Noir about a sleazy lawyer in the illegal gambling “numbers” racket who tries to get rich, tries to help out unlucky small-time older brother Leo, and fails miserably at both. At least he gets the girl, but at the end he’s turning himself in, disgusted that his buddies murdered his brother. The girl (stage actress Beatrice Pearson, only in one other film) is Doris, who is like a daughter to Leo and therefore as distrustful of Garfield as Leo is, but she comes around after Garfield keeps bailing her out of jail and incessantly harassing her. That’s how love worked in the 40’s.

Doesn’t look like the movie had much of a budget, but director Polonsky and D.P. George Barnes (who shot Rebecca and Spellbound for Hitchcock) made it look marvelous. Polonsky was an up and coming talent, oscar-nominated for his debut the year before, but blacklisted soon after this movie failed to make a huge impact. John Garfield was very good in this, even though I couldn’t have picked him out of a lineup of greasy dark-haired white guys an hour later. He was oscar-nominated the same year for Body and Soul, died a few years later of heart problems. Older brother Thomas Gomez (The Furies, Key Largo) lived long enough to appear in Beneath the Planet of the Apes.

While it was great to see this on the big screen, to laugh with an audience at va-va-voom Nick the mechanic and watch everyone jump from shock when Mike Hammer cracks open the Pulp Fiction suitcase and hell peeks out, it’s kinda still not a great movie. Filmed as a cheap quickie and looks like it, the bulk of the plot is Mike following one lead to another to another – and as Josh pointed out, you could delete any one (or all) of those chain links without harming the overall plot structure. What’s important is Mike starts out getting mixed up with a dame in trouble, she is killed and he’s presumed dead, then he tracks down her story finally leading to a bad man with a case of nuclear material which explodes, destroying a beach house reminiscent of the one in Lost Highway. And while we’re on the subject of films influenced by this one, I recognized scenes and locations excerpted in Los Angeles Plays Itself.

Wes Addy and Ralph Meeker:
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Ralph Meeker who, two years later, would appear in movies by Fuller (Run of the Arrow) and Kubrick (Paths of Glory), was so badass in this movie, the Feds declared it to be 1955’s number one menace to American youth. Badassery is all relative, of course, and he’d soon be out-badassed since the production code was in decline. Hammer and his main squeeze/work partner Velda (Maxine Cooper, of nothing else) are sleazy divorce investigators/instigators until Mike picks up doomed girl Christina (Cloris Leachman, whose career seems to defy summary) on the highway. She’s recaptured by the baddies and tortured to death, then blown up in Mike’s car with Mike, who survives with revenge on his mind. Right away Mike’s in trouble with his cop buddy Pat (Aldrich regular Wesley Addy) who pulls his gun license, and with two thugs (Jack Lambert, who played a bully with a whip in Stars In My Crown, and the great Jack Elam of Moonfleet the same year as this) who work for the evil doctor (Albert Dekker of Siodmak’s The Killers, unseen besides his shoes till the very end). Mike enlists his mechanic Nick (Nick Dennis of Too Late Blues, A Streetcar Named Desire), who gets a car dropped on him by baddies, Velda, who saves Mike’s ass at the end (unless you watched the original ending in which they appear to die in the beach house explosion) and the dead girl’s roommate Gabrielle (TV actress Gaby Rodgers) who turns out to be a baddie spy.

Nympho Marian Carr (Ring of Fear) and bad dude Paul Stewart (Citizen Kane, In Cold Blood):
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My favorite thing about the movie is the strangeness of the beginning and end scenes. The nuclear-material-in-a-suitcase factor is most interesting for being so mysteriously underdeveloped, giving the movie a sense of richness that the main investigation plot lacks. With the sound effects and flickering lights at the finale, it acts more like a portal to another world than a physical material. Also great is the shock opening, with a girl running in the night, breathing heavy on the soundtrack before being picked up by Mike, the credits rolling upside-down across the screen.

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Only other Aldrich movie I’ve seen (besides Limelight, on which he assisted) is Twilight’s Last Gleaming from the other end of his career. Written by A.I. Bezzerides (Thieves’ Highway, Track of the Cat) and shot by Ernest Laszlo (While the City Sleeps, Stalag 17).

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A happy result of my French Film Hiatus is that I’m getting around to seeing some English-language movies I’ve put off for a long time. This one is particularly long-awaited, part of my decade-spanning quest to see Every Fritz Lang Film. I announced the end of the quest a year and a half ago with The Return of Frank James, but actually I still had this one and Harakiri to go, I just didn’t know where to find them.

This is Lang’s version of the same story Renoir filmed as La Bete humaine, with the writer of Clash By Night and cinematographer of In a Lonely Place, and his two lead actors from the previous year’s The Big Heat. It was a prime year for noir, and this movie acts like noir, but I’m not sure that it counts… after all, the hero gets a happy ending and only the bad people get punished. So it’s more like Shockproof than Clash By Night.

