Review: Twelve Hours to Kill

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12 Hours to Kill is a B-movie noir from 1960 that caught my eye based on Barbara Eden in a starring role.  This film is based on a mystery serial from The Saturday Evening Post written by Richard Stern.  The film is directed by Edward L. Cahn who looks to be a prolific B-movie director of mostly Sci-Fi and Horror films.  I am not to familiar with his work and don’t recognize most of his films.

Our protagonist is played by Nico Minardos who plays a Greek Immigrant fresh off the boat in New York City.  It looks like Minardos mostly worked in one-off appearances on varies television shows for the next 25 or so years.

The story starts with our hero minding his business in his hotel room late at night looking out the window when he witnesses a gangland slaying.  He goes to the cops and we have two higher-ups listen to his story.  They know they have a leak in the police force so the two keep it secret and send our hero and witness to a small town.  On the train Minardos meets a beautiful women,Barbara Eden, going to the same town.  Somebody leaks the eye witnesses identity to the press and from here we just have characters chasing each other, not knowing who to trust and who not to.

Barbara Eden is the high light of this film, though her character doesn’t ring true.  She plays a women that is helps a total stranger, that she knows is in trouble, with no questions asked and is happy to do it.  Maybe at the end of the 1950’s this single strong happy to help female existed, but to me she seems to go out of her way a little to easy.  She does light up the screen and is very likable, if not believable.

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This film has a few scenes which look brilliant.  I liked the opening scene of the gangland slaying, also the scene where our hero gets off the train and sees the bad guys waiting for him.  The movie does miss the mark elsewhere, for instance I liked some of the hand to hand fighting later in the film, but the editing doesn’t make a lot of sense.  The train scene with the little dog had potential, but doesn’t fit well with the rest of the film and seems drawn out and long.  I don’t have a degree in film and only know what I like, but I honestly feel this film could have went from a below average noir to something a bit better with some stronger editing alone.

This film doesn’t seem to have a very big following and I can understand why.  When looking at reviews on various sites, I found saying like “almost noir-esque suspense/drama” and “pretty much a by the numbers wannabe noir.”  I would say this is definitely a noir, it’s just not a great noir or even a very good one.  This is for noir fans that want to see everything or big fans of Barbara Eden. It is not a total waste but If you are new to noir, I would start somewhere else.

Favorite Tidbit: T.V. greats Gavin MacLeod and Ted Knight both appear in this movie in smaller roles, though they don’t have any scenes together.  They would of course go on to star together in The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Review: Killers

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Killers is a neo noir film from the The Mo Brothers(Kimo Stamboel, Timo Tjahjanto).  This takes place as much on the internet as in its two physical locations of Tokyo and Jakarta.  This is two stories of two men who interact on the internet and their stories intertwine throughout.

The movie starts with our first story centering around Nomura, played by Kazuki Kitamura.  We find him torturing and murdering a girl, then he posts it on the internet.  Normura has mother and sister issues and reminds you of Norman Bates in a lot of ways.  He is a very disturbing man and is very frightening, Kitamura plays this role very well.

Our second story revolves around Bayu played by Oka Antara.  Bayu is a reporter who is not happy with a certain powerful man in his country who has gotten away with abusing his wife.  This is just the latest in a string a crimes this man has gotten away with.  Bayu is obsessed with this man and bringing him to justice. Bayu soon finds Nomura’s video of his murder online and is strangely fascinated.   Bayu and his wife are separated and after one evening bring his daughter to his wife’s house and trying to win his wife back, Bayu falls asleep in a cab on his way home.  He wakes up in an empty lot with the cab driver wanting to mug him and the cab drivers big friend trying to rape him.  There is a struggle and Bayu comes out on top, he films the cab driver as he dies.  He soon uploads his own murder video to the internet and Bayu and Normura start a relationship.

Bayu continues his murder spree, killing bad men as a vigilante as Normura continues his psycho killings.  Their stories run parallel as well as intertwine throughout the film with many twists and turns.

This is a very good neo noir foreign film worth a look if you are a fan of Asian cinema.  If you like serial killers and vigilantes you will also enjoy this film.  These two stories, each on their own would still make a good film but not overly original, twisted up into one movie makes this film very fresh and enjoyable.

Review: House of Bamboo

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I’ve seen a few things on how great Samuel Fuller is, and I’ve not really watched or read any of his stuff before.  Hope to read some of his noir fiction soon.  I got a hold of this movie first and gave it a viewing.  Fuller wrote some of the dialog for this film and directed it.  This is actually a remake of the film noir The Street with No Name.  I have not seen Street with No Name but may have to check it out and compare it to this one.  Fuller filmed this film noir in CinemaScope and color, not many film noirs from the classic era where done this way.

