‘Life of Crime’ a waste of time, talent; horror dumbed down; ‘The Last of Robin Hood’ a guilty pleasure

Life of Crime posterLife of Crime

Writing a “Life of Crime” review poses a challenge in that the movie, even though it’s based on an Elmore Leonard novel, is so slight and so bland I’d forgotten most of it by the next morning. Something about kidnapping, extortion, adultery and Milquetoast men …

Set in 1970s suburban Detroit, the film introduces us to what we hope will be a cast of edgy, funny characters but who, thanks to a crummy script from writer/director Daniel Schechter, turn out to be a bunch of insipid sad sacks. Jennifer Aniston’s Mickey is married to a rich and obnoxious jerk named Frank (Tim Robbins).

He is cheating on Mickey with Melanie (Isla Fisher). Mickey is cheating on him (sort of) with Marshall (Will Forte). Bad guys appear and kidnap Mickey, then tell Frank to pay up if he ever wants to see her again. But Frank balks, thus putting a wrinkle in the works.

Given the source material, this should have been a more engaging movie. The cast makes a valiant effort and, while there are a few laughs early on, there’s an oddly flat tone and zero atmosphere. It might have helped had the film been shot in a Detroit suburb (references to Woodward Avenue are shoe-horned in) instead of Connecticut, but somehow I doubt it.

As Above posterAs Above, So Below

Not long into John Erick Dowdle’s “As Above, So Below,” the plucky protagonist Scarlett (Perdita Weeks) rattles off a long list of her advanced degrees. Apparently, this impressive pedigree is meant to establish that Scarlett, an alchemist and explorer as well as a professor, is a multi-talented, ultra-capable, intrepid brainiac. Not.

That she’s not the sharpest tool in the shed becomes quite clear when she and her dumbass crew descend into the catacombs of Paris on a ridiculous quest to find the “philosopher’s stone,” which is said to yield material riches and eternal youth. Oh, and truth. That’s what motivates the learned Scarlett, natch.

What comes next is undiluted unpleasantness – life-threatening struggles involving blood, bones, rats, demons and ghosts galore (including Scarlett’s own deceased dad – deep, right?) and more blood and bones, all shot with a frenetic hand-held camera. That’s followed by a forced, tacked-on ending.

I hope Scarlett didn’t invest too much money getting those degrees. If she did, she got robbed.

Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn

The Last of Robin Hood

 Errol Flynn, by most accounts, was a charming, devil-may-care adventurer and actor, best known for playing Robin Hood and an assortment of big-screen Warner Brothers swashbucklers.

One of Hollywood’s most popular movie stars of the 1930s and  mid-’40s (he inspired the saying “in like Flynn”), the actor’s career had slipped by the 1950s. In 1957, Flynn, also known as a womanizer, began a relationship with a teenager named Beverly Aadland, an aspiring actress.

This strange and sleazy pairing is the focus of “The Last of Robin Hood,” by writers/directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. Bottom line: this is a guilty-pleasure flick.

Kevin Kline has fun playing decadent, debauched Flynn, Dakota Fanning shines as the precocious Bev and Susan Sarandon conjures sympathy for Bev’s sadly deluded mother, only too willing to look the other way.

If “The Last of Robin Hood” feels like a made-for-TV movie, that’s because it is. Originally made for Lifetime Films, this title has now secured a theatrical release.

“Life of Crime,” “As Above, So Below” and “The Last of Robin Hood” open Friday in theaters.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: ‘I Wake Up Screaming’ is a sleeper gem that won’t make you snooze

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Pick of the Week

Playing as part of Betty Grable Day.

Playing as part of Betty Grable Day.

I Wake Up Screaming” (1941, H. Bruce Humberstone). Saturday, Aug. 30. 11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.).

In the Neglected Works of Noir department, “I Wake Up Screaming” is just crying out for attention.

Director H. Bruce Humberstone made a fun and taut whodunit that’s also a treat for the eyes. The film stars Betty Grable (singer, dancer and pin-up legend in her first dramatic role) and Carole Landis as sisters Jill and Vicky Lynn, who quickly shed their homespun sensibilities as they fend for themselves in New York City. You can read the full review here.

Friday, Aug. 29 (Joseph Cotten Day)

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Under Capricorn” (1949, Alfred Hitchcock). With Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Margaret Leighton. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 17, 2012.

11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “The Steel Trap” (1952, Andrew L. Stone.) With Cotten, Teresa Wright and Jonathan Hale. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 26, 2012.

3 p.m. (12 p.m.) “Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor). With Bergman, Charles Boyer, Cotten, Dame May Whitty and Angela Lansbury. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 26, 2012.

6:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m.): “Journey Into Fear” (1942, Norman Foster & Orson Welles (uncredited). As he would later in “The Third Man,” star Joseph Cotten here plays an innocent American coping with corrupt WW2-era Europe. Based on one of novelist Eric Ambler’s brainy, tense, left-wing spy thrillers and set in war-torn Eastern Europe, the movie was faithfully adapted by the Mercury Theater Company, by their fearless leader, Orson Welles and his designated director Norman Foster. (Cotten also co-wrote the screenplay.) Like too much of Welles’ work, the film was mutilated in the cutting, but it still packs a Wellesian punch. With Dolores Del Rio, Agnes Moorehead and Everett Sloane.

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed). With Cotten, Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Citizen Kane” (1941, Orson Welles). With Welles, Cotten, Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Moorehead and Ray Collins. Reviewed in FNB on July 13, 2012.

Saturday, Aug. 30 (Betty Grable Day)

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “I Wake Up Screaming” (1941, H. Bruce Humberstone). See Pick of the Week above.

Blue Dahlia posterSunday, Aug. 31 (Alan Ladd Day)

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Glass Key” (1942, Stuart Heisler). With Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy and William Bendix.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “This Gun for Hire” (1942, Frank Tuttle). With Ladd, Lake, Robert Preston and Laird Cregar.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Blue Dahlia” (1946, George Marshall). With Ladd, Lake and Bendix.

Wednesday, Sept. 3

12 a.m. ( p.m.): “A Woman’s Face” (1941, George Cukor). With Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt, Marjorie Main and Henry Daniell. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Chicago welcomes Noir City 6: It’s a Bitter Little World

Too Late for Tears posterNoir City 6: It’s a Bitter Little World hits Chicago’s Music Box Theatre on Friday, Aug. 29. The fest, presented in partnership with the Film Noir Foundation, features classic noir films from France, Japan, Argentina, Spain, Italy and Britain as well as a sampling of homegrown Hollywood rarities.

“Our desire to expand the scope of the Noir City festival has resulted in our most ambitious program ever,” says Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller. “The 14 films in the series reveal that the cinematic movement known as noir spanned the globe, and its style, sexiness and cynicism crossed all international borders.”

The festival will kick off with the foundation’s latest 35mm film restoration, “Too Late for Tears” (1949, Byron Haskin), starring Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea, and a newly struck 35mm print of the tough-as-nails “Roadblock” (1951, Harold Daniels), starring noir favorite Charles McGraw.

The fest runs through Sept. 4.

Grab some Garrett’s popcorn, a Chicago tradition since 1949, and you’ll in be in retro-movie heaven!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Preminger provides hands-on direction in ‘Angel Face’

Angel Face/1952/RKO Radio Pictures/91 min.

Angel Face posterWho in his right mind would bitch-slap an angel? Well, in film-noir, no one is really in his right mind and in “Angel Face” Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) isn’t quite what you’d call a cherub.

No, her heavenly exterior (spoiled but stunningly gorgeous rich girl) masks a demonic core (cold-blooded killer). So when hysterical Diane takes a smack from her beloved Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) she hits him right back.

That’s cool for the characters, but I wonder what excuse director/producer Otto Preminger had? When filming the scene, Preminger insisted on repeated takes of Mitchum slapping Simmons.

Fed up, Mitchum slapped Preminger, asking, “Is that how you want it?”

Preminger retaliated by trying to fire Mitchum, but Howard Hughes, the real power behind the movie, refused. Hughes wanted Mitchum and Simmons. He wanted Simmons off-screen as well and made a pest of himself trying to seduce her, no matter that she was married to Stewart Granger.

With Preminger and Hughes harassing her, Simmons was lucky to have Mitchum around to stick up for her – you might even say he was her guardian angel. Maybe Preminger couldn’t handle the pressure; for contractual reasons, the whole film was shot in about 18 days.

The movie was knocked by critics upon its release, but was later ranked by the great French director Jean-Luc Godard as one of the 10 Best American Films of the Sound Era. It’s worth watching on that basis alone. Oh, and then there’s 90 minutes of looking at Mitchum. Mmmm. It’s worth watching on that basis alone.

Spoiled rich girl Diane (Jean Simmons) wants Frank (Robert Mitchum) all to herself. So there.

Spoiled rich girl Diane (Jean Simmons) wants Frank (Robert Mitchum) all to herself. So there.

Here’s the setup: Responding to a medical emergency at the Tremayne home, ambulance driver Frank meets a strange little family, with skeletons aplenty: Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion and do their best to avoid Dad’s stick-in-the-mud second wife Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O’Neil, who was also Scarlett’s mom in “Gone With The Wind”).