Gloria shouldn’t smoke inside – it’s bad for the birds.
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Glenn Ford, who I couldn’t pick out of a lineup right now, plays a railman returned from the Korean War. Nervous, pinched-voiced fatale Gloria Grahame (Bogart’s neighbor in In a Lonely Place) is the dame he falls for. Then there’s a dichotomy of gruff middle-aged guys: Broderick Crawford (of The Black Cat and Born Yesterday) is Gloria’s mean, jealous, drunk, murderous husband, and Edgar Buchanan (later of Ride The High Country) is a kind friend and landlord to our man (with a daughter who’s hot for Glenn).

Glenn and Broderick:
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Gloria’s husband murders her (ex?) lover in a train car and makes her watch, keeping the note she wrote the lover to lure him into the train as protection so she won’t turn him in. Although if he wanted this protection to be more effective, he would’ve had her write the guy’s name on the letter… this note could’ve been addressed to any of her lovers.

The incriminating (?) note:
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Now tied to a husband she no longer loves (he also beats her – have I mentioned?) Gloria seduces Glenn and gets him to agree to murder the husband so they can run off together. Edward G. Robinson would’ve gone through with it, but Glenn Ford does not, telling off Gloria, who promptly blows up at her husband on another train and gets killed by him. Glenn ends up with his friend Edgar Buchanan’s underage daughter, to everybody’s delight.

Glenn and the good girl:
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At the emotional height of a movie where sleazy characters are having secret meetings and lots of off-camera sex, and Gloria Grahame’s sharp, pointy breasts are poking right out of her sweater, in the background we can see that she and her husband have separate beds, and so America’s morals are safely upheld. Reminds me of the scene of The 40 Year Old Virgin I caught on cable today where every kind of sex is loudly discussed but the word ‘shit’ is safely bleeped.
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Gymnopedies (1965, Larry Jordan)
An egg floats around on different backdrops interacting with various objects, all cut-out animation a la Gilliam or Borowczyk, set to calm piano music. Feels more like a proof of concept than anything else – if there was a narrative present, I didn’t catch it. Cute, though.
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Lipstick (1999, Pascal Aubier)
Single 6-minute shot beginning under a bed, unsubtitled. Family is getting ready to leave for a trip, the mother is briefly visited by her lover who comes in through the window. Aubier was assistant director on some French New Wave classics in the 60’s, now an actor and a director of (mostly) comic shorts. Liked this a lot (and not only because of the naked dancing), will have to check out more of his stuff.
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Ark (2007, Grzegorz Jonkajtys)
Iffy-looking 3D animation tells apocalyptic story with a twist ending. Our guy wasn’t really the lead scientist onboard an ark of the last surviving humans searching the oceans for new land, just a crazy old man in a convalescent home. Ha! Bah.
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Happy-End (1996, Peter Tscherkassky)
Found footage of a couple sitting down for dinner, toasting the camera, drinking… and drinking and drinking! Dancing, drinking, sitting, more drinking. Different days, different clothes, edited together, eventually with scenes superimposed atop each other, a haunted distortion of a French pop song as the soundtrack.
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Two Solutions To One Problem (1975, Abbas Kiarostami)
Very short with narrator, two kids get in a fight over a torn book. We tally the damages then rewind, and instead of starting a fight, they help repair the book and remain friends. Nice.
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Blah Blah Blah (2006, Dietmar Brehm)
Liquor bottles. Close-ups of objects with strong textures, overexposed porno, an action film in extreme-fast-forward, long pause on an ashtray, back to the liquor bottles, etc. Audio is a quietly rainy/windy day with a metronome hit every three seconds. Looks like old 8mm or 16mm color with some monochrome sections. Pretty alright, probably better in a theater surrounded by like-minded shorts instead of following up a cute Kiarostami piece.
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A Girl, She is 100% (1983, Naoto Yamakawa)
Wow, that wasn’t very good at all. They must’ve thought it’d be the simplest Haruki Murakami story to film. Straightforward, with some good still photography and some bad acting by our IMDB-unknown hero, closing with some rockin’ 80’s music.
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Foutaisies (1989, Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
Young Dominique Pinon with 80’s hair tells us about the things he likes and does not like. Very Amelie-feeling, with Delicatessen opening titles (and Deli‘s lead actress).
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The Hitman (2001, Ruben Fleischer)
Mary Lynn Rajskub decides to be a hitman, but her first mark (Paul F. Tompkins) decides not to go through with it and asks her out instead. Just your typical indie comedy short. From the director of Girls Guitar Club, whose film career didn’t take off, I guess.

