Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Movies part 39

COINCIDENTLY 40s DOG EDITION


I Walk Alone (1947)
Well this one is lodged in my brain forever because like Sorry, Wrong Number it was part of the 80s Collage classic Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. However I don't really know if I've seen it before. Anyway for some reason I wasn't expecting much but thankfully it was top notch hardboiled crime drama. Burt Lancaster is excellent here as Frankie the angry, frustrated and discombobulated ex-con looking for his dues. He took the fall and did 14 years but his old crime partner Dink (Kirk Douglas) is not forthcoming with Frankie's share of the loot though. Douglas is great at playing creepy little turds. The gorgeous Lizabeth Scott is Kay a singer in Dink's nightclub and also his bit on the side. It wouldn't be a 40s crime drama if switches of allegiance and murderous shenanigans didn't ensue. I guess this is one of the early examples in film of gangsters going legit to try to cover up their criminal ways. Highly Recommended.


Raw Deal (1948)
You cannot go wrong with an Anthony Mann and John Alton collaboration. That's a director and cinematographer match made in heaven! More 40s crime movie gold. This one's a gaol break film with a difference. Our main protagonist the prison escapee Joe (Dennis O'Keefe) is on the run but there's trouble everywhere, coming at him from every angle: A femme fatale Pat (Claire Trevor), a treacherous crime buddy, his old prison case worker Ann (Marsha Hunt) and a million cops. This story goes all sorts of places no other crime film of the time went. There's even a park ranger on a horsey which I can't help but think was a fun future nod to Mann's other great genre Westerns. Raw Deal is also one of the most brutal of 40s movies I've ever witnessed as Joe's former crime buddy is a psychotic mobster Rick played deliriously by Raymond Burr. Oh and there is fog, fire, boats and guns. It doesn't get better than this when it comes to the movies so it's highly recommended for crime film buffs of any generation.


52 Pick Up (1986)
Just in case you don't know about this cult movie, get this: It's a crime film written by Elmore Leonard directed by master John Frankenheimer starring ageing silver screen icons Roy Scheider and Ann-Margaret and produced by Cannon Films. How could you go wrong? It could only go more right! And thank heavens it's little beauty. Really what's the point of saying anything else? I guess it's one of the most underrated films of the 80s. 


Bellman & True (1987)
This is a first for me. This was a blind buy first time watch as it came with a huge recommendation from Pure Cinema Podcast regular Philip Blankenship. Phil is also a renowned film programmer, celluloid collector, a documentary talking head and Quentin Tarantino's right hand man at The New Beverly Cinema. The only other movie fiends who could possibly make me buy a blu-ray just by talking/writing about it now would be Samm Deighan, Kat Ellinger, Kier-La Janisse and me old favourite Melbourne Critic from The Age in the 90s, now blu-ray commentary track legend Adrian Martin. I met him at a party once I'm sure he remembers, not.

Anyway Bellman & True a pretty good lil' crime film. For a start it's got Bernhard 'gissajob' Hill who became immortalised as Yosser in the brilliant but bleak British 1982 telly drama Boys From The Blackstuff. This is a bank heist thriller with added kidnapping, computer hacking and obligatory pyrotechnics. Worth a look for heist movie enthusiasts.   


Fascism on a Thread: The Strange Story of Nazisploitation Cinema (2019)
A below average documentary on perhaps the most bizarre chapter in film history ever. Fascism on a Thread is a little apologetic and not a full celebration of Nazisploitation that fans would want. I know next to nothing about the genre except that I'd seen several of the movies mentioned and that Ilsa is legendary. Film historian extraordinaire Kim Newman is always a welcome face and worthy to put in his tuppence. There were too many sweaty dudes as talking heads, perhaps subconsciously giving the sub-genre a creepy man vibe which is enhanced by not using one female critic, historian or fan. It was as if to say this is a bunch of movies only to be enjoyed by sad weird sleazoid men, women wouldn't be interested in this kind of thing or aren't fans of such a deplorable sub-genre as Nazisploitation. 

