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72 reviews in total 
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Longing (2006)
Low Key Triangle Drama With Several Unusual Aspects, 13 October 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Sehnsucht (Longing) is an interesting variation on the clichéd triangle romance, as its (female) writer-director stresses, for the most part, a grounding in the banal day-to-day realism of a small town. The movie is centered on the young husband, Markus, who we see doing his bit as a volunteer for the fire brigade and at his job as a metal worker focusing on locks. He seems happy with his wife (who is aggressive about how much she wants him) and son, but in the course of a brigade trip to another small town meets a waitress in a pub and suddenly wakes up in her bed, not sure what he's gotten into. Director Grisebach employs either rather close shots of the participants, often in steamy passion, or longer shots where we are distanced, which then take us out of the story aspect and let us look more at the surroundings. She has used some of the townspeople in the Brandenburg villages where it was shot to add a non-professional documentary dimension to the presentation. At several points though there are sudden,jolting lurches into melodrama such as when the waitress falls off her balcony after Markus has told her he wants to break up; or when Markus, who we see then back at work, tries to kill himself. The movie's highpoint is the charming epilogue in which a group of local children share the story of what we have just been through, try to understand it from their point of view, and leave us guessing as to what its resolution will be. If Grisebach, who has directed only one other feature, is not quite up there with Ida Lupino, who made a similar film, The Bigamist, about a man sharing two women, she shows at least with this scene that she has a talent to keep in mind for the future

Several Beautifully Shot Noir Scenes In Tri-State Gang Thriller, 24 August 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The HD copy of Highway 301 currently available through Warner Archive is a special treat for those who appreciate noir cinematography. The picture starts off with location footage of Winston Salem, North Carolina, one of the three states in which our gang of robbers moves back and forth. (In the intro which precedes the opening bank heist, the real governors at the time of North Carolina, Maryland, and Virginia attest to the ominousness of these fact-based exploits, one of them even describing them as "criminal terrorism.") But after another heist, this one of a railway express truck where the stolen money turns out to be cut - gang leader Steve Cochran later describes it as "shredded wheat"- the last part of the film turns into more of a studio bound, moodily photographed exercise in noir style. The first such scene shows Cochran trying to escape from cops, after his partner has been shot, through the dark, wet streets. The second, especially exciting scene shows the French-Canadian wife (Gaby Andre) of one of the other crooks (Robert Webber) fleeing through a park at night,to escape Cochran who she suspects will kill her because she knows too much- she lands up getting into a cab which turns out to be driven by Cochran! The film climaxes in a tense hospital episode where another of the gang women (especially well played by the underrated Virginia Grey) pretends to be a reporter, so she can scope out the setup where Andre, shot earlier by Cochran, is hidden and the gang can finish the victim off, she almost fools the police sergeant. Carl Guthrie's lensing of these three sequences along with Andrew Stone's writing and direction make of this seemingly ordinary crime picture something memorable.

Veteran Writer Crane Wilbur Enriches Prison Formula, 19 August 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you see the name Crane Wilbur in the credits, either as writer or director, especially if it is a crime picture, you can be sure that it will be above average. Wilbur used his skills as a veteran actor (going as far back as the silent Perils Of Pauline serial) as an author and later as a director to deepen the quality of the genre work he took on, often through research before shooting, so that the results had more unusual dialogue and a richness of realistic detail. Here he starts off what is basically a standard movie formula by having the prison itself, in this case Folsom, narrate the story! The plot pivots on the contrast between sadistic warden Ted De Corsia who wants to restrict the menu his inmates can eat ("Beans three times a day") and a well meaning new captain of the guard David Brian who believes in psychology and compares the De Corsia character to history's dictators (" You're as much a psychopathic case as any man in here") The treatment also benefits from use of the real Folsom location, touted in the opening (it would later be used again in such as Revolt In The Big House) some nice lensing (the scene where 5 convicts in a cell make plans, after the lights have been turned off early, their faces glimpsed in the dark) and effective musical underscoring by William Lava. If there is a big flaw in the film it's the decision to portray the brutal conditions as something way in the past- the turn of the century, in fact- and to assure the audience at the end with the return of narration that things have now improved, a somewhat false sweetness and light conclusion. If you want to learn more about Wilbur's fascinating career I recommend the biographical article by scholar Brent Walker in the Spring 2011 issue of the publication Noir City. Walker says that Inside The Walls Of Folsom Prison "may be Wilbur's signature work."

