Suddenly the Blue Heat

Just back from foreign parts (more on that later) but Turner is running three very good Fritz Lang noirs (and one not so good – the ones to watch are BIG HEAT, WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS and THE BLUE GARDENIA). Not to mention the film starring Frank Sinatra as an assassin (!) SUDDENLY, and a good, grim little film it is. We’ve also got Bogart’s last film, THE HARDER THEY FALL, which I actually more like than love, and a couple of solid Burt Lancaster efforts. (CRISS CROSS is the better of the two.) The true gem of the day is the late night showing of THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, John Huston’s second best crime film (after the MALTESE FALCON of course.) The other films are not without interest (PARTY GIRL, for example, is a Nicholas Ray film with Cyd Charrise dance numbers!) but the Langs, Sinatra and JUNGLE are the ones to catch.

The narrow split second

Turner Classics again, and maybe my shortest post of all. The schedule this Friday is loaded with lesser Robert Mitchum vehicles, all still worthwhile, but not up with his best stuff. The one exception to this is HIS KIND OF WOMAN, a tense (if a tad overlong) film that starts with Mitchum getting on the wrong side of gangsters, and then gets immensely better the moment Vincent Price arrives on screen. This is maybe my favorite Price film from his days before becoming a horror star. It’s that good. The other two gems immediately precede the Mitchum film; SPLIT SECOND, in which some crooks on the lam discover they’ve wandered into a nuclear testing site, and THE NARROW MARGIN, maybe Charles McGraw and Louise Windsor’s finest moment, a masterfully edited bullet of a film without a wasted moment.

Other films of interest include THE SPLIT, with Mickey Rooney (!) on the wrong side of the law, and ELEVATOR TO THE MORGUE, directed by Louis Malle, a solid French crime film at the end of the evening.

I don’t think I’m DVRing anything this week. Is the world coming to an end? (Next week, of course, I’ll probably want to record everything.)

Mini-Turner!

I’m in and out of town for the next few days, but I thought I would put up a mini-recommendation post.  This Friday, Turner Classic Movies is mostly showing films with a variation on “If only I hadn’t wrote a note/joked about/yelled about being ready to kill somebody” plot.  It’s a good plot, but I wouldn’t recommend watching more than one or two of these in a row.  The classics today are STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (Hitchcock, and not quite a noir but pretty damn close) and THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS, which is up with the great noirs of all time, not to mention Kirk Douglas’s first film.  The unknown gem for the day is TENSION, starring Richard Basehart as a timid pharmacist suspected of murder.  The one I’m going to DVR is TOO LATE FOR TEARS.  Over and out.

Follow Me Quietly to a Raw Deal

So, a friend of mine mentioned how much he liked a film on Turner’s schedule that I didn’t recommend (THE BIG CLOCK.) There are simply too many good movies on the Turner schedule to cover them all. And yet I persevere.

This week’s schedule is filled with films from independent studios or the big studio’s B units. And most of them are good. FOLLOW ME QUIETLY, a film that follows the exploits of a serial killer called “The Judge”, gets it’s business finished in just about an hour and without the benefit of any major stars. ARMORED CAR ROBBERY is nearly as good. D.O.A. lets our poisoned protagonist solve his own murder (very cool, except for the comic sound effects – you’ll know them when you hear them.) It’s one of Edmund O’Brien’s best film noirs, the other being THE HITCH-HIKER, also on the schedule, which is the best noir directed by a woman (the great Ida Lupino.) THE BLUE DAHLIA and RAW DEAL are also worth your time (the first for Alan Ladd, the second for its great, moody photography – John Alton again.)

The best movie of the whole day is KISS ME DEADLY, probably the best adaptation of a Mickey Spillane Mike Hammer novel ever. Directed by Robert Aldrich (who went on to make WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE and a dozen other famous films) gives us more sex and violence than I had thought possible in a film from 1955. The film features an iconic image that Quentin Tarantino swiped for PULP FICTION. This movie will make your jaw drop. And it features the first appearance anywhere of Cloris Leachman!

The only film I haven’t seen this time around is DESTINATION MURDER. MY DVR is waiting.

It’s the Long Goodbye, and it happens every day.

Another Thursday, another bunch of movies to peruse on the Turner Classics Noir Friday.  The schedule has a few of the usual classics (KEY LARGO, WHITE HEAT, LADY FROM SHANGHAI.)  Every bit as good as those movies,although less well known, is THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, an early Nicolas Ray film (He went on to direct REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE)  and starring Farley Grainger .  This is the kind of movie that builds steadily up to its devastating conclusion.  Robert Altman remade it as THIEVES LIKE US.  Film noir at its finest.

This week they are showing four (!) films that I have never seen.  Of the four, the most interesting is THE BRIBE, starring Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner.  The exact reason why this film is so interesting rests with the bad guys, played by Vincent Price and Charles Laughton!  I mean, have you ever heard of better bad guys?

At the end of the evening, Turner is showing two movies from the late 60s/early 70s, basically the two best appearances of Phillip Marlowe in a modern setting.  The first is THE LONG GOODBYE, which I will admit to watching at least a dozen times. The movie was directed by Robert Altman, and has a somewhat more straight-forward plot then some of his other films.  Note the word “somewhat.”  Elliot Gould is the detective, Sterling Hayden one of the more interesting suspects. The film features 1970s LA, betrayal, surprising violence, and cat food.

Right after that is MARLOWE, with James Garner in the title role.  Let’s face it, James Garner is good in just about everything.  But the best part of this movie is when the hired killer shows up, intent on killing our hero; a killer played by BRUCE LEE!  Really!  Bruce is only on screen for about five minutes, but boy is that scene intense.

The title of this post comes from the theme music from the Altman film, composed by John Williams (the STAR WARS guy) and played in the background throughout the entire film.  And now that I mentioned the song, I’ll be humming it for the rest of the day.