Posted on January 6th, 2014 2 comments
still packs a couple of punches that will make you gasp.
Set in early ’50s Kentport (basically Los Angeles), The Big Heat shows us a glimpse into the lives of brutal gangsters, women of questionable morals, straight cops, crooked cops, politicians on the payroll and cold-blooded murderers.
The Big Heat is a classic noir film directed by Fritz Lang, with award-winning actor Glenn Ford at the helm. As detective Sgt. Dave Bannion, he uncovers a network of criminals and crooked cops running the city, getting away with anything they want for a buck. But he steps to close to the action, and his life crumbles in the fallout.
Shot in gritty black and white with those shadows and effects that make a good noir movie great, The Big Heat is one of the most impactful, realistic thrillers of the era. Ford does a fantastic job of keeping his character low key yet intense. He’s serious…all business, because his work is serious, as are the consequences of his well-intended actions.
I don’t like to give anything away in my posts, but without spoiling I can say this: If you remember hearing about an old movie where someone gets a pot of boiling hot coffee thrown in their face, this is it. That should give you an idea of how far this movie goes, blowing away our current perception of 1950s censors’ standards.
The Big Heat also features a young Lee Marvin in a role that suits him well, but that you might find in opposition to what he is usually known for. It also features Gloria Grahame (know for her role as Ado Annie in Oklahoma) as the sarcastic, alcoholic and fed-up gangster girlfriend.
Dinner & Drinks: There’s a scene where Bannion and his wife share a gargantuan steak. Seriously, I don’t think they make cows that big anymore. If you can find one, go for it. Highballs and Martinis are appropriate for this cocktail-era moving picture.
My Take: The first time I tried to watch this movie I couldn’t get into it. Granted, I was distracted while trying to watch it, but my issue was that I was expecting a bullet-riddled B-movie with a lot of action. I was wrong; The Big Heat is an intelligent movie, well written and very well acted. The pace builds as the action intensifies. It’s important that you regard this movie on par with The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity or The Lost Weekend.
Noir Movie of the Week: “Murder Me, Murder You”, Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer starring Stacy Keach, 1983Posted on March 13th, 2013 No comments
It’s in color, made for TV, and from the ’80s…in spite of all that, this flick is a surprisingly well done, gripping movie with Keach playing Hammer truly like his namesake from the book. He pulls no punches, and has no qualms about killing the bad guys.
from 1983 staring Stacy Keach, Tanya Roberts, Don Stroud and Tom Atkins.
The 1980s were not known for the decade’s great Noir movies, and TV murder mysteries of the era were often some of the worst ever made. Consider this flick an exception. With a limited TV budget and Reagan-era censorship, Director Gary Nelson (a seasoned TV & Film director) managed to capture the true essence of Spillane’s style: dark and deadly serious, kept human by a few rays of sarcasm, a few laughs, and some hard liquor.
What makes this movie interesting to people like you and me is that it’s timeless. Mike Hammer is a 1950’s detective, living in the ’80s, driving a ’66 Mustang and listening to music from the ’40s. He talks, dresses and acts like a Noir gumshoe (including Porkpie hat) while fighting off Punk rockers and spandex-wearing muscle-heads. He carries his army issue .45 (named Betsy, just like in the books) and hangs out in a basement bar that only plays Swing on the Wurlitzer. Yet he’s got modern smarts, and although he runs into trouble with a whiny DA, he doesn’t think twice about beating the pulp out of some scumbags – and always gets away with it.
The Scene: The Art Director and locations manager did a bang-up job picking out “old” looking streets in New York. If it weren’t for the modern cars, this filrm would look like the outdoors were shot in the middle of the century. Don Stroud makes a grew Pat Chambers, Hammer’s friend and connection on the police force. And Tanya Roberts plays a fantastic Velda, sexy and sweet but tough underneath. Her ‘look’ is a lot more ’80s than you might expect, but it works – because Hammer is the only one really pulled from the past.
