Movie Review: Raw Deal


Raw Deal is a film noir from 1948, directed by Anthony Mann who has directed a number of noir films before he moved on to Westerns.

Raw Deal has a very good plot, which incorporates many different plot devices into an hour and twenty minutes of dynamite. The main plot is a prison break but there is also a love triangle and a revenge theme thrown in for good measure.

Dennis O’Keefe is our protagonist who is in prison for taking a rap for crime boss Rick Coyle played by Raymond Burr. The film starts out with him talking in the visiting room with his legal caseworker played by Marsha Hunt. As she leaves, Claire Trevor playing our protagonist’s girlfriend is waiting to visit. We see the attraction and jealousy that will push this love triangle. A prison escape is planned with Coyle’s help, but Coyle knows his friend will never make it, at least that is his plan. When our protagonist escapes, he doesn’t have anywhere to hide out, so he goes to his caseworker’s house. Soon our love triangle goes on a road trip, trying to get away from the police and meet up with our crime boss who owes our hero $50,000. What woman will win our hero’s heart? Will he get away? Will he get his $50,000?

This is a very good little film worth watching for film noir fans. Though all three leads are well done, I have to say Raymond Burr is the stand out in this film for me. The scene where he throws a flaming liquid onto a female night club goer is one of the most vicious scenes I’ve seen in a while. Does this scene foretell his characters own fate?

Review: The Unfaithful

The Unfaithful is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman. The writing team on this film is the real story here. We have David Goodis teaming up with James Gunn for the screenplay. This is loosely based on the novel, The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham. Yes, that’s right, this is based on the same material as The Letter starring Bette Davis,which came out just 7 years earlier. Maugham was not given a writing credit for this film and the setting is moved from a rubber plantation to the urban setting of Los Angeles.

This film revolves around Ann Sheridan, who plays Chris Hunter. Chris is married to Bob Hunter, played by Zachary Scott, who is a war veteran and is now a business man in the housing business. He is out-of-town as our film starts, showing Chris on the phone with Bob as they make plans for the next morning when Bob comes home from Portland. Chris tells Bob she will be going to a divorce party for Bob’s cousin, Paula, played by Eve Arden. The party highlights Paula being proud of her new-found freedom, and everybody seems to be having a great time. Chris heads home in the middle of the night and as she opens her front door a shadowy character grabs her and shoves her in the house. As the viewer we witness the struggle through curtained windows and cannot tell exactly what is happening. Bob flies home and is confused when his wife is not at the airport to meet him. He calls home and soon grabs a taxi to rush to his house. He finds the police are there as well as his friend and lawyer, played by Lew Ayres. The dead body still sits on the floor of the home as the investigation continues. Chris is obviously distressed as she tells her story of self-defense. As our story continues we learn more about the victim and why he may have been there. Was this self-defense? Will Chris and Bob’s marriage survive this?

It seemed to me that this film is more than a mystery noir, but a real look at Post-War marriage. This shows a woman who was living by herself for two years while her husband was in the Pacific. The question this film asks is, can what happens in those two years be forgivable? Should the couple even tell each other what happened in those two years? Can a good marriage survive anything? We see one divorce at the beginning of the film showing a strong woman willing to go on in life by herself. I took Eve Arden’s character as a strong feminist, especially for the 1940’s, I would be interested in learning if the writers intended this or if she was to be perceived as something else.

The other thing that stood out to me is another great performance from Ann Sheridan. She really is hard to read in this film as our loyalty to her shifts from the poor victim to murderer and back again a number of times. In the end do we really learn the truth? Is she just another evil femme fatale or is she the victim of circumstance?

This film is a must see for fans of Ann Sheridan and would make for an interesting double feature with The Letter from 1940. I have not seen The Letter in a while, so I will not try to comment of the similarities and differences at this time.

Article: The Father of ‘Tartan Noir’

Here is an interesting article on William McIlvanney and his Laidlaw books. I don’t know much about McIlvanney or these books, but this article made me want to read them soon.

Written by Allan Massie for the Wall Street Journal it is worth reading. Here is the link to the full article:

Review: House of Games

David Mamet’s directorial debut is House of Games, a classic neo noir from 1987. Mamet has made some amazing neo noir films through out his career and this first one definitely qualifies.

This film starts out with Margaret Ford, played by Lindsay Crouse(Mamet’s wife at the time). Ford is a psychiatrist and author who is fairly well-known from her book. We see this in the opening scene when she is approached by a stranger who turns out to be a fan that wants her book signed. We see Ford meet with a patient in prison and a friend and colleague at a restaurant. This shows how busy and driven she is. She then meets a patient in her office who has a gambling addiction. He states he owes a bookie $25,000 and if he doesn’t pay by tomorrow, they are going to kill him. Ford goes to meet the bookie named Mike at a pool hall called House of Games. She meets Mike played by Joe Mantegna who is charming and said her patient owes him $800, not $25,000. He offers to forgive the debt if she helps him in a poker game. She does and soon the games begin. Mike is a con man and Ford is fascinated by him and his crew. She decides she would like to follow them around and learn from them for a new book project.

The twists and turns continue in one entertaining scene after another. Mamet’s usual gang of actors make appearances throughout the film like Ricky Jay and William H. Macy.

This film was suppose to be a big budget film with bigger stars, but Mamet decided to direct himself and use his wife and friends as the actors instead. Given that, distributor Orion only released the film in 4 theaters and it basically went straight to video and a television release. Over the years it has found an audience and even received a Criterion DVD release. This film is worth your time if you are a fan of film in general. It is a unique experience where you feel your watching a live play rather than a film in some sense. The language and conversation between the characters is precise and unique. The plot seems to be a very tight con man story,  until the very end where everything falls apart and feels very real.

Favorite Tidbit: This film has already been remade twice! One from Hong Kong and one from India. I have not seen either of these, but it would be interesting to compare all three.

News: David Fincher’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN Remake Not Happening Anytime Soon

So for better or for worse, the Strangers on a Train remake is put on hold for now. I was actually looking forward to this one, if anybody was going to remake this classic, this is the team to do it. On the other hand we are getting some good neo noir projects from the team in the meantime. Ben Affleck will be working on Live by Night based on the Dennis Lehane noir book. He will also be working on a new Batman stand alone film, hopefully in the noir tradition of past Batman projects. David Fincher and Gillian Flynn will be working together again on a H.B.O. series Utopia, which sounds like a great sci-fi neo noir series. Flynn will also be working on Widows, a television series about mob widows.

Though this project may or may not see production anytime soon, the projects this threesome are working on sound promising. Do you think a remake is a good idea? Could you pick a better threesome to make it?

Here is the full article written by Adam Chitwood over at Collider:

A Guide to Film Noir Genre by Roger Ebert

I grew up watching Ebert give thumbs up and thumbs down to all the latest in film on network television in the middle of a Sunday afternoon or after the late show on a Friday night.  Roger Ebert, arguably maybe the most famous movie critic in history and maybe the most powerful as well. Before the internet, IMDb, Metascore, and Rotten Tomatoes there was Siskel and Ebert. In the age of video rental, most of us would find films we never heard of, but if the box said “Two Thumbs Up,” we knew we had a pretty good film in our hands.

I found this “Guide to Film Noir Genre” written by Ebert very entertaining. I don’t think this will shed any new light on film noir for most noir fans, but it is very entertaining with a few comments that will make you smile. This was written 20 years ago, but still holds true. It is a short read I think you will enjoy. Here is the link to the full article: