Review: The Bad Sleep Well


The Bad Sleep Well is a film noir from acclaimed director  Akira Kurosawa, released in 1960. Kurosawa maybe more known for his epic samurai films, but he did a handful of films noir.

This film starts out with an elaborate wedding, complete with a few arrests, some interesting toasts, and a flock of reports looking for a story as they tell us a little bit about the background of a few of the characters. This opening scene can be a bit overwhelming with the audience thrown into the middle of an intense scene with a ton of characters introduced and a lot of information in only a few minutes. While this scene maybe hard for the audience to keep everything straight, it is worth paying attention for the story to come.


From this scene we learn a man is marrying a handicapped woman who is the daughter of the Vice-President of a major corporation. The wedding party has members of two major corporations in attendance and they seem to be partners in some illegal activities together. Turns out to be fixing bids for government jobs. A suicide from 5 years ago is brought up by one of the reporters as well as a wedding cake that references this suicide.

As the film continues we learn of an intricate revenge plot on the corporation. This film is interesting for a number of reasons. The plot is intriguing as you want to find out what will happen. We also learn about the Japanese corporate structure and how Japan looks at suicide as a honorable way of saving your bosses and family.


Kurosawa uses William Shakespeare’s Hamlet as a structure for this film, and it has a Shakespearean feel to it. This is a long film that takes your full attention while you watch it, but it is worth it. Whether you are a fan of Kurosawa, a fan of Asian noir, or just a fan of great film, this is worth your time.


Review: Time Without Pity


Time Without Pity is a British noir from 1957. This film is directed by Joseph Losey. Losey has an interesting story himself. He was directing films for RKO and was in Italy filming The Stranger on the Prowl when he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Instead of going back to the United States to testify, he stayed in Europe and eventually found steady work in Britain. His trouble with the Un-American Activities Committee may have started when he directed the re-make of M in 1951. This film was singled out by the Committee, here is a look at some of the history of that film here:

This film has an interesting plot with an amazing twist at the end. The story revolves around David Graham played by Michael Redgrave. David has been in an institution for his alcoholism, with no contact with the outside world. When he is released he finds out his son is in prison and scheduled to be hung the next day. He goes to visit him and is determined to find the truth and save his son.


Through out the film David fights his alcoholism, which is hard with the added stress he is under. David meets some interesting characters along the way and does whatever he needs to do to help his son.

This is a good film with some outstanding scenes. The opening scene of the murder of a young women is very well done.


I also loved the scene at the racetrack with one of the characters driving his Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing, getting it prepared for a race. Even though the scene really doesn’t make much sense, it is visually stunning and entertaining. I also truly loved the final scene, I will not talk much about this so I don’t ruin the film for those who have not seen it.


Favorite Tidbit: Peter Cushing plays a small role as the lawyer for David’s son. He would make The Curse of Frankenstein next, which would launch Cushing’s career as a Horror Icon.

Edit: A few clarifications should be noted: (1) THE PROWLER and THE BIG NIGHT were both filmed in the US and released after M in 1951. Losey was in Italy filming STRANGER ON THE PROWL when it was announced by HUAC that Losey was one of the witnesses it wanted to testify on September 17, 1951, and who had not yet been served a subpoena. He returned to the US in October, could find no work, and left about a month later to live permanently in England. (2) M is more akin to the culmination of Losey’s issues with the US government than the start. The FBI file on him began in late-1943, and he was under surveillance due to his beliefs, actions and associations. His two pre-’51 feature film releases, THE BOY WITH THE GREEN HAIR(1948) and THE LAWLESS (1950), demonstrate that his 1951 features were not a newly found consciousness. See “Joseph Losey: A Revenge On Life” (David Caute 1994), pp. 86-109.

Thanks for the clarification on Losey, Mr. Field.

Book Review: The Cold Spot by Tom Piccirilli


The literary world lost a good author to soon this past July when Tom Piccirilli pasted away. He wrote in many genres throughout his career being nominated and winning awards in the horror, mystery and sci-fi genres. This review covers the first book in his noir series, Cold.

The Cold Spot is an epic noir that starts in the metro area of the Northeast United States and travels to the Deep South and back. The story follows Chase through his young life.

