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Point Blank Redux
Payback is the third interpretation of Donald E. Westlake's novel The Hunter (1962), written under the pseudonym Richard Stark. A crime thriller novel, the first of the Parker novels. The other films are John Boorman's Point Blank (1967), starring Lee Marvin and Ringo Lam's Full Contact (1992), starring Chow Yun-fat.
Payback was directed by Brian Helgeland and written Brian Helgeland (screenplay) and Terry Hayes (screenplay), (theatrical cut). Cinematography was by Ericson Core, and music was by Chris Boardman.
The film stars Mel Gibson as Porter, Gregg Henry as Val Resnick, Maria Bello as Rosie, Lucy Liu as Pearl, Deborah Kara Unger as Lynn Porter, David Paymer as Arthur Stegman, Bill Duke as Detective Hicks, Jack Conley as Detective Leary, John Glover as Phil, William Devane as Carter, James Coburn as Fairfax, Kris Kristofferson as Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Sally Kellerman as Bronson (Director's Cut), Trevor St. John as Johnny Bronson (Theatrical Cut), Freddy Rodriguez as Valet, Manu Tupou as Pawnbroker.
There are two versions out there the theatrical release and the director's cut.
I've seen both versions. The best film version in my opinion would be roughly, the theatrical release with the narration and blue tint then go with the director's cut (but keeping the blue tint) to the ambiguous end. I'd keep the beating also.
The film looks great in a Noir-ish way. It homages beautifully classic noir with it voice over narration, the heavy use of stylistics and locations that evoke cinematic memory. Gregg Henry is impressive he evokes the spirit of Dan Duryea.Unfortunately the film goes somewhat slowly off the rails with various scenarios, i.e. Porter cutting a gas line under a an 80s Lincoln which would be physically impossible to do, you can't squeeze under that type of car, no way, and the unneeded extraneous additions of dominatrix Pearl (Liu ) and the Chinese Tong machine gun battle where it veers off into Action film and touches on Tarantino land, when it didn't have to, a shame. The majority of Films Noir were simple stories when you overload then with action sequences you tip the film past the noir tipping point it becomes more of the Action Genre, for me anyway.
Give it a fair shake your personal noir tuning fork may accept it more than mine does. Watch also the Film Soleil adaptation of the novel, Point Blank (1967), for a comparison, same story set in California. I haven't seen Chow Yun-fat's Full Contact (1992). Screencaps are from the Paramount DVD. 6.5-7/10
Miami Blues (1990)
Miami Blues is the first film based on Charles Willeford's series of novels featuring hard boiled detective Hoke Moseley. According to Lawrence Block "Quirky is the word that always comes to mind, Willeford wrote quirky books about quirky characters, and seems to have done so with a magnificent disregard for what anyone else thought."
Miami Blues is a Film Soleil Noir that cinematographer Tak Fujimoto infuses with a bright sunny tropical pastel pallet.
The story. Freddy Frenger ex con. Petty thief. Con artist. Freelancer. Narcissist nut job. Wings to Miami. In air identity theft. Get's a Hare Krishna come on. Breaks the cultists finger. Krishna goes into shock. Kicks the consciousness bucket. Krishna croaked.
Freddy with new identity. Hermann Gottlieb. Cruises the airport. Steals suitcase. Checks into hotel. Bellhop Pedro is the man to see. Orders some local talent. Susie knocks. Young. Looks like High School. Looks like jail bait. Waifish. Okeechobee outcast. Cracker clam. Dispenses fifty dollar sucks.
Freddy asks for ID. Freddy tries to trade her the suitcase clothes. Slow on the uptake. Susy will do it for a suitcase dress. Easy to BS. Easy to string along. Just what Freddy needs, and she can cook too. A perfect pair. They get it on.
Freddy and the clueless Susie have now become part of a long tradition of various combinations of couples on the run/lam that stretch from Gable and Lombard in It Happened One Night (1934) through Classic Noirs, Out Of The Past (1947), They Live by Night (1948), Gun Crazy (1950), Where Danger Lives (1950), Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951), Roadblock (1951), right up to Classic Neo Noirs, The Getaway (1971), Kill Me Again (1989), Wild at Heart (1990), True Romance (1993), Natural Born Killers (1994).
