Happy Noir Year!: THE BIG COMBO (United Artists 1955)


cracked rear viewer

(ATTENTION: There’s a surprise waiting for you at the end of this post, so read on…)

Joseph H. Lewis started his directing career with low-budget Westerns starring singing cowboy Bob Baker and East Side Kids programmers, and ended it back on the range doing epsiodes of THE RIFLEMAN, GUNSMOKE, and THE BIG VALLEY. In between, he created some of the finest films noir the genre has to offer: MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS , SO DARK THE NIGHT, THE UNDERCOVER MAN, and especially GUN CRAZY . His last big screen noir outing is the culmination of his work in the genre, 1955’s THE BIG COMBO.

The plot is fairly simple: Police Lt. Leonard Diamond is out to crack gangster Mr. Brown’s “combination”, which controls crime in the city. But Philip Yordan’s screenplay takes that plot and adds exciting twists and turns, indelible characters, and a level of violence audiences weren’t…

View original post 511 more words

In Memorian 2018: Pro Wrestling


cracked rear viewer

The squared circle tolled ten bells for “The Living Legend” Bruno Sammartino , probably the most popular wrestler of his generation, who died at age 82. Bruno held the WWWF/WWF (now WWE) world title longer than anyone, 11 years in two title reigns (1963-71, 1973-77), took on and defeated all comers, and sold out New York’s fabled Madison Square Garden a record 188 times. Sammartino was a legit tough guy who once held the record in the bench press (565 pounds), and had a no-nonsense rep backstage. You just didn’t mess with Bruno! He appeared at the first WRESTLEMANIA, in the movie BODY SLAM, and was indicted into numerous Halls of Fame celebrating his almost thirty year career. A hero to millions of grappling fans (including Yours Truly), there will never be another Bruno Sammartino.

Many of Bruno’s in-ring foes also took the three-count in 2018. Pittsburgh native ‘Luscious’ Johnny…

View original post 602 more words

In Memoriam 2018: Pop Culture


cracked rear viewer


There’s no doubt Stan Lee (95) had the biggest influence on today’s pop culture. Getting his start at age 17 working for his uncle Martin Goodman’s Timely Comics in 1941, the young Stan was appointed editor after the departure of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, creators of Captain America. Stan spent the next two decades writing thousands of words for superhero, humor, crime, horror, western, and other comics (whatever the market dictated) until he reteamed with Kirby on something daringly different. That something was The Fantastic Four, a quartet of all-too-human superhumans that set the comic world on it’s ear. Now renamed Marvel Comics, Stan co-created with Jack and artist Steve Ditko a line-up of heroes with human foibles: Spider-Man, The Hulk, Dr. Strange, Iron Man, Black Panther, Silver Surfer, and other names you all now know. Stan promoted Marvel incessantly, giving his artists nicknames, writing a monthly column (Stan’s…

View original post 964 more words

In Memoriam 2018: Music


cracked rear viewer

There was no bigger loss in the music world than the death of ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin at age 76. Born in Memphis and raised in Detroit, Aretha originally sang Gospel at her father Rev. C.L. Franklin’s revivals. She signed on with Columbia Records, who tried to pigeonhole her with safe Easy Listening standards. Moving over to Atlantic Records in 1966, Aretha began recording at Muscle Shoals for producer Jerry Wexler, and belted out R&B hit after hit: the raucous “Respect”, “Baby I Love You”, “Natural Woman”, “Chain of Fools”, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, “Think”, “Spanish Harlem”, “Until You Come Back to Me”. Hitting a slump in the mid-70’s, Aretha came back strong with 80’s successes “Jump To It”, “Freeway of Love”, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”, and duets with Eurythmics (“Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves”) and George Michael (‘I Knew You Were Waiting for Me”). The word “icon” gets…

View original post 1,286 more words

In Memoriam 2018: Film & Television – Behind the Cameras


cracked rear viewer

Just a few hours after finishing the first part of this annual tribute, I learned Penny Marshall had passed away at age 75. Penny became a semi-regular on her producer-brother Garry’s sitcom THE ODD COUPLE, then shot to stardom in the HAPPY DAYS spinoff LAVERNE & SHIRLEY, costarring with Cindy Williams as a pair of working class Milwaukee girls who frequently found themselves in slapstick situations. After a successful seven year run, Penny turned to directing with the feature JUMPIN’ JACK FLASH, an action-comedy vehicle for Whoopi Goldberg. Her next film, 1988’s BIG, was a smash, with a 12-year-old kid wishing he was “big” – and, thanks to the fortune telling machine Zoltar, gets his wish, turning into Tom Hanks! BIG was the highest-grossing film directed by a woman at the time, and Penny went on to make AWAKENINGS with Robert DeNiro and Robin Williams, A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN…

View original post 1,246 more words

In Memoriam 2018: Film & Television – Performers


cracked rear viewer

(The Grim Reaper was pretty busy this year, so busy this remembrance of film and television personalities will be broken into two parts)

At the end of every year, Cracked Rear Viewer salutes those both in front of and behind the cameras who are no longer with us. The biggest name was undoubtedly Burt Reynolds, who passed away at age 82. Burt was one of 70’s cinema’s hottest stars, from his breakthrough role in DELIVERANCE to rough’n’tumble films WHITE LIGHTNING and THE LONGEST YARD to his ‘yahoo’ classics SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT and THE CANNONBALL RUN. Reynolds hit a career slump during the 80’s, but came back strong as a character actor in such 90’s films as BOOGIE NIGHTS (receiving a Best Supporting Actor nomination) and MYSTERY, ALASKA. He was no stranger to the small screen, either; early in his career, he was a regular on RIVERBOAT, GUNSMOKE, and DAN…

View original post 1,624 more words

Enjoy Christmas Day with SANTA CLAUS (Complete 1959 Movie)


cracked rear viewer

Merry Christmas! I’ve got one more present for you to unwrap, and it’s a doozy! It’s the Mexican fantasy film SANTA CLAUS, brought to you by K. Gordon Murray, the enterprising film distributor who made a career out of unleashing South-of-the-Border lensed luchadore and children’s flicks on  American audiences. SANTA CLAUS made oodles of money for good ol’ K. Gordon, and he rereleased it every few years to bank oodles more!

In this version of the Kris Kringle legend, Santa Claus lives in a castle up in the clouds above the North Pole, and has enlisted children from all over the world to work at Toyland, where they make all the toys for good girls & boys (can you say “slave labor”?). Santa inadvertently summons up The Devil Himself (here called Mr. Pitch), who does his best (worst?) to get kids to misbehave and piss off Jolly Ol’ St. Nick…

View original post 203 more words