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1  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: What whodunits did you see/hear/read? on: Yesterday at 02:42:25 AM
The Unseen (1945) -

Salem Alley Shenanigans.

The Unseen is directed by Lewis Allen and collectively written by Hagar Wilde, Ken Englund and Raymond Chandler. It's adapted from Ethel Lina White's novel "Her Heart in Her Throat". It stars Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall, Phyllis Brooks and Isobel Elsom. Music is by Ernst Toch and cinematography by John F. Seitz.

Elizabeth Howard (Russell) is hired as a governess for David Fielding's (McCrea) two children. With David being secretive and strange occurrences happening, she begins to unravel the mystery of the empty house next door.

Foolishly seen as a follow up to the far superior The Uninvited (1944), The Unseen is efficient without really rising to thrilling heights. Taken as a mood piece it scores favourably, lots of shadows, cobbled streets, darkened rooms and plenty of suspicious goings on, but as a mystery it falls flat. It gets off to a mixed start, with a grisly murder bogged down by a clumsy narration, from there we are on board with Russell's governess who gets more than she bargained for in her new employment. A number of characters drift in and out of proceedings, but the villain of the piece is evident from the get go, and it builds to a disappointingly flat finale.

A sort of weak companion piece to Gaslight (original and remake) and The Innocents, it's not recommended with any great confidence. Those looking for better and similar tonal fare from Lewis Allen are advised to seek out the aforementioned The Uninvited and So Evil My Love (1948). 5/10
2  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Neo-Noir Quest 3 - Deception (2008) on: Yesterday at 01:45:49 AM

Sunbeam and Bashful Boy.

Deception is directed by Marcel Langenegger and written by Mark Bomback. It stars Ewen McGregor, Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams. Music is by Ramin Djawadi and cinematography by Dante Spinotti.

Jonathan McQuarry (McGregor) is a timid New York accountant who whilst working late one night meets Wyatt Bose (Jackman). Bose is the complete opposite to McQuarry, he's highly sexed, confident and supremely cool. So when a mix up with the pair's mobile phones introduces McQuarry to an exclusive sex group, he's spun into a world completely alien to him.

If you have watched a lot of film noir, both classic era and neo, Deception will come off as irritatingly stale. What we have here is very much a case of the title revealing far too much! You would hope that with the makers going for broke with such a title then they would have the nous to fill out the story with surprises, take us and the principal characters down some twisty streets, not so, sadly. Within ten minutes you catch on to what is happening, the writing so poor as to not cleverly challenge the narrative drive. It could maybe be argued that McQuarry's journey, and how the character evolves, is something of a veer from the noir norm? But it has no dramatic worth and renders the finale as dull (the alternate ending is even worse).

It's not a total wash out as such, the cast are engaging in their roles, good actors straining to make a weak screenplay work, while cameos from Natasha Henstridge, Charlotte Rampling and Maggie Q impact to come off as better than novelty value. And then there's Spinotti's (Manhunter, L.A. Confidential, Heat) cinematography, the best character in the play. His nighttime city scapes are electric, his colour lenses beautiful (golds and blues are poetic), his work deserves a better film. But that's about it, leaving us with a shallow noir cover version that's in search of its own identity. For those not familiar with the noir form, then this is just about average enough for a look see. For noir fans, though, it's neither erotic or thrilling and as unadventurous as it gets. 5/10

DVD - Region 2.
3  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: The Price of Fear (1956) on: October 22, 2017, 02:58:39 AM
I've had my eye on this for a very long time. It's just too expensive. $20 by itself. I'd buy that boxset if I didn't already have two of the movies.

Thanks for the review.

It was the problem I faced as well, since I already owned Female on the Beach (1955)
4  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / The Unguarded Moment (1956) on: October 22, 2017, 02:56:23 AM

Leonard, you have your mother's eyes... especially when you're telling a lie.

The Unguarded Moment is directed by Harry Keller and adapted to screenplay by Herb Meadow and Larry Marcus from a story by Marcus and Rosalind Russell. It stars Esther Williams, George Nader, John Saxon, Edward Andrews and Les Tremayne. Music is by Herman Stein and cinematography by William H. Daniels.

Music teacher Lois Conway (Williams) starts receiving notes from a secret admirer, it's merely the start of something that will have severe consequences for all involved.

It's a little tricky to say exactly what the intentions of the story's creators were for this one. Is it meant to be a sharp observation on sexism, misogynism, some other ism? or maybe just a caustic warning on the dangers that can lurk in teacher/student relations? Whatever the case may be, and it really isn't all together clear, it's a quirky, yet dramatic, trashy slice of entertainment.

Opening with a wonderfully Hitchcockian type score (Hitch could have done wonders with this material), pic serves us up the dead body of a woman and then thrusts us into the sexually charged atmosphere of an all action college. It's a school where the girls swoon over the jocks and where the main teacher of the tale is one of the sexiest and most beautiful teachers ever! From here there's mysteries to be solved, who is stalking teacher? who is the murderer? is it the same person? and so on.