I do not understand why the perfect expert candidate and WWII movie expert Samm Deighan is not in this film or why say other great film brains/writers on exploitation movies like Rebekah McKendry, Kat Ellinger, Alexandra Heller Nicholas et al. are not involved. Did they not fit the agenda? Maybe they weren't approached, it was an oversight, they weren't available, contractually unable to participate or it had something to do with Severin Films budget? Who knows? The documentary is definitely worse off due to these missing voices though. While this documentary was presented on tubi as a stand alone film the reality is it was made cheaply as a bonus feature for Severin's blu-ray release of The Beast In Heat (1977) aka SS Hell Camp. This explains why composer Guiliano Sorgini's appears with all his morally superior negativity (Hero to zero in a few short sentences).

The good news for fans of the genre is that Dyanne Thorne, the blonde bombshell of Ilsa: She Wolf Of The SS (1975) and it's sequels, is interviewed here. Thorne really celebrates her work and fans unapologetically. She is wonderfully grateful for her career as the icon of this sub-genre. It is revealed that Thorne later became a marriage celebrant in Las Vegas. What's cooler than getting married by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas? Getting Married by Dyanne Thorne in full Ilsa costume of course. Well it was. She died in January 2020 not long after this extra was put together.

Malisa Longo the Italian rip off of Dyanne Thorne also makes an appearance. She infamously played a character called Elsa a rip off of Ilsa in the French movie cash in Fräulein Devil (1977) aka Captive Women 4 aka Elsa: Fraulein SS aka Fraulein Kitty. She also starred in a couple of other Nazisploitation flicks.

I couldn't help thinking: "Imagine if you tried to make one of these films today?" The whining, illiberal & humourless kids with their sanctimonious authoritarian minds would be all over you with life destroying consequences. You would be witch hunted, un-personed and probably left destitute as you would not be allowed to be employed as employers would fear repercussions from angry authoritarian mobs, activist mainstream media and big tech (the real governors of our day).  


Edge Of The Axe (1989)
José Larraz directs this atypical 80s slasher. He was late to the slasher party as that boat had already sailed five years earlier and the self referential revival was still 7 years away. This is pretty entertaining though. I've seen so many terrible slashers so it doesn't take much for one to be alright. While Edge Of The Axe was ok for me, it is nowhere near the same league as his cinematic masterpieces Symptoms and Vampyres both from 1974. So I guess this would only really be of interest to slasher fanatics, 80s VHS nutters going for the deep cuts or people wondering whatever happened to that Spanish dude who directed some classic horror movies in Britain during the 70s. 

This will keep slasher aficionados happy now that Arrow have given it the blu-ray treatment. Edge Of The Axe is a pretty weird film and it's all the better for it. Like War Games (1983) this has early computers interacting with one another. I'm not sure, as I'm no computer expert, if what was happening computer-wise in the movie was actually a reality then or just a Star Trek-esque sci-fi future that was eventually coming. Anyway guess what? We get a masked psycho killer on a killing spree in a small picturesque American rural town. This maniac is non discriminatory when it comes to killing so look out ladies, pigs, dogs and dudes. Just who is causing all this havoc and why? What can the computer tell us? If you're intrigued check it out.   



Betrayed aka When Strangers Marry (1944)
Good el-cheapo suspenseful crime-mystery. Millie a naive small town girl (Kim Hunter) marries Paul (Dean Jagger) a travelling salesman whom she barely knows. Apparently "quickie" or "whirlwind" marriages were not uncommon during WWII. The couple arrange to meet up in New York because Paul was called away on business at short notice just after their wedding. Millie unexpectedly runs into Junior a dog she knows in her hotel's lobby, then she sees its owner her ex-boyfriend Fred (Robert Mitchum). What's he doing here? What's going on in Philadelphia? Where's her husband Paul? All is revealed in a swift 67 minutes. 