Meanwhile back at the baggage claim crime scene the Detective Hoke Moseley and Sgt. Bill Henderson investigate the case of the dead disciple. Hoke is a rumpled, coarse, depressed boozer. He wears store bought teeth, is strapped for money and lives in rundown residence hotel. Deco decadence.
Through rudimentary detective work Hoke traces down Freddy. But Freddy coldcocks Hoke steals his badge and becomes a freelancing loose canon a perverted Robin Hood who robs from the crooks and gives to himself.
Baldwin plays the quick to take advantage ex-con with bravado. His intense bright blues spotlighting a hair trigger sociopath tendency. Ward is great as the laid back Hoke, but you wish he had even more screen time to develop his character. Leigh is adequate as the hooker with a heart of gold, she may fit somebody's idea or type of hot but to me she seems almost too plain jane and a bit retarded. She does effectively convey the storybook girl who hopes her prince charming will rescue her from a life of going down on losers.
For me Armitage made the mistake of spending too much time on the Freddy-Susie relationship (probably a box office decision) and that robs us from getting more of Hoke Moseley who should have been the main star. Music by Gary Chang. 7/10
Kill Me Again (1989)
Nevada Desert Film Soleil
Film Soleil, the yang of Film Noir's yin. Credits roll. Desert. Distilled anti-city. Bright. Sun baked. Torrid. Wasteland 360 to the horizon.
Winnemucca. Nevada. A daylight heist. '76 Monte Carlo. Vince (Madsen) leather clad Elvis. Eye shades. Fay (Whalley), casino trash. She's the bait. Vince is the switch. Mob skim. Briefcase stash. Two couriers. One gets stupid. One gets cute. Vince drills him. He bites the Dust. Vince grabs the loot. Fay lays Chevy rubber. Desert desperadoes. They vamoose. Gone.
Two lane getaway. Briefcase opened. Woah! Fay's ecstatic. Dollar sign eyes. Money junkie. Gambling addict. Vince mad. Too much. Thirty times too much. Mob money. Gotta leave state. Gotta scram. Gotta get outta Dodge. Gotta Idaho. Hicksville. The boonies. Lay low.
Fay - No way. You go. Been there done that. We split it. Viva Las Vegas. Vince mad. Cowboy boot to brake. Hooks in. Rubber smokes. Vince and Fay have a tussle. Vince persuades. Fay comes 'round. Fay gets docile. They head North.
Pit stop. Rest Area. Vince gotta whiz. Doesn't trust Fay. Takes her and briefcase into the john. Vince starts watering the horse. Fay eyeballs rock door stop. Sees way out. Sees dollar signs. She grabs rock. Kisses Vince on the melon. He's still draining the main vein. Lights out. Fay grabs money. Fay grabs Chevy. Dollar Sign eyes. Looking for bright lights. Wants to hear that ding, ding, ding. Heads to Reno.
Motel. Fay checks in. Tabulates total on tabloid rag. $475,000. Almost half a mill. Tabloid blurb. "Wife fakes death and steals hubby's money." Fay get's brainstorm. Flips open phone book. Private Investigators. "A". First listing Jack Andrews. Lucky dog.
Jack Andrews (Kilmer) is a Reno PI about to go on the skids. He owes $10,000 to a loan shark. Payment due. He's late. A couple of meat heads are busting up his office. A warning. Jack gets feisty. Get's a broken pinkie finger for his trouble.
Fay goes fishing. Dresses in white. Innocence personified. She's pure as driven slush. Walks into Jack's. Got a plan for the man. Jack eyeballs Fay. Likes what he sees. Fay goes into her act. Turns on the tears. Sob story sister. Battered beauty. Abusive beau. Not right in the head. Displays her bruises. Cries crocodile tears. She wants Jack to fake her death. Get Vince off her rear. She'll pay $10,000. Half now. Half later. Jack's got Dollar Sign eyes. Fay is addictive. Money troubles solved? No, it's an invitation to the blues.
Our Femme Fatale Joanne Whalley-Kilmer has this quality of being able to look both extremely sexy and weaselly simultaneously. At times she's a bit swarthy, disheveled, and greasy. But she cleans up nicely in a low rent, low life sort of way. She can play sweet and demure when she's registering at a motel and wants the clerk to remember her. Other times she affects the look of a rat nibbling on a wedge of cheese. Her eyes slightly bulging at the moment you flip the lights on in the kitchen. She has an aura of rodent, I guess we can call it a rat girl vibe. She's jail tail.
