Friday, January 28, 2011

Fritz Lang Retrospective

above: Coop kicks Nazi ass.

The New York Times ran a good piece last Sunday on director Fritiz Lang in advance of a new series, FRITZ LANG IN HOLLYWOOD, running at the Film Forum from January 28 to February 10. I'm happy the article singled out the often overlooked Lang spy film CLOAK AND DAGGER, which provides our only chance to see Gary Cooper as a physics professor who dukes it out with Nazis. You read that last part right. Coop's a two-fisted physics professor. The movie is no one's idea of a masterpiece, but it's more fun than your average Lang film (which tended to come in shades of dark and darker).

The series is showing THE BIG HEAT and HUMAN DESIRE, Lang's two films with stars Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame. The first one is more famous and highly regarded, but I've always rather preferred the second film's bitter take on, well, human desire. The series also features both of Lang's films with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW and SCARLETT STREET. Both are well worth seeing, but for my money SCARLET STREET is the best film Lang ever made and one of the indispensable noirs.

For more on the series, including a complete list of films they're showing, read here.

Read the Times article here.

Then Again...

above: want to see John Huston in Welles's unseen THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND? Me, too. Sorry.

Wellesnet has knocked down the Observer report. So we go back to waiting.


Monday, January 24, 2011

The Other Side of The Wind Update

Is it too early in the year to begin passing along reports that Orson Welles's final uncompleted film, THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND may be about to see release? It seems like one hears these rumors every year. Made in the early seventies with a group of friends and associates, WIND is only one of a shelf of projects that Welles was unable to complete and release in his lifetime (others include DON QUIXOTE and THE DEEP). Ever since footage from his long lost anthology film IT'S ALL TRUE was recovered and released in a documentary in 1993, however, it seems like the rumblings about WIND have grown steadily stronger.

They may be about to get even louder.

On January 23, Dalya Alberge reported in The Observer that a deal is in the works to finally clear the way for the film's release. Click here to read the report.

To learn more about the film and the controversy surrounding it, click here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Andrews on Preminger

Check out the archival interview of star Dana Andrews--the quiet man of film noir--over at In it, he discusses working with his frequent director, Otto Preminger. Their films together, one of the great actor/director collaborations in noir history produced LAURA, FALLEN ANGEL, WHERE THE SIDEWALK ENDS, and DAISY KENYON. Easily available on DVD, these movies are not to be missed.

The interview offers a rare look at this often undervalued star. Fans of Andrews' hardboiled screen persona will be surprised how talky and urban he was. Listen to the interview here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mug Shots #16: Barbara Stanwyck aka The Angel of Death

Over on the nice side of town she's the heroine of slapstick comedies and Capra parables, but over here in the land of perpetual night Stanwyck is death in high heels. From THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS to CRIME OF PASSION, she killed more men than smoking. Her most famous role, of course, was as the archetypal femme fatale, Mrs. Phyllis Dietrichson in Billy Wilder's DOUBLE INDEMNITY.

Full disclosure: unlike many noir geeks, I'm not really a Stanwyck devotee. I like her, I'm never unhappy to see her in a movie, but I don't love her. There's something about her clench-jawed intensity that doesn't attract me. Her spunk plays well in comedies (my favorite Stanwyck performance is as the wisecracking Sugarpuss O'Shea in BALL OF FIRE) because her inner tomboy is allowed to come out and play with the guys. Something in her noir persona, however, leaves me a little cold. Maybe it comes down to this: I'm pretty sure Ava Gardner could have talked me into murder. I'm not sure Stanwyck could.

Even if Stanwyck has never been my favorite actress, I would never deny her impact on noir. Among A-list female stars, no one spent more time in Noirville. For a lot of people, Barbara Stanwyck is the embodiment of the femme fatale.

Essential Stanwyck Noir:
Double Indemnity
Clash By Night
The File on Thelma Jordan
Sorry, Wrong Number
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
No Man Of Her Own

Non-noir Stanwyck:
Ball of Fire
The Lady Eve
Meet John Doe
Golden Boy

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Eddie Muller Talks

Check out the Indianapolis Star's recent interview with "cultural archeologist" and film noir expert Eddie Muller. It's a good introduction to Muller and his work. There's also a bit of encouraging news for fans of the Lizabeth Scott masterpiece Too Late For Tears...

Read the interview here.

Friday, January 7, 2011


It's too early to say for sure, but the most exciting noir-related event of the year might well be the premiere of director Todd Haynes's HBO mini-series adaptation of James M. Cain's novel MILDRED PIERCE. It's a five part series, a strong indication that Haynes and his collaborators will be sticking closer to the novel than to Michael Curtiz's 1945 noir starring Joan Crawford. A look at the trailer for the film seems to bear this out. I for one am relieved by this. Curtiz's film is excellent, so there's no reason to remake a film that got pretty much everything right the first time. The book, however, is quite different from the '45 film, and Haynes clearly sees untapped possibilities in the original material. The mini-series format seems ideally suited for Cain's melodrama, and with a cast including Kate Winslet, Evan Rachel Wood, and Guy Pearce, this looks like it could be something special.

Look for it in March.

View the trailer here.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2010 Addendum

above: Sean Harris scaring the shit out of Paddy Considine in RED RIDING 1980

Some parting thoughts:

1. 2010 was the year of the Dude. After nearly forty years or so of being everyone's favorite underappreciated actor, Jeff Bridges had the biggest year of his career. He won Best Actor at the Oscars for CRAZY HEART, starred in TRON: LEGACY (a film I had no interest in seeing, but hey it hit number one at the box office so what do I know?) and he topped off the year with a critical and commercial hit with TRUE GRIT. On top of that, have you noticed that his cult status as "the Dude" has reached a the level where it's nearly always mentioned when people write about him? This would be a box for most actors--chaining them forever to that one role--but Bridges is so good it's simply a plus. Add Bad Blake and Rooster Cogburn to his roster of great roles. Not many actors go from star to superstar at 60, but then again some people age into their best selves. Bogart and Clooney, for example, were pretty much nonentities until they hit a certain age, and Meryl Streep has gone from critic's darling to box office power house in the last few years. Gotta love it when that happens.

2. I forgot to mention in the last post that one of the best experiences I had at the movies this year was spending at day at the E Street Cinema in Washington DC watching the RED RIDING Trilogy. Watching these black-as-midnight films back to back was exhausting (in retrospect, it was too much to absorb in one day), but the exhaustion was well-earned. The trilogy--a neo-noir epic set in England and centering around serial child killings and police corruption--is a deep dive into a very dark pool. The filmmaking (by writer Tony Grisoni and directors Julian Jarrold, James Marsh, Anand Tucker ) is superb from start to finish, but my favorite of the films was probably the second film RED RIDING: IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1980 with its terrifying performance by Sean Harris as a dirty cop. See a trailer for the trilogy here.

3. Still haven't seen a movie in 3D. I suppose I should take the plunge so I can know what I'm talking about, but god I don't want to see a movie in 3D.

4. In the few days, I'm going to see THE KING'S SPEECH and I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS. Here's a list of what I missed at the movies this year and hope to catch on Netflix in the months to come:


Of the top thirty highest grossing films of the year, I saw two, INCEPTION and SHUTTER ISLAND. (I just realized this. Odd that they both star Leo.) INCEPTION was okay for an hour and then got boring. SHUTTER ISLAND was a potboiler mystery with a trick ending and a whole lot of dead children--which is to say it leave a cheap aftertaste. I did not have a desire to see any of the other twenty-eight movies on the list. My finger, as always, is not on the pulse of the American public.