Ah yes, Hammer. Mike Hammer. Stacy Keach. Big, muscular, and already in his 40s when he shot these movies, Keach plays Hammer closer to the book than any other actor I’ve ever seen, including Spillane himself (No offense, Mickey). He perfectly combines the sarcastic, know-it-all detective with the dark, lonely and murderous killer that lurks beneath. That’s right, killer: In the books, Hammer admits to enjoying killing bad guys. He likes it. He looks forward to it. He admits (to himself) that he’s basically a serial killer who gets off on the thrill of watching someone (who deserves it) die, and found a way to do it legally. He does this very well, without the corniness or silliness that other actors just couldn’t leave alone.
Keach pulls it off like a champ. And the writing, although a little hokey at times (to be expected from an 80s TV movie, I think) really nails the character when it comes down to how Hammer would react to the given situations.
What the movie is about:
Any movie that starts off with two hot chicks getting knocked off the road and crushed and burned to death in their car is going to keep you enthralled. Two female couriers, transporting an important briefcase (contents unknown) are murdered. Mike Hammer is subpoenaed when it turns out his ex-fiance (Chris) is connected to the courier agency (in fact, she is a partner). The big bomb is dropped when it’s revealed that this chick had Hammer’s daughter 19 years earlier. She of course never told him.
Chris dies in the courtroom in Hammer’s arms, and although it looks like a heart attack he knows it’s murder. That’s when the Hammer character from the book kicks in full swing, vowing to avenge her death by killing her killer. He also needs to track down his daughter, and embarks on a journey that takes him through his own past, the pornography business, corrupt businesses and a 1-2 punch ending that will have your head spinning.
Fun stuff: Look for Michelle Phillips (yes, THE Michelle Phillips) and a very young, very sexy Delta Burke with more hair than should be legal on a chick’s head. Also look for Lee Meredith (Ulla from “The Producers”) and Jonathan Banks (that guy who was in a million things and always looked like he was about to fall asleep).
Food & Booze:
This is an easy one. Hammer orders a “Police Special” which, apparently, is a bottle of Jack Daniels in a paper sack. So, yeah. As for food, this a New York movie. Throw together a couple of fat, corned beef sandwiches with slaw and Russian Dressing and a pickle.
Note: The Mike Hammer series and TV movies from the ’80s were great. In the 1990s, Keach revived the series which, I believe, went straight to video. Although still decent, the production value of the later series isn’t as good as the original. Watch the originals first. If you dig them, move on to the 90s episodes.
My Take: Although I was a young teenager when these movies came out, I was already a fan of Spillane, the Hammer novels, and wearing fedoras. Spillane’s writing and Keach’s portrayal of Mike Hammer would highly influence my first works of writing, including my scripts for Stardust Theater in the 90s. Hammer’s character would also influence the main character in my best-selling murder mysteries, “Murder on Tiki Island” and “Murder Behind the Closet Door”: Detective Bill Riggins.
I found a TV trailer from ’83. This movie is second (around the 1:00 mark). Prepare to go back in time 30 years…
-Tiki Chris reporting from a basement bar with a 1939 Wurlitzer playing “Harlem Nocturn”.
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 July 9th, 2012 No comments
Marty, from 1955
When a movie wins best Actor in a Leading Role (Borgnine), Best Director (Delbert Mann), Best Writing, Screenplay (Paddy Chayefsky) and Best Picture, you know it’s got to be good. Damned good. So it is with Marty. Marty is an Italian New York City (Bronx) butcher, who at 34 years old has not yet tied the knot. In fact. looking 20 years older, he doesn’t have much luck with any dames. He lives his life day to day, trying to be a nice guy and an all around good person. And he is…but nice guys finish last, don’t they?
Marty is constantly hounded by his family to get married. Trouble is, he can’t even manage to hold a girl’s attention for more than five minutes. Then along comes Clara, an average-looking schoolteacher who’s not the flashy-trashy chicks that seems to be swinging off the trees. They connect…but can they make it work?