Narrative revels in lurid teasings, with the Technicolor photography vividly aiding the cause. Keller's direction is sadly plodding, but he does show a keen eye for shadow play and tension mounting sequences. Perfs are good, especially an out of type Williams in a thankless role, while a brilliantly creepy Andrews steals the show.

It's all a bit wild and rickety, but I have to say I really liked it. Newcomers will have to roll the dice and take their chances with it. 7/10

DVD - Box Set - Women In Danger -
5  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Ivy (1947) on: October 22, 2017, 02:11:19 AM
A few years ago, I checked out a number of films which Joan Fontaine did and I seem to recall being a bit disappointed with this one.

God damn you Lilith  Tongue
6  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: David Fincher Appreciation Thread on: October 22, 2017, 02:09:09 AM
Se7en (1995) is a flat out masterpiece, rivaled only by Manhunter (1986) for best serial killer based neo-noir.

I'm a Fincher fanboy, and proud of it, so I'll be back later for a better contribution.
7  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Neo-Noir Quest 3 - China Moon (1994) on: October 22, 2017, 02:04:21 AM
The porcelain prince and princess.

China Moon is directed by John Bailey and written by Roy Carlson. It stars Ed Harris, Madeleine Stowe, Benicio del Toro, Charles Dance and Patricia Healy. Music is by George Fenton and cinematography by Willy Kurant.

To be kind since China Moon is a very good film in its own right, that is for lovers of film noir and its off shoot neo-noir, it's a film where its only crime is not being as great as previous instalments of noirs classic era and neo. Story treads deliciously familiar ground, where Harris' intrepid cop falls deep for Stowe's sultry babe and before he can say " I would do anything for you", he's in it up to his neck.

In true noir fashion there's a twisty road to be navigated, nothing is as it at first seems, with hidden agendas, shifty shenanigans and emotional turmoil all playing a hand. The police procedural aspect intrigues greatly, with the devilish kicker of Harris investigating himself, while the intricacies of crime investigation - such as bullet science - is not given short shrift.

As a mood piece it scores high, the sweaty Florida settings ripe for Bailey (a cinematographer by trade) to mix a bit of poetic ambiance with misty shimmers, rainy bleakness and colour coded criminality that's not detrimental to true noir essence. Perfs are from the higher end of the scale, and the makers add enough original touches of their own so as to not let this become a pointless retread.

Closing superbly with a double whammy finale, China Moon is one that film noir lovers should sample. 7/10
8  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Neo-Noir Quest 3 - Diary of a Hitman (1991) on: October 21, 2017, 07:32:23 AM

Dekker's Dilemma.

Diary of a Hit-man is directed by Roy London and adapted to screenplay by Kenneth Pressman from his own play, Insider's Price. It stars Forest Whitaker, John Bedford-Lloyd, Sherilyn Fenn, Seymour Cassel, James Belushi and Sharon Stone.Music is by Michel Colombier and cinematography by Yuri Sokol.

Hit-man Dekker is contracted to kill the wife and baby of his latest client, but he starts to seriously question the ethics of the job...

"you're your own worst witness"

The ingredients for a high end neo-noir piece are all in place here, with the pic at times threatening potency to strike a telling blow, sadly it rounds out as very unfulfilling. Its stage origins are all too obvious, and the blend of quirky and wry humour with the more dramatic core of the story never sits well. Cast also come off as a little awkward, no doubt straining to deliver the goods for their acting coach director.

On the plus side for noir fans there's stuff to savour. Pic is driven by a Dekker narration, and the character is in contact with interesting characters. Be it a mime artist, his psychiatrist, a kid in a tumble dryer, a busy body tarty sister or the weasel villain who hires him, the human contact is straight out of noir land. The places he goes are also in keeping, the local bar with neon lighting, the church where "business" is conducted, Jain's (Fenn) apartment, which is a bizarre concoction of scatterbrain living and mummy housewifery, or a peekaboo strip joint. Elsewhere there's an extended session of film where Dekker has double vision, this putting a nice off-kilter vibe on things, while the whole time where the pic takes place in the apartment - with just Dekker and Jain in conflab - holds considerable interest. But then there's the finale, which is so far removed from noir it may make some want to set fire to the TV...

Just above average neo-noir, but not one to recommend with any sort of confidence. 6/10

DVD - Copy.
9  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / The Price of Fear (1956) on: October 21, 2017, 02:44:46 AM

Jessica Warren I Love You.

The Price of Fear is directed by Abner Biberman and adapted to screenplay by Robert Tallman from a story by Dick Irving Hyland. It stars Merle Oberon, Lex barker, Charles Drake and Warren Stevens. Music is by Heinz Roemheld and cinematography by Irving Glassberg.

