Review: The Drowning Pool

The Drowning Pool is the sequel to Harper, both starring Paul Newman as our lead detective. This film was made in 1975, 9 years after the original. I recently reviewed Harper here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/11/02/re-watching-the-classics-harper/

Where Harper was a commercial success, The Drowning Pool was a box office failure. I’m not sure why this was, as Paul Newman was coming off of two of his biggest hits, The Sting and The Towering Inferno. Some of the reasons I would say this film didn’t do as well as Harper are:

  1. The supporting cast on this film are nowhere near as strong as the first. Harper had Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Shelley Winters and Robert Wagner, while The Drowning Pool’s supporting cast had Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward as the only real standout at the time of release. Melanie Griffith has a pivotal role, but being only her second film after Night Moves, she wasn’t a box office draw yet.
  2. For some reason they moved the location to New Orleans. As the original book and first film take place in Los Angeles, I’m not sure why they moved it to New Orleans. Though I liked some aspects of the film for this reason, I miss the flash and style of Los Angeles. This may have kept some Lew Archer fans away from the film.
  3. 9 years may have just been too long to wait for this film for the movie going audience at that time. Now with cable, DVD, On Demand, Netflix, etc. a film can live a lot longer in the people’s conscious. Harper was probably out of circulation quite awhile after 9 years, with a possible viewing on television every few years.

Just because this film was a flop back in the 1970’s doesn’t mean neo noir fans won’t enjoy it today. Like the first film, this is also based on a Ross Macdonald book.

We also still get Paul Newman playing the same Harper we loved in the first film. The story is good and well executed. Harper is brought out to New Orleans on a case, when he is hired by an old girlfriend. She asks for his help because she is being blackmailed. She has married into a wealthy family and when her mother-in-law is found dead, the case really takes off.

Though this sequel maybe inferior to the first film in a number of ways, it is still a good film worth watching. It is a bit darker than the first film with some grittier story points, making it more interesting in some ways. I watched this and Harper back to back and feel they do make a great double feature on a weekend afternoon. This movie is worth watching for fans of Newman and fans of Harper.

Favorite Tidbit: This is Melanie Griffith’s second film at only 17. Here first film released earlier in 1975 is also a classic neo noir, Night Moves. I reviewed this film earlier here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/05/07/review-night-moves/

Review: A Wolf at the Door or O Lobo atrás da Porta

A Wolf at the Door is a film written and directed by Fernando Coimbra. This is his first full length film and I look forward to seeing more from him.

This story starts with Sylvia, played by Fabiula Nascimento, going to pick up her daughter at school. She is told by the teacher that Sylvia called earlier and her neighbor has picked up her daughter. Of course Sylvia did not call and has no idea who has picked up her daughter.

Soon Sylvia’s Husband, played by Milhem Cortaz, is brought into the police station. His mistress, played by Leandra Leal is also soon brought in for questioning. From here we get a he said, she said story. Our husband tells his story and how he has left his mistress, but she did not take it well. Then we get the mistress’ story about how she didn’t know her boyfriend was married with a family and was betrayed by her boyfriend.

Which one of these two are telling the truth? Did either one have anything to do with the kidnapping? This movie is a bit of a slow burn, but it is worth the payoff in the end. This is a he said/she said with unreliable narrators and a crazy ending. The film is from Brazil, but shows a domestic life similar to anywhere in the world, showing fears and realities of mentally unstable people and of course the dark side of affairs. Is our mistress a femme fatale or is she a victim of circumstance? This film is worth watching for fans of world cinema and neo-noir.

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?

Review: The Suicide Theory

The Suicide Theory is an Australian neo-noir from director Dru Brown and writer Michael Kospiah. This film revolves around our two main characters played by Steve Mouzakis and Leon Cain.

Mouzakis plays Steven Ray, a hired hit-man who is afraid to cross the street and tends to cross dress in the privacy of his apartment. Cain plays Percival, an artist who wants to die, but cannot seem to get the job done on his own.

This films opening scene starts with Ray going to the store to pick up some ice cream. He talks to the store clerk about just finding out he is soon becoming a father. When they are interrupted by a rude customer, Ray jumps the customer in the alley and pummels him with the frozen ice cream. We flash forward three years and Percival hires Ray to kill him, because after numerous attempts he has failed to kill himself. The two soon grow a close bond with each other. Coincidence and fate are discussed between the two throughout the film and is the driving force of this story.

This film has a few flashbacks that come unannounced, making it a little hard to follow at first, but if you stick with it the puzzle comes together for you. This is an interesting concept and worth viewing for neo-noir fans looking for something new to watch.

Review: The Naked Kiss

This Naked Kiss is a film noir from the noir legend Samuel Fuller. Fuller wrote and directed this film from 1964.

This film starts out with a prostitute named Kelly, played by Constance Towers, in a fight with a man. The man pulls off her wig to reveal she is completely bald! The reason she is bald in this opening scene does come up later in the film, but seems a minor point by that time. This is a shocking scene though and appears promptly on many of the posters and promotional items for the film, I’m sure it peaked some interest in the film and sold a few tickets back in 1964. After this battle with the man, Kelly takes only the money that is owed to her and leaves. The film then flashes forward a few years as Kelly gets off the bus in Grantville. She soon meets a police captain named Griff, played by Anthony Eisley. Griff soon becomes Kelly’s first customer in town and it is also her last. Griff recommends Kelly go across the river and work at an established cat house in the neighboring town. When Griff goes to the cat house to see how Kelly has settled in, he finds she is not there. Kelly has had a change of heart and soon gets a job at the local hospital for children. When Kelly meets J.L. Grant, the Grant for which the town Grantville is named, there are instant sparks and a romance soon starts.