This book starts out with a bang, literally. We find Chase playing poker with his Grandfather Jonah and his crew when Jonah shoots one of the team in the head out of nowhere. The crew just had a successful score robbing the mob. Jonah says the man was wearing a wire and had to die. This is the last straw for Chase who decides to branch out on his own and leave his Grandfather.

Chase is raised in a middle class home when his life is turned upside down. His Mother is murdered and soon after his Father, not able to live with the pain, committees suicide by taking a boat out in a big storm and never returns. Chase goes to a loving foster home, when his Grandfather shows up and Chase goes with him. Chase soon learns the ropes as a getaway driver for his Grandfather at the age of 15.

This book follows Chase through a lot of ups and downs and tells an amazing story of trying to go straight and finding happiness, but getting pulled back into the world of crime.

This is only the second book of Piccirilli’s that I have read and I have loved them both. The other book being The Last Kind Words.


The Last Kind Words also tackles the subject of a man trying to break free from his criminal family only to be pulled back in.

Piccirilli has built up a cult following over the years, but he definitely deserves to be discovered by a wider audience. I look forward to reading more by this incredible author. Piccirilli is the two time winner of the International Thriller Writers Award (one of those awards for the sequel to this book, The Coldest Mile), The four time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and a Edgar Award nominee for The Cold Spot in 2009. R.I.P. Tom Piccirilli and may your stories inspire a new generation of creative storytellers.


Review: Shield for Murder


Shield for Murder is a film noir from 1954 starring and co-directed by Edmond O’Brien. The other director is Howard W. Koch, his first film in the director’s chair. This film is based on the book by the same name, written by William P. McGivern.


Edmond O’Brien plays Barney, a crooked cop with a temper. The film starts with him following a man holding money for a local bookie. Barney drags him into the alley and shoots him. then Barney takes $25,000 off of him, and shoots a few bullets into the air. This was to make it look like Barney shot the dead man trying to escape arrest. Unbeknownst to Barney, a man in a second story apartment witnessed the whole crime. The witness is deaf and dumb to add an extra twist.


Barney’s girlfriend, Patty is played by Marla English. John Agar plays a young detective who looks up to Barney, but suspects something is wrong about the shooting involving Barney.


Will Barney get away with stealing $25,000 and murder? Will the local bookie track him down and teach the crooked cop a lesson?

Edmond O’Brien’s Barney is the most brutal and evil protagonist I have ever seen in a classic film noir. He only shows mercy or any kind of remorse once in the whole film.


This is a very good B-film noir. This is worth watching just for Edmond O’Brien’s performance. The interesting thing about Barney is that he has very little to no likable qualities. I don’t know if I would call him an anti-hero, but more of a villain who is the main character. Watch for the scene where Barney is eating spaghetti with a girl he has picked up at the bar for one of the most violent scenes I have ever witnessed in a classic film noir.




Review: Experiment in Terror


Experiment in Terror is an amazing film noir from an unexpected source. This film was Directed by Blake Edwards, a rare crime film from the man that brought us some of the best comedies ever. The film is based on the book Operation Terror by The Gordons, who also wrote the screenplay.

Some might argue this film isn’t a film noir because it was made in 1962, and maybe so, for those purists. If you don’t look at the release date, you are in for some of the best film noir cinematography I have ever seen. There are so many outstanding scenes and interesting shoots, I could not even begin to list them all.


This film starts out with Kelly Sherwood, played by Lee Remick coming home from work and opening her garage door to park her car. When she and the audience gets an eerie feeling. Soon a man hiding in the shadows takes her by the neck and explains how she is going to rob the bank she works at for him. The shadowy man explains how if she does not do this, her and her little sister’s life will be in jeopardy. Her little sister is played by a young Stefanie Powers in one of her first film roles.


When Kelly attempts to contact the F.B.I., our villain is waiting for it. He scares her good by assaulting her in her own house.


Luckily she tells the F.B.I. agent John ‘Rip’ Ripley, played by Glenn Ford, her last name before she is hit by our villain. When the F.B.I. tracks her down, they work with Kelly to catch the bad guy and save her and her little sister. Will our shadowy villain be one step ahead of the F.B.I. and our bank teller? Will the F.B.I. be able to catch our villain before he hurts one or both of the Sherwood girls?