Michael Madsen is always convincing as a homicidal psychopath. He was born to play these characters. In classic noir he would have been reverently type cast, on par with Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook Jr., Dan Duryea, and Raymond Burr. His dead eyes negate any facial expressions he may generate. You are looking into the abyss of mayhem and madness. You know he's nuts.
Val Kilmer as PI Jack Andrews has an Eagle Scout vibe. He comes off as competent P.I., who has had a string of bad luck. Swerving to miss a deer he loses control of his car and goes through a guardrail. He and his wife are plunged into a lake. He tries to save her. Only Jack survives and he's haunted by the tragedy. He is down but not out.
The finale sets up like this. Jack is after Fay. Vince and the police are after Jack. The mob is after Vince and Fay. It's quite entertaining, looks great, and it manages to homage a few Classic Noir's in the process. John Dahl really has a handle on Film Noir/Film Soleil. Music was by William Olvis. For his first effort Dahl earns a 7-8/10.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Noir meets the Modern Western
Film Soleil, those sun baked, filled with light, desert/tropical Noir/Neo Noirs.
"Change the darkened street to a dry, sun-beaten road. Convert the dark alley to a highway mercilessly cutting through a parched, sagebrush-filled desert. Give the woman cowboy boots and stick her in a speeding car, driven by a deranged man whose own biological drives lead him less often to sex than to fights over money. Institute these changes (to film noir) and you have film soleil." - DK Holm
In the city it's usually what you can't see that can kill you. In the desert everything you see can kill you.
Desert, the anti-city. Wide open spaces, exposed, agoraphobia. A stream-liner is snaking. A steel sidewinder.
Black Rock. Nowheresville. A Death Valley desert fly speck. Whistle stop. Somewhere on the California/Nevada border. The Southern Pacific RR. A dirt road main street. A baker's dozen collection of dilapidated buildings. The station. The beanery, Sam's Bar & Grill. A General Store abutting a barber shop. A two story hotel. A sawbones/morticians, a gas station, two residences and a rinky-dink hoosegow.
It must be Saturday. Hicksville. Everybody's in town. Cowboy porch lizards. Relaxin'. Shootin' the breeze. Waiting' for the Streamliner to blow through. She's Greased lightning. Like clockwork. The day's big excitement. A faint rumble. The train's a coming'. You can hear the drone of the F7's down the valley. The pitch changes. The horn blares. Station agent excited. She's stopping. A train hasn't stopped here in four years. What's up. Lizards all rubbernecking.
A man gets off. Looks like a city slicker. Suit, tie, fedora, suitcase. A Stranger. Ex career vet. A one hand man, Macreedy (Tracy).
Adobe Flat! The name raises bristles. He's looking' fer Komoko. It stirs the hornet's nest. The lizards get standoff-ish. Hostile. Downright cantankerous. The crap hits the fan. Oh Komoko he left town they tell him, sent to an internment camp.
They telephone the biggest toad in their pond Reno Smith (Ryan). But the cat's already out of the bag. Something is wrong, slantindicular, cattywampus. Macreedy knows they're lying. But he doesn't know why.
Cowboy Coley (Borgnine) is glassing Macreedy from a boulder patch. He ambushes him on the way back to town. Tries to run him off the road. Back in town Coley is still trying to provoke, trying to raise sand.
Spencer Tracy goes from stoically laconic to determinedly obsessed as the odds and the towns alienation build against him. Robert Ryan's unfriendly persuasion streaks more vicious as the truth is slowly exposed. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin are the two town bullies both are a few cards short of a full deck. Dean Jagger the town lawman and Walter Brennan a sawbones/mortician are the town drunks. John Ericson is a fidgety hotel keeper and Anne Francis servers as the film's nominal femme fatale.
The film juxtaposes the high desert grit of a weathered bleached bones town against a backdrop of astonishing but desolate beauty. The film has a fascinating Edward Hopperesque realism look to it. This was MGM's first release in Cinemascope. 10/10
Stakeout on Dope Street (1958)
Dobie Gillis Breaks Bad
Los Angeles. A dope bust goes bad, cops killed, satchel with heroin is gone, tossed down a hillside by the dying mule.
