Film vs. Film: High Sierra vs I Died a Thousand Times

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Classic film noir fans didn’t see to many remakes of a film, with both being made during the classic film noir era. Here is a rare example of just that, High Sierra from 1941 was remade 14 years later as I Died a Thousand Times. So what film is the better movie? I sat down on a Sunday afternoon and watched both of these films back to back to try and answer that question.

Both of these films are based on noir author W.R. Burnett’s book, High Sierra from 1941.

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Round 1: Screen play 

The screenplay is also by W.R. Burnett, though he had John Huston’s help with High Sierra. The dialog is about 85% identical and the story is about 95% identical. It isn’t quite a frame for frame re-make, but it is close.  I would call this a wash, but since the remake basically does not add anything to the original, I’m giving this round to High Sierra. Score: High Sierra 1-I Died a Thousand Times 0

Round 2: Direction and Cinematography 

High Sierra is directed by Raoul Walsh coming off of directing They Drive by Night. I Died a Thousand Times is directed by Stuart Heisler towards the end of his film career as he moved on to television. High Sierra is filmed in black and white while I Died was filmed in Warner Color and CinemaScope. I know, “this is film noir so black and white has to win this battle.” I would say yes to this question most of the time. Black and white cityscapes are the back bone of film noir after all, but this film is more of a country noir, taking place in the beautiful Sierra Mountains for most of the film. Those mountains sure do look better in bright color and on a widescreen. High Sierra is early in the film noir cycle and doesn’t have much of that classic shadowy cinematography like later films either. So I’m giving this round to I Died. High Sierra 1-I Died a Thousand Times 1

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Round 3: The Male Lead

I Died stars the hulking brute Jack Palance as Roy. He is quite a presence on the screen. He looks big and tough and talks big and tough. He is more of a smart thug.  Humphrey Bogart’s star is on the rise here, The Maltese Falcon would arrive later in 1941 and launch him into super stardom. Bogart’s portrayal is more of a smart gangster with a bit of a psycho streak. Both actors have an unique voice and add something to the lines they speak. Well, lets face it, this is film noir and nobody does it better then Bogart. High Sierra 2-I Died a Thousand Times 1

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Round 4: Female Lead

Ida Lupino actually got top billing over Bogart in High Sierra. She was the bigger star at this point in time. Lupino is a film noir legend as an actress and director. I love everything I’ve seen involving Lupino so far. Shelley Winters stars in I Died and adds quite a bit more depth to this character for me. Lupino’s Marie has it together, while Winters’ Marie is trying to survive in a dark world without many options. Winters’ Marie made me believe Roy was her last hope, where I felt Lupino would land on her feet if she lost Roy. Though I loved them both, I’m giving this round to Winters. High Sierra 2- I Died a Thousand Times 2

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Round 5: Supporting Cast

Arthur Kennedy and Alan Curtis are very good as Red and Babe, but Earl Holliman and Lee Marvin seem to be more dark for me. I also liked Lon Chaney Jr. as Big Mac in I Died, but liked Henry Hull as ‘Doc’ Banton in High Sierra. The dogs are both entertaining as Pard. I’m going with I Died for this round. High Sierra 2- I Died a Thousand Times 3

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Well it looks like the remake wins this round by round battle, but lets face it, there was actually a knock out in Round 3 and the fight was called. It’s Bogart after all! Both of these films are great, but High Sierra is a classic for a reason. Though if you have not seen I Died a Thousand Times, you should, it is a bit of a hidden gem from the classic film noir era. I enjoyed both films and if High Sierra was never made, we would be talking about the great classic I Died a Thousand Times. Lets face it, High Sierra is a film that never needed a remake, but if you have to make one, I Died a Thousand Times is as good a remake as you are going to find. Maybe on a Sunday afternoon you will have to watch this double feature and let me know your thoughts.

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Review: Luther Season 4

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Luther Season 4 has just debuted on BBC recently and has had its highest ratings yet, here in the United States. Season 4 is much shorter then the past seasons, as it is only 2 episodes long, or more accurately one, 2 hour film.

This Season we see Luther(Idris Elba) in a bit of a different place then we have before. He is living in the county, in a small home, by himself. He is still on the edge of suicide and though he is not in the city fighting crime he still seems battered. He soon gets a visit from two detectives, Theo played by Darren Boyd and Emma played by Rose Leslie. They report to Luther that Alice has been killed, and they must question Luther and search his home. This is of course a shock to both us as an audience and Luther. We really see in this opening that Luther is truly all alone now. Everybody close to him is gone in one way or another.

