Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bar Talk # 8

Overheard Friday Night (6-8-12) at Nick-A-Nees,
Providence, Rhode Island
(Purty much reported as close to verbatim as possible.)

He’s the kind of guy who is always espousing various codes of honor, dignity, and loyalty. Just don’t turn your back.

Of course I live for art, but good ol’ art just can’t seem to throw me a rope even when I sinking in the quicksand.

It is not getting any better. I don’t care if it’s Mitt, Barry, Snookie, or the ghost of FDR, it’s not getting any better. It’s time to jump on one of those long boats heading to China and Japan.

I hate turtles, they all remind of my ex’s thing, except with eyes.

Everybody in this joint should be charged admission just to see her ass bend over the bar and order a drink. They’d all pay it gladly.

Hey, that’s sounds like Iggy on the jukebox. It is Iggy! What kind of jukebox is this?

Nobody fixes anything anymore. It’s buy it, try it, use it, abuse it, toss it, and start all over again and buy the new version. My grandfather would roll over in his tool-filled work cellar.

Last time I was here someone gave me some of that medical marijuana and it almost knocked me out. I couldn’t find my way home.
(3 hours later): Could you tell me how I get to the highway?

I don’t have to walk that chick to the car, she’s a super ninja chick. I mean it, I’m more worried for the guys that might encounter her on her way to the car.

I wish there were more movies about horses. Even ponies.

Man she was wild. But when she talked dirty her voice sounded like Clint Eastwood, the older version. After a while it started getting to me. I mean I’m fairly cool, but how cool can you be when you hear an aging Clint Eastwood talking the talk in the middle of a pretzel formation?

I just grabbed a bite at Rick’s Roadhouse. It’s like an unofficial frat house for high school kids who never made it to college.

You know what they say? Nothing’s private. Who the fuck are they and why are they butting into my business?

He said that she said that they said that they were disrespecting me and them. What’s up with that?

Netroots Nation? I‘ll stick to the Red Sox version.

He said his word of honor is sacred, like some cowboy in a black and white film, then he dry-gulched him, just like some cowboy in a black and white film.

If goddamned Romney manages to get elected I promise you I’ll jump off the hurricane barrier in my boxers and kicks, wearing a pig’s mask and clutching my wallet (along with middle class existence) in my teeth.

I love New England. Maybe the freaks flags don’t fly as high as they do in Cali, but I think they germinate three times as much deeper here. Even on the freak side, the east coast is just more evolved in its own devolution.

First Guy: Is drinking a pastime, a necessity, or simply part of the natural order of things ? Can you tell me?
Second Guy: I don’t know, are you buying?

Pushing Too Hard

Writer’s block is an insidious disease, purely psychological (however one’s psyche is effected by outside forces), and it also seems to be a condition that that further compounds itself the more one dwells upon it. The bottom line is that I simply haven’t mustered the energy, wherewithal, smarts, aggressiveness, groove, sense of purpose, moment of creativity, authorial whimsy, just plain get up and go to knock off a blog entry since November last year. While I realize that my blog has never achieved any widespread popularity or substantial readership, it has for many years functioned has a source of entertainment and pop culture enlightenment for a selected few, while dually serving as a reason for me to continue my lifelong pursuit of the snap, crackle, and (yup) pop of . No excuses, although the unceremonious dropping of my movie column in Providence Monthly—my only current paying writing gig—was a blow, further exacerbated by the inexplicable lack of an offer to write a bye-bye piece, and made doubly hard to swallow by being told me replacement would be a (gulp) wellness column, did indeed contribute to my sudden lack of confidence and execution. None the less, I am determined to carve out a comeback, starting right now. Nuff said.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shaking Intensified

It was with great pleasure, and a certain swell of pride, that I recieved the first copies of a new self-published anthology drawn from the online journal Shaking Like a Mountain (now called Shaking Online, with an expanded editorial focus), edited by co-conspirators Vito Grippi and my pal Wayne Cresser, containing 17 fiction and non-fiction pieces, all built around a connection to popular music serving as a central conceit. Of course it's filled with some evocative writing, and (yeah, baby) it includes one of my own, originally entitled "Bo Diddley: He Used a Cobra Snake for a Necktie, 1928-2008", from June,2008, reprinted below. As the editors themselve suggest, a near perfect stocking stuffer, available here.

