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.

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Review: The Secret Fury

The Secret Fury is a little known film noir from 1950 directed by Mel Ferrer. It is based on a story by Jack Leonard, Leonard wrote a handful of stories for noir films in the 1950’s. He’s best known work today is The Narrow Margin. Here is a look at my review of The Narrow Margin:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/03/20/re-watching-the-classics-the-narrow-margin/

The Secret Fury revolves around our main two characters, Ellen R. Ewing played by Claudette Colbert and David McLean played by Robert Ryan.

This film starts with David trying to get into a party of which he does not have an invitation. On the third attempt he gets in, only to get pulled aside by somebody that notices he does not fit in. The lady of the house brings David upstairs to change, because he is the groom at the wedding going on at the house. He soon changes into his tux while his lovely bride is on the other side of the door getting into her wedding gown.  This film starts out with a bit of a slap stick comedy feel to show off the happy couple.

During the wedding ceremony, when the priest asks if anybody has a reason for these two not to be wed, a man jumps up. He states the bride is already married to another man! When a quick phone call is made to the marriage office of the county in which she is supposedly married, it proves to be true. The couple goes to investigate the marriage in which the bride has no memory. As they show up to this town, everybody remembers her as the happy wife of another man. Her and David soon find the first husband. When Ellen and her supposed first husband meet alone in a different room, we hear a gun shot. As David and the rest of the people flood into the room, we find Ellen standing over her first husband’s dead body and a gun at her feet.

Is Ellen crazy? Is she hiding something? Is she being framed? Does she have amnesia? Will David be able to figure out what is really happening?

This is an interesting film as it starts out as a happy feeling film and slowly gets darker and darker. Robert Ryan shows this change the most throughout the film as he goes from happy groom to an amateur hardboiled P.I.. Colbert is also very good as she goes from the happy bride to a mental case. I don’t know how any Robert Ryan film noir went under the radar for me, but it seems to have flown under the radar for a lot of fans. This is worth watching for film noir fans and Ryan fans especially. It may not be as great as some of Ryan’s other classics, but still worth a viewing.

Review: The Woman on the Beach

The Woman on the Beach is a film noir from 1947 directed by Jean Renoir. We have Joan Bennett as our femme fatale and Robert Ryan as our duped hero. Charles Bickford plays our disgruntled blind husband of Bennett. This is a short film of only 71 minutes long and a fairly simple plot with out much wow factor.

This film starts out very strong with Ryan having a nightmare. The nightmare is strange and wonderful, with some cool camera effects. Ryan plays a Navy man who has seen some bad things. Today we would say he has Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. He wakes from his nightmare as his bed’s head frame and shadows on the wall show he really is in a prison of his own mind.

He travels along the beach where Bennett catches his eye, though he doesn’t stop or acknowledge her, we see there is some electricity there. He continues on his intended path to talk to his girlfriend, played by Nan Leslie, to see if she will marry him. Is this a last-ditch effort to save himself from going mad?

Even though Ryan has just become engaged, he still finds an attraction to Bennett who he learns is married. Ryan soon meets the husband who is a famous artist, except he has recently gone blind. Bickford plays the blind artist who is a very interesting character. He is abusive to his wife, maybe taking out his frustrations on her? As the movie goes along we find the couple to be in a co-dependent relationship. Bickford takes a liking to Ryan, or does he just want his enemy close?

Ryan believes Bickford really isn’t blind but is pretending, to keep Bennett close to him. This all sounds great, but it seems to trail off from here with out to much of a plot. I think this film would have been much better with a little more plot towards the end and a slightly longer run time. Ryan is great as usual, playing an average man back from the war. Bennett is good as our complex femme fatale, using men to get what she wants, but does she really know what she wants? Bickford is also very good as the bitter husband that has lost everything important to him, but is trying to adapt.

This is a decent film worth watching. It has three great characters and starts out with a strong study of those characters. This first half hour is very intense and you feel like you are on your way to watching a hidden gem, but the second half fell a little flat to me. Still worth watching for film noir buffs and fans of the three leads.

