any one reason, though it gives us several clues.  When his father (Robert Keith) and his mother (Agnes Moorehead) show up at the scene, they immediately start bickering about old family dramas.  When Robert’s ex-fiancee (Barbara Bel Geddes) begs him to step in from the ledge, he listens a bit more to her than he did to his parents but he still refuses to come in from the ledge.

But perhaps the real reason that Robert Cosick is out on that ledge can be found in the film’s shadowy visuals.  Directed in a semi-documentary fashion by Henry Hathaway and featuring harsh, black-and-white cinematography that’s credited to Joe MacDonald, Fourteen Hours emphasizes the indifference of the city.  From the menacing landscape of concrete buildings to the crowds gathering below the ledge to see if Robert lives or dies,  New York City is as much as a character in this film as Robert, his family, or the cop (played by Paul Douglas) who finds himself trying to talk Robert into reentering his hotel room.  When night falls, the city may light up but it does nothing to alleviate the shadows that seem to be wrapping themselves around Robert.  For the fourteen hours that Robert is on that ledge, he may be the center of the world but the film leaves little doubt that New York City will continue to exist in all of its glory and its horror regardless of how Robert’s drama plays out.  Whether he lives or dies, Robert appears to be destined to be forgotten.

When the film isn’t concentrating on the cops trying to talk Robert into getting back in the hotel room, it shows us the reactions of the people who see him standing out on that ledge.  (If this film were made today, everyone would be holding up their phones and uploading Robert’s plight to social media.)  Some people are moved by Robert’s struggle.  For instance, a young woman played by Grace Kelly (in her film debut) reaches a decision on whether or not to get a divorce based on what she sees happening on the ledge.  Two office workers (played by Jeffrey Hunter and Debra Paget) even strike up a romance as they wait to see what will happen.  Some people view Robert as being a madman.  Others see him as being a victim.  And then there’s the many others who view him as being either a minor distraction or a piece of entertainment.  For them, it’s less important why Robert’s on the ledge or even who Robert is.  What’s important to them is how the story is going to end.

It’s not a particularly happy film but it’s made watchable by Hathaway’s intelligent direction and the performances of Paul Douglas and Richard Basehart.  With its theme of instant fame and hollow indifference, it’s a film that remains as relevant today as when it was initially released.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #196: Killer Vacation (dir by Tamar Halpern)


Last night, I watched the latest Lifetime Movie Network premiere, Killer Vacation!

Why Was I Watching It?

Because it was new and it was on the Lifetime Movie Network, of course!

Also, I watched it because the Christmas season has begun, which means that Lifetime is mostly going to be showing holiday movies for the next few weeks.  I absolutely love Christmas movies but, even during the holidays, there are times when you just want to see an over-the-top melodrama about someone trying to go on vacation without dying.  Killer Vacation offered a beak from the relentless holiday cheer so, of course, I was going to watch it while shopping online for Christmas decorations.

What Was It About?

Lindsey (Alexa Havins) is having an affair with her boss, Jake (Jacob Young).  Unfortunately, Jake’s married.  He swears that he’s getting divorced but Lindsey can’t help but notice that he still wears his wedding ring.  When Lindsey learns that she’s pregnant, Jake suggests that they go on a vacation together.  Soon, they’re at a resort in New Mexico and strange things are happening!

Could it have anything to do with the fact that Jake’s wife is wandering around the resort as well?  And what about the passive-aggressive private detective who keeps popping up at the most awkward possible moments?  And then there’s that handsome and overly friendly yoga instructor.  Is he trying to help or does he have ulterior motives?

One thing’s for sure.  This vacation is taking a deadly turn!

What Worked?

Never underestimate just how big a factor wish-fulfillment is when it comes to understanding the appeal of a good Lifetime film.  When a Lifetime film has the word “vacation” in the title, that means that the film is promising you lot of pretty scenery and a nice resort.  On that front, Killer Vacation definitely delivered!  New Mexico looked beautiful and I really liked the hotel where Jake and Lindsey were staying.

(In fact, that hotel reminded me of Paradise Hotel.  Remember that old reality show?  I used to watch marathons of it on the much-missed Fox Reality Channel.  The fact that we only got two seasons of Paradise Hotel is a crime!)

What Did Not Work?