The holes in this plot are so big that the plot doesn’t even make any sense after a while. Why does a prostitute suddenly decide to change her ways? OK, this one may be explained away as perhaps Kelly was playing the long game and using her femme fatale ways to land the most eligible bachelor. Kelly does seem to come across as bi-polar, one minute she is the nicest person you will ever meet and the next she is loosing it for some minor reason. I don’t know whether Towers is a bad actress or brilliant, I could never get a read on what Kelly’s motives are and at the end of this film I still didn’t know why she did half the stuff she did.

This film is unique and a bit campy in places, but well worth viewing for fans of classic film noir. This is not my favorite film from Fuller, but he has made it interesting enough that I’m glad I did see it.

Favorite Tidbit: Samuel Fuller put a few Easter Eggs in this film from his own noir universe. In one scene you can see Kelly walking by a theater where Fuller’s previous film Shock Corridor is on the marquee. In another scene Kelly is reading on a park bench while talking to Griff, the book she is reading is The Dark Page,a book written by Fuller.

Essay: WHEN SEXUAL MANIPULATION IS THE MOST FEMINIST MOVE OF ALL

Amanda Fortini over at Elle makes a case for the femme fatale. This is a very interesting take on the femme fatale, coming from a women in today’s world. She looks at the femme fatale from the classic films noir as well as the ones she grew up watching in the 1990’s. This is worth reading and you can read the full essay over at Elle here:

http://www.elle.com/culture/movies-tv/a30815/femme-fatal-essay/?utm_content=buffere7812&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Review: After Dark, My Sweet

After Dark, My Sweet is a film from 1990, based on the Jim Thompson book of the same name from 1955. I have read a number of Thompson’s books, but have not got around to this one yet. I was interested in watching this film because it was based on Thompson’s work.

This film is directed by James Foley. Foley seems to be the go to neo-noir director of smaller budget films over the last 30 years or so. He even has directed some neo-noir style television shows in his long career.

This film starts with Jason Patrick wandering around in the desert. Patrick plays Kevin ‘kid’ Collins an ex-boxer with some mental issues. This story is told in the first person from Collins’ perspective and lets just say he is an unreliable narrator, a trademark of Jim Thompson’s books. He soon finds himself in a bar when femme fatale Fay Anderson, played by Rachel Ward, walks into the bar. Collins tries to strike up a conversation with Fay, but when Fay doesn’t seem interested the bartender comes to her aid. Collins knocks out the bartender and takes off, knowing he will soon be in trouble if he stays. When Fay sees Collins’ skill with his fists, she chases him down and brings him home. Collins soon meets Uncle Bud played by Bruce Dern. Uncle Bud has a plan for some quick money and wants Collins’ help and the double crosses soon start. Who can Collins trust…or even believe, including himself.

From what I understand, this movie stays pretty true to the book, this means we get plenty of 1950’s noir dialog. I enjoyed the dialog quite a bit, but this may be lost on today’s film fans. The story is hard to follow since the narrator is untrustworthy, it is difficult to figure out what he has imagined and what is real. The story is interesting and original if nothing else. I enjoyed the film and think neo-noir fans will enjoy it too, especially fans of these kind of films from the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Review: The Bridge or “Bron/Broen” Season 1

To some people this television series may sound very familiar. This series has been remade for an American audience starring Diane Kruger. That is how I found out about this series, I was watching the first few episodes of the American version and looking at information about it, when I seen it was a remake.  I honestly liked this concept, but could not get into the series and gave up on it. The story was interesting but not well executed, so I decide to go to the original, and I’m glad I did!

This series, along with The Killing, also remade in America, are the beginnings of a movement of Nordic Noir on television. This season one story starts out with a dead body found on a bridge that crosses the border between Sweden and Denmark. The body is placed perfectly on the borderline of the two countries. When Saga played by Sofia Helin responds to the crime scene, she clashes with Denmark detective Martin played by Kim Bodnia. When the victim is identified as a Swedish citizen, Saga takes over the case with Martin’s blessing. The body is soon discovered to actually be two bodies an upper half from Sweden and a lower half belonging to a prostitute from Denmark, Martin is brought back onto the case. As the murderer soon evolves into more of a terrorist trying to get a message across, Saga and Martin work together to solve the case.

Though this series has some great supporting characters and all of them are important to the overall story, this series concentrates on these main two characters, both on the job and off.

Saga is a very original character. She is honest to a fault and plays by the rules and those rules do not bend at all. She may even overshare too much at times. She is strange and brilliant at the same time. She is socially awkward and this makes her unliked at work. She lives by herself and has no family left. She is also beautiful, drives a Porsche, and wears leather pants, this gives her a superhero feel to a certain extent.

Martin is a likable guy and lives for his family. He has a strong, professional wife and lives in a great looking house. They have a couple young kids as well as Martin’s young adult son from another marriage living with them. Martin has been married 3 times now and really wants this marriage to work. He is a bit jaded from being on the police force for so long and comes across as our hardboiled detective for this story. He drives an old Chrysler Minivan and is a blue-collar hard-working cop, who tends to bend the rules if he feels it is for the greater good.

You maybe saying this is just another buddy cop thing with two opposites forced to work together and becoming best friends in the process. Yes there is that element to this show, but that is a minor piece in a much bigger puzzle. Yes, we also have the trope of a genius serial killer playing a cat and mouse game with the police, but there is something special here and I highly recommend the first season of this series. I will be continuing on to Season 2 as soon as the DVD’s arrive and look forward to following these characters for another 10 episodes.