Ves (Haze) shacks with his pop above Connie's Grocery store. He uses the back store room as a sort of social club for himself and his buddies, Jim (Wexler) a budding artist, and Nick (Marlo) an ex high school athlete, weightlifter, and already has been boxer. They hang out at the local bowling alley where Jim has a girl Kathy (Dalton) who works the cash register.They are all pretty much stuck in dead end jobs, but they all have dreams.
Ves has grocery delivery route. Drives a 1951 Plymouth Concord Suburban. He spots a satchel. Grabs it. Finishes route and heads back to the ranch. Jim and Nick are in the back, hanging out. Ves comes in drops satchel. They start goofing around. Time wasting. They finally check out the satchel. It's locked, It's heavy. They force the lock. It's woman's stuff. They check it out. Split it up. They toss a two pound can marked face powder around. Juggle it. Toss it back and forth. They make a basket in the trashcan. Score! Satchel may be worth something. Head for the swap shop. Score a few bucks. They split for the lanes. They bowl, play pinball, Jim gives Kathy some perfume, all is well, life goes on.
Both mob and police are looking for the dope. The HEAT is on. Cops on prowl. Cops shakedown EVERYONE. The mob has muscle. The word is out. The mob leans on EVERYONE.
The story slips out. It's headline news. Jim spots the story. Jim runs to store. Shows Ves and Nick. Crap! We're RICH! Where's the dope? Ves dumped it in the TRASH. Check the trash. It's GONE.
The boys SCRAMBLE. Jump in the Concord. Mad DASH to the DUMP. Garbage trucks VOMIT. Rubbish in piles. The boys are diving through the loads. The landfill dozer is chugging. Against all odds they FIND it.
Of course, being a noir, instead of turning it in they decide to sell it. They don't call it DOPE for nothing. Nick who has a bit of a wise guy bent, knows a junkie named Danny who hangs around the garage he works at. The boys go to see Danny. Danny lives in a tar paper shack. Danny was flying high on China White. Danny has crashed and burned.
They wake him up. Danny is paranoid. Danny is leery. Nick shows Danny a bindle. Danny takes a taste. Danny WANTS it. Danny WANTS it BAD. Nicks says there is more. Nick says you sell it you get MORE. Danny says come back tonight.
Deal is done. Danny DELIVERS. The boys are getting FAT. The Doe is rolling in. They begin to flash wads around. Everything's COOL, everything's good until it all goes BAD.
The film has a great flashback sequence that occurs when Danny is telling Jim about the effects of horse and about the times he was busted put in jail and had to go cold turkey and suffered through horrendous agonizing effects of withdrawal.
The cinematography is impressive, the Cold Turkey sequence is almost surrealistic. It's also well acted and narrated by Allen Kramer. This was Haskell Wexler's first feature film and it shows great promise. The film is adeptly directed by Irvin Kershner who went on to a long career in TV and film.
The film functions quite well as a anti-heroin message that's also thoroughly entertaining. A nice little sleeper of a film, originally a Warners release. 7/10
Never Let Go (1960)
Never Let Go (1960) Seedy Brit Noir
Never Let Go is about the auto wrecking/salvage business, I guess called auto "breakers"/salvage in the UK, but an illegal aspect of it. When a late model car is wrecked it's title is saved and the car's engine number, chassis number, and body serial plates are transferred to a stolen car which is then resold under the wrecked cars title. Lionel Meadows (Sellers) is the kingpin of an auto theft ring. Titles are collected from wrecks by MacKinnon (Bailey), make, model, and year are put on a list. This list is given to Lionel who then gives the list to his boys who then steal the exact matches. These cars are then driven to Reagan's (Stock) auto body shop where the serial numbers are changed and the cars repainted to match the wrecked titles. The altered cars are then driven to Meadows Garage and sold.
John Cummings (Todd) is a milquetoast barely making ends meet as a London cosmetics salesman. One night he stops at Berger for a few hours to do some paperwork before heading home. While inside his car is pinched by Tommy Towers (Faith) who drives it to Reagan's (Stock) auto shop, where it will be altered.
