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.

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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.

Book Review: Love You to a Pulp by C.S. DeWildt

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Love You to a Pulp is another great book from the small publisher All Due Respect.  This one is from C.S. DeWildt.

The story telling here is very interesting, it tells two stories, alternating from chapter to chapter.  Both revolve around our hero Neil.  The first story is about our adult Neil, a glue sniffing down on his luck, hardboiled private detective.  The second story is about a teenage Neil growing up.  I found this interesting because we find how he was raised and why he is a glue sniffing adult.

Like all the noir fiction I’ve read from All Due Respect, this book is very dark and this one made me cringe more than once.  The story starts with Neil taking a case from a father who wants his daughter back in his life.  The daughter and her boyfriend have ripped him off, the father owns a pharmacy and the pair has taken a bunch of drugs from the store.  He doesn’t want his daughter to get in trouble, and wants her taken away from her boyfriend.  The second story shows Neil growing up with his pimp father and whore mother.  To make a few bucks, his father enters him into illegal fights, reminiscent of dog or cock fights, but with young boys.  We learn as the story goes on and gets darker and darker how Neil grew up to be a man.  We also take a crazy voyage in the present, with Ex-wives, lawyers, shady motels, drug deals, suicides, strippers and on and on.

I enjoyed this book immensely, the characters were interesting and most were more twisted than Neil if you can believe that.   I think it is safe to say, after three books, if you have a weak stomach don’t read anything from All Due Respect.  If you like to go deep down that dark rabbit hole, All Due Respect is your one stop shop.  This is another amazing original noir for the hard-core fan.  I look forward to reading more from DeWildt and hope to soon.  Check out All Due Respect’s website to find this and other great books.

http://allduerespectbooks.com/

Re-watching: Kalifonia

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Kalifornia is a road trip noir directed by Dominic Sena and written by Stephen Levy and Tim Metcalfe.  This also has an amazing cast of four.  Brad Pitt plays the psychopath Early Grayce and steals the show with his performance.  This is fairly early in his career, just after his break through role in A River Runs Through It.  We will see Pitt in quite a few neo-noir films through the decade of the 1990’s.  Juliette Lewis plays Early’s girlfriend and is no stranger to playing characters who are a little off the wall.  David Duchovny plays our hero, a writer who gets in over his head, and his girlfriend is played by Michelle Forbes.

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Our story starts with Duchovny getting a gig writing a book about serial killers and plans a trip across the country to visit sites of famous murders.  His girlfriend is excited, because as a photographer she wants to go to California and this is their chance.  The don’t have enough money to make it on their own so they advertise to find somebody that will share the ride.  Pitt and Lewis live in a trailer and are down on their luck.  They owe back rent and don’t have a job.  They soon decide to start over in California.  Before they leave Pitt kills the landlord and torches the trailer and his car.  The four all meet at a bus depot and start our adventure across the country.

This film is shot in a very noir style and the story is very dark.  We visit a lot of strange and disturbing locations as the crew traverse the country.  The performances from our four main actors are spot on.

This may not be a classic, but maybe it should be.  Maybe it gets over shadowed by Pitt’s other movies to come like Seven and Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen this in a while you should go back and re-watch it too.  If you haven’t seen it yet, seek it out, you will enjoy it.

Favorite Tidbit:  The four famous murder scene locations all are named after our four main characters in some way.