Review: Marshland or La isla mínima

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Marshland is a Spanish neo-noir for 2014, recently released on DVD in the United States. This film is written by Alberto Rodríguez and Rafael Cobos and also directed by Alberto Rodríguez. This film takes place in Southern Spain in a poor community in the Marshland. The story takes place in 1980, where there was a lot of political turmoil taking place, with the working class on strike, demanding higher wages.

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Two homicide detectives are sent into the small town to solve the disappearance of two young sisters.  Juan, played by Javier Gutiérrez, is an older, more hardened detective. He realizes his best days are behind him and is happy to finish out his career in his current position. He also has some health issues and may not have long to live.

Pedro, played by Raúl Arévalo, is a young and upcoming detective with a lot of talent for the job. He is sent on this case as punishment for writing a letter to the editor of the paper expressing his political beliefs. The higher ups are not happy with him for this. If he can solve this case in a timely manner, he can get himself back on track for his career goals.

Shortly after arriving on the case, our duo is given some clues that lead to the bodies of our sisters. Soon a few cold cases come to light that show this may be a serial killer. With a slew of local characters adding some great spice to this film and some amazing cinematography this is a well made film.

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I really enjoyed this film and think most noir fans will too. This film really reminded me a lot of True Detective season 1. This is due more to atmosphere then anything. The setting of the film reminded me of the locations in the South where True Detective takes place. There are similarities in both sets of detectives as well. The plot covers some of the same topics, but the story is totally unique. I’m not sure if Rodríguez was inspired by the American television series or not. Filming of this movie had to be underway when True Detective started airing on H.B.O. so I can’t imagine it was a big influence, but the coincidences are uncanny.

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This film is for fans of foreign cinema and those who like a good neo noir. I would also recommend this to those who loved the first season of True Detective. No this is not as brilliant as that series, but it is very good and has the same feel.

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Review: The Long Memory

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The Long Memory is a British classic film noir from 1953. The film is directed by Robert Hamer based on a book by Howard Clewes.

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The main plot of this film is nothing new, Phillip Davidson, played by John Mills is falsely accused of murder and sent to prison for 12 years. When he gets out he seeks justice on those that framed him. The added spice to this plot comes from its smaller characters. Fay, played by  Elizabeth Sellars, is Davidson’s girlfriend at the time of the murder. Davidson and Fay go to a ship to meet Fay’s Father. The Father is smuggling people out to sea for a small price. Boyd, played by John Chandos is the brains behind this scheme. When Boyd and the newest person needing smuggled get in a fight on the boot, Boyd kills the man. Davidson tries to stop Boyd, but in the scuffle the boat catches on fire. Fay and her Father get off the boat, along with one of Boyd’s thugs. Davidson is rescued, but when the body is found he is accused of murdering Boyd, though the body belongs to the man needing smuggled.

Fay decides to testify against her boyfriend to protect her father. During the 12 years Davidson is in prison, Fay marries a police officer, Bob Lowther played by John McCallum.

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This sets up many questions to be answered, Will Lowther do anything to protect his wife or will he do what is right? Will Davidson get his revenge on Fay? Did Boyd survive the fire on the boat?

Along the way Davidson helps Ilse, played by Eva Bergh. Ilse has had a horible life, loosing her parents at 12 and forced to work at a criminal’s hangout as the barmaid where she sufferers even more at the hands of evil men. Ilse has little to do with the main plot, but adds a bit more grit to this tale and is played wonderfully by Bergh. She was one of the high points for me in this film. Ilse isn’t the mirror image of Fay in this like we see so often in film noir. Fay isn’t exactly an evil femme fatale and Ilse isn’t the good girl from the right side of the tracks either.

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This film is worth watching and has its charm, it is a pretty decent and fun classic film noir to watch. Though it does have some originality and is well filmed it is by no means an all time great film noir, but does deserve to find more of an audience among noir fans.

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Article: ON THE PLEASURES OF FILM NOIR & BUD AND THE “BS”

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Here is a nice little article about Bud Elder’s love affair with film noir over at The Digital Bits. This article also has a lot of information on recent film noir releases on DVD and Blu-Ray and where they are available. A fun little read about film noir and lots of links to help you spend your money. Enjoy:

http://www.thedigitalbits.com/columns/view-from-the-cheap-seats/film-noir-bud-and-the-bs

Review: Flaxy Martin

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Flaxy Martin is directed by Richard L. Bare, not exactly a well known director. He looks to mostly have done educational short films and graduated to television with only a couple of feature films along the way. This story comes from David Lang who mostly wrote screenplays for television westerns. This is not exactly a dream team for film noir.

