Sunday, July 27, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Movies Of 1944: DOUBLE INDEMNITY

This year film noir turns 70. While there had been some intermittent films leading up to the birth of the classic noir, in 1944 the dahlia bloomed with six key films: DOUBLE INDEMINTY, LAURA, MURDER MY SWEET, PHANTOM LADY, WHEN STRANGERS MARRY, and THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW. In these films you have many of the key figures in noir making some of their first forays into the genre (directors Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, Fritz Lang, and Robert Siodmak; writers Raymond Chandler, Cornell Woolrich, Vera Caspary, Phillip Yordan; actors Robert Mitchum, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, Dana Andrews—just to name a few). This onslaught of darkness came in the wake of the bleakest days (from the American perspective, anyway) of WWII. The basis of many of these films were older properties but it is the way these films came out—physically darker, psychologically denser, and ultimately more pessimistic—that marks the real birth of film noir. Over at Criminal Element I'm kicking off a new series which will explore these six landmark films.

First up DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

WORLD OF TROUBLE: The Last Policeman Book III

Today sees the release of WORLD OF TROUBLE, the final volume in The Last Policeman trilogy by Ben H. Winters. I hate to see it come to an end, but I am happy to report that it ends with style and grace. I wrote a review over at Tor.com. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Raymond Burr: Noir's Face of Evil

above: Burr throws a scare into Liz Scott and Dick Powell in PITFALL


As I point out in a new Goon Squad piece over at Criminal Element, it would be interesting to know if a hundred years from now the world will remember Raymond Burr's performance as Perry Mason on television. I have a suspicion that it won't. This theory is built on my gut instinct that people won't care about a TV show from the late fifties.

And yet I also suspect that there will be a small group of cinema geeks who still love film noir (I mean, people are still reading Sophocles...). If this suspicion proves true, then at least that small group of people will know and love Raymond Burr.

At this late date, most non-noir geeks still don't know that Raymond Burr was pretty much THE face of evil in the most important film genre of the 1950s. He played masterminds, henchmen, and stone-cold psychos. The one element of all of them? That stare that contained contempt for lesser beings. Everyone around him seemed to insult his intelligence.

Check out my piece at Criminal Element to find out more about the secret life and noir career of the pre-Perry Raymond Burr.
 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Midnight In America: The Film Noir of John Reinhardt

The new issue of NOIR CITY is out and it features the first installment of a new series by Yours Truly called Poverty Row Professionals. Faithful reader know that I have a weakness for the down and dirty world of B-films. I'm talking here about the cheapest of the cheap stuff that rolled out of Gower Gulch in the forties and early fifties. I'm talking Cheapsville.

First up, I examine the career of director John Reinhardt. Though he's been largely forgotten today, Reinhardt made some of the darkest, most cynical noirs of the classic period including THE GUILTY, HIGH TIDE, OPEN SECRET, and CHICAGO CALLING. Great stuff. In my research, I found some interesting bits about Reinhardt's life: he was next door neighbors with Bogart, who used to crash on Reinhardt's couch when he was on the outs with Mayo Methot (which was often); he served under John Ford in WWII and did recon missions in Mexico; and more. But the best part of writing the article was spending all that time looking at Reinhardt's work. He was the perfect candidate to kick off a series on the professionals of Poverty Row.
This issue of NOIR CITY (Summer 2014) has a ton of great material, including pieces by Dennis Lehane, Duane Swierczynski, Vince Kennan, Steve Kronenberg, Eddie Muller, and more. It's fantastic and I'm pleased as hell to be in it.

Learn how to get a copy of NOIR CITY here.   

Monday, June 30, 2014

Dorothy B. Hughes

I just stumbled across a piece (which is a couple of years old) over at the Los Angeles Review Of Books about the great Dorothy B. Hughes. It's a wonderful introduction to one of the greatest of all postwar crime writers. Hughes is probably best known today for providing the source novel for the Bogart classic IN A LONELY PLACE, but her books represent one of the most consistent body of works you can find in crime writing. (Her novel of IN A LONELY PLACE is far different than the movie. At some point in the future, I'm going to have to do a book vs. film comparison. Although, "versus" isn't quite right when you're comparing two very distinct masterpieces.)

Check out "On The World's Finest Female Noir Writer, Dorothy B. Hughes" by Sarah Weinman. It's terrific.