A Tribute to Bo Diddley
by Scott Duhamel

Somewhere in the ever-holy Tower of Song the residents shuffle up the winding staircase (handrails gleaming, carved from ancient ivory) to the bone-shaking, perpetually hypnotic, and pure rhythm Bo Diddley Beat. Bo, like Little Richard, like Chuck Berry, helped erect the sturdy bridge between the swamp of jazz, blues, country and gospel that lead to rollicking sea of rock and roll, Bo, as himself, is the undeniable architect of one of rock’s bulwarks--the otherworldly hip-shaking, chunka-chunka in-yer-head cadence of rock and roll. Bo, without the glammy, sweaty immediacy of Little Richard, who probably performed his way out of the womb, or the sharp, calculated story tunes and radio showy guitar hooks of Chuck Berry, offered up a different sort of regal showmanship.

Bo stood stage center like a conductor, hips akimbo, tasty hat, square eyeglasses, boxy guitar, oozing a quiet confidence while unleashing his snaky tremolo and laying down his first person eurhythmics. While Sun Ra readily informed his audiences and collaborators that he been transported to space and thus transformed, Bo might well have been a true time-traveler, clad in his own version of a space suit, his vast array of tailsmanic guitars his means of teleportation, mixing and matching the rumbling backbeat he lifted from the train yards of Chicago with ancient African tribal chants and the rat-a-tat-tat of a western gunslinger’s discharge, seemingly deprived of his earthly just desserts (money and fame), but actually here with other interstellar purposes: help create rock and roll, jumpstart the Rolling Stones, and lay down a mystical, eternal syncopation that will forever hold its sway.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hitch’s Children

(Reprinted from Pop Eye)

One of my all time gurus, John Cale, once put it succinctly in song: “Fear is a man’s best friend.” Peeps in general (old school peeps, new school peeps, outta school peeps, probably even pre-school peeps ), all dig a good scare, always seem to be peeping around the darker corners of pop cult and their own upstairs windows trying to suss out yet another dose of temporary terror, attempting to churn up some innate fear-inducing chills and thrills, whether it be the ol’ pop- and-fresh in-yer-face shudder and shrink, or laying down the connected tracks for a psychological roller coaster ride, whether it be through literature, through the movies, or by splashing ketchup around the fake arrow sticky out of their pointy heads when they parade around in costumes on Halloweenie Day. (Myself, I don’t go hog-wild over Halloween because of those very costumes and the attendant behavior of those clad in them—they make me very, very nervous, but that’s a story for another day.)

Movies have long provided the safe distance into which one can thrust oneself directly into the realm of psychological, physical, or supernatural fear, and, by theory at least, be protected by the very distancing effects of the medium itself. Whatever route they take or genre they inhabit—whether it be the blood-and-entrails type, the slow-burn-to-insanity number, the have-some-paranoia side dish, or the occult special---movies have a special way of going bump in the dark and allowing for a certain release of tension, even if it’s simply the slow roll of the end credits. Of course the hypersensitive need not apply, and even the occasional regular Joe finds himself suddenly disoriented when a latent film image or a particularly piquant plot structure just keeps intruding upon his or her waking life. The catharsis that’s supposed to be part of the movie-movie deal ain’t always exactly delivered appropriately, particularly with the jaded-before-their-time, seen-it-all, oversaturated, highly desensitized contempo audiences.

The cinematic masters of the thriller-diller, the chop-‘em-up, the anxiety-arouser, the old fashioned spook fest, are indeed legion, ever expanding, and always keeping the creaking door open for any savvy art house director or pulpy filmmaker to step in for a one-timer, and try their hand in entering the ongoing (and perpetual) big screen fear fest. Names get bandied about, names like Polanski, Lewton, Lynch, Raimi, Carpenter, Argento, De Palma, Browning, Whale, Murnau, Romero, Cronenberg, and a whole passel of too-many-to-recount newbies, yet one truly stands above the rest: Alfred Hitchcock.

Hitch is the guy, the king of the fear swing, the cinematic svengali who continually wielded assorted degrees of voyeurism and sadism along with a blanket of Kafkaesque determination, bookending that filmic stew with ever eroding nerve endings and narrative uncertainty, all under the spell heavy duty moral implications, all in the glorious name of both art and commerce. Hitch was one filmmaker who, again and again, achieved a meaningful symbiosis between image, editing, camera movement, plot, character, tone and theme, and did most of it in the name of suspense. Much has been written about the films of Hitchcock, his sublime techniques, and his ability to layer a box office hit with overriding questions of guilt and morality. Hitchcock, with the possible exception of his late effort Frenzy (1972), didn’t do gore, didn’t do guts, and steadfastly refrained from all things Grand Guignol.

