Review: Two O’Clock Courage

Two O’Clock Courage is an early film noir from 1945 that isn’t as well-known as other films from the era, and probably deservedly so.  So why should you watch this short noir? Two reasons I think film noir junkies should search this one out is:

  1. This is an early film of future directing great Anthony Mann
  2. This is the first credited role of femme fatale great Jane Greer, under the name Bettejane Greer here.

Two O’Clock Courage starts out with our hero, played by Tom Conway, on the side of a street with blood trickling from his head. He stumbles out into the street and almost gets hit by a taxi. The taxi driver is played by Ann Rutherford and decides to help our hero. Conway has amnesia and Rutherford wants to take him to the hospital. When it comes over the radio that a murder has been committed and the description of the main suspect happens to be Conway. Soon the two travel through town trying to solve who Conway real is and if he is innocent of the murder.

This film is very short and has a fair plot, probably pretty original for a film in 1945 and one of the first films noir to use the amnesia device, a device that would be used often in the following years. This film uses humor to great effect as well, it is not over the top and flows nicely with the dark story. The chemistry between Rutherford and Conway is very good with Rutherford being the source of most of the comedic moments. She really did well as with quick one liners throughout the film and you can see why Conway is attracted to her.

You can also see Anthony Mann does very well with an obvious small budget and B movie actors. It is interesting to watch this and see glimpses of a director who would go on to make some great films. We also see one of film noir fans favorite actresses, Jane Greer, in only her second film and her first credited role. It is a small part, but you can already see the femme fatale roots that would launch her into legendary statues only two years later in Out of the Past.

Is this film a forgotten gem somehow missed by film noir fans? Probably not. I did like the way it balanced comedy and the dark noir story line very well. This is a decent film and will entertain you for the little over the hour you are watching it. If you are a huge Greer or Mann fan, it is worth seeking out for a viewing.

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Review: Glass Chin

Variety called this film “Pure Pulp Poetry” and that about sums up this film. This has a lot in common with classic film noir B-films, it was shot over only 18 days on a small modern budget of around $1,000,000. This film is written and directed by Noah Buschel about a down on his luck prize-fighter looking to turn his luck around.   We have a great cast which is allowed to flex their acting talent. The scenes are sparse and not over edited or much background music.  This is a new film recently released on a number of formats, I watched the DVD.

Glass Chin revolves around a fighter who is broke and looking for a way to get back on top. He has lost everything including his fan base and a restaurant he put the last of his money into. We find him in a modest apartment with his girlfriend played by Marin Ireland. He goes out to meet with his old gym owner about helping train an up and coming boxer who is about to get a title fight at Madison Square Garden. He says he will, but he is also having dinner with J.J., played by Billy Crudup later that night to look at a job. The meeting goes well where we meet J.J. who is a gangster and wants to help our hero reopen his restaurant if he goes into business with him. It sounds like he just wants the boxer on his side and use him for muscle. We also meet the bartender played by Kelly Lynch who our hero has eyes for, and the muscle he will be working with played by Yul Vazquez. The first night working for J.J. seems to go pretty smooth, until our hero reads the paper the next day and finds he is in big trouble with no way out.

I really loved this little film and it looks like the critics have too. The general public isn’t taking to it like they should…yet. I really hope this film finds an audience, because it has a lot to offer. This doesn’t have a lot of violence or a big car chase or much action at all, and that maybe what people watching this are looking for. It doesn’t need all of that with great acting, well written dialog, and the struggle of the fallen hero in today’s society. There is a very big fight within our hero, after being a star in the boxing world and everybody loving him, can he go to an ordinary life or is it worth doing what you have to, to get back on top? The acting is top-notch and the washed out neo noir style of filming is visually stunning. New York is a character in this film like a lot of classic films noir, and makes for a great backdrop for both the haves and the have-nots. I highly recommend this film.

Favorite Tidbits: I caught two meta moments in this film, that maybe meant as inside jokes or Easter Eggs.

  1. In the boxing gym the owner tells our hero that H.B.O. wanted to come in and film their fighter training, but declined the offer. Our hero mentions how do you turn down H.B.O.? the H.B.O. of Boardwalk Empire and Girls? Co-star Marin Ireland has appeared on Girls.
  2. One of the people who owes money to J.J., that our hero has to go put pressure on is played by David Johansen, lead singer of the New York Dolls. The Dolls song Trash plays prominently on the soundtrack for the film.

Review: Thieves’ Highway

Thieves’ Highway is Jules Dassin’s last Hollywood film before he moved to Europe. He became blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is an amazing film and America lost a great director to the old country as he went on to even make more masterpieces over seas.