John is devastated, he didn't get it insured for theft, just third party risk. John's wife wants him to forget about trying to get the car back. She's becoming distressed about his actions, actions which she, in a backhanded way, ignited. She told John that he was always chasing pipe dreams that he never caught and made reality. That sets John off, determined to "never let go" until he gets his Anglica back.
John's obsession and alienation from his wife increases steadily throughout the remainder of the film. This change is convincingly well acted by Todd who goes from soggy milquetoast to hard crust burnt toast. Peter Sellers though is practically unrecognizable. His Meadows character looks like his pudgy evil twin. He's frighteningly different, very twisted from the comedic Sellers we are used to. He sports a push-broom mustache. He is petty, vicious, vile, and has the facade of an outwardly polite charmer. Meadows pseudo smiles, only with his mouth not his eyes. He's a fastidious over the top neat freak, complaining about Jackie's untidiness, placing coasters under drink glasses and ranting about lit cigarettes left on veneer. He also has a sexual sadistic kink with his mistress Jackie. He's a pressure cooker slowly building as things in his little world go awry. He has startlingly violent outbursts. Like a safety valve he's letting off steam, but it's not helping, you know there will be the inevitable explosion as he rages on about the "little nob, lipstick salesman" , and how he's going to "kill him. put him in his car, and burn it!"
Never Let Go builds nicely to an inevitable showdown punctuated by John Barry's score. It's what a noir should be, about interesting small time characters and simple conflicts that spiral bizarrely of control. Bravo 9/10
Natural Born Killers (1994)
Natural Born Killers (1994) Noir on Acid
A surreal, satirical, Neo Noir, sensory overdose. A psychedelic, acid road trip to Hell.
It's a bizarre black comedy satire of the American 24 hour news cycle celebrity/violence culture, much in the vein of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) satire of mutual assured destruction, and A Clockwork Orange (1971) satire of ultra violence.
Believe it or not I'd never seen this film until last year. I hadn't even heard of the controversy surrounding the film. I can see why though. It's because it hits too close to home, it's too real, it touches a nerve, there's an inconvenient veracity of cause and effect to it all. Is it Nature, a frightening genetic component of human beings that is in all of us. Or is it Nurture, as is illustrated through the fragments of flashbacks we get of Mickeys and Mallory's abominable family life, that causes them to go off the rails, if the wrong code buttons are pushed?
I've been going through the Neo Noir lists from various sources and either viewing or acquiring those titles that I'd either never heard of or just missed. I believe my experience of watching this was all that more enhanced since I've begun delving into Noir and Neo Noir so heavily. This personal steeping in everything Noir has given me a huge visual catalog of cinematic memory ripe for discharge. This film may not work the same going into it cold turkey.
Natural Born Killers, gets my synapses sparking. My RPMs are red lining. Like a delayed strobe the film sporadically flashes between Black & White and Color film, it has these insanely canted Dutch Angles while at other times they tilt, back and forth, teeter-totter like along with other visual Noir stylistics. It uses documentary style footage and live breaking news parodies, animation, TV sit com satire, super 8 film sequences, TV quasi News Special Bulletins, and music video style promos. It is hyper violence mixed with cultural and natural Iconography all in a assault on the senses. Every potential affront to sanity and integrity is exploited. It's an indictment of the media feeding frenzy we have with disasters, mass murder, terrorist attacks, and public executions. It's INSANITY, with a complimentary soundtrack, and it's as American as apple pie.
They got their kicks on Route 666. Our tale begins with the desert and a montage of natural born killers, a wolf, a rattler, a hawk, it then segues to the human kind.
Natural Born Killers is full of these little "just killing", (as Donald Trump uses the phrase) picaresque noir vignettes and others, that flesh out the characters and propel the tale forward, that stick in my mind amidst all the designed chaos.
Here is one can call Mallory The 1990s Femme Fatale, where a jealous Blondie-Mallory goes off half cocked away from Mickey. During a love making session Mickey is paying more attention to the pretty hostage they have tied up in their motel room that to her.
Mallory ends up seducing a town pump gas jockey on the hood of a Corvette in the garage bay. She hops up on the hood of a Corvette Stingray and wants him to "go down". He starts to do so but loses control jumping up on her. Mallory frustrate-edly pushes him off pulls a revolver out of her bag and blows him away. She then grabs her shed panties and flings them at the corpse exclaiming "that was the worst head I ever got"! and stomps off.