That being said, this is a pretty damn good little film noir! Flaxy Martin is maybe one of the best overlooked femme fatales I have come across. She is beautiful and is playing both sides to get herself what she wants. Virginia Mayo plays Flaxy very well, with a hint of a grin every time things work out like she planned.

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Flaxy is dating the brilliant lawyer Walter Colby, played by Zachary Scott. Colby is a good guy that believes in the law. He is an honest man, but is under the thumb of gangster,
Hap Richie, played by Douglas Kennedy. Unbeknownst to Colby, Flaxy is secretly dating Hap too.

Colby gets one of Hap’s goons off for murder when an eye witness shows up with an alibi for the goon. Colby finds out after he gets the killer off that the eye witness was paid by Hap to lie. When the eye witness is killed to keep her quiet, the evidence points towards Flaxy. Colby decides to take the rap for the murder to save his girl and feels he can defend himself and win. Colby gets double crossed when an eye witness sees Colby with the dead girl the night of the murder(another paid eye witness from Hap).

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Will Colby figure out he got double crossed by Flaxy? Will Flaxy double cross both of her guys and get away with some cash and a new life? Will Hap come out on top by framing both of them?

As  Virginia Mayo plays the ultimate blond femme fatale bombshell, Dorothy Malone plays the opposite, a brunette good girl. Colby must choose between both of these ladies in more then one way.

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The highlight of this film for classic noir fans is Elisha Cook Jr., who plays a pivotal role as one of Hap’s thugs. I can’t believe his name didn’t even make it on the poster, but any fan of Cook will enjoy another fun performance.

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This classic film noir may not have the big names behind the camera, but the faces we see on screen make this film worth watching. This is a bit of a hidden gem, worth checking out. The story isn’t the greatest, but Mayo is great as the title character and should be discussed more often when the subject of femme fatales come up. Scott is solid as ever and Cook is always worth watching.

Review: The American Friend

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The American Friend or Der amerikanische Freund is a neo noir from 1977 by director Wim Wenders. Wenders wanted to do a film based on a Patricia Highsmith book. His first choice was The Cry of the Owl, but when the rights to that book were already taken, Highsmith offered him Ripley’s Game, a new Ripley book that was not published yet.

I still have not read a Highsmith book, I know, I know…I hope to soon. I do have to say I don’t get the Ripley character at all in the films I have seen. I have seen Purple Noon, which I found interesting, and my favorite film with the character, it is also the first one. I need to re-watch Ripley’s Game and The Talented Mr. Ripley because it has been over a decade since I have seen them, but remember being underwhelmed by them when I originally saw them.

I was really looking forward to seeing American Friend after reading all the great reviews and seeing it is highly rated by most. If you can’t already tell I was not a huge fan of this film. I will not say it is a bad film, it has a lot going for it, I guess my expectations going in may have been to high.

Dennis Hopper is good and has a very unique take on the Ripley character and Bruno Ganz is very good as the innocent man that gets sucked into Ripley’s world.

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The story starts out with Ripley having a dead artist, who isn’t really dead, paint new pictures which Ripley sells at auction. Jonathan(Bruno Ganz), is a framer who thinks something is a miss with these paintings. Ripley takes offense to this and goes into a scheme to convince Jonathan he is dying and should take an assassination job to make money for his family before he dies.

There is a lot of cool things going on in this film, like a number of great directors playing criminals throughout the movie. The locations are interesting and fun to see. I liked Ganz’s internal battle on what he should do. I didn’t get Ripley’s choices all the time, and I don’t think Ripley thought out a lot of what he does, maybe he is too much of a real psychopath and isn’t supposed to make sense all the time. I wanted to know more about why these hits on the mafia were happening. How did Ripley and his partners find out about these hits?

This maybe one of those films that are better on a second or third viewing, or after you read the books it is based on. I think fans of the Ripley character will enjoy this film. Like I said this is not a bad film and worth a viewing, but I did not find it as good as I had hoped it would be.

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Francine Prose wrote a great review of this film and obviously loved it much more then I did. After reading this review, I would like to go back and re-watch it and hope I find it more entertaining then the first time.

https://www.criterion.com/current/posts/3866-the-american-friend-little-lies-and-big-disasters

 

An all-star team of blacklistees made this classic noir—and then fled Hollywood

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Here is an interesting look behind He Ran All The Way by Noel Murray. I learned a little more about this film from this article:

http://www.avclub.com/article/all-star-team-blacklistees-made-classic-noirand-th-231519

You can also check out my look at the film from a few months ago here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/08/review-he-ran-all-the-way/

 

Review: Affair in Trinidad

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Rita Hayworth is back after a 4 year hiatus and is teaming up with her Gilda co-star Glenn Ford. Affair in Trinidad is very similar to Gilda, but a bit of the magic is gone. Hayworth just left her third husband, Prince Aly Khan. She was broke and needed work. I’ve seen two different theories on this film. One,the studio put her in it, because they knew it was a sub par film. Two, they put her in this film because of it’s similarities to Gilda and knew it would be a big hit. Both came true to a certain degree. Fans filled theaters to see Hayworth again, so the film was successful at the box office. Those fans where a bit disappointed with the film though.

