Review: Séance on a Wet Afternoon

Seance on a Wet Afternoon is a British Noir from 1964, written for the screen and directed by Bryan Forbes. The film is based on a book by Mark McShane. This film stars Richard Attenborough and Kim Stanley. Stanley was widely considered one of the best actresses of her time. You may not know of her or seen much of her work because she didn’t do many films. She much more preferred working live theater then working in the movie industry. She also did sporadic television work through out her career. She did love this script when she read it, but the reason she did this film is because of director Forbes’ involvement. Though she never gave any names, she once stated that if Forbes could make that dead fish look good, he could make anybody look good. Though she was only in a handful of movies in her 30 plus year career, she was nominated twice for an Academy Award for best actress, not a bad percentage. This film was one of those nominated efforts.

This film tells a story of a down and out couple, Myra and Billy. Myra is a psychic and Billy is sickly and out of work. Myra gets the idea to kidnap a rich couples’ young daughter and then have Myra “use her psychic abilities” to help find the child. This would make her séance business boom from the publicity. She talks Billy into doing all the leg work for the job, though he is very reluctant. The couple gets deeper and deeper into their own scheme as Myra continues to change the plan and outside forces continue to alter it. Will the couple get away with kidnapping or worse?

Though Stanley’s acting in this film is excellent, let us not forget about Attenborough’s performance. I actually enjoyed his performance better. His Billy is a man trapped in a marriage he can not get out of, for more than one reason. Does he do what Myra says because he has no other choice or is Myra his femme fatale who can use her charms to get him to do what she wants?

This film is worth a viewing just for these two performances. Are our main characters crazy or trapped…or maybe both?

Re-Watching the Classics: Get Carter

Get Carter is a classic neo noir from 1971 directed by Mike Hodges and starring Michael Caine. The film is based on the classic noir book of the same name by Ted Lewis. Another book on my “To Read” list.

This film is simple in its plot, but executed to perfection. The story opens with Jack Carter, played by Caine, hanging with his buddies in London, but doesn’t seem to be having as good a time as they are. His friends are gangsters as well and warn him about going up north. Carter’s friends relay the sentiment that he should not go up north, even though Carter is a killer, they are all killers up there. Carter’s brother has died and Carter thinks he was killed. Carter of course goes anyway and we meet his family as they bury his brother. His brother was drunk and drove off a bridge to his death is the official cause of death. As Carter is back in his hometown, he soon connects with some of his old friends and starts looking into the mystery.

As the film continues and Carter climbs his way up the ladder to the person responsible for his brother’s death we run into the illegal porn industry, corrupt business men, and of course gangsters. Will Carter get his revenge? Is he just a pawn in a bigger game? Will he find out more than he ever wanted to?

This film has a lot of supporting characters who standout in this film. Future Bond Girl Britt Ekland has a small part, which she was reluctant to do. She needed the money and of course made the film, afterwards she was happy with her work in this film. Ian Hendry was originally going to play Carter, but instead played one of Carter’s acquaintances from his hometown. Geraldine Moffat played a small but pivotal role as a moll who catches Carter’s eye.

This is a must see for fans of neo noir and British noir, as it is one of the best films from Britain made in the 1970’s or maybe ever. Skip the remake with Stallone and just re-watch this classic instead.

This also has a nice noir Easter egg as Carter is seen reading Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely.

Favorite Tidbit: This film was originally rated X for its intense violence and nudity, but has been reclassified R as crime films continued to push the limit of the rating system.

Re-watching: Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983

The Red Riding Trilogy’s conclusion wraps up the story but not quite all the loose ends.  This film is a little different then the other two, in that it concentrates on two characters instead of just one.  This entry is directed by Anand Tucker and like the first two, this one is also based on a book by David Peace and the screenplay is written by Tony Grisoni.

This film starts with a flashback to 1974 where a group of our corrupt cops and Sean Bean’s corrupt business man are meeting at a wedding.  They are taking about events that set in motion this whole trilogy.  This flashback is from David Morrissey’s character Maurice Jobson’s perspective.  Jobson is one of the cops that has been part of all these cases and now he is having second thoughts, after all these years another young girl has gone missing and he is rethinking his actions. In this film we flashback to past events from the first two films all from Jobson’s perspective.  This sheds new light on past events and gives us the audience some new information.

Our second main character is John Piggott played by Mark Addy.  Piggott is a lawyer or solicitor in England.  He is back in town and seems to be a pretty good lawyer.  He is asked to help Michael Myshkin played by Daniel Mays.  If you remember the first movie he was a mentally handicapped man who confessed to the murder of one of the missing girls.  He is also asked by another family to help their son who was just arrested for the murder of one of the other girls.  He starts digging into the story and between him and Jobson we hope to get to the bottom of what has been going on in Yorkshire.  Will we ever find out who the Wolf is?  Will the lawyer be able to help get Myshkin out of prison?  Will they find this latest kidnapped girl before it is too late?  How deep does this case go?

Like I said, this doesn’t tie everything up in a nice little bow for you.  Small characters have little pieces to the puzzle and we get most of that puzzle put together.  Characters like Peter Mullan’s Martin Laws and Robert Sheehan’s DJ who seem to be minor characters have big pieces to this puzzle.

Watch all three of these films in order and enjoy the ride.  Watch them carefully because some small detail in one film can turn out to be a big part of the next one.  Like I said at the beginning of my first review, this is a noir trilogy, based on 3 of the 4 books in a series by David Peace and all 3 films were made in the same year by 3 different directors.  A great story with some amazing talent from England.  To think this is what England is producing for their television is an amazing achievement.