Good Actors Lift Level Of Standard Prison Pic, 19 August 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is a standard prison picture helped by the presence of a number of good actors.Tough guy Gene Evans, whose story is told in flashback, stars as Gannon, a big time criminal planning a break out where his fellow convicts will get gun parts smuggled in from connections outside, hidden in boxes of large soap cakes,conceal them inside bales of jute being stored in the mill area, and assemble them until they are ready to use. In the climax, where the prisoners all burst out of their cells, taking food from the canteen and generally rioting, there is an exhilarating rush from seeing these men strive for their freedom. The Evans character, however, deliberately lets others be killed by the guards he knows are waiting on the other side, so he can selfishly sneak over a wall a different way on his own. Robert Blake co-stars as a young Latino convict Gannon grooms to become embittered enough to help them. Rather than hire a real Latino performer, Hollywood at the time often used actors with a vaguely swarthy background (Blake came from Italian stock) and cast them as Mexicans or Indians. There is a subplot involving the trouble the Blake character gets into with the heavy set captain of the guards, played by Walter Barnes, who is a racist: At one point the Latino is called a "little chili picker," at another the captain tells a group of inmates speaking Spanish, "From now on you monkeys better stick to English."Timothy Carey delivers another of his patented weirdo jobs as Bugsy, running a racket inside. John Qualen as an older prisoner acts as more of an observer, who stands back and reacts to what is going down with bemused, quizzical expressions. And in a somewhat smaller role Emile Meyer is on hand as the warden. He had previously played the warden in the much superior, Don Siegel directed prison film, Riot In Cell Block 11. Meyer was usually cast as an authority figure: a police official or detective, or a sheriff if in a Western.

Pretty Good Prison Vehicle For Perry Lopez, 19 August 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Perry Lopez is one of a number of not so well known actors of Latino ancestry who tried to make a career in old Hollywood, with its prejudices and casting limitations. This fairly conventional prison picture gives him a rare starring role, in which he acquits himself admirably, as a bookie trying to support a wife and a baby she's going to have soon. He thinks "the combination," as they call it in the parlance of the time, will pay off the judge to keep him from going to jail when he's caught, but no dice. The prison scenes are enlivened by the presence of stalwart tough guys Ted De Corsia (as combination honcho ) and Leo Gordon (his enforcer) and by the cinematography of veteran Peverell Marley. There is an interesting scene in which the cops use what they describe as an "identicast" to get the neighbor of Lopez's wife to give a better description of two phony policemen she saw take the wife away from her apartment building. In a somewhat sappy conclusion, all ends well and the Lopez character gets out to see his wife again and their new baby. The writer-director Walter Doniger worked later mostly for TV, there is an excellent,detailed IMDb bio on him by fellow contributor I S Mowis.

Hot Rod (1950)
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Fun Jimmy Lydon Vehicle A Treasure Trove Of Souped Up Cars, 17 August 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Hot Rod is a fun little Monogram, shot by the great silent cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton (Lonesome) and starring Jimmy Lydon, who'd played Henry Aldrich in that film series, as a likable school kid who is frustrated when his rival for the girls can show him off by driving faster in a souped up hot rod. The boy's father, played by Art Baker, is a strict judge who doesn't approve of such hot rods and only reluctantly allows his son even to get a car for his new job delivering the paper. In a somewhat contrived Hollywood plot detail the boy's older brother is one of the small town's cops. All works out well when the boy uses his car, which he has fixed up into a hot rod without his father knowing, to help apprehend a robber. Then the judge gives his OK to the opening of a legal timing strip, where the youth can work out their energies without getting into as much trouble. The boy's sidekick, Swifty, is played by a squeaky voiced Gil Stratton, who delivers some amusing humor, which reminded me a bit of the more well known smart aleck kid actor William Tracy. Those who are more into car culture than I am will get a kick out of seeing the period postwar automobiles that are used.

Interesting Early Youth/Drugs Entry, 17 August 2015
7/10

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The underrated director Irvin Kershner is best known for the second Star Wars film but early in his career specialized in films and TV programs about troubled youth. I've seen an episode of the series Confidential File he directed on the danger posed to youngsters by comic books, and one of his best theatrical jobs, Hoodlum Priest. This was his first feature and has interesting credits: photography by Haskell Wexler (under a pseudonym)a jazz score by Richard Markowitz performed by the Hollywood Chamber Jazz Group, and as one of the three protagonists, Jim, a nice role for Haskell's younger brother Yale Wexler. Jonathan Haze, who would star two years later as Seymour in the cult success The Little Shop Of Horrors, plays one of the other boys, Ves. The story of teenagers finding abandoned drugs (at first they are so naive they think the heroin is pimple powder) suffers somewhat from obtrusive Dragnet-style narration and most of the other players are little known "B" performers. The treatment is also rather melodramatic, such as the climax in which Jim is pursued by syndicate thugs on his trail to the top of a power tower at night. But there is a long, striking sequence in which an older man, an addict named Danny, warns Jim in lurid detail about the consequences of drug addiction; as we see scenes of Danny writhing in a prison cell in withdrawal we hear his voice-over. The episode bears comparison to the more famous scenes of Ray Milland as an alcoholic having the DTs in The Lost Weekend Here and elsewhere in the picture Kershner and Wexler use high angles (e.g through the bars above the cell) for dramatic effect. The period detail of LA locations shot in 1957 such as a Redondo Beach bowling alley also includes some curious dated slang.