Little seen or just forgotten these days, The Price of Fear is actually a rather tight and entertaining piece of film noir film making. Rising above some production limitations, pic is strong on characterisations and it looks just splendid. Story essentially finds Barker as an innocent man out to prove he didn't kill two people in two separate incidents!, while Oberon slips into femme fatale clothes as a love interest who's trying to avoid being found out for one of the killings Barker is under scrutiny for.

Narrative is deliciously twisty in how characters react and perform during the play. Into the mix is an intrepid detective, smooth talking villain, a blackmailing wife, a witness under duress and even a train sick canine! Old noir faithfuls coincidence and fate play their big hands, as does some narration drive. The look is minus chiaroscuro but the nighttime scenes are impressive enough, shiny streets and bulbous lights excellently photographed by Glassberg, while Biberman plays with frame tilts and interesting framing of the lady characters.

There's been some complaints about cast performances, but all are fine here. OK, so it lacks in viper femininity and laconic masculine as per noir classics previously, but nothing here hurts the piece. Solid as a rock is this, it even has the courage of its convictions to provide a genuine surprise ending. Where the main players catch a train to noirville, the termination point worth waiting for. 7/10

DVD - Box Set - Women In Danger -
10  Films of Sergio Leone / Other Films / In a Valley of Violence (2016) on: October 21, 2017, 02:40:54 AM

The Denton Rapscallion.

In a Valley of Violence is written and directed by Ti West. It stars Ethan Hawke, Taissa Farmiga, James Ransome, Karen Gillan and John Travolta. Music is by Jeff Grace and cinematography by Eric Robbins.

Ethan Hawke plays Paul, an ex soldier accompanied only by his dog, Abbie, who is drifting across the desert towards Mexico. Stopping off in the dying town of Denton, Paul finds trouble that will have consequences for himself and town alike.

Ti West is more well known for his horror ventures, where although divisive in that genre sphere, he can be proud of his success rate. Here he tackles the Western, and true to form, he homages past genre masters whilst unmistakably putting his own stamp on things. Opening with credits straight out of Spaghetti Western land, and introducing us to a musical score that will accompany the story that is wonderfully feverish, West is in no hurry for blood and bone shenanigans. He always favours the slow burn and so it proves here.

There's nothing remotely new here, it's a standard tale of a gunman - one damaged by his war efforts - who through circumstance is forced to abandon his hope of a quiet life. He's a loner man of few words, thus giving viewers a classic Western character staple, an anti-hero to root for and for us to yearn for him to find peace. When the violence comes, it's sharp and bloody, but often there is humour as well, deftly inserted into proceedings, whilst the canine is skillful and a key character to all and sundry.

Perfs are more than adequate. Hawke sifts seamlessly into being a believable drifter type of complexity, Ransome is annoyingly brattish, but that's actually job well done, and Travolta - sporting a wooden leg - gets better once (and if) you buy into him in this setting. Gillan isn't given much to do, but lands some decent emotive punches, but it's Farmiga who stands out as Mary-Anne. She's utterly infectious and thankfully she gets a well written part, that of a young woman trying to hold her own in the most trying of township circumstance.

The purpose built town of Denton looks just that!, but this is off- set a touch by the nice location landscapes (Santa Fe, New Mexico), and with the story working from solid genre foundations then this is a pleasure - without pulling up any trees - for fans of such. 7/10

DVD - Region 2.
11  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Ivy (1947) on: October 21, 2017, 01:19:42 AM
where did you get this DVD from?

This movie has never been released on DVD; it is a public-domain movie. There's version on YouTube that is so awful it's unwatchable. I see that on eBay, several people are selling DVD's they made - but who knows how good the quality is: here and here

I see that it is also available as a download from Amazon for 99 cents to rent or $2.99 to buy (a dirt cheap price presumably because it's public domain)

DVD - COPY means it's a copy put onto a DVD, otherwise I would just say DVD! Actually, print is fine, so I would think it's come off of a TV showing may years ago.
12  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Ivy (1947) on: October 19, 2017, 11:13:16 AM
I think that Letter From an Unknown Woman is her masterpiece.

An outstanding film and she's outstanding in it.
13  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Ivy (1947) on: October 19, 2017, 11:08:39 AM
  Fontaine, which is rare, she doesn't do a lot for me normally

I have killed people for this crime before...  Evil
14  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Re: The Phantom Lady (1944) on: October 18, 2017, 02:19:56 PM
I'll lend support as well. Kind of...

Paranoiacs, all of them!

Phantom Lady is directed by Robert Siodmak and adapted to screenplay by Bernard C. Schoenfeld from the story written by Cornell Woolrich (pseudonym William Irish). It stars Ella Raines, Franchot Tone, Alan Curtis, Thomas Gomez, Elisha Cook Jr and Fay Helm. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography by Woody Bredell.

