The Noir File: Lee Marvin is a thief betrayed in ‘Point Blank’

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Angie Dickinson and Lee Marvin star in “Point Blank.”

Point Blank” (1967, John Boorman). Thursday, Jan. 31, 2:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m.) “Point Blank,” with Lee Marvin as a thief betrayed and left for dead in Alcatraz, is, like “Chinatown,” one of the quintessential neo-noirs. Directed with sizzle and panache by John Boorman (“Deliverance”), the movie’s source is one of the super-tough Parker novels by Donald Westlake, with the main character’s name changed to “Walker.” (It’s changed back in the current, and disappointing, movie adaptation, “Parker,” starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez, directed by Taylor Hackford.)

When the unstoppable Walker, his face deadly and determined, takes off after his treacherous old associates (including John Vernon, Carroll O’Connor and Lloyd Bochner) with the help of a mysterious guide (Keenan Wynn), and a glamorous pal (Angie Dickinson), it’s a magnetic, terrifying sight.

“Point Blank” steeps you in its L. A. locale: a surprisingly beautiful sunlit vision circa 1967. With Boorman going all out, this classic movie plays like a grand collaboration among Don Siegel, Alain Resnais and Jean-Pierre Melville. As for Lee Marvin, he’s at the top of his game. So is Angie.

Tuesday, Jan. 29

7:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.): “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955, Otto Preminger). With Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak.

3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.): “Anatomy of a Murder” (1955, Otto Preminger). With James Stewart and Lee Remick.

1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.): “Armored Car Robbery” (1950, Richard Fleischer). Fast, punchy heist thriller; with Charles McGraw as the tough cop on the trail of half a million. Also with William Talman (the brains) and Adele Jergens (the broad).

Wednesday, Jan. 30

Orson Welles

9:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.): “The Stranger” (1946, Orson Welles). Orson Welles is a post-war Nazi fugitive hiding in a small town, affianced to the lovely but gullible Loretta Young. Edward G. Robinson is the government man on his trail. That cast and this movie’s virtuosic staging and camerawork (by Russell Metty), would make it a gem for almost any other director. For Welles, it’s average, but gripping.

Saturday, Feb. 2

3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.): “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. Blurbed August 10, 2012.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz). With Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.) “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz). With Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth.

4 a.m. (1 a.m.): “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart and Walter Huston.

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Languid, noirish ‘Tabu’ blends romantic drama, visual beauty

Tabu/2012/Adopt Films/118 min.

“I was interested in characters we don’t usually meet in films, female characters with distinguishing temperaments and peculiarities” says Portuguese director Miguel Gomes of his film “Tabu.”

Indeed, the finely drawn yet ordinary characters are what drive the story in this languid, sometimes lyrical, film with a neo-noir love triangle at its core. “Tabu” starts slowly, introducing us to newly retired and somewhat restless Pilar (Teresa Madruga) and Santa (Isabel Cardoso), a maid to the elderly Aurora (Laura Soveral), who asks to see a mysterious man from her past once more before she dies.

Her request spurs an exploration of the dramatic life she led and the memorable men she charmed (Ivo Müller and Carloto Cotta) 50 years ago on a colonial farm in Africa, at the foothill of Mount Tabu. (Ana Moreira plays young Aurora.)

The flashback deftly mixes poetry, rock ’n’ roll, amour, adultery and, of course, societal taboos in a compelling and ultimately poignant yarn. By the end, we know Aurora, and the people around her, past and present.

Shot in black and white (35 mm for the first part, 16 mm for the second), “Tabu” has been snaring international awards for its unique blend of romantic drama and visual beauty. Though its unhurried pacing may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Gomes’ “Tabu” rewards the patient viewer.

“Tabu” opens today at Laemmle’s Royal in West LA and Laemmle’s Playhouse 7 in Pasadena.

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Noir City 11 festival kicks off in San Francisco

Peggy Cummins

The Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City film festival starts tonight at San Francisco’s Castro Theatre. The fest will present its most expansive schedule yet – 27 films – including three new 35mm restorations.

This festival kicks off with a tribute to actress Peggy Cummins, legendary for her ferocious performance as carnival sharpshooter Annie Laurie Starr in “Gun Crazy” (1950, Joseph H. Lewis). As always, Noir City will feature classics and rarities.

Opening weekend will feature the world premiere of two of the FNF’s latest film restoration projects: “Try and Get Me!” (1950, Cy Endfield) and “Repeat Performance” (1947, Alfred L. Werker).

The San Francisco festival runs Jan. 25-Feb. 3, 2013. The festival (with variations on the program) travels to several other cities throughout the year.

We at FNB can’t wait for the Hollywood fest, which usually arrives in April.

