Posted on November 26th, 2012 No comments
“2-2-Twain”. It’s puns galore in Niel Simon’s hilarious spoof of just about every murder mystery detective of the mid-20th century, the movie that uses more old-time gags and goofy plot devices than a thief has disguises…
Starring David Niven, Truman Capote, Eileen Brennan, Peter Falk, James Coco, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Estelle Winwood, James Cromwell, Richard Narita, and Nancy Walker. (Whew! That’s a lot of stars!)
There’s no way to tell you much about the storyline without giving it all away…so I’ll give you the basics. Lionel Twain (Capote) invites each of the most famous mystery detectives of all time to “Dinner and a Murder”. With slightly-off names like Sam Diamond and Jessica Marbles, the guests reluctantly come to Twian’s mansion (address: 22 Twain), and are soon treated to exactly what they were invited for…dinner, served by the blind butler (Guinness), and a murder. Yes, Obe Wan is a blind butler, aided by the deaf made (played by Nancy “Rosie” Walker). It’s all about devices.
The lights go out. Someone is stabbed in the back. Rooms change. The moose on the wall talks. People’s clothes disappear. There is thunder and lightning, the bridge is out, and everyone is a suspect. It’s up to the spoofish detectives to overcome their goofy lines and solve the mystery before it’s too late…but will they? Yes, they will. Or will they?
Directed by Robert Moore in a 1940’s Noir style (although it’s in color, which was probably also meant as a joke), Murder by Death is packed full of just about every cliché possible, from the “Milo Perrier” character (aka Poirot) mixing up English and French words:
Marcel: Something isn’t right in all of this, eh. I can feel it in my buns.
Inspector Milo Perrier: Your what?
Marcel: My buns.
Inspector Milo Perrier: Buns? Your buns? You bought buns and you didn’t tell me? Where are they? Where are the buns?
Marcel: Oh! No, monsieur. The BONES in my body.
Inspector Milo Perrier: You should not speak with an accent when you know I am so hungry.
Tess Skeffington: There’s nothing on him ’til ‘46, when he was picked up in El Paso, Texas, for trying to smuggle a truckload of rich white Americans across the border into Mexico to pick melons.
Sam Diamond : I think we picked ourselves a queer bird, angel.
Because it’s by one of our favorite cats, Niel Simon, the writing is incredibly rich and intelligent, in spite of the crazy wandering and goofy puns. Just when you think the mystery is solved, something else comes along to throw the “Twain” off the tracks (sorry, couldn’t resist). There are more twists than a bag of Twizzlers. All this, plus the fantastic performances from some of old Hollywood’s brightest stars, makes Murder By Death a fun movie to watch any time.
Food & Booze: This is a grand dinner, so go all out - roast turkey, baked ham, the works. Or, serve invisible soup (you’ll see). Vintage cocktails are in order: Martinis, Manhattans, and straight whiskey.
My Take: I first saw this movie in the mid 1980s, then again in the early 1990s. It’s part of what made me decide to start my own murder mystery comedy dinner theater, and to later write Noir murder mystery novels. Even though it’s a spoof, I rank it up there with The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express.
-Tiki Chris, reporting from the other dining room at Tiki Lounge Talk.
Posted on September 4th, 2012 No comments
What happens when a middle-aged detective suddenly learns he has an intense fear of heights? He quits the force…only to get dragged back into the investigation business at the behest of an old friend.
Starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak & Barbara Bel Geddes
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Stewart brilliantly plays the ex-cop who, as a favor to an old college buddy, agrees to follow his wife. It seems she’s been traveling to strange places, and the guy believes she’s actually not herself when she does…in fact, he believes she’s been possessed by the spirit of her great grandmother. He fears for her life, of course, since the GG ended her own life with a nosedive out of a tower. Stewart follows…and winds up falling for the dame (Novak). You can probably see where this is heading…but in true Hitchcock style, you must be prepared to expect the unexpected.