Out drowning his sorrows, Scott Henderson (Curtis) meets an equally unhappy woman in a bar, agreeing to her request to not exchange names, but to merely enjoy each others company, Henderson takes her to a show. Upon returning home Henderson finds his wife has been strangled and he is arrested as the prime suspect for the murder. When he frantically tries to prove he has an alibi by way of the "phanton lady" he spent the evening with, he comes up against a wall of silence with nobody able to prove he was with anybody. The electric chair awaits unless someone can prove his alibi. Enter Henderson's intrepid secretary Kansas Richman, who not only carries a torch for her boss, but appears to be his only hope of proving his innocence...

An important film in the film noir cycle given that its success kicked opened further the American doorway for German director Robert Siodmak (The Killers); something that all fellow film noir fans are eternally grateful for. Often cited as a top draw noir or one of the best from the early 40s output, it's a frustrating experience in many ways. Undeniably the middle third is an absolute visual treasure, where Siodmak and Bredell (also The Killers) craft the essential film noir style with highly detailed shadows and lighting gaining maximum atmospheric impact. An extended sequence that sees the wonderful Raines (Impact) stalk a witness through dark and dank streets to a subway station is clinical in its photographic brilliance. I love the quote from Bredell where he said that after being coached by Siodmak he felt he could light a football pitch with only a match! This middle third of Phantom Lady is the meeting of two visual minds and it's a class combination.

Elsewhere Siodmak emphasises objects and weird art to keep his world off kilter, while a key character's obsession with his hands also keeps things simmering in the realm of the strange. There's also a "famed" suggestive sex scene as Elisha Cook Jr (as always, memorable) pounds his drum kit to a climax as Raines positively smoulders in front of him. All of these things are set to the backdrop of a ticking clock format, where the innocent Henderson's life hangs in the balance. These are all film noir traits and executed with such skill it hides the fact that the film is primarily studio bound, in fact this can be seen as a marker for how to do "studio noir" effectively.

Unfortunately there is good reason why Phantom Lady is divisive in film noir circles. The dialogue is often plain daft, almost as daft as the plot itself. The murderer is revealed at the mid point and therefore we are robbed of the mystery element and sadly it sign posts the finale as being obvious and disappointing. Plot in the final third puts our heroine in constant danger at the hands of the real murderer, suspense is meant to be wrung out, but it never hits home the way it should. While on the acting front Curtis is too stiff to really make a telling innocent man hanging by a thread character and Tone is equally as flat in a critical role. However, do these things stop Phantom Lady from being a great film? No, I don't think so, there's just too much good in the mix to stop it from deserving some of the (admittedly exaggerated) praise put its way. 7.5/10
15  Other/Miscellaneous / Off-Topic Discussion / Ivy (1947) on: October 18, 2017, 02:14:29 PM

Evil influences are gathering.

Ivy is directed by Sam Wood and adapted to screenplay by Charles Bennett from the novel The Story of Ivy written by Marie Belloc Lowndes. It stars Joan Fontaine, Patric Knowles, Herbert Marshall, Richard Ney, Cedric Hardwicke and Lucile Watson. Music is by Daniele Amfitheatrof and cinematography by Russell Metty.

Ivy Lexton (Fontaine) has a hunger to be wealthy, and setting her sights on well-to-do Miles Rushworth ( Marshall), Ivy plots a fiendish plan that spells trouble for her husband Jervis (Ney) and her lover Roger (Knowles).

Well worth discovering, Ivy showcases the dark side of Fontaine's acting prowess for great entertainment rewards. The beautiful Madame Fontaine actually disowned the movie, and this after she stepped in to the role of Ivy Lexton after her sister Olivia de Havilland turned it down. Her lack of affection for the picture goes some way to explaining why it has remained largely forgotten, which is a shame because it's a high end gaslight noir propelled by a femme fatale of some considerable substance.

The budget was high, and it shows, in the cast list, the costuming and the stunning turn of the century production design by William Cameron Menzies. Metty's low-key photography cloaks the Edwardian settings with atmospheric snugness, while Amfitheatrof underscores the drama with music that is appropriately tinged with chills. Thematically the piece is focusing on obsessions, by way of man's ignorant lust and woman's pursuit of wealth above all else. All characters are defined not by fate here, but by their actions, making for a hornet's nest of murder and adultery.

1947 was a stellar year for film noir, with big hitting movies like Out of the Past, Nightmare Alley, Kiss of Death, Odd Man Out and Brighton Rock further cementing the growing popularity of noir as a style of film making. As is often the case with the great noir years from the classic cycle, there's still little gems hidden away waiting to be brought out into the open, Ivy is one such film. Fontaine and the sumptuous noir visual style ensure this to be the case. 8/10

DVD - Copy.
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