Category Archives: Crime film

The Big Nowhere #4: Naked Alibi

Naked Alibi poster 2The Big Nowhere is a series of columns I’ve been doing for the 4:3 site, in which I look at the best film noir you’ve never heard of. Number 4 in the series is Jerry Hopper’s 1954 B-noir, Naked Alibi. A tale of desperate men, a femme fatale, jealously, obsession, set in a seedy small town, just your average film noir cocktail. What makes this otherwise average film worth seeing is the presence of Sterling Hayden as the disgraced cop and Gloria Grahame as the singer, two of the most interesting actors who worked in film noir in the late ’40s and ’50s.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.

Read more

Interview: Eddie Muller, Film Noir Foundation

Gun Crazy hi-resA warning: the following interview with Eddie Muller does not contain any discussion of the question, ‘what is film noir?’ It’s one of the few film noir related topics I didn’t talk about with him. Muller, sometimes known as ‘the Czar of Noir’, is a busy guy, founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation, fiction and non-fiction author, publisher, film restorer and now DVD distributor. His Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir (1998) and Dark City Dames: The Wicked Women of Film Noir (2001) are required reading for all would-be scholars film noir, and he has a new book out, Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema. Directed by Joseph H Lewis, Gun Crazy is the sordid story of a husband and wife team of criminal sociopaths, played by Peggy Cummins and John Dall. The film sank without a trace upon its release in 1950, but is now regarded as a classic and a much earlier precursor to the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde.

You have a new book out, Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema. As the title suggests, it’s about the making and influence of Joseph H Lewis’s 1950 film, Gun Crazy. As you stress in the book, the film hardly caused a ripple when it was first released.Read more

The Big Nowhere #2: Crashout

CrashoutThe second of my series looking at some of the best film noir you’ve never heard of, ‘The Big Nowhere’, is live here here at the film site, 4:3.

This week I  look at Lewis R. Foster’s little known 1955 jail break noir, Crashout. Crashout is a B-noir in every sense of the word. The prison break that opens the film was borrowed from scenes shot for another jail noir, Don Siegel’s Riot in Cell Block 11 (1954), and the cast is made up almost completely of solid but unspectacular character actors. But in addition to being fast paced and incredibly tense, Crashout has a remarkably sophisticated story that belies its outward appearance as a macho prison noir.

You can read the piece in full here on the 4:3 site.

Sicario, the myth of American innocence & the war on drugs

SicarioIn the mid-nineties, my brother and I drove all the way down the west coast of Mexico, stopped in Guatemala for a couple of weeks, then drove up Mexico’s eastern coast to Texas and onto Florida. Our time in Mexico was pretty much problem free (with the exception of the time we were pulled over by narcotics police at a check point on a remote stretch of road outside Cancun and my brother dissed one of the cops – but that’s another story). Indeed, the only instance in which we were threatened with genuine violence occurred not in Mexico but when gun was pulled on us in a bar in Miami. I struggled to reconcile my memories of Mexico as I watched Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.

Sicario (warning, spoilers follow) opens with a group of police, led by Kate Macer (Emily Blunt) busting into a house in the outer suburbs of Phoenix, suspected of having links to one of the Mexican drug cartels. There they make a gruesome discover. Entombed in the plasterboard walls are numerous corpses, wrapped in plastic, the victims of cartel kidnapping and murder. No sooner have forensics arrived to start cataloguing the bodies, then a bomb goes off in the backyard, killing two of the officers.

Kate is called into a meeting with her superiors and a mysterious man called Graver (Josh Brolin) and asked whether she wants to volunteer for a new assignment.… Read more

MIFF reportback #3: Phoenix

phoenix-2Sometimes I wonder whether it’ll ever be safe to venture back into the cinema without having to watch yet another incredibly complex, supposedly sexually transgressive, domestic wannabe neo-noir that looks and feels like another variation on Gone Girl. Which is what I really liked about the 2014 German thriller, Phoenix, part of the 2015 Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). It was none of those things.

There is no artifice or unnecessarily complexity in the plot of Phoenix. It is just a solid, engaging, almost pitch perfect historical thriller that also makes some interesting observations about the nature of memory and collective historical amnesia in the face of great tragedies like the Holocaust.

Nelly (Nina Hass) is a former singer and concentration camp survivor. The war has left her damaged, physically via a gunshot wound to her head, and psychologically due the trauma of what she has experienced. She is brought back to post-war West Berlin under the protection of her friend, Lene (Nina Kunzendorf). Lene organises for Nelly to have facial reconstruction surgery, after which the plan is for Nelly to put her financial affairs in order – she is heir to a substantial amount of money – and the two of them to travel to Palestine to help establish a homeland for the Jews.… Read more