At times, Lindsey seemed almost too dumb to be believed.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  We’ve all been there.  At some point, we’ve all fallen for the wrong guy and ignored all of our friends telling us we were making a mistake and accepted some pretty flimsy excuses for some unforgivable behavior.  So, it’s not that I couldn’t sympathize with Lindsey but seriously, it took Lindsey a really long time to reach the point that most people would reach right away.  Myself, I would buy a plane ticket home as soon as I suspected that my married lover had tried to push me off a cliff.  Maybe that’s just me.

As well, the identity of the murderer was just a bit too obvious.  The film did attempt to introduce some red herrings but it was pretty obvious who the killer was going to turn out to be.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

I related to the scene where Lindsey slipped on a mountain path and nearly fell to her death.  That’s one reason why I rarely go to the desert because I would totally end up being the girl who got distracted and accidentally walked over the edge of a cliff.

Lessons Learned

Never pass up the opportunity to take a free yoga class!  Seriously, your life might depend upon it!

Rockin’ in the Film World #18: The Who’s TOMMY (Columbia 1975)


cracked rear viewer


Before MTV ever hit the airwaves, there was TOMMY, Ken Russell’s stylized cinematic vision of The Who’s 1969 ‘rock opera’. It was a match made in heaven, teaming Britain’s Wild Man of Cinema with the anarchic rock and roll of Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon (not to mention England’s own enfant terrible,Oliver Reed ). Russell both captures the spirit of Townsend’s hard rock opus and expands on it visually with an all-out assault-on-the-senses musical featuring an all-star cast that includes an Oscar-nominated performance by Ann-Margret as the mother of “that deaf, dumb, and blind kid” who “sure plays a mean pinball”!

The Who’s original album cover

Townshend, the group’s primary songwriter, had been experimenting with long-form rock’n’roll since the beginning, notably the nine minute suite “A Quick One While He’s Away” on their second album A QUICK ONE (retitled in America HAPPY JACK). TOMMY was…

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4 Shots From 4 Films: Rest In Peace, Nicolas Roeg


One of the greatest filmmakers of our age has died.  Rest in peace, Nicolas Roeg.

4 Shots From 4 Films

Walkabout (1971, directed by Nicolas Roeg)

The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976, directed by Nicolas Roeg)

Bad Timing (1980, directed by Nicolas Roeg)

Insignificance (1985, directed by Nicolas Roeg)

Daria Tessler Cooks Up A Storm With “Three Magical Recipes From The Book Of Secrets Of Albertus Magnus”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

One of two semi-recent releases by Daria Tessler from Perfectly Acceptable Press (the other being Accursed, reviewed on this very site just a handful of days ago), the uneconomically-titled Three Magical Recipes From The Book Of Secrets Of Albertus Magnus is not only overflowing with verbiage on the cover, but wonderfully archaic script throughout and, most importantly and essentially, positively inspired artwork that casts a  thoroughly mesmerizing spell all its own on each and every of the book’s 28 riso-printed pages. Insanely colorful, imaginative, and engrossing, this is a project that is entirely what it espouses itself as being, yet also considerably more than anyone could justifiably be pre-disposed to hope for.

Yeah, it really is that good.

Exploding at readers in a kaleidoscopic explosion of red, fluorescent pink, yellow, and a tone of blue classified as “federal,” Tessler’s vibrant and immersive renderings of these, for lack of a…

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Music Video of the Day: Roll With It (1988, directed by David Fincher)


Yes, this video was directed by that David Fincher.

Taking place in a crowded bar and featuring patrons dancing while Steve Winwood and the band perform in the background, this video shows that, even before directing films like Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network, Fincher had a strong eye for detail.  The video makes you feel the heat.

Because this video has a page at the imdb, we actually know the names of some of the people who collaborated with Winwood and Fincher.  The choreography was provided by none other than Paula Abdul while the black-and-white cinematography is credited to Mark Plummer.  (Plummer’s other credits include the films Two Moon Junction, After Dark My Sweet, The Waterdance, and Albino Alligator.)  The video was edited by Scott Chestnut, who subsequently worked on several feature films directed by John Dahl, including Red Rock West, Unforgettable, and Rounders.

With the help of this video, Roll With It went on to spend four weeks at the top of Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.