Review: Act of Violence

Act of Violence is a film noir from 1948 starring two of the genres greats, Van Heflin and Robert Ryan.  This film also stars Janet Leigh in only her fifth film, and Mary Astor in a small part as a prostitute.  This film is also an early film by director Fred Zinnemann.

This film starts out showing our World War II vet, Heflin is happily married to Leigh and a successful business owner in suburbia California.  Heflin and his neighbor are packing for a fishing trip and heading up to a mountain lake for some R and R.  We soon see our dark stranger with a limp arriving in town and trying to locate Heflin.  He comes across as deranged and scary.  He approaches Leigh at their home and finds out Heflin is at the mountain lake.  He rents a car and heads up to the lake, rents a boat and tracks down Heflin.  The cat and mouse game continues between the two as we learn their history.

The interesting thing about this film is how we start out looking at Ryan as the villain, but our alliances change throughout the film as we learn about each man.

We have some wonderful cinematography in this, I especially enjoyed the scenes where Heflin is running to an unknown destination through the empty streets of Los Angeles.

This is a very interesting film as there really isn’t a bad guy or a good guy.  We don’t even have an anti-hero to root for.  We sympathies with both main characters in this film and understand where both are coming from.  The message I got out of this is we all have made mistakes, all we can do is, try to do the best we can from here on out.  Maybe the other message is let bygones be bygones.  We also maybe getting a taste of “not everybody in the suburbs are what they seem”.

This is a very good film all noir lovers should see, and if you are a fan of any of the four stars it is well worth your time.  They are all excellent and I have already mentioned in past reviews how much I like Heflin and Ryan and they both play something different then I’ve seen them play before and both do an excellent job once again.  Astor shows her range as she was playing a hardened street-walker in this and then going across the lot to play the mother in Little Women at the same time.  Leigh was just getting started in her career, but showed she could hang with the best, giving good depth to the scared, but strong loyal house wife.

Favorite Tidbit:  Even though this had four big stars in it and the film was very good, even being entered at the Cannes Film Festival in 1949, it still lost $637,000 at the box office.

Re-watching the Classics: The Set-Up

Here is a short film noir of only 73 minutes long, which takes place over those same 73 minutes.  This is Directed by Robert Wise and stars Robert Ryan as our main character.  Ryan plays Stoker, an over the hill boxer hoping to make one last run as a fighter.  Audrey Totter plays Stoker’s wife who wants him to stop fighting before he is hurt to bad. We start out with our couple in their apartment as Stoker gets ready to head to the arena.  He gives his wife a ticket to watch the fight, she makes one last effort to stop him from fighting to no avail.  Stoker gets into the locker room to start getting ready for his main event fight.  We meet a varied crew of fighters in different stages of their career.  It is almost like Stoker is reliving his past and looking into his near future as the fighter come and go, before and after their bouts.  We get to see so many great character actors of the classic noir era in this locker room.  Names such as George Tobias, Wallace Ford, Percy Helton, James Edwards and David Clarke.  We have a hodge-podge of fighters, trainers, promoters and gangsters coming and going through out the night. Stoker’s team and his opponents team have agreed that Stoker will throw the fight for the gangster named Little Boy played by Alan Baxter.  The problem is, nobody told Stoker!  Will he learn before it is too late to throw the fight?  If he does learn about the set-up will he agree to do it?  Will Stoker’s wife show up to watch the bout? As I have stated before, the more I watch Robert Ryan’s films the more I like him.  He did such a wide range of characters, it is hard to believe he could be so versatile.  The only common thread when Ryan is in a film, he will always be tough as nails.  This film is so unique and so great, I think everybody should see this at least once if you are a film lover at all.  If you are a noir fan it is a must see and if you like Ryan you probably already seen this, if not drop everything and do it now! Do you think this was a big influence on Quentin Tarantino’s story line in Pulp Fiction revolving around Bruce Willis’ character?  I can’t help but see many similarities between Willis and Ryan’s characters.  What do you think?