Re-watching: Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980

This is the second in The Red Riding Trilogy.  This installment is directed by James Marsh.  This is based on the David Peace’s book and the screenplay is from Tony Grisoni as are all three of this series.

This film revolves around Peter Hunter played by Paddy Considine.  He is brought in from a different office to take over the Yorkshire Ripper serial killer case.  Our corrupt Yorkshire police force isn’t having any luck solving the case of now 13 murders.  Hunter was also brought in back in 1974 to investigate what had happened at the end of our last movie.  We find this out in flashback fashion throughout the film.  He had to end that investigation when he found out his wife had a miscarriage and left Yorkshire.  Now he is back in 1980 and he is not welcome.  He assembles his team to start looking at the old cases in the Ripper file to see if they can get to the bottom of this.  One of his team played by Maxine Peake finds a case that may not have been the Ripper.  She also has had an affair with Hunter and this has sidetracked both people throughout the investigation.

A lot of our recurring characters show up again in this one, those of note are Maurice Jobson played by David Morrissey,  BJ played by Robert Sheehan,Martin Laws played by Peter Mullan and Bob Craven played by Sean Harris.

Our story may seem like it is unrelated to the first movie, but we would be wrong.  At the end of this we have more questions than before.  This is another good film for neo noir and noir fans.  I would recommend watching the first film, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, which I just reviewed.  You could watch this on its own but I don’t think you would find it as enjoyable as watching it after the first film.

Re-watching: Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974

The Red Riding Trilogy is an interesting concept, which I like very much.  This Trilogy is based on the books by the same name written by David Peace.  I’ve read the books years ago after watching these movies when they came out on DVD.  There is actually 4 books but they cut one of the books out of this series to make it 3 films.  The books are also very good and worth checking out.  The other thing about this trilogy is that all 3 films were made in the same year, by three different directors.  The directors all have a different feel and look for each of the films.  All three screenplays are written by Tony Grisoni so there is continuity throughout the films.  This works really well, since every film is from a different year and all look unique.

1974 is directed by Julian Jarrold and stars Andrew Garfield as our main character for this installment. As we go we meet what seems to be minor characters, but pop up in the next two films as key parts to the continuing plot.  This installment has a very distinct Yorkshire accent by all the characters.  This can make some parts hard to understand what they are saying and/or what the slang means.

This story revolves around Garfield’s Eddie Dunford who is a rookie journalist.  He is on his way to his Father’s funeral, but stops off first for a press conference for a missing young girl.  He gets assigned to the story and starts to put together that this may be a serial killer.  Two other girls around the same age have gone missing before this one.  He starts to link the three cases and is warned by a co-worker played by Anthony Flanagan to watch his step.  Soon this co-worker is killed in an auto accident, Dunford doesn’t think it’s an accident.  He starts looking into this story as well and finds the two stories may be connected.  The story involves corrupt cops, and corrupt journalists, as well as a business man, played by Sean Bean, that this all revolves around.  Dunford also falls for the mother of one of the little girls that has gone missing, played by Rebecca Hall.  She is definitely Dunford’s femme fatale for this film.

Some of the other character’s you will want to pay attention to in this first installment are Maurice Jobson played by David Morrissey, BJ played by Robert Sheehan,Jack Whitehead played by Eddie Marsan,Michael Myshkin played by Daniel Mays, Martin Laws played by Peter Mullan and Bob Craven played by Sean Harris as well as others.

This film and the other two are well worth your time.  A well sorted out trilogy always designed to be a trilogy and not just a good first film followed by two sequels.  This is something unique to noir, I can not think of three films designed to tell one big story like this in the noir genre.  I think all fans of noir will enjoy these.  They do take some effort to follow but that is part of the joy of these.  I will return with a review of the second film tomorrow.

Re-watching for Review: The Bank Job

The Bank Job is a neo noir from 2008 directed by Roger Donaldson.  Donaldson has directed quite a few neo noir and crime films over the years, but I feel this is his best to date.  This has Jason Statham as our star, some may only think of Statham as an action star of block busters like Furious 7 and The Expendables films, but he has made a number of smaller budget crime and neo noir films throughout the years.  I find him always entertaining and he seems to pick pretty good projects.  I reviewed Blitz earlier on this site, along with the noir books in which it was based. I also rather enjoyed Wild Card which I reviewed a few days ago.  We also have Saffron Burrows as our femme fatale in this film.  Will Statham leave his family and go with our fatale?

This movie starts with a blurry scene of sex on a beach as somebody takes photos.  We then see Burrows getting busted in the airport for transporting drugs.  Then we find her recruiting her old classmates, who are on the shady side of the law, to do a bank robbery.  They eventually agree and start to put together a plan.  They are going to rob the security boxes instead of the cash.  This is because most people won’t report what they had stolen from the boxes.  The bank job is a tense scene, but goes well.  They find more than they bargained for and they soon have a porn king, the royal family, and MI5 all on their tail.  Will they get away?  Why is everybody after them?  What do they have that is so important?

This is based on the true story of the Princess Margaret sexual scandal from the 1970’s, and the evidence that was stolen in a bank robbery.

I really like the British neo noir films that have came out over the last 20 years and plan to review more of them soon.  These films have something that draws me, maybe it’s the writing, maybe the different culture, maybe it is the accents or maybe they have more original ideas in England for crime stories.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I do find them entertaining.

I highly recommend this for anybody who likes good film.  Noir, crime or neo noir film lovers will all love it.  Statham fans for sure will love it. If you are not a fan of Statham, give it a chance anyway, it may surprise you.