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Topics - XhcnoirX

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The Miami Story (1954): Luther Adler heads a crime syndicate that's running Miami, with a fancy lawyer making sure he's untouchable, and a coldblooded John Baer to do his dirty jobs for him. The latest one is the assassination of 2 Cubans as they exit an airplane, in front of a crowd. Frustrated and fearing things will go from bad to worse now, local businessmen hire an ex-gangster from Chicago, Barry Sullivan, to try and get enough on Adler to get him in front of a grand jury. Adler framed Sullivan years before, so Sullivan accepts, and enlists the help of Cuban cops to pretend he's part of a Cuban crime ring moving in on Adler's turf. He also meets a woman who flew to Miami with the 2 deceased Cubans, Bevery Garland, who has an unsuspected connection to Adler's squeeze, Adele Jergens.

One of countless docu-noirs exposing every sort of crime ring in every major US city, this one even has a Florida senator chime in at the start, as well as the mandatory authoritative narration. Made on a low budget, it's pretty standard fare, but still manages to entertain. Sullivan ('The Gangster') is great as the former gangster who's still cold and callous when necessary, and Adler ('D.O.A.') played villains for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Jergens ('Armored Car Robbery') and Garland ('New Orleans Uncensored') play opposite roles, and esp Jergens is great as a bitter femme fatale just past her prime.

The directing by Fred F. Sears and cinematography by Harry Freulich is competent and occasionally inspired (there's a great shot of Garland when Sullivan first meets her inside his hotel room). They worked together on a number of movies, including other city/crime exposés like'Chicago Syndicate' and 'Inside Detroit'. Sears would even return to Miami a few years later for 'Miami Exposé'. All in all, while there's nothing under the sun here, and there are no real surprises (maybe that it's slightly more graphic than usual), it's a fast-paced and enjoyable movie if yer into this subgenre/corner of film noir. 6+/10

Download it here:

Sunrise aka Arunoday (2014): Police detective Adil Hussain is haunted by his daughter's disappearance several years ago. Every night after work hours he drives across Mumbai looking for her, before returning home to his wife, Tannishtha Chatterjee, who's gone into a sort of catatonic denial. One night, in one of the sleaziest areas of Mumbai, he thinks he sees a child abduction, and tries to catch the guy. But his fruitless chase brings him to a nightclub, where young teenage girls are dancing for randy men. Hussain thinks his daughter might be in the nightclub and soon grim reality and feverish nightmares collide and lines start to blur.

This is a dark and disturbing Indian neo-noir that is anything but a typical Bollywood movie. Written and directed by Partho Sen-Gupta and beautifully shot by DoP Jean-Marc Ferriere, this movie deals with the real-life problem of child abduction in India (the movie ends with the chilling statistic that 100,000 children disappear annually in India). Taking place mostly at night, during the monsoon season when it rains heavily and almost constantly, the movie makes effective use of minimal lighting, narrow streets and stark shadows to create a menacing, doom-laden and claustrophobic atmosphere. The movie's narrative is very dream/nightmare-like and switches between Hussain (who's slowly losing grip on reality) and one of the young dancers, Komal Gupta, who's been assigned to watch over a new abductee, before culminating in a climax in a sewer underneath the nightclub. Hussain gives a great performance as he becomes more and more unhinged as do Chatterjee and Gupta (who's got very expressive eyes despite her 'expressionless' face, as she dances on the nightclub's stage with a drunk and randy man showering her with money).

The movie does lose some of its thematic impact by focusing more on the mental state of Hussain as well as the visual style than on the issue of child abduction and prostitution, making this movie more like 2007's 'Mad Detective' meets Nicolas Winding Refn than 1979's 'Hardcore', but it still hits hard at times. The movie does not offer a happy ending, raising more questions than it answers, particularly as to what was real and what was inside Hussain's head, but also in regards to the abduction issue. It's a grim, stylish and surreal movie, that is both stylish as well as disturbing in content. Recommended. 8+/10

This is available on Netflix. Trailer:

Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective aka The Raven Red Kiss-Off (1990): Marc 'Dan Turner' Singer is hired by Hollywood studio exec Danny Kamin to keep an eye on his wife, movie star Tracy Scoggins, who's being blackmailed. At a set for her latest movie, directed by Brandon Smith whom she has an affair with, he hooks up again with an old flame. But as they're kissing, someone shoots and kills her, with his gun. Everybody on set thinks Singer did it, and he runs off, wanting to find his old flame's killer himself. But when someone takes another shot at him at his apartment, he realizes the killer's after him, and he suspects the reason might be linked to the blackmail case...

