Category Archives: Noir at the Movies

The Killer Is Loose (1956)

Killer LooseFilm Noir of the Week had this to say :

Someday Wagner, I’m gonna settle with you for it. I’m certainly gonna settle with you for it.

The Killer is Loose has holes — blast it with a Tommy gun it has such holes. It’s a little movie with a story that churns single-mindedly forward until its title character sprawls dead on a well-kept suburban lawn and all is once again right with the world — you can get back to your TV dinner now. It asks us to swallow a lot: happenstance, strange motivations, coincidences and contrivances — maybe even a miracle or two. The story unfolds so rapidly that you’ve gotta wait until the end to pick your nits — stop to raise an eyebrow and it just moves on without you, scoffers be damned. Who cares what happened to the other bank robbers? So what if the bank has a house safe instead of a vault!

Film Noir of the Week

Synopsis

A bank employee desperate for cash plans and successfully robs a bank as an inside job. At first the bank employee Poole (Wendell Corey) is considered a hero during the bank robbery but the police quickly figure out he’s involved in the crime. The police catch up with Poole and his young wife at their apartment. Poole’s wife is accidentally shot to death by the police during the gunfight. Poole is arrested, convicted and sent to prison for the robbery.

While behind bars, Poole plans his escape and revenge on the men that killed his wife, especially the leader of the police raid, Lt. Wagner (Joseph Cotten). Poole figures the best way to extract revenge is to kill Wagner’s wife, Lila (Rhonda Fleming). Now, the only way for the cops to recapture the robber is for a wary Wagner to use his wife as live bait.

The Critics

New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther found nothing original about the film calling the lead actors (Cotten and Corey) "first rate" and the crime film "third rate."

Critic Bruce Eder gave a more favorable review and wrote, "Budd Boetticher was a filmmaker of consummate skill and many surprises, as anyone who’s seen his best Western dramas can attest. The Killer Is Loose (1956) only enhances his reputation in a totally unrelated genre, and in a stylistic mode that’s about as far as he could get from his most familiar work. Using a cast of conventional—albeit top-flight—Hollywood professionals, Boetticher takes them out of the studio and puts them into an almost totally location-shot drama, and turns them loose in that naturalistic setting. The result is an array of performances that are as arresting as the script is filled with improbabilities; indeed, the narrative momentum of Boetticher’s direction, coupled with a handful of excellent performances, overcomes a script that is just a little too heavy on coincidences to otherwise play true."killer_is_loose

More recently, critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "A typical 1950s noir, distinguished by its rapid pace and taut script, that delves mainly into the character of the villain—making him out to be someone who went over-the-edge when he couldn’t take being ridiculed as a failure, anymore…The suburban atmosphere and the no-nonsense style of telling the story add to the blandness of the story and the failure to elicit anything out of the ordinary to the build-up of the suspense that comes with the climax. The result is a watchable film which could be seen for the sense of nostalgia of the 1950s it evokes, a time when it was more receptive for noir to work as well as it does."

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L.A. and San Francisco Noir at the Movies Thursday, April 7th

Tonight in San Francisco’s historic Castro Theater Castro Theater they are screening an Orson Welles double feature. First up is THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI starring Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles. “Lady” is a 1947 film noir directed by Orson Welles and starring Welles, his estranged wife Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane. It is based on the novel If I Die Before I Wake by Sherwood King.

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Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles) meets the beautiful blonde Elsa (Rita Hayworth) as she rides a horse-drawn coach in Central Park. Michael rescues her from three hooligans and escorts her home. Michael  is a seaman and learns Elsa and her husband, the famous disabled criminal defense attorney Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), are newly arrived in New York City from Shanghai. They are on their way to San Francisco via the Panama Canal. Michael, attracted to Elsa despite misgivings is persuaded to sign on as an able seaman aboard Bannister’s yacht and ends up mired in a complex murder plot. :

Lady From. Shanghai is showing a 3pm and 7pm

 