It was all about the power of suggestion, about the lights and shadows of both the visual palate and, yep, the soul. The ultimate Hitch film, as far as the fear factor goes is 1960’s Psycho. Not enough space allowed to re-sing its many virtues: taut, virtuosic, spine-tingling, exquisitely crafted, suggestive, lurid, flamingly Freudian, plus the cast, the score, the cinematography, the shower sequence. Years later, many would argue that Psycho, because it unleashed the first semblance of unimaginable but almost gleefully delivered overt violence--that knife against that bare skin under that deluge of sprayed water capped off by the black and white image of a splash of blood circling down the drain-- despite its indefensible stamp of artistry, set the dynamics of a whole brave and bold new cinema of unease. Hitch, what has thy wrought?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bar Talk # 6

Overheard Friday Night (9-16-11) at Nick-A-Nees
Providence, Rhode Island
(Purty much reported as close to verbatim as possible.)

If there’s one thing that truly curbs my enthusiasm it’s actually watching Larry David and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

By the end of this Sox-Rays series I’ll be washing down my popcorn with vodka and Drano on the rocks. I’m calling it the J-Lackey.

My father was a union man for forty five years. He was around when everyone knew they needed unions. Back in the day they just knew it.

I can’t play pool but I do know how to bend over and shake my ass.

I just came from the Dropkick Murphy’s outdoor show and man it seemed like it was just that close to the edge of weird-poseur-white-guy-high-testosterone-violence.

Q: How can you waste your time talking to those boring idiots? A: Well someone has to do it, right?

Taj Mahal at the Park Cinema, can you explain that to me?

Those jello-shots seem frat-like and they don’t really seem to fit in with this place, do they? I’ve had three, and now I’m looking hard for the jello-shot girl.

It’s like the time machine just let some travelers out the sliding doors, except they came out slightly altered.

Sure, RFK wasn’t exactly JFK-lite, nor was he Teddy Boy-reinforced.

Billy Wilder talking about comedy is like a priest talking about eternal redemption, you got to give the guy certain credence.

I just don’t see Governor Chafee leading any of us to the Promised Land.

A few good drinks are far better for the brain cells than TM, LSD, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, massage, or running around in the woods in your underwear and socks and do you know how I know this? Look around man, all those dudes and dudettes who specialize in that shit are in here sucking them down.

Why are half of those dancers wearing yacht togs and boating attire?

I’d do her with my pool stick, sans chalk, know what I mean?

Did you see him in action last night, he was inventing a brand new half-a-step primitive stomp, and just because of his hair most of the party was trying to follow him down that rocky road.

If that’s the hippy hippy shake find me some young republicans.

That’s the kinda guy who stands in front of the mirror to see if his brown fedora matches his red thong.

She broke my heart, my wallet and my ass and there’s a part of me that still wants to give her mucho credit and another goddamned chance. Buy me a drink, the stupider the better.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Do The Needle Drop

(One of New York's finest, albeit a cult band of sorts, The Del-Lords, will be playing in an unidentified backyard in South County this Saturday afternoon. For those interested, in what will be an undeniable rocking (and special) good time, contact Dan [].)

The Del-Lords
by Michael Tanaka

For a very long time-- decades, now that I think about it, I’ve been making a semi-annual pilgrimage to a used record shop just outside Hartford, in Weathersfield, Ct.

I go to Ed Krech’s “Integrity n’ Music” mostly for out-of-print and obscure jazz records. That’s his specialty. But over the years I’ve also discovered many hidden treasures tucked away in the bins of the rock section. Now I’m not talking uber-collector shit here—if you just went scrambling off for your copy of “Goldmine” and your rarities want-list, forget it. I’m talking about cool stuff you don’t see much anymore—mostly uncommon and forgotten LP’s that fell through the cracks in the 1980’s when vinyl began its slow death.

Example… a few years ago, while rifling the bins at Integrity, I happened upon the first three Replacements LP’s on Twin-Tone (Sorry, Ma…, Let It Be, and Hootenanny) as well as Tim and a couple of later titles on Sire. Each one was virtually unplayed and under three bucks each. Sure, I’ve got that stuff on cd—who doesn’t? But believe me when I tell you that vinyl really does sound warmer—it sounds better. And in addition, when you drop that needle and start to listen to an analog recording on vinyl, it has a certain magic way of really taking you back.

