Showing posts with label film noir. Show all posts
Showing posts with label film noir. Show all posts

3 April 2015

Blu-ray Review - Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

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Drama, Film Noir
Arrow Academy
Rating: PG
BD Release Date:
30th March 2015 (UK)
Aspect Ratio:
16:9 - 1.66:1
Run Time:
96 minutes
Alexander Mackendrick
Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Susan Harrison
Buy:Sweet Smell of Success [Blu-ray]

Don't do anything I wouldn't do! That gives you a lot of leeway...” sums up the world in which you are in in The Sweet Smell of Success. It’s a world of pure amorality to the extreme; very few characters ever on screen are as crooked as Burt Lancaster’s J.J Hunsecker and Tony Curtis’ Sidney Falco. The film remains, nearly 60 years after it’s release, one of the most cynical of all noirs and shows the dark underbelly and dog- eat- dog nature of America.

Sidney is a press agent and hasn’t been able to get Hunsecker to write about any of his clients because of his failure to break-up the relationship between Hunsucker’s sister and her jazz musician boyfriend. Sidney becomes increasingly desperate to pay the favour for his chance of fortune, going to depraved lengths. As with most noirs, and especially noirs at the tail end of the classic era, it all ends horribly wrong for everyone involved.

The film comes alive when you have the two powerhouse performances from Lancaster and Curtis on screen. I’ve never been a big fan of Tony Curtis; Some like it Hot is a fun farce albeit an overrated one (Billy Wilder did much better films) and I have always liked Spartacus. He has a nervous energy in The Sweet Smell of Success that works and adds charm to this character that is full of neurosis. Burt Lancaster just destroys every second he is on screen in very possibly his most impressive performance in a career of many. He speaks with such venom and is just so physically imposing it just leaps out of the screen. It’s no wonder that Lancaster came out of the circus.

The legendary cinematographer, John Wong Howe is responsible for the on-location cinematography that is some of the first I know of that really shows the speed and energy of New York City. The director, Alexander Mackendrick, was full of anxieties during the shoot, with the busy streets of New York just adding to it, which is reflected in the finished product. Mackendrick said on the subject, "We started shooting in Times Square at rush hour, and we had high-powered actors and a camera crane and police help and all the rest of it, but we didn’t have any script. We knew where we were going vaguely, but that’s all".

The Sweet Smell of Success remains one of the visceral films to come out of the golden era of film noir. It perfectly captures the depravity that big-city journalism will stoop down to if need be, and the two leads are still exciting to watch over 50 years since it’s release. The film also became a musical at one point, which is just bizarre. Despite being an initial flop it is now rightfully considered as one of the true classics of post-war American Cinema. Arrow’s release includes a documentary on Alexander Mackendrick along with an appreciation and commentary by Philip Kemp who wrote a book on Mackendrick.

Ian Schultz

13 March 2015

DVD Review - He Walked By Night (1948)

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Film Noir
Simply Home Entertainment
Rating: PG
Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
Cast: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell, Jack Webb
Release: 16th March 2015
Buy: He Walked By Night [DVD]

He Walked by Night is a fairly standard procedural noir fare but has enough style to move it up a level. It was directed by Alfred L. Werker even though Anthony Mann finished the film. It’s very loosely inspired by the real life Erwin "Machine-Gun" Walker who committed a similar strings of crimes as depicted in the finished film.

Richard Basehart plays the killer Roy Morgan, who in the beginning shoots and kills a police officer. This is after the police officer questions him because he is acting suspicious outside an electronics store. The rest of the film is basically the police trying to find this mystery man.

The film’s big set piece is it’s climax, in an L.A storm drainage system. It’s very similar to the climactic scene in Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man and begs the question, did Graham Greene or Carol Reed see He Walked by Night? It’s very possible. The film’s director of photography was John Alton, who also shot one of the textbook examples of classic noir The Big Combo and numerous others; his use of light and shadow is partly what brings He Walked by Night up from being a fairly standard film to a solid one.