This has 2 noir greats in it, Robert Ryan(quickly moving into my 5 favorite noir actors list) and Robert Stack.  We also have a fairly unique setting, this film was filmed and takes place in Tokyo.  We also have some Japanese talent in this film most notably is Shirley Yamaguchi as a kimono girl and Sessue Hayakawa as a police inspector.

Our story starts out with a train heist, a group of masked men rob the train which is protected by the U.S. Military as well as the Japanese.  They kill an Army soldier bringing in the military police to investigate.  Three weeks later we have another robbery, this time a man is shot by police and then shot 3 more times by his own team!  This is to make sure he is dead and can not get caught and talk.  The problem is he didn’t die!  They take the 3 slugs out of him and they match the bullets to the one in our dead soldier.  Even though his cohorts shot him, our suspect will not talk before he does die.  They find a picture of his wife(Yamaguchi), they keep it secret so his fellow criminals do not know about her.  They also found a letter from his friend Eddie who he tells to come to Tokyo for a cut of their new job.  Soon Eddie comes to town(Stack) and finds his friends wife.  He then falls into a crew of Americans pulling heists, run by tough guy Sandy(Ryan).  The story twists and turns from there for an enjoyable film.

This was an interesting movie with some great shots and scenes, very unique being in Japan and filmed in color.  I will definitely be looking for more stuff from Fuller to watch.  This is for any fan of film noir that does not mind it being in color, as well as fans of Fuller, Ryan and Stack.

Favorite Tidbit:  According to Robert Stack, in one scene Fuller told an actor to duck really low by a 50 gallon drum as he passed.  The actor was shocked when a real bullet went by him into the barrel.  Fuller used a sharp shooter for the scene and when the actor complained, Fuller told him the shooter know what he was doing.

Re-Watching the Best of 2014: True Detective Season 1

LjGKxgQP I started this site in January of this year, and there are a handful of great neo-noirs that came out last year I didn’t get to cover.  I know everybody has already seen these and probably wrote their own review.  I still wanted to re-watch these films and television series again and put my own review out there on the world-wide web.  Here is the first of those reviews. True Detective is an original series from noir author Nic Pizzolatto.  I have read Pizzolatto’s novel Galveston before watching this series and found it a very good book.  Something fans of the show may want to read. This anthology series stars Matthew McConaughey as Rust and Woody Harrelson as Marty.  I would classify both as hardboiled,  Rust being the more so of the two. k14lysr4msp2q5887mjy This story starts out with our duo getting interviewed by two detectives played by Michael Potts and Tory Kittles.  Both are being interviewed individually about a case that happened 17 years ago.  In typical noir fashion we get our story with a series of flashbacks.  We quickly see our detectives are worse for wear 17 years after the story started and through 8 episodes we find out why. Our case from 17 years ago is a murder where the body has been staged in a ritualistic way.  This case has no suspects or witnesses and very few clues to go on.  The clues also leads to some missing children cases that may be related to the murder.  Our story takes us to dive bars, whore houses, meth labs, stripper bars, burned down churches and lots of Louisiana backwoods locations. We have a bunch of great characters in this, some are small parts and some are much bigger.  Our lead female, is Marty’s wife played by Michelle Monaghan.  Marty, and Rust for that matter, keep her away from the darkness of the case.  I would consider her Rust’s femme fatale.  We also get two more interesting femme fatales, though they are not part of the murders they do trip up Marty in his private life.  Alexandra Daddario appears in the first half and Lili Simmons in the second half. The show plays more like an 8 hour movie then a television show.  You will want to watch the next episode as soon as you finish one.  The story is intricate, intriguing, and addictive.  The music is dark and fits the southern Gothic feel, T Bone Burnett did a great job with the score. We will be getting a season 2 of True Detective this summer.  It has a high standard to live up to and I hope it can.  The new cast looks outstanding and the trailer looks great.  We go from our country noir setting to one of the most famous of noir locales in Los Angeles.  Can Pizzolatto keep the dark, intensity with the city landscape, a new story, and a new cast?  I look forward to seeing it and if it’s as good as the first season we are in for a treat.

Review: I Wake Up Screaming

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I Wake Up Screaming is from 1941 and is based on the book by Steve Fisher, I have not read the book yet but will keep my eye out for a copy.  The films two main stars are Betty Grable and Victor Mature and is Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone.

This film was also released in England under the title Hot Spot.

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The star who I found most interesting is Carole Landis who plays Vicky.  She was the classic beauty who was trying to get ahead, using her looks and charms to get a career in entertainment, no matter who she hurt.  She is a classic femme fatale for this story. I didn’t know much about her so I did a little research to see why I have not seen her in anything before, at least anything I remember.  Turns out after giving the entertainment business her best shot she committed suicide at the age of 29.  It’s to bad, she seemed to have some talent, maybe her character from this film was a lot like the real life Landis.

