Archive for the Film Noir Category

The Blob Italian Style!

Posted in Film Noir, Sci-Fi with tags , , , on June 25, 2018 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Chase (1946) Kino Blu-Ray

Posted in Film Noir with tags , , , on July 12, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Chase_BR_Cover

Peter Lorre (born László Löwenstein, Rózsahegy, Austria-Hungary, 1904) garners my vote for the greatest supporting actor of all time.  Just like Bela Lugosi, he is a presence in just about everything he was in, beginning with international fame in Fritz Lang’s M (1931), as a villain in arguably the first Film Noir Stranger On the Third Floor (1940), with Bogie in Warner Bros’ classics The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Passage to Marseille (1944) and others, as Conseil in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), and opposite Steve McQueen in a memorable Roald Dahl penned “Hitchcock Presents” episode Man from the South (1960).  Finding Peter Lorre films is an obsession with me because he is that good.  He elevates a bland film into something watchable.  Try and imagine The Mask of Dimitrios  (1944) without Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

For a long time I searched for the scarce The Face Behind the Mask (1941), which was worth the wait, Island of Doomed Men (1940) FILM HERE, where Lorre is so despicable he shoots a pet monkey, and, reviewed here, The Chase (1946) FILM HERE, which just received a new transfer to Blu-ray from UCLA/Film Foundation archival 35mm elements. Of the three films, The Chase might be the best. It’s definitely weird and non-linear and it caught me off guard.

The Chase was scripted by Oscar-winning writer Philip Yordan (El Cid, Johnny Guitar, The Day of the Triffids, The Big Combo and several others) and directed by Arthur Ripley (of which there is sparsely written). The film was nominated as [best] feature film at the 1947 Cannes Film Festival losing to René Clément’s The Damned (1946) in the Prix du meilleur film d’aventures et policier Adventure and Crime category

The Chase stars likeable everyman Robert Cummings as trauma-ridden naval man Chuck Scott  who has a mysterious past, who chances upon a billfold full of money. He returns the money to psychopathic millionaire Eddie Roman (actor Steve Cochran)(White Heat, 1949), who hires Scott as a chauffeur.  Lorre serves as Roman’s confidant, muse and bodyguard and he is VILE in this film, complaining about the cost of flowers and inflation, and feeding a sap to a bloodthirsty canine. The famous set piece of this film of course is the modified Eddie Roman sedan which features an accelerator pedal (+110 MPH) and brake opposite the rear passenger seat (“…take the wheel Chuck…”).  All is well until Chuck meets Eddie’s gorgeous squeeze Lorna (Michèle Morgan)(Passage to Marseille) who dreams of escaping to Havana. That’s where the fun begins.  Lorre is a joy to watch in this gem of a film.

Kino’s release has some extras including an audio commentary and two radio adaptations and selected film trailers.  I noticed the print is not the best quality and quite grainy. The pops in the audio track (refer to the youtube link above) have largely been eliminated.

Yippee! Peter Lorre rocks.

 

The Whip Hand (1951)

Posted in Film Noir with tags , , , , on March 1, 2016 by MONSTERMINIONS

The Whip Hand_SC4

At times, the underrated The Whip Hand (1951, RKO) reminds me of Orson Welles’ film noir thriller The Stranger (1946), where all is not what it seems in rural Americana.  We’ve seen this in several outstanding films —Bad Day at Bad Rock (1955), Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) all come to mind. In The Stranger, Edward G. Robinson is tracking down a Nazi war criminal (guess who) with a penchant for restoring old clocks.  In The Whip Hand, a journalist (Elliot Reid) stumbles upon an insulated community in rural Minnesota, where all the fish have died in the local lake and the folks don’t talk.

Both films feature good stories, taught direction, great casts with quintessential villains, and superb acting. With weaker direction, The Whip Hand would have probably fallen off the planet (I still had never heard of it), but with legendary art director William Cameron Menzies (Gone with the Wind, Things to Come, The Thief of Bagdad, Invaders from Mars and other visually stunning films) at the helm we get a minor film-noir gem and a fresh DVD release from Warner Bros. Archive Collection.

By comparison, another red menace film from the same period Red Planet Mars (1952), and helmed by a capable director Harry Horner (Beware, My Lovely, 1952)  is just dreadful.