I would certainly not say He Walked by Night would be the best starting point for a budding fan of noir; there are dozens you should see before. Despite my reservations it has a strong lead performance by Basehart who plays a psychopathic killer very well. Overall, the film has a brutal nihilism that many of the best noirs do, but due to the standard of storytelling it misses it’s mark in becoming a classic.


Ian Schultz

26 November 2012

Watch Alan Moore's Jimmy's End

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Been a kid from UK who loved comic books in 1980's I didn't go for the typical Beano, Dandy, Topper,I just loved something a little darker, gritter sometimes surreal like 2000AD, Watchmen and V For Vendetta. It was unusual choices as I first went to primary school in 1980 starting high school 1988. There's one man I have to thank is Alan Moore the British cult comic book writer and his latest story come film Jimmy's End has appeared online in it's entirety.

Jimmy's End is a 32 minute short film which is part of a bigger project revolving around the same narrative, characters and locations. When you watch the film you can see a big David Lynch feel to it, very intense, surreal and full of sexual tension, it's neo-noir ala 1950's style at it's most disturbing. After you watch the film check out the 19 minute prequel Act Of Faith and spend an glorious hour in the company of Britain's finest comic book writer Alan Moore!

Did someone say bizzare?!

We’ve all been there: in the lapses after midnight, stumbling down unfamiliar gutters after one too many for the road and looking for inviting lights before they call last orders. James is trying to lose himself, but in a fractured men’s room mirror finds the eyes that have been waiting for him.
Following from the unnerving prelude Act of Faith, Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins unveil a phantasmagoric English dreamtime made of goosefleshed pin-up girls, burned out comedians and faulty lights, with judgement just behind the tinsel
Jimmy’s End pulls back the purple drapes upon an intricate new planet of desire and mystery. We’ve all been there.

source:Bloody Disgusting

12 November 2012

It Always Rains on Sunday DVD Review

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A snapshot of post-war, working class austerity, It Always Rains on Sunday, released in 1947, makes its way back onto cinema screens as part of the BFI’s Ealing retrospective, and is granted a special edition DVD release into the bargain.

Robert Hamer’s engaging drama, is arguably much less well known than Ealing’s comedic offerings, but its relative anonymity compared to the studio’s later offerings hides a stylistic and thematic ingenuity that prefigures not just nourish thrillers which would flourish shortly after, but also the working-class graft of the British New Wave.

Trapped in a joyless existence of bleak domesticity, dejected housewife Rose (Googie Withers) finds her dull life upset by the sudden reappearance of old flame, Tommy (John McCallum), on the run from police having recently escaped from Dartmoor Prison. As the routine of a typical Sunday unfolds around her, Rose desperately attempts to keep the presence of her former lover a secret from her husband, stepdaughters, and the cluttered, tangled lives of the street’s inhabitants: petty thieves, inquisitive journalists in search of a story, prying policemen and wheeler-dealer businessmen whose lives all contribute to a neat tapestry of supporting and intruding narrative threads.

It’s a bit of a conundrum to explain why It Always Rains on Sunday is not regularly included amongst the pantheon of Ealing greats. Perhaps the plain truth is that it was too much, too soon; a dangerous, determined piece of cinema intent on confronting the problems and realities of a post-war Britain, rather than playing on past glories.

The stylish Noir-tinged finale, the breathless chase through the Stratford train yard, faultlessly photographed by Douglas Slocombe would seem to echo that most illustrious of British thrillers, The Third Man, were it not for the fact that Robert Hamer’s daunting, dizzying chase through the shadows pre-dates Carol Reed’s masterpiece by two years. The low-key grind of daily life amongst the bomb-scarred terraces of the East End also provides us with a glimpse of the kind of social realism that wouldn’t be fully exulted for a decade or so.

If you are already familiar with this largely unheralded gem, do yourself a favour and reacquaint yourself. If not, find it and discover a wonderfully progressive masterwork of British cinema.

Chris Banks(@Chris_in_2D)


DVD Re-release Date:12th November 2012 (UK)
Directed By:Robert Hamer
CastGoogie WithersJack Warner , John McCallum
Buy:It Always Rains On Sunday (Digitally Remastered) [Blu-ray] / DVD