Marty is a great mid-50s slice of life story, with fantastic performances by Borgnine, Jerry Paris and Betsy Blair. It’s part Noir, part love story and part comedy, with the fun coming from the daily lives of the characters and how they interact, not from cheesy one-liners or puns. One of my favorite scenes is when Marty and his buddy are trying to figure out what to do that night. “Let’s call Mary Feeney…”
Food: Since Marty is a butcher, it only makes sense to have some meat. Here’s and easy pot roast recipe that’s been a standard in my family for 50+ years.
5-8 lb Chuck or Bottom Round Roast
Fresh Carrots, Celery, Potatoes, Onions, string beans
Canned or frozen peas, corn
Lipton Onion Soup Mix
Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano, Bay Leaves
Sprinkle salt and pepper on the roast. In a large pot, sear the beef on high heat in a tablespoon of oil, turning until each side is brown. Add one large onion, potatoes, carrots, and celery (all diced into large chunks) and string beans, one can corn and one can peas (with water), and one cup of water. Bring to boil. Separately, dissolve bouillon cube and onion soup mix in one cup cold water. Add on teaspoon each of salt, pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Pour into pot and bring to boil. Add 2-3 bay leaves. Once at full boil, reduce to simmer, stir and cover. Add another cup of water and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Taste broth; add more water as needed and seasoning to taste. Allow roast to simmer (low) covered for at least two hours. Roast is done when it is tender enough to pull apart with a fork.
Gravy: Remove two cups of broth, add one bouillon cube and bring to boil. Reduce heat and whisk in flour one tablespoon at a time, allowing to thicken a few minutes between additions. Thicken and add seasoning to taste. I like mine peppery.
Booze: Schlitz Beer, or Chianti wine, the kind that comes wrapped in a basket weave.
Here’s the trailer…
Posted on August 29th, 2011 2 comments
Noir at heart but filmed in Technicolor, The African Queen easily fits under Noir and Mod Movie Monday categories as it definitely deals with the darker side of humanity. Swing back to North Africa, 1914. News reaches a small German settlement that the Fatherland is at war. British missionaries are suddenly caught in the crossfire, and when Kathrine Hepburn’s character’s brother dies, she leaves the burning wreckage of her church with none other than alcoholic captain Bogie on his beat-up old jalopy of a steamer, The African Queen. Together they trek down a treacherous river full of all sorts of nasty things, including Germans with those funny little spikes sticking up out of their helmets. They catch wind that a German warship is anchored at the mouth of the river, and Hepburn does all she can (in the eyes of God) to sober up Bogie and get him to help her find a way to destroy the ship.
One of Bogie’s finest roles, he is very convincing as a gin-swilling roughneck. That may have something to do with the fact that while they filmed this flick in the jungles of Africa, Humphrey Bogart and director John Huston stuck to a steady diet of baked beans, canned asparagus and Scotch whiskey. There was a method to their madness…they were the only two from the cast and crew that made it through filming without getting dysentery or malaria. This included Hepburn, who drank only water and had dysentery so bad they had to keep a bucket next to the camera.
There is some great trivia on The African Queen at IMDB.
Just as the ’58 Plymouth Fury was a character in Christine and the pimped-out Dunham Coach Eldorado was a character in Superfly, so was the little steamer The African Queen (I suppose this turn of the name was to indicate the double meaning, as Hepburn’s character also acted like the Queen of Africa). The boat had already been in actual service for 4o years when they used it for the film, and went on for many years after working hard along the river. Today the boat is still in service…it’s docked in Key Largo, FL just off the Overseas Highway (US 1). It’s on display, looking very close to the way it did in the movie, and is available for charters. It’s really no where near as big as it looks in the movie. Kind of funny that it would end up in Key Largo, with Bogie’s connection to that island with his 1948 movie.
Booze: Gin. British Gin.
Here’s the trailer from 1951…
– Tiki Chris reporting from the jungles behind The Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, South Florida