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Luther is on leave from the police force and he is not in his usual suit and tie. He soon jumps right into investigating what happened to Alice, not as a detective, but as his broken self. As the two new detectives we meet earlier, are on a case of a serial killer, Luther takes a tour of the London underworld looking for clues in Alice’s murder.

I don’t want to give anything away, but we soon see Luther put on his suit and tie, like it is his superhero outfit or his battle armor and re-joins the force.

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Neil Cross has written another amazing story with some twists and turns we do not see coming. I was disappointed that Alice is dead, or is she? We do get some new characters that will challenge Luther and some that will support him. Idris Elba has recently stated about Luther”It’s unfinished business, it’s fertile ground,” and. “The character continues to challenge me.” With Elba’s rising star in film, I would say the biggest hurdle for more Luther is Elba’s other projects, but with these statements, he seems open to playing Luther again. Lets hope we get to see Luther again soon.

For more inside information to Season 4 of Luther and what the future may hold for the series, check out Mandi Bierly interview with Neil Cross here:

https://www.yahoo.com/tv/luther-special-postmortem-neil-cross-044729299.html

 

 

Review: Re-watching Luther Season 3

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Luther Season 3 finds Luther(Idris Elba) in a deeper hole then ever. He starts out having to take on two cases at the same time. One is a fetish killing that seems linked to some murders that took place 30 years ago. The second seems a simple open and shut case of an internet troll who has been killed.

To make things worse Erin Gray(Nikki Amuka-Bird) has been promoted to I.A. and is gunning for Luther. She partners with George Stark, played by David O’Hara. They recruit Ripley(Warren Brown) to help them.

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Luther also finds a new love in Mary Day, played by Sienna Guillory.

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Luther takes on his hardest case in the last two episodes, when a vigilante who has lost his wife to a convicted rapists, butts heads with Luther on what is right and what is wrong.

Neil Cross does another amazing job taking us on this journey with Luther. Season 3 follows the formula of Season 2 where we only get 4 episodes and each case takes two episodes to close. Luther has a lot to overcome in this season, on both a personal level as well as a professional one. As always nobody is safe and oh yeah…Alice is back!

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Each season of Luther gets a little darker then the last and this one tops season 2 in that way. There are many scenes of horror and fright that will keep you on the edge of your seat.  So…now what? Come back tomorrow to take a look at season 4.

Here is a link to a look at Season 2:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/12/28/review-re-watching-luther-season-2/

 

Review: Re-watching Luther Season 2

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Neil Cross does it again, with season 2 of Luther. This season is even darker then the first and explores the underworld of London.

With the finale leaving us in ah and wondering “now what?” We find Luther( Idris Elba) is still in his position as a detective. Ripley(Warren Brown) has been demoted for his actions in season 1. Martin Schenk(Dermot Crowley)has taken over the department. The big question was where was Alice Morgan(Ruth Wilson) going to end up after season 1? Well we find Alice in an mental hospital after a short prison stint and a suicide attempt.

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For season 2  Benny Silver( Michael Smiley) has joined Luther’s team on a permanent basis. By the book Detective Erin Grey( Nikki Amuka-Bird) has also joined the team, but does not trust Luther, due to the rumors surrounding him as a dirty cop.

Caroline Jones played by Kierston Wareing shows up looking for Luther’s help. Luther captured her husband years ago, when her husband accidentally killed a prostitute and she has been leaning on Luther ever since. The husband committed suicide in prison and Caroline still blames Luther. Caroline wants help finding her daughter, how is going to shot a disturbing pornographic film soon. Luther knows he shouldn’t get involved, but eventually does. He brings Caroline’s daughter Jenny, played by Aimee-Ffion Edwards, to a safe house. This sets off a chain of events that drags Luther deeper into trouble.

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Season 2 is only 4 episodes long with the first two episodes covering a case of a man fascinated with the Spring Heel Jack from English Folklore and the last 2 episodes cover a psychotic who is inspired by role playing games to cause panic and destruction on the city.

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Luther has had enough of being a detective and wants out, he just needs to finish up a few things before he leaves. This of course doesn’t work out for him as he cleans one thing off the books, something else comes up he must take care of.

The shooting of season 2 is even more in the neo noir spirit then the first season. We still get mostly shades of grey with splashes of red and a few other colors now and then. The shooting of reflections on glass or through glass are prevalent once again.

If you liked season 1, you are going to love season 2! Look for a review of Season 3 tomorrow.