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Dita Von Teese returns to LA, NYC and launches advice col

Dita von Teese photo by Steve Erle

Dita Von Teese‘s STRIP STRIP HOORAY! returns to LA Feb. 12-15 and to New York March 6-9. Meanwhile, Dita is XOJane.com’s newest advice columnist. She will provide ideas, including styling tips, on incorporating glamour into your everyday life.

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The Noir File: Hawks and Hitchcock top this week’s list

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

“His Girl Friday” offered great roles for Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.

His Girl Friday” (1940, Howard Hawks). Sunday, Jan. 27, 2 p.m. (11 a.m.)

At a Hollywood party, director Howard Hawks decided to prove that Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s racy, breezy, brilliant Chicago newspaper play “The Front Page” – about corrupt politicians and cynical newsmen covering an execution – had the best comic dialogue ever written. Hawks picked up a script, started reading the lines belonging to double-dealing editor Walter Burns. He handed the other script, and the part of ace reporter Hildy Johnson, to an actress at the party. “My God,” Hawks said after a few salty, rapid-fire exchanges, “It’s better this way than it is with two men!”

“HGF” is the best ’40s noir comedy, with the best and fastest American comic dialogue.

So Hildebrand Johnson, a part for Pat O’Brien in the 1931 movie of “The Front Page,” became Hildegarde Johnson, a great part for Rosalind Russell in 1940 – not only Burns’ star reporter, but also his leggy ex-wife. Meanwhile, Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou in 1931) became a great part for Cary Grant. And “The Front Page,” thanks to Hawks, became “His Girl Friday,” the best ’40s noir comedy, with the best and fastest American comic dialogue.

In the 1931 movie of “The Front Page” (directed by Lewis Milestone), Menjou and O’Brien bat around the blistering Hecht lines with almost jaw-breaking speed and rat-a-tat overlap. In Hawks’ gender-bending remake, those terrific lines get even more overlapping virtuosity, supplied by the cool Grant and the hot Russell. Equally memorable was the actor who replaced Mary Brian as Hildy’s fiancé, the yokel husband-to-be Bruce Baldwin – the guy whom Cary describes at one point as “looking like that actor, you know, Ralph Bellamy.”

Wednesday, Jan. 23

4:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m.): “The Body Snatcher” (1945, Robert Wise). With Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Reviewed on FNB Oct. 27, 2012.

Thursday, Jan. 24

8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.): “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955, John Sturges). With Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin. Reviewed Sept. 7, 2012.

Friday, Jan. 25

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “Ocean’s Eleven” (1960, Lewis Milestone). Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop – the gang of elite show biz chums variously known as The Clan, The Rat Pack and The Summit – pull a super-heist in Las Vegas. (Shirley MacLaine does a cameo.) OK, but it could have used more songs. (Dino and Sammy sing; Frank doesn’t.)

Sunday, Jan. 27

Alfred Hitchcock

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The 39 Steps” (1935, Alfred Hitchcock). With Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll.

9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.): “The Lady Vanishes” (1938, Alfred Hitchcock) With Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood and Paul Lukas.

11:15 p.m. (8:15 p.m.): “Sabotage” (1936, Alfred Hitchcock). Hitchcock’s version of Joseph Conrad’s “The Secret Agent”: Marital problems among a couple who manage a London movie theater (Sylvia Sidney and Oscar Homolka), lead to espionage and terrorism. The film contains one of his most ingenious and terrifying suspense sequences.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Mafioso” (1962, Alberto Lattuada). A taut dramatic thriller: A hapless Italian immigrant and worker (Alberto Sordi) in the U.S. is recruited by the Mafia for a job in Sicily. In Italian, with subtitles.

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On the radar: photo l.a. show returns to Santa Monica, Lynch and Sirk films at the Aero, Carole Lombard classics on DVD

© Julius Shulman, Case study number 22, Playboy Image, C-print, 1960, Courtesy of Be-hold

Focus on style: photo l.a., now in its 22nd year, opens Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Work from 70 galleries and photography dealers from around the world will be on display. The show closes Jan. 21.

Auteurs at the Aero: On Friday, Jan. 18, at 7:30 p.m., the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica has a cool double-feature: David Lynch’s 1986 neo-noir “Blue Velvet,” starring Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper, and “All That Heaven Allows” (1955, Douglas Sirk), a subversive love story about the romance between a lonely widow (Jane Wyman) and her gardener (Rock Hudson).

The Carole Lombard DVD set

Lombard love: TCM is bringing three early and rarely seen Carole Lombard performances to DVD. Carole Lombard in the ’30s will be available exclusively through TCM’s online store beginning Monday, Jan. 21.

With her sparkling presence and sharp timing, the stunning Lombard delighted audiences in some of the greatest screwball comedies ever made, but she spent the early part of her brief career playing dramatic roles and romantic ingénues. (Lombard died in a plane crash in 1942.)

