1. Female Jungle (Bruno VeSota, 1955)
2. A Bullet for Joey (Lewis Allen, 1955) #LewisAllen
3. Storm Fear (Cornel Wilde, 1955)
4. A Life in the Balance (Harry Horner/Rafael Portillo (uncr), 1955)
5. Crime in the Streets (Don Siegel, 1956) #DonSiegel
6. The Long Arm / The Third Key (Charles Frend, 1956)
7. The Price of Fear (Albert Biberman, 1956)
8. The Hideout (Peter Graham Scott, 1956)
9. The Garment Jungle (Vincent Sherman/Robert Aldrich (uncr), 1957)
10. Ore wa matteru ze / I Am Waiting (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1957)
11. Affair in Havana (Laslo Benedek, 1957)
12. House of Numbers (Russell Rouse, 1957)
13. Hot Car Girl (Bernard L. Kowalski, 1958)
14. Stakeout on Dope Street (Irvin Kershner, 1958)
15. Sabita naifu / Rusty Knife (Toshio Matsuda, 1958)
16. Nowhere to Go (Seth Holt/Basil Dearden, 1958) #BasilDeardenl
17. Le désordre et la nuit / The Night Affair (Gilles Grangier, 1958)
18. The Mugger (William Berke, 1958)
19. Heojil kyolshim / Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook, 2022) (cinema)
20. The Naked Road (William Martin, 1959)
21. Blind Date (Joseph Losey, 1959) #JosephLosey
22. Un maledetto imbroglio / The Facts of Murder (Pietro Germi, 1959)
23. Jungle Street
(Charles Saunders, 1960)
24. Kyônetsu no kisetsu / The Warped Ones
(Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1960)
25. The Shakedown
(John Lemont, 1960)
1960's run-through begins with Jungle Street
, a fairly low-rent British film which shows the increasing role that sex plays in these films as we go from "classic" to "neo" or "modern" noir, or whatever one wants to call it. Strip clubs and burlesque shows start to become common - though as yet, there's only minimal skin to be seen. Sue (Jill Ireland) is the main female attraction here, a dancer at a nightclub caught between a couple of small-time criminals, one of whom, Terry (David McCallum) mugs an old man at the beginning of the film - a man who later dies. Terry's got to get some dough - a lot of dough - fast, because somebody else knows what he did, and he's being blackmailed, and there's a safe in the club, and his pal Johnny will help him - only Johnny is actually Sue's boyfriend, and of course that's going to create problems. And Johnny's just out of prison, so the cops are keeping an eye on him in particular. This has a nice low-rent and downbeat feel to it, and the ending is rather surprising and I suspect would have had trouble passing muster in Hollywood - the Brits were more willing to go the dark ending route at this point in time.
Kyônetsu no kisetsu
feels, for the most part, on the fringes of noir - but it's on the juvenile-delinquent fringe, which seems to get a pass most of the time. Certainly it's an example, like many in this period, of how the noir style and themes are changing to reflect an audience and protagonists for whom WWII and the Great Depression are no longer defining elements in life - we are now immersed in the generation of those people's kids, but they are no less involved in worlds of darkness and potential crime and punishment. Our go-to-guy here is Akira (Tamio Kawaji), a completely amoral and nihilistic young man who early on rapes a young woman after more or less kidnapping her from the journalist whose work helped send him to prison. Akira is an awful person, but he's so cheerfully and unrepentantly awful that he almost feels like a cartoon character at times - and the fact that nobody else seems to be able to rein him in eventually seems almost to reflect more on them than on him; he's the guy who runs the world if he's tolerated, and we have plenty of evidence that bad guys are tolerated all too often in this world; the only thing that makes him stand out in a sense is that he's poor and doesn't have the resources to hire lawyers or thugs to do dirty work for him. The film is rather plotless as Akira goes from petty crime to a different kind of petty crime, and eventually it seems he's going to get his comeuppance when he breaks into a house, gets drunk and sleeps while the couple finds him and... but I'll let you find out what happens yourself. As unpleasant as our lead guy is, the delirious performance of Kawaji and the delirious filmmaking made this a pretty amazing experience for me, and it's likely the best first-time watch of this challenge so far for me.
is another British film, of slightly larger budget perhaps, dealing again with a part of the sex trade - though which part isn't necessarily apparent at first. Augie (Terence Morgan), recently out of jail, meets struggling photographer Jessel (Donald Pleasance) by chance and decides to go into business with him - once he gets some dough, which he manages quite easily by pulling one over on a former boss. This robbery scene is kind of nicely done and is the best bit in the film. Now well funded, Augie puts together a studio for Jessel, but he's making his real money through means that remain his secret - at least for a while. A parade of models come through the studio - one Mildred (Hazel Court) catches Augie's eye, but she's got secrets also. While this starts out well, and it's got a solid cast, the last act is really pretty perfunctory and obvious, and in the end it feels like a lot of wasted potential.
