Review: Night and the City

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The Night and the City is a film from one of film noir’s greatest directors, Jules Dassin. Dassin was a target of the Communist hunt in Hollywood and was sent to London to start filming this film to get him out of the country. This was his last Hollywood film for years after being put on the blacklist. He left for France where he made a few more classic films, before his return to Hollywood.

There is two versions of this film, one is a shorter American version and a longer British edit. I watched the shorter American cut, which seems to be Dassin’s preferred version because of it’s tighter edit and more clear dialog.

This film stars Richard Widmark and his signature laugh. He plays a street hustler in London, using anybody and everybody he meets for money or a way to get ahead. The film starts with Widmark’s Harry Fabian running at night through the city as somebody chases him. He runs to an apartment building, and seems to have lost all the stress he was just under. He enters the apartment and soon is riffling through a purse looking for money. Mary played by Gene Tierney is seen coming out of the shadows. Mary and Harry are a couple and Mary is tired of his hustling. She gets him the money Harry owes the man chasing him and Harry is free to start his next hustle.

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Harry gives us a tour through the underworld of London and we meet a number of con men, hustlers and shady business owners. Harry uses a number of these people to get ahead on his latest ploy. Googie Withers and Francis L. Sullivan play a dysfunctional wed couple that will cross each other for love and hate. Harry’s latest scheme involves starting his own pro wrestling promotion. Herbert Lom plays the current wrestling promoter in London and will do whatever he needs to eliminate the competition.

This is pretty unique in we get wrestling instead of boxing as our noir sport of choice. This seems to mirror how wrestling territories where back in this time, as well as showing the move from traditional wrestling to the entertainment wrestling we have today. Ex-pro wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko plays the old guard, wanting to keep the art of traditional pro wrestling alive. Unfortunately this was the only screen appearance by Zbyszko, who is great in this film. Zbyszko in real life echoed his on screen character.

Mike Mazurki was also a pro wrestler and plays The Strangler. The Strangler is the big draw in London and is part of the new guard of entertaining wrestlers Zbyszko’s character thinks is destroying the art of wrestling. Mazurki moved from wrestling to the movies and was one of the first actors to be type cast as the heavy or thug and had a film career that lasted over 50 years.

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The inevitable wrestling match in this film is amazing. The scene lasts over 4 minutes and is one of the best fight scenes in film noir. This is a very complex film with may reasons to view it. It has one of the most brutal and heart wrenching ending in classic film noir.

This film is based on the book by the same name written by Gerald Kersh. This book was originally published in 1938 and was kicked around for years in Hollywood. A lot of this had to do with timing, the book is very dark and shows crime in a very different way then audiences were used too. Thanks to a long run of film noir, Hollywood decided the public was ready. I have not read the book, but from my little research, it appears the movie varies from the source material for a number of reasons.

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This film was also remade in 1992 starring Robert De Niro and Jessica Lange.

I loved this film and think it is required viewing for any film noir fan, classic movie fan and I feel pro-wrestling fans or those that would like to learn more about pro-wrestling will enjoy this as well.

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Review: Where the Sidewalk Ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends is a classic film noir from 1950 directed by noir great Otto Preminger.  We have more noir greatness in the two leading stars, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney.  All three worked on Laura, returning to work together 6 years later on this film.  This is based on a book by William L. Stuart

Some of the small roles that stood out to me is Gary Merrill as our mobster boss and Karl Malden as the cop who just got promoted to lieutenant over Dana Andrews.

This story starts out with Tierney who is accompanied by two other men playing an illegal game of craps.  One of them is winning big, real big.  He is up $19,000!  Tierney starts to go home and one of the men says they can not go yet.  He smacks her and the man up $19 grand punches him.  The two men fight and our lucky gambler is left unconscious on a couch.  We then go to the police headquarters where a murder is reported.  Andrews and his partner leave to investigate the case.  They find the luck gambler dead on the floor, stabbed in the heart.  This is in Merrill’s room where the illegal craps game was being played.  We soon see Merrill and Andrews do not like each other and have a history.  Andrews goes to the apartment of the other man who was with Tierney and who Merrill says killed our gambler.  There is a fight and Andrews accidentally kills his only suspect in a fist fight.  Now Andrews has to cover the murder he committed. Will he get away with it?  Will Merrill get away running his illegal game and possibly murder himself?  How will Tierney react to all of this?

This is another great noir from Andrews, Tierney and Preminger.  I felt it was a darker more gritty noir then Laura and well worth watching.  The fight scenes are not flashy and play more realistically then what we get today.  The style of the film is  quintessential noir.  This was Preminger’s last of 4 noir films he made for 20th Century Fox in the 1940’s and is one of the best.  He went on to make more noir, crime and thriller films well worth watching for other studios.  This film is a must see for all classic film noir fans and all fans of film should give it a viewing.

Re-watching the Classics: Laura

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What movie does Vincent Price say was his best movie?  Laura is the answer.  It’s February so it’s Oscar season and TCM is showing a lot of movies that won awards.  Laura  was nominated for 4 awards and won one award.  We have Best Writing for a Screen Play, Best Director for Otto Preminger, Best Supporting Actor for Clifton Webb and a win for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White for Joseph LaShelle.  I watched this movie years ago and took another look at it tonight.  It defiantly deserved its Best Cinematography Award, I didn’t realize how cool this movie looks, and almost all the scenes are interior shots which makes it more impressive.  Clifton Webb had only played a few parts in film before this and was a stage actor at the time.  Preminger wanted him in this film and declined the studios choice for the part.  This launched a resurgence in Webb’s career and even lead to a couple more nominations.  Dana Andrews plays our hardboiled detective assigned to the case.  We get his prospective and version of the story through out this movie.  Vincent Price shows his great film presence in this movie, I love Price’s voice and way of talking in almost everything he does.  He is hard to ignore in any scene he is in.  All though all these performances are great,lets face it, the real star is Gene Tierney.  Tierney is Laura and the love obsession of just about everybody in this film.  This is not hard to believe, she is a beautiful, smart women with the most adorable overbite ever.  Even her portrait in this film is one of the all time great film props.  It is how our hero falls in love with our femme fatale and it even appears in 2 more movies after this.  I will not get into much of the story because telling any of it will ruin the twists in the story.  The source material is from a book by Vera Caspary.  I have not read the book but it is told in 5 parts, each part is a different character’s version of what happened.  The original screenplay told the story from 3 character’s versions of events, this was still to hard to do in a 2 hour film from the 1940’s.  So the screenplay was reduced to one character’s version, our police detective played by Andrews.  This film is required viewing for any film noir buff.  It’s not on my top 10 list of all time, but it is one of the greats.

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Review of Black Widow

Black Widow is the first classic film-noir that I have seen that is in color.  Usually film-noir from this era is in black and white and lends to the over all atmosphere of the movie.  Color worked for me in this movie, the New York skyline looked amazing and felt like one of the characters.  Ginger Rodgers plays a successful actress and shows why she really was a great actress in this part.  Really liked Van Heflin as our main man and George Raft is always cool with his amazing voice and dialog.  This currently only has a 6.8 rating on IMDb, but has only a little over 1000 ratings.  I think if your a fan of the genre you will really enjoy it.  If you’ve seen it comment below with what you thought of this film.

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