I've read a bunch of uber-prolific pulp author Robert Leslie Bellem's stories including a couple of Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective ones and they're a hoot, a lot of fun. Crazily enough this is only the second Dan Turner movie, the other being 1947's 'Blackmail'. So I really wanted this to be a pleasant surprise... But the acting is pretty mediocre and Scoggins doesn't even get to that level. The directing and lighting is pedestrian and flat. The script is a toned down version of Robert Leslie Bellem's original hard-boiled character and racy stories (but at least the dialogue and one-liners are not too modernized and still contain plenty of old school words).

At the same time tho, despite its obvious low budget, the producers and people responsible for the sets and props performed quite a bit of magic. They managed to come up with a decently convincing recreation of the mid to late 40s, which looks quite nice. And purposefully or not, this movie has an equally spunky and bubbly female cabby as those from 40s noirs 'The Big Sleep' and 'Two O'Clock Courage', esp the latter, who ends up playing a big part in the movie. The opening credits make it seem like this was meant as some sort of feeler/pilot for a potential TV movies series, but if so, that never materialized as this movie went straight to video. I can't say Singer makes for a convincing Dan Turner, but I also wouldn't've minded seeing more Dan Turner, Hollywood Detective movies. Not recommended but I still had some fun with it. 6/10

Watch it or download it before it's gone:

Off-Topic Discussion / High Treason (1951)
« on: May 30, 2017, 12:53:34 AM »
High Treason (1951): After a big explosion in the London Docks, Scotland Yard and MI5 join forces to find the ones responsible. Meanwhile the bombers, a group of communists, set their eyes on a much larger target, several power stations around the country, including London's Battersea power station. The group have enlisted a weakling shop seller as one of their helpers, but he slowly starts to crumble and fall apart. Meanwhile the investigators go over each lead and are slowly able to identify members of the group. But they don't know when the next attack will be or where.

A Cold War thriller that starts with a bang and ends with a big finale inside Battersea power station. By shifting the focus back and forth between the investigators and the Communist group (which is never mentioned directly, but strongly implied), including the moments where their paths cross, the movie maintains tension and suspense. The cast isn't too well-known but contains a ton of familiar British character actors, from the lead detectives, Liam Redmond ('Night of the Demon') and André Morell ('The Bridge on the River Kwai') to the leader of the group, John Bailey ('Never Let Go') to Geoffrey Keen (Sir Frederick Gray in half a dozen James Bond movies) and so on.

Directed and co-written by Roy Boulting, one half of the Boulting brothers ('Brighton Rock', 'Seven Days to Noon'), and with future acclaimed cinematographer Gilbert Taylor behind the camera ('Star Wars', 'Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb'), this movie is expertly made. It's got a nice pace to it, and by mixing interior studio sets and exterior on-location shots in London, as well as inside Battersea power station, the movie also looks pretty nice. It's not a classic by any means, but hard to go wrong with this one. 7/10

This can be found on youtube, with an ugly software generated watermark in the topleft corner for the entire length of the movie.

An interesting article on early examples of chiaroscuro lighting in movies from the 1910's and 1920's. Some very creative imagery and it's a shame that as the author notes, a lot of these lesser known silents exist today only in incomplete form and will likely never be shown outside of archives.

Off-Topic Discussion / Hotel Noir (2012)
« on: March 15, 2017, 03:11:15 AM »
Hotel Noir (2012): Los Angeles, late 50s. Police detective Rufus Sewell ('Dark City') steals a suitcase full of money from a group of robbers who just did a successful heist. He holes up in a hotel room while trying to think of his next move. In the course of the night he comes into contact with a string of people including shower door installer Danny DeVito ('L.A. Confidential'), nightclub singer Carla Gugino ('Sin City') and cleaning lady Rosario Dawson ('Sin City'), and as the movie progresses, all the links between the various characters become clearer and tighter.

Written and directed by Sebastian Gutierrez ('Gothika', 'Judas Kiss') this neo-noir somehow went under the radar and wasn't even theatrically released?! The cast above is well-known as is, but it also includes other well-known faces like Robert Forster ('Mulholland Drive') and Kevin Connolly ('Entourage')... In any case, it's a shame as this is clearly a labor of love. The movie plays out in a non-linear fashion with a lot of flashbacks, voice- over narration (by different persons) and people telling their side of things so gradually more and more information is revealed and how each person fits into the overall story. It's a neo-noir through and through, but it also stands out in many ways. Filmed in gorgeous black & white the movie starts off focusing on DeVito, before turning to Sewell... or is it really Gugino's story? Or someone else's? Because of the way it is told, paying attention is required, as well as sticking with it... Things are fairly slow at first because all the characters need to be introduced somehow, including some which do seem a bit redundant and don't add a lot to the end result. But as the pace of revealing information increases, so does the movie's level. It's not a perfect movie by any means, but a fairly unique neo-noir all the same and well worth watching. 7/10

I have the German blu-ray which looks pretty good, there's also an Australian release... I would love it if some day Gutierrez did a commentary track for this movie.