Next up is 1958’s Touch of Evil  an American crime thriller film, written, directed by, and co-starring Orson Welles. The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson. Along with Welles, the cast includes Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Joseph Calleia, Akim Tamiroff, and Marlene Dietrich. 220px-TouchofevilTouch of Evil  is one of the last examples of film noir in the genre’s classic era (from the early 1940s until the late 1950s).The movie opens with a three-minute, twenty-second continuous tracking shot widely considered by critics to be one of the greatest long takes in cinematic history. Beginning on the Mexico/US border, the shot shows a man placing a bomb in a car and then the journey of the car into the United States as a passenger tries to tell a border guard she hears a ticking sound. The shot ends with newlyweds Miguel ("Mike") (Charlton Heston) and Susie Vargas (Janet Leigh) kissing. The scene then cuts to the car, containing a man and a woman, exploding. Times are 4:45, 8:45. For more details and ticketing info, check out The Castros web site.

Down in Los Angles, continuing with the The Noir City Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir playing through most of April at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Tonight they are playing THE THREAT  and THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS . THE THREAT , 1949 directed by Felix E. Feist and starring Charles McGraw. The film features Michael O’Shea, Virginia Grey, among others.220px-ThreatPoster

Ruthless killer Red Kluger (Charles McGraw) escapes from prison, vowing vengeance on the cop and D.A. who sent him up. His kidnapping plot culminates in a Mojave hideout – call it “The Petrified Desert” – where the gang waits for a plane to take them to freedom. Director Felix Feist steers the action at a breakneck pace, turning the proceedings into a veritable highlight reel of malicious mayhem courtesy of McGraw, the ultimate noir tough guy. Not on DVD!  Start time is 7:30

Next up is THIS WOMAN IS DANGEROUS  Posterthiswomanx.

The film from 1952 is a Warner Bros. feature film starring Joan Crawford, David Brian, and Dennis Morgan in a story about a gun moll’s romances with two different men. The screenplay by Geoffrey Homes and George Worthing Yates was based on a story by Bernard Girard.

In 1973, during the "Legendary Ladies" show at Town Hall, when asked, "Which one of your films do you regret making?" Joan Crawford told the audience that she considered, "This Woman Is Dangerous," her worst film.

Beth Austin (Crawford) is the leader of a hold-up gang and the mistress of its most cold-blooded killer Matt Jackson (Brian). She has suffered from failing eyesight and travels to a distant state for an operation. Her lover promises to lie low until she returns.  Essentially a sequel to Crawford’s great THE DAMNED DON’T CRY, director Feist brings punch and panache to Daniel Mainwaring’s melodramatic script. We respectfully contend that Joan was a poor judge of her own work.

For times and ticketing information, check out Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard web site.cuar02_egyptomania0801

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The Noir City Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir

Dust off your fedora and fill up your hip flask, get you dame on the blower and tell her to shake the moths out of her cocktail dress. The Los Angeles Festival of Film Noir hosted by the American Cinematheque and the Film Noir Foundation is breaking out the old films between April 1st and 20th this yeaFilm Noirr. This years festival is being shown at the beautifully restored Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood.Egyptian

This could be a fun outing and a little different than the usual night on the town. Twenty-three of the films being shown are not available on DVD so this may be your only chance to see them unless NetFlix or someone else decides to stream them.

Tonight, April 2nd they are showing  Brute Force, from 1947 and starring Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn and Charles Bickford. 220px-BruteforcedvdBack when the film was released, Variety magazine gave the film a positive review, writing, "A closeup on prison life and prison methods, Brute Force is a showmanly mixture of gangster melodramatics, sociological exposition, and sex…of course, it wouldn’t be  Noir without femme fatales thus Yvonne De Carlo, Ann Blyth, Ella Raines and Anita Colby are the women on the ‘outside’ whose machinations, wiles or charms accounted for their men being on the ‘inside’…

Sticking with the prison theme, also showing tonight is House of Numbers starring Jack Palance. Tomorrows features are Whiplash from 1948 starring Dane Clark, Alexis Smith, Zachary Scott, and Eve Arden.220px-Whiplash

Other great films on the schedule are the Two Mrs. Carroll’s, on the 6th, Journey into Fear on the 8th, Gaslight on the 20th. For the complete schedule and ticketing information check out the American Cinematheque website.