So a few weeks ago, I hit another major vein in the rock memory mine when I flipped through the bins and uncovered the first three records by the Del-Lords. Now the Del-Lords have come up in conversation many times in the past. My pal Scott Duhamel is a huge fan of both the Dictators and Del-Lords’ Scott Kempner and has long sung the praises of Joan Jett/Steve Earle guitarist Eric Ambel. But like most of you, I suspect, I hadn’t done a lot of in-depth listening to the Del-Lords in close to twenty-plus years. So scoring the first three LP’s by this critically acclaimed, yet relatively unsung band gave me the perfect opportunity to crack open a cold one, do the needle-drop, sit back and listen. And what a treat it was.

Of course, like a nerd, I played the records in order, so when I caught the opening track of the Del-Lords’ first album, Frontier Days, (1984), I was spun around when I heard their hard-rocking cover of “How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” Like a line-drive double off the first pitch, this song comes out of the box strong, with incredibly tight playing, great energy and a muscular sense of swing. And as I listened to the lyrics, I was reminded of how socially conscious Scott Kempner and the boys were—I mean “are.” The song they picked to kick-off their debut, a Ry Cooder cover of a 1929 depression-era folk song (some say it was the first “protest” song) is even more relevant today than it was when the Del-Lords blistered through the track during the reign of Reagan. The song has been done plenty of times before and since-- even Bruce Springsteen added the song to his Seeger Sessions tour and subsequent American Land Edition recording in 2006. I recommend you listen to all three versions— by Cooder, Bruce, and the Del-Lords—and I guarantee the one recorded by the Lords is the one that will make you sit up and take notice. And to make that song your very first album cut—that’s balls.

And there are more Del-Lords songs from Scott Kempner’s pen that tackle tough topics directly, and manage to escape being sappy or sentimental—songs about serious stuff that still rock. “Soldier’s Home,” from the second album, “Johnny Comes Marching Home” is a blatant anti-war statement wrapped in a catchy, hook-laden package, and later in the album, “Against My Will” is a first-person account of a hostage held by terrorists.

But the Del-Lords are far, far more than a rock band with a conscience. In fact, thinking of them in that way sort of does them a disservice. This is a band that just rocks, straight up. in a no-frills, no posturing manner, with great guitar playing totally devoid of typical 1980’s riff-histrionics. This band is, in many ways, less about what they are than about what they are not. Make a list of all the things that annoy you about 80’s rock (synthesizers, fake drums, over-production, over-compression, digital delay, big hair, spandex—you could go on and on), and it is amazing how much of that is not the Del-Lords sound.

You can’t deny the Del-Lords’ ability to rock it in those first three albums, and you can clearly hear the influences of rockabilly, folk, country and punk—all enhanced with clean, uncluttered guitar solos and smart, funny, often tongue-in-cheek lyrics (another hallmark of the earlier, under-appreciated Dictators). In the garage-band flavored, near surf-parody “I Play the Drums” from their first album, Kempner writes of typical rock angst and alienation with deadpan humor: “When I hate everyone / Instead of going for my gun / I play the drums.” And in “The Cool and the Crazy,” on their third record, the first-person song spews self-indulgent hip babble, delivered without a trace of irony: “We’re the outsiders / Watching the whole show. / It’s amazing how much it resembles TV / An L-7 world lost in mediocrity.”

All I can say is that’s beautiful, daddy-O!

But when it’s time to play it straight, honest and cut it close to the bone, Kempner makes it simple and direct. “Judas Kiss” is a great screed about betrayal, and “Pledge of Love” is a love song that, in anyone else’s hands, could dance close to the edge of the corn-field, but listen to the Lords bring it, and it’s pure rock n’ roll.
Those first three Del-Lords records I found were recorded and released in 1984, 1986 and 1988. A live EP and another studio records later, and they were essentially done by 1990. But you can listen to all these great songs again, re-released recently on cd, with lots of cool, additional info and liner notes written by Scott Kempner. And three of the four original members of the band-- Kempner and Eric Ambel on guitars, with Frank Funaro on drums are playing out live again. Last year they played a house concert locally, somewhere in Wakefield, RI, before taking off for a tour of Europe. They’re doing it again this year, and I plan to be there for the house concert show. That’s even better than listening to the LP’s.