There are some spectacular set pieces in this flick. These flashes of pizzaz didn't go unnoticed. Orson Welles was very impressed at the time saying it had better acting and direction than 1944's most famous and acclaimed crime-dramas Laura & Double Indemnity. The Big Jim's jazz club scene in particular captured my attention. It features a bloke (Who is this guy? He doesn't even get credited in the people who are uncredited list!) playing some wicked pre-Rock'n'Roll R&B on a honky tonk while couple Marie Bryant and Lennie Bluett dance as the patrons look on. This is years before white mainstream music lovers got to know the likes of Fats Domino so I wonder if this scene blew peoples minds? I mean, it fucking blew mine 75 years later! Special mention must also go to Junior the Boston Terrier who is integral to several scenes but rarely garners any praise. 


He Walked By Night (1948)
Classic crime drama very loosely based on a 40s true crime story of from California. The cinematography is by the one and only John Alton. The direction credit goes to Alfred Werker but we all now know it's directed to perfection by Anthony Mann who was uncredited at the time. I'm not sure what happened behind the scenes but I'm guessing Werker was a wanker and the history of film is all the better for it. Anyway this suspense filled game of cat and mouse leans heavy on the police procedural side of hardboiled crime drama. 

The cops are out in force as an off duty patrolman has been killed. We follow the mysterious killer Roy (Richard Basehart) who is a fraud pretending to be a scientific electronics whizz who makes a living from renting out stolen innovative experimental electronic equipment. Roy's got a little flat in a low rise estate where he is hiding out, listening to police radio with with his clever (uncredited) dog. Anyway as Roy's violence escalates he tries to change up his MO to avoid capture but will he be outwitted by the coppers Marty (Scott Brady) & Chuck (James Cardwell)? This police force are hellbent on his capture and are quickly connecting up a string of crimes against him with the help of their forensics expert Lee (Jack Webb). There is a cool scene where a bunch of witnesses help The Captain (Roy Roberts) make a photofit of Roy which had me flashing forward thirty years to a similar classic sequence in The Mad Bomber (1973). There are other historically noteworthy scenes particularly the storm drain sequence which has been ripped off a million times including in the following year's The Third Man (1949), Female Convict Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973), The Fugitive (1993) etc. Plus the dislodging of the bullet to avoid going to hospital scene. I haven't done the research but this could be the first scene in film history to do that. It's at least an early example of a scene you have seen over and over throughout your movie viewing life probably without ever thinking about its origins. Considering there must have been some trouble behind the scenes making this picture you would not know it as it is a meticulously crafted film with an intricately detailed plot. 

Roy remains just as mysterious in the end as he was at the start. That is no mean feat, very rare and atypical for the era! Highest recommendation. 



Side Street (1950)
This is one of my favourite hardboiled crime films of this golden era. Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell are reunited two years after starring in Nick Ray's promising directorial debut They Live By Night (1948). Set in New York, a down on his luck father to be spots an easy opportunity to gain $30G from a dodgy lawyer's office. Sure we've got cops and robbers but we get a whole lot of non judgemental grey area too. We get a nightclub chanteuse, a precocious streetwise kid makin' a buck from the schmuck adults, thugs, murderers, milkmen, inconvenient nosey neighbours, barkeeps, shonky lawyers and tough cops. Have lawyers and cops always been viewed with vehement disdain? This tale winds its way in the most delicious but brutal way. Side Street is notable for its cool car chase though the NYC streets. Side Street's a film put together with great style by the legendary Anthony Mann. This crime classic should be up there in the pantheon of prime 40s & 50s crime dramas. It doesn't get better than this!


