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: Union City (1980) Jersey Noir  ( 1818 )
cigar joe
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easy come easy go

« : December 13, 2015, 02:40:58 PM »

Director: Marcus Reichert, based on a Cornell Woolrich (short story "The Corpse Next Door"), screenplay by Marcus Reichert. Cinematography is by Edward Lachman (The Limey 1999). The film stars Dennis Lipscomb, Debbie Harry, Sam McMurray, Irina Maleeva, Everett McGill, Tony Azito, and Pat Benatar.

This low budget film beautifully captures the darkness, obsession and overbearing despair, of Cornell Woolrich's depression era story updated to 1953.  The stylistically Noir cinematography, with chiarosuro lighting, reflections, deep shadows and clashing color schemes enhance the foreboding atmosphere.

Harlan Comes Home


The tale is about Harlan and Lillian an unhappily married  couple  who basically exist with each other. Harlan is an alcoholic accountant who works long hours and commutes to his job. Lillian is a bored and ignored housewife who cooks for him. Once dinner is over Harlan heads for the corner bar Taty's. During her day Lillian comes to life once hubby Harlan leaves for the office. She is fustrated and ripe for the plucking.

Harlan (Dennis Lipscomb)

Lillian (Deborah Harry)

Lillian and Harlan's latest crisis is the theft of their milk. This story is set back in the time when milk was still delivered by a milkman. I grew up in New York City in the '50s and we had an aluminum box next to the front door of our two family house, and it was into this aluminum box that the milkman delivered our milk. In Union City the milkman delivers to an apartment house, and he carries the bottles of milk in a wire tray stopping at the doors of the various appartments on his route, dropping off full bottles, picking up empties left on the floor outside the appartments.

For the last two weeks someone has been drinking Harlas's milk and leaving the empty bottle. Harlan becomes increasingly filled with anger in reverse proportion to Lillian's indifference. Harlan thinks it's someone who lives in their apartment house and he devises a scheme to catch him.

Harlan explained his plan to catch the milk thief with his secretary

The following evening, Harlan gets a un-opened bottle of milk from the refrigerator, ties a fishing line around the neck of the bottle, places the bottle outside the door and runs the fishing line back to the bedroom. Getting into bed Harlan winds the line around his finger turns off the light and goes to sleep.

A tug on Harlan's finger sends him running to the apartment door. Flinging it open Harlan finds a vagrant sitting on the floor guzzling down his milk.

Harlan knocks the bottle out of the young vagrant's hand spilling the milk on the floor. There ensues a violent tussle between Harlan and the man ending with Harlan beating the man's head on the floor repeatedly until he stops struggling. A large flow of blood from the man's head sends Harlan into shock. He must do something with the body, the sound of the apartments elevator spurs Harlan into a panic. He drags the body into the empty apartment across the hall and hides it temporarily in a Murphy bed.

When Harlan goes back to remove the body from the empty apartment after he has frantically cleaned up the blood and milk out in the hall, and thrown his bloody pajammas down the incinerator, he discoveres that he can't open the door to the Murphy bed, it's jammed. In the days that follow Harlan begins to go slowly insane hallucinating images and thoroughly neglecting Lillian who pleasures herself and has an affair with Larry Longacre the building's super, who "fixes" the plumbing of various ladies in need including the kooky "contessa" Iriia .


Larry Longacre


Lillian pleasuring herself


When no one has yet discovered the corpse and  the newlywed new tenants of the empty apartment show up Harlan  goes completely over the edge in true Noir fashion.

The newlyweds Tony Azito and Pat Benatar

Union City is a low budget production, but that fact contributes to the claustrophobic feel of the film which compliments the Woolrich story. The DVD from Fox Lorber  (from wich these screen grabs are from)  is a poor  indicator of the original film supposedly the Tartan DVD  is the superior release. None of the actors really stand out aside from Dennis Lipscomb who gives off a demented Jack Lemmon vibe. This is a must for Cornell Wollrich fans, entertaining but a 6/10.

"When you feel that rope tighten on your neck you can feel the devil bite your ass"!
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