The Whip Hand_SC3

The film stars beautiful Carla Balenda, who mostly worked in television, as the love interest Janet Keller, Elliott Reid (The Absent Minded Professor, 1961) as “American View” journalist/photographer Matt Corbin, Raymond Burr as the primary antagonist Steve Loomis (Burr made a fine villain), Edgar Barrier (Phantom of the Opera, 1943) as Dr. Keller (Janet’s brother), Michael Steele as one of the toadies, and Lewis Martin as one of the heavies (you’ll recognize him immediately as the pastor in War of the Worlds, 1953).

Below: Peter Brocco harrasses Frank Darien and Elliot Reid at the general store, but Reid is a savy journalist and will have none of that.

The Whip Hand_SC6

The Whip Hand is chock full of colorful characters. The film is a bit of a cross-over with crime, thriller, and film-noir elements.  The film was lensed by cinematographer and Tourneur affiliate Nicholas Musuraca (Out of the Past, 1947; Cat People, 1942), and it shows with luminous settings, shadows and tight closeups.  I doubt Carla Balenda ever looked better.

The Whip Hand_Carla Balenda

Olive Carey (The Searchers, 1956, Billy the Kid versus Dracula, 1966 and a zillion other westerns), wife of Harry Carey, has an amusing role that I didn’t see coming.  You can always recognize her by that distinct voice. She was about 55 years old in this film.

The Whip Hand_Olive Carey

 

Below: Raymond Burr, Peter Brocco and Michael Steele give the journalist the fish eye.

The Whip Hand_SC2

*SPOILER*

It’s no secret this film is about commies trying to infiltrate the USA. The Whip Hand is described as a “red menace” film, and it is, but it is surprisingly accurate in its depiction of Nazi scientists potentially working under the helm of communism. After WWII the United States claimed several prominent and some dubious German scientists under Operation Paperclip.  In this film the communists have recruited a warped genius using biological warfare to contaminate drinking water and air inhaltation pathways. Several years later, in film, we witness Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper expound upon the evils of communist fluoridation of drinking water (Dr. Strangelove, 1964) and a maniac spreading a virulent virus in The Satan Bug (1965).

The Whip Hand was ahead of the curve in depicting weapons of mass destruction.  We had seen mad scientists with death rays and harnessing of radioactive and poisonous menaces (Universal’s The Invisible Ray, 1936), but I would think in 1951 the notion of contaminating our surface waters was pretty scary and believable material.

A few years later the menace evolved into fiction with giant reptiles and arthropods and other atomic mutated monsters. Maybe the evils presented in The Whip Hand were too scary for the general public and real threats were toned down for metaphorical ones.

The Whip Hand_SC1

This shot reminds me of a famous image of Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy in Invasion of the Body Snathers (1956).

The Whip Hand_SC5

CIA and Operation Paperclip

 

 

 

French Wildside DVD-BR, Curse/Night of the Demon

Posted in Film Noir, Horror, Miscellania with tags , , on August 13, 2015 by MONSTERMINIONS

A package arrived today from France. It’s the Wildside DVD-Bluray of Night of the Demon. Both cuts are presented with option for English language, with French subtitles and French language. There is no option to remove the French subs. The Night of the Demon print is superb and the details of the demon are extraordinary in HD. Also included is a super cool preview of Gun Crazy and a 144 page essay book on Jacques Tourneur and “Demon”. About $60 USD. Need Region Free player!


  
  

Bogie Film Fest 2013

Posted in Film Noir with tags , on February 10, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Man, I’d love to attend this film festival.

http://bogartfilmfestival.com/
20130210-195249.jpg

R.I.P. Bogie

Posted in Film Noir, RIP with tags on January 14, 2013 by MONSTERMINIONS

Bogie died 56 years ago today.

20130114-185328.jpg

The Shape

Posted in Film Noir, Horror with tags , on October 12, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

Check out this shadow on my wall. Oooooooh.

20121012-180807.jpg

Island of Doomed Men (1940)

Posted in Film Noir with tags , , on October 8, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

For those craving Peter Lorre at his looney tunes best, look no further than Island of Doomed Men (1940). Upon watching a man getting flogged to a pulp and watching Peter Lorre gun down a monkey, my girlfriend commented today “That is not a very nice movie”. Lorre is at his vilest as sadistic slave-driver Stephen Danel.

Danel is owner of Dead Man’s Island, an isolated colony harboring parolled convicts on a rock loaded with mineral wealth in the form of diamonds. Lorre lives on the island with his terrified wife (Rochelle Hudson), a cook servant Siggy (George E. Stone), an ill-fated monkey, and several thugs.

I told you to keep that monkey OUT OF THE HOUSE!