This film stars Richard Conte as our hero. He comes back from traveling the world and has earned enough money to come home, get married to his girlfriend played by Barbara Lawrence and start his own little business. Unfortunately things have changed as his father has lost all his money and his ability to work. This is all do to a crooked fruit vendor up in San Francisco played by Lee J. Cobb. Conte vows vengeance for his Father and teams up with Millard Mitchell to buy some apples and truck them to San Francisco to make some money. Along the way our hero meets truck driver and overall fun-loving good guy Slob played by Jack Oakie. He also runs into Rica played by Valentina Cortese. Is Rica a femme fatale or does she have our hero’s best interest at heart? Will our hero get his revenge? Will he get burned by the same man who took advantage of his Father? Will his partner double cross him before he even gets to San Francisco?

This is an amazing film worth watching if you are a film noir fan or not. Conte and Cobb are at their best in this one. I also really liked Mitchell and Oakie in their smaller parts. Also look for a small appearance by Hope Emerson. All noir fans need to see this. I have seen a few of Dassin’s other films and have loved them all. I will be seeking out more of his work in the near future.

Review: The Silence

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The Silence(2010) is a thrilling neo noir from Germany directed and written for the screen by Baran bo Odar. This is based on a book by Jan Costin Wagner. In traditional noir fashion this film starts out with a grim scene that has happened in the past. We than flash forward 23 years where the exact same crime has been committed again. The movie continues to bounce back and forth between the two-time periods to clear up some questions, but leaves us asking more questions in this interesting story of past guilty and differing shades of evil.

We start out with a young girl riding her bike down a country road as two strangers played by Wotan Wilke Möhring and Ulrich Thomsen follow her. Thomsen gets out of the car and chases her down as Möhring watches on from the car. Things don’t just go to far here, they go way to far as the young girl is killed. Möhring helps his friend dispose of the body and we flash forward 23 years. When another young girl goes missing and they find her bike in the same field as the previous crime a retired detective played by Burghart Klaußner thinks it is the same man. He teams up with the current detective on the case played by Sebastian Blomberg. Will our duo solve both crimes? Are both crimes committed by the same people? How has the original murderer and his accomplice not been caught in the last 23 years. How does this crime affect the people in this town?

This film covers some dark material, from pedophiles to child pornography to serial killing. I do have to say this is done in classic film noir style in the way the grotesque is implied and not put on the screen to shock like most modern films. The story is very complex and you will be left with questions at the end, just like a real life case. This film is German, but could have easily taken place in any rural town. I really enjoyed this film and think most noir fans will too. If you are questioning whether you should watch this do to some of its subject matter, I encourage you to give it a try. Like I said this film is not in your face or over the top with shocking scenes, but is an interesting look at a subject way to prevalent in society today.

 

Review: Kansas City Confidential

Kansas City Confidential is a classic film noir from 1952, directed by Phil Karlson. I watched this recently because of the recent passing of Coleen Gray. I loved Gray in Nightmare Alley which I reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/07/02/review-nightmare-alley/

I really look forward to watching more films with her in it. She was one of the great actress from the classic film noir era. If you have not watched any films with her in it, I highly recommended you do.

This story starts out with Preston Foster casing a bank. He is timing when a delivery man is stopping at a floral shop and when an armored car is picking up cash at the bank next door. When he seems to have the perfect crime planned out he starts to recruit his team. His team consists of three of the best actors to play thugs in the classic film noir era. The three criminals are played by Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. The key to this heist is all four men wear a mask all the time!

The masks not only hide their I.D. from witnesses and the police, but also from each other. This way if somebody is busted they can not rat out the other three. So the robbery goes down, as our driver of the florist truck leaves, the crooks pull up in an exact replica and rob the armored car. When the A.P.B. goes out for the getaway vehicle our innocent driver is soon pulled over. The driver is played by our headlining star for this film,John Payne. The police take Payne in, thinking he has to be involved in the armed robbery in some way. He has been in prison for a year and just recently got out, so it doesn’t look good for him. As our four thieves get away clean and disappear to 4 different locations, with plans to meet at an unknown location later to split the money. When the police let Payne go, he starts his on investigation to find out who framed him. We don’t stay in Kansas City very long for this one as we travel to a few foreign locations.

This plot is a very well crafted story and you don’t know where it is going until the very end. The plot is very complicated, but very easy to follow. Though I watched this for Gray’s involvement, and she is great in her role as the innocent traveler who falls for Payne, the five male leads of this film stole the show. This is a must see for classic film noir fans and film buffs in general.

Article: The Last of the Film Noir Women

Here is a very nice article about Coleen Gray over at Legacy.com Written by Linnea Crowther. It has a great time line of Gray’s film noir career and a quick look at her influence on noir films. Worth checking out for all Gray fans or those wanting to learn a little more about the late actress. Enjoy!

http://www.legacy.com/news/legends-and-legacies/the-last-of-the-film-noir-women/3452/