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These should be a lot of fun and give you something of a break from the usual in the city of Angels.

 

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The Thin Man–Harry Bosch in the Movies

Thin Man 1

Great news for Noir Movie lovers. Word has it that Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man is in production to star Johnny Depp62834916 and directed by Robb Marshall. Warner bros. put the project in to production in October and Depp is also lined up to produce.

The original movie was based on a Dashiell Hammett novel, which centered on former private detective-turned-professional drunkard Nick Charles, his lovely socialite wife Nora and their schnauzer Asta.

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The original novel was published in 1934 and even though Hammett never wrote a sequel the book became the basis for a successful six-part film series which also began in 1934 with The Thin Man and starred William Powell and Myrna Loy. The 1950’s saw a TV show. The Thin Man was Hammett’s last novel.

The story is set in Prohibition-era New York City. The main characters are a former private detective, Nick Charles, and his clever young wife, Nora. Nick, son of a Greek immigrant, has given up his career since marrying Nora, a wealthy socialite, and he now spends most of his time cheerfully getting drunk in hotel rooms and speakeasies. Nick and Nora have no children, but they do own a schnauzer named Asta, changed to a wire haired fox terrier for the movies. Nick is a fast talking lovable lush as seen in this clip.

The studio intends to give the new film a contemporary attitude but retain the period setting. Author and screenwriter Jerry Stahl has been tapped to pen the script. Stahl is best known for his memoir of addiction Permanent Midnight. A film adaptation followed with Ben Stiller in the lead role. The Thin Man gig marks the second hot project he’s involved with, the first being Hemingway & Gellhorn. That HBO movie, which sees Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen toplining, just began shooting.

Also rumored to be translated to film sometime soon is ConnellyMichael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Connelly is said to be in talks with Yellow Bird, the same Swedish film company behind the Stieg Larsson crime novel trilogy.

Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch is the detective who made his first appearance in the 1992 novel The Black Echo, and the lead character in a police procedural series now numbering sixteen novels.

Black echo

Bosch’s mother was a prostitute in Hollywood, who was murdered in 1961 when Bosch was 11 years old. His father, who he met later in life, was a powerful defense attorney. He spent his youth in various orphanages and youth halls, as well as with the occasional foster family. After learning of his mother’s murder, Bosch, then living at a youth hall, dove to the bottom of the pool and screamed until he ran out of air and then swam back to the surface. Bosch is also a Vietnam vet who served as a tunnel rat, a specialized soldier whose job it was to venture into the maze of tunnels used as barracks, hospitals, and on some occasions, morgues by the Vietcong. Having had similar experiences during my military service, Bosch runs head and head as my personal favorite neo-noir (Noir written since 1964) “detective character” along with Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder. Drop of the Hard StuffBosch is a maverick and a rebel who often is at logger heads with his bosses,which leads him to leave the LAPD and work as a private detective for a few years. The reader gets the feeling that Bosch is “this close” to becoming the typical hard drinking hardboiled detective, but Harry is ultimately too much in control and too much obsessed with catching the bad guys. The only thing stereotypical about him is his love life, he does appeal to the ladies. Harry was married once, Eleanor Wish was a disgraced former FBI agent, ex-con and subsequent professional poker player.  But relationships with Harry are complicated. Bosch has aged well over the years and as much as us fans have yearned to see his stories translated to the screen, Connelly was forced to sue Paramount Pictures to recapture rights to his first two Harry Bosch crime novels , so after nearly 20 years us fans may just finally get to see Harry on the silver screen. The only two Michael Connelly books to make it to the movies – Blood Work starring Clint Eastwood, in 2002 and most recently The Lincoln Lawyer imageOut now and ruling the box office, have been pretty successful so it is about time we get to see his iconic character, let’s hope the rumors are true. There is certainly enough material for a string of films, so it will be interesting to see if they choose one out standing novel to translate (and there are many in the series) or if they make a sort of collage’ with room for a sequel. Either way, us Michael Connelly fans who have followed Harry Bosch for all these years have something to look forward to.

 

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