Trouble surfaces when federal agent Mark Sheldon (Robert Wilcox) arrives undercover on the island masquerading as a parolled convict. Along the way we see Lorre psychologically abuse his wife, torture several men, bully and terrorize his cook –and then there’s that monkey. Remember the Nazi monkey from Raider of the Lost Ark (1981)? He ate the poisoned dates. This poor simian on The Island of Doomed Primates never had it so good.

What a screen presence Peter Lorre was —ugly splayed teeth, wide-set eyes, slicked back hair and that uncomparable voice. He was the perfect villain and the consummate sideman actor of over 100 films. He had a very minor role in Casablanca as Ugarte and you’d swear his presence lingered the entire film. As the lead heavy in Island of Doomed Men he’s probably unforgettable. How often do you see Peter Lorre (or any actor?) gun down a monkey? Peta stay away.

Lorre was a versatile actor, he played it all in so many memorable roles:

  • A clown (Skeeter), in The Big Circus (1959)
  • 007’s enemy Le Chiffe, in the Climax! (1954) rendition of Casino Royale
  • Conseil in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
  • A carny rat in Quicksand (1950)
  • A toady as Toad in Rope of Sand (1949)
  • Comedic roles – e.g. Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
  • Aristocratic types (e.g. Joel Cairo in Casablanca, 1941)
  • Serial killers (M and Stranger on the Third Floor)
  • Detectives (Mr. Moto)
  • Side kicks (in several films)

Really, only the romantic lead role has escaped his marvelous career. Of course his legacy leaves us Mad Love (1935), as the tormented Doctor Gogol. Long live Peter Lorre. They don’t make ’em like they used too!

“Nasty Things”

Posted in Film Noir with tags , , , on January 31, 2012 by MONSTERMINIONS

General Sternwood  (Charles Waldren): Do you like orchids?

Philip Marlowe (Humphrey Bogart): Not particularly.

General Sternwood: Ugh. Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.

From The Big Sleep (WB, 1946)

For some reason I have always appreciated that dialogue set in the humid sweltering environs of Sternwood’s greenhouse.  Every time I see an orchid I think of two things: 1) The Big Sleep and 2) The Day of the Triffids.  An orchid looks a bit like a triffid correct?  They’re menacing.  Somehow in color the beauty of orchids prevails over the creepy aspects.  Look at the difference.

In any event, what looks more menacing?  Generally I believe monster movies were meant for black and white composition.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

Posted in Film Noir with tags , on July 17, 2011 by MONSTERMINIONS

20110716-022814.jpg

This isn’t a monster flick, but I’m commenting on this gem because Robert Mitchum is one of my favorite actors, and as Eddie “Fingers” Coyle he gave one of the finest performances of his lifetime. In fact, Mitchum carries this film and elevates “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (Dir. Peter Yates, 1973) to be one of the finest films on organized crime ever made. This isn’t a heist film -there’s no elaborate story twists or red herrings. There’s not a whole lot of action. It’s low key and there is barely any score. The film is set in the seedy crime underworld of Boston. This isn’t “Rififi” (1955) -the robberies are peripheral to the story. This is a character study about worn out two-bit gun broker and driver Eddie Coyle.

20110716-023107.jpg
We learn early on that Eddie’s been around. He got his fingers busted up (“Hurt like a bastard”) for peddling traceable firearms. We also learn that Eddie’s scheduled to do 2 or 3 years for running stolen Canadian whiskey and he’s married to a very average Irish woman and has three kids. Eddie’s not going down again, so he decides to rat out his friends in an attempt to negotiate a bargain with a creepy treasury agent (played to the hilt by Richard Jordan).

Mitchum is perfectly cast (earlier in his career he played a bootlegger and runner in “Thunder Road” (1958)). He’s a tough customer, but the viewer senses he’s in over his head. Like “Goodfellas” (1990), this film is filled with colorful characters. These are the “friends of Eddie Coyle.” Gun dealers, stick-up men, drivers, and worse. Peter Boyle plays a despicable grease-ball hitman. His performance is also stellar.

20110716-023156.jpg
“Eddie Coyle” is a well-written, perfectly acted, gritty, urban feature. The on-location photography around Boston and Sharon, Pennsylvania contribute to the seedy feel of the production. It reminds me a bit of “The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three” (1974), in feel, and “The French Connection” (1971). However, this film may be better due to Mitchum’s believable and poignant performance. This review was based off a sharp, anamorphic Criterion DVD print. This is a minor classic and definitely worth a look.

20110716-023228.jpg