I am not going to mention who the shadowy villain is played by, because when this was released, that was part of the draw. The actor who plays this role doesn’t get a screen credit until the end of the film.

This is an amazing film well worth watching if you are a noir film fan.  I wish Blake Edwards would have made more films like this during his career. His eye for shadow and using unique camera angles is beautiful. This film takes place in San Francisco, one of the best backdrops for a film noir, and Edwards captures it like no other. I highly recommend this film.


Favorite Tidbit: This film was a big influence on David Lynch. He used many things from this film in a number of his works. One great example of this is where Kelly Sherwood lives. Kelly lives in Twin Peaks and passes a sign stating so at the beginning of this film. This inspired Lynch to name his television series this and mimics the open scene on Twin Peaks.



Review: Black Coal, Thin Ice or Bai ri yan huo


Black Coal, Thin Ice is a 2014, neo noir from China. It is written and directed by  Yi’nan Diao.

This film’s story starts out in 1999 with our hero played by Fan Liao playing a police detective who is recently divorced. He is assigned a case where body parts are found all over the country at coal factories. When some bloody clothes and an I.D. are found, Liao goes to talk to the grieving wife played by Lun Mei Gwei. Liao soon gets a lead where a coal truck driver and his brother could be the murderers. When they confront the brothers a gun fight ensues. This leaves the suspected brothers and two police officers dead. It also leaves our hero wounded.


The film then flashes forward to 2004 where we find our hero not recovering very well from the events of 1999. He is drinking heavily and is now working security after leaving his job as a police officer. When, by coincidence, he runs into a ex-co-worker on a stake out, he joins him. They are following a woman who has had two lovers found murdered, both bodies are cut up and wearing ice skates. We soon learn the woman they are following is the wife(Gwei) of the victim from the 1999 coal truck case. This starts Liao’s own investigation into Gwei. Is Gwei a black widow like killer, who eventually kills all her lovers? Is she some kind of femme fatale? Does she have a psychopath killer for a stalker?


This is a good film with some great cinematography. This story is engaging, with some crazy twists and turns, most you will not see coming. I thought all was known a hour in, but we still had over a half hour of more reviles. If you are a fan of Asian Noir and are looking for something new to watch, check this film out.



Book Review: Quarry


Quarry is the first book in the Quarry series by Max Allan Collins. I got hooked on this series by reading The First Quarry. Read my full review of that book here:

The First Quarry is the 8th book in this series, but it is a prequel. After reading that book, reading this book felt like a sequel in every way. Quarry takes place quite a few years after The First Quarry and our main character is more seasoned. This book is told in the first person by Quarry. An important character, The Broker shows up in this story as well.

The story starts with Quarry having to do a hit on a man dressed as a priest in an airport. He is told to take the package the man is carrying, making the hit less then easy. Quarry doesn’t know what is in the package, but after the task is done, he finds out it is a large quantity of heroin. This not being what Quarry signed up for, he is a little upset being assigned the job by The Broker. He is soon sent by The Broker to finish up a job, his partner Boyd is already working on.

With his trust with The Broker on the rocks and his relationship with his partner, Boyd strained. Quarry is looking for a change. When what looks to be a simple hit turns into the death of his partner Boyd, things really heat up.


In the Hard Case Edition of this book, there is a nice afterword from Collins. He talks how he started writing this book in college. It is a pretty great book from a very young author. This being published in 1976 and The First Quarry being published much later, in 2008, you can see some progression in Collins’ writing style. I particularly enjoyed the humor in the newer book. Not that Quarry doesn’t have humor in it, it just isn’t as well timed and polished as the newer work. In this Afterword, Collins talks about his mentor Donald E. Westlake and how he used the Parker character of Westlake’s books written as Richard Stark as inspiration.

I can definitely see the similarities between Parker and Quarry, but a different classic noir book came to mind while reading this. With Quarry feeling like he must find and avenge his partner, even though he doesn’t like his partner, reminded me of the plot line of The Maltese Falcon. Though Quarry and Sam Spade are very different in many ways, they also have some similar attributes. Both are tough as nails and loyal to a fault. So if a hitman that feels like a mix of Sam Spade and Parker with some amazing pulp writing from the 1970’s sounds like a great idea, you are right and this is the book for you. With the new television series starting soon, I look forward to reading more books before the pilot airs.