Pit And The Pendulum (1961)
A bit of horror fun in a castle with a torture chamber and Vincent Price. I've never read this story so I had no preconceived notions going in. Roger Corman makes tremendous use of the Panavision cinematography, colour and eerie filters in flashback sequences. The costumes and castle were immaculate and perhaps a little silly. I guess by the late 60s the kind of situation here, that is the centrepiece of the film's dramatic arc, was in use in every second Get Smart or Batman episode. The trope of someone whose eminent demise can only be stopped if a saviour arrives in time to beat the ticking clock. That isn't a spoiler it's the title of the film, so you know its coming! Enjoyable late night movie.



The Thin Man (1934)
I didn't know what to expect going into this film really. My Dad recommended it but all I knew was that it was a murder mystery with a clever dog and William Powell. I didn't know it was going to be so charming, spontaneous, anarchic and fun. In a nutshell it's a comedy whodunnit film. It was totally disarming. Myrna Loy was fabulous, charismatic and a treat to discover. The spontaneous chemistry between her and Powell was delicious. You can't write that spark into a script no matter how hard you try. Director WS Van Dyck and script-writers the married couple Albert Hacket and Frances Goodrich struck casting gold with this duo! Asta the dog didn't disappoint either. While this is quick fire and riotous to almost Marx Bros levels there is also a lightness of touch which makes the film an exquisite pop cultural feat. Eighty seven years later this is fresh as a daisy. For enjoyment.


The Asphyx aka The Spirit Of Dead aka The Horror Of Death (1972)
Very cool bonkers sci-fi horror film that is a whole lot of fun. Some science chaps in Victorian England who are part of the Parapsychological society discover personal asphyx's while filming death. It's all pretty tricky to explain but Hugo (Robert Stephens) figures out a way to capture your death spirit/personal grim reaper thing that comes for you at your time of death. What consequences will this science breakthrough have? I dunno what this is but it's very enjoyable batshit crazy entertainment. Late Night Movie Of The Week. 



After The Thin Man (1936)
More of the same for the second movie in the Thin Man series. Of course you can't recreate that surprise magical touch of the first Thin Man (1934). It's not as anarchic or quick fire either but it still retains a lovely lightness of touch, spontaneous banter and charm that most sequels never achieve.  




The League Of Gentlemen (1960)
Absolute classic pitch black comedy heist flick with incredible ensemble cast and flawless script. One of the finest filmmakers ever Basil Dearden directs with aplomb. I dug out me old dvd to watch this again after it was discussed on a podcast where Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino blabber on about a bunch of British movies recommended by the master film-maker and historian Martin Scorsese. Tarantino is often obnoxious but I quite like his taste in film however sometimes his ego gets the better of him and he believes his own hype. He wrote off the third act of this celluloid masterpiece. I'm glad the much younger Edgar Wright pulled him up telling him it was a great ending. I obviously concur with Wright in this instance. Movies don't come better than this. If a film doesn't give you the ending you want that is not the fault of the film or the novel it's based on. It's your bad luck! Sometimes, particularly in crime films, you want it to go a certain way but that doesn't always happen. If it did I think it would make crime movies and stories redundant. The crème de la crème of character actors assembled here must have been having a ball making this picture. This is quite possibly the best ensemble cast performance you'll ever see. Just look at that roll call of actors, need I say more!


Another Thin Man (1939)
The third in the series of Thin Man films is the most cohesive so far and Asta the brilliant dog actor is outstanding. He even did an out of the blue gymnastic spin in the air. The relationship between Asta and Nick & Norah's new baby is very cute. This is definitely Asta's best performance so far. The outrageous rapid fire wit of the first film is all but gone as this is almost the 40s but this is alright with some good moments. I think I prefer it over the second one.
   