There’s a line from The Cool and the Crazy that sums up the Del-Lords in my book— “We don’t follow fashion / Who needs it when you got style.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

Be Kind Rewind
by Mark Duhamel
(My brother Mark and I grew up a year apart, and shared the same bedroom until we hit the big 18 and respectively hit the road. We were nurtured, educated, and exhilarated by much of the same popcult preoccupations and discoveries, and despite a fairly continual 37 year separation of geographical home bases we remain largely on the same page. He often sends me astute, pithy, extremely erudite movie-movie reactions after viewing some gem or cult classic during the twilight hours, and I’ve decided to post them on a semi-regular basis

Do the Noir Part 2
By Mark Duhamel

I thought I’d watch some Film Noir. That particularly cynical pre and post WWII genre of films often imitated and seldom equaled in it’s stark and sometimes unrelentingly bleak view of human nature in subsequent movie making eras. I am a big fan of the lighting, photography, and especially the sensibility of these mostly low budget,B&W films. The synopses used here are courtesy of Netflix.

Sullivan's Travels 1942
90 minutes

Tired of churning out fluffy comedies, Hollywood director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) decides to write a serious, socially responsible film about human suffering. When his producers point out that he knows nothing of hardship, he hits the road as a hobo. On his journey, Sullivan invites an out-of-work actress (Veronica Lake) to be his traveling companion, and the pair get into more trouble than they ever dreamed of.

Cast:Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Byron Foulger, Margaret Hayes, Eric Blore, Esther Howard, Georges Renavent, Al Bridge, Jimmy Conlin, Jan Buckingham, Jimmie Dundee, Roscoe Ates, Billy Bletcher, Monte Blue, Chester Conklin, Edgar Dearing, Harry Hayden, Edward Hearn, Arthur Hoyt, Paul Jones, Elsa Lanchester, J. Farrell MacDonald, Paul Newlan, Emory Parnell, Willard Robertson, Dewey Robinson, Preston Sturges, Madame Sul-Te-Wan, Julius Tannen, Harry Tyler, Pat West
Director:Preston Sturges

Okay, this is not noir. Maybe it has some noir elements to it, but it is definitely not noir. I watched it because I wanted more Veronica Lake. I wanted to watch her in “The Blue Dahlia” and “The Glass Key”, but these films are not currently available for rental or purchase.

Did you know she was 4’ 11 ½” and that she only made it to age 50, dying of hepatitis? She briefly dated Marlon Brando, whose Hollywood star was rising as her dazey days were fading. Brando later heard that Lake was cocktail waitressing and sent her a check for a $1000. She never cashed it but framed and kept it.

She is absolutely brilliant, funny, sexy, and radiant in this wonderful film that somehow pulls off making fun of Hollywood, social justice, fame and celebrity, greed and poverty, and itself with a non-stop barrage of witty dialogue, slapstick humor, and an impossible and implausible balance of hard-boiled cynicism and wide-eyed optimism. This is one of those rare films that get better and better as time passes.

The Turning Point 1952
81 minutes

Is John Conroy's police officer father, Matt (Tom Tully), on the wrong side of the law? John, a prosecutor trying to rid his town of crime, hopes not, but newsman Jerry McKibbon (William Holden) says Matt has been running around with mobster Harrigan (Ted de Corsia). But Jerry can't be fully trusted either, considering he's got a thing for John's gal pal, Amanda (Alexis Smith). William Dieterle directs this noirish drama.

Cast:William Holden, Edmond O'Brien, Alexis Smith, Tom Tully, Ed Begley, Danny Dayton,
Director:William Dieterle

A nice paean to principle and friendship conquering evil. The evil portrayed here is a truly absolute and venal evil, worthy of overcoming mundane romantic triangles and professional jealousies to find solidarity and true warrior spirit.
Featuring the Prince of Cynical All-Knowing; William Holden, who along with the rest of the cast turns in an admirable performance while noir morality morass swirls around them and we feel sympathy for the devil in all of us decent but poor cops who took a little on the side to put their smart sons through law school so they could eventually overcome our corruption. The bad guy is really bad; the small timers; really small, and the innocent victims: of course; exceptionally innocent in a harsh, bitter, and cruel postwar reality.

Pushover 1954
87 minutes

Police detective Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray) is assigned the not-unpleasant task of striking up a friendship with Lona McLane (Kim Novak), the girlfriend of a man suspected of engineering a bank heist that netted more than $200,000 and cost a policeman his life. Immediately falling for the bombshell, the cop soon finds himself neck-deep in her scheme to betray her boyfriend and make off with the loot.