This film is directed by Vincent Sherman and released in 1952. The story starts with a dead body and it looks like suicide. It turns out to be Chris Emery’s(Hayworth) husband and it also looks like murder. Soon her husband’s brother Steve(Ford) shows up because of a letter he received. Not knowing his brother is dead, he learns of the death after he arrives in Trinidad. Steve, thinking it is a suicide starts looking for answers. Chris knowing it was murder, but the police do not want her to tell anybody they know it is murder, is caught between lying to Steve and trying to get him to trust her. Can Steve trust Chris? Will they find the murderer? Is this part of a bigger crime?

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This film may not be as good as Gilda, but it does have a few high points and is worth viewing. Hayworth does a couple song and dance routines to show her power over the men in her life. Both have shades of “Put the Blame on Mame,” especially the second one, where she does an impormtu dance to allure one man, while pushing another man away.

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Ford and Hayworth teamed up for 5 films through out their careers, starting in 1940 and ending in 1965. Gilda was their second film together and I suspect the other three where made to cash in on the success of Gilda. This film is worth watching for fans of the duo and is entertaining. If you have not seen Hayworth and Ford together before, go directly to Gilda first.

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Review: The Bastard

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The Bastard is an interesting film that I can not find much about. It looks like it has been released under The Cats, Sons of Satan and The Bastard. It looks to be an Italian film, but filmed in New Mexico. The version I saw is in English, but looks to be voiced over in areas, so may have originally been filmed in Italian in parts.

The film is from writer and director Duccio Tessari and was released in 1968. This film definitely has the feel of a grind house, drive-in, B-movie which actually makes for a more interesting viewing today. This story seems to be a simple revenge plot, but is much more intricate and subtle story hiding in a bloody late night film.

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This film starts with a simple but violent smash and grab heist of jewels.  Giuliano Gemma plays Jason, our protagonist. He soon “gets ride of the competition” in a quick series of car chases and shot outs. These early scenes seem to be confusing, in that we don’t really know who these people are other then Jason. These scenes seem to be there to satisfy the grind house crowd with some bloody violence and action. In this part of the film, Jason contacts his girl, Karen, played by Margaret Lee.

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Jason soon contacts his brother, Adam, played by Klaus Kinski. Adam is the man who put together the jewel theft. Then we meet their mother, played by film noir great Rita Hayworth. When Adam double crosses Jason with the help of femme fatale Karen the plot really starts rolling.

Though some blurbs on this film says Adam left his brother Jason for dead, this is not true. He humiliates him and has a doctor cut his wrist. on his shooting hand, making him useless in the criminal world. Jason is soon rescued and rehabilitated by Barbara, played by Bond Girl Claudine Auger.

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This story is very noir, with a twisted family lead by Rita Hayworth. The title The Bastard comes to light later in the film when Hayworth talks about Adam and Jason being half-brothers. Jason’s father proposed to her the day Adam’s father was killed in the electric chair. She said no and Jason’s father went out for the night, knowing they would kill him. She lost both of her son’s fathers on the same day.

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In this film Rita Hayworth is at the end of her film career. She would only make 3 more films after this one. Hayworth is around 50 years old in this film and her beauty is still there, but not burning as bright as it was in her classic older films. This aspect is brought up through out the film. She plays her role a little over the top, but is playing an alcoholic mother who realizes she is past her prime. At one point in the film, she looks at photos on the wall and talks about how beautiful she used to be. The photos are actually from her past films, like Gilda and Cover Girl. I didn’t know if I should feel bad seeing “the fall” of this great star or if I was seeing a brilliant performance from an amazing actress. I prefer to believe it was the latter. She may have already been showing early signs of  Alzheimer’s disease here.

This is a bit of a hidden gem I think fans of 1960’s neo noir and grind house films will enjoy. I also think fans of Rita Hayworth will enjoy this film as a last glimpses of her greatness.

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Favorite Tidbit: Rita Hayworth’s part originally went to another classic film noir great, Joan Crawford. She dropped out due to disagreements about the script. Maybe she was not brave enough to portray a woman that realizes she is past her prime.