Review: The Secret Fury

The Secret Fury is a little known film noir from 1950 directed by Mel Ferrer. It is based on a story by Jack Leonard, Leonard wrote a handful of stories for noir films in the 1950’s. He’s best known work today is The Narrow Margin. Here is a look at my review of The Narrow Margin:

The Secret Fury revolves around our main two characters, Ellen R. Ewing played by Claudette Colbert and David McLean played by Robert Ryan.

This film starts with David trying to get into a party of which he does not have an invitation. On the third attempt he gets in, only to get pulled aside by somebody that notices he does not fit in. The lady of the house brings David upstairs to change, because he is the groom at the wedding going on at the house. He soon changes into his tux while his lovely bride is on the other side of the door getting into her wedding gown.  This film starts out with a bit of a slap stick comedy feel to show off the happy couple.

During the wedding ceremony, when the priest asks if anybody has a reason for these two not to be wed, a man jumps up. He states the bride is already married to another man! When a quick phone call is made to the marriage office of the county in which she is supposedly married, it proves to be true. The couple goes to investigate the marriage in which the bride has no memory. As they show up to this town, everybody remembers her as the happy wife of another man. Her and David soon find the first husband. When Ellen and her supposed first husband meet alone in a different room, we hear a gun shot. As David and the rest of the people flood into the room, we find Ellen standing over her first husband’s dead body and a gun at her feet.

Is Ellen crazy? Is she hiding something? Is she being framed? Does she have amnesia? Will David be able to figure out what is really happening?

This is an interesting film as it starts out as a happy feeling film and slowly gets darker and darker. Robert Ryan shows this change the most throughout the film as he goes from happy groom to an amateur hardboiled P.I.. Colbert is also very good as she goes from the happy bride to a mental case. I don’t know how any Robert Ryan film noir went under the radar for me, but it seems to have flown under the radar for a lot of fans. This is worth watching for film noir fans and Ryan fans especially. It may not be as great as some of Ryan’s other classics, but still worth a viewing.


Sometimes we forget that not all the art on noir came from the cinematography of film noir or the cover art of pulp magazines and books. Take a look at this article over at Rotten Tomatoes for a look at what they consider the 50 best posters from film noir. Did they forget any? Here is a link to the full list worth looking through:

Book Review: The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins

The First Quarry by Max Allan Collins is not the first Quarry book in the series, I know, that don’t make any sense. This book was published in 2008, the first book, simply titled Quarry was published in 1976. This book is actually the 8th book in the series, but is a throwback in time to Quarry’s first assignment. It is a kind of origin story if you will. This was published by Hard Case Crime, a publishing house which has brought back forgotten classics as well as new books from some of the best authors in the noir and crime fiction genres.

Even though this is not the first Quarry book, it is the first one I have read. I usually don’t like to read books out-of-order, but this was on sale and I could not pass it up. I figured since it is Quarry’s first case, it would be all new to me anyway and wouldn’t hurt the enjoyment of the book. Boy was I right! This book is pure pulp noir goodness!

This story starts with a young man coming back from ‘Nam and finding his wife in bed with another man. This man goes to visit his wife’s lover and finds him working under his car. The car falls on the man killing him. Soon this young man is contacted by The Broker who gives this young man the name Quarry. The Broker sets Quarry up as a paid assassin and assigns Quarry his first job. He must kill a fairly famous author who is also a professor at a Mid-West college. This is not a simple hit, he must also destroy all copies of the book the professor is currently working on after killing him. It gets even more complicated as Quarry runs into a number of people who get in the way of his job.

The only thing I was previously familiar with of Max Allan Collins’ work was from watching Road to Perdition based on Collins’ graphic novel of the same name. I thoroughly enjoyed that film and have been looking forward to enjoying his work since, I just wish I didn’t wait so long to do it. Here is my review of that film:

This book was a fun read with some great humor and an amazing story with a character I cannot get enough of. I cannot wait to start reading this series from the beginning. I think if Raymond Chandler was writing today, it would read a lot like Collins. I highly recommend this book for people looking for some fun modern pulp and you will soon be seeing my review of the first book in the series, Quarry. I hope to get as many of these Quarry books read before the new television series starts on Cinemax next year and look forward to watching the 8 episode first season.