Cast:Fred MacMurray, Philip Carey, Kim Novak, Dorothy Malone, E.G. Marshall, Allen Nourse,Alan Dexter, Robert Forrest, Don Harvey, Paul Richards
Director: Richard Quine

Fred MacMurray was born to play these noir, doomed characters. His hangdog, “I’m so tired” face looks like he’s one cigarette away from killing everyone in the room and then, with a sigh, himself. This film “introduced” Kim Novak, who previously had only appeared in an uncredited role and just prior to doing this film, changed her name from Marilyn to Kim and took some acting lessons. She does fine and is well cast in this film, that strange noir femme fatale mix of sexual charisma, innocence, and chilling opportunism. Her best scene is not when she’s cooing and kissing but when she snarls curt rejoinders at a lusting bar patron trying to make her, violently spilling her drink on him when he won't lay off. The plot for this is a classic noir arc; predictable but still immensely enjoyable as the few moments of feral passion turn into oblivion for more than one of it’s characters.

Scarlet Street 1945
102 minutes

Unassuming cashier Christopher Cross (Edward G. Robinson) falls hard when he meets Kitty (Joan Bennett). They become involved, but Kitty keeps a petty crook, Johnny (Dan Duryea), on the side as her real love interest. Hoping to impress Kitty, Cross embezzles funds from his employer. What he doesn't realize is that Kitty and Johnny are getting rich on Cross's paintings, which have become a huge success under Kitty's name.

Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Margaret Lindsay, Rosalind Ivan, Jess Barker, Charles Kemper, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Samuel S. Hinds, Vladimir Sokoloff, Arthur Loft, Russell Hicks
Director: Fritz Lang

Classic Edward G. playing against type, masterful B&W photography and precision direction by none other than Fritz Lang. Joan Bennett, what a knockout! No kidding, just watch her slink around on her “lazy legs” and you’ll be glad you took the time. Dan Duryea establishes himself as one of the greatest weasel-eyed, rat-faced, snake voiced bad guys in what became a career of playing bad guys, especially in Westerns. The opening scene smartly establishes class consciousness in a post-war country where there are no classes. The working class nebbish clerk Edward G. is presented with a 25 years watch, which he clumsily and humbly acknowledges as beyond his means, while his banker boss shows camaraderie handing out dollar cigars until he has to leave for a rendezvous with a dame who’s not his wife easily 1/3 his age. This last circumstance plants the weed of discontent in our nebbish hero. The mise en scene reveals director Lang’s deep roots in the visual medium as several scenes could easily play without dialogue, effectively propelling the story and transmitting the lust, greed, jealousy, deception, love and hate that fester for 96 of the 102 minutes. It ends with one of the bleakest fates for our fallen hero, one far worse than the hanging he sadly desires and richly deserves.

Odd Man Out (Gang War) 1947
116 minutes

In this film noir from director Carol Reed, Johnny McQueen (James Mason), leader of a secret Irish rebel organization, plans a hold-up that will provide funds to keep his group going. During the crime, things go sour and Johnny is wounded. Unable to make it to the hideout, he disappears into the seedy underground of Belfast, Northern Ireland. A massive manhunt is launched by the police, whose chief is intent on capturing Johnny and his gang.

Cast:James Mason, Robert Newton, Kathleen Ryan, Cyril Cusack, F.J. McCormick, William Hartnell, Fay Compton, Denis O'Dea, W.G. Fay, Maureen Delaney, Elwyn Brook-Jones, Robert Beatty, Dan O'Herlihy, Kitty Kirwan, Beryl Measor
Director: Carol Reed

This is a beautifully photographed film, featuring the deep focus and complex lighting of the fabulous British studio era. I love the sharp edges and shiny halos created by the banks of key, fill, and rim lights, flags, gobos, scrims, and other arcana of the high craft of this age. Carol Reed deserves his reputation as a master of the medium. James Mason, Kathleen Ryan, Cyril Cusack, Dan O’Herlihy, and all performers down to the slightest bit players deliver the highest order of performance in a taut drama that shows a slice of Irish life and presents “the struggle” in a way that transcends the stereotypes employed in the service of story. Top notch exposition, visual virtuosity and a truly sad but satisfying emotional resolution.

