Review: The Curse of the Cat People

The Curse of the Cat People is the sequel of The Cat People, both produced for RKO by Val Lewton. This film is directed by Gunther von Fritsch (as Gunther V. Fritsch)  and Robert Wise. This is Wise’s first film and of course went on to direct some great films noir as well as a few classic musicals and throw in some sci-fi and horror favorites. Our three main characters are the same as the first film and we throw in a creepy little girl for an added twist.

This film was released in 1944, two years after the first film. Over this two years, our happy couple at the end of the first film has married and has a 7 to 8-year-old daughter named Amy, played by Ann Carter. If this time frame doesn’t make sense, well I think your right. Not only do we have a little girl 6 years older than possible, her father played by Kent Smith, thinks she has a little of her deceased first wife in her, someone who has died a year or so before she was born. Well who said a good film has to make total sense, especially a horror noir.

The film starts with a class of kids out playing, we soon learn Amy is a little different then the other kids. She starts to chase a butterfly and a boy helps her catch it. The boy accidentally kills the butterfly and Amy slaps the boy. Her father and mother played by Jane Randolph, meet with her teacher. When the teacher tell the parents it was nothing, only a slap. Her father is concerned with his daughter and how she is acting. The teacher reassured the couple that Amy is fine and it’s just kids being kids(Wow! how things have changed! can you imagine a girl slapping a boy in class today and the parents being worried about her actions and the teacher saying not to worry about it?)

As the film goes on Amy is alienated from the other kids more and more, but she finds a new friend in the ghost of Irene, her fathers first wife, played by Simone Simon, who has died in the first film. Things continue to get creeper and creeper from here.

Even though a lot of this film takes place during the Christmas Holiday, I think it is safe to say, this and the first film would make for a great Halloween double feature. Here is my review of the first film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/09/23/re-watching-the-classics-cat-people/

Advertisements

1947 Blogathon! Review: Born to Kill

Born to Kill is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Robert Wise based on the book Deadlier than the Male by James Gunn.

This was a staring vehicle for Lawrence Tierney who came to prominence in Dillinger a few years earlier. The public ate up Tierney as the bad boy, all the women loved and all the men wanted to be, he’s just a little more bad than most. This also stars Claire Trevor as our femme fatale.

Born to Kill has almost every film noir trope you can think of, a crime of passion, loose women, murder, star-crossed lovers, unreliable characters, a private eye, black mail, friends loyal enough to kill for, crazy circumstances involving our main characters, not many truly good people and more.

This film starts with Helen played by Trevor getting out of court with her divorce finally official. She has been in Reno 6 weeks to get this done and now it is her last night in town. She goes home where she meets two women drinking in her rooming house. Laury Palmer played by Isabel Jewell, who lives next door to the rooming house and Mrs. Kraft played by Esther Howard who owns the rooming house. Palmer mentions she is using one man to make another man jealous as the girl talk continues. They are drinking beer and ask Helen to join them to celebrate her divorce. She declines and goes to the casino for one last night on the town. Helen is at the craps table when she sees Sam, played by Tierney, throwing the dice. We see the instant attraction between the two. Palmer and one of her dates runs into Helen at the craps table and Sam does not look happy. Palmer and her boyfriend go back to her place and run into a furious Sam.

Sam is the boyfriend Palmer is trying to make jealous and boy did she do a good job! Sam murders the two and in his getaway lets Palmer’s dog out. Helen comes along and sees the dog and brings him back to the house to find the two dead bodies. She doesn’t say anything and gets on the train to go back to San Francisco. Sam goes back to his place where his friend, played by Elisha Cook Jr., tells Sam to get on the next train to San Francisco. Soon Sam and Helen get on the train at the same time and our story gets more complex and interesting in San Francisco. We soon meet Helen’s sister played by Audrey Long and a hard-boiled private detective played by Walter Slezak for good measure.

So as you can see from my brief introduction to this movie that a lot of the film relies on a crazy amount of coincidences. That aside this is a very dark film with Sam being a man who women cannot resist and Helen being a woman that will do anything to get what she wants. This film had to really push the limits of what could be in a film in 1947. This is Robert Wise’s first film noir and he went on to make many more great ones. Strange to think of a director who could make such dark films is probably better known for his musicals later in his career.

still-of-walter-slezak-and-claire-trevor-in-born-to-kill-1947-large-picture

This is a very high level film noir and should be checked out by everybody who loves classic film. You could write a book on this film, but I’m going to stop writing now and let you go out and experience this film for yourself.

 

tumblr_mzyuojdthj1rpy49jo1_1280

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: I Want to Live!

lf

I Want To Live! Is a film-noir from 1958 that looks at a story that ended a few years earlier in 1955.  This is the story of real life criminal Barbara Graham.  known as “Bloody Babs” in the press, Graham was a career criminal  and was a known prostitute earlier in life. She kept bad company and is said to have helped break into a house with 3 men to rob a wealthy older women in a wheel chair.  They ended up murdering her and were then arrested.  Some say this movie is pretty true to fact, but general consensus is this is a highly fictionalized portrayal.

The reason I got to see this movie is it is 28 Days of Oscar on TCM and this is on because of Susan Hayward’s great performance.  She not only won the Best Actress Award in 1959, she also won the Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

600full-i-want-to-live!-screenshot

When Hayward signed on for this movie it wasn’t because she loved the script or thought it was going to be a great film. She did it to help out Producer Walter Wanger, Wanger was instrumental in starting Hayward’s career in film.  Wanger was making a comeback in film at the time because he had just got out of jail for shooting a man who was having an affair with his wife.  It was quite the scandal and Wanger had to reinvent himself.  Hayward was glad to help him.

This film is directed by Robert Wise one of the greatest directors in Hollywood history and directed many classic films in his long career.  Though Wise was never known as a film-noir director, he does a great job in this movie.  The off-center angles at the beginning are amazing and prison scenes are very well done.  Robert Wise really prepared well for this film, especially doing a lot of research to get the execution scene right.  The way this scene is shot, edited and doesn’t use music, but keeps it very silent and sparse is amazing. The end of this movie takes this film to another level.  This movie and Barbara Graham’s real life case went a long way in helping the anti-death penalty cause in California.  This doesn’t have your normal twists and turns we are used to in classic film-noir, but it is very dark and startling.