Month: April 2014

PRIVATE HELL ’36 (1954)

Private Hell 36

So far on this journey through noir, the meanest crooked cops I’ve come across are featured in Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Prowler. Hell, the latter is going to be nearly impossible to beat. But here’s another bullet-proof example of noir’s police force with polished palms and bulging pockets, as well as the lengths they’ll go to saddle a dame. Co-written by the queen bee Ida Lupino, Private Hell 36 is a subtly smart film that mounts and screws the idealism of the mid-1950s. And looks good doing it.


Recent Reviews Elsewhere…

Enemy Jake Gyllenhaal

Hey guys, you look great today. Here’s a rundown of some stuff I wrote recently for Bloody Disgusting. I can’t freakin’ recommend ENEMY enough. Four months deep into 2014’s guts and it’s my favorite movie so far. Dig:

ENEMY – don’t miss this one!!! It had my head reeling for days.

DEVIL’S KNOT – a lousy dramatization of the West Memphis 3 saga.

BORGMAN – wickedly fun Dutch film that goes to show you can find evil anywhere.

SUMMER OF BLOOD – easily the best horror-comedy I’ve seen since TUCKER AND DALE. It just premiered at Tribeca and I really hope everyone’s able to see it soon.

SCREAM PARK – solid DTV horror flick.


Plunder Road 1957

On the surface, there doesn’t seem like Plunder Road has much going for it. No big name stars, a low budget, and a second string Turkish director with a total output of eight films. But holy hell, this is one remarkable slice of noir. From the opening sequence in which a cast of hardboiled crooks pull off a multimillion dollar heist in the pouring rain, to the impossibly tense freeway climax, Plunder Road is one mean little film. Everything superfluous has been stripped away. Dialogue is scarce. Characterizations and back story are vague. All that’s left is an astounding exercise in crime and punishment.



Fallen Angel 1945

Hot on the heels of Otto Preminger’s classic Laura came Fallen Angel – a noir that clearly was meant to tap into the former’s success by utilizing several of the same cast members and technical crew. Fallen Angel explores the similar theme of sexual obsession but takes place in a much different setting. Besides exploiting the success of Laura, studio chief Darryl Zanuck wanted to use Fallen Angel as a vehicle for musical star Alice Faye to break into dramatic roles. Her role in the film is overshadowed, however, by the painfully sultry Linda Darnell, who can ruin a man’s life just by walking in the room. The heady brew of sexual suggestion, obsession, and Preminger’s knack for ambiguous characterization make Fallen Angel one steamy walk on the dark side.



Human Desire

Human Desire isn’t nearly as good as the previous year’s Fritz Lang, Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame collaboration, The Big Heat, but for what it’s worth, the film has a lot going for it. The main issue I had with it is Ford’s hollow performance. Typically he’s always on point, elevating the other actors whenever he shares a scene with them without chewing the scenery. His performance is really flat in Human Desire though. It seems like the studio threw the three of them together in an attempt to replicate the success of The Big Heat, but it just didn’t work as well this go around. Ford seems bored by the murder and seduction going on around him. Regardless, Grahame brings her trademark sultriness and Lang’s camerawork is darkly wonderful as always, making Human Desire an admirable noir.



The Street With No Name 1948

Fresh off his Oscar nomination for Kiss of Death, Richard Widmark was scooped up as a contract player for Darryl Zanuck of 20th Century Fox. While Tommy Udo was a pure sadist through and through, Widmark’s villainous character in The Street With No Name is a much more likable snake. The film is an unofficial sequel to House on 92nd Street and was one of many procedurals backed by the feds, who gave director William Keighley and the rest of his crew access to their offices, crime labs, and training facilities. While most of these J. Edgar Hoover handjobs can be pretty drab, as their main goal is to hype up the FBI and make all their agents look like golden boys, The Street With No Name is a fairly gritty film, anchored with strong performances by Widmark and Mark Stevens (The Dark Corner).


Some Recent Reviews Posted Elsewhere


Hey. I’ve had a ton of reviews posted recently over at Bloody Disgusting, so I figured I’d collect them all here for anyone who’s interested in my film writing outside of the crime genre. There’s a bunch of horror cheapies, but some decent ones mixed into the bunch. I’ve also been covering the fifth season of Justified for Collider, so you can click here to check out my weekly discussions on that beautiful show. The finale airs tomorrow night and it is a doozie!


Stage Fright

The Hanover House

Camp Dread



Dead Kids

Alien Abduction

Happy Camp

13 Sins

House of Good and Evil

The Slumber Party Massacre


Dark House


Murder My Sweet

After several adaptations by RKO Pictures of Raymond Chandler’s work that barely resembled the legendary writer’s source material, producer Adrian Scott finally managed to create a faithful one that captured the author’s wit and charm while also shaving down the book’s convoluted plot into something coherent. 1945’s Murder, My Sweet is based on Farewell, My Lovely (1940), the second Philip Marlowe mystery. I guess the marketing folks at RKO thought “Sweet” was a more effective pet name than “Lovely.” The film is certainly one of the most clearest versions of Chandler’s vision, even if its noble private eye yarn would later feel old-hat in the world of noir.



Journey Into Fear

Based on an Eric Ambler spy novel, Journey Into Fear is a wartime thriller starring the mighty Joseph Cotten, who also happened to write the screenplay. Written by and starring Cotten? What could go wrong, right? Well, the tone kinda see-saws throughout the film until it becomes a weak shadow sacrificed in the name of style, which Journey Into Fear has coming out of its ass. Orson Welles produced the film and insisted on taking the directing reins from Norman Foster for his own scenes as the monstrous Turkish chief of secret police. Welles’ fingerprints are all over this sucker, in fact, from the amazing opening shot to the nightmarish final chase. Overall its a fun little film, one that kinda gets forgotten in the shuffle of Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons debacle the year before.