Our story starts with Vicki being the center of attention for a lot of men, men who easily fall in love with her.  Vicky lives with her more down to earth sister played by Grable in an apartment.  We find our hero played by Mature under the bright light in the integration room, but he is as cool as a cucumber.  We soon find out he is being questioned for Vicky’s murder.  The story is told with a number of flashbacks as we find out bits and pieces to why Vicky may have been killed.  We also learn about our suspects, including Mature and 2 of his friends as the main suspects.  We soon learn Vicky had more than these three men in her life. Grable soon helps Mature, who is our prime suspect as they weed through the clues.  One of my favorite character actors, Elisha Cook Jr., appears as the phone board operator in the building our sisters live in. I also liked Laird Cregar who played our hardboiled tough guy cop that is out to get our hero.

This film was remade a few years later in 1953 as Vicki.  I have not seen this one yet and hope to watch it soon and compare it to this film.  By all accounts this original film is the superior movie.

This story has some great twists and turns, some good dialog, but what stood out to me is the classic film noir style of black and white filming.  The shadow play is very interesting and visually stimulating.  I enjoyed this one and think any classic film noir fan will enjoy it too.

Review: Shiner

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As the poster says “Caine’s back on top form, packing his biggest punch since ‘Get Carter'”

Well this might not be as great as Get Carter, but it is pretty good.  The poster shows Michael Caine staring alongside Martin Landau, but Landau doesn’t play that big a role in this film.  Caine is the one and only star you need to know about in this film.

This film is directed by John Irvin who has done a hodge-podge of action, neo noir, and war movies through his career with some great stuff as well as some I’d rather forget.  Scott Cherry wrote the screenplay, this his first movie, but he has extensive television work.

This film is about Billy ‘Shiner’ Simpson who is a gangster and shady boxing promoter.  He has a contender under his management, his own son, and has gotten him a big title fight. He has everything he owns on the line, his son needs to win and Shiner is looking pretty, if he loses, Shiner loses everything!  Shiner’s son loses….to easily.  Shiner thinks the fix is in, he confronts his son…and the next thing you know this son is shot!  Shiner continues to solve who got to his son? who shot his son?  Why would somebody do this to him?  Besides Caine’s usual great performance we have, Landau playing the American promoter who manages the title holder. Frank Harper as Stoney and Andy Serkis as Mel, both thugs in Shiner’s employ.

This neo noir again has our favorite noir sport, boxing!  We have some police detectives but they pretty much stay out of the picture.  We got a crooked lawyer, some other shady boxing promoters, lots of thugs and a great English back drop.

This film is a good picture, worth watching for any Caine fans out there, but might not be to everyone’s liking.  I gave it a 7 out of 10, IMDb is at a 6 out of 10.  Seems about far for this film.

Review: Don’t Bother to Knock

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Don’t Bother to Knock is a film noir from Roy Ward Backer, his first for Hollywood and one of many great noir movies he did.  The movie is based on a book by Charlotte Armstrong.  This movie has superstar Marilyn Monroe as our most interesting character. Noir great Richard Widmark plays a pilot in town on an over night stay at the hotel.  We also get Anne Bancroft in her first film, as the lounge signer Widmark is in love with.

Our story starts with Bancroft sitting at a bar, telling the bartender her troubles with her boyfriend and then the spotlight hits her and she starts singing.  We soon meet her boyfriend, the pilot that comes to town from Chicago played by Widmark.  They’re relationship is on the rocks and Widmark is trying to save it.  We also meet the elevator man played by the great character actor,Elisha Cook Jr., who is taking Monroe up to the 8th floor.  We find out he is her uncle and got her a job babysitting.  Seems like a pretty average day in the Hotel, but things get stranger and stranger as time goes on.

This film is in real-time, so the events happen in the same amount of time as the film length.  This is pretty cool and done very seamlessly.  The whole movie also takes place in a high-end hotel, basically the lounge, 2 rooms and the elevator contain all the scenes.  This gives you a bit of claustrophobia as the suspense grows through out.

Marilyn Monroe was a popular star at this point.  The problem was, she was not know for her acting.  Up to this point she just played her lovable self and people ate it up.  This was her 18th movie and she made this movie to show she could act, and act she did!  This is an amazing performance of a suicidal, mentally disturbed young women, it is not over the top, very real feeling and subtle .  At the time critics loved her performance, and I got to say, I did too.  Unfortunately looking back at her life, this may have been the real Monroe and she was acting as Marilyn Monroe all the other times she was in the spot light.

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This is not as gritty as most film noir but it is just as dark, maybe even more so.  If you are a fan of any of the 3 main stars, especially Monroe you should see this.  I give it an 8 out of 10, a must see film noir.