THE MALTESE FALCON is the Stuff Film Noir Dreams Are Made Of (Warner Brothers 1941)


cracked rear viewer

1941’s THE MALTESE FALCON may not be the first film noir (most people agree that honor goes to 1940’s STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR ). It’s not even the first version of Dashiell Hammett’s 1930 detective story – there was a Pre Code film with Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade that’s pretty good, and a 1936 remake titled SATAN MET A LADY with Warren William that’s not. But first-time director John Huston’s seminal shamus tale (Huston also wrote the amazingly intricate screenplay) virtually created many of the tropes that have become so familiar to fans of this dark stylistic genre:

THE HARD-BOILED DETECTIVE – Private investigators had been around since the dawn of cinema, from Sherlock Holmes to Philo Vance to Charlie Chan, but none quite like Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade. Both Cortez and William played the character as flippant skirt-chasers, but in Bogie’s hands, Sam Spade is a harder…

View original post 667 more words

Dark Valentine: THE LOVES OF CARMEN (Columbia 1948)


cracked rear viewer


Love takes many strange forms, none more strange than the obsessive love Don Jose has for the Gypsy temptress Carmen in THE LOVES OF CARMEN, Columbia Pictures’ biggest hit of 1948. The film, based on Prosper Merimee’s 1845 novella and Georges Bizet’s famous opera, reunites GILDA stars Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford with director Charles Vidor, and though it’s in glorious Technicolor and set in 1800’s Spain, it’s got a lot of film noir elements going for it: there’s the protagonist caught in a rapidly moving downward spiral, the amoral femme fatale, crime, murder, and a bleak, downbeat ending. Think I’m stretching a bit? Let’s take a look…

Young nobleman Don Jose arrives in Seville with a dragoon squadron, a corporal with political ambitions and a bright future ahead of him… until he meets Carmen, a gorgeous red-haired Gypsy who is an expert manipulator. Jose is enchanted by this free-spirited…

View original post 623 more words

Rage in the Cage: CAGED (Warner Brothers 1950)


cracked rear viewer

“In this cage, you get tough or you get killed” – Kitty Stark (played by Betty Garde) in CAGED

 

The Grandmother of all “Women in Prison” films, CAGED still packs a wallop, nearly seventy years after it’s release. This stark, brutal look at life inside a women’s penitentiary was pretty bold for its time, with its savage sadism and heavy lesbian overtones, and matches up well with BRUTE FORCE as an example of film noir prison flicks. Everything about this film clicks, from its taut direction by John Cromwell to the use of sound to create mood by Stanley Jones, plus a powerhouse mostly female cast led by Eleanor Parker .

The 28-year-old Parker convincingly plays 19-year-old Marie Allen, given a one-to-fifteen year sentence for accessory to an armed robbery during which her husband was killed. The mousey Marie is indoctrinated, given a number (Prisoner #93850), and poked and…

View original post 649 more words

Fever Dreams: Fritz Lang’s THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (RKO/International Pictures 1944)


cracked rear viewer

Back in 2016, I did a post expounding on one of my favorite films noir, 1945’s SCARLET STREET . This dark masterpiece of corruption starred the titanic trio of Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea in a sordid tale directed by German legend Fritz Lang, with moody cinematography courtesy of Milton Krasner. Recently, I viewed a film this team made the year previous, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW, with a screenplay by producer Nunnally Johnson. Comparisons were inevitable, but though there are certainly similarities between the two films, this one stands on its own as a powerful entry in the film noir canon. With all that talent, would you expect anything less?

Robinson plays college professor Richard Wanley, an intellectual lecturing on the psychology of homicide to his students. He’s a happily married father of two kids, left alone while the fam visits relatives. Whaley goes to his…

View original post 405 more words

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

Song of the Day: Poison (by Secret)


Secret Poison

This is definitely not your “Poison” of the early 1990’s BBD (Bell Biv Deveo) days. This time it’s the 2012 mini-album release for the South Korean girl group Secret. The quartet took a year off before launching a comeback which saw the mini-album’s release and a new sexy and feminine look. It was a far cry from their previous cutesy image.

The song is a combination of many influences from jazz (a repeating saxophone section) to pop R&B (reminiscent of late 90’s and early 2000’s) to hip-hop with it’s layered beats. All of these influences make for a nice uptempo beat that the video is still able to mine for a nice sexy, sultry concept video that shows the quartet unleashing their femme fatale aspects.

The video itself is a more story driven than most K-pop videos of the time. With the girls (or should I say ladies) decked out in British women’s spy fashion mixed in with detective film noir femme attire. While the theme calls to mind Spillane, Hammett and Cain, the dance choreography screams R&B and Hip-Hop. From the choreo matching the song’s percussive beats to the body rolls and get-low moves.

While all four ladies of Secret gets a chance to shine in the song, the video itself is taken over by the visuals of group Leader Hyosung and group Visual and Maknae (youngest in the group) Sunhwa. Both Hana (rapper) and Jieun (Main Vocalist) don’t shrink from their own roles despite the first two having a much more visual impact and presence in the video.

I must agree with all who have seen the video and some of their stage live performances of the song, Hyonsung plus thigh-highs stockings were and, still are, a killer look. A visual good enough to kill for.

Snap! Crackle! Pop!: TENSION (MGM 1949)


cracked rear viewer

The best films noir deal with post-WWII disillusionment, and that’s exactly what drives Richard Basehart’s sad sack Warren Quimby in TENSION. This cynical, downbeat, and downright sordid little tale of infidelity and murder is  boosted by first-rate performances from Basehart and scorchingly hot Audrey Totter as his manipulative bimbo of a wife, with a taut screenplay by Allen Rivkin and solid direction by John Berry. It may not make anyone’s top ten list (or even top thirty), but it’s one of those ‘B’ films that really works, provided you’re willing to suspend disbelief for an hour and a half.

Mild mannered pharmacist Quimby met and married Claire while stationed in San Diego during the war. He, like many others, hopes to someday live the American Dream: house, kids, the whole nine yards. Trampy Claire doesn’t give a crap about that; she prefers excitement, the high life. Claire is messing around…

View original post 484 more words