Giant redwoods, an old Spanish mission, and tons of great shots of late 1950’s San Francisco play into this strange mystery. Throw in a mod-style cartoon depicting Stewart’s fear of heights and some very kool 50s rides, and you’ve got a sort of time capsule that swings you back to CAL in the mid-20th century.
Vertigo was nominated for two Oscars and Hitchcock was nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America. Unlike some of Hitchcock’s other infamous flicks, it’s filmed in Technicolor, which adds a lot to the vibrance of the characters and the “historical” qualities of this 1950’s slice of Americana.
“Uncredited second-unit cameraman Irmin Roberts invented the famous “zoom out and track in” shot (now sometimes called “contra-zoom” or “trombone shot”) to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stairwell cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.”
“The building exterior used for Madeleine’s apartment building is located at 1000 Mason St., across the street from the Fairmont Hotel.”
“Poorly received by U.S. critics on its release, this film is now hailed as Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece.”
Here’s the trailer…
-Tiki Chris reporting from the Golden Gate Bridge.
Posted on March 7th, 2011 No comments
Phillip Marlowe is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time…and The Big Sleep is my favorite Marlowe movie, period. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, this cream of the crop Raymond Chandler Noir thriller encompasses everything Film Noir is about: The seedier side of life, making no distinction for class, wealth or education. Crime, and the inevitable punishment. Gambling. Loose women. Murder.
Swing by Marlowe’s scene and you’ll pick up some of the roughest, most colorful characters to hit the silver screen. The plot opens up easy but quickly thickens into a muddy soup of lies, blackmail and murder. Marlowe teeters between being one step ahead and one step behind throughout. But of course, using his wit and relying on a lotta luck, he comes out on top in the end, with a nicely wrapped-up little package: the case solved.
Interesting notes: This flick was shot in 1945, but didn’t release until a year later. Pushed off by a plethora of war films, The Big Sleep premiered so late that wartime stuff (like the “B” gas ration stickers on the cars) was already out of date. There were even some late reshoots, adding Lauren Bacall into even more scenes. This ended up with the film having two separates prints: one that was released for the Army in ‘45, and the 1946 version that was released to the public with the changed scenes. I’ve seen both, plus a special cut that was put together later which has all the scenes put in together, and honestly I like the combined one the best. (Don’t know if that’s available, but I found a DVD with both versions plus The Maltese Falcon, Dial “M” for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice for $11.99 on Amazon.com). This was also the film that sealed the deal for Bogart and Bacall…He ditched his wife and married his co-star three months after the film was finished. Reportedly, guilt over his affair with Bacall led to Bogart’s over-drinking during filming, enough that he held up production on a couple of dates. Live hard, baby.
Food & Booze: The story goes that Phillip Marlowe introduced The Gimlet to America in The Long Goodbye. The original recipe calls for Rose’s Lime Juice, not fresh, and most Gimlet drinkers will tell you they prefer the time-honored recipe with the bottled lime.
2 oz Gin
1 oz Rose’s Lime Juice
For dinner: “Somebody gunned Geiger or somebody got gunned by Geiger who ran away. Or he had meat for dinner and he likes to do his butchering in the parlour.” So, meat. Maybe Steak Tartare (From AllRecipes.com)
* 1 pound finely ground beef tenderloin
* 1 teaspoon brown mustard
* 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (e.g. Tabasco™), or to taste
* 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
* 1 teaspoon brandy
* 1 pinch salt, or to taste
* ground white pepper to taste
* 1 egg
1. In a medium bowl, mix together the beef, mustard, hot pepper sauce, Worcestershire sauce, brandy, salt, pepper and egg until well blended. Arrange the meat in a neat pile on a glass dish, and cover with aluminum foil. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Serve as a spread on crackers or toast. The legend goes that Tartare tribes when fighting in the past didn’t even have time to stop and cook their food. They are said to have kept the meat underneath their saddles and mince it in this way. Today this dish is a gourmet classic. This dish is eaten like a pate, spread on a piece of warm toast with fresh tomato and onion rings on top. It is very important though to make sure that both the meat and the egg are very fresh because they are eaten raw.”