Dead Reckoning 1947
104 minutes

Humphrey Bogart stars as Rip Murdock, a World War II veteran ensnared in a web of crime and conspiracy when his best friend, Johnny Drake (William Prince), disappears en route to Washington, D.C., to receive a war medal. Murdock follows the trail to Drake's hometown, where he finds his friend's body burned beyond recognition. His continuing investigation soon involves Drake's ex-girlfriend, femme fatale Cory Chandler (Lizabeth Scott).

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, Morris Carnovsky, Charles Cane, William Prince, Marvin Miller, Wallace Ford, James Bell, George Chandler
Director: John Cromwell

A smash-up of all the great Bogart noir films you’ve ever seen. In fact, I think some of the dialogue is verbatim from both “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Big Sleep”. In any case, the opening shots of Bogie’s wounded face and his gravelly voice-over presage everything that is to come. There is no other actor possessing the irresistibly compelling visage, voice, and charisma of Humphrey Bogart. He is not a handsome man, yet it is totally believable that all women, and most men, find him an irresistible force. This film is the a-b-c of every subsequent noir and pseudo noir. The villain’s dialogue is the only challenge to suspension of disbelief, far too erudite and high-blown, but a small irritation in an otherwise tic-tac-toe postwar melodrama.

Hobo with a Shotgun 2011
86 minutes

This gory, gleefully over-the-top revenge fantasy stars Rutger Hauer as the Hobo, a bum who rolls into town hoping to start over, only to find his adopted city saturated in violence and ruled by a vicious crime lord known as the Drake (Brian Downey). The Hobo's answer? Pick up his handy pump-action scattergun and start laying waste to crooks, corrupt cops and every other lowlife who crosses his path.

Cast:RutgerHauer, Pasha Ebrahimi, Rob Wells, Brian Downey, Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman, Drew O'Hara, Molly Dunsworth, Jeremy Akerman, Mark A. Owen
Director: Jason Eisener

Okay, so this film has no place next to classic, carefully crafted works of noir filmic history. But I could not resist the title, nor the trailer which features a little bit of Rutger Hauer’s soliloquy to newborn babies at a hospital culminating in “… if you’re successful you’ll make money selling dope to crackheads, you won’t think twice about killing someone’s wife ‘cause you won’t even know what was wrong in the first place, or you’ll end up like me, a hobo with a shotgun…”.
I am not a fan of this gore-fest genre, and I am almost saddened to think of how and why Rutger Hauer ended up starring in this made in Nova Scotia drive-in movie, but I have to say in all sincerity; Hauer absolutely rocks in this. The soundtrack is all 1980’s electronica, there is plenty of classic bad movie poetry dialogue and over the top quotables; The Hobo: “You’re a fool, and a shitty father.” Drake: “Take him to the glory hole”. The digital photography is done with a camera called “Red Mysterium-X” which apparently means you have to shoot everything with a red filter in red light for your red digital super red sensor camera. If I still did drugs, I would take some and watch this again, tonight, and get no sleep and watch it yet again on my ipod for breakfast.

Dark Passage 1947
106 minutes

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall grace the screen in this classic 1947 thriller about a convict who escapes from San Quentin to hunt down his wife's true killer. To complete his mission, he must escape detection by the cops. So he undergoes plastic surgery and hides out in the home of a mysterious woman (Bacall) he's just met. The film uses a first-person point of view in its camera work, to put viewers into the shoes of the accused man.

Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bruce Bennett, Agnes Moorehead, Clifton Young, Douglas Kennedy, Rory Mallinson, Houseley Stevenson
Director: Delmer Daves

This is a class-A “noir”, with a top –notch cast, director, composer, and an unusual first person camera perspective for the first half of the film. It’s a “noir” in quotes, because it’s not really a noir, it features cynicism and darkness, but sports a happy ending which automatically disqualifies it as noir for the discerning viewer.
The most startling result of the first person point of view gimmick is that contemporary viewers should be able to watch as they may mistake much of it for a cool retro-B&W video game.
We don’t actually see Bogart himself until over 100 minutes have passed. His voice alone stars.
Bacall and Bogart had previously made great success out of their debut as a couple in “To Have and Have Not”, and then the truly classic follow up “The Big Sleep”. After “Dark Passage”, they scored another big hit with Edward G. Robinson in the great “Key Largo”.
The no-see-the Bogart is a great gimmick and apparently made the studio big-wigs very nervous and they may have been right as this was not a smashing financial success. Bogart gets “plastic surgery” in a San Francisco walk-up from a disgraced doctor recommended by a garrulous cabbie. A face-lift that leaves you looking exactly like Humphrey Bogart for $200.00. Ah, the “good old days”. Imagine a pre-surgery consultation delivered by your would-be surgeon that goes like this: ” We’re all cowards. There’s no such thing as courage, there’s only fear, Fear of getting hurt, and fear of dying, that’s why humans live so long.”
Note; a white male born in 1947, had a life expectancy of 66.8 years.
Great visuals, an atmospheric, moody sound, lustrous on location B&W photography, a beautifully malevolent performance by Agnes Moorehead, and Lauren Bacall is sonorous and sultry as ever, a truly persuasive argument for bringing back the “good old days”. Goodbye Irene.