Other times these vignettes are just brief homages to the past cinema. When Mickey and Mallory are dancing at the diner the sequence changes from full traditional lit color to a silhouette reminiscent of Astaire & Rogers Musicals shot in low key chiaroscuro. We also see Horror and Monster movie clips.
The vast pans of the Southwest deserts, and a prison farm escape during a Wizard of Oz tornado, recall countless Westerns.
Again, over all, Natural Born Killers is not about Mickey and Mallory but about the infamy of their killing spree and the nutjobs they attract. A Geraldo Rivera inspired TV expose program American Mainiacs, is hosted by a shock journalist Wayne Gale who affects a Robin Leach accent and provides a live Lifestyles of the Depraved commentary on the hunt for Mickey and Mallory, their capture, trial and a year later on a prison riot. The program as Wayne Gale puts it is " for all the morons watching out there in zombieland."
Tom Sizemore is Jack Scagnetti a high profile celebrity cop, author of "Scagnetti on Scagnetti" who is seriously warped. Tommy Lee Jones is redneck Prison Warden Dwight McClusky and Everett Quinton is Deputy Warden Wurlitzer who does a pretty good impression of Hugh Cronyn in Brute Force.
You'll find yahoo's on either end of the spectrum will superficially either embrace this film for all the wrong reasons or condemn it, rather than see it for the statement it makes about the sick state of the media news cycle trap that feeds current society where even the really wicked sometimes, get off scot- free.
Caution this film will not be for everyone. Artistically intellectualized chaos, everything is over the top in this film, what a trip 9/10
To Live and Die in L.A. (1985)
Smog Noir in the City of Angels
Beautifully bleak and highly stylistic. This film actually makes a lethally smoggy industrial West Coast/LA sunrise jaw dropingly gorgeous, perverting the normal aesthetic. Palm trees compete with power poles and high tension lines that diffuse into a yellowish soup. Rail yards and wrecking yards are bathed in golden light. All this segues into a montage of a series of varied illegal counterfeit $20 bill transactions.
The tale is about three US Secret Service Agents who are headquartered in L.A. When not providing security for a visiting POTUS (President of the United States) they do field investigation work for the US Treasury, targeting counterfeiters.
Richard Chance (Petersen) and Jim Hart (Greene) are top notch agents. Chance the cock of the walk, is a bit reckless, a bit overconfident, a bit of a jock, a bit shady, he even shacks up in a "safe house" with a stripper Ruth Lanier (Darlanne Fluegel) that he uses as a "stoolie with benefits". He holds her probation and the ability to see her daughter as leverage.
Agent Hart is the veteran, steadfast, partner who is almost a father figure to Chance.
A day after Hart's retirement party at the Dog Run Bar, and with only a few days left on the clock, Hart heads off on one last surveillance assignment. He drives out into the desert to check on a warehouse suspected of housing counterfeiting equipment. With binoculars he checks out the site belonging to counterfeiter Rick Masters (Dafoe).
Hart, thinking the site is deserted approaches and jumps the fence. He starts to poke around and finds a trash bag full of cropped currency paper in a dumpster. Masters and Jack, his bodyguard, surprise and kill Hart. Leading a team of agents to Masters desert warehouse Chance discovers a pool of blood soaking into the dirt from Hart's body lying in the dumpster.
Chance gets assigned a stuffy new partner John Vukovich (Pankow), a no nonsense by the book professional. Chance tells John that he is making taking down Masters a personal vendetta.
The film has a 80's techno Wang Chung pounding beat. The cast at that time (save for Dean Stockwell) where pretty much all unknowns. The mayhem ratchets up nicely and unpredictably throughout the film. It's an anti buddy cop film.
Gritty, flamboyant, caustic, beautifully bleak 9/10
The Beat Generation (1959)
Crazy man, dig?