Yeah, really, that’s Steak Tartare. Raw egg, raw meat. Mmmm. That’s a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen if I ever saw one. Maybe just a New York Strip done medium rare and a couple of potatoes instead. Yeah.
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the kitchenette in the snack bar at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Blounge for cool movies, exotic cocktails and Tiki-rama.
Oh, here’s the original trailer…
Posted on August 4th, 2010 5 comments
The much anticipated “Murder on Tiki Island” by Tiki Chris Pinto (me) is more than half finished. My goal is to get it laid down by the end of September. Then will come the re-writes and edits. With luck, it will be ready to pub by the Christmas Season.
Murder on Tiki Island takes place in 1956, on a private resort Island off the Florida Keys. Detective Bill Riggins (from Murder Behind the Closet Door) takes a vacation from his NYC cop job only to get caught up in a murder that goes beyond mystery, beyond our own plane of existence into the realm of the paranormal. Hot dames, steamy nights, fast cars and tropical cocktails come together like rum and lime juice in this vintage-style noir thriller. If you dig what you read here, kids, you’ll dig this tome.
If you can’t wait for December then check out Murder Behind the Closet Door, my first novel now available at Amazon.com. I’ve gotten all great reviews on this book (and not just from my pals). Again, it’s a book for people who dig the past and like to relive it through their minds. Set in Wildwood and Ocean City, New Jersey in 1978-79 with flashbacks to 1938, Murder Behind the Closet Door is a 600 page journey through the lives of ordinary people who find themselves thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Read more about it here at StarDust Mysteries, or at Amazon.com
-Tiki Chris Pinto reporting from the library under the coconut tree,
Tiki Lounge Talk is THE Tiki Culture/Retro Culture blog for kats and kittens who dig it all, baby. Yeah.
Posted on February 3rd, 2010 22 comments
I am sitting at the Tiki Bar on the lanai, sipping a Jack and Ginger and enjoying the cool South Florida evening breeze. This is my favorite time of year, when it’s warm and sunny by day and crisp at night. It’s evenings like this when I remember the old days, before I moved to Florida; how it’s icy cold and dark and gray and morbid in the North East, how everything is dead up there and everything is green and lush and full of life here. It’s evenings like this when I like to crack open a Mike Hammer novel, and remember the past.
When I read Mike Hammer, it takes me back to that other time, that other place. That dark, rough time in the city, when the nights were full of alluring dames and cheap booze and the weight of my .45 kept dragging me down, reminding me that there were big, tough wiseguys that needed a lesson in respect, beat into them the right way, with a crowbar. That other time, long ago; that dark, evil time in the rain-soaked, soot-streaked city.
Phillip Marlow was tough. Sam Spade knew his way around a .38. Even Sonny Crocket could pull a trigger on an Uzi without blinking an eye. But in the tough guy department, none of them came close to Mike Hammer.
I’m not talking about the watered-down-for-TV Mike Hammer, played by Darrin McGavin in the ’50s and Stacey Keach in the ’80s. I’m talking about the real Mike Hammer, the borderline-psychopath detective dreamed up by Mickey Spillane in the late 1940’s through the ’50s, the .45 automatic-toting ex-army special forces operative who learned how to track and maim and kill in the jungles of World War II, the big tough street mug with a fist of ice cold steel and a soft spot in his heart for the dames. That Mike Hammer.
If you’ve read Spillane, you know what I’m getting at. If you haven’t, you should, on the double. Just the fact that you’ve read this far clues me in that you’re gonna like it something big.
Of all the great (and not so great but nevertheless popular) detective stories that came out of the last 80 or so years, from Marlow to Veronica Mars, from Ellery Queen to Tony Rome, from James Bond to Batman, only one really stands out as something darker, something almost horrifying…the original down and dirty streetwise gumshoe, the hardcore dime-store private eye who did things his own way and got away with it, his way. Many copied his style down the line, but they never hit on the real difference, the one thing that made Hammer stand a couple of blocks away from all the rest.