Framed (1947)
First time watch of this hardboiled crime melodrama that is included in Indicator's Columbia Noir #2 blu-ray boxset. It's the best going into a film knowing nothing about it. All I knew was that the terrific Glenn Ford was in it and it was a crime movie. The mystery unfolds without missing a beat. It's a top story with all the best crime accoutrements: embezzlement, murder, brake failure, intrigue, shady bank managers, mining prospectors, nosey parkers, safety deposit boxes, excessive drinking, femme fatales, a large sum of cash, suspicious barkeeps, smoking, illegal gambling and the omnipresent newspaper headlines. What would film-makers have done back then without the classic device of the latest newspaper with its headline hitting the streets or being yelled by the paperboy? Anyway this is another 40s suspenseful gem with a fine diabolical duo Paula (Janice Carter) and Steve (Barry Sullivan) but will everything go according to plan? I didn't realise this was an el-cheapo B-movie as it's put together with such panache by Richard Wallace. Framed is right up there with other 1947 noir classics like Brute Force, Out Of The Past and Lady From Shanghail. In fact it might be the best of the lot! Great stuff. It doesn't get better than this!


Journey Into Fear (1942)
A flick where the 40s crime drama meets WWII espionage thriller. It's hard to know who is good or bad in this picture as they all seem a bit shonky & treasonous. A boatload of treacherous characters from various different nations leave Istanbul on a ship carrying livestock. A nazi assassin is hunting the main protagonist an unlikeable arms dealing American bloke. With 20 minutes left I realised I was bored! I just hated this film, didn't care what happened to any of these characters and thought it was stupid! So I stopped* the film. Where was the suspense, mystery, film-craft or intrigue? Proof that not all 40s crime flicks are good. Although this seems to be a very rare exception.

*An idiot podcaster recently stated "Before streaming nobody would stop a film once you had started it." 

This is absolute bollocks. I used to to terminate viewing of VHS videos and dvds, rented from the video shop, all the time during the 90s & 00s. This is why I've never seen the end of 27 Dresses, Burn After Reading, Gods & Monsters, Hilary & Jackie and all the other shite films that were so forgettable, I've forgotten their names. Also walking out of the cinema wasn't out of the question either. I did this during a screening at Melbourne's Cinema Nova of the highly acclaimed but fucking awful film Japanese Story

CULT BLU-RAY CELEBRATION TIME COME ON! 
Here's 4 exciting titles that are finally COMING SOON to Blu-ray this year.


WALKING THE EDGE (1983/5)
21 years after its Anchor Bay dvd release. The new kid on the block in boutique blu-ray labels Fun City Editions will be releasing a blu-ray of this underground little seen cult classic starring Bob Forster, Nancy Quan & Joe Spinell


SMILE (1975)
Fun City Editions have this listed as coming soon on their website too. Michael Ritchie's forgotten satirical comedy (remember them) about beauty pageants featuring Bruce Dern and Barbara Feldon will finally get a blu-ray. Look out for young Melanie Griffith too. In the 17 years since a dvd of this surfaced then disappeared Smile has gained huge cult status so this is a no brainer release for this terrific fledgeling label. 


OVER THE EDGE (1979)
Release date: 31/5/21.
The alarming Teen V Adult drama about a new but isolated housing estate New Granada that hasn't been thought through properly by town planners. This film reveals the consequences of such civil neglect. It is in my book just one of the most brilliant movies ever made. Matt Dillon and a bunch of other non actor kids tear it up in Jonathan Kaplan's ultimate cult film. This is the most exciting thing Arrow have released in almost two years since The Female Prisoner Scorpion Box Set. 


California Split (1974)
I actually emailed Indicator earlier this year to see if they were still planning to issue California Split for the first time on Blu-ray and luckily the answer was "Yeas we are. Later this year!" Quite possibly the best career performances of both George Segal & Elliot Gould in perhaps Robert Altman's best ever film. 

*Now we just need blu-rays of So Long At The Fair, Stolen Face, Sapphire, Nowhere To Go, The Servant, Play It As It Lays, The Mack, Cockfighter, The Dion Brothers, Hustle, Straight Time, Night Of The Juggler, Siege, Going Down, After Hours, The Hitcher, a bunch of 40s/50s crime films, a stack of Poliziotteschi movies plus... 
 

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