What Is That (2001, Run Wrake)
Buncha funny animated business involving insects and meat and ringing sounds. Cute, but only three minutes long and pretty inconsequential… not up to Rabbit level. Guess it’s an early work.
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Film Noir (2005, Osbert Parker)
Awesome, very short. Like Fast Film but slower. Some After-Effects-lookin’ animation combined with models and lots of cutouts – not trying to tell a story, just cool visuals/mood. Ahhh, the internet reveals that it was all created in-camera – impressive!
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Banquize (2005, Claude Barras)
Boyer’s French Dictionary: “banquize – heap of floating ice frozen together in close masses.” Might be called Banquise, actually. Simple animation, fat kid wears his snow clothes in summer, dreams of living on banquize and playing with penguins. One day trying to hitchhike there he drops dead from heat/dehydration. Hmm.
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Herakles (1962, Werner Herzog)
Herzog’s very first film, six years before his first feature. This was really good, and not like anything else I’ve seen by WH. Pretty simple structure so I’ll let wikipedia take it below.
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The film relates to six of the twelve labours of Heracles. The film starts with shots of young male bodybuilders working out in a gym, posing on a stage and flexing their muscles. Each of the labours are then announced by on-screen text in the form of a question, followed by related scenes of modern challenges intercut with the bodybuilders. The audio track of the film is saxophone jazz and sounds from a gym.

The question “Will he clean the Augean stables?” is followed by scenes of a garbage dump, “Will he kill the Lernaean Hydra?” is followed by a huge line of stopped traffic on a motorway and people walking around outside their cars, “Will he tame the Mares of Diomedes?” is followed by scenes of car racing and several race crashes including a crash into the spectators and shots of the subsequent disaster and piles of bodies, “Will he defeat the Amazonians?” is followed by scores of young women marching in uniform, “Will he conquer the giants?” is followed by shots of rubble of a destroyed apartment building and men in uniform searching the wreckage, “Will he resist the Stymphalian birds?” is followed by jets flying in formation, shooting missiles and dropping bombs on training targets. The last shot of the film is of a bodybuilder’s buttocks as he goes off the stage through the stage curtains.

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Matta (1985, Chris Marker)
“What I am showing here is no exhibition. It is an appeal: Come and play with me! It’s a very lively game, but nothing happens.” Simple interview with Chilean artist Matta (not surprisingly an Allende supporter), an original member of the surrealist group, talking coherently about his art and all art, human beings, dimension and meaning. Would be nice to get/make a transcript. Would be even nicer to have been able to see the Matta paintings that Marker frames him against, but my video was too low-quality to make out much visual detail.
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“Stop being melodramatic” – Harry Wesson to Jenny Marsh… in a Douglas Sirk movie!

Did I even have to be told that Samuel Fuller wrote this, when the lead character is named Griff?

Jenny Marsh (Patricia Knight, Cornell Wilde’s wife of 14 years, career fell apart after their divorce soon after this movie came out) is a bad girl just out of jail. She went there covering for her boyfriend Harry Wesson (John Baragrey, appealingly slimy, pretty much a TV actor except for this movie). Gets out and meets parole officer Griff Marat (Cornell Wilde, kinda big star in the 40’s). Trouble ensues.

To keep an eye on the girl, Griff naively hires her to live/work at his house and care for his blind mother. She still visits Wesson on the side and schemes to fake falling in love with Griff to corrupt him and ease her situation. But of course they really fall in love, and she shoots Wesson in a struggle. She’s back in trouble, and Griff will be in trouble if he’s found out for marrying a parolee, so they escape to an oil town to start a new life (leaving behind blind mom and super-irritating younger brother). “But the strain of poverty and fear of apprehension begin to corrode” and they turn themselves in. In a suspiciously happy twist ending, a recovering Harry Wesson lets them both off the hook and they live happily etc.

Tight little 80-minute noir drama. I don’t know much about Sirk, but the Fuller element is there in traces. Fuller’s own debut, I Shot Jesse James, came out the same year.

IMDB reviewer points out: “The title, by the way, seems basically meaningless but to have been chosen for its purely abstract, noirish resonance.”

Coming home late from a party at work where he’s been awarded for 25 years of loyal service as a cashier, Edward G. Robinson (Chris Cross) knocks down a man (pimp Dan Duryea) beating up a woman (prostitute Joan Bennett). The shot below sums up so much about Cross… stunned, afraid, a little reckless but arms crossed defensively.

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He walks the girl home, and she pretends to like him suspecting he’s a rich artist, an idea he encourages. And the stage is set for all of their demises. A murder, an execution, a long-lost husband, lots of lying and cheating, and Chris’s total ruin will follow.

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Gotta be one of the best film-noirs I’ve ever seen, and one of the best Fritz Lang movies. Unexpectedly greater than The Big Heat. Gets sad at the end… poor Chris doesn’t deserve his fate.

Michael Grost says: “Scarlet Street (1945) is a remake of Jean Renoir’s picture La Chienne (1931). The most important immediate difference between the pictures is one of tone and attitude towards the characters. Renoir’s film is a kinky black comedy about a pair of sexy low lifes who humiliate a middle aged man. It is basically a sexual fantasy. Lang’s picture is a tale of paranoia, how a pair of disgusting human beings, and fate itself, persecute an innocent man. Lang strips most of the sexiness from the crooked couple in the picture. Instead he and scenarist Dudley Nichols emphasize their sheer awfulness.”

Thought of as a sorta companion film to his 1944’s Woman in the Window, a noir with the same three actors which I remember liking a lot.

Wasn’t paying attention while the commentary played, but it mentioned Matthew Bernstein.

A woman in the window:
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A sad man:
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