You see, Mike Hammer was a murderer.
Sure, he had a private dick’s ticket, a little card stamped by the State of New York that gave him the legal right to carry a heater and arrest bad guys. But to Hammer, it was nothing more than a ‘get out of jail free’ card. A convenience when it came to court time. A slip of paper that gave him the right clean up his beloved city, to wipe up the back alleys and dimly-lit tap rooms with the faces of the city’s scum, and then to go a step further…because he’d been around the block few times, and he knew the score…arresting the bad guys didn’t do nuts. They’d get off; sure as hell they’d get sent up for a short stretch and be back on the streets mugging and robbing and beating up dames and little guys for spending cash and kicks. Jail wasn’t enough for this filth. They needed to be punished.
The small-time hoods got off easy with a beating they’d remember for life. A couple of cracked ribs, a broken jaw and brain damage usually did the trick with Horse-pushers and lowlife pimps, two-bit gamblers and croocked politicians. But for the killers…well, that was another story. An eye for an eye. If they lived as killers they needed to die as killers, by an equally evil and screwed-up killer. Mike was the self-appointed jailer, judge, jury…and executioner. And he always found a way to make his story stick, make it legit…one way or another, he would kill, he would need to kill; he would justify it as ridding the world of evil and he’d get away clean.
Don’t believe me? Think I’ve gone off the deep end? Set your peepers on this little bit of insight, taken from the first few pages of One Lonely Night, the fourth book in the Mike Hammer series. Published in 1951, the story gives an inner view of Hammer’s mind, the way he thinks, and what he thinks about the world he’s been forced into. To me, these few paragraphs sum up his character, the whole series, and the darker side of life in “the good old days”. It’s what made me really appreciate Mike Hammer when I first read I, The Jury at age 12. It makes me appreciate all the Hammer novels for what they are: The real diary of a madman.
(talking about a judge who wanted to throw the book at him, but could not) “…I was a licensed investigator who knocked off somebody who needed knocking off bad and he couldn’t get to me. So I was a murderer by definition and all the law could do was shake its finger at definitions.”…”maybe he thought I should have stayed there and called the cops when the bastard had a rod in his hand and it was pointing at my gut…” “He had to take me back five years to a time he knew of only second hand and tell me how it took a war to show me the power of the gun and the obscene pleasure that was brutality and force, the spicy sweetness of murder sanctified by law. That was me.” “…There in the muck and slime of the jungle, there in the stink that hung over the beaches rising from the bodies of the dead, there in the half-light of too many dusks and dawns laced together with the crisscrossed patterns of bullets, I had gotten a taste of death and found it palatable to the extent I could never again eat the fruits of a normal civilization.”…”I was a killer. I was a murderer, legalized. I had no reason for living. Yeah, he said that!”*
Mix that insanity in a shaker with a Colt .45 Combat Commander and an insatiable appetite for serving justice. Throw in a couple of ice cubes and a busty brunette secretary named Velda. Pour it in a tall chilled glass, frosty with the blood of a hundred hoodlums and garnish it with a peel of the city at night, and you’ve got a Mike Hammer Manhattan.
There are 13 books in the Mike Hammer series, plus the TV scripts and screen plays. But with the passing of Spillane a few years ago flew any chance of ever hearing Mike’s voice say anything new again. Others may try, some may come close. But no one can dole out the imagery or lay down the style that Mickey gave to his fantastically flawed unsung hero, Mike Hammer.
(Read the books, start from the beginning with I, The Jury and follow Mike all the way through to Black Alley. If you dig reading about real mid-century American culture through the eyes of an author who was writing these books at the time, as the present, you’ll absolutely enjoy Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer.)
-Original Content by Christopher Pinto for Tiki Lounge Talk.
*Passages from “One Lonely Night” written by Mickey Spillane, ©1951, 1979, used for informational/educational purposes only.