Review: Kiss of Death

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As you can see, when this film came out it was the big introduction of Coleen Gray. This was Gray’s first film credit(she appeared in three other films in tiny roles and did not get a credit), but if you ask any film noir buff “Who’s first movie is Kiss of Death?” Coleen Gray would not be most people’s answer. More on this later.

This film is from director Henry Hathaway and was released in 1947. It stars Victor Mature as ex-convict, Nick Bianco. This film opens with a tense jewelry heist, where Nick is shot in the leg and caught. His 3 partners get away. Nick will not rat on his partners and takes the full rap for the heist. When Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo, played by Brian Donlevy, offers him a deal so he can be with his wife and two daughters, Nick does not take it.

While in a holding cell, he meets Tommy Udo. Udo is played by Richard Widmark and he steals the show. Udo is a violent, evil man that feels he can get away with anything. Udo is a laughing psycho that can not be soon forgotten. Yes, he will remind you of Batman’s Joker in more then a few ways. Joker is not based on Udo and was actually created several years before Kiss of Death, maybe Widmark was influenced by the Joker?

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When Nick’s wife commits suicide and his daughters are put in a home, Nick decides he needs to rat out his partners and get out of prison, so he can take care of his kids. Nick turns to Nettie, played by Colleen Gray for romance and to put his family back together. Yes Widmark deserves all the accolades he receives for this film, but let us not forget how good Gray is in this. Gray is one of my favorite anti-femme fatales of the the classic era. She always played the good girl or the girl that saves the hero, and she did it well.

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Nick is released from prison, but must become an informant for the D.A.. He has no problem doing this, putting his family first and tries to put his criminal past behind him. Unfortunately Nick’s target is Udo and he is in a bad position with little to no way out.

This film is very dark, with one of the most violent scenes in all of film history when Udo tosses a wheel chair bound woman down a flight of stairs.

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This film could have been way darker if the censors didn’t get involved. Patricia Morison played Nick’s wife, but all of her scenes are cut from the final film. As we know Nick’s wife commits suicide early in the film. What we do not see is Morison’s character is actually raped first and then commits suicide. Both of these scenes are cut by the censors. Also the end of the film was much darker in the original story. I will not give anymore information on this, but after you see the film, you can see how easy the end could have been much darker.

This film is a must see for all film noir fans. It is a dark tale that you need to see to appreciate.

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Favorite Tidbit: This film has been remade twice: 1st as a western called The Fiend Who Walked the West in 1958 and then as a neo noir in 1995 starring David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage. I have seen the 1995 version, but it has been so long ago I can not compare the two films. This might make for an interesting double feature some day soon.

Review: Fury

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Fritz Lang’s first film in Hollywood from 1936, won him instant praise, with a number of award nominations. As Lang is one of the best film noir directors, he is also one of the most influential pre-film noir directors.  This film is no exception. A dark story with some interesting cinematography make this film as close to a film noir as you get before 1940.

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The film stars Sylvia Sidney,who Lang would not make the film without, and Spencer Tracy. It is based on a story by Norman Krasna. The story is loosely based on a real life incident in California from 1933, where two kidnapping suspects where pulled from a jail and lynched by vigilantes.

This film starts with Katherine Grant(Sidney) and Joe Wilson(Tracy) planning on getting married, but need more money first. Katherine leaves on a train for a better job. Joe works his way up and buys a gas station. After a year he raises enough money to by a car and go get Katherine, so they could be married. Along the way Joe is pulled over by a small town police officer and is questioned about a kidnapping. He of course has nothing to do with it, but evidence says he might be guilty. The small town is soon a buzz with news of the prisoner. A mob forms and soon burns down the jail house with Joe in it. Is the mob guilty of killing an innocent man? Will Katherine get justice?

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This is an interesting morality tale of justice and society as only Lang can tell it. This parallels M in some degree with a mob of people seeking out their own justice. Where the suspect is guilty in M and saved, the suspect is innocent in Fury and not saved from the actions of the violent mob. Where M ends, Fury is just beginning. The story continues with what happens to the mob after their actions.

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This film is worth watching for many reasons. This film foreshadows what is to come in the 1940’s classic film noir era. It is also shows Lang’s great storytelling talent is universal, no matter what country or language is used. A must see for all film historians, film buffs, film noir fans and of course Lang fans.

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Favorite Tidbit: Rainbow, Joe’s dog, was played by Terry. Terry would go onto even greater fame a few years later when she played Toto in The Wizard of Oz. Not a bad couple films for a little pup.