Gitaa O Motta Wataridori aka The Rambling Guitarist (1959): Akira Kobayashi is a drifter, 'carrying his guitar with no destination in mind' as the opening song proclaims. He ends up in Hakodate where his brawling skills get him the attention of local mob boss Ruriko Asaoka, who hires him as an enforcer. Asaoka wants to build an amusement park, but the house of his sister stands in the way, and she refuses to sell. Her no-good husband has a big debt with Asaoka however, and Kobayashi is tasked with geting them to sell the house to even the debt. But when Jô Shisido, henchman of a competitor, comes into town asking Asaoka for a favor that requires him to use the boat of Asaoka's sister, and recalls seeing Kobayashi somewhere, he has to tread carefully.

This was the first of 9 movies about the 'wandering guitarist', all starring Kobayashi, and it's a good start (I've yet to see any of the others tho). The opening scene, as well as several others, has a distinct western feel to them (including a couple of pistol drawing duels between Kobayashi and Jo 'chipmunk' Shisido) even if it's taking place in late 50s Japan, and Kobayashi looking like a 50s rocker among the otherwise sharp-dressed men. It's always fun to see the charismatic Shisido in a villain-like role and while Kobayashi starts out fairly non-descript, he matches him in every respect as the movie progresses, creating an interesting character. The theme song, which was also sung by Kobayashi, is played throughout the movie and ends up sticking in your mind, I wonder if they used it in subsequent movies.

This isn't a masterpiece in any way, but director Buichi Satô and DoP Kuratarô Takamura keep things quite interesting. There are a lot of colorful outdoor scenes with wide angles, which look pretty good, and there's rarely a dull moment (altho the romantic angle between Kobayashi and Asaoka's daughter is rather lifeless). Quite enjoyable, enough so that I will try and find the rest of the series. 7/10

This one's available on the 1st 'Nikkatsu Diamond Guys' set (from UK distributor Arrow). I have no idea if it's available online.

Off-Topic Discussion / Live By Night (2016/2017)
« on: February 13, 2017, 01:48:08 AM »
Prohibition era Boston. Small-time Irish crook Ben Affleck doesn't want to get caught up in the territorial war between Irish gangster Robert Glenister and Italian gangster Remo Girone. But when he falls for Sienna Miller, an inside woman for one of his jobs, it's too late as she's also Glenister's mistress. When a robbery goes wrong and some cops end up dead, and Glenister gets the word about Miller and Affleck, it's only because of Affleck's dad, a police captain who knows everything about everyone in Boston, that Affleck ends up doing some hard time in prison rather than go to the chair or get killed by Glenister. But Miller's dead and when Affleck gets out again, he wants revenge and turns to Girone. Girone sets Affleck up in Florida where Glenister's been moving in on his liquor business. Affleck does well there and manages to take over most of Glenister's business. But Florida isn't just run by gangsters, it's also run by the KKK...

Bloody awesome! If you enjoy the 30s and 40s gangster movies starring James Cagney and Lawrence Tierney (Affleck looks so much like him at times, I am convinced he based his physical demeanor in this movie on him), this movie will bring a smile to your face. While Affleck's character is never quite as ruthless or cold as Cagney's and Tierney's trademark roles, he definitely embodies that same kinda spirit. The movie also touches upon the more political/racial/religious aspects of the era, such as where police captain Chris Cooper tells Affleck he will turn a blind eye as long as he keeps his business to the bad (read: non-white) part of town (and of course there's the KKK as already mentioned above).

While Affleck is far from the greatest actor ever, he seems very aware of his limitations and makes them work to his advantage here. It also helps that he's supported by an excellent cast. And the movie looks absolutely stunning with some great sets and set pieces, and tons of beautiful 20s/30s cars (including a great car chase in and around Boston). Affleck, who also directed this movie, and DoP Richard Richardson, as well as the set & art directors, give this movie a great and authentic look, which by itself is worth the price of admission.

If there's a negative to this movie, it's that Affleck (also the screenplay writer!) wants to bring too much of Dennis Lehane's source novel to the table. Because of the sheer amount of plot lines some get a bit lost in the shuffle and not given too much attention (I also left out some rather important ones in this review, hah). I assume that similar to his 2010 movie 'The Town' his original cut is way longer than the current 2h9m runtime tho, so hopefully at some point a 'director's cut' of 'Live By Night' sees the light of day. For me however, the 2 hours flew by, and I was on the edge of my seat from the first second to the last. I can't recommend this movie enough, and I am even considering seeing it again in the cinema. Let me say it again: Blood awesome!

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