(John Berry, 1949) (re-watch)
TCM. 3rd or possibly 4th viewing. This has slowly become one of my absolute favorites, despite having some narrative problems, a too-quick resolution, and one HUGE plot contrivance that must be overlooked if one is to enjoy it. And Eddie Muller admits as much in his intro. I think I saw this early on in my noir voyages, maybe around 2005 or so, and it's just one that I seem to gravitate back to every once in a while. Richard Basehart plays a put-upon drugstore manager/pharmacist whose hot wife (Audrey Totter) plays around under his nose - because he never made it big, and she knows she can get a sugar daddy. Eventually, they have it out, and she takes off - but on being insulted by her new playmate (Lloyd Gough), who literally kicks sand in his face at the beach and breaks his glasses*, he decides to stage the perfect murder by assuming a different persona and... well, that's as far as I'll go with the main plot element. Suffice it to say that how Basehart does it has to be seen to be believed - and then you probably won't believe it - yet somehow it works, because the film just runs with it and takes everything just seriously enough. Also on hand are Cyd Charisse, a new acquaintance of Basehart in his "new" identity, and Barry Sullivan as the inevitable cop who comes along when crime actually does get committed. Really top-drawer performances from everybody - OK, Charisse doesn't have much to do, but she's fine with it - but it's really Totter's film all the way, as one of the nastiest femme fatales around; her scenes with Sullivan are particularly wonderful.
* this will be especially amusing if you have seen the old ads that used to be in comic books and other places for Charles Atlas products - it's almost EXACTLY what happens in those body-builder promotions.
27-28. Naked City
Season 1 Episodes 29-34 (6x30 = 180 minutes)
I got the boxed set of this series, which ran for four seasons from 1958-63 some years ago, and thought it'd be something I'd watch with my mom, but I never got around to it before she died. We both loved M Squad
, with Lee Marvin, from around this period. That show is clearly lower budget, was shot almost entirely on sets, and is only available on a really crappy PD transfer from Timeless or one of those other el cheapo DVD label. This was a much more prestigious production, seemingly done on a significantly higher budget, and the DVDs are from Image, so I expected something pretty swell.
John McIntire starred as the senior partner of the two lead cops for the first 25 episodes - I like McIntire as an actor, but his smooth, easy-going, grandfatherly type attitude can be a bit dull at times in a regular cop show; he left mid-season because he just wasn't interested in the weekly grind and they actually killed his character off in a violent crash sequence, which was kind of cool. He was replaced by the tougher, meaner Horace McMahon, who stayed on until the end. The junior cop is James Fanciscus for the first season; Harry Bellaver, a sort of back-up, secondary detective, is the only cast member who stuck around for the duration of the show, but his contributions are fairly minimal on some episodes. And of course there are tons of guest stars, some of whom will be familiar to those who know their American TV or movies of the period.
Unfortunately, the show hasn't really delivered for me, overall. Don't get me wrong, it's not a BAD series, in fact overall I'd call it "good", but it just lacks the punch of the Marvin series - maybe because, well, none of the cast here is Lee Marvin. And maybe because they make a really big deal out of shooting on location, in New York City, and given technology and costs at the time, that may well have eaten into other parts of the budget - the direction in particular seems fairly slack at times while M Squad
tends to have better pacing and often feels really punchy in it's dialogue delivery. And that show somehow managed to do half-hour stories that felt basically complete most of the time; a lot of these just don't, and end on a somewhat unsatisfying note. Also these DVDs are very dark and the night scenes can be hard to watch - no idea how much that has to do with the original masters or the transfer, or what.
Anyway, it is interesting to watch regardless - the location work is frequently imaginative, they make use of lots of little spots that I'd imagine were fairly obscure at the time (there's a little lighthouse island in one episode, a couple of episodes with bits in a part of Central Park I don't recognize, etc). Curious if any of our NYC residents have seen them, and what they think.
27a. Baker's Dozen
(George Sherman, 1959)
Features Joseph Ruskin, excellent as a dead-eyed hitman lured out of retirement to kill a mob witness. Richard Jaeckel and Vincent Gardenia are the other familiar faces here.
27b. The Rebirth
(Stuart Rosenberg, 1959)
Betty Sinclair plays an aging British cleaning woman who's had enough of her toil and decides to rob a bank. For her cats, you see.
27c. Four Sweet Corners
(Stuart Rosenberg, 1959)
Returning soldier George Maharis has to deal with his baby sister, who has embarked on a life of shoplifting - with a seasoned criminal behind her.
28a. The Sandman
(John Brahm, 1959)
Franciscus goes undercover on the docks to find the hitman who dumped a guy in cement into the drink, finding a seriously damaged boxer and his friend involved.
28b. Turn of Events
(John Brahm, 1959)
An anything-for-a-buck private eye is murdered - plenty of people have a reason, but who did it? Maybe his wife, maybe a rich couple searching for their daughter.
28c. A Little Piece of the Action
(Stuart Rosenberg, 1959)
A washed-up driver begs his way into a last-chance job, but it all goes south when one of his accomplices is killed - and the other might come gunning for him. Probably the best of this lot with a pretty good robbery sequence early on.