THE FAKE (1953)

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Here’s a great little caper set inside London’s Tate Museum. Starring versatile noir favorite Dennis O’Keefe, The Fake is a strong example of that overused word in film criticism: “romp.” Yeah, I know, I just used it, but it really is adequate in this situation. More, The Fake is a “condensed romp,” with minimal locations and characters. There’s still a bit of that hard-edged noir aesthetic, but overall it’s a fun, lighthearted crime film that’s the sort of perfect lazy Sunday afternoon fare people spend hours penetrating Netflix for. While no means a classic, The Fake has enough unique things going for it to make it a blast to watch. I mean, when’s the last time you saw a mystery where the color lapis lazuli was a major clue?

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FANTASIA FEST ROUND-UP!

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I was lucky enough to attend Fantasia Fest last month in Montreal. I watched a lot of great movies and ate a lot of good food. Mainly croissants. SO many croissants.

Here’s a round-up of my reviews from the festival, which sported some of the nicest, most helpful volunteers and employees I’ve ever experienced. The Fantasia folks are wicked nice and genuinely excited about film. They know how to throw one damn good fest too. Despite earning some mean blisters that put me on my back for a few days, I can’t wait for the 2015 Fantasia Festival. Montreal is a beautiful, exciting city and Fantasia matches its home’s vibe.

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HOUSE OF BAMBOO (1955)

House of Bamboo 1955 Back in 1948, Harry Kleiner wrote The Street With No Name, which became an instant classic in the film noir realm. The film, starring the almighty Richard Widmark and Mark Stevens, was an unofficial sequel to House on 92nd Street, both films backed by the feds. Maverick director Samuel Fuller convinced Kleiner to pen a loose remake of The Street With No Name set in Japan – expanding on the plot of an undercover fed infiltrating a treacherous underworld. The result was House of Bamboo, a film often considered to be the first picture to depict Japanese folks as normal people, working slobs just like Americans. It has its flaws here and there, but overall it’s a terrific film marked with the brute violence, tabloid sensibilities, and strong politics that Fuller would become known for. (more…)

Why Television Needs a Hero Like Hoke Moseley Right Now

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this post originally appeared on Cinematallica

Fictional heroes typically embody a series of human ideals such as doing the right thing, protecting the innocent, seeing that justice is properly served – all that crap. Fictional anti-heroes are more realistic as they tend to be flawed in very truthful ways. In crime fiction, the majority of the heroes are divorced alcoholics and if they’re not, they’re in a loveless marriage crumbling under their obsessive work habits.

The protagonists during the golden age of hardboiled fiction usually drank their way through cases. In Dashiell Hammett’s final novel The Thin Man, Nick and Nora mix themselves a martini pretty much every other page but a possible liquid dependency is never explored. Although Philip Marlowe liked to drink when he pondered over cases and chess problems, he never checked into AA. It’s not until contemporary times that we see heroes of crime fiction crippled by their vices. Nordic author Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole character, for example, is a chronic boozehound whose addiction leads him to some severely dark edges of morality.

Stuck in between the classic noir hero and the damaged detectives of modern times resides Hoke Moseley. First introduced by author Charles Willeford in his groundbreaking novel Miami Blues (1984), Hoke is simply one of the most believable creations in crime fiction history. Not just because he drinks and possesses other flaws we can see in our ourselves, but also because he’s just a working stiff going through the same issues as you and me. He’s not a drunk, but he drinks. He’s a good cop, but doesn’t really take his work home with him. Too put it bluntly, he’s utterly relatable.

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CRY DANGER (1951)

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When greasy nightclub owner Castro ask Rocky Mulloy if he’s going to kill him, Rocky answers, “Wouldn’t you?” This hardboiled dialogue is just one example of the tough brilliance that oozes from every pore of Robert Parrish’s striking directorial debut, Cry Danger. It’s a film noir gem that’s been heavily overlooked over the years, but has now been resurrected on Blu-ray from the fine folks at Olive Films (with funding from the mighty Film Noir Foundation). I picked it up as a blind buy and was blown away by the film’s simplicity, humor, and Dick Powell’s deadpan delivery. This is some of the best patter I’ve heard sine Powell’s turn in Murder, My Sweet.

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STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

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I’m currently re-reading Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, so I figured I’d repost my review of Hitchcock’s adaptation, which originally appeared on Collider last year…

Everyone, at some point in their lives, secretly wishes death on another person. We all do it. Homicidal thoughts are as natural as breathing. Hopefully you’ve never acted on yours, but if you are reading this from a prison cell, congratulations on being assertive. The notion that we all want someone dead is what drives smarmy psychopath Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker) into asking tennis star Guy Haines (Farley Granger) for a good ol’ round of murder in Hitchcock‘s Strangers on a Train.

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Recent Reviews From Beyond

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Here are a buncha links to stuff I’ve written recently for Bloody Disgusting. Lots of indie goodness with some trash thrown in for good measure. Hey, they can’t all be WOLFCOP.

TORMENT – a slick and brooding indie thriller.

JOY RIDE 3 – the threequel nobody wanted.

WILLOW CREEK – Bobcat Goldthwaite’s found footage Bigfoot movie. I sorta loved it.

WITCHING AND BITCHING – absolutely bonkers horror comedy. It’s ridiculously fun.

ANNA – decent psychological thriller.

WOLFCOP – about a werewolf cop, C’MON!

LUCKY BASTARD – pretty creative found footage flick about porn.

SX_TAPE – another found footage stinker. This one really sucks.

 

ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)

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Shhh…you guys hear that? Sounds like some kinda music…it’s just over this dusty ridge. Yeah, it’s music. And they’re singing about…some guy named Leo stuck in a cavern. Oh! It must be Ace in the Hole, Billy Wilder’s blistering indictment of American sensationalist culture! Initially deemed too cynical on its release in 1951, Ace in the Hole stands today as powerfully ahead of its time. The public loves a good, rotten news story about death, that’s never changed. What Wilder does here is place the spectators, the politicians, and the journalists on the chopping block for the crime of producing such a vile atmosphere where the good people are exploited by the media to make a buck.

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SLEEP, MY LOVE (1948)

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German director Douglas Sirk is probably best known for his 1950s Technicolor melodramas that focused on female and domestic issues. Since their initial release, films like Magnificent Obsession  and All That Heaven Allows have grown into critical and cult successes for their intelligent criticisms of American society. Bridging the gap between his early work and these celebrated melodramas is Sleep, My Love – a psychological noir that has a familiar plot, but sharp directing and top notch acting all around.

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THE CHASE (1946)

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Aww yeah, another Cornell Woolrich adaptation…The Chase is based on Woolrich’s 1944 “Black Path of Fear,” from his famous “Black” series, which includes Phantom Lady. The adaptation follows closely to the book (minus the opium dens), so viewers familiar with Woolrich won’t be surprised by the breakneck twist that occurs two thirds into this caper. The twist, however, is totally bonkers one and may turn some viewers off. The Chase, starring Robert Cummings, Steve Cochran, and the mighty Peter Lorre is a fantastic noir if you can stomach the twist. While some consider it ballsy, others may consider cheap.

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