Here is yesterday’s look at season 1:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/12/27/review-re-watching-luther-season-1/

 

Review: Re-watching Luther Season 1

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Luther is a television series from BBC about a brilliant, but very troubled police detective. This series is written by novelist Neil Cross. Cross wanted to write an original character that was different from what we normally see. He says most crime/mystery characters fall into one of two types of characters. There is the who done it detective that is out to show how smart they are by solving the puzzle, best exemplified by Sherlock Homes. The second type is the gritty, strong characters best exemplified by Phillip Marlowe(the side of the crime drama we love here at Everything Noir). Cross made Luther a cross of the best of these two types of crime fiction and told the stories of Luther in the fashion of Columbo. So to make something totally original Cross made Luther a stew of some of the best detectives in literature, film and television.

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Neil Cross’ writing is half of the successful formula for Luther. The other half is the acting of Idris Elba as Luther. Luther as a character is very complex. He is willing to bend the rules to stop the evil in his city. He has mental issues caused by the stresses of his job and the evil he has seen. He is a genius detective with a mind that thinks outside the box compared to other detectives. This genius doesn’t alienate him from others, like it does with characters like Sherlock Homes, he can use this to get information out of witnesses and suspects.

Season 1 starts out with Luther chasing a man through a factory. When he finds the man hanging by his finger tips from a cat walk. Luther lets this man fall, to what seems to be the man’s death. This also lands Luther in a mental hospital and the man that fell in a coma in the hospital.

Months later Luther is out of the hospital and back on the job, cleared of any wrong doing. We find Luther has been separated from his wife, Zoe, played by Indira Varma, during this time. Luther finds he now has a new partner, Ripley, played by Warren Brown and is sent on a new case. The case looks like a break-in where two people and a dog are shot dead. The daughter of the dead couple found them and called the police. Luther suspects the daughter Alice Morgan, played by  Ruth Wilson as the murderer.

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Alice Morgan is a genius as well, who has gone to college at 13. Luther knows she has committed the murders, but also knows she is to smart to ever be caught. Alice is a bit of a Hannibal Lecter character and is a friend and a foe to Luther through out season 1.

Season 1 is 6 episodes long, but has more story then most series twice or four times as long. Luther tackles a handful of cases, some come to a conclusion in one episode, some take longer or linger through out the season. Luther also has to face his personal issues with his wife and with others on the police force through out the series as well.

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Luther is also filmed in a very interesting way. The show is mostly filmed in shades of grey with some small splashes of reds and other colors. The show also uses interesting locations that give it a certain feel.

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Luther is some of the best television in the last five years and well worth watching. Noir fans will thoroughly enjoy this series. Look tomorrow for my look at Season 2.

Book Review: Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross

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Luther: The Calling is the first book in the Luther series, it is also the only one so far. It is written by Neil Cross, who is also the writer and creator of the television series Luther.

This book is a prequel of the first season of Luther. So if you are wondering who that man who falls from the cat walk and is put into a coma is, or who belongs to all those names Luther is yelling at him before he falls, like Emma and Adrian? This is the book for you. We also get some background on many of the other characters, like Luther’s wife Zoe, and Ian Reed.

This is a great read for fans of the T.V. series and adds a lot of knowledge to where the characters are coming from. This being a prequel to the first season, I can see this being a pattern for Cross. I would love to get a prequel to season 2 and learn about Caroline Jones and the case in which Luther arrests her husband and he commits suicide. The third season finds Luther and Ripley coming out of a garage with suspects cuffed and an explosion in the background, but we never find out what it was all about, this may make for another good book. Maybe the most interesting book would be a prequel to the latest season, season 4, where we find Luther on leave and living in the country, but there was definitely something happening between Luther and Alice between Season 3 and 4.

It looks like we will soon be getting a second book in this series and I look forward to reading it and learning more about this complex character.

We’ve heard ramblings about a Luther movie coming some day, and it sounds like that movie maybe based on this book. A Luther movie would be great. In fact, I will be lining up for anything Luther at this point, more books, more television, or a film, sign me up! There are rumblings of a possible American version of this great series and though Cross and Idris Elba would be involved, Elba would not star. I think half of what makes Luther great is Elba and I don’t know if I want a watered down version of Luther with somebody else playing the lead. This sounds like a bad idea. I will be sticking with the original Luther and patiently wait for more material.

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I will be looking at each season of the television series, starting tomorrow. So come back for even more Luther then!

Article: Dark Christmas: 7 Noir Holiday Films

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Jake Hinkson has put together a list of films, noir lovers will enjoy over the Christmas Season. So if you are looking for something a little darker then the Christmas Musicals and Comedies that will be all over this season, take a look at this list for some options.

http://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2014/12/dark-christmas-7-noir-holiday-films-jake-hinkson

Did Hinkson miss any? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favorites not on this list, what are yours?