Another Tail Fin Noir (barely), a curiosity on the cusp of Classic Noir/Neo Noir
The Beat Generation is somewhat in the vein of Detective Story (1951) the ensemble film that takes place in a New York City Police Precinct Detective squad. In Detective Story, Kirk Douglas plays an embittered morally superior cop McLeod who crusades against NYC's lowlifes. In the course of his pursuit of a Doctor Schneider who is an abortionist he discovers that his wife Mary, whom he had assumed was virginal and pure on the day of his marriage has had an abortion after she had a liaison with a racketeer named Giacoppetti. Mary confesses this her husband, and asks his forgiveness. McLeod tells her in a misogynist rage that "he'd rather die than find out his wife is a tramp." He then asks if her infertility was caused by Schneider's abortion.
In The Beat Generation Steve Cochran plays a Sergeant of Detectives Culloran, who is after a serial rapist dubbed "The Aspirin Kid" Stan Hess, (Ray Danton) a quasi "Beat" coffee house guru, who charismatically attracts women but is in reality a misogynist. The Kid's M.O. is to impersonate the friend of his victim's husband, boyfriend, etc., etc., by saying that he's there to pay back some money that he borrowed. He then gains entrance to their house by saying he needs a pen to write his check. Once inside he fakes a headache, and asks the victim for a glass of water so that he can take a aspirin. While the victim is out of the room he puts on leather gloves and lies in wait, attacking them from behind and raping them upon their return.
Leaving his latest victim The Kid is lightly hit by a car driven by Culloran, when he jaywalks out in the road, he's picked up and innocently given a ride to an emergency room. While making small talk Culloran reveals that he's married but is working late nights on the Aspirin Kid Case. The Kid spots a letter addressed to Culloran and memorizes his address, writing it down. The Kids next victim is Culloran's wife. She subsequently gets a "bun in the oven", and Culloran begins to show his own misogynist streak, blaming the women victims for getting raped. His wife wants to get an abortion, which puts Culloran into destructive obsessed overdrive trying to solve the case so that he can find out The Aspirin Kid's blood type. This all alienates him from his wife and friends.
Both Detective Story and The Beat Generation are examples of films with slim to none Noir visual stylistics, they are NIPOs, Noir In Plot Only type films that get listed in the Noir Canon more for the dark subject matter (at that time period) of their plots than for the cinematography.
The Beats are your stereotypical Maynard G. Krebs beatnik's dressed in torn sweatshirts, goatees, black sweaters, berets, sunglasses, horizontal striped shirts, ponytails and leotards, Some are grooving to the jazz some are stone still. Other's walk around dazed carrying abstract sculpture. Stan Hess dressed in black is sitting at a table reading Schopenhauer. Meg a blonde in spaghetti straps is beside him. We get full frontal beatnik jive dialogue heavily seasoned with the culture's Zeitgeist of impending nuclear destruction.
The huge ensemble cast has some standouts, watch for Jackie Coogan (pre Uncle Fester from The Addams Family) in a serious turn as Culloran's best friend and fellow detective Jake Baron. James Mitchum, doing his daddio's eyelids at half mast schtick. Sexpot Mamie Van Doren as a divorced women on the make who turns the tables on Mitchum, Maila Nurmi (Vampira, pre Ed Wood's Plan 9 From Outer Space) reciting poetry with a pet rat on her shoulder, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom the wrestling beatnik, and a guy billed as just Grabowski.
The film has a bit of cross dressing humor as the Coogan and Sid Melton in drag try to bait a lovers lane bandit . It also seems to cram in some of society's in things of 1959, hula hoops, California mussel beach blanket culture, even references to TV's Sea Hunt with a scuba sequence, I'm surprised it didn't have some surfing too. Like a lot of Hollywood films that attempted to replicate the 60's you get the impression that the Beat Generation wasn't just a man with a goatee and beret reciting nonsensical poetry and playing bongo drums or a base without strings, while pony-tailed babes wearing black leotards dance in abandonment. lol. Soundtrack is Jazz, torch songs, bongo music. As a visual Noir it's a 5/10 it's pretty hard to get that claustrophobic atmosphere in a film shot in 2.35:1 CinemaScope, as an entertaining window onto a frozen moment of a quickly changing culture filtered through a Hollywood reflection 7/10. Crazy Man, Dig?
A Walk on the Wild Side
Directed by Sondra Locke this is a gritty story of an Los Angeles femme fatale vice cop Lottie Mason (Theresa Russell) and her "Walk On The Wild Side" of cusp of Noir. It is a dance with with death, love, power and temptation. It's probably one of the Last of the Warner Brothers Noirs.