Highlighting her lesser-known films, this DVD set includes fully restored and re-mastered editions of “No More Orchids” (1932), “Brief Moment” (1933) and “Lady By Choice” (1934).

The collection also features an introduction by TCM’s Ben Mankiewicz and bonus materials, including production stills, behind-the-scenes photos, lobby cards and movie posters.

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The Noir File: Belafonte and Ryan in ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte lead a top cast in “Odds Aganist Tomorrow.”

Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959, Robert Wise). Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.). Here is one of the great, underrated film noirs – a movie whose reputation and stature was recognized early on by French critics and has continued to grow over the past half century.

Directed by Robert Wise, and based on a novel by suspense specialist William McGivern (“The Big Heat“), “Odds Against Tomorrow” boasts a riveting and exciting story, unforgettable characters and a social/political allegory that’s pointed and powerful.

Three mismatched New Yorkers – genial, corrupt ex-cop Dave (Ed Begley), brutal ex-con Earl (Robert Ryan) and reckless Johnny (Harry Belafonte), a nightclub entertainer with huge gambling debts – join forces for an upstate bank robbery, a well-planned heist that will supposedly solve all their money problems. But the problems are just beginning. Earl is a racist who hates Johnny on sight and Johnny has a short fuse as well. Things begin to unravel, then explode.

Gloria Grahame plays an extra-friendly neighbor.

Ryan’s performance is a scorcher; he‘s a perfect villain, bad to the bone. Belafonte’s is compelling and non-clichéd. (He was also one of the producers.) Begley’s is jovial but poignant, a Willy Loman-like salesman peddling his own destruction. The women in the case, a pair of bad blondes – Shelley Winters as Earl’s whining wife and Gloria Grahame as his slutty neighbor – are top-notch.

French noir master Jean-Pierre Melville named “Odds Against Tomorrow” as one of his three all-time favorite movies; the other two were: “The Asphalt Jungle” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Along with the 1949 boxing classic “The Set-Up” (which had Ryan in a sympathetic role, as the aging fighter) this is the best of Wise’s crime movies. The screenplay was mostly by the uncredited and blacklisted Abraham Polonsky (“Force of Evil“). The original jazz score is by John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet. The atmospheric black and white cinematography is by Joseph C. Brun (“Edge of the City”).

Tuesday, Jan. 15

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Deadline at Dawn” (1946, Harold Clurman). With Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas.

Wednesday, Jan. 16

8 p.m. (5 p.m.) : “Cry Danger” (1951, Robert Parrish). Fast, breezy revenge yarn, with Dick Powell looking for payback, and Rhonda Fleming, William Conrad and William Erdman standing by.

12:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Breaking Point” (1950, Michael Curtiz). With John Garfield and Patricia Neal.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Prowler” (1951, Joseph Losey). With Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman

Friday, Jan. 18

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “Notorious” (1946, Alfred Hitchcock). With Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Reins.

Saturday, Jan. 19

10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): “The Big Knife” (1955, Robert Aldrich). Clifford Odets’ backstage Hollywood shocker of a play is like a faceful of acid, and director Aldrich pulls no punches. Jack Palance is the beleaguered movie star Charlie Castle; surrounding him in an infernally corrupt studio system are Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters and Everett Sloane.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lolita” (1962, Stanley Kubrick). With James Mason, Sue Lyon and Peter Sellers.

3 a.m. (12 a.m.): “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955, Stuart Heisler). Color and Cinemascope remake of the Raoul Walsh-Humphrey Bogart-Ida Lupino gangster saga “High Sierra,” with the original stars replaced by Jack Palance and Shelley Winters. Inferior, but not awful. With Lee Marvin in his snarl mode.

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Author Tere Tereba to highlight Mickey Cohen’s Hollywood connections, real-life Gangster Squad

Pegged to Friday’s release of “Gangster Squad,” Tere Tereba, author of “Mickey Cohen-the Life and Crimes Of L.A.’s Notorious Mobster,” will read and sign books at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, January 16 at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood, 6644 Hollywood Blvd., 323-463-3273.

Tere will discuss Cohen and and his Hollywood connections, such as Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra. She’ll also share rare photographs and talk about the real-life Gangster Squad.

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‘Gangster Squad’ goes for gorgeous gloss over true grit

Gangster Squad/2013/Warner Bros./113 min.

The much-hyped new neo-noir “Gangster Squad,” set in 1949 Los Angeles, falls prey to the same stereotypical failing that marks some Angelinos, then and now: It’s a wannabe. On the plus side, the movie is glossy looking and elegantly styled (many famous locations, from Slapsy Maxie’s to Clifton’s Cafeteria, are stunningly presented) with a star-studded cast.