Review: House of Bamboo

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I’ve seen a few things on how great Samuel Fuller is, and I’ve not really watched or read any of his stuff before.  Hope to read some of his noir fiction soon.  I got a hold of this movie first and gave it a viewing.  Fuller wrote some of the dialog for this film and directed it.  This is actually a remake of the film noir The Street with No Name.  I have not seen Street with No Name but may have to check it out and compare it to this one.  Fuller filmed this film noir in CinemaScope and color, not many film noirs from the classic era where done this way.

This has 2 noir greats in it, Robert Ryan(quickly moving into my 5 favorite noir actors list) and Robert Stack.  We also have a fairly unique setting, this film was filmed and takes place in Tokyo.  We also have some Japanese talent in this film most notably is Shirley Yamaguchi as a kimono girl and Sessue Hayakawa as a police inspector.

Our story starts out with a train heist, a group of masked men rob the train which is protected by the U.S. Military as well as the Japanese.  They kill an Army soldier bringing in the military police to investigate.  Three weeks later we have another robbery, this time a man is shot by police and then shot 3 more times by his own team!  This is to make sure he is dead and can not get caught and talk.  The problem is he didn’t die!  They take the 3 slugs out of him and they match the bullets to the one in our dead soldier.  Even though his cohorts shot him, our suspect will not talk before he does die.  They find a picture of his wife(Yamaguchi), they keep it secret so his fellow criminals do not know about her.  They also found a letter from his friend Eddie who he tells to come to Tokyo for a cut of their new job.  Soon Eddie comes to town(Stack) and finds his friends wife.  He then falls into a crew of Americans pulling heists, run by tough guy Sandy(Ryan).  The story twists and turns from there for an enjoyable film.

This was an interesting movie with some great shots and scenes, very unique being in Japan and filmed in color.  I will definitely be looking for more stuff from Fuller to watch.  This is for any fan of film noir that does not mind it being in color, as well as fans of Fuller, Ryan and Stack.

Favorite Tidbit:  According to Robert Stack, in one scene Fuller told an actor to duck really low by a 50 gallon drum as he passed.  The actor was shocked when a real bullet went by him into the barrel.  Fuller used a sharp shooter for the scene and when the actor complained, Fuller told him the shooter know what he was doing.

Review: Inferno

Inferno is a 3D film-noir!??!  This movie is filmed in 3D, a very popular thing in the early 50’s and 20th Century Fox was a little late to the game.  This was their first film in 3D and didn’t come out until 1953.

This has film noir great Robert Ryan playing a millionaire that is abandon in the desert and left for dead.  He has a broken leg and has to survive on his own with very little water and food.

We also have frequent femme fatale Rhonda Fleming as the wife that leaves her rich husband in the desert to die.  Her motivation for doing so, is falling in love with the desert guide 3 days before, played by William Lundigan, and a circumstance where her husband falls from his horse and breaks his leg.

This is written by Francis M. Cockrell who wrote a lot of crime and thriller stories for the big and small screen.  Inferno is directed by Roy Ward Baker who directed many crime and horror projects for movies and television.

Our hero’s thirst for survival is based on his need for revenge on his wife.  We almost have 2 films here, the survival story of our hero and out femme fatale covering up the murder she thinks she’s committed.  Both come back together for a final conclusion in the end.

This is not a traditional film-noir, being filmed in color and 3-D, with stereo sound to boot.  The effect is well done, with the beauty of the desert setting and Fleming’s red hair and blue eyes popping in vivid Technicolor.  I watched this on television so I didn’t get to watch this in 3-D.  There was a few of these 3-D noir films made in the 1950’s, it would be cool to see these released on 3-D Blu-Ray.

This is not a widely viewed film with under 600 viewer ratings on IMDb.  I actually think this would be enjoyed by a wider audience then just crime and noir fans.  I think the outdoors enthusiast as well as western fans may enjoy this as well.