Tag Archives: Film noir

The grifters and con artists of Nightmare Alley

I have a piece on the new Crime Reads site – a spin off of the respected Literary Hub- on William Lindsay Gresham’s 1946 little known novel, Nightmare Alley. Gresham’s book is a masterful story about the art of the grift and the best fictional depiction of the carny (slang for the traveling carnival employee). But most of all, it is a stone cold classic piece of low life noir fiction, dark, visceral, surprisingly sex-drenched for its time, and utterly devoid of redemption.

The piece is available in full here on Crime Reads.

Projection Booth podcast #352: Kiss Me Deadly

It was a joy and a thrill to join film scholar Kevin Heffernan and Mike White, host of the terrific Projection Booth podcast, for an episode of his show on what is probably my favourite film noir, Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly (1955).

Kiss Me Deadly is one of those films I watch every year or so and always find something new to appreciate about it. Talking with my two co-podcasters, I discovered even more to like about it. Issues canvassed during this podcast include:

Mike Hammer (and Mickey Spillane) as the personification of the crisis in post WWII masculinity, and the women in the film as examples of females who are fighting against the confines of their role in American society in the 1950s.

Pulp fiction.

The film’s popularity in France, particularly within surrealist circles for its depiction of the incoherence of everyday life and mass commercial culture.

The Cold War nuclear state, paranoia and surveillance.

THAT answering machine.

Jack Elam.

Ernest Laszlo’s sensational cinematography.

Los Angeles’ former Bunker Hill area as the 1940s/50s B-movie/noir outdoor film shooting location of choice.

The psychiatrist as an archetypal villain in 1940s/1950s American film.

Other fictional noir detective equivalents to Mike Hammer, including Harry Moseby in Arthur Penn’s 1975 film, Night Moves (okay that last part might of been just me).… Read more

Thoughts on Point Blank at 50

Point Blank premiered in San Francisco on August 30 1967. Critically overlooked at the time, its launched John Boorman’s Hollywood directorial career, became a cult hit and has had an enduring influence on crime cinema. It is a film I have watched on numerous occasions and each time it yields new insights. The 50th anniversary is an opportune time for a few thoughts about its importance.

Point Blank was loosely based the 1962 novel, The Hunter, the first in the series of books by the late Donald Westlake, writing as Richard Stark, about the master thief, Parker. It opens with Walker, as the Parker character is called, played by Lee Marvin, double-crossed and left for dead by his friend, Mal (John Vernon), and wife, Lynne (Sharon Acker), with whom Mal was having an affair, after the three of them have heisted a regular money drop on the prison island of Alcatraz by a powerful criminal network, the Organisation. Walker, somehow, survives his wounds and manages to get off the island. He reappears and proceeds to tear Organisation apart to find Mal and get his share from the heist, the amount of $94,000. He is assisted by a mysterious man, Yorst (Keenan Wynn), who at first comes across as a cop, but is eventually revealed as a senior member of the Organisation, who sees in Walker a means to eliminate his internal competitors.… Read more

The Big Nowhere: The best film noir you have never heard of

Martha 1As regular Pulp Curry readers will be aware, one of my great cinema loves in film noir. Everyone can name their favourite films noirs, usually the big name, famous ones, like Double Indemnity (1944), the 1946 version of The Killers or Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil (1958). But one of the things I love about the canon of cinema known as film noir is how broad and deep it is. So many fantastic films noirs were made that are relatively unknown to many people.

For a while now, I’ve been thinking it would be great to do a series of posts on the best unknown noirs and what they tell us about what film noir. I was going to do this for Pulp Curry, but a meeting during the recent Melbourne International Film Festival with Conor Bateman, who runs the great Sydney-based film site, 4:3, made me think they might be a better location for the posts.

So over the next few months, I’m am going to be doing a series of columns on 4:3, each one focusing on a different film noir that I think is particularly good and unknown, and posting links to them on this site.

The criteria are simple. That the film be little known, good, American and released during 1945 – 1960. … Read more

The Shanghai Gesture

Melbourne Cinematheque is currently screening a series of films by the legendary Viennese-born auteur Joseph von Sternberg. It’s as good an opportunity as any to post this great review of one of the strangest and most powerful film noirs I have seen, von Sternberg’s 1941 classic, The Shanghai Gesture, starring Gene Tierney, Victor Mature and Walter Huston.

Unfortunately, this is not one of the films being shown by Melbourne Cinematheque, although it’s not hard to get on DVD and it’s definitely worth it. I won’t spoil what follows by saying any more. This review originally appeared as Back Alley Noir’s Film Noir of the Week in September 2010. It was written Sheila O’Malley, whose excellent blog The Shelia Variations is well worth checking out. Thanks to Sheila for permission to reprint her work.

Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture, his last major picture, is characterized as a noir, but this is a film noir staggering through a cloud of opium smoke with fresh bruises on its hipbones. The film’s focus on an investigation into a nighttime world of corruption is one of the reasons for its noir status, not to mention the strong spider-woman in the lead, but in many respects the film eludes classification.

Based on a play by John Colton, the script of The Shanghai Gesture was problematic from the start, and von Sternberg was forced to make extensive cuts.… Read more