A piano riff dissolves the blackness into an elevated view of a sleazy Hollywood, hot sheet motel block, at the corner of Las Palmas and Sunset Blvd., one of those all look alike City of Angels low profile strips. Time the late '80s, Madonna is in vogue. The scene is accented by wet pavement reflecting neon. A long ringletted blonde "angel" is strutting her stuff in tight gold Lamé snakeskins, but this celestial Femme Fatale has clipped wings. She's trolling the midnight drift, a lure with hooks. Lonely sad losers cruise the mainstem scoping the fast skirts that will get them a shot at 20 minutes of ecstasy. The opening title sequence displays the workings of the vice stakeout with the excellent noir-ish stylistic cinematography of Dean Semler. The piano riff repeats and become a leitmotif for Lottie's darkside.
Impulse is set strictly in Squaresville, it's a story of the world of hard working cops doing their everyday busts. Lottie's night in and night out tolling the low company is affecting her personal life. Her various Vice assignments, i.e., impersonating a streetwalker, a junkie, a B-girl hooker, a drug dealer has her visiting the division PR office and the psychiatrist/counselor on a regular basis for an hour session mandated by Internal Affairs. They want to know if having to lie and deceive on a regular basis is affecting her job. Her Doctor, Dr. Gardner seems more interested in her personal life her debts and her love life. Lottie when questioned about her torpedoed relationships states that she's only been with cops and she rattles off squads, Vice, Homicide, and Bunco rather than names. Gardener asks about Lottie's quasi-stalker encounter with Lt. Joe Morgan (George Dzundza) an ex boyfriend that she didn't report. Lottie says it's because he'd say she encouraged it. But Lottie makes a confession that she is mainlining on the power of her femininity while staring at her reflection in the window in a great sequence:
Another assignment has Lottie going undercover as a heroin junkie in a shooting gallery, this combined with a second storyline concerning a 2 year old case, a witness protection program witness and a double cross drug deal in NYC brings a District Attorney named Stan (Jeff Fahey) into Lottie's world. Stan is attracted to her and they have an affair though Lottie is still a bit standoffish a bit gun-shy.
After an adrenaline rush chase down a high-rise and shootout with two drug trafficking perps in a grocery, Lottie is on stressed and on edge, Stan tries to comfort her but she wants him to back off and give her space. She takes off in her Camaro to unwind. She gets a flat tire drives into a service station and while the tire is changed drops into the bar across the street and into Noirsville.
At the bar she's picked up by Tony Peron (Shawn Elliott) who is coincidentally and unbeknownst to Lottie, the drug dealer partner of the man Stan has in witness protection. He asks her if there was anything in the world she could do what would it be. Lottie tells him "I'd get on a plane and go somewhere I'd never been". Tony pulls out a deck of hundred dollar bills and counts off ten, Lottie tells him she wants to go "first class". Tony adds another five, but tells her that first she'll have to go to his house. On impulse Lottie picks up the dough and follows him out to his Beverly Estates house.
When Tony gets her to his place he begins to get busy with it. Lottie holds him off telling him she wants to freshen up. Tony tells her to use the upstairs bedroom bath. Lottie has second thoughts as she stands by vertical blinds in a nice sequence. Afterwards while washing her face she hears two gunshots, and peering down the stairway spots Tony dead on the tile floor. The shooter is actively searching the house. Since her gun was confiscated after the recent shooting Lottie scrambles to hide from the killer.
The shooter leaves the house and Lottie checks out Tony popped twice in the head. She goes through his clothes finding a locker key in his jacket. She wipes down all the surfaces she touched calls the cops disguising her voice and splits. At the airport the next day she opens the locker and finds a suitcase with close to a million dollars.
Sondra Locke did a wonderful job at directing this little Neo Noir gem. The writing by John DeMarco and Leigh Chapman, is competent and consequently the characters are very well developed. This is Theresa Russell's best performance. The rest of the cast are Jeff Fahey as Stan, George Dzundza as Lt. Joe Morgan, Lynne Thigpen as Dr. Gardner, and Shawn Elliott as Tony Peron. The music by Michel Colombier is great along with the various pieces that comprise the soundtrack. Again I can't say enough about the Noir stylistic cinematography which is excellent.