Review: Public Morals Season 1

Public Morals is a new television series on TNT created and starring Edward Burns. Burns plays Terry Muldoon, a plain clothes cop who is in the Public Morals department. This department takes care of vice in 1960’s New York City, mainly in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. The Muldoon family is on both sides of the law,Terry’s father played by Peter Gerety, is a retired cop while his uncle, Mr. O played by Timothy Hutton is a small time gangster. When Mr. O is shot dead at the end of the first episode, Terry does his best to find the killer and keep the peace between the police and the gangsters battling each other for control of the vice trade.

Some of my favorite characters in the series are:

Charlie Bullman: Played by Michael Rapaport, Charlie has a soft spot for beautiful prostitutes and is a single father living with his mother. Charlie has more than a passing resemblance to a young Popeye Doyle.

Christine Muldoon: Played by Elizabeth Masucci is Terry’s wife. She wants to get out of the old neighborhood and move to the suburbs to live her middle-class dreams. Terry is loyal to the old neighborhood, but wants to keep his wife happy.

Fortune: Played by Katrina Bowden, is a high-class prostitute with a heart of gold or is she the femme fatale that has not shown all her true colors yet?

Joe Patton: Played by Brian Dennehy. Patton is the Irish Mafia Godfather for New York.

Rusty Patton: Played by Neal McDonough is Joe’s son, who is ready to take over for his father and doesn’t mind using violence to get there.

This series has many other great characters and though the series is only 10 episodes long so far, it is very complex and has some great options for story-lines for upcoming seasons.  The fine line of corrupt cops doing what they do to keep things under control and not be to corrupt is an interesting plot device. Are they really on the take to keep vice inline in the city or are they just money hungry men, not any better than the crooks they try to bust?

I really enjoyed this first season and think fans of neo-noir will enjoy it too. This one seems to have flown under the radar, but here is hoping that it gets picked up for a second season.


Amanda Fortini over at Elle makes a case for the femme fatale. This is a very interesting take on the femme fatale, coming from a women in today’s world. She looks at the femme fatale from the classic films noir as well as the ones she grew up watching in the 1990’s. This is worth reading and you can read the full essay over at Elle here:

Review: Cause for Alarm!

Cause for Alarm! is a classic film noir from 1951. This film is directed by Tay Garnett, who returned to his noir roots 5 years after The Postman Always Rings Twice. Though these are two very different films and Postman always gets the attention from noir fans, this film holds up on its own.

This film revolves around Loretta Young’s Character, Ellen. Ellen’s husband, George, played by Barry Sullivan is very ill and is bed ridden. This film starts out with Ellen doing housework and with a classic noir voice over, Ellen starts to tell the story of the worst day of her life. The film flashes back to when Ellen worked for Dr. Ranney Grahame, played by Bruce Cowling and meets the Doctors good friend George. This flashback has a bit of romantic comedy feel to it, but as we return to the main story, things start to get very dark. We find George is having some strange thoughts about his old friend, Dr. Grahame and his wife. Is George right or is he imagining things in his sickened state? Is his Wife and Doctor trying to kill him?

I really enjoyed this film, but feel most non-film noir fans will not. Though this has some comedy elements in it, especially the flashback scenes, it is a very claustrophobic film with pending disaster at every corner. That being said it definitely has a feel of a modern situation comedy. In fact this film was cribbed from for an episode of Three’s Company. I feel a remake of this film would be very difficult to do in today’s cinema with the same sense of frustration and pending doom. This film is also unique in taking the traditional noir back streets of the big city out of the story and slapping it into suburban America.

Favorite Tidbit: Loretta Young has a great performance in this film, and she worked really hard to earn the role. Her husband, Tom Lewis, was the producer of this film and wanted Judy Garland for the role. Young wanted the role so bad, that she got a lawyer who told Lewis, he was discriminated against Young because she was his wife. He folded and finally hired his wife for the role.

Review: After Dark, My Sweet

After Dark, My Sweet is a film from 1990, based on the Jim Thompson book of the same name from 1955. I have read a number of Thompson’s books, but have not got around to this one yet. I was interested in watching this film because it was based on Thompson’s work.

This film is directed by James Foley. Foley seems to be the go to neo-noir director of smaller budget films over the last 30 years or so. He even has directed some neo-noir style television shows in his long career.

This film starts with Jason Patrick wandering around in the desert. Patrick plays Kevin ‘kid’ Collins an ex-boxer with some mental issues. This story is told in the first person from Collins’ perspective and lets just say he is an unreliable narrator, a trademark of Jim Thompson’s books. He soon finds himself in a bar when femme fatale Fay Anderson, played by Rachel Ward, walks into the bar. Collins tries to strike up a conversation with Fay, but when Fay doesn’t seem interested the bartender comes to her aid. Collins knocks out the bartender and takes off, knowing he will soon be in trouble if he stays. When Fay sees Collins’ skill with his fists, she chases him down and brings him home. Collins soon meets Uncle Bud played by Bruce Dern. Uncle Bud has a plan for some quick money and wants Collins’ help and the double crosses soon start. Who can Collins trust…or even believe, including himself.

From what I understand, this movie stays pretty true to the book, this means we get plenty of 1950’s noir dialog. I enjoyed the dialog quite a bit, but this may be lost on today’s film fans. The story is hard to follow since the narrator is untrustworthy, it is difficult to figure out what he has imagined and what is real. The story is interesting and original if nothing else. I enjoyed the film and think neo-noir fans will enjoy it too, especially fans of these kind of films from the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Re-Watching: Scene of the Crime

Scene of the Crime is a classic film noir from 1949. I watched this a few years ago and recently re-watched it when I caught it on television. This film is directed by Roy Rowland who had made a few B-movie films noir over his career.

This story is a fairly simple one, the first scene shows a couple kissing and a man talking to a store clerk. The man talking to the clerk is shot and killed by a killer with a twisted hand and a marked up face. Our hero Mike Conovan played by Van Johnson is soon on the case. He is happily married to Gloria, played by Arlene Dahl,but as he gets deeper into this case, it starts to strain their relationship. It doesn’t help that Mike is getting close to showgirl Lili played by Gloria De Haven. As the case continues, Mike looses informants and friends, but continues to dig for the truth. Will he like what he finds?

Van Johnson’s voice, attitude and size make him the perfect hardboiled detective with a heart of gold. The cinematography is spot on with some amazing shots on the street, even though they look to be on a sound stage. This is a good film noir worth checking out for film noir fans. It is an enjoyable little film, with a bit of a twist ending.