The Mechanic (Killer of Killers) 1972
99 minutes

Charles Bronson (looking gnarled as ever) works alone as a hit man for "The Organization." But when willing acolyte Jan-Michael Vincent proves he has the stuff aspiring killers are made of, Bronson agrees to train him. Looks like it might be a case of the pupil overtaking the master, though, when Vincent begins to get some peculiar ideas of his own. Directed by Bronson perennial Michael Winner.

Cast: Charles Bronson, Jan-Michael Vincent, Keenan Wynn, Jill Ireland, Frank DeKova, Linda Ridgeway
Director: Michael Winner

Okay another noir that’s not really noir, except it is, aka 1972. Charles Bronson and his true love, director Michael Winner team up to leave us a template for the future – fest of assassin as hero/anti-hero films. This dynamic duo delivered many Bronson classics including; “Chato’s Land”, and all three of the “Death Wish” extravaganzas. This film is another partnership devoted to death and emotionless mayhem, a paean to 1970’s nihilism and futility. The best ridiculously 70’s scene is Bronson with the whore in an apartment wonderfully appointed with classic and obscure movie posters, a nice tip ‘o the hat to filmic history. The early scenes wonderfully capture the truly seedy side of LA behind the glamorous façade. A movie-movie full of great murdering-101 bits, a classic tinkly-piano, strings and brass suspense score by Jerry Fielding, explosions, motorcycle chases, weapons lessons, and a reliably flat Bronson playing off a wretchedly inert Jan Michael Vincent. It seems better than I thought and probably is still a favorite among late-night-professional-killing is cool viewers.

The American Friend (Der Amerikanische Freund) 1977
125 minutes
Idealistic German art restorer Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz) is dying from a rare blood disease, so to earn money for the family he will be leaving behind, he accepts an offer from cunning American sociopath Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) to carry out a high-paying mob it. Zimmermann and Ripley forge an uneasy bond steeped in deceit, corruption and cold-blooded murder -- a partnership that could easily ruin what's left of Zimmerman's life.
Cast: Dennis Hopper, Bruno Ganz, Lisa Kreuzer, Gérard Blain, Nicholas Ray, Samuel Fuller, Peter Lilienthal, Daniel Schmid, Lou Castel
Director: Wim Wenders

A classic noir story featuring an ordinary schlub drawn into international art fraud and murder via a terrific plot device. All of the performances are memorable and iconic and of course Wenders has cast both Nicholas Ray and Samuel Fuller in pivotal, if minor, roles as the ultimate homage to his “American Friend(s)”.
The cinematography is extraordinary, somehow referencing the best film noir from the 40’s and 50’s and demonstrating the state of the art low light film stock of the mid to late 1970’s.
Wenders ably proves his noir scholarship: the heavy score, the sharp dialogue, and the steadily spiraling descent into darkness is perfectly paced and deliciously drawn. Hopper’s marvelous depiction of quintessential American selflessness and self-obsession, Ganz’s moral then physical deconstruction, the violence that infects and grows, lushly and inexorably unraveling lives in a cityscape spread over Munich, Paris, and New York. “Road Movies” indeed, Mr. Wenders.
I first saw this film on it’s release and don’t think I’ve seen it since. There are many moments that have stuck with me over the years, particularly a scene wherein Ganz pulls a man’s legs out from under him over a drain around Hopper’s house and you can hear the crack of bone snapping as he hits the concrete below.
I have always remembered this as a moment of truly disturbing violence. Disturbing in it’s simple and quick resolution, in contrast to the usual gun and gore porn depicted in Hollywood’s blockbuster panoramas. All of the violence in “The American Friend” is unsettling and matter of fact, a true noir aesthetic.