Article: Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

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Nicholas Seeley over at Electric Lit has a great little article about the state of noir and some ideas on what direction it needs to go in the future. He has some interesting takes on the genre and brings up some great points about the state of the noir in today’s media. Do you agree with Seeley that noir went away in the 60’s and 70’s? Is noir having a Renaissance? Read the full article here:

Noir Is Protest Literature: That’s Why It’s Having a Renaissance

And let me know your thoughts in the comments.

 

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Book Review: Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm

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Chris F. Holm is a noir author that has written for many mystery and noir based magazines like Thug Lit and Beat to a Pulp. This is my first time reading him and this book is something a bit different for noir fans. Dead Harvest is the first book in The Collector Series about Sam, a collector of souls. With a mix of noir, fantasy, religious themes and horror it makes for a fun read.

The book takes place in modern day New York around a job Sam is sent on. This book also flashes back 70 years to the origin story of how Sam became a Collector through out the book. Sam is sent to New York to collect the soul of a young girl who has murdered her family. When he goes to do his task, he finds the girl is an innocent and has been framed. If he takes an innocent soul, a war between angels and demons would be started. Sam will do whatever it will take to save the girl and stop a war.

As I read this book it reminded me a lot of Constantine. I have never read any of the Hellblazer comics, but enjoyed the film and watched the short lived television series. Though there are many differences between Constantine and The Collector, they both are dark takes on religion where there is more of a gray area between those from Hell and Heaven rather then a straight up good versus evil.

This book is a good story with a mix of genre fiction that will satisfy a lot of fans. If you are looking for something a little different in noir, check out this book, that is why I did.

Review: The Woman on Pier 13

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The Woman on Pier 13 is a film noir released in 1950. In 1949 it was released in Los Angles and San Francisco under the title I Married a Communist to a poor reception, hence the name change before its more wide release.

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This film was directed by Robert Stevenson, who directed a number of lesser known film noir through out his early career before finding a home at Disney and directing some of their classic live action film.

The film stars one of noir’s greats, Robert Ryan as Brad Collins, who has just got married to Nan, played by Laraine Day. While on their honeymoon they run into Christine, played by Janis Carter. Christine is a bit of a femme fatale for this story and has a past with Brad when they both lived back in New Jersey. We soon learn both were part of the Communist Party back in New Jersey and Christine still is. With Brad now a big wig with the dock workers, the Party wants to use him to their advantage.

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Will Brad be able to break his ties to the “Party?” Will Christine bring him back into the fold?

John Agar plays Nan’s brother and is involved with the union, Thomas Gomez plays a higher up in the Communist Party, and look for William Talman as hired muscle for the Party in one of his earliest film roles. My surprise standout for this film is Janis Carter who starts out as a classic femme fatale and grows more of a heart as the film goes on.

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This film was a very good noir worth watching if you can see beyond the propaganda against the Communist Party. This film portrays the Party more like a heartless Mafia organization then a political party. Some might find the way the Communists are viewed as a nice time capsule to how afraid American’s where of the Reds.  Robert Ryan is great as always in his role as a man that made a mistake in his youth and has to pay for his past sins.

If you are a fan of Robert Ryan and other small budget film noir for R.K.O. you will find this one just as entertaining.

Review: The Connection or La French

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You ever wonder what happened in in France while Popeye Doyle in New York was taking care of the events depicted in The French Connection? Well it has been a few decades since that classic film, but the concept is intriguing.

The Connection is a film from France, directed by Cédric Jimenez, made in 2014. The film is based on the true story of the heroin trade in the 1970’s and early 1980’s.

The movie revolves around two men on opposite sides of the law. Jean Dujardin plays Pierre Michel, a police magistrate hell bent on taking down the drug trade in Marseilles. Michel bends the laws a bit to get the job done and has to balance family and work throughout the film.

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Our second man this film revolves around is Gaëtan ‘Tany’ Zampa played by Gilles Lellouche. This is the man Michel is trying to bring down. He is the head of the drug cartel and rules with an iron fist. When Michel will bend a rule or break a law to get ahead in this film, our criminal Zampa uses the law and manipulates the police force to keep himself out of prison and in power.
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We also get a plethora of characters from drug dealers, chemists, cops and gang members. The look at France in the 1970’s with the similarities and differences between a Disco era America are fun as well.

The film would make for an interesting double feature with The French Connection. Read my look at the original classic here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/04/11/re-watching-the-classics-the-french-connection-2/

This film has a very different tone and feel then The French Connection, but tackles the same historic events, just from a total different perspective. This film is worth seeking out for fans of true-crime, history, French cinema and noir.

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Review: Experiment in Terror

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Book Review: Quarry

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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:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/09/book-review-the-first-quarry-by-max-allan-collins/

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.

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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.