Directed by Ruben Fleischer, there’s action aplenty, though it never feels like there’s much at stake. And its superficial, often cartoonish, virtues are undercut by a weak script, uneven performances and tepid emotion.

That’s too bad, given the long-standing allure of vintage LA and the fascinating source material for the film: Paul Lieberman’s crime saga, “Gangster Squad: Covert Cops, the Mob, and the Battle for Los Angeles,” which was based on the work of a secret LAPD unit that aimed to guard the city against gangsters. (The book began as a 2008 LA Times series.)

Their primary target: the ruthless and immensely powerful mob leader Mickey Cohen, portrayed in the film by Sean Penn. Josh Brolin plays ambitious good cop Sgt. John O’Mara (married and devoted to his wife); Ryan Gosling turns in another spare, cool performance as the wayward Sgt. Jerry Wooters who tangles with Cohen’s supposed mistress (Emma Stone). A growling, leonine Nick Nolte as police chief William H. Parker must muddle through lines like this one, addressed to O’Mara: “Los Angeles is a damsel in distress. And I need you to save her.”

Penn’s Cohen has similar clunkers. He tells us: “Back east, I was a gangster, out here I’m God.”

The strong cast does what it can, with Brolin, Gosling and Stone making the best of what they are given. But, thanks to Will Beall’s cliche-ridden script, Nolte starts to get mannered and Penn gives us a 2-D Cohen, unrelentingly brutal and ever-menacing. As talented as Penn is, he doesn’t seem to connect with this character and physically he’s an odd choice to play a brawny baby-faced former boxer. In 1949, Cohen was 36; Penn is 52. And if you know much of Cohen’s backstory (he avoided sex because of his OCD disorder), it’s hard to buy into the love-triangle element of this story, which is only very loosely based on fact.

“L.A. Confidential” this is not. But if you fancy gorging on some glitzy eye candy, this should do nicely.

“Gangster Squad” opens today nationwide. You can read author Tere Tereba’s piece Beyond the Gangster Squad: the Real Mickey Cohen here. Tere’s book on Cohen was selected  by KCET as one of the best books of 2012. 

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The Noir File: ‘Spellbound’ and George Raft Day

By Michael Wilmington & Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Gregory Peck and Ingrid Bergman star in “Spellbound.”

Spellbound” (1945, Alfred Hitchcock). Sunday, Jan. 13; 4 p.m. (1 p.m.). At a famed psychiatric hospital, the head doctor (Leo G. Carroll) is being replaced by a younger man, Dr. Edwardes (Gregory Peck) – to the surprise and delight of his new colleague Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman), who falls in love with him almost at first sight. Unfortunately, this new boss soon proves to be an impostor, an amnesiac, and maybe even a murderer, wanted by the police. Soon, Constance and “Dr. Edwardes” are on the run. As they try to elude the law, Constance also tries to delve into the dark, traumatized recesses of her lover’s mind, in an attempt to clear him that may wind up condemning them both.

Both “Spellbound” Hitchcock and screenwriter Ben Hecht were deeply interested in Freudian psychiatry, and this “wrong man” thriller was initially intended at least partly as a serious look at psychiatry and psychoanalysis –even though the movie’s source is the somewhat baroque mystery novel, “The House of Dr. Edwardes,“ by Francis Beeding. But the powerful allure of Hitch’s two supremely photogenic co-stars, Bergman and Peck, swerved Spellbound more toward stylish romance than serious analysis. “Spellbound” proved to be one of Hitchcock‘s biggest box-office successes of the ’40s. The famous theremin-laced score is by Miklos Rosza, Rhonda Fleming and Michael Chekhov co-star, David O. Selznick produced, and the film’s hauntingly surreal nightmare sequence was originally designed by surrealist painter Salvador Dali (“Un Chien Andalou“).

Thursday, Jan. 10

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Crime in the Streets” (1956, Don Siegel). With John Cassavetes and Sal Mineo. Reviewed Oct. 13, 2012.

George Raft

Friday, Jan. 11: George Raft Day

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Each Dawn I Die” (1939, William Keighley). With James Cagney and George Raft. Reviewed Aug. 10, 2012.

9 a.m. (6 a.m.) “They Drive By Night” (1940, Raoul Walsh). With George Raft and Humphrey Bogart. Reviewed July 7 2012.

12:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.): “Background to Danger” (1943, Raoul Walsh). Based on one of Eric Ambler’s first-rate espionage novels, this on-the-edge anti-Nazi thriller, set in Turkey, backs up Raft (an unlikely Ambler hero) with Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet.

Other Raft noirs on Friday include “Johnny Angel” (2 p.m. E.T.), “Nocturne” (3:30 p.m.) and “Race Street” (5 p.m.). [Read more...]

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