Diane gloms onto Frank, even though he has a girlfriend, the virtuous, slightly bland and aptly named Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman). Frank’s basically a good guy but loyalty isn’t his strong suit. Learning that his dream is to open a garage, Diane convinces her folks to hire him as the family chauffeur; she tells Frank that her indulgent parents might just throw some start-up cash his way.

But when Mumsy suddenly starts getting stingy, Diane decides to arrange a tragic car “accident” for the stuffy Mrs. Moneybags. What could go wrong? Well, Daddy could also get in the car (he does). And Diane and Frank could wind up getting charged with murder (they do).

Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion. Dad’s second wife Catherine (Barbara O’Neil) foots the bill.

Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion. Dad’s second wife Catherine (Barbara O’Neil) foots the bill.

Diane doesn’t sweat it, though. She can afford a pricey, clever lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames). Thanks to his legal maneuvering and the legal ineptitude of District Attorney Judson (Jim Backus, yep, that’s Thurston Howell III, aka Mr. Magoo), she and Frank are acquitted.

They’re free, but Frank’s not about to stick around, even though he knows firsthand that Diane has a knack for causing fatal accidents and that she has a way of getting all “If I can’t have him, nobody else can either” about things …

“Angel Face” is not a definitive noir. The camera work and lighting don’t contribute to a sense of doom or create a mood of suspense. There’s far too much sunshine and fresh air here. Dimitri Tiomkin’s romantic music lends lightness as well.

None of that should diminish its standing, however. This quirky flick – which owes a debt to “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) as well as 1945’s “Leave Her to Heaven” and “Fallen Angel,” which Preminger also produced and directed – has flashes of original brilliance: a splendid cast; perfectly symmetrical story structure; an unhurried pace. Frank Nugent, Oscar Millard and an uncredited Ben Hecht wrote the script from a Chester Erskine story.

“Angel Face” shows how noir flexed and began to reinvent itself in the ’50s, reacting less to post-war malaise and more to the conformity and quiet corruption of the 1950s. Note all the references to the power, temptation and ultimate taint of money. Nearly everyone becomes a victim of greed.

The trial scenes, with Preminger’s trademark long takes, prefigure his courtroom drama masterwork, “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959) starring James Stewart, George C. Scott and Lee Remick.

Mitchum is, gloriously, Mitchum. And Simmons makes an unforgettable Eisenhower-era femme fatale: the dangerous, decadent diabolical rich girl. When Godard and Jean Seberg created the treacherous beauty Patricia in “Breathless,” they must have been thinking, at least a little, of Simmons’ Angel Face, the gorgeous girl who got slapped.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

3-D ‘Sin City: A Dame to Kill For’ entertains, despite a so-so story and one-dimensional characters

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For/2014/Miramax Films/102 min.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For,” with its bold visuals based on Frank Miller’s graphic novels, is a slick 3-D homage to black-and-white cinematography. The snazzy images of Miller’s film (he wrote and co-directed with Robert Rodriguez) are its chief virtue.

Eva Green is superb as the Dame.

Eva Green is superb as the Dame.

In this follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City” (which Miller and Rodriguez directed with Quentin Tarantino), viewers are plunged into a perilous urban universe. Created with truly spectacular special effects and animation, it’s a sleazy, dazzling, self-contained world of inky black, shocks of bright white, stunning shades of gray and pops of color.

Unfortunately, Miller and Rodriguez devote much less effort to the story – an episodic tale of temptation, lust, murder, betrayal, revenge and vigilante justice. The stellar cast – including Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis and Eva Green as the title’s Dame, nail their parts but leave you wanting more. Since only a few of the characters move from one story to the next, there aren’t enough opportunities for these great actors to spark some chemistry and play off one another.

Does the fact that the story is mined from graphic novels mean we shouldn’t expect any depth, nuance or surprise? The narratives are underdeveloped and unsatisfying to a point that suggests laziness. (Why don’t we forget about that dialogue and just add another shot of Eva’s luscious body? Or have Jessica gyrate some more. Who’s gonna complain, right?)

Presumably, the filmmakers made an effort to portray a passel of kick-ass femmes fatales, but it felt like mere window dressing. Why, for example, does Jessica Alba’s character need to mutilate herself before going into battle? In the end, these women have very little power.

This Dame is fast, fierce and entertaining, but she’s no femme fatale in my book.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” opens today.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott fall into a deadly De Toth ‘Pitfall’

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can't wait!

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can’t wait!