Violence (1947)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Unusual, Politically Ominous Veterans Noir, 13 August 2015
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is unusual to start a film with a sequence of an American flag, flying outside a building, and have it not accompanied by the usual rah-rah-rah patriotic music but instead by a dramatic ominous, sinister cue. That's because in Violence the flags front a disturbing sort of Fascist scam called The United Defenders, trying to recruit World War II veterans who may be dissatisfied with late 1940s conditions into stirring up demonstrations of hatred which can then be used by powerful wealthy sources behind the scenes, for their own purposes. This opening further develops into a contrast between the dark basement of the building, where thugs played by Sheldon Leonard and Peter Whitney beat up (and eventually kill) a veteran who has broken with them; and the brightly lit upstairs office. Nancy Coleman, an interesting minor actress, plays the secretary who has a somewhat overplayed tic of holding her hands to her face to indicate nervousness. We learn she is really working undercover for a magazine that's about to publish an expose of this racket. In one of those plot twists which noirs are famous for, she gets amnesia in a car accident, which complicates things, but a friendly man played by Michael O'Shea who is also trying to infiltrate the group helps her. I was reminded, in one scene where a young veteran stands up to question the bullying True Dawson, leader of the group (acted in a rather loud and hammy style by Emory Parnell) of the scene in the recent film The Master where a participant in the cult presided over by Philip Seymour Hoffman dares to question their mumbo-jumbo, and what happens to him. The film culminates in a neat ending where a mysterious, darkly lit figure known as Mister X, who was going to give the United Defenders a big bankroll until one of their violent riots went astray, is trying to slip out of town on a train. We recognize him only by the signet ring he wore in an earlier scene. The scene leaves it up to our imagination if and how he will be apprehended. Violence has its crudities: an overly emphatic music score,and story points that stretch credibility, but it is of great interest as an expression of murky political turmoil in the early US Cold War years.

Incident (1948)
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Good Little B Noir Offers Nice Role For Jane Frazee, 13 August 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Jane Frazee was one of those pleasant but minor actresses you would run across in B movies from the 1940s. In Incident she has one of her best roles as an undercover insurance agent trying to track down an inside job where crooks have been stealing valuable mink coats from a store. She has been hanging out in the neighborhood in question when she runs across a stockbroker, played by Warren Douglas, who has been victimized one night walking home from dinner with two friends. This noir plot is one of those things about how if one had only done one little thing differently, a number of other consequences that followed wouldn't have happened. Here Douglas, after being mistaken for a gangster who has supposedly ratted on his fellows to the cops,doesn't give up but keeps returning to the neighborhood to get involved further. Meanwhile Frazee puts herself at risk by moving into the same apartment building where the thief lives, flirting with him, and going out to a club with him for dinner. The actor who plays this crook (Slats) named Robert Osterloh looks somewhat by the way like Dennis Hopper. In one enjoyable scene Frazee gets in a tussle in the ladies room with the thief's girlfriend, with the result that the badge identifying her as an agent falls out and she gets in further trouble. This minor crime entry is competently directed by silent veteran William Beaudine, who was famous for not spending too much time on his takes. There is a nice opening, with narration, where we see theater marquees by night, showing the current releases Red River and Johnny Belinda.

Interesting Drama MIxes Political Campagning With Courtroom, 11 August 2015
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The premise of A Fever In The Blood is three men who are interested in running for governor. One of them, an aggressive DA (played by Jack Kelly) may remind viewers with a longer memory of the character played by Claude Rains in an earlier Warner Brothers film, They Won't Forget- an unscrupulous attorney who prosecutes an innocent man so he can rise to political power. The other two are a corrupt Senator played by the aging Don Ameche and a somewhat flawed trial judge played by Efrem Zimbalist Jr Another aging actor Herbert Marshall is a welcome presence in several scenes as the former governor. Though the attractive Angie Dickinson is wasted as the wife of Ameche, really in love with Zimbalist. The courtroom scenes, which are fairly convincing, center on the murder of a society wife, which we saw in the dramatic opening. Marshall's nephew is wrongly accused though it is the gardener (whose sweaty nervousness is somewhat over played) who we have seen did it. In the course of the proceedings several aspects are brought in which we might take for granted today but were not commonly referred to at that time under the Hollywood production code: the victim's sexual promiscuity, the accused's girlfriend having solicited an abortion (referred to as "an illegal operation") and the judge ordering a telephone wiretap of a conversation between the DA and his partner. There is also a brief mention in the script of the previous year's Presidential candidate Nixon having used the prosecution of Hiss to promote his own success. This was one of the last features directed by WB veteran Vincent Sherman, before he went over to TV, but it shows little of the dynamic studio style that he displayed in his 1940's melodramas. It is a slick production, with sharp but somewhat overly bright lensing by Peverell Marley,and jarring, abrupt transitions between scenes that would not have been the case in the 1940s editing format. Only with the camera pulling back in the big nominating convention scene at the end, when Zimbalist is convinced by Dickinson to re-enter the fray, do we get a sense of Sherman's former finesse.


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