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Pick of the Week

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). 4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) Monday, Aug. 25. De Toth was a sometime master at exposing the swamps of terror that could lie beneath the routines of everyday middleclass life. In this scary little noir quadrangle thriller, Dick Powell, who was one of the better Philip Marlowes, is a sort of lower echelon Walter Neff – an insurance man leading an apparently happy (if slightly dull) life who gets involved with a criminal’s sultry girlfriend (Lizabeth Scott). Jane Wyatt is Powell’s sweet bourgeois wife and Raymond Burr is an evil, lecherous private eye, who pulls all of them onto the dark side. That’s a terrific cast, noir to the hilt, and De Toth’s grim, methodical style is ideal for the cynical, unsparing James Cain-ish subject matter.

This pungent little film noir sleeper is part of Dick Powell Day. (Also showing on the big screen Friday night in Westwood: see previous post.)

Friday, Aug. 22: Audrey Hepburn Day

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (1967, Terence Young). With Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, Richard Crenna and Jack Weston. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2012.

Saturday, Aug. 23: Ernest Borgnine Day

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955, John Sturges). With Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Reviewed in FNB on April 7, 2012.

Sunday, Aug. 24: Gladys George Day

Maltese Falcon poster10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Flamingo Road” (1949, Michael Curtiz). With Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and Gladys George. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 19, 2012.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “The Roaring Twenties” (1939, Raoul Walsh). Ace newsman Mark Hellinger produced this punchy chronicle of three World War I vets, (explosive outlaw James Cagney, bad guy Humphrey Bogart and good guy Jeffrey Lynn) and their lives during Prohibition times and the gangster era after the war. It’s engrossing, exciting and salty as the best Walsh, Bogart and Cagney always are. Also with Priscilla Lane and Gladys George.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.). “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, John Huston). With Bogart, Mary Astor, Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ward Bond and George.

1:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.). “He Ran All the Way” (1951, John Berry). With John Garfield, Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 4, 2013.

Monday, Aug. 25: Dick Powell Day

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). See Pick of the Week.

9:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.): “Murder, My Sweet” (1944, Edward Dmytryk). With Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley and Mike Mazurki.

3 a.m. (12 a.m.): “The Tall Target” (1951, Anthony Mann). With Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Paula Raymond and Ruby Dee. Reviewed in FNB on My 6, 2013.

Wednesday, Aug. 27: Edmond O’Brien Day

D.O.A poster8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953, Ida Lupino). With Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman. Reviewed in FNB on June 6, 2013.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “White Heat” (1949, Raoul Walsh). With Cagey, Virginia Mayo, O’Brien and Steve Cochran. Reviewed in FNB on March 10, 2012.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “D.O.A.” (1950, Rudolph Maté). With O’Brien, Pamela Britton and Luther Adler.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film noir feast this weekend: ‘Sin City,’ Exile Noir and ‘Pickup’

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

There are several delectable film noir offerings this weekend in Los Angeles. First, a sequel worth seeing! That would be “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” by directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It’s a follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City.” (Miller adapted both scripts from his graphic novels.)

Sin City 2“Sin City 2” stars Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie opens Friday.

Following closely behind its Hollywood Exiles in Europe series, UCLA is hosting Exile Noir, a lineup that explores the major contribution to film noir by German-speaking émigrés in Hollywood, all of whom were schooled in German expressionist cinema. Exiled from Nazi Germany, Jewish writers and directors brought a dark vision to their work, informed by staggering loss, pain, fear and betrayal.

Their arrival in Los Angeles permanently altered the city’s creative landscape. As Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, recently told Susan King of the LA Times: “[Their arrival] changed not just the film industry and the kind of films that were being made, it changed the intellectual life. You have people who are not in the film industry but came here because of the weather and perceived opportunities, like [composer] Arnold Schoenberg and [author] Thomas Mann. They changed the intellectual character of Southern California.”

Pitfall poster 214The program, which runs through Sept. 28, kicks off with an impressive double bill: the prototype of the genre, “Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) and “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth), starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Jane Wyatt. In honor of “Double Indemnity” turning 70 this year, on Valentine’s Day, we compiled a list of 14 reasons we love this flick.

This series is presented in anticipation of the Skirball Cultural Center exhibit, Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950, running Oct. 23–March 1, 2015. More on that in the next few weeks.

Also, as I mentioned earlier this week, the Egyptian Theatre is showing Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” and “White Dog.” His daughter Samantha Fuller will introduce the movies.

There’s no doubt: Life is good for noiristas in Los Angeles!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Ryan to discuss working with film noir stalwart Lee Marvin

Mitch Ryan

Mitch Ryan

Actor Mitch Ryan will join Lee Marvin biographer Dwayne Epstein at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21, at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood to celebrate the paperback release of Epstein’s book, Point Blank.

Perhaps best known for playing Burke Devlin in the 1960s TV series “Dark Shadows,” Ryan also had a Hollywood career. He’ll discuss working with Marvin in “Monte Walsh,” (1970, William A. Fraker), a Western that co-starred Jack Palance and Jeanne Moreau.

Ryan and Epstein will present a clips reel of Lee Marvin TV appearances.

“Ah, stardom!” Marvin once said on the topic of fame. “They put your name on a star in the sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard and you walk down and find a pile of dog manure on it. That tells the whole story, baby.”

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece plays on the big screen

Pickup on South Street posterSam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” (see review and TCM listing below) will screen Friday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Sam Fuller’s daughter, Samantha Fuller, will introduce the film. His novel, “Brainquake,” recently published by Hard Case Crime, will be available for sale in the lobby.

“Pickup” will pair with 1982’s “White Dog.”

We at FNB celebrate the work of this in-your-face auteur, who unabashedly reveled in the seedy, touted the tacky, glommed onto the grim (not to mention the grime) and did his own thing until the very end. See you there!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: Sam Fuller plays rough in noir classic ‘Pickup on South Street’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in "Pickup."

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in “Pickup.”


Pick of the Week

Pickup on South Street” (1953, Samuel Fuller). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) Wednesday, Aug. 20. From the 50s heyday of vintage film noir and the Red Scare comes a hard-boiled gem. Trust me. They don’t make em any tougher, crazier or edgier than this grimy, sharp classic by Sam Fuller — a prize winner at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, and probably Fuller’s best movie. It takes place in New York City in the lower depths, the dark waterfront, the mean streets. Our “hero” is a ferret-faced natty pickpocket (Richard Widmark), who lives on the docks by night and, by day, strips suckers of their wallets on the subways.

After accidentally lifting some valuable microfilm capable of compromising national security, the thief is suddenly up to his neck with cops, with a rat’s nest of Commie spies run by Richard Kiley, with a beautiful, tight-skirted, loose-moraled streetwalker played by Howard Hughes missus Jean Peters, and with a scrappy fence little old lady huckster named Mo, played by the great character lady Thelma Ritter in her most atypical role.

If you haven’t seen “Pickup on South Street,“ you don’t know noir at its noirest. Or Thelma and Sam at their roughest and toughest.


Friday, Aug. 15 (Faye Dunaway Day)

3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.): “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967, Arthur Penn). With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 4, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Three Days of the Condor” (1975, Sydney Pollack). Robert Redford is a U. S. government reader and analyst whose world suddenly opens under his feet one day, when most of his colleagues are killed and he becomes a wanted man on the run. The quintessential paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller, this is a modern variant on the prototypical Hitchcockian “wrong man suspenser. Based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor,” it’s been copied endlessly, especially by novelist John Grisham. With Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and John Houseman.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in "Chinatown."

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in “Chinatown.”

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Chinatown” (1974, Roman Polanski). With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Burt Young. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 11, 2013.

Saturday, Aug. 16 (Herbert Marshall Day)

6: 15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Underworld Story” (1950, Cy Endfield). Big city reporter Dan Duryea gets exiled to a small-town murder case, in a plot that reminds you of Billy Wilder’s (later) “Ace in the Hole.” With Herbert Marshall and Gale Storm.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders and Herbert Marshall. Reviewed in FNB on March 26, 2014.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Murder!” (1930, Alfred Hitchcock). A guilt-stricken juror (Herbert Marshall) tries to clear a convicted murderer whom his vote condemned. One of Hitch’s best and most inventive early talkies. With Miles Mander.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Letter” (1940, William Wyler). With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and Gale Sondergaard. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 19, 2012. Followed at 1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.), by the 1929 film version of “The Letter,” directed by Jean De Lemur, starring the legendary lady of Maugham’s “Rain,” Jeanne Eagels.

Sunday, Aug. 17 (John Hodiak Day)

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). With Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

Coolhand Luke poster


Tuesday, Aug. 19 (Paul Newman Day)

1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.): “Harper” (1966, Jack Smight). With Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris and Arthur Hell. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.). “Cool Hand Luke” (1967, Stuart Rosenberg). With Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton. Reviewed in FNB on March 21, 2014.

Wednesday, Aug. 20 (Thelma Ritter Day)

10 p.m. (7 